Author: theguitarcave

Guitar playing, writing, watching, thinking, music, life, love, stuff.

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’

back in October or July…I forget…I said I was going to go check out the Velvet Underground Experience. Then in the last post I said I totally didn’t do that…and I didn’t. I heard things locally and then…I read some reviews. The mainstream reviews were all predictably glowing, but I don’t trust that stuff because hahaha, so I proceeded to Google reviews. Angry, disgruntled people who want their money back is what I wanna read! Like:

“Don’t waste your money on this. We left disappointed- most of the exhibit was just pictures that I’ve seen before and plaques lacking enough information. An entire wall is dedicated to the 60’s in general (the exhibit isn’t big enough to justify this). I expected SOMETHING interesting- maybe memorabilia or immersive areas, but there’s very little…Wish we could get our money back :(“

I think most people would expect something interesting. Or why pay $25 to show up to an empty loft on Broadway? Of course there was also the matter of all the accompanying promotional material that promised “rare” stuff:

Velvet Underground Exhibition Coming To New York City
The exhibition debuted in Paris two years ago and features rare photographs, portraits, films, live concerts and musical workshops.

Perhaps there is some confusion over definitions. RARE: 1: seldom occurring or found: UNCOMMON 2a: marked by unusual quality, merit, or appeal : DISTINCTIVE b: superlative or extreme of its kind 3: marked by wide separation of component particles: THIN rare air. Yet:

“This lack of memorabilia is made painfully evident both by the large wall of “establishing” photos featuring 1960s New York and notable personalities of the time like James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Marlon Brando – none of whom have any direct link to the VU – and the near-equal billing given to people in the Velvets/Warhol orbit like Edie Sedgwick, LaMonte Young, and Candy Darling…there are a startling number of spelling and grammar errors in the accompanying texts…the gift shop is so bereft of items bearing the band’s iconic imagery (no album covers, not even a banana on those $29 iPhone cases) that one wonders how much cooperation the show got from the living band members and the estates of the deceased including Reed and Warhol.

Wow. A pattern emerges. These people sound disappointed for sure. Lest you think that I’m the type of person who would deprive himself of an experience based solely on anonymous internet “cranks” I suggest that you Peruse this Perfectly Passionate Post on Pitchfork from a very woke author: How Can You Have “The Velvet Underground Experience” Without the Music? She did the Experience so I didn’t have to! As she makes her way through the exhibition she encounters the following….let’s listen in:

“By the time I reach a display of Velvets posters mixed in with covers of LIFE and, no kidding, images of the moon landing and Woodstock, the bummer retail feeling gives rise to genuine blood boil. Can future makers of biopics and bio-exhibits please agree the world has collectively seen the same stock ’60s newsreel? (Moe Tucker in Please Kill Me, on the band’s reception in San Francisco: “I didn’t like that love-peace shit.”)

I get the anger. I’m not old enough to have participated in all of the fun and important moments of the swinging 60s, but am old enough to have had to endure 40 years of revisiting same. When will the Boomer hagiography end? Will it ever end? Has any decade or event been repackaged and re-praised, reappraised, remembered and recycled as many times as the 1960s? Probably not. However, the Velvet Underground are as Boomer as the rest of that newsreel and the fact that they hated the hippies really doesn’t matter. This was a concern of mine before the show opened because, as I’ve come to recognize in other documentaries or retrospectives of this era, quite often the music, musician, or artist must always be contextualized within the larger whole of very familiar cultural themes (Woodstock, Vietnam, Civil Rights). The music itself, outside of how it may serve these various narratives, is sometimes treated almost as an afterthought. This would be a shame if it wasn’t so infuriating:

What you cannot buy is the music. Apart from a mysterious handful of vintage albums (only a couple by the band) displayed on an upstairs mezzanine, there is no music for sale at “The Velvet Underground Experience.” No vinyl reissues of the albums that are displayed under glass and which in retrospect seem even more fossil-like. There are none of the books by or about the band members—how easy it would have been to unlock that universe, too. If you’re going to commodify a band or scene, at the very least, sell the music, sell the books, do full diligence in perpetuating the actual work that the exhibition celebrates. Instead, a familiar murmur bleeds over from the start of the exhibit nearby. As I let the reality of the existence of Kiss the Boot laptop cases sink in, the reading of Ginsberg’s America hangs in the air like a too-pointed metaphor: America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”

Since the music (and not even all of the music) is the only interesting aspect of the Velvet Underground to me, the fact that the Experience couldn’t be bothered to take it seriously (while charging $25/$50) sealed the deal on my attendance (or lack thereof). I didn’t need a background to take a selfie at anyhow! The truth is, out of all the potential interesting media I’ve seen over the past few years, only two: Long Strange Trip and Astral Weeks: The Secret History of 1968 were really good. So much worthless retrospective crap is produced and I’m not sure what that says about our society or how one could explain without sounding like a complete dystopian crank. At this point in my life, considerations and discussions of this nature must be avoided at all costs.

