Beyond Cactus

Friday, March 1, 2013

Attractive Nuisance #5: Johnny Adams

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 9:31 AM

File #5: Johnny Adams, Heart & Soul (1969, SSS International)


This is not a happy story. Last year, the very good garage-blues duo the Black Keys—who have swelled out their lineup for live purposes—played to a lot of people; like, a lot of lot of people. In 2012, the Black Keys headlined its first arena tour, where they managed to do considerably brisk business, including selling out Madison Square Garden in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, just over a week ago Chicago blues legend Magic Slim passed away at 75. Throughout 2013, Slim, whose performances of the iconic electrified and crackling Chicago blues embody the DNA written into the sound of the Black Keys, played midsized venues to the devout.

Now, this isn’t a space to make the kind of leap in logic that seems to be encouraged online, nor is it a space to be patrician about taste and music. As aforementioned, the Black Keys may seem an odd choice to sell out Madison Square Garden in 15 minutes, but their music is good, or, as with Rubber Factory and El Camino, sometimes even great. Similarly, the group has submitted to the current rite-of-passage of endless road tripping in pursuit of the accolades and acclaim that earns groups coveted live venues and fans. Similarly, Magic Slim and his trusty group the Teardrops may well have loved the recognition they received, and Slim, if he was any bluesman at all, likely gave a shit anyway; so long as he had his guitar and his forum.

This lengthy preamble is to say: there will be no rediscovering of Johnny Adams as an obscure, toiling, and profound live performer, as the marvelous, cherub-voiced soul singer of this week’s column died in 1998 after a long battle with prostate cancer. We can, however, borrowing from the title of one of his finest songs, a tremulous, soulful burner, “Reconsider Me.” Adams may have long shuffled off the mortal coil, but his music remains as a treasure trove well worth the time, money, or effort necessary to fully explore it. The best place to start, and a veritable primer of his prowess, is Heart & Soul, a collection of his finest work from 1962-1968.

As a compilation, Heart & Soul is replete with Adams' astonishingly full-bellied soul—searching and salutatory, dramatic and light—fitting comfortably alongside such classics of the form as Songs in the Key of Life, Going to a Go-Go, What’s Going On, and Otis Blue. Additionally, like Stevie, Smokey, Marvin, and Otis, Adams' vocals are an unearthly treasure; muscular, smooth, and endlessly energetic and emphatic, they can transform even a pedestrian soul shuffle into a Midas-laced paean or ballad.

On Heart & Soul, Adams' ranging pipes are framed by a delectable mélange of ‘60s gospel, soul, pop, blues, country, and funk (sometimes in the span of a single track). Adams' vocal depth was complex enough to warrant the peculiar nickname of “the Tan Canary” in his native New Orleans. On the organ-haunted “If I Could See You One More Time” his voice bolsters heartache and resilience in convincing fashion. The bouncy country-funk and nostalgic lyrical trail of “Georgia Mountain Dew” provide a giddy, melancholy counterpart to Adams' throaty proclamations. Meanwhile, his occasionally trembling, occasionally deafening notes on “Real Live Living Hurtin’ Man” seem to yank the accompanying musical waltz out of the song’s organ, drums, and guitar. Elsewhere, “I Won’t Cry,” infamously produced by a teenage Dr. John (Mac Rebennack, at the time), shows Adams' in pristine doo-wop mode, staunchly cajoling self-reassurances from deep within his diaphragm.

Unfortunately, Adams would never enjoy the acclaim or career of the soul giants he comfortably belongs alongside—the closer on Heart & Soul, “Untitled,” is an elastic funk tune that may be influenced by the twitching, squeaky vocals of James Brown, but is too strong to merely genuflect before them. Perhaps Adams own wandering musical choices, including his extended turn as a jazz crooner and his excursions into neo-disco funk (Adam’s disco string-soaked take on “Spanish Harlem” is to be sought out), limited his audience. Regardless, we have already established that fame and acclaim do not equate to happiness (remember all those mid-life birthday wishes to a long-deceased Kurt Cobain last week…), so we must instead relish Adams' legacy: an extraordinary voice containing all the pain and joy of human experience. Then again, maybe it is a happy story.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Measures Taken to Ensure Online Content is Being Accessed Legally

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Emilio Quintana
  • Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Emilio Quintana
If you are one of the many who share online media content illegally between computers, beware.

The Center for Copyright Information released a statement in a blog post on Monday, announcing that their new Copyright Alert System (CAS) has gone into affect. The system targets those who share media content between different computers and can lead to loss in Web access or slow broadband connections.

