Thursday, October 12, 2006

Homer Simpson's Greatest Hits Parts One and Two

Part one.

Part two.

Commercials Starring The Simpsons


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Johnny Cash

Growing up in my house (as my sister will attest), there was no one that got as much airplay around the old Stereophonic than Johnny Cash. Everything from "Hey Porter" to "Get Rhythm" to "How High Is The Water" to "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" to "Ring of Fire" and on through "Folsom Prison Blues" and "A Boy Named Sue". Johnny Cash was second to the Beatles as the artist I listened to most in the sixties. This picture still makes me laugh when I see it, because that was my impression of him. Hard livin and not willing to compromise.

I even remember his variety show in the late sixties and early seventies. If I remember right, it was on at 7 oclock on Wednesday night and we would watch and that's where I first saw Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Neil Young,The Guess Who and a host of other great acts. The guests would come out and do their big hit and then later in the program, they would join Johnny and they would sing together. It is still very cool to watch Johnny and the Guess who sing "Share The Land". I have some of his shows on a bootleg DVD. Johnny fell out of favor with the record companies and his stuff became harder to find. in 1993, he got together with Rick Rubin and Rick revitalized his career. Those recordings are the ones that I can not get out of my CD player at this time. They are holding the player hostage. With Johnny's cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt", he has become beloved by a whole new generation. God Bless him. The one that is truly on my player is his latest and the last recordings before he died.

His newest one is American VI and, to me, it's the strongest, most emotional one he has done. This is the one he recorded before his death and they hold a personal place in my brain.

This one hurts to listen to. But that's OK, it's supposed to.

Here are some of the reviews:
The ethical questions surrounding this final album in the American Recordings series are as unavoidable as they are, ultimately, peripheral. While the vocal tracks were recorded in the months just prior to Johnny Cash's passing in September 2003, the arrangements weren't undertaken until two years later. And though producer Rick Rubin had become a trusted friend, the Man in Black wasn't around to approve or disapprove, let alone guide, the final sessions. However, if the pure power of these recordings doesn't quiet the skeptics, nothing will. With Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and slide guitar session pro Smokey Hormel on board (all three of whom appear on earlier Cash albums), along with guitarists Matt Sweeney and Johnny Polansky, the sound is stately and acoustic, but rarely staid, even as the dynamics of earlier recordings in the series are absent. Instead, the songs have a measured, elegiac intensity, the sound of musicians choosing their notes carefully and making just the right choices.

The songs Cash sings are, unsurprisingly, confessional and reflective: his mortality and his mistakes, his maker and his salvation, and the loss of his wife June and the end of his career may have weighed on his mind, but in these songs he both embodies and transcends his personal history. On "God's Gonna Cut You Down," as the musicians clap and stomp behind him, his voice cuts through the air like that same avenging hand. On the new original "Like the 309"--the last song Cash ever wrote--he cops to being short of breath, and that voice becomes a metaphor for what each of us will one day face. On Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Read My Mind," Rubin flirts with overwhelming the damp bittersweetness of Cash's phrasing in tasteful atmospherics, but the voice is implacable, hitting and finding notes one never expected he'd have the will to find. Likewise, it's hard to believe this is his first recording of Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds"; the elemental narrative seems to have been written for him. Two songs, however, Cash has recorded before: the born-again hymn "I Came to Believe" and the final spiritual, "I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now." The latter especially is a definitive testament, as is his version of Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)." "One sunny morning we'll rise, I know / And I'll meet you further on up the road," he sings. If only, John, if only. --Roy Kasten

To these ears, each American album had something to set it apart from the others & if I were to characterize this (hopefully) latest installment, I'd say A Hundred Highways is the most lonesome sounding of the lot. The sound of a man alone. Stripped of youth, health & any illusions.

All of the records in this series could be considered sparse in terms of production & accompaniment. Producer Rick Rubin acts more like a still photographer trying to capture the moment, rather than pull any strings. Which is one reason why they've all been good. He just let Cash be Cash. And in terms of all their previous work together I have to say, Highways is the most low key. It's also one of the most initimate. No Fiona Apples moaning in the background. No flashy covers like "Rusty Cage" or "Hurt". No frills at all. Just that voice & maybe a little acoustic guitar & organ. As he's so often proved, Rubin has good taste & this album is a far cry from some sort of open casket funeral.

"Help Me" starts things off & the fragility in Cash's voice cannot be denied. For some this isn't easy to take. The song is a plea & the end result is more heartbroken than desperate. "God's Gonna Cut You down" is easily the most rousing number on the album & Cash's voice comes across like thunder that is soon to die down in the distance.

As many have pointed out "309" is the last song he wrote. As any fan knows, The Man In Black was fond of train songs & it serves as a fitting epitaph, completely void of any self pity. It's a song about acceptance rather than resistance. One listen to the Hank Williams cover, "Evening Train" & its not hard to tell what inspired it. Perhaps Cash tossed in his own version just to point that out.

Where Americans III & IV feature covers from the likes of Nine Inch Nails & Depeche Mode, any attempt to reach a new fan base is laid to rest in choices like "Read My Mind" & "Four Strong Winds". Gordon Lightfoot's classic is typical AM fare while "Winds" is mostly familiar to fans of Neil Young. For my money, Cash steals them both for his own, bringing a gravitas that lends each a new meaning. And though I'm not a particularly a Springsteen fan, he's always seemed tailor made for Cash. Further Up The Road ranks up there with his classic take on Highway Patrolman. As for things like, "Rose Of My Heart", the conviction of Cash's delivery puts to rest any fears of Hallmark sentimentality.

As the song self-depricatingly suggests, Cash was indeed a "legend in his time "& this album is best thought of as a quiet, meditive coda to a career that began with the immortal line," I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die". True, the ravages of illness are apparent & some people just won't be able to get beyond that. But if you're able to, you'll be rewarded.


Let's Play A Game

Here's a little Halloween Hangman for you. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Album Cover Battle

For those into album covers, this is bloody hilarious....

Where Could This Be?

....and what could it mean? Hmmmm, he said.

Buck O'Neill 1911-2006

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite interview was, without a doubt I always mention Buck O'Neill. I had the chance to talk with him in 1984 when a whole lot of people really didn't know who he was. In Kansas City, he is considered a favorite son, someone that the city is proud of. We talked about his vision of turning a very suspect area of town into a Hall of Fame for the Negro league players. He was met with a great deal of scepticism, but after I talked to him, I had no doubt he would pull it off. He was gentle, kind and laughed a lot. He was very easy to talk to and it was a pleasure to make his acquiantance. He would answer a question and then say mmmmm hmmmm as if to qualify the answer. I only wish now I would have thought to take a camera or something other than a tape recorder to record the meeting. I lost the recording (and many others)in a flooded basement in the early 90's. He was never bitter about his exclusion from the game saying that the Kansas City Monarchs treated him very well. "Got to stay at great hotels and eat great steaks. They were owned by black people but they still were fine establishments." It's a shame he's not in the real baseball Hall of fame, maybe now this horrible injustice will be rectified. Thanks, Buck, for adding one more cool story to an already great book called my life.

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