“Flipside”: A Film Review

Posted: July 23rd, 2024 | Filed under: Cinema | Tags: | No Comments »

Yes, this shall be a review of Chris Wilcha’s outstanding documentary “Flipside.”

Which is — I shan’t bury the lede — the best film I’ve seen this year. In several years.

But, as is my wont, I shall wend my way there, starting with Anne Lamott.

Whom I’ve adored from the get go when hearing the author being interviewed decades ago by Terry Gross. She was/ is wise, literate, funny, and the author of the best book on writing I know of, “Bird by Bird.” Which I have recommended and given away copies of many times since.

Lamott writes what are termed, somewhat derogatorily by some, “fix me books.”

And, other than the many of her endeavors I own and have savored, I eschew generic fix me books. (With a lone non-Lamott exception of Richard Carlson’s “DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF . . . and it’s all small stuff.”)

Anyhow, Ms. Lamott, long in 12 step recovery, has the great facility to extrapolate life lessons from every day events and moments. Especially how to turn what we might consider failures of ourselves into changes for the good. They are shared with insight, humor and truly engaging writing.

Filmmaker Wilcha’s film is centered, sorta, kinda (but it’s really much more) on the small town NJ record shop with the title’s name, owned by a guy named Dan. And a rival shop across town. Owned by a different guy named Dan.

But what it’s really about is how, like Lamott, director/craftsmith Wilcha is eventually able to gain insight and serenity within from what he considered previously a career of unfinished projects, a life of failures. Read the rest of this entry »

Desperado/ Desperados Waiting For A Train: R&R Rewind

Posted: July 12th, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I am a desperado.

One who has for all the bounty I’ve enjoyed in life been somewhat desperate of soul. An outlaw of sorts once upon a time.

Just as a descriptor, it is a sonorous word, with which I’ve been fascinated.

It’s use in two totally different tunes is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long while. Years actually.

But, I’ve been somewhat of a missing person, if you will a desaparecido — another play on that term — when it has come to actually sitting down at the keyboard and doing what I am at this moment.

Because the reasons for putting it off are how closely I relate to some of the lyrics.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?/ Come down from your fences, open the gate/ It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you/ You better let somebody love you/ (Let somebody love you)/ You better let somebody love you before it’s too late

So, yeah, the otherwise insufferable* Don Henley and partner Glenn Frey’s lyrics cut through like a machete.

(* Why do I use that adjective to describe the obviously talented and successful Henley. Two reasons. One, the Eagles have been famous for not liking each other for decades, taking separate limos from hotel to venue. Rubs me the wrong way. But, his arrogance caught me from the get go. The first time I heard the band, they opened for Yes at Louisville Gardens. As was often the case, much of the crowd was milling about before the headliner, not really listening. At some juncture, Henley, annoyed at the inattention, brayed into his mic, “What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you know who we are? We’re the Eagles!”)

Still it’s a great damn song, a bracing use of imagery. Best rendered by the incomparable Linda Ronstadt, who stole the tune.

Damn, Linda, shred me apart why don’t ya?

 * * * * *

Then, there’s Guy Clark with a totally different tale, also a brilliant use of the imagery.

About his relationship with an old man.

About how life evolves with its inevitable conclusion.

I know nothing about playing Moon and Forty-two.

But I look in the mirror and I’m pushing 80, an old man.

Conscious that not too far off that sumbitch is comin’.

— c d kaplan

Paul Simon: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: June 25th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 2 Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Out of respect, I have been reluctant to engage artists of note on the few occasions through the decades when I’ve been in their presence.

(The exception to the rule. I could not not engage Allen Toussaint when our paths crossed in a hotel lobby. With him, there was a connection. His album producer Joe Henry is an acquaintance.)

So I kept a distance as usual in the mid 90s with Paul Simon. He was standing about ten feet away at JazzFest’s Congo Square stage with Edie Brickell one early Thursday afternoon.

It was in the period not long after the release of “Rhythm of the Saints,” which album had been a significant comfort a couple of years earlier during my lengthy recovery after being hit by a car while jogging.

The album infused by Simon’s fascination and emergence with African and Brazilian music was recorded with a majority of the musicians from those countries. It is filled with lilting melody lines and harmonies, gentle but insistent rhythms, and as always Simon’s ever-present lyrical elusiveness and undercurrent of melancholy.

