Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2.24.09 RAY DAVIES

Might Turn Into a Steady Job

Ray Davies
Christina Courtin

The Egg

November 24, 2009

This here review also appears in Metroland's annual Wednesday Thanksgiving issue.

Ray Davies comes from that strange time when rock stars were skinny, wore tight pants, and were elegantly androgynous enough to be dangerous. Free of ironic facial hair, ironic eyeglasses, and ironic clothing. When rocks stars were artists, wrote great songs, worked the crowd, and cared. While most of his ilk have descended into self-parody, sad pandering, or work the sansa-belt retirement circuit, Davies still rocks it. He’s still the best.

Monday’s show, before a packed house, was a curated selection from Davies’ staggering catalog, picked to satiate the casual listener as well as the die hard fan, leaning heavily on ‘60’s and early ‘70’s Kinks material and Davies’ excellent recent solo work, and all but ignoring the 70’s theatrical and the ‘80’s arena rock stuff. It was an endearing, heart-melting show; and there were enough great songs left unplayed to populate at least two more.

Davies laid the gauntlet down from the git, opening with seated acoustic versions of “I Need You” and “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, two non-singles from the ‘60’s which, like much of the Kinks’ early work, have grown in power and significance through the decades. For the better part of an hour, he remained seated, dropping nuggets like “Waterloo Sunset” and “Better Things”, and then the band joined him for “Celluloid Heroes”, for my money one of the best songs written about anything ever; the song sparkled; then things took off.

The remainder of the show went from delicate (the ultra-obscure “Moments” from the “Percy” soundtrack) to as gloriously loud and bombastic as anything I’ve seen at the Egg (“Till the End of the Day”, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and the show-closing “Twentieth Century Man.”). Davies was in terrific voice, hysterical between songs, and, at 65, ever the rock and roll trooper. The band was spectacular, with drummer Damon Wilson taking no prisoners and guitarist Bill Shanley ranging from Knopfler-esqe sweetness to Dave Davies-like crunch.

The long, long encore ramped it up even more. We even got a little “Banana Boat Song.” But the moment came with the elegiac “Days”, a 1968 single that didn’t come close to charting here. First verse sweet a cappella, second verse quiet acoustic. Just as the song appeared over, Davies started banging on his guitar and the band simply landed, power ballad-style, with Davies thanking us: “Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.” It’s been years since I’ve been this devastated at a concert.

Which brings us to brother Dave. Ray touchingly brought him up at least four times during the show; in some ways the show was one long plea to Dave Davies. Ray wants his band back. For the love of god, Dave, bury the hatchet and grant his wish.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

11.5.09 LOVE ME DON'T

We got buried last week with an avalanche of WTF with regard to a proposed City of Albany ordinance that would impose a $50 tax on any establishment for every music performance, every karaoke performance, every DJ spinning, why, any time anybody even thought about music in the general proximity of a club, laundromat, restaurant, or convenience store. Or something like that.

Like there’s too much music happening in town. Like those darn lazy musicians are being paid too much. I’ve been assured by folks much smarter than me that this was all a tempest in a tea-bag, and one of these smart folks, Chet Hardin, has the whole skinny laid out for you elsewhere in this issue.

And speaking of tea-bags, all hats go way off to the fine people of the North Country. It was mildly amusing to see the idiot media getting all cranked up about the big Congressional show-down in the Adirondacks between the normal workings of democracy and the fascist far right. Why, it’s a referendum on Obama, or on the Republican Party, or socialism, or Fox News! Speak to us, NY-23! Grace us with your accumulated wisdom! A nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

Now, North Country folks are about as individualistic as they come, that is to say, they tend not to be real big on following, or doing what they are told to do by strangers. And they sure ain’t dumb. Remote? Yes. West Virginia? No. So when a gaggle of thuggish assclowns like Dick Armey, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin shoved the local Republican candidate out of the way in favor of this goofy-looking, nervous, out-of-district little nobody who parroted the Heritage Foundation’s party line, well, it was pretty clear things weren’t going to go well for the visiting team. The whole silly affair struck me as less a referendum about any national issue than the Adirondacks telling a bunch of phony would-be power brokers to get lost.

As far as Maine goes, how tragic and sad. I won’t be vacationing there anytime soon. I’ll go to the Adirondacks.

OK. MP3s have been around since, what, around 1995? For the next 10 years, MP3s were the format of choice for an overwhelming number of music fans, but unavailable for purchase anywhere, leaving this overwhelming number of music fans two choices: make your own by ripping a CD, or, even better, downloading MP3s for free from any of the P2P or torrent sites on the internet. Slowly, the major labels caught on that not selling what people really wanted wasn’t a particularly smart business model and thse days MP3s are now generally available now through iTunes, Amazon, and the like.

But there were stragglers, most notably, the entire Beatles catalog, which, along with a couple other banner collections, like those of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, have to date been unavailable in any kind of digital format. Except, of course, on CDs. Which means that all of this music has been readily available for download as free MP3s all over the internet. You just can’t buy it that way.

Well, after years of promises and speculation (I was positive that the Beatles’ digital catalog was gonna come packed into the first iPhones a few years ago. I was wrong), it looks like the Beatles are joining the real world. Sort of.

Apple Records just announced that in the first week of December it will start shipping little apple-shaped memory sticks that contain the entire remastered Beatles stereo catalog, with the songs available in the lossless FLAC format and as 320 bps MP3s. There are also a bunch of jpgs and little movies in the package.

Well, whoop-dee-freakin-doo. It’s my job to complain about things like this so let me count the ways this is wrong:

(a) It costs $280, or $20 per album. The same CD box set costs $220. And this is because?
(b) Why only the stereo albums? Any real Beatles fan will tell you that the remastered early mono mixes are the only things that really matter in these re-releases.
(c) You have to buy the whole damn thing. No single albums and certainly no single songs. Repeat after me: “Love Me Do mono torrent MP3.” Now hit search. You’re welcome.
(d) They’re only selling 30,000 of them. Selling things that are scarce is a good marketing plan. Creating ridiculously artificial and easily defeatable scarcity is not.

I’m sure you’ll have your own reasons for avoiding this, unless you’re one of those several million Beatles completists out there, who no doubt have already snapped up every single one of this pricy doo-hingies by the time you read this.

So I guess it doesn’t make any difference anyway. Sheesh.