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The Minstel From Bedford-Stuyvesant

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Troubadour Richie Havens
Friday, April 30, 2010

Richie Havens has used his music to convey a message of brotherhood, hope, and personal freedom for over forty years as he sings against social injustices and oppression. His platform of choice has been through roughly two dozen some odd record releases and a never-ending touring schedule that has brought him to stages across the globe. And through it all, Havens continues to view his chosen vocation as a higher calling stating, "I'm not in show business. I only sing songs that move me. What I'm really in is the communications business. That's what it's all about for me."

Blessed with one the most distinguished and recognizable voices in contemporary music, Havens remains as honest, soulful and ageless as when he first emerged from the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s. His is a voice that has always inspired and in some cases even electrified as it did at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969, and at the Clinton Inauguration in 1993, as well as in 1999 when he came full circle appearing at the 30th Woodstock Anniversary celebration, 'A Day in the Garden.' Fortunate to have witnessed Havens many times throughout the years, I've observed him age with a unique kind of splendid of grace --- losing none of his power to enchant and enthrall --- becoming a rare and inspiring voice of eloquence, integrity and social responsibility. Obviously, I'm captivated by the music and spirit of Richie Havens, and I hope that by sharing some examples with you here, they'll serve to beguile you as well. Of course that's based on the assumption that you're not already among the many converted.

About The Music

Havens foremost strength lays in his ability at rendering the songs of others, particularly those of The Beatles and Bob Dylan. In fact, in 1987 he recorded an entire album of Lennon/McCartney and Dylan tunes for the Ryko label. Although he's more than capable of writing many fine songs for himself, it's ultimately his interpretive skills that carry the day. In addition to the aforementioned tunesmiths, he's also covered exceptional songwriters like James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell and CSN&Y (both collectively and individually). Likewise, similar authors such as Robbie Robertson, Fred Neil and Donovan Leitch. More surprisingly however, he's tackled such disparate writers as Sting, Marvin Gaye, The Jefferson Airplane and even The Who to name just a few. What is most astonishing however is that each of his readings are haunting, extraordinary performances that transform the originals into such personal statements that he succeeds on nearly every level at making them seem to have come from his very own pen. It's simply an astounding feat.

In arranging the songs for Parts 1 & 2 of 'The Minstrel From Bedford-Stuyvesant,' I've tried my best to keep the material in the chronological order of their release, but I've have made a few adjustments for the sake of flow. Of the featured albums, Richie's 'Mixed Bag' is presented in its entirety, while 'Richard P. Havens, 1983' is also nearly complete, as I believe these two albums are among his very best work (although his recent output is also extremely strong). His take on Quicksilver's, 'What About Me?' comes from a video clip that was taken from a BBC television performance that featured Havens with a small ensemble. 'Wonder Child,' on the other hand comes from Sesame Street where it was originally was performed back in 1975. Conspicuously absent in these sets however are selections from his late 70s A&M releases as well as his recordings from the early 80s, as these are critically considered to be among his weakest. Due to the demise of MGM Records who distributed his own Stormy Forest label, Havens lost creative control over his recorded output during this period, subsequently releasing a string of label produced, trend heavy releases that today sound overproduced and sorely dated. While they do contain some memorable moments, unfortunately there are not nearly enough to warrant their inclusion. It was only with the release of '...Sings Beatles And Dylan' in 1987 that Havens was finally able to take repossession of his authority to determine the direction of his recorded output, and he then began to reclaim the mantle that always described him best --- an acoustic soul giant --- re-emerging even more inspiring and relevant than ever before.

 The Minstrel From Bedford-Stuyvesant, Pt.1

1) Sugarplums

(Something Else Again)
2) High Flyin' Bird
3) I Can't Make It Anymore
4) Morning, Morning
5) Adam
6) Follow
7) Three Day Eternity
8) Sandy
9) Handsome Johnny
10) San Francisco Bay Blues
11) Just Like A Woman
12) Eleanor Rigby

(Mixed Bag)
13) Run, Shaker Life
14) From The Prison

(Something Else Again)
15) Here Comes The Sun
(Alarm Clock)
16) Woman
17) Younger Men Grow Older
(Alarm Clock)
17) Stop Pushing And Pulling Me
19) For Heaven's Sake

(Richard P. Havens, 1983)
20) Something Else Again
(Something Else Again)

