Friday, August 29, 2008

Call It Anything: Miles Davis At Isle Of Wight

On August 29, 1970, Miles Davis rocked the Isle Of Wight Festival with one of the earliest of his psychedelic soundscape bands. Since I'm not patient enough to wait two years and post this for the 30th anniversary of this performance, here's the mindboggling set Miles' pioneering fusion ensemble played that day.

This Miles ensemble, not long after key saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter's departure to form Weather Report, inhabits that intriguing space between the Bitches Brew, Big Fun and Live-Evil recordings. Yep, this is definitely 'out there', but not yet the gurgling rock-funk-electronics-jazz-India-psychedelic-wah wah-sludge-raging raga cauldron that culminated in the live albums Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangeea. All offer an invaluable antidote to market-researched, focus-grouped corporate pop stylings.

The band features . . . Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett on keyboards; Gary Bartz - saxophones; Dave Holland - bass; Airto Moreira - percussion; Jack DeJohnette - trap drums and percussion.

The Isle Of Wight Festival was a troubled yet epochal event in the history of 20th century rock music; Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Doors were among the headliners. Hendrix would say sayonara to this earthly form soon after the concert, with Jim Morrison not far behind.

Urban legends claim that Hendrix and Miles jammed informally and were slated to get together in the studio for some further recording in winter 1970-1971. . .

Hey, we can dream, can't we.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tex Avery at Warners, Exhibit B

Who made a much better, funnier, more adeptly timed showbiz caricatures cartoon than Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938) by the venerated Disney studio? Tex Avery, in 1941, with Hollywood Steps Out, which features multiple caricatures
and jokes in every shot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tex Avery at Warners, Exhibit A

While aware that the animation on Tex' later pictures is more sophisticated than what you get in his 1930's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, this cartoon, Thugs With Dirty Mugs, still totally cracks me up, no matter how many times I see it. Is Mel Blanc responsible for the hilarious Edward G. Robinson impression? He does a similar and uproarious "nyaaa, sheee, nyaaaaa nyaaaaa" voice for Racketeer Rabbit, a howlingly funny Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Burt Bacharach Day

This month, we celebrate the late, great Isaac Hayes. Here's the singer-songwriter-arranger-actor-recording producer, etc. performing his original spin on Bacharach and David's Walk On By.

And now, in full Hot Buttered Soul/Black Moses glory, nine and a half minutes from an epic rock-soul version of The Look Of Love:

This 9:41 includes an intro chock full of Hayes' signature orchestrations, his inimitable deep sea diver vocals embracing Burt's beguiling bossa melody, a transition to an instrumental break that sounds like the chord changes from Spooky (by 1960's MOR popsters The Classics IV), then a Far East flute motif that just starts as the clip ends. Cool.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pete Roleum And His Cousins

In an election year and time of global energy crisis, it's weirdly appropriate to post a stop-motion animation film about oil. Produced for the 1939 World's Fair by Joseph Losey, Pete Roleum And His Cousins features the pixilated puppets and delightfully warped imagination of stop-motion innovator Charley Bowers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Lullaby Of Old Broadway

Here's another mind-numbing Busby Berkeley masterpiece, more reminiscent of Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst netherworlds than the jaunty world of musicals. Berkeley's magnum opus, The Lullaby Of Broadway, requires two YouTube segments and starts with the longest transition from long shot to close-up in the history of movies.

The striking lead vocalist is Wini Shaw. She's in several mid-1930's Warners musicals, the 1934 Technicolor comedy short, What, No Men! - and later turns up in Soundies.

I'm dumbfounded by the sheer filmmaking brilliance of it all.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Busby Berkeley, American Surrealist

In my book, nothing says dada and surrealism quite like a musical number from the wondrously deranged mind of Busby Berkeley. This is just one of the delirious production numbers from Dames (1934).

And besides, we know that while André Breton and Salvador Dali didn't agree on much, both, no doubt, would have given anything to present, as part and parcel of the artistic statement, a camera track through the spread legs of smiling showgirls.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday's Truly Absurd Musical Number

For that special blend of 1960's-style cheesiness, absurdism, both winsome and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer sexiness, AquaNet-drenched hairdos, bouncy tunes, inexplicable dance moves and one gas-guzzlin' SUV full of WTF, you can't beat Scopitones.

Big thanks to Tré Taylor of Really Weird radio (and numerous other musical/artistic endeavors) for bringing this Scopitone to my attention.