One example of his poetic brilliance from “Further to Fly”:

There may come a time/ When I will lose you/ Lose you as I lose my light/ Days falling backward into velvet night/ The open palm of desire/ Wants everything/ It wants everything/ It wants soil as soft as summer/ And the strength to push like spring

Or this from “The Cool, Cool River”: Read the rest of this entry »

The Delta: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: May 28th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

It is the sense of the place.

More so than the righteous music I’ve heard there on several trips down.

The Delta. Birthplace of the Blues. Which of course begat the rock & roll I love so much.

Two images from my first visit more than a quarter century gone still resonate.

A desolate crossroad of two gravel/ dirt roads with fields of scrubby early season cotton plants to the horizon in every direction. The lone highway marker, a rusted tilting pole, the sign reading Joe Noe Road.

Not far away, off Highway 61, in the middle of proverbial nowhere, a siding of 50-60 rusting rail cars, abandoned.

The Delta, ever bleak, haunts, it’s mysteries lurk. Land of cotton. Seemingly forgotten, yet daily interactions say old times there not.

The goal of that first trip with pals was a blues festival in Greenville, where BB King was to play, his first visit back to perform in a long while.

Along with way, we found Charlie Patton’s grave site, saw the cabin said to be where Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, stood alone in the middle of road in front of the Hollywood in Robinsonville, one of the places where Robert Johnson “is from.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Unfrosted”: A Movie Review (& My Chat with Helen Mirren)

Posted: May 7th, 2024 | Filed under: Cinema | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Yes, kids, it’s been awhile since I’ve weighed in on a movie or TV series.

And, frankly, I’m still not sure why this smile-inducing, easily forgettable Netflix confection from Jerry Seinfeld has me at it again.

Perhaps the way I watched it. On my laptop at the car dealer while my car was getting worked on. In a serendipitous moment, my Crosstrek was ready just as the credits rolled.

Nah, that’s not it. But it sure did make that hour and a half wait significantly more tolerable.

No, I think the real reason is I found it’s just this too silly, often overreaching but ever humorous mindless take on 50s and 60s culture a perfect anecdote for these troubled times.

Anyhow, it’s an almost totally fictitious tale of the cereal war in Battle Creek between Kellogg and Post which ended in the kid’s breakfast stable Pop Tarts hitting the grocery shelves.

It also skews just about every cultural phenomenon of the time, except for the Hula Hoop and Slinky.

While taking digs at such as . . . Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest ’24: First Weekend +

Posted: May 4th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, New Orleans, Rock & Roll Rewind | 3 Comments »

I’m a lifelong rock & roller. I love JazzFest. Here’s my latest report.

But first a quick explanation why this is so late. And thanks to those loyal readers who have actually reached out and wondered what’s up and where is it? Stuff happens. Strange week. Car tsouris. Reacclimatizing to Ohio Valley sludge and the allergies it petri dishes. Gettin’ my daily grove back after overindulgence in New Orleans. Etc, etc. It’s been a Larry David kind of week.

But here goes:

It permeates as it were mist rising from the reeds under a full moon in Atchafalaya Swamp.

Fragrant as magnolia swelter.

Foreboding as the gators and snakes that lurk in the bayou.

Mysterious as cricket and dragonfly crackles from the mossy vines.

Mystical as a summer night in the swamp ever is.

Phantom mosquitos hover.

Atmospheric. Melancholy.

Of all the acts I heard during the opening weekend of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2024, none came close to cutting through like Dylan LeBlanc. Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Derby Party Ever: R&R RePast

Posted: May 1st, 2024 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | 2 Comments »

I am a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Derby parties. Derby concerts. I’ve been to a few.

When the two merge it can be really special.

The Derby Eve Jam used to be a big thing. May still be, don’t pay as much attention as I used to.

The first I remember from back in he day is Canned Heat at Louisville Downs. Also saw Emmylou Harris there, with some original Crickets in her band. Allman Brothers at Freedom Hall. Dwight Yoakum, I believe.

Plenty more, on Derby Eve mostly.

But my two all time favorites were on the day after, Derby Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

Birds of Chicago: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: April 15th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another: 

There are many wondrous happenstances that can come when going to a concert.

One is learning the full effect of a performer you might have known only peripherally. A classic example for me is Tony Joe White.

Back in the day — I know it’s a hackneyed term, but describes that bygone era when you can’t pinpoint a year — there were several shows at Parkway Field. Which for the uninitiated is where a minor league ballpark used to sit next the Speed School by the Eastern Parkway overpass.

