In a 12,000 word essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions (Sonic Poetry),” that appears in the upcoming book, “Kerouac On Record: A Literary Soundtrack,” I explore how Bob Dylan was profoundly influenced by the Beat writers, and especially Jack Kerouac.
The book is being published by Bloomsbury and will reach book stores online and off on March 8, 2018. Rock’s Back Pages will be publishing an excerpt from my essay, and the April issue of Mojo magazine (see full review below) includes a rave review that says in part: “Among the strongest in a strong lot are Michael Goldberg’s examination of Dylan’s lit roots and Kerouac’s own musicological piece — ‘The Beginning Of Bop’ – that attempts to capture jazz in words – and succeeds.”
Nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kerouac!
In addition my Dylan piece, I also have an interview with writer (and one time rock critic) Richard Meltzer in which he talks at length about Kerouac.
The book also contains essays on the influence of Kerouac on a number of musicians including Tom Waits, the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison, Van Morrison, Patti Smith and others. And there are excellent pieces about the influence of jazz on Kerouac’s writing style.
As we get closer to the publication date I’ll share more about this fascinating book.
Some months back the extraordinary experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser dropped an advance of his upcoming collaboration with free jazz guitarist Ray Russell, The Celestial Squid.
The album is a free jazz mindblower.
Today a 12 minute promo video for the album was released:
I’ve been digging Kaiser’s music since the late ’70s when I wrote a short article about him for New West magazine. We subsequently became friends. Recently, in December, we collaborated when Henry improvised as i read from my novel, True Love Scars, at Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA.
Here’s info on the album direct from Cuneiform Records, which will release it on February 3, 2015.
Guitar summits don’t ascend higher than when legendary British free-jazz pioneer and longtime session ace Ray Russell meets the brilliant California avant-improv overachiever and Antarctic diver Henry Kaiser in the realm of The Celestial Squid. With more than countless session and soundtrack performances to his credit, including the early James Bond film scores, Russell is returning to his bone-rattling, noise-rocking roots for the first time since the very early 70s. You’ll be shaken and stirred as Kaiser, Russell and eight super friends deliver a no-holds-barred, free-range sonic cage match.
Russell created some of the early ’70s’ most outrageously outside music, releasing hallmark works of guitar shock-and-awe. Russell’s “stabbing, singing notes and psychotic runs up the fretboard have nothing to do with scalular architecture,” wrote All Music’s Thom Jurek, “but rather with viscera and tonal exploration.” Russell anticipated the wildest and most intrepid vibrations of Terje Rypdal, Dave Fuzinski, Sonic Youth, Keiji Haino, Tisziji Muñoz and their boundary-dissolving ilk. Russell is hardly a niche performer, though. Untold millions of music and film fans have actually, if unknowingly, already enjoyed Russell’s riffs – at least if they saw any of the James Bond films that John Barry scored, beginning with Dr. No in 1962.
For over 40 years, Russell would not make such exploratory music until West Coast guitar experimentalist Henry Kaiser called him out of the blue and asked if he would be interested in co-leading an ensemble in the style of his ’71 masterpiece, Live at the ICA: June 11th 1971. Russell was surprised and delighted by the offer, and readily accepted. Why had he waited so long to once again explore the free-jazz spaceways you might well wonder? Simple – no one had asked him to do so!
So on April 12, 2014, Henry Kaiser and Ray Russell – along with drummers Weasel Walter and William Winant, bassists Michael Manring (electric) and Damon Smith (acoustic), and saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, and Aram Shelton – entered Berkeley, California’s Fantasy Studios for a day-long session that resulted in The Celestial Squid, a nearly eighty-minute embryonic journey through the deepest waters and most cosmic heights of improvised music. Except for melodic heads and compositional structures, everything on The Celestial Squid is improvised, down to some astonishing extemporaneous horn arrangements. While The Celestial Squid echoes the raw energy and youthful bravado of Russell’s earliest achievements, this music synergizes the combined power and imagination of all ten of these musical masters into a force to be reckoned with.
