Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Have yourself a merry little - but good - one


God does not leave us groping in the dark. He has shown himself to us as a man. In his greatness he has let himelf become small. God has taken on a human face. Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life.
Benedict XVI

Christ ends up right here, in my attitude and disposition as a human being, in my way, that is, one who expects, who awaits something because he feels that he is entirely wanting. He has joined me. He has proposed himself to my original needs.
Luigi Giussani

Friday, December 15, 2006

Teach your children well...



"I never read Freud. I’ve never been attracted to anything he has said, and I think he’s started a lot of nonsense with psychiatry and that business. I don’t think psychiatry can help or has helped anybody. I think it’s a big fraud (pun not intended) on the public.

Billions of dollars have changed hands that could be used for far better purposes. A lot of people have trouble with their parents up until they’re 50, 60, 70 years old. They can’t get off their parents. I never had that kind of problem with my parents. Like John Lennon, “Mother”: “Mother, I had you but you never had me.”

I can’t imagine that. I know a lot of people have. There are a lot of orphans in the world, for sure. But that’s not been my experience. I have a strong identification with orphans, but I’ve been raised by people who feel that fathers, whether they’re married or not, should be responsible for their children, that all sons should be taught a trade, and that parents should be punished for their children’s crimes."

(Bob Dylan)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

And the last nominations are... (my mind is empty)



"Murphy Gets Muddy" is an excellent compilation of classic blues stuff plus some originals from one of the best songwriter ever. Sounds fresh as no blues album can in recent days.



ok, thanx to my faithfull reader, my good friend Anna, we are proud to present you the cover of Nick Cave (available also as live audio double cd), "The Abattoir Blues Tour" dvd. Nick Cave recent tour in support of one of his best album ever is just... gorgeous... and this dvd (with a lot of bonus, including an interview with Cave) is a must have.

happy Xmas time, usually we dont have a winner for this kind of things. But you never know.

Monday, December 04, 2006

December (not April) is the crueler month

December should be the happiest month of the year. Surely it is. Christmas is still a relevant day for me, even though the word “Christmas” is not political correct. They say “Holidays greetings” to not hurt any feelings. Poor baby Jesus.

Anyway, December reminds me of the passing of two great men I was lucky to meet and know, shortly, both. One is Joe Strummer. The Clash were for my generation what Bob Dylan was for the 60’s generation, and I was lucky enough to meet him for a damn funny interview one day. At a certain point while we were talking, he took away his boots and the girl who was with me told me: “He did something punk at least…”. Some months later, he was playing in my city. I never saw him or The Clash in concert. David Bowie was playing the same night in a small club. I thought, well, I could go see Joe next time, but David Bowie in a small club. I can’t miss it. There was never a second chance, because a few days before Christmas, Joe Strummer died.



The other man is the subject of the following story.

It was a cold December day when, excited by the news, I walked into that great concert hall with the hope of finally meeting Rick Danko for the first time in my life. He was a true musical hero for me. The music of The Band was a big part of my younger days when I grew up listening endlessly to their music. Of course one of the leading voices of that group was Rick Danko. His performance of It Makes No Difference during the Last Waltz film was the most memorable part of the entire film when I first saw it in 1978.

Now it is 1994 and the rest of the Trio (Eric Andersen, Jonas Fjield and Rick Danko, for the first time in Italy) are there doing the sound check. Rick Danko is not there. They told me he has been locked in his hotel room for two days. They told me he is sick and needs some rest. He will be here later.

When he arrives some hours later, he looks awful. He tries to play the bass, he tries to sing, but he simply cannot. At one moment he throws his bass with anger onto the floor. I’m shocked. I will know the truth some days later.

The concert will not be memorable. The truth is that he was looking for some heroin and was not in good shape because nobody was able to found any.

A week later The Trio tour in Italy is over. The promoter invites some of us to a farewell dinner in a wonderful restaurant by the lake in a small northern Italy town. There are a lot of special guests that night: Townes Van Zandt was here until the day before but now he is gone. I met Townes few days before, he was so lost that it was a painful experience, we only laughed when he told me that outside his hotel room there is a neon light: “Gambling house”. “I can’t be without it, it seems.”
There is Joe Ely and Alejandro Escovedo; there are the rest of The Trio, Eric Andersen and Jonas Fjield. No Rick Danko, though.
During dinner, the entrance door suddenly opens and a large figure with a cowboy hat enters the room. Everyone is suddenly silent. He has a leather jacket with the logo “Allman Brothers Band” on the back. Here is Rick Danko. He is smiling and everyone seems reassured just because he is smiling. He sits at the head of the table. He would not eat very much. He will drink a little, but he is in a great shape, smiling, laughing and talking with everyone. I approach him and it is like he is talking to a long time friend. We talk about the recent The Band reunion show at Woodstock last July for the 25th anniversary of the legendary festival. We talk about the recent Levon Helm biography: “I don’t agree with everything he wrote but it was his book. The world will know all the truth when my book comes out.” He laughs, but that book will never come out. We talk about Bob Dylan and those days in the basement, of course. We talk about Robbie Robertson. He has a good word for everyone. “I don’t care about what people say. I’m grateful for what my life has been. I don’t hate anyone. I love everybody.” Simple as that.