I heard MC5 there. Uriah Heep. Black Oak Arkansas, if memory serves.

At one of those shows, among the four acts was Tony Joe White. Whom I only knew from his singular hit, “Poke Salad Annie.” Only to be mesmerized by the deep voice and Swamp Rock chops.

He became one of my favorites. I was honored decades later to introduce him during the period when Waterfront Wednesdays would come inside during winter months at the Clifton Center.

Which venue was the site in 2014 of my favorite unknown discovery ever.

The blessing of a previously unknown act that rings my chimes to this day.

Opening for the Carolina Chocolate Drops was Birds of Chicago.

The Film Babe and sat there mesmerized, smitten from the get go. Read the rest of this entry »

Rock & Roll RePast: Beach Boys

Posted: March 22nd, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

Noticing that the Beach Boys — or so as now constituted they would call themselves — are playing a number of festivals this summer, including Bourbon & Beyond, I couldn’t help but be wryly bemused.

Their Endless Summer Gold Tour, I believe that’s what the fifty or so dates starting in April are dubbed, is also noted on the group’s website as “The Beach Boys/ Mike Love.”

Of course it is. Because the insufferable octogenarian Love is a fellow who once had the audacity (and apparent legal clout) to kick Brian Wilson out of the band after a short reunion earlier this century. Tsk tsk.

OK, there’s also Bruce Johnston, not an original member, but he did start subbing on tours for Brian Wilson in ’65, after the genius who was the creative centerpiece for the iconic American outfit suffered a “nervous breakdown.” Other than Love and him there’s just a bunch of fill ins this time around.

Dennis and Carl Wilson are both departed. Al Jardine has retired. Brian Wilson’s life long demons finally won him over, and it was announced earlier this year he has dementia.

All that travesty and sadness notwithstanding, under the mentorship and creative craftsmanship of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys were the one and true seminal Great American Rock & Roll Band.

They both set and reflected teen zeitgeist in the mid 60s.

“If everybody had an ocean/ Across the USA/ Then everybody’d be surfing’/ Like Californi-a” Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Thompson: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: March 13th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock and roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

There was one thing that struck me immediately the first time I heard Richard Thompson live.

Which came in the 90s, well after Fairport Convention, well after his Richard and Linda Thompson days.

He was then performing solo most of the time, as I understand it.

What I noticed was how standing alone at the mic with an amplified acoustic guitar, outside at a festival with people moving about as happens in such situations, he totally commanded the situation and the attention of most.

Such is not an easy task.

Especially in the middle of the afternoon in front of 30,000 or so folks.

Of course, I was immediately smitten, because the first thing he said after his opening number was, Where else on earth would you rather be on this Thursday afternoon than in New Orleans at JazzFest?”

He had me at Where else on earth.”

That take charge presence can be attributed to a couple of things it seems.

First, just the nature of his charismatic personality. Then there are the tangibles. His deep resonant voice. His invigorating, powerful guitar stylings, where hed ring out the bass, rhythm and solos simultaneously. Read the rest of this entry »

Dread Zeppelin: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: February 28th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

At its most astute, satire not only makes fun of the subject it is skewing, but it does so with a reverence and acknowledgment.

In rock & roll, the prime example of exacting, may I say perfect satire is Spinal Tap.

Not only do David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls and whatever drummer has been able to make it through the day alive make iconic music, resonant of the Brit 70s rock scene, but they are oh so deftly managed by Sir Denis Eton-Hogg.

Director Marti DiBergi’s telling documentary of the band’s decline stands as the best ever about the music scene.

What rock fan of any worth has not referenced “Eleven. Exactly. One Louder” at some moment or another to make a point.

The flip side, for me anyway, of satire not working is Sha Na Na. Whom I always thought just made fun, did not show true respect for the early days of rock & roll.

All of which brings me to a very real, very good and oh so satirical group.

Dread Zeppelin. Read the rest of this entry »

Ellen McIlwaine: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: February 15th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a Rock & Roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

As is my tendency before I hit the hay, I was culling the interweb the other night, searching for some tuneage that would allow my head to rest more gently on the pillow.

When I came across Lake Street Dive vocalist Rachael Price’s sublime rendering of Steve Winwood’’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” The original appeared on the only album of one and done “supergroup” Blind Faith.

Listening to Ms. Price I couldn’t help but think of the first time I heard that melancholy take of a cover of the tune. By the egregiously ignored Ellen McIlwaine. Read the rest of this entry »