The Minstrel From Bedford-Stuyvesant, Pt.2

1) Strawberry Fields Forever
2) What More Can I Say John?
3) I Pity The Poor Immigrant
4) Lady Madonna
5) Priests
6) Indian Rope Man
7) Cautiously
8) Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head
9) Putting Out The Vibration And Hoping It Comes Home
10) The Parable Of Ramon

(Richard P. Havens, 1983)
11) What About Me?
(BBC Four)
12) Wonder Child
(Sesame Street)
13) Handouts In The Rain
14) Stardust And Passion

(Wishing Well)
15) When
16) Scarlet Flames

(Grace Of The Sun)
17) They Dance Alone
18) The Hawk

(Cuts To The Chase)

Source material for 'The Minstrel From Bedford-Stuyvesant, Pts.1&2' come from the following:

Mixed Bag (1967)/Something Else Again (1968)
Richard P. Havens, 1983 (1969)/Alarm Clock (1971)
BBC Four (1974)/Sesame Street (1975)
Collection (1987)/Cuts To The Chase (1994)
Wishing Well (2002)/Grace Of The Sun (2004)

One More From 'The Vault'

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An archival piece originally published May 16, 2008
Friday, April 23, 2010

Short, Fast, and Loud!
The Confessions Of An Angry Young Man

Am I angry? Fuck yeah, I’m angry! You'd be too if you grew up with all the crap I had to endure! That’s why I’m pissed, 'cause I'll tell ya' man, my life’s been fuckin' shitty so far. I look around, and everything just sucks. Nobody cares what happens to me. So why even bother? That's why I like to get shit-faced and listen to music that’s short, fast, and really, really loud! It's the only thing I can relate to. I mean, if I didn’t have that... man, I’d prob'ly deck every stupid dickhead that gets up in my face. Fuck yeah, I’m fuckin' angry!

"It Never Should’ve Happened In The First Place"

My father disappeared just two months after marryin' my Mom and never once looked back. He was a freakin’ bum anyway. About the same age as me when they got married, and my Mom was only a just few years older. I was told they conceived on their wedding night, but that’s not the way it happened, not for a minute! I mean, think about it. Two months! The marriage lasted only two fucking months! The only reason they got married was because she got herself knocked-up. I’m sure of it! I was a big mistake. They never should’ve hooked up. What a couple of douche bags. My Mom said that after she threw him out, he and his brothers broke into the apartment and stole everything she had --- her radio, TV, jewelry --- you name it. What an asshole. Fuck ‘em. To this day, I still haven’t gotten a straight answer about what happened, only that he was a shit head and we were better off without 'im. Well I’m not better off! No one’s better off! It never should’ve happened in the first place. Man, the whole thing was one colossal mistake, and my Mom's no better.

"I Don’t Even Fuckin' Care Anymore"

I was the first of three kids. What a fuckin’ joke! My mother should've stopped with me, but no, she kept crankin’ ‘em out like cars off an assembly line, different fathers, all three of us. All I ever saw growin’ up was a parade of new boyfriends that changed every couple of months. I couldn't even keep ‘em straight. One month it'd be Chip, or Chet, the next month Charlie, Chuck, whatever. I don’t even fuckin’ care anymore. They’d go out boozin’ it up nearly every night, and my sister and I would be stuck at home with some sadistic babysitter with pimples and bad breath. I mean, what can you say about a single mom who doesn't really give a shit, tryin’ to raise a coupla’ kids by herself except that it’s a load of shit. She gave us the basics, food, clothing, and shelter, but that's about it! Lookin’ back, I probably had it the easiest, bein’ the first and all. But my poor kid sister,? Man, she got all fucked up! She got the worst of it. Never knew
what the hell was goin’ on. The third, my brother... he was given up for adoption. Lucky bastard. That was probably the smartest thing my Mom ever did. Not just for him, but 'fer all of us.

We never had much money either. Growin’ up, I lived all over the place. You know, crappy places like trailer parks, Section 8 housing, the projects. It was the shits. Every now and then we’d move into an actual house or a real apartment without fluorescent lights and crap, but it never lasted long. I remember we skippin’ out in the middle of the night because the rent was four months overdue and she said she had nothin’ in the bank. We were already eatin’ canned soup and that kinda’ shit. Chung King crap. We packed up everything we had, threw it in the trunk of the car, and split! Ha-ha! It felt pretty cool then, but it was really fucked up. We ended up at my grandmothers, the three of us sharin' some tiny little room together. And because we were always movin' around, I never had many friends. What's the point anyway? I’d just end up sayin’ goodbye before I really got to know ‘em. Why even bother? So that’s why I became a punk. I woulda’ gone crazy if I didn’t. I mean, who’d wanna be around my Mom and my sister anyway? They're always fightin’ and screamin’ at each other. It was a drag. Just a plain drag.