(Rick Danko on stage with Bob Dylan, in one of his last concert)

It’s midnight and everyone is enjoying the dinner and drinking a lot. Everyone is passing the guitar around and singing a song. Alejandro Escovedo introduces a song he just recorded a few weeks before with Willie Nelson. Joe Ely sings Pancho and Lefty as a tribute to Townes. Eric Andersen performs a tender, melancholy Moonchild River Song, one of his old 70’s hits. Rick Danko stood up, took the guitar and shouted: “Hey come on, it’s almost Christmas!” and performed a truly wonderful Christmas Must Be Tonight, the old The Band song. When Rick Danko sing, somebody once said, the angels stop to listen. A foot on a chair, moving and shaking his body in the way Rick Danko always does when he is into a performance. I’m in paradise. I’m waiting for another song from him but he says goodnight to everyone. “Rick, it is only midnight” I say. He laughs. “I’m too old; I need to go to sleep.” And then he is gone. I will never see him again.


(Thats me and Rick, that night)

Two years later – its almost Christmas time again – I’m on a cold Italian highway taking Eric Andersen to another show. We stop to have a coffee. He needs to make some phone calls. He told me how Rick Danko laughed every time Eric tells him about the picture of me and Rick hanging on my wall at home. “Would you like to say hello to Rick?” he suddenly asks. C’mon, we are an ocean away, please don’t disturb him. He phones somebody. “Here’s Rick, he wants to say hello.” Rick Danko’s voice comes from another planet, but he is laughing, as usual. I can see his usual big smile on his face. He wants to know about my family, if everyone is ok. He always acts like a long, lost friend.

Three years again are gone. It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas. Somebody phones me at work to tell me Rick Danko died last night “while he was sleeping”. It was his birthday. They told me he was happy when he went to sleep, and that his wife found him with a smile on his face. The usual smile he always had, even when he went to prison in Japan for that heroin. They told me he was singing all the time, in prison. He was released because the Japanese judge was a great The Band fan. Nobody could release Rick Danko from the great pain inside of him, the pain of the loss of his 18 year old son who died while at college from a stupid disease. I guess Rick is smiling again, now that he is with his son and his old friend Richard Manuel. I guess Joe Strummer is joining the band too.

Christmas must be tonight.


(thanx to Chris Marcum for editing this)

And the nominations are... (live dvds)



Friday, December 01, 2006

And the nominations are... (oldies but goldies)



How do you drum up interest in a Jerry Lee Lewis record, since the Ferriday Fireball is 71 and hasn't put out an album since 1996? First, you pair him with 22 of the biggest stars of rock (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards), country (Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard), and blues (Buddy Guy, B.B. King), to show how he put his stamp on nearly every genre. Then, you hire the dean of music chroniclers, Peter Guralnick, to give the liner notes heft. And--oh, yes, you also make sure the piano-pounding pioneer displays the best finger form he's shown in 25 years. Throughout, the Killer crows, struts, and self-mythologizes with the brio of youth, and who could resist him? At times, one may question the wisdom of turning an obvious guitar tune (Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll") into a piano-dominated performance, just as it seems odd to not make the best use of such guests as Toby Keith or Delaney Bramlett. But Lewis never yields the throne for a second, even surrounded by the likes of Robbie Robertson, Neil Young, and Eric Clapton. For that reason, most of these aren't true duets--the star instrumentalists take their solos, and the harmonies of some of the most legendary vocalists (Don Henley, Little Richard) stay too far in the background. But when things really work--as they do with Bruce Springsteen (the rave-up "Pink Cadillac"), Neil Young (a crackling rendition of "You Don't Have To Go"), Kid Rock (an even blacker "Honky Tonk Woman"), George Jones (the novelty-framed "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age"), and Kris Kristofferson (an especially poignant take on "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33"), the rock of ages cleaves for thee and me. Last Man Standing refers to the famous cover of Million Dollar Quartet, on which he's pictured with fellow Sun artists Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins, all now jamming in the great beyond. Yet in a spoken-word reprise at the end of the Kristofferson song--"From the rocking of the cradle / To the rolling of the hearse / The going up was worth the coming down"--the Last Man seems to suggest his own fine epitaph. It's hard to argue with a hellraiser extraordinaire.



Three decades after decisively trading fame and his superstar moniker for the spiritual devotion for which his restless '70s songs seemed a perpetual quest, the singer-songwriter born Steven Demetre Georgiou has successfully resurrected Cat Stevens's muse, if not his persona. The musician whose dedicated embrace of Islam embroiled him in controversy frequently sings its praises on An Other Cup, both boldly (the Prophet-lionizing "The Beloved") and with delicate reflection ("Whispers from a Spiritual Garden" reworks Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi.) Given the political and religious misconceptions that have often plagued him, he's mused for years that his theme song should be Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"; here Yusuf makes good on the promise, conjuring a cover steeped in brooding elegance with the assistance of Madonna/Dido/Rod Stewart producer Rick Nowells.
Yet, as "Heaven/Where True Love Goes" attests, the musician remains as masterfully adept at blurring distinctions between spiritual and romantic ecstasies as he is at evoking his trademark idealism in the lilting harmonies of "Maybe There's a World." Fans of his vintage catalog will find intriguing riches outside the more spiritually focused works here, too, with the familiar idealism of the previously unrecorded 1968 song "Green Fields, Golden Sands" and muscular "I Think I See the Light" further evoking the glories of Cat past. The production leans towards the spare and shrewdly contemporary, whether casting the effusive opener "Midday" in Paul Simon's spirit of cross-cultural adventure, underscoring the melodic charms of "One Day at a Time," or suffusing "When Butterflies Leave" and his autobiographical cover of Simone with graceful, neo-classical strings. Considering the career time lapse, it's a remarkably strong effort, yet one inspired by a gentility and spiritual inquisitiveness that's comfortably familiar.

LETTURE/ 'Il Vangelo secondo Bruce Springsteen': da Flannery O'Connor a Born to Run

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