Sipping at the Firehose

5 09 2011

Glen Campbell, One Last Love Song: Interesting to watch a high-profile celebrity be as public about a debilitating disease as Glen Campbell and his family are about his Alzheimer’s struggle. He has lived so much of his private life in public, often when he’d probably rather it not be so public. In this Guardian story, Campbell’s disease is on full display. The candor is shocking. From his daughter, however, a ray of light: ” … [He] never forgets how to solo. His old colleagues used to call it Campbelling. Sometimes he does long solos on Wichita Lineman or Galveston. And when he does something different now, it makes me excited; it makes me so happy when he’s on stage and just kills it.”

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. As convincing a book about the brain beguiled by music as you’re likely to find. Evidently humans are at the whims of the brain, mostly the bad whims, that lead to disease or some other horrific malfunction.

There is the occasional bright spot: “Familiar music acts as a sort of Proustian mnemonic, eliciting emotions and associations that had been long forgotten, giving that patient access once again to moods and memories, thoughts and worlds that had seemingly been completely lost. Faces assume expression as the old music is recognized and its emotional power felt. One or two people, perhaps, start to sing along, others join them and soon the entire group – many of them virtually speechless before – is singing together, as much as they are able.”

But mostly it’s a book about people and diseases that mesh with music in seemingly unpredictable ways.

The origins of music categories. It’s the fulcrum beneath this blog. The Guardian sorta nails this conversation stopper right here.

Readers poll, Rolling Stone, best prog rock bands of all time. Not a bad list, touching on old styles and new. Yes, the Mars Volta and Emerson, Lake & Palmer belong in the same queue. No jazz listed. Of course not; it’s jazz. Review the item on categories above.

While Phil Lesh at 71 still tours and plays and looks like a much younger man, he wants to do create a venue much like Levon Helm’s Ramble in Woodstock, NY. The Ramble is home to regular shows where the audience comes to the band. Especially to the drummer, who lives nearby. Like, next door. A great commute for musicians who have spent more time in cars, van, airplanes, trains and tour buses than they care to or could remember. Lesh wants to build such a venue in Ross, the Marin County neighborhood he lives in. Read all about it here.

The Decemberists cover Sugar. A great idea. See and hear all about it here.

Listen to this, Spreading the Word: Early Gospel Recordings, and fully know that gospel, probably more than any other genre, shaped post World War II American and European popular music. No wonder its spinoffs were tagged as devil’s music. Nothing on here, from the call and response vocals, the bouncing piano licks that wouldn’t the out-of-tune yet jaunty choruses, would  be out of place in a modern context. Uplifting material firmly rooted in the basics. Brilliant.

The Washington Post peels back a layer of the international onion in “Top Secret America.” Riveting reading about power and force.

For instance:  “The CIA doesn’t have the size or the authority to do some of the things we can do,” said one Joint Special Operations Command operator.

Also from the story: “The president has given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them. Critics charge that this individual man-hunting mission amounts to assassination, a practice prohibited by U.S. law. JSOC’s list is not usually coordinated with the CIA, which maintains a similar but shorter roster of names.”