It's Always "Timmy This," and "Timmy That!"

It was the biggest day of my 5th grade life. I was gettin' an award for havin’ all straight A’s that year. Can you believe it? Yeah, despite all the crap at home, I did pretty good in school. I actually liked being there. Well, for a little while at least. Anyway, the winners were all suppose to appear in the school auditorium in front of everybody, and our parents were invited to attend too. It was all I could talk about 'fer weeks, I was so God damn excited! The ceremony started around 1:00 in the afternoon, and my mother still hadn’t shown up yet. So we all filed out on stage, all us little twerps, and they were handin’ out certificates and all this stuff. Everyone was clappin’ and smiling,’ and the freakin’ thing was almost over and my Mom still hadn't shown up! I remember looking out in the audience, searchin’ for her face and wonderin' if she would make it before the whole thing was fuckin' over. I was really disappointed, man. I think I almost started ta' cry. Then, towards the
very, very end, she finally walks in, and she's all booze soaked as usual. In she comes, reekin' of alcohol, her lipstick all messed up, tits hangin’ out all over the place. It’s funny now, but on that day... man, she was a pathetic fuckin' embarrassment! She staggered down the aisle with her latest bonehead boyfriend, Hank or Huck, some shit like that. I don’t remember, somethin' with a goddamn fuckin' H. All the other kids had normal lookin' parents, a mother, and a father, and these two looked just like they they went on a three day bender. Everyone was happy, and takin' pictures, pissin' all over themselves with pride, when up strolls my Mom with this royal dick to join in on the love fest. Well, forgettin’ that she was in an elementary school, she lights up a cigarette and starts puffin’ away, oblivious. Finally the school principle asks her to put it out. It was really embarrassing. Then she wobbles up the staircase to the stage and pulls me over to her, smotherin' my face in her tits, and she starts blabberin' on about how proud she was of her "little Timmy." She kept goin’ on about, "Timmy this," and "Timmy that!" real loud so everyone could hear. Crap like, “My little boy, Timmy, he's such an angel,” you know? And “Timmy’s always been the smartest. He's gonna' be a doctor some day,” shit like that! She kept sayin' it over and over again in front of everybody, ‘Timmy!’ ‘Timmy!’ ‘Timmy!’ And every body kept lookin' at her like she was from some other planet! You know, like "who the fuck are you, woman?" They couldn't believe what they were fuckin' hearing, the fucking cunt! But you what hurt me the most? My fucking name is Tommy, not Timmy! The bitch.

© 2008 Miles Mellough

About The Music

'Short, Fast And Loud!' is comprised primarily of punk and post-punk material. By today's standards, it sounds almost tame. Funny how that works. A few of the bigger names from the era are included, such as The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Jam, Dead Boys, Generation X, and Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Others like X-Ray Spex, Sham 69, and The Tom Robinson Band were a bit less well-known. Pity. The tracks by Cock Sparrer and Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias are relatively rare, so I'm told. I don't really know. The remainder of those featured were among the principle players in the San Francisco punk scene of the late 70's. Those include, The Nuns, The Mutants, SVT, Pearl Harbour & The Explosions, The Readymades, and perhaps the most dynamic and criminally overlooked of the period, The Dils, an absolutely astounding band. On the other hand, another local band, Ace & The Eights are a group that I barely remember, but they did release one single that was built around a killer riff by guitarist, Rocket Morton. I think Kenny Dale Johnson may have also drummed for the band before joining Chris Isaak and Silvertone. Pearl Harbour, along with Penelope Houston of The Avengers, and Jennifer Miro of The Nuns, were also among the few women who fronted their own groups during the punk era. Although Harbour wasn't really angry, she did exude a tremendous amount of sex appeal, therefore making it impossible for any red blooded male punkster to resist her whether they liked her music or not. Most of them just wouldn't be quick to admit it. Jennifer Miro could have been a model too. Maybe she was. Of the three, only Penelope Houston remains active today. As for the inclusion of The Who, The Kinks, and MC5, these bands (and particularly these singles) probably represent the first real punk music I ever heard (Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard notwithstanding). Predating the genre, The Kinks set the stage with the three chord sound that launched a thousand imitators. The Who exemplified teenaged angst ridden proto-punk with their early singles, and later, The MC5 added the politics of change to the frustration of alienated youth (whether they were used as tools for someone else's agenda or not). Many other names, both locally and internationally could have included in 'Short, Fast and Loud!,' and maybe they should have, but they're not.

