Archive for April, 2008

Danny Federici 1950-2008

Posted in music on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Most of the headlines will read “Long-time Springsteen keyboardist dies.” His name was Danny Federici, and even most music fans couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. He wasn’t an onstage sidekick like saxophonist Clarence Clemons…. He didn’t clown around and share Bruce’s microphone or have a side job on the Sopranos like Steve Van Zandt. But Bruce fans know that, simply put, Danny was The Man.

My friend Mike from the Fearless Romantics blog put it this way: “Oh, this is just so sad. Danny will always be the man. every time I listen to one of those great tracks where he just defined that E Street sound, gave it that extra zing, a bit of mystery, and, like I’ve said before, made sure Bruce never became Meat Loaf. He always seemed to be in the background at the shows, in terms of personality – he just let his music do the talking. But you knew that he’d been there all the way, was a superb musician, and without him the whole Springsteen sound would have been so different.”

He’d left the band late in 2007 to battle cancer… a fight he lost April 17, 2008 when he passed away. Sad news for sure, as he’d recently joined the band for a guest appearance in Indianapolis just a few weeks prior.

I guess most of us hoped he was recovering and would be back with the band soon. Reports from a recent show in Anaheim noted that, during the intro to “Magic,” Bruce paused and seemed to stammer his way through the words “Danny needs your prayers…”

It’s strange to feel sad about the death of someone you didn’t know and never met. But I’m glad that the last time I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, we sat behind the stage but pretty close and behind Danny’s side of the stage.

During band introductions, Bruce used to refer to him as Phantom Dan. Now you see him, now you don’t. RIP Danny, you’ll be missed.

See him take one of his solos from his final show with the band by clicking here.

From BruceSpringsteen.net:

“Danny and I worked together for 40 years – he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much…we grew up together.”
—Bruce Springsteen

The Federici family and the E Street family request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. A web site for the Fund has been established: http://www.thedannyfedericimelanomafund.com/news.html

Record Store Day: 4.19.08

Posted in music, top 10 lists on Monday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

April 19, 2008 has been declared Record Store Day by the folks who declare such things. There was a RecordStoreDay.com website about it with quotes from artists and a way to search for your nearest store, but it seems to be down. See how bad they must be hurting?
Go out this Saturday and support your local independent record store! I read something recently that the two largest music retailers in the U.S. are Walmart and iTunes. That’s kinda sad. Stop buying CD’s from Best Buy and Target and start supporting these local indie places before they’re all gone.

Aahh… but what to buy? Here’s the Top 10 New, Old, and Recent Albums Recommended With Confidence:

1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig!!! (2008) Strange storytelling, distinctive voice, rockin tunes, and solid production. In other words “the new Nick Cave album is good.”
2. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero (2007) Most famous for the way Trent Reznor hyped this before its release, but the album itself is actually great. Too bad the marketing got more media coverage than the music. I’ve never been a big Nine Inch Nails fan, but this is an excellent record. Very “listenable” songs for the average non-NIN fan, but still packed with the all the noise-meets-instruments genius of Reznor’s production.
3. Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch (2007) Former Drive-By Trucker’s first solo album is full of solid tunes. Highly recommended.
4. The Word – The Word (2001) Pedal-steel guitar phenom Robert Randolph teams up with keyboardist John Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars for jammin instrumentals that aren’t too wanky or boring.
5. Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (2008) Brendan Benson and Jack White get the band back together, resulting in a deeper, more varied, and flat-out rockin second album.
6. Old 97’s – Too Far to Care (1997) Underrated classic alt-country gem here. Trademark witty lyrics and heartbroken melodies… The peak example of the Old 97’s train wreck of rock and country.
7. Wu Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams (2007) Legendary hip-hop group led by The RZA return to peak form with an instant classic. That’s not just lazy review-speak, the album is really that good.
8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl (2005) Alt-rockers tone it down a bit for more of an Americana feel and it yields the highlight album of their career.
9. David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) Crosby’s first solo record is an overlooked piece of rock history. Nice little album features great guitar work by Jerry Garcia. Appearances by Mickey Hart, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Bill Kreutzman, Phil Lesh, Grace Slick, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young don’t hurt either. But Crosby’s voice and songs like “Music Is Love,” “Laughing,” and “Cowboy Movie” are the real stars here.
10. Black Keys – Attack & Release (2008) New one from bluesy guitar-drums duo gets better with every listen.