RUMBLE — The Indians Who Rocked the World

this documentary has been kicking around for a few years now and I watched it last night. If you haven’t seen it, I think you can view here on NYC’s PBS link free for the next 11 days. Many of the reviews have been positive like this one, and this one, a more cautionary one here, and finally, another one here. While most reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, some do acknowledge problems with the movie and there certainly are problems. I’ve given the movie 3 stars; one star for movie, one for the live music played by indigenous musicians, and one for the fact that Jimi Hendrix appears and that always gets a star from me no matter what. Read on if you want to hear about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Skip if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to.

In two interviews I’ve seen online with director/producer Catherine Bainbridge, the stated goal or what drew her to doing “this story” was, and I quote, “Some of the greatest rock stars in the world know about the influence of these incredible Indigenous musicians but the rest of us do not.” LOL…okay. That isn’t too arrogant I guess; assuming what millions of people know. I’ve known for the better part of 40 years that Jimi Hendrix and Robbie Robertson (two of the features in the film) had/have Native heritage and I am not the only person who can say this. As a matter of fact, Hendrix recorded an amazing song on his first album in 1967 titled I Don’t Live Today, dedicated to the modern Native American experience. It’s a shame that this documentary opted to be the 1,333,667,888th media presentation to use the iconic Jimi at Woodstock motif instead of pointing out the fact that Jimi recorded probably the first and definitely one of the best ever paeans to the struggle of indigenous people, but that’s what it did. The kids can’t learn if the teachers suck, knowhatimsayin?

A big part of why I don’t think this film deserves a better rating is because I don’t like the “oral tradition” formula for making movies (or documentaries) and I’ve said so before, most specifically in my review of Elvis: The Searcher from last year. I find all of the jump cuts to people I completely don’t care about distracting to a coherent narrative. The idea behind the movie (which is common with these documentaries) was to get as many famous musicians in the movie to underscore the value of the subject profiled (because that reinforces the already-stated central theme). In the segment devoted to Link Wray and his classic instrumental Rumble, Iggy Pop lets the world know that this is the song that made him decide to be a musician….Who gives a shit? Is this segment (movie) about him or is it about Link Wray? If Rumble was such an amazing musical moment, why does it need to be validated by Iggy Pop? Robbie Robertson is also onboard breathlessly relating that, “a song came on the radio, an instrumental, and it changed everything!” Yea…it didn’t, but Robbie breathlessly related similar sentiments in the Elvis documentary so I guess back in the day EVERYTHING WAS CHANGING every two minutes. It must have been hard to know how to dress.

The comment by Robertson points to another problem and that is the overselling and exaggeration of people’s accomplishments and abilities. It’s one thing to be passionate and/or in love with something personally, it’s quite another to be willfully inaccurate to the point of stupidity. While Rumble was certainly an influential moment, it didn’t change everything. These hyperbolic moments are what change documentaries into slick, late night infomercials. In a later segment on guitarist Jessie Ed Davis, ex-Rolling Stone writer David Fricke intones, “…he played great, tight, dynamic blues and the British Rock aristocracy love this. This is something they can’t get naturally. They have to import it…” Given that Davis migrated to England at the height of the British blues boom in the late 1960s, it’s stupid to suggest that Beck, Clapton, Page, Green, Taylor, Richards, Blackmore, Kossoff, et. al. couldn’t play the blues well enough….to sell millions of records. Maybe it’s a shame we live in that world where the blues on Led Zeppelin 1 has sold more than everything Jessie Ed Davis ever released because he was a very tasty guitar player, no doubt, but we do live in that world and no amount of pretending in a documentary is going to change that.

