Let It Roll: The Songs of George Harrison, due June 16th, is only the third compilation of his work from his post-Beatles solo career. The first, Best of George Harrison, was a bit of cheat in that it included seven Beatles songs along with hits from his first four solo albums. Those albums were all on Capitol Records, which was also the Beatles’ label. For his fifth and subsequent albums, Harrison created his own label – Dark Horse. This led to the 1989 compilation, ‘Best of Dark Horse’, which included his six post-Capitol hits, six album cuts, “Cheer Down” from the ‘Lethal Weapon II’ soundtrack, and two new songs. With no repeats from the '76 album, the two combined gave you almost all of Harrison's solo hits (his #1 hit, "Isn't It a Pity", was inexplicably left off the Capitol set, and a #25 single, "This Song" was not on 'Best of Dark Horse').
So, 'Let it Roll' seems like the perfect opportunity to put all of his hit singles on one disc. This isn't the route they went, though, choosing to leave off five of his minor hits in favor of other album cuts. While the CD is career-spanning, it also passes over four albums entirely - 'Dark Horse'(1974), 'Extra Texture'(1975), 'Thirty Three & 1/3'(1976) and 'Gone Troppo'(1982). Granted, these weren't his greatest LPs, but there's good stuff on each of them. 'Roll' has three songs apiece from his last two albums. I might have cut those to two and inserted some middle period stuff Even though I revere his last two albums - Cloud Nine (my favorite all-time album) and 'Brainwashed' (recorded 15 years later!), I think it would be a fairer look at his solo career.
The one true rarity on the CD is "I Don't Want to Do It", Harrison's version of an unrecorded Bob Dylan song. It's only appeared on the soundtrack to Porky's Revenge. Dave Edmunds, put together the soundtrack and called in favors from friends like George Harrison, Jeff Beck and Robert Plant. I read an interview with Edmunds where he said he didn't really know what the movie was about and regretted getting his pals involved. It's been reissued on CD before, but it's out of print.
So, to buy or not to buy? If you have all the recent album reissues, probably not. I'm sure it sounds great, and if you're missing some of these songs it's worth a listen. George's career is under appreciated. While it could get bogged down in low-tempo religious paeans, it was so much more than that.
Let It Roll tracklisting:
Got My Mind Set On You
Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
My Sweet Lord
While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Live] - Concert For Bangladesh
All Things Must Pass
This Is Love
All Those Years Ago
What Is Life
When We Was Fab
Something [Live] - Concert For Bangladesh
Here Comes The Sun [Live] - Concert For Bangladesh
I Don't Want To Do It
Isn't It A Pity
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Volume 2 of Steve Canyon on DVD is now available! The 1958-59 TV series has been painstakingly restored and converted to digital by John Ellis and his loyal minions from the original films. Volume 2 includes episodes 13 - 24 of the TV series, as well as guest commentary tracks from aviation experts and guest stars from the show (like Richard Anderson). Leonard Nimoy fans take note. The future Mr. Spock appeared in episode 17, which hasn't been seen in over 50 years!
Steve Canyon: 1955 is now out from Checker BPG, and it's an exciting change. They have switched from the standard trade paperback format to a new square format. The big knock against the Checker reprints thus far (1942-51) has been the reprint size of the strips - 6" x 1 5/8". Now they have a little more breathing room at 8" x 2 3/8". It's a welcome change, and one I hope that's here to stay.
A large donation was recently made to the Cartoon Research Library & Museum, home of the Milton Caniff Collection. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Jean Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, has donated $1 million dollars. The donation goes towards the relocation and expansion of the Library from the Wexner Center to Sullivant Hall, both on the Ohio State University campus. Schulz is also offering a challenge where, if the library raises $2.5 million, she will match it. This is surprising to me, seeing as how she has her own museum to run. You can read the article here.
Facebook users have two ways to connect with other Milton Caniff fans. There's the Milton Caniff Fans group and the official Steve Canyon page. Each currently have fewer than 100 members. C'mon, gang, we can do better!