guitars: Henry Kaiser, Ray Russell
saxophones: Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, Aram Shelton
electric bass: Michael Manring
acoustic bass: Damon Smith
drums: Weasel Walter, William Winant
recorded live by Adam Munoz at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA on April 12, 2014
mixed by Henry Kaiser, Adam Munoz, Weasel Walter at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
mastered by Paul Stubblebine
artwork and art direction by Brandy Gale
production by Henry Kaiser
The major musical event of 2014 was the release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s ‘Basement Tapes’ recordings – 140 of them (if you include the two songs included in the hidden track at the end of disc six). But beyond the six-plus hours of mostly better quality versions of these songs than we’ve heard before (along with a batch of songs that haven’t made the bootlegs – at least the ones I got my hands on), a lot of other noteworthy albums were released during the year.
The list that follows is based on what I heard and what I liked. No one can listen to everything, and I don’t pretend to try. But these albums are good ones, and if you haven’t heard some of them, I hope you’ll check them out.
1 Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Columbia): As I wrote when the set was released: Dylan’s best songs are not the straightforward protest songs from the early ‘60s – “Masters Of War” or “The Times They Are A-Changing.” Rather, it’s songs like “Visions Of Johanna,” songs that are opaque. Songs that defy literal understanding. Those are the great ones. I’ve listened to “Visions Of Johanna” 100s of times and still its mysteries remain intact. And a song such as “I’m Not There” – do you know what it’s about? … The lyrics to many of Dylan’s Basement songs are opaque too; as if they’re written in an invisible ink, or in a language that defies translation. And it’s that mystery that keeps bringing me back. One line stands out, gives up something one day, then pulls it back on another.
“Ain’t No More Cane (Take 2)”:
2 Jolie Holland, Wine Dark Sea (Anti): Jolie Holland moved into a whole other zone with the avant-garde guitar sounds that help define “Wine Dark Sea.” She takes her idiosyncratic version of Americana, integrates some wild noise (think Sonic Youth) rock guitar and the result is thrilling. Holland is an incredible singer and songwriter. Perhaps my favorite here is “The Love You Save,” which finds Holland trumping the late Janis Joplin with her take on the Stax/Volt soul of the mid-‘60s.
Jolie Holland – Full Performance (Live on KEXP):
First Sign Of Spring
On and On
Out On The Wine Dark Sea
Who Are you
3 Angel Olson, Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar): At times on Angel Olson’s moving second album, as on “White Fire,” she sounds like a female Leonard Cohen. At other times it’s the Velvets I hear a faint echo of, but on the final track, “Windows,” what I hear is Angel Olson, what I hear is an exquisitely beautiful sound, even as she sings about a man who is oblivious to those around him. Her voice has a fragile quality, but there’s strength too.
4 Wadada Leo Smith, The Great Lake Suites (Tum): A musician friend of mine compares this album favorably to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and I agree. Over two discs composer/band leader Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), Henry Threadgill (alto saxophone, flute and bass flute), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and John Lindberg (double bass) deliver music as intense and spiritual as Coltrane and his combo. And an hour and a half after you start listening, when the music’s over, you’ll want to start it up all over again. This is one for the ages.
5 Karen O, Crush Songs (Kobalt): This low-fi bedroom recording of Yeah Yeah Yeah front woman O’s “crush” songs is intimate and addictive. There’s a hint of the Velvets’ third album here, and that’s a good thing. Proof that anyone with the songs and the voice can make their own “Basement Tapes.”
6 Spoon, They Want My Soul (Loma Vista/Republic): The album title nails what’s going on these days, when corporate America won’t settle for anything less than turning us into unthinking all-consuming zombies. I’ve been a Spoon fan since the mid-‘90s and this album of smart poppy rock is up there with their best. “Rainy Taxi” is intoxicating, and “knock Knock Knock” as well, but the whole album is a keeper. These Austin rockers are fighting the good fight, and winning.
7 Sharon Van Etten, Are We There (Jagjaguwar): The trials of a woman trying to deal with a (sometimes not-so-good) relationship is the theme running through Are We There. Whether these songs are about Van Etten’s real life, when one listens to this album they might as well be – these songs feel so confessional. With haunting voice and music that perfectly suits her theme, Sharon Van Etten has turned pain into songs that are deep, self-reflective and at times confrontational. Check these lyrics from “Your Love Is Killing Me”:
“Break my legs so I won’t walk to you.
Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.
Burn my skin so I can’t feel you.
Stab my eyes so I can’t see
You like it when I let you walk over me.
You tell me that you like it.
Your love is killing me.”
“Your Love Is Killing Me”:
8 Tweedy, Sukierae (ANTI):Tweedy and his son Spencer recorded this 20 song album with help from a few musician friends. It’s beautiful and moving and wonderful. Tweedy says it’s a two record set and suggests the vinyl version is the best way to listen. Very Beatlesque at times – check out “Summer Noon.”
9 Ex-Hex, Rips (Merge): Mary Timony’s new band delivers a garage-rock explosion of a debut album. There are echoes of The Ramones and Patti Smith and Timony’s friends, Sleater-Kinney in the 12 songs. Great guitar riffs from Timony. There’s a priceless energy in these tracks. This trio is on fire.
10 tUnE-yArDs, Nikki Nack (4AD): Merrill Garbus has voice, a big soulful voice and she can really sing. And when you can really sing, and you have the knock for writing catchy songs with loads of hooks, you can go wild with the music and make it work. Sometimes it sounds like Garbus has utilized every object in the junkyard to make her unorthodox tracks, and at other times only her voice.
11 Lykke Li, I Never Learn (Atlantic):
12 Lucinda Williams, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (Highway 20)
13 The Hold Steady, Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie)
14 The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Ume):
15 The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)
The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting For The Man”:
(In no particular order – these are all great!)
The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll In Ten Songs, Greil Marcus (Yale University Press): Greil Marcus’ latest book is all about what Marcus hears when he listens to ten songs, and what he hears is unexpected and sometimes revelatory. It’s not any kind of history of rock that you or I have ever read before, because Marcus sees no point in revisiting the same old story that we’ve read numerous versions of since the ‘60s. Not a history so much as a theory about rock ‘n’ roll, and then ten examples that, in different ways, back up that theory. Amazing.
I loved You More, Tom Spanbauer (Hawthorne): Tom’s Spanbauer’s book is 466 pages of heartbreak. Think about the love affair that went so wrong for you, the one that tore you down, left you devastated and in pieces. Yeah, that’s this book. Beautifully written. Every sentence is a gem.
A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, Holly George-Warren (Viking): A superbly written biography of Alex Chilton, who is best known as one of the leaders of Big Star. If you start to read it, you soon will find yourself deep into both the Big Star recordings and Chilton’s solo work before you know it.
Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante, (Europa Editions): The third in what looks to be a four book series that follows two girls in Italy from childhood to old age. With this book, Ferrante adds politics to the volatile mix of love, sex, family, money and friendship that fuels the first two.
Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues, Joel Selvin (Counterpoint): More than just a biography of Bert Burns, who wrote such classics as “Here Comes the Night,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Twist and Shout,” discovered Van Morrison, produced records including “Under The Boardwalk” for The Drifters and so much more, Selvin also manages to detail the history of the New York-based rhythm and blues business.
My Struggle (books 1, 2 & 3), Karl Ove Knausgaard (Macmillan): This year I read the first three books of this six volume epic semi-fictional autobiography. Knausgaard goes deep into his first person narrator’s psychology, as he lays out his life for us in minute detail. Somehow it’s fascinating, even when it seems like he’s telling us way more than we need to know. Mesmerizing.
On Highway 61, Dennis McNally (Counterpoint): Actually, I’m only a third of the way through this incredible book, but it’s so good I have to include it. McNally has written the history of how blacks and whites influenced each other musically, as they created what he calls cultural freedom. Along the way he tells the stories of Mark Twain, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, John Hammond, Sr., Thelonious Monk and many, many others. More on this book in 2015.
In June 1970, Miles Davis and his band played Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York, opening for Laura Nyro.
Recordings from the shows Davis did at the Fillmore East were released on the double album, Miles Davis at the Fillmore.
Now all the music is being released on Miles at the Fillmore: Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 will be released on March 25, 2014.
