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Monday, October 29, 2012

Awaiting storm w Neil Young - Hurricane!

(neil younger)

I feel a deep intrigue and fascination, an energy that electrifies the core of my sensibilities.  Fear is the little death.  Rock is the resurrection: Neil Young.

All thought comes to a standstill in the face of  this fiery and tattered execution, I become lost--or is it found--in this track.

Here I sit on the edge of a hurricane, the entire region on alert for hundreds of miles around me. We await an epic storm named Sandy. It rages to the south of us, headed our way. I'm stocked up on groceries, cooked food, a bottle of good single malt Scotch and other libations. And I watch and listen to this video over and over; it touches yearning and explodes it into vision. It corrrelates the impossible:

"I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream..."

Watching Neil Young's hair whip around in the stiff wind, hearing his guitar fire lightning bolts, zigzagging across the proscenium, drilling sonic catacombs, knocking time on it's ass.

I can't think of a better song to listen to as this hurricane heads our way, scheduled to slam us at full moon high tide tonight.


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// posted by Ellen @  16:06   //Permalink// 
Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn in New York: CSN concert and Fine Art

It was wonderful seeing CSN at The Beacon Theater in New York last weekend.  It was, all things considered, amazing.

The lush and emotional performance, an almost 3 hour set with an intermission,  in a packed house, was full of  wonder and graceful endurance. They were supported by a great band.  They didn't mince their politics. Crosby remarked that the founders of our nation probably did not intend for elections to go to the largest television ad budget. They sang Nash's "Almost Gone," a sympathetic song about Bradley Manning, which is a cause he's taken up.

( I have to say I really don't get it about supporting Bradley Manning.  I personally think they should throw the book at him. Military law is not the same as civilian law and what he did was egregious. Don't get me started.  I heard the song got booed the night before, but that night's audience didn't respond to it in any unusual way.)

But I admire activism and CSN is sincerely and consistently attuned to the pulse of politics and justice.  On their last New York venue, Crosby and Nash sang at Occupy Wall Street.

They close the show with Stills' "For What It's Worth" and also sang "Bluebird" as a homage to Buffalo Springfield.  I recall what a wake-up call "For What It's Worth" was in the sixties.

I love this music that has punctuated the narrative of its times. I am on record with my love for this music.  I feel lucky to be able to be with it live, today. 

Stills didn't say much, as usual, and his electric guitar work was incandescent, as usual. He stumbled a little with the acoustic guitar.

It was clear that Nash is master of the trio's cohesion. When parts went astray, and they did, very occasionally, he literally, with outstretched arms,  pulled it all back into time and tune. Their set pulled the last 43 years into a lanyard of history, music, wars, protests, triumphs, endurance, stamina and harmony. The Beacon is a beautiful venue for them.

Afterward in the backstage area, which was actually underneath the stage, I got a quick hi out of Stephen Stills, who was huddled with Elvis Costello.  They'd done one of Costello's songs, but I'd never heard it before and don't know its name.   It was about war fought in the name of religion.

Nash greeted me with a big smile, hug and kiss, complimented my appearance and asked me how old I was now. Not a question you ordinarily hear, is it? I told him (68) and I asked his age: 71.  Gee, it's worth being a geezer to have seen and heard all I've seen and heard in my time.

Now, here in Maine, when you turn 70, you get a free lift ticket at any ski area in the state.  At 71, and in good shape under a thick sheaf of white hair, Nash was eager to meet and greet and take pictures with anyone backstage who asked. "I figure my job isn't over till my head hits the pillow," he said.  He was incredibly gracious to everyone.  He also had a show of his photos in a gallery in Chelsea.  Quite the Renaissance man.  It was curiously wonderful and distancing to see them all.
I'm not nostalgic for the past. I'm nostalgic for the future.

Earlier that day, I went to one of my favorite art events, the annual International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show at the armory, which was gorgeous.  I saw bound maps and maritime charts from the 14th and 15th century and other extraordinarily beautiful items.The exquisite art deco jewelry shown by Primavera Gallery included a brooch designed by Dali.

All in all a weekend full of gems. Gems from time immemorial that still glitter and sparkle through time and changes. 

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// posted by Ellen @  21:40   //Permalink// 

Ellen Sander's Classic Rock Readers

Databirds Studio Inc is pleased to announce the first three Kindle editions of Ellen Sander's Classic Rock Readers. Please check them out at Ellen Sander's Classic Rock Readers on Kindle

Or, use the links in the sidebar to your left. These are the first three volumes of what will eventually be about 12 Classic Rock Readers, which are annotated collections of magazine articles written during and about rock's finest hour.

