Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The Sgt. Pepper spoof that greets you belies a serious endeavor in George Burns Sings (1969). The rushing pace that I expected was nowhere to be found. Buddah Records approached Burns, who assumed they were looking for laughs. Instead, label founder Neil Bogart presented the comic legend with a series of legitimate contemporary tunes to hash out honestly, not for yuks.
That's not to say the record is devoid of jokes. Just listen to "I Kissed Her on the Back Porch." But, dare I say it, Burns straightforward renditions are reminiscent of Willie Nelson, warbling with unpredictable, yet musically dead on instincts. His voice is warm and sweet, his New Yawk accent varying in intensity. "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Mr. Bojangles" are stand out tracks. Most view Jerry Jeff Walker's "Bojangles" as tribute to a bygone era. For George, its real life. Burns starred in The Big Broadcast of 1936 with Bill Robinson, Bojangles himself! The biggest surprise, both in selection and delivery, was George's take on Harry Nilsson's "1941." It's Harry's song about his the year of his birth, when Burns was a whippersnapper of 45. Perfection.
Walter Matthau looms over Burns in the upper right hand corner, but George Burns Sings predates the great comeback of the mid-1970's. Flash forward to 1980. Burns is now the Oscar winning actor for his portrayal of Matthau's aged vaudeville partner Al Lewis in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. For Burns' sake, he also played God in Oh, God! At the start of his tenth decade on Earth, George Burns found himself the last standing symbol of an entertainment world long gone and a multi-media star - movies, TV, books and, once again, records.That hat is never gonna touch that gray toupee and rest its brim on those fish lens glasses! George Burns in Nashville is simply another in a series of vocally challenged performers crooning in front of a crack team of Nashville session musicians. Ringo did it well on Beaucoups of Blues, Joey Bishop not so well on Joey Bishop Sings Country and Western. There's nothing wrong with this LP, a totally straight attempt. None of the songs are played as outright comedy, though some are too cute by half. He tackles "Ain't Misbehavin'" again, and, as he did on Sings, simply nails it.
Remember my Willie Nelson comment? Imagine my surprise when, on In Nashville, George sings "Willie, Won't You Sing a Song with Me." It's a great bit, Burns noting that Nelson has sung with everyone (and this was before Willie met Julio Iglesias!), and that they should get together. The offer is made and an opportunity missed. And Burns even had a television special tied in with the record. As the song fades, Burns pushes his credentials - I played God, I'm hot right now, I can help your career. Still, Willie demurred.
Also in 1980 came I Wish I Was Eighteen Again. Another piece of countrypolitan, there's a bit of vaudeville tossed in for good measure. "The Baby Song" is a ditty I'd heard Burns sing on TV, fast, funny, detouring into chatter as the punchline hit. Though slowed down and stretched out, it still works to great comic effect. Tom T. Hall's "One of the Mysteries of Life" starts with a touch of The Ink Spots in George's delivery. And Dolly's tune ends another pleasant album with a touching bit of autobiography.
I finally caught up with some Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. records that I've had on tape since college. That's the latest vinyl buying obsession. George Burns and Johnny Rotten - now there are a couple of contemporary record artists I'd love to have heard together.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I tell you what's been on my mind since I watched the movie a few days ago: Leonardo DiCaprio as the new Scorsese go to guy. No more is Robert DeNiro the onscreen image of Marty's films.
When DeNiro ruled the Scorsese universe, he was, as main character, a troubled individual, hard to peg as all-good, all-evil, or all-sane. Johnny Boy, Travis Bickle, Jake LaMotta and Rupert Pupkin didn't see the dichotomy of their inner selves, not really. Sure, Jake pounded his fists and head against his cell wall, wondering why things turned out as they did, but it was all animal action.
Amsterdam Villon, Howard Hughes, Billy Costigan and Teddy Daniels, the DiCaprio roles, are quite aware of the split selves. If not totally aware, then at least they suspect thing are pretty fucked up. It gnaws at them, the shifting reality that they find themselves immersed in, whether by choice or not.
As he gets older, Martin Scorsese has morphed his anti-heroes into intellectual and thoughtful men who contemplate the deeply held angels and devils that live in us all. Now his characters contemplate their dual natures. Back in the day, they simply lashed out with feral ferocity. The only thing that Leo and Bobby share are an upper case "D" and a lower case vowel in their last names.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Ever seen this?
Me neither. There are more Beatles bootlegs than I could possibly know, but this was odd. Turns out to be a 1967 issue of a 1964 unauthorized (I believe) hits album. The pic is not the copy I bought. Mine was all taped up, with a sticker from Nursery on Third Avenue. But for a buck, I had to get it.
Speaking of stickers, two albums, Free's Fire and Water and Dave Edmunds' Tracks on Wax 4 had stickers from St. Mark's Sounds on the cover. Ah, the memories of that beautiful store.
I always feel strange buying an album I should have had all along, like Edmunds above. But, life was a series of choices based on available coin back then (and still today in different denominations), so why feel bad. Therefore, I am proud, not ashamed, to announce that I finally got Public Image's First Issue and Second Edition. Too long not to have those. Also, got The Sex Pistols' The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, with a nice soundtrack sticker on the cover. I've been listening to a tape I made of the record for over a quarter century. Nice to have the vinyl.
Not having a seminal album like The Dead Boys' Young, Loud and Snotty does tick me off. Getting it today for $1 more than makes up for its long time absence. Got their We Have Come For Your Children too, also a buck. Discs are in great shape, covers are much worse for the wear.
It's rare that an album from my want list appears in the cheapie bin, so when I saw The Animals' Ark, their early '80's reunion attempt, I was floored and, obeying the signs from above, packed it in. I took a quick peek at the nicer albums in the racks, the records I was intending to spend my time and money on. They'll just have to wait for next time (I'm talking to you Don Everly solo records).