I like the Counting Crows new album. That’s right, I said it!

Posted in music on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

I know… it’s not cool to like the Counting Crows. They’re a pop/rock band that originated in the 90’s and had a big hit with “Mr. Jones.” Their lead singer Adam Duritz looks like Robert Downey, Jr., with fake dreads.

They make decent records. Their first one, August and Everything After, was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. They have this sort of modern-folky/classic rock sound behind Duritz’s more-than-capable vocals (often referred to as “whiney”). And while he often sounds whiney (told ya), he is a good singer and decent lyricist.

But this is the blogosphere. I’m kinda new to this blog thing, and while I might not have invented the Internet, I’ve clicked around enough to know that serious music freaks and bloggers are not supposed to like the Counting Crows. Like, at all. Duritz and the Counting Crows are the people and bands we’re supposed to make fun of while extolling the virtues of some hot trendy band of hacks like the Killers or Snow Patrol. Sorry, but I’m not playing along.

Rolling Stone magazine, that former authority on all things rock music and former pillar of music journalism, just had a good feature on Duritz. Talked about how he has a life-long mental illness that’s been diagnosed as a dissociative disorder. Now, I’m usually the first person to not feel sorry for rich celebrities who “just cant cope” with their fame and riches. But maybe this guy is a real human being who happens to have some real issues that have nothing to do with being a celebrity (other than living under a microscope of criticism and needing to take meds that make him gain weight). Maybe he’s not just whining about how hard it is to be the rich and famous Mr. Jones Guy. The article was titled Why Can’t Adam Duritz Get Any Respect? How the Counting Crows leader battled depression and his critics — and made his best album in a decade.

Then, elsewhere in the same issue, the actual album review is filled with snarky comments like “We know, dude: Life in L.A. is tough.” And yet it also admits that some songs are “little masterpieces of pop craft.” So it’s like they can’t deny that the actual album is good (despite the unenthusiastic 3-star review), but they’re just too cool to not take cheap shots at Adam Duritz.

Funny, looking at my notes from when I first heard the album, I wrote: “it’s okay. after a few listens I’m not all gung-ho to keep listening more….. I liked the first album a lot (back then) but I wouldn’t classify myself as a big Counting Crows fan so I kinda don’t care either way.”

A few listens later I wrote: “Listened to this again yesterday, starting on track 8 and just listening to 8-14. Pretty enjoyable. I reckon it would be better with a few less tunes (taking out tracks 1, 13, and 14 wouldn’t hurt).”

By today, several more listens later, I found myself writing “man I’m really loving this record a lot more than I ever thought I would!”

Hmm. So there it is: I love the new Counting Crows record and I’m not gonna be ashamed to admit it. Just don’t send this link to any of your really cool music buddies.

Democrats Hate America??

Posted in misc.blurbs, politics on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

So this morning on my drive in… i see this asshole in a truck and on the back in HUGE (huge!) letters it says DEMOCRATS HATE AMERICA, and the C in democrats is actually the soviet hammer/sickle.

Okay, first of all, I’m not a democrat, but you can guess that their alleged platform is more in line with my thinking than the republicans. But that doesn’t matter. How ridiculous and flat-out stupid and wrong is that statement?
So I’m considering just giving him the finger for being such a dick, though I probably would just do the stare-down headshake. But as I pull along side I see he’s in uniform that says “county sheriff’s office.” so this is the kinda whackjob that works in a sheriff’s office? Does he have a gun??