Set list recently updated with additional songs! September 14, 2013

1) What Do I Get?/The Buzzcocks
2) Sonic Reducer/The Dead Boys
3) I'm So Bored With The U.S.A./The Clash
4) Confused/The Nuns
5) Baby's No Good/The Mutants
6) Always Comes Back For More/SVT
7) We Love You/Cock Sparrer
8) We Got A Fight/Sham 69
9) My Generation/The Who
10) The Day The World Turned Day-Glo/X-Ray Spex
11) Snuff It/Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias
12) 2-4-6-8 Motorway/Tom Robinson Band
13) You Really Got Me/The Kinks
14) 415 Music/The Readymades
15) The Modern World/The Jam
16) Shut Up & Dance/Pearl Harbour & The Explosions
17) Mystery Dance/Elvis Costello & The Atractions
18) Explosion/Ace & The Eights
19) Kick Out The Jams:Come Together/MC5
20) God Save The Queen/The Sex Pistols
21) Gimme' Some Truth/Generation X
22) Class War/The Dils
23) Believe In Me/The Avengers*
24) Tutti Frutti/Little Richard*
25) So Messed Up/The Damned*
26) That's When I Reach For My Revolver/Mission Of Burma*
27) Looking For a Kiss/The New York Dolls*
28) Blitzkrieg Bop/The Ramones*

*New additions

For maximum impact: Play loud!

One From 'The Vault'

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A Temporary Band-Aid
Friday, April 16, 2010

First of all, a wholehearted thanks to those of you who recently left comments of encouragement and support surrounding my present state of mental (un)health. Granted, we all have our little ups and downs from time to time. Unfortunately mine tend to be a bit more extreme, and they can sometimes get the best of me. It hasn't happened for a while now. In fact, my moods have tended to be pretty even for the most part, allowing me to function just like normal people do. But then these are not ordinary times we're living in, are they? Life can really be a bitch when you're not on top of it. Anyway, just so you know, I'm not planning on closing shop, or anything like that. Nor am I looking for pats on the back. I just need to get a few things under control.

An archival piece originally published November 21, 2008

The All Seeing Eye:
Wayne Shorter As Composer

Over the last half century, saxophonist Wayne Shorter has penned an impressive body of work that has established him as one the most preeminent composers within the jazz idiom. His evocative songwriting employs drama, atmosphere, and a surprising use of space and harmonic innovation, and within those songs, his expressive, probing solos carry with them a simple elegance and sense of economy that make his music at once sensuous, cerebral and extremely compelling.

With 'The All Seeing Eye,' I intend to showcase what I believe are some of Shorter's finest compositions dating from 1964 to the present day. The selections however will focus exclusively on his solo recordings, excluding material which was written for the likes of Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Weather Report, ensembles in which he participated either as a sideman (Blakey, Davis), or a co-leader (Weather Report). Some may take issue with this decision, as Shorter contributed many outstanding pieces to the repertoire of the aforementioned units, but he has revisited some of those songs within his own recordings, and a few (i.e.: 'Footprints,' 'Water Babies' and 'Orbits') are included here. Perhaps adding insult to injury, I have additionally chosen not to include any of Shorter's fully electric ensembles, effectively discounting several decades of his work, primarily his recordings from the 1980's and 90's (his 70's output with Weather Report notwithstanding). So how can this be considered a comprehensive overview? Well quite honestly it's not, but then comprehensiveness is not my objective.

Shorter served notice as a rare genius with composition early in his career, and his songwriting has remained consistently superb throughout the years. What has varied more so is his playing, with a shift from tenor to soprano, and the development of a more economical style that often flirts with the melody rather than fully embracing it. Shorter's songwriting chops are evident enough no matter where one looks, so it then stands to reason that if you like what you hear in his solo work, you'll no doubt find equally satisfying examples within his contributions for others. It's my hope that this mix will encourage you to further explore his cannon (solo or otherwise) in your own self-guided quest for discovery.

