Got The Fever

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Arlo Guthrie

There are swarms of bloggers straining to be original on this Thanksgiving day, using terabytes of internet resources, years of accumulated music collecting, all for the purpose of finding songs related to eating, shopping for food, being stuffed or songs with the word turkey in them. God bless them for the devotion, energy and free time.

Despite reading pages and pages of these sites, you would think that the most obvious choice would be out there duplicated time and again. However, I didn’t find even one site with the Arlo Guthrie standard! What?

Recorded in 1967, (and also known as "Alice's Restaurant Massacree") Arlo tells the true story of how he went to a friend’s deconsecrated church (restaurant for the song) and after a Thanksgiving dinner put out the trash. Not realizing that the dump was closed, he and a friend were arrested for littering. Brought up two days later in front of a judge that was blind, and unable to see the photographs that the arresting officer had laboriously marked with circles and arrows showing the littler, they were eventually given a small fine.

Forwarding a bit in time from there, his arrest for littering caught up with him in front of the draft board when they included him on a bench reserved for convicted criminals. Ironically, he famously asks:

"I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug?"

I’m summerizing of course, but there’a a lot more of the history and lore of the song at the Wikipedia page for Alice’s Restaurant.

Nice side note is that the area where the song takes place is in absolutely beautiful Great Barrington, which is not too far from Old Sturbridge Village (rural colonial New England way of life tourist attraction).

Today, remember to be thankful for what you have been blessed with. Too many around you are secretly envious.
Alice’s Restaurant
From: Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant [1967]

Addendum: I’ve written again for WNEW. This time the Hidden Gems post is on Ellen Foley and Young Lust. Get over there and leave a comment!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Joan Osborne

I’ve expounded time and again on this blog in one way or another, about how impressed and appreciative I am when an artist can melt down and recreate a song in such a way that makes me think of the reinterpretation as being creative and individualistic enough that I can now think of it as their own.

It’s not enough to simply speed it up, or give it a new middle eight, or mix the verses, or slow it down. On the other hand, it would be going too far when it’s made so completely different that it makes me squint my eyes, tilt my head and wonder why it’s so completely unrecognizable. It has to have new life breathed into it, evolve as new genesis, and become symbiotic art.

Joan Osborne is an artist who I respect not only for her ability to release quality output that has stayed beneath the radar while gathering a respectable and growing audience, but also for the choices she has made in the music world. She’s had the obligatory hit, One Of Us (1995), she’s recorded with the Funk Brothers, toured with the Dixie Chicks and for a brief tenure joined the Grateful Dead. During all this time, she has released music that one can willing sit down to and be pleased about.

In 2002 Joan achieved what I look and listen for when taking on the task of covering someone else’s material when she released How Sweet It Is in 2002, a potent mix of soul and rock.

What added to my piqued interest was Joan’s choice of artists to cover. No middleweight choices here, she took on the heavy and holy – artists that would intimidate or become a gelatinous mess of a cover in lesser hands. She took on no less than Jimi Hendrix, Edwin Starr, Delaney and Bonnie, Sly Stone and the Band among others.

Straight ahead disgust with restrained determination. The rhythm section marches in unison with resolved and focused grit right alongside Joan while the background vocals urge the sinner to “let your mind go”.

I’ll Be Around
It was a far reach for me to think that anyone could cover effectively one of my favorite tracks of all time – one I had felt was unapproachable and blasphemous to even ponder covering. However, Joan handily won me over with her downy sincere surrender of devotion that swaddles the rendering with a patina of charm and feminine grace.

Whenever I have the urge to listen to the above tracks, it’s always a difficult decision to choose from either the original or covered version. Both choices for either track are going to be the winner.

Joan Osborne: Think
Joan Osborne: I'll Be Around
From: How Sweet It Is [2002]

Addendum: How lucky we are to be able to choose from hundreds of downloads each day in this blogsphere of ours. Some days the choices are so plentiful that I find myself a whore, downloading everything I see, or with so many choices, I am sometimes stultified into apathy. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to find a well-written verse, or a beautifully written rumination of life every so often. Either can move me deeply, and more so because I am so unprepared for the beauty enveloped within the prose.

Two such blogs have recently written passages that continue to move me. I apologize for late recognition.

One, among many exemplary pieces by ib on his
SbLINGSHOT ON THE BLEACHERS, is titled ‘the library ticket’.

The other, again among many others, is by whiteray on
Echoes In The Wind titled ‘A Halloween Tale’.

Prodigious writers both and towering examples of passages weaving tales that are worth reading.

Addendum 2: I continue to contribute to the great WNEW blog. My last week contribution was on the Association and Requiem For The Masses. Write a comment if you feel moved when I contribute.