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has an online digital archive of government comic books. These are the comic book equivalent of PSAs, the likes of which we don't see much anymore. The comics, many featuring familiar comic book and strip characters, educate readers on a variety of topics, from earthquake preparedness to the dangers of drugs. There are several Caniff items here, including -
- Pocket Guide to China - issued by the War Department in 1943
- Bullets or Words? - a short manual on psychological warfare, 1950s vintage
- A Handbook for Auxiliary Fireman - 1941, has the same 4 pages of Caniff art from a similar pamphlet for Air Raid Wardens.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Recent Releases of Note
- Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
- Fireman - Electric Arguments
- Flatlanders - Hills and Valleys
- Indigo Girls - Poseidon and the Bitter Bug
- Roger Klug - More Help For Your Nerves
- Nick Lowe - Quiet Please: the Best of Nick Lowe
- Don McLean - Addicted to Black
- Move - The Very Best of the Move
- Willie Nelson - Naked Willie
- Willie Nelson/Asleep at the Wheel - Willie and the Wheel
- Mark Olson & Gary Louris - Ready for the Flood
- Paul Simon - One-Trick Pony [DVD]
- Frank Sinatra - Live at the Meadowlands
- Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream
- Wilco - Ashes of American Flags [DVD]
- Neil Young - Fork in the Road
- Beatles - entire catalogue - 9/9/09*
- Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane – 6/2
- Crosby, Stills & Nash - Demos – 6/2
- Nanci Griffith - The Loving Kind – 6/9
- George Harrison - Let It Roll (compilation) – 6/16
- Paul Simon and Friends - Gershwin Prize – 5/19 [DVD]**
- Son Volt - American Central Dust – 7/7
- Regina Spektor - Far – 6/23***
- Wilco - Wilco (the album) – 6/30
- Neil Young - Neil Young Archives,Vol.1 – 6/2^
*The complete original UK Beatles catalogue has been remastered for CD. The remasters are in stereo and each album will be available individually, with the previously separate ‘Past Masters’ discs (which collected the non-LP tracks) combined as one set. The stereo albums (16 discs) will be available as a box set. The albums that were originally mixed for mono (‘Please Please Me’ through ‘Sgt. Pepper’) will make up a remastered mono box, but will not be available individually.
**the “Friends” include Alison Krauss, Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, and more.
*** Includes 4 tracks produced by Jeff Lynne.
^The archives project, announced about 15 years ago, is finally here! It’s available in multiple formats: 10-discs on Blu-Ray with Book, 10-discs on DVD with Book, 8-discs on CD with booklet. The advantage of the Blu-Ray ($300) and DVD ($200) sets is that they will have both audio and video content. Also, with Blu-Ray you will be able to download new content as it becomes available. The CD ($100) set just has the music and no book, which is just fine with me. Amazingly, all the discs, and the book, can be purchased separately of the box sets.
- America - Indy –9/3,9/4; Dayton –9/25, 9/26
- Elvis Costello - Dayton – 5/27
- Crosby, Stills & Nash - Cincinnati – 7/31; Indy – 8/4
- Iris Dement - Newport – 8/13; Cleveland – 8/15
- Bob Dylan^^ - South Bend–7/4; Louisville–7/8; Dayton–7/10;Cleveland–7/11
- Steve Earle - Indy – 6/26; Cincinnati – 6/27
- Colin Hay - Newport – 7/15; Cleveland – 7/17
- Indigo Girls - Louisville – 6/20
- Billy Joel/Elton John - Indy – 5/19; Cleveland – 5/23; Columbus – 7/14
- Jenny Lewis - Columbus – 6/6; Louisville – 7/6
- Loggins & Messina - Dayton – 9/4
- Steve Miller Band - Dayton – 7/21
- Moody Blues - Cleveland–8/11; Louisville-8/28; Cincy-8/29; Indy-8/30
- Willie Nelson - Indy – 5/18; Paducah – 5/25; Elizabeth - 6/1
- Leon Redbone - Springfield, OH – 10/16
- John Sebastian - Dayton – 8/2; Frankfort – 10/9
- Jerry Seinfeld - Cincinnati – 6/13
- Todd Snider - Lexington – 5/28; Newport – 5/29
- Wilco - Cincinnati – 6/12
^^the Bob Dylan Show includes Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp
Frank Sinatra - Live at the Meadowlands - This is most of a 1986 concert, with the Chairman singing the standards to an enthusiastic home state crowd. What surprised me about this set is not the effortless, sometimes playful, mastery he has over these songs, it's his attitude. Now in the sixth decade of his career, he's was a true living legend, but he doesn't show it. He exhibits graciousness instead of hubris, his natural swagger tempered by gentleness. The audience is wowed by him, but he gives the credit to the songwriters and arrangers. He talks about how great the songs are, having us believe that it's his lucky night to be singing them for us. The release of this concert is proof that we are the lucky ones.
Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream - After considering 200?'s 'Magic' album to be no less than a masterpiece, I reacted to the Boss's latest LP with a ho and a hum. I thought maybe repeated listens and time would change my disinterest, but it seems just like before. People are calling this the "Happy" Springsteen album, now that he no longer has to write scathing rebukes of George Bush (though I never found him all that scathing). While Springsteen is more upbeat here than recent outings, the post-9/11 optimism of his album 'The Rising' was more affirming.
There is some adventurous music here, like the Beach Boys homage "This Life" and the raucous blues of "Good Eye". But much of it is either dull and by-the-numbers, or sweeping epics made of pseudo-novelty songs ("Outlaw Pete", "Queen of the Supermarket"). The highlight of the set is the catchy, toe-tapping title track, which Springsteen snuck into his Super Bowl set. The most affecting song is "The Last Carnival", which I take as a tribute to lost E-Streeter Danny Federici.
The light that was in your eyes
Has gone away
The thing in you that me ache
Has gone away
Neil Young - Fork in the Road (Special report from Jim Bates of A Scale Canadian)...Neil Young is not the kind of guy to ponder and mull over an idea. I’m sure he woke up one day thinking, “Hey I should write a bunch of songs about my electric car.” Rather then consider his original thought and realize how silly the idea is, Neil Young brings us Fork In the Road.
If you are looking for deep intellectual songs on the worlds ills with complex and shifting music look elsewhere. If you are looking for spontaneous rock and roll album about the things in Neil’s head this minute, jump on in.
After a few listens it became clear that Fork In the Road is a bash of two forgotten Young albums Re-ac-tor and Everybody’s Rockin’. Remember those instant classics? No? Well that is your loss. Both the short album length and “Behind the Wheel” reference Everybody’s Rockin’ while I’m convinced “Cough up the Bucks” is a 2009 sequel to “T-Bone.”
We get songs about “big rock star whose sales have tanked,” and how “a song can’t change the world.” We get the repetitive titles of “Hit the Road,” “Off the Road,” and “Fork In the Road.” We get great off the cuff lyrics like “Where did all the money go, where did all the cash flow” and we get the first ever ballad about being stuck in traffic “Off the Road.” Outside of “Light A Candle” these are Crazy Horse style rock songs (without Crazy Horse this time), but the riffs are a little more syncopated then usual for Neil, so it all sounds a little funkier then when Neil plays with the Horse.
But the real winner here is “Johnny Magic.” In his best “Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze” style Neil tells the story of Johnny Magic the “motor head messiah” who invents a “Heavy Metal Continental.” This is just a dumb predictable rock and roll song with a group chorus of not only “Johnny Magic” but also “Wichita.” When Destiny enters the picture, I almost expected it to be his girl…though it isn’t this time…Neil you missed at least one cliché… If you can’t enjoy this, something is wrong with you.
I think that is what most critics missed about this album, is that it is supposed to be a dumb rock and roll record, not some treaties on electric cars or the environment. It is not Neil preaching, it is Neil having fun. Enjoy it for what it is.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I recently obtained a complete color Sunday comics section from the Cincinnati Enquirer, dated May 29, 1966. I’ll try to post all of the strips here eventually. First up is a Batman strip meant to cross-promote the live-action TV series starring Adam West. They seem to really be pushing the strip, with the bat-logo in the banner headline of the comics section and the prime real estate of being the first strip on page one. The strip’s content is introductory, but I’m not certain if it’s the first strip or not.
The strip is signed “by Bob Kane”, but Kane didn’t draw it and likely had nothing to do with the strip. The resources I found give the strip writer as Whitney Ellsworth and the artist as Shelly Moldoff. Kane co-created Batman with writer Bill Finger in 1939. Kane, something of a hack swipe artist didn’t do much comic book drawing after 1943, leaving it all to “ghost” artists, that is, uncredited artists like Moldoff whose work appeared under Kane’s name. Kane’s ghost setup, and Batman’s origin, is thoroughly fleshed out on the excellent Dial B for Blog.
The ‘Batman and Robin’ comic strip exceeded the life of the TV series, running until 1974. There was an earlier strip in the 1940s, which has been collected in these reprint volumes. Another ‘Batman’ strip ran from 1989-91, this time cross-promoting the Batman movies starring Michael Keaton.