"Over the course of the next several days our participating ISPs will begin rolling out the system. Practically speaking, this means our content partners will begin sending notices of alleged P2P copyright infringement to ISPs, and the ISPs will begin forwarding those notices in the form of Copyright Alerts to consumers. Most consumers will never receive Alerts under the program. Consumers whose accounts have been used to share copyrighted content over P2P networks illegally (or without authority) will receive Alerts that are meant to educate rather than punish, and direct them to legal alternatives. And for those consumers who believe they received Alerts in error, an easy to use process will be in place for them to seek independent review of the Alerts they received," said Jill Lesser in the blog post.

The CAS is a collective attempt by the entertainment industry and five major Internet Service Providers: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, according to CBS News.

It is also being referred to as the "six strikes" system, because those who are seen sharing data illegally will be given different alerts, the sixth of which is expected to lead to punishment by the providers.

According to the Huffington Post, each of the providers punishments will be slightly different for those who take part in continuous online piracy.

To read the entire blog post about the new system, click here.

Watch the video below that explains the process of the how the CAS works to target illegal content sharing:

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Monday, February 18, 2013

The Maine Back in the Studio for Fourth Album

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Those of you who know The Maine may have gone to high school with them in Tempe. Or, you may have met them in the local music scene in Phoenix when they were first circuiting the music world. Some of you Arizonans may not have known about this band until they gained popularity and recognition in the music world, or not know them at all.

Either way, after wrapping up a co-headlining tour in November with Mayday Parade at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, the Phoenix band is back in the studio recording their fourth album.

They recently headed to Nashville to record new music. On the journey, they have released three video studio updates so far. The videos give a look into the studio recording process as the inscence drip and the music juices flow, following their journey in Nashville.

Here they are below:

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Attractive Nuisance #4: Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM

File #4: Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions (1999, Asylum/Elektra)


After taking a week to remove our heads from the condom-strewn New York sewers of Lou Reed, we touch down locally—at the Arizona Inn, specifically—for the crisp, meditative desert of Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris. Theirs is a collaboration so pristine, so lovely, and so unwavering that the connective ampersand is requisite.

Linda, of course, is a native daughter, and her significance to Tucson is unimpeachable. (I will leave it to the comment section, hopefully, to flesh out her local legacy.) Throughout the 1970s, Ronstadt made her mark in the incestuous Los Angeles music scene, backing Zevon here, playing with the Eagles there, before launching a juggernaut career that revealed her as preeminent musical interpreter and vibrant chanteuse. Ronstadt’s output has maintained a prolific clip, but her knockout releases from the ‘70s alone (in this case, over the course of three years) are stunning: Heart Like a Wheel (1974), Prisoner in Disguise (1975), and Hasten Down the Wind (1976). Ronstadt’s throaty vibrato is unparalleled, and its beguiling and calming powers at least partially explain her legions of fans and millions of records sold.

Harris was no slouch either, and Luxury Liner (1977) is as enchanting as anything in the ‘70s songstress oeuvre. A more traditionally countrified twang, Harris was no stranger to the rarefied air of the heavyweight ‘70s, singing backup on Dylan’s Desire (1976) and performing a stunning take on “Evangeline” with the Band the same year for The Last Waltz (released in 1978).

Now, Ronstadt and Harris are longtime friends and had collaborated before Western Wall on Trio (1987)—a treat of shoulder-padded country-western with Dolly Parton rounding out the triplet. The group gave it another go the same year as Western Wall with Trio II, which contains an evocative take on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” Western Wall, however, is required listening; more so for local, musically inclined denizens. Recorded at the exquisite Arizona Inn, the album, appropriate given its principals, is mostly a covers affair. Harris does contribute a couple songs (one with the help of the McGarrigle sisters), but the album’s breadth, dedication, and generosity elevate it above a somnambulant stroll through the material. For instance, opener “Loving the Highway Man” would succeed simply by plucking a brilliant if overlooked track from Andy “Wall of Voodoo” Prieboy’s solo debut—a singer/songwriter who it would be hard to argue had much cache in ’99 (which has certainly, and sadly, dissipated even more in the intervening years)—but the track truly excels by pulling the listener through its chilling tale of ruination with ethereal, haunted vocals and whimpering, hallucinatory guitars.