Now…. I know…. free speech and all…. but does he REALLY believe that? Aren’t there other more accurate statements he could make that might be thoughtful/intelligent reasons to not vote Democrat?

What the fuck is wrong with this country that people need to put DEMOCRATS HATE AMERICA in huge letters on their truck??

You do NOT look cool with that Bluetooth thing in your ear!

Posted in misc.blurbs on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Sorry if that’s you, but you’re an asshole.

Seriously. There’s other hands-free options. And most of the time when I see people wearing them, they’re not even on a call. Just walking around with this fuckin thing in their head so everyone can see they have one. Like “Ooh! I might get a call! I’m ready!” Bunch of tossers. Again, sorry if you have one. They just look idiotic.

ugh….. there’s more and more of them every day! Multiplying like cyborgs or something. And I saw this freakin really old guy with white hair, sitting in a restaurant with his wife, not on a call, wearing one of these things.
Saw another dude the other day, driving a pistachio/light-blue Mercedes….. had a Bluetooth thing in his right ear while he was talkin on a phone he was holding to his left ear!
This is what we’ve come to? We’re so “busy” in our “fast-paced, hi-tech” world that we can’t even go like this [raises arm so hand meets ear]??

Freedom Fries and Trucknuts

Posted in misc.blurbs, politics on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Okay, so the other day I saw one of those BOYCOTT FRANCE stickers that were popular a couple years ago. And how funny that places started changing their menus to “Freedom Fries” cuz “we dont serve FRENCH fries,” all because they were smart enough to not join in our stupid war in Iraq. Yea, freedom fries. That’ll show ‘em!!

Then yesterday i saw a sticker that said “F*CK TERRORISM.”
YEA!!!! we’re winning!!!

Also… y’all seen these big fake scrotums that rednecks hang from the bottom of the back of their big-ass trucks?? Do they think this is remotely cool or tough? really? a freakin fake sack of nuts hanging from their truck? it’s silly and gross.


I guess they’re saying “my truck has balls” in some fashion, but just go ahead and drive a big-ass truck, that’s enough to let us know you’re some big bad cool dude.

Unwritten, part 2

Posted in books, essays on Wednesday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

I read a lot. Mostly novels, contemporary stuff. Some quasi-hippie neo-classic shit like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Strange rambling epic stories like all of Tom Robbins books. Loved John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, but also A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

I’ve always found excuses to wander into a bookstore and just sniff the spines. For different reasons, I have the same love for danky oddly-organized dimly lit underground used book stores that I have for the bright huge chain stores that offer best sellers, a warehouse-sized store full of every book under the sun, and a mini pseudo coffee shop in the corner.

While you can’t beat the mystique and value of a mom’n’pop used book shop, I also love the smooth new books. You can just pull them off the shelf with that ffft sound and gently imitate it by wooshing your palm across the cover. Ffft.

Sometimes I’ll visit books I’ve loved… just to touch them again. Remind me of the feeling I had when I was with them. And to make sure certain title are there. Are they in the right place? On the proper shelf, waiting to be chosen so they can give those same feelings to someone new.

I love to pick up nice crisp new books, even if they’re old titles new in paperback, the actual book itself is new. Pages unruffled, spines unbent. Like a little gift waiting to be unwrapped; to share its story and dreams and imagined worlds.

If I haven’t read it, it’s new to me.

Even books I know nothing about by people I’ve never heard of attract me. I like to turn these books over and read the glowing quoted snippets promising “a journey like no other,” and “a mesmerizing tale” or “a world of infinite possibilities playing out in a small town.”

“Redemption.”

“A tour-de force.”

My favorites were the quotes about the author. “As compelling a first novel as has ever been written.” “A strong new voice.” “Perhaps the first great voice of his generation.”
That’s what I wanted to be.

But I was a sham. All my unused pens, still full of ink, and stacks of empty pages were proof that I was nothing. I wasn’t a writer. I was the first great waste of my generation’s voice. But slowly I was forcing myself to speak.

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