Saturday, July 19, 2008

iPod Log 4: (mostly) perky edition.

Here I continue the tradition of sharing with my readers the pieces of music randomly selected by my iPod to play during some journey (this having been during a trip from my apartment via foot, subway and bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where my daughter, her friend, and I were treated to a private tour by a former colleague and present friend of my wife, who is an art historian, and expert on Byzantine art).

Jimmy Cliff, You Can Get It If You Really Want. Reggae doesn't get much perkier than this complete self-help book sung in two minutes forty-two seconds flat, from the soundtrack of the magnificent The Harder They Come (1973; see a promotional trailer and hear the title song below):

Johnny Nash, I Can See Clearly Now. The iPod stays in a reggae groove with this song that's so perky that the first time I heard it on the radio, I thought it was Poco. Feeling depressed? Just click on the arrow below:

Gabriel Fauré, Elégie, Jules Eskin, violoncello, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa, conducting. The iPod must have sensed that I was in danger of a perkiness OD, so it served up a shot of musical sedative in the form of this lovely piece for cello and orchestra. Below is a clip of cellist Julian Lloyd Weber playing it with just piano accompaniment (unfortunately, the pianist isn't identified; if anyone recognizes him, please let me know):

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, with Eric Clapton, It Ain't Right. Can the blues be perky? This rendition of a harp-driven Little Walter song shouts an affirmative response.

J.S. Bach, Brandenberg Concerto No. 2, 1st movement, allegro, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner conducting. Maybe the perkiest thing Big Daddy Bach ever composed.

Bruce Daigrepont, Laissez Faire.
Laissez-faire, laissez-faire, ma jolie
Bon temps roulé, allons danser, toute la nuit
This red hot Cajun song isn't as jarring coming after Bach as you might suppose. Indeed, it seems to fit quite nicely. Très perky, aussi.

Delbert McClinton, Dreams to Remember.
I know you said he was just a friend,
But I saw you kiss him again and again and again,
Honey, these eyes of mine don't fool me,
Why did he hold you so tenderly?
A fine example of the blues not being perky.

Fairport Convention, Jack 'o Diamonds.
Jack o' Diamonds can open for riches,
Jack o' Diamonds, but then it switches,
Covered by a picture, but it's only a ten,
Jack o' Diamonds...
Quick: how many rock groups that had their origins in the 1960s are still alive and performing, with at least one original member? There's the Stones, and one or two others, including these guys. Well, they're all guys, now, but at their inception they had a woman singer, Judy Dyble, who was with them for their first album, from which this steady, driving rocker comes. Before the second album, she left to join another group and was replaced by the lovely, tragic Sandy Denny. Below is a clip of the band's first lineup, doing "Time Will Show the Wiser", also from their premiere album, with Ian McDonald (later known as Ian Matthews) on lead vocal and Judy Dyble, and a very young Richard Thompson, on harmony:

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Li'l Liza Jane. Classic New Orleans Dixieland brass with vocals, including some nimble scatting, doing a song I used to sing while marching in ROTC camp. This is from the excellent Rhino New Orleans Party Classics CD. Man, you talk about perky.

Willie Nelson, Crazy. Very early Willie, done in the overproduced, deracinated "countrypolitan" style championed by Chet Atkins, but nevertheless his voice and delivery, and a great song that he wrote but was first made a hit by Patsy Cline, triumphed over adversity.

Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose Perky? Pour qui?

Rolling Stones, Rip This Joint. This is beyond perky; this is frenetic. Again, words would fail doing it justice, so here's a live performance video:

Ritchie Valens, Come On, Let's Go. Valens was a fireball in the rock 'n' roll firmament: signed to his first record contract at the age of seventeen, within a year he had hits off both sides of a disc, "Donna" and "La Bamba" (the latter the first rock hit sung in Spanish), and died before his eighteenth birthday in the plane crash that also ended the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. "Come On, Let's Go" was Ritchie's first record release. It is muy perky.

The Band, Long Black Veil.
Enough of perky for now. I first knew this mournful song from the Kingston Trio (see my commentary on them here), though it was originally recorded by country music legend Lefty Frizell. The Band's version is on their first album, Music From Big Pink, which has a generally lachrymose quality, accentuated by the keening falsetto of Richard Manuel. Here's a video of the song from a live performance, featuring my late sometime Lion's Head and Lone Star Cafe drinking and (on one occasion) singing companion, Rick Danko:

Aretha Franklin, You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.
When my soul was in the lost and found,
You came along to claim it,
I didn't know just what was wrong with me
'Til your kiss helped me name it
The iPod stays in a meditative groove with the Queen of Soul.