Rolling Stone reports that “more than 100 minutes of previously unreleased music and bonus tracks from the group’s appearance at the San Francisco Fillmore that April [will be on the four-disc set]. In a rare interview after hearing the Fillmore East recordings, Davis suggested he wanted “every note” of the sessions made available to listeners. More than 20 years after his death in 1991, he’s finally getting his wish.”
Check out a track from the album, “Spanish Key.”
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Amiri Baraka, a major figure in the “Black Arts” movement of the ’60s and ’70s, is dead.
He was 79 years old.
Baraka once said, “We want poems that kill.”
Wikipedia: “Rather than use poetry as an escapist mechanism, Baraka saw poetry as a weapon of action. His poetry demanded violence against those he felt were responsible for an unjust society.”
“Somebody Blew Up America”:
The New York Times wrote:
Amiri Baraka, a poet and playwright of pulsating rage, whose long illumination of the black experience in America was called incandescent in some quarters and incendiary in others, died on Thursday [January 9. 2014] in Newark. He was 79.
His death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, was confirmed by his son Ras Baraka, a member of the Newark Municipal Council. He did not specify a cause but said that Mr. Baraka had been hospitalized since Dec. 21.
Mr. Baraka was famous as one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, which sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.
Among his best-known works are the poetry collections “The Dead Lecturer” and “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995”; the play “Dutchman”; and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” a highly regarded historical survey.
“Black Art,” Amiri Baraka reads his poem with Sonny Murray on drums, Albert Ayler on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on trumpet, Henry Grimes on bass, Louis Worrell on bass, for the album Sonny’s Time Now:
For the rest of the New York Times obit, head here.
Baraka was a friend of Allen Ginsberg.
Wikipedia: “In 1954, he joined the US Air Force as a gunner, reaching the rank of sergeant. After an anonymous letter to his commanding officer accusing him of being a communist led to the discovery of Soviet writings, Baraka was put on gardening duty and given a dishonorable discharge for violation of his oath of duty.
“The same year, he moved to Greenwich Village working initially in a warehouse for music records. His interest in jazz began during this period. At the same time he came into contact with avant-garde Beat Generation, Black Mountain poets and New York School poets. In 1958 he married Hettie Cohen and founded Totem Press, which published such Beat icons as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Their literary magazine Yugen lasted for eight issues (1958–62). Baraka also worked as editor and critic for Kulchur (1960–65). With Diane DiPrima he edited the first twenty-five issues (1961–63) of their little magazine Floating Bear.”
A July 6, 1994 lecture by Amiri Baraka on the politics of poetics. The lecture ends with a question and answer period covering topics such as jism and jazz, grants in music, whores, hypocrisy, Bob Dylan, and Noam Chomsky.
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Yusef Lateef (born William Emanuel Huddleston), a Grammy-winning jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer, educator, died today at his home in Shutesbury, Mass. He was 93.
Lateef’s main instruments were the tenor saxophone and flute, but he also played oboe and bassoon, and used a number of world music instruments, notably the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, Xun, arghul, sarewa, and koto. He is known for his innovative blending of jazz with “Eastern” music, according to Wikipedia.
The drummer and bandleader Chico Hamilton, a cornerstone of the modern West Coast jazz scene of the 1950s, died yesterday (Monday, November 25, 2013) in Manhattan.
“Hamilton had a subtle and melodic approach that made him ideally suited for the refined, understated style that came to be known as cool jazz, of which his hometown, Los Angeles, was the epicenter,” jazz expert Peter Keepnews wrote in the New York Times today.
“He was a charter member of the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s quartet,” Keepnews wrote, “which helped lay the groundwork for the cool movement. His own quintet, which he formed shortly after leaving the Mulligan group, came to be regarded as the quintessence of cool. With its quiet intensity, its intricate arrangements and its uniquely pastel instrumentation of flute, guitar, cello, bass and drums — the flutist, Buddy Collette, also played alto saxophone — the Chico Hamilton Quintet became one of the most popular groups in jazz.”
Musicians who passed through Hamilton’s group included bassist Ron Carter, the saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd and the guitarists Jim Hall, Gabor Szabo and Larry Coryell.