The performances and interviews with people like Buffy Saint Marie, The Neville Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, Pura Fé, and Taj Mahal were great; the main reason to watch the movie. There should have been much more of this; more Jimi, Nokie Edwards and The Ventures, Rick Medlocke and Blackfoot and down home ordinary people doing their thing with voice and instrument. The explorations of Native music intertwining with Blues rhythms is a topic that deserves its own (well-done) documentary. Likewise for all of the socio-political points the film tries to explore. By the end of the Jessie Ed Davis segment the piling on of artists in an attempt to rack up a body count to further validate indigenous contributions begins to wear thin. I wish this film style would die, seriously. Just show the musician or performer performing, talk to principals, do a few more location shots, and ditch the supposed “experts”. The endless bloviating and hagiography by talking heads is annoying and exhausting and I find it always detracts from whatever positive experience a film like this is trying to bring.

New GuitarSong

I haven’t done a GuitarSong in almost two years! This Led Zeppelin tune came rather easily and was fun to do. I hope someone finds it either entertaining or instructive. The others I’ve done: Pink Floyd’s Dogs, The Beatles’ Rain, Soundgarden’s Head Down, and The Allman Brothers’ Jessica bring a fair amount of traffic to the blog. The Eddie Van Halen I’m the One GuitarSong does not. Weird…but that’s how it goes.

There will be at least two more GuitarSongs soon, both of which are Gypsy Jazz/acoustic songs that I will be demonstrating myself! I’ve wanted to do that for awhile and the tunes I want to do don’t have any instruction online. I don’t have a pro set up, so it will be down and dirty, but we’ll make it work. Hopefully, I can get those together next month. In the meantime, enjoy!

The Aristocrats — Tres Caballeros

Tres Caballeros **** The Aristocrats’ third album is a total winner for me…and anyone who is into modern shred-style dynamic playing should definitely acquaint themselves with this band. The Aristocrats is a supergroup of sorts comprised of Guthrie Govan on guitar, Bryan Beller on bass and Marco Marco Minnemann on drums and percussion. These guys are all great players and writers and have pedigrees that include work with Asia, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Dweezil Zappa. In a world awash with music and crap and sound and crap and crap and crap, there is still pure musicianship that is capable of jarring even the most aged, jaded listener (that would be me). While I didn’t know it when I originally mentioned posted, this disc was recorded all the way back in 2015, but since nothing new has been recorded since, this post is still a review of the band’s latest album (hehe) so I feel totally current and on-point. In addition to being a full-fledged post in the blog queue, this review will be added to the ever-expanding section under the “ALT” column in due time along with all of the other er, ALT stuff I’ve reviewed.

I have to admit that I don’t necessarily like bands like The Aristocrats as a rule. I never really listened to Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen or most of those shred/instrumental types mainly because I don’t hear a sense of humor or a certain dynamic sensitivity that I look for in music, therefore I find it hard to listen to. Let’s say a lot of seems to be made to impress and that’s it. Others will disagree I’m sure and that’s how music is; different strokes and all that. I would never dispute the guitar talents of any of those cats, or others like them, because they are obviously all great players. It’s just a matter of what type of music the guitarist/chooses as the environment from which to express. My tastes tend to either to the old school (Beck, Zappa, Howe, McLaughlin) or the Jazz Acoustic Manouche school (Lagrene, Rosenberg, Romane, Wrembel). So this is a bit of a departure for me, but I’ve really enjoyed the experience. The first thing that struck me about the Aristocrats is, aside from being great players, they obviously have a twisted sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. I like that in a band, especially a band as “chops-city” as these guys. There is a great otherworldliness about the band; they would have made great guest stars playing some super-psycho dive bar on the rim of some spectral twilight in an episode of the X-Files. This wonderful weirdness pervades the music of the disc and the personality of the band and what’s not to like about that, I ask ya?

Musically the band is like a Ferrari; it goes from a sparse whisper to an over-the-top flurry of notes, percussive hits or rhythmic shifts in the space of a few bars. Sometimes this is dizzying…and if I were to say anything critical what I would say is that there were one or two places where I thought the rapid shift move was used one too many times, but let’s not quibble. There is no filler on the disc; every track is killer and obviously the band wanted each tune to be a statement in and of itself. The disc begins with a palm-muted, clean, almost chicken-picked guitar riff that segues into clean thrash and crash with Rush-style keyboard. Guitarist Guthrie Govan has a lot of love for all of the various classic tones he can wring from his axe, but then he’ll rip out something totally futuristic; the affected (with what I don’t know) quick picking legato on the solo to this track, Stupid 7, is pretty intense, yet just long enough to WOW! and then it’s back to the theme. Jack’s Back has a very odd-meter, bluesy vibe to it with some great solos from bassist Bryan Beller and some really tasty lines from Guthrie. Even though there are a lot of different styles to be found on the record, they meld them seamlessly into a singular sound that is very consistent and entertaining.