You don't need a kindle to get these books.  You can get the free Kindle reader/app for any device from the Amazon website or from the iTunes store or the app store for your Android, etc.


Plaster Caster!  Hilarious super groupie adventures in rock 'n' roll weinerland:

Rock and Roll Womanhood: How rock in the classic rock era affected womanhood. Interviews and essay.

The Lifestyle that Rock Unleashed and other articles from rock's golden age:

// posted by Ellen @  19:53   //Permalink// 
Monday, October 08, 2012

Joni Mitchell memories

I was driving Stephen Stills to  a CSN recording session, it must've been 1969, and the subject of Joni Mitchell came up.  Nothing unusual about that, "everyone" was talking about her. "Every man within 50 feet falls in love with her." Stills let loose with that gravelly chortle and his sideways grin told me that he was probably one of them.

I had occasion to listen to a private collection of some live tracks of Joni Mitchell recently and her voice was just soaring, rippling, traversing octaves, hitting that little yodel-y break. From deep in a spiral of memories I fell into the same thrall as when her music was a frequent visitor in the air around me, as sweet as it gets, like seeing a sun rise just for you, pouring through backlit clouds in billowing hues.

I remember when I met her in New York (in Chelsea) and her first album, with that breathy folksy sound. And later exploring her lower register in the second album. After a couple of tours, and she'd moved to L.A. by then, to Laurel Canyon, she held her sides and told me she felt the muscles around her ribs bulking and remarked that she now understood why opera singers are so barrel chested.

When I reviewed her first album, Song to a Seagull, for The New York Times (published December 29, 1968) I wrote "Joni Mitchell's songs are the product of her fascination with changes of heart, changes of mind, changes of season and changes of self. [...] The songs about herself are songs for today's independent young woman [...] I Had A King is a sad, backward glance at the artist's broken marriage, without bitterness or self reproach. Cactus Tree speaks of todays young divorcee on the  rebound 'so busy being free' ..."

What actually intrigued me, which I didn't put in writing, because I didn't know how to admit it, was how she handled a litany of relationships in her songs, with such class and unapologetic confessional. Not to mention gorgeous melodies, exquisite lyrics. Nobody ever painted womanhood in such lithe watercolor strokes.

Her loves were also the fodder for reprehensibly gauche  notice: Warner Brothers came out with a print ad for the first album with the headline of "Joni Mitchell is no Virgin."  Mitchell's manager hit the roof and they pulled it immediately.  I'm not sure where I actually saw it, perhaps in the trades? Rolling Stone, with a chart identifying her lovers, from rumor and from inference, named her "Old Lady of the Year." Crude, rude and lewd.  A woman articulating the nuances of relationships in explicit detail? And no remorse? I guess no groundbreaking work goes unpunished, even works executed with such poetic skill, dignity and insight.

I know for a fact that upset her very much.  But it didn't faze her, not one bit. Because in addition to her stunning understated beauty, her extraordinary talents and taste, she's got courage  and lots of it. Personally and musically.  She composes in modes few musicians can name, plies vocal lines with unexpected shifts and intervals and has forged a career that is unique.

People analyze her songs all the time to figure out who they are about. I happen to know exactly who "stood out like a ruby in a black man's ear" in That Song About the Midway, one of my favorites. And he certainly does. Even now.

She once told me the smartest thing anyone ever said about songwriting.  People ask her all the time if a certain song is about such and so a person. She said if you never tell who the song is about everybody thinks it's them.

And I do. Joni Mitchell writes my life, the part of my life that connects with nature and romantic misadventure and womanhood and language and wondering under the night sky. And yours.  What a gift.

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// posted by Ellen @  20:38   //Permalink// 
Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Beck, Jeff. Beck break

Beck's Bolero, the fuzztone sweeps my skull clean of clutter and infuses it with energy, inspiration and wah wha pedal pushing daydreams.  An urban song, full of traffic, soot, sinister turns and shady alleys of the soul.

Turn the corner and get on New Ways Train Train, the tracks thrumming, the cars shuddering, the rattle of the  rails chattering and a lonely horn blows through the tunnel of rocky love, echoing against the stones. In the station, a solo fiddler plays, wheedle, wheedle whee... and it's one afternoon, one song but that last note, it lasts forever, plies itself into the fiery center of the tornado and melts it down.  It never ends, that note. Once you've heard it the second time it lives in your very marrow.  You can never get over it and you never want to.

And there, from the molten lava, rises Over the Rainbow. A brave move, that. Dreams slide over the Rainbow and liquify into pools of color, they fill the room they fill my thought, they lift and linger and leave me ready to get back to my day, now filled and sweet, reaching, reaching.  

Beck.  Jeff Beck.

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// posted by Ellen @  14:49   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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