Along with his harmonic sophistication, what makes Shorter's compositions so absorbing is how modal and free improvisation merge over a rhythmic looseness that never seems to lose its inherent sense of swing. Miles Davis once said of Shorter, Wayne brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. If they didn’t work, then he broke them, but with a musical sense; he understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your satisfaction and taste. Wayne was always out there on his own plane, orbiting around his own planet. Everybody else in the band was walking down here on earth…”

An interesting example of Shorter's use of harmony occurs in 'Twelve More Bars To Go,' wherein he injects a harmony that sounds like a backward progression within the standard 12 bar form, thereby breaking the form and comically depicting an individual who is slightly shit-faced, staggering along three sheets to the wind, taking two steps back for every five steps forward. Melody also plays an important role in Shorter's compositions, as does the importance of space, but again, it's the harmonic finesse of his arrangements that often work to make his small groups sound like much larger ensembles.

In the late sixties, as a result of his involvement with Miles Davis' move toward electric instrumentation, Shorter switched from tenor to soprano sax, an instrument he found better suited to the electronic timbre of the band's sound. However in doing so, he also found a startling new voice for himself, expressiveness with economy. It's an approach no doubt gleaned from his years of sharing the stage with Davis who always managed to say 'more with less.’ Shorter then dropped the tenor entirely for several decades, effectively distancing himself from the 'Coltrane' comparisons that had previously dogged him once and for all. In recent years however, his music has moved back into the acoustic arena. Now having mastered both instruments, he utilizes the two seamlessly in his new material.

The last element of Shorter's songwriting that deserves mention is its spiritual quality. As a practicing Buddhist, Shorter possesses a unique inquisitiveness and focus, traits that obviously trickle down through his music. Even before embracing Buddhism, Shorter expressed himself saying, "You can't divorce music from life. I have a need to relate my music to the way in which I respond to life around me. I look forward to a day when we will come to a period of total enlightenment, a time in which we'll discover who we are and why we're here." In his 1965 recording, 'The All Seeing Eye,' Shorter moved into the mystic with a suite of music putting forth the contemplation of God pondering his creation, melding the mystical with the metaphysical, and taking Coltrane's meditative concepts almost into the realm of theological questioning. Shorter expounds further stating, "Life is so mysterious to me. I can't stop at any one thing and say, 'Oh, this is what it is.' It's always evolving, always becoming. That's the adventure, and imagination is a part of that adventure." For my money, so is the music of Wayne Shorter.

The All Seeing Eye (Set #1)

1) Night Dreamer
2) Dance Cadaverous
3) Speak No Evil
4) Wild Flower
5) Footprints
6) Yes And No
7) Twelve More Bars To Go
8) Lost
9) Go
10) Angola
11) The Big Push

The All Seeing Eye (Set #2)

1) The All Seeing Eye
2) Penelope
3) Toy Tune
4) Wind
5) Storm
6) Water Babies
7) De Pois Do Amor, O Vazio (After Love, Emptiness)
8) Moto Grosso Feio
9) Capricorn II

The source material for 'The All Seeing Eye' comes from the following recordings:

Night Dreamer (1964)/JuJu (1964)/Speak No Evil (1965)/The Soothsayer (1965)
Etcetera (1965)/The All Seeing Eye (1965)/Adam's Apple (1966)
Schizophrenia (1967)/Super Nova (1969)/Moto Grosso Feio (1970)
Odyssey Of Iska (1970) and Algeria (2005)

Please Stand By...

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...As I Work On My Mental Health
Friday, April 09, 2010

In the last year and a half, I've had so many ups and downs that I might as well've been an Elevator Operator. Right now I seem to be broke down and busted, stuck on the basement level. The money's running out, and the landlord's knockin' at my door. I'm down to my last cigarette, and my meds can't be refilled until the end of the month. And oh yeah, I'm outta' bandwidth too. Bear with me, will ya'? As you might guess, I'm strung just a little bit tight at the moment. --- Miles

No Post This Week...

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Not Because It's Easter Weekend...
It's Because I'm Doing My F@#?!%g Taxes!

Friday, April 2, 2010

It'll be no parade for me this weekend. Instead, I've got my laptop, a calculator, a half dozen sharpened No.#2 pencils, 1 lb. of finely ground coffee, 2 packs of cigarettes, a bottle of aspirin, and all of my receipts, 1099's and assorted statements laid out in front of me. Classical music is on the box, and the first pot of Mocha Java is already brewing. Wish me luck. I'll see you next week, if I'm lucky. --- Miles