Texas Crazy Pants reminds me of a bit of 70s Fleetwood Mac multiplied by a factor of 500 with added crunch, UFO sounds and police sirens. The funny story that inspired this song (a lot of the band’s songs are inspired by weird life stuff) can be found online. It’s a great little rockin’ number though; one of the most balls-out on the disc. ZZ Top (yes that’s the name of the song) kind of reminds me of Rush’s Subdivisions, from the early 80s and I mean that in a good way. It’s a cool tune, but I don’t know why it’s named after the little ol’ band from Texas because it doesn’t put anything about that band in my head at all. But maybe it’s a head fake…

The next tune, Pig’s Day Off, is really pretty; a very clean, chordal, dynamic tune that descends into some twisted riffs and Zappa-style ensemble playing. This is one of the songs where the “jamming” is excessive I think…and that’s only because the mellow vibe of the tune is so great that the whole tune could’ve progressed in this manner without everyone going Bates Motel. But I stopped doing acid a long time ago so maybe I’m just too old to really appreciate it as much as I should. Smuggler’s Corridor is the anthem of the disc; a minor key surf rock that has everything but the kitchen sink, including Ennio Morricone-style vocalizing (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Guthrie’s soloing on this tune is nothing short of brilliant; tasteful where it needs to be and completely crazy and off the charts when he cuts loose. Bryan Beller also does a nice little bass solo as well. The rhythm vibe had my girlfriend and cat dancing around the kitchen, which is a sure sign of success.

Pressure Relief has more chicken-palm picking, fast legato runs and an envelope filter/wah tone that is really cool. It also features some nice guitar harmonics, double stops and chords. Guthrie doesn’t use a lot of over-the-top distortion (at least on this disc) and is able to do all of the amazing guitar things he does with a very clean sound, which I think gives the band a more sophisticated and multi-layered presentation. They sound like seasoned professionals playing high-wire instrumental music. The next tune, The Kentucky Meat Shower has a sound and a riff straight outta Nashville y’all… and Nashville is pretty close to Kentucky so I think that’s why it sounds like that. HA! Later in the tune it goes all METAL FACE! It’s pretty funny, which fits the topic of the tune as it is another crazy “real-life” story from long ago. (Guthrie relates the background of the story on YouTube). The final tune Through the Flower is a supremo 11-minute prog-rock ballad that features amazing playing from all three instrumentalists and is a kind of synthesis of everything that has already occurred on the album. It’s a nice wrap up and the tune has a nice riff, great chords and cool use of effects as well. I would rank this tune, Smuggler’s Corridor, Texas Crazy Pants, and Pressure Relief as my favorites but there is something for any prog/fusion guitar head on this album. It’s certainly a great effort from three really awesome musicians and I hope they get back into the studio real soon!

Happy New Year 2019!

wishing any and all The Guitar Cave readers a Happy New Year! I hope it goes well for you! May there be many prestigious and emotionally charged artistic moments added to the Scala gallery that is your life! I hope for some of the same for myself, of course, but at this point, I’m also at that “eh…whatever happens” point in my life. That’s okay though. Personally, I’m amazed that it’s 2019 because I never expected to be living through this time, not because I expected to die early, but rather, I just never gave any thought to the distant future or my later years. While I’m aware that there is a plethora of industries devoted to helping people prepare for certain eventualities, I’m not so sure a) that many people can and/or do think that far ahead, or b) the unforseen circumstances of life can render any planning moot and pointless anyway. So when I was 24 I didn’t sit around and wonder what it would be like living in 2019. Even though there aren’t any flying cars (and considering how people drive terra-cars maybe that’s a good thing) me and the rest of my generation has lived through a completely unbelievable set of changes, advances, and age of progress. In the coming months I will talk more about that.

Now that 2018 is in the books, I took stock of last year and was pretty happy with how things went on the blogging front. I hadn’t published anything between October of 2017 and May of 2018 and then I just banged it out; almost thirty-five posts and an unbelievable amount of jazz, alt, and rock guitar disc reviews. It doesn’t even matter that most of this stuff will never get read, it was, from a personal standpoint, a momentous achievement! Hopefully, this year, my 9th year of blogging will be even more entertaining. I have some serious plans for at least the first part of the year and if I can get all of what I have planned done, I might have to take some more time off. I hope I have the energy and health to see it through, but that’s what we need to hope for most, doncha think?