That Western Wall is now out-of-print seems, on paper only, a slight—on paper because, we dinosaurs of tactile music must remind ourselves, most listeners prefer their music digitally, where the album is readily available (though it is dubbed “The Tuscon Sessions” on Spotify). And though the album initially did well critically, its commercial failure is troubling and has certainly contributed to its peripheral role in the canons of both Ronstadt and Harris. Sure, the album cover and publicity photos throughout may contribute to the adult-contemporary vibe the album seems to perspire, but the jangly snap of “For a Dancer,” aided by Neil Young’s harmony and harmonica (how harmonious of him), or the way the pair amplify Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy,” making it a muscular accordion waltz, are unparalleled by most neophytes in the field. If it’s adult-contemporary folk, and it may well be, then it’s the kind of stellar, top-notch quality that is worth indulging.

Nevertheless, Ronstadt’s pouty turn on “He Was Mine” and Harris’ sleepy take of “Valerie” grow a bit tiresome beyond a handful of listens, but the other tracks or, in the parlance of the album, “sessions” reveal endless hidden beauties. In part, the roster of studio talent, beyond Young even, is too accomplished for the songs not to captivate, and the attentive ear of producer Glyn Johns appropriately acquiesces to the contributors while mostly reigning in any surplus. From the fevered cracks in the soldier ballad “1917,” to the sparkling, unfolding melodies of Sinead O’Connor’s hymn “This is to Mother You,” to the shaggy dust waltz of Springsteen’s “Across the Border,” Western Wall has, like the city that domesticated it and the women who spearheaded it, much to love.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

If You Didn't Know This Was Coming, You're Beyond Our Help

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Fact: Regardless of whether or not I've been in a relationship, I've listened to this song at least once every February 14 since 2004. I have never once gotten tired of it, though that's partially because "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" is one of the best damn albums of the 2000s, and I'll generally listen to the rest of the magic on that double-album.

Happy Valentine's Day, Tucson.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why Tucson Should Thank Coachella Every Year

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM

I've lived in Tucson for a little less than two years now, and, as a music fanatic, I've quickly learned that the Old Pueblo's got some pretty good chops when it comes to its music scene — although that may not be saying much since I grew up in Wyoming, where the only live music comes in the form of country cover bands that have to play behind chicken wire in bars.

Regardless, much of Tucson's awesome booking, at least during the spring season, comes from the Coachella lineup. Ever since the festival began running its two-weekend schedule last year, the bands that get booked are always looking for places to be before, between and after those two weekends in April, and Tucson (and Tempe for that matter) seems to work just fine for these pleasantly surprising mini-tours.

Most recently, Phoenix announced a stop in Tucson for a show at the AVA Amphitheater on April 9, just a few days before their headlining slots at Coachella's Saturday nights. Likewise, The Postal Service recently announced a small tour across the western U.S. with a show at Phoenix's Comerica Theater. Additionally, Rodriguez has two shows in Phoenix in Tucson on the Friday and Saturday before his second Sunday performance in Indio.

The same thing happened last year, namely with Bon Iver's show at the Tucson Convention Center on April 23. Feist opened the show, and both bands had come fresh from Saturday slots at Coachella.

So, if you missed the presale or can't make the 400-mile jog out west, chances are good that whatever you're missing out on may come back this way. For Southern Arizona, this spring's run of concerts is shaping up to be pretty good, too. Who needs Coachella when you've got the exceptional arts community that we have right here?

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Postal Service Announces Headlining Tour For Spring, Early Summer

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 5:11 PM


Apparently the Postal Service's two weekends at Coachella has brought them out of their 10-year-long hiding place, as the band has just announced a 12-stop headlining tour across the West Coast and the UK.

Tucson fans won't have to go far out of their way to catch the Postal Service during this tour cycle. A Phoenix stop is scheduled for April 18 at the Comerica Theatre.

The tour's announcement comes just a few weeks after the band announced a 10-year anniversary edition of Give Up, the duo's one and only record to date, which just went platinum last year. The re-release includes the album's original tracks, plus a handful of new songs, b-sides and covers of songs by other bands.

The tour itself will consist of Postal Service founding members Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tomborello (Dntel and Headset), along with Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and Bright Eyes' Laura Burhenn, who both performed on the original record.