The Kingston Trio, Riu Chiu. It's July, so, of course, it's time for a Christmas carol; specifically, a sixteenth century Spanish villancico sung a capella in spine-tingling three-part harmony. I couldn't find a video of the Trio doing this, but here is a rendition by Chanticleer:

W.A. Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, Overture, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine, conducting. So, my journey ends with an overture. And a right perky one, at that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Please help a City child.

In my immediately previous post, I mentioned having taken my daughter, Liz, to a camp in Maine. This is the third summer she's been able to enjoy some time on a lake shore in the woods, hiking, swimming, sailing, learning archery and so on. Anyone who has been reading this blog for some time knows that I'm a confirmed urbanite, thoroughly in love with my adopted home, New York City, and especially the Borough of Brooklyn. I think the City is a great place to raise kids, and that City kids, on the whole, kids of all colors, persuasions and income levels, are great kids. But, much as the City provides these kids with a rich environment in which to grow and learn, they also need occasional respite from its busy-ness and a chance to enjoy things that the City cannot offer.

Unfortunately, not all City kids have families who can afford to send them to camps, take them to country houses, or even get away for a long weekend. For over 130 years, the Fresh Air Fund has been providing economically disadvantaged youngsters with summer vacations in the country. To do this, it has relied on people with primary or vacation homes in rural areas not too far from the City to host a child for a week or ten days. Details of the program can be found at the Fresh Air Fund website.

This year, the Fund is in need of more families willing to host City kids for a short but very important vacation. Volunteers are especially needed to host older children (9-12) and boys. The Fund, of course, checks all volunteer hosts for suitability, and the vetting process for this summer must be completed by the end of this month. So, if you have a house in upstate New York, northern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, central Massachusetts or Cape Cod, and would like to share a small part of your summer with a City child, please go to the website (there's a schedule of what areas and communities will be hosting Fresh Air children on what dates on the web page) and contact the Fund through the links provided on the site. If you cannot host a child, but want to help the Fund in its good works, you may also make a financial donation through the website.

Please give this your consideration, and be aware that time is of the essence. Unless more host families can be found quickly, as many as 200 children may not be able to enjoy summer vacations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bet the inmates had fun making this one.

Yours truly in Mickey D's parking lot, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, on the trip back from Maine after dropping Liz off at camp. I got the car from Avis in Brooklyn, but it had Nutmeg State tags.

I need to keep working on that paunch. More Bridge walks, less Cognac.

Addendum: The car is a Dodge Avenger, and that's a name with a history. The first "Avenger" in the Chrysler family was made by Hillman, part of the British auto manufacturer Rootes Group, which was taken over by Chrysler in the late 1960s. Versions of the Hillman Avenger were marketed in the U.S. as the Dodge Polara and Plymouth Cricket. My second car was a pre-Chrysler Rootes product, a 1965 Sunbeam Alpine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"I can call spirits from the vasty deep."

So says Glendower in Henry IV Part I*, Act 3, Scene 1. To this, Hotspur replies:
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
My efforts at baseball prognostication seem about as efficacious as Glendower's summoning of spirits. Just over a month ago, I posted here, declaring the Mets as good as dead this season. I also offered this gem of an opinion:
[F]iring the manager isn't going to do the trick. Indeed, at least in the short run, I think it's likely to make matters worse.
Well, in the short run, the Mets have a winning record since the Midnight (PDT) Massacre à trois, though it's an open question whether the change of managers caused this (perhaps a better theory, given the improvement in pitching, both from starters and bullpen, is that the change of pitching coaches made the difference), or whether we may just be seeing an instance of the Hawthorne effect.

Indeed, one of the things (perhaps the principal thing) that makes baseball fascinating is the number of variables involved in the outcome of any game, or season. Recognizing this, I'm foreswearing any further attempts at predicting the Mets' (or any other team's) fortunes after the All Star break.

*Demonstrating the enormous effect Shakespeare has had on the understanding of English history, Sellar and Yeatman, in their magisterial 1066 and All That, assert that there were two Kings Henry IV: Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II.