I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be posting/linking a bunch of video content soon; old days NYC rock and roll shot, edited, mixed and produced ninja-style. It should be pretty awesome! I’ve also mentioned a few other things, like review The Aristocrats album. Yes! That will be the next post, because I’ve listened to the disc a whole bunch of times. Like probably several hundred…or, at least more times than The White Album. [As an aside, I’m going to be launching a campaign soon: The White Album SUCKS and SO DOES SANDINISTA!] I don’t know how successful that endeavor will be, but I think, if nothing else, it’s a great post title!

I’ve been thinking I need to be more biting and controversial but that’s a very tight line to walk when you’re an old guy because that’s what everyone expects from an old guy. From the beginning I set out to avoid the “snark” that drives so much online content, because…it is everywhere…and after a while it’s really tiring. The problem with me is that I like many “voices”, and there are many literary styles and approaches that I find entertaining and pleasing to read. Just the other day I read this interview with famed author Vladimir Nabokov (of Lolita fame) with Alvin Toffler from 1964, in Playboy magazine no less. It’s pretty amazing to read the level of ideas, vocabulary and discourse in this interview and try to find anything remotely similar in today’s media. Would that “voice” work for a blog of this nature? Probably not and I wouldn’t be capable of pulling it off anyway, but since I believe music and the guitar to be worthy of all of the respect, intelligence and seriousness given to other topics and forms in the world, I would certainly hope to have all of the abilities necessary to impart what I think to readers. Sometimes passion, especially passion just for passion’s sake, is not enough. Incidentally, Nabokov had no ear for music. None. Imagine what that’s like:

“…I have no ear for music, a shortcoming I deplore bitterly. When I attend a concert—which happens about once in five years—I endeavor gamely to follow the sequence and relationship of sounds but cannot keep it up for more than a few minutes. Visual impressions, reflections of hands in lacquered wood, a diligent bald spot over a fiddle, take over, and soon I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the musicians. My knowledge of music is very slight; and I have a special reason for finding my ignorance and inability so sad, so unjust: There is a wonderful singer in my family—my own son. His great gifts, the rare beauty of his bass, and the promise of a splendid career—all this affects me deeply, and I feel a fool during a technical conversation among musicians. I am perfectly aware of the many parallels between the art forms of music and those of literature, especially in matters of structure, but what can I do if ear and brain refuse to cooperate? But I have found a queer substitute for music in chess—more exactly, in the composing of chess problems.”

When I think of all of the musically oriented pleasurable moments in my life I can’t imagine that “chess problems” or the composing thereof, would serve as a substitute. Perhaps I could never be a writer of Nabokov’s level because I can enjoy Debussy, Django, and Led Zeppelin. Hmm. Anyhow, (wow what a detour) another album I said I was going to get to check out was Muriel Anderson’s Nightlight Daylight double album. Soon, and more reviews in the already thriving rock guitar category. Another thing I have planned is to resurrect the GuitarSong series because, though it took awhile, those articles get a lot of page views now. Well, three out of the four; nobody seems interested in the Eddie Van Halen I’m the One article, which I thought would be the most popular. Just goes to show there’s no telling the interests of audience. Those posts are pretty labor-intensive, but I’ll probably do 4 more and the sketches of those articles are starting to take shape. Finally, the only thing I definitely did NOT do was venture across town to see the Velvet Underground Exhibition. There were a couple of reasons for this I’m going to tie into a post on rock writers and the Culture of Suck that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Maybe it will be a series. Who knows? There’s something to be said for staying busy, even if it’s pointless. Right after Christmas NY Magazine ran an article titled, How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually. It’s a pretty amusing/terrifying article because it details how the clicks, metrics, people, businesses, politics and consumers are ultimately fake. It’s like The Matrix or that Hologram world I keep writing about. An example:

“…How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

So I’m not laboring under any Rupert Pupkin type delusions here that someday my blog will be Time Magazine, because I’ve never had those delusions and ultimately that isn’t the point anyway. It’s fun to have ideas and see them through to completion and ultimately it helps to keep the body and spirit young and healthy (as possible). There is certainly a bad type of “busy”, or an unhealthy compulsion on the part of some to overwork themselves for whatever reason, but that isn’t the same thing. Whatever you do though, I hope your year is fun and prosperous and a big Thank You! for reading the blog!