Tickets for the upcoming Phoenix show can be picked up either at the band's website, or at the Comerica's website. The show is general admission only, and currently sits at $50 a ticket. The tickets are up for grabs right now for anyone with a login into the band's website, though the website does not indicate when the presale will end and open ticketing to the public. Buyers have a number of options with tickets, including buying them in a CD or vinyl album bundle.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Attractive Nuisance #3: Lou Reed

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 10:55 AM

File #3: Lou Reed, New York (1989, Sire)


“Lou Reed is a completely depraved pervert and pathetic death dwarf and everything else you think he is On top of that he’s a liar, a wasted talent, an artist continually in flux, and a huckster selling pounds of his own flesh A panderer living off the dumbbell nihilism of a seventies generation that doesn’t have the energy to commit suicide Lou Reed is the guy that gave dignity and poetry and rock ‘n’ roll to smack, speed, homosexuality, sadomasochism, murder, misogyny, stumblebum passivity, and suicide, and then proceeded to belie all his achievements and return to the mire by turning the whole thing into a monumental bad joke…” (Lester Bangs, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves,” 1975).

There is not enough room on the Internet for a treatise on Lou Reed. As Bangs suggests in his unending (unedited) analysis of Reed—the lack of periods are pure Bangs—Reed is both genius and hack. Wherever one sides on the debate Reed’s dueling personas trigger, it is impossible for anyone who gives a damn about rock music (in all its multiplicities) to ignore him. Literally the most simply put: the Velvet Underground.

Now, when it comes to solo Reed, as should be abundantly clear from the 2011 collaboration with Metallica, Lulu (to say nothing of his frequently bad Metal Machine Music from 1975), you can never be sure what Reed you’ll get—perhaps explaining New York’s cover art. When he’s in full possession of his powers, as with 1972’s glam masterpiece Transformer or 1978’s grotty smash Street Hassle, Reed seems every bit the cracked genius; I’ll leave the commercial disaster Sally Can’t Dance (1974) and the (arguably) brilliant bummer Berlin (1973) aside for the moment. After another debacle due to attempting to keep himself contemporary, the absurd Mistrial (1986), or, as it could also be dubbed “the one where Lou raps,” Reed turned his gaze inward.

The resulting album, New York (1989), is a personal and public excoriation of a skuzzy metropolis by one of its most famous native sons. It’s also a cracking great album: louche, cranky, loud, direct, raw, and inspired. In many ways, New York’s unfiltered, driving rock is a direct response to the synthesized, electronic atmosphere that choked the music scene, Reed included, during the 1980s. In this sense, the album’s nervous, vicious sound feels like Reed and collaborators rediscovering the primal joy and cathartic release of rock ‘n’ roll. How can we be sure? Well, Reed uses the liner notes to remind listeners, in the era of the CD (remember when?), how to properly listen to New York: “THIS ALBUM WAS RECORDED AND MIXED AT MEDIA SOUND, STUDIO B, N.Y.C., IN ESSENTIALLY THE ORDER YOU HAVE HERE. IT’S MEANT TO BE LISTENED TO IN ONE 58 MINUTE (14 SONGS!) SITTING AS THOUGH IT WERE A BOOK OR A MOVIE.”

Luckily, the mesmeric qualities of New York equally work to ensure that listeners remain affixed. Further suggesting the thesis that this album is about reviving rock, things begin with a false start before embracing the muscular gallop of “Romeo Had Juliette.” Elsewhere, the prickly shuffle of “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim” suggests Reed was paying attention to post-punk—he should, since VU essentially helped launch the musical genre. And, if New York is truly to be considered as a book or movie, then it makes sense that the moaning guitars and satisfying crunch of the penultimate track, “Strawman,” is meant as the climax. The noir-crawl of closer “Dime Store Mystery” (a tribute to Warhol) is pure resolution.

New York is also a fascinating cultural document, an incisive catalogue of the controversies and the injustices of its era. A variety of public figures are put on blast: Jesse Jackson for his perceived anti-Semitism, subway vigilante Bernard Goetz whose contemporary analogue would be George Zimmerman, and UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim whose Nazi ties sunk his political career. Meanwhile, the breezy “Halloween Parade” is actually a surreal, haunting eulogy for the AIDS epidemic. Rather than being a tortured, depressed affair, however, New York maintains a buoyancy and vitality. Credit is certainly due to the album’s collaborators, famously including drummer and VU-alumni Maureen “Moe (Tea Party, Please)” Tucker.

Centered in New York because Reed knew it was a satellite for the United States, the album’s prescience maintains. On the jazzy, dissonant “Last Great American Whale,” Reed registers discontent that feels eerily familiar (the NRA, the end of an empire), and it makes most sense to conclude with Reed’s jaundiced analysis that ostensibly makes the case for New York's ugly appeal: “Americans don’t care too much for beauty/ they’ll shit in a river / dump battery acid in a stream.”

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