Hard Times (1992) – Bob Dylan

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh, hard times, come again no more
‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door
Oh, hard times, come again no more

1st verse – Hard Times

This is the third song to appear here from the Bob Dylan’s traditional folk record – Good As I Been To You (GAIBTY) (1992). It was the first album by Dylan not to feature any original songs since Dylan 1973 and his first solo acoustic album since Another Side of Dylan in 1964 and he would not release an another original song until 1997. There is great intimacy of the recording of Hard Times because not only do you feel he is uncovering the song as though you were there in that epoch, but you can hear him singing even through his phlegm; not unlike the heavy breathing heard in his Sinatra record many years later.

Hard Times is an American parlor song written in 1854 by Stephen Foster. It was well known and popular in it’s day achieving wide success both in America and Europe. The song asks the fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate and includes one of Foster’s favorite images: “a pale drooping maiden“. A satirical version about soldiers’ food was popular in the American Civil War, “Hard Tack Come Again No More“.

Unlike Jim Jones and Canadee-I-O from the same record, it took me a little time to appreciate Hard Times. Now I really like it because of the timbre of Dylan’s voice and the focus of his phrasing. I wrote in my article Arthur McBride:

Good as I Been To You seems to be him tapping into this very – very old folkloric wellspring when people were behest to destitution and war – ‘hard times’ if you will. When you listen to these tracks sometimes you catch a glimpse of what it must have ‘really’ been like back then. Dylan’s music has always been a portal to another time in our history. Like how David Sexton pointed out in his review of the album “Dylan sounds now, in comparison to his younger self, like one of those ghosts, but a powerful ghost.‘

It is said Good As I Been To You began life as a contractual filler. Dylan had scheduled two weeks at Chicago’s Acme Recording Studio in early June 1992, a few months after his appearance in Melbourne (See image at top). An album’s worth of cover songs were recorded at these sessions with the accompaniment of a full band. For reasons unknown, Dylan scrapped the release of this album, deciding to record solo acoustic material instead. 

References:
1. Hard Times Come Again No More – Wikipedia
2. Good as I Been To You – Wikipedia

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The Jazz Singer (1980) – Richard Fleischer (Friday’s Finest)

I watched this movie a lot in my youth and played the soundtrack on cassette to death. I watched The Jazz Singer again a few years ago and thought it held up well. Neil Diamond holds his own in the acting department at least as far as this film is concerned. The film is not an auto-bio of Neil rather a fictional Yussel Rabinovitch; a young Jewish cantor who strives to make a career outside the synagogue as a popular musical artist – Jess Robin.
I think it was my first encounter seeing the traditional Jewish faith portrayed on screen. At the time I most likely had no idea what the faith signified; culturally or religiously other than it was seemingly orthodox as presented in the movie. Many of my favourite music artists, comedians, actors and commentators are Jewish.

The movie The Jazz Singer was developed as a starring vehicle for Diamond. It was a critical and commercial disappointment, although it did make a substantial profit, doubling its $13 million budget by making $27.1 million. I don’t know why it was disliked so much by the critics. Lucie Anaz who played Molly Bell in the movie spoke about the audience love for the movie in this interview.
I thought it was a solid feature. I can understand their dislike of Sir Laurence Olivier’s meak performance, but Neil did a pretty good job. The soundtrack eventually reached multi-platinum status, becoming Diamond’s most successful album to date and one of the more successful film soundtrack albums in history.

According to wikipedia: During a scene set in a recording booth, Diamond was having trouble conveying anger during an argument with Arnaz’s character. Director Fleischer said that Diamond would go into the adjacent music recording stage where his band was gathered to await his cue and then enter in a supposed rage. During one of the lulls in filming to reset the shot, Fleischer saw him pacing nervously and then suddenly bursting into anger, throwing chairs and smashing equipment. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, the director called “Action” and Diamond stormed in and delivered his lines in a very convincing performance. After the scene ended, Fleischer asked the singer what had set him off. He replied that he was upset he couldn’t give the desired performance and asked his band to play something to make him angry. “And what did they play?” Fleischer asked. “A Barry Manilow number,” replied Diamond.

The score is superb in The Jazz Singer. It’s what makes the movie what it is. The songs fit the mood in every scene, and are all well-placed. The acting, while not the best I’ve ever seen, isn’t nearly as bad as made out to be by critics. Let’s face it. Neil Diamond is not an actor. He is a singer, a performer. And yet, he manages to pull off his character, Yussel Rabinovich. Watching Neil perform in this movie would be like seeing one of his concerts. He’s all-show, and not a bit shy. When he picks up a guitar, you know you’re in for a treat, and he does music as only he can. It’s a good story, well-told.

Below is the ending scene of his live performance which elevates him from modest success to stardom:

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Happy Unhappy (2018) -The Beths

This song was a Friday Powerpop song added by Max at his site. Happy Unhappy is a hip, breezy tune which I’m glad to have in my collection. For more information about the song and band click on Max’s link in the image below:

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Healing Rain (2004) – Michael W Smith

Michael W Smith is one of my favourite Christian singer-songwriters and has featured here a few times. Healing Rain is the title song from his 19th studio album. It debuted at No 11 on the Billboard charts and some of the album’s tracks were recorded at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, located in Marin County, California. I have to hand it to Michael, he really knows how to tap into that vulnerable part of oneself to realise how with Grace we can all transform, if we so desire and have the courage and committment. From my first listening I was enamoured with this song and I still love to hear it.

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It’s bringing mercy, it won’t be long

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus’ name

Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I’m not afraid
To be washed in Heaven’s rain

Healing Rain rose to No. 1 on the Radio & Records Charts and combines the pop style of his previous recordings with the religious feel of his two live worship albums. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. Michael W. Smith’s career has spanned three decades, with over seven-million-records sold and 25 number one singles.

I was weighing up which video of Healing Rain to present here. The official release is a bit cheesy with stereotypical messaging and the live performance here is not so well sung by Michael, but it has a grandiose guitar solo at 3 minutes and the other instrumentals and choir bring it home. The performance of the abridged duo of Healing Rain / Majesty is really powerful and Michael sings immense (as seen below).
Whatever the case, if you like the message and melody, I hope you hear all three versions to immerse yourself. It’s one of the greatest Christian song releases in my opinion of the 21st century.

Reference:
1. Healing Rain – wikipedia

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The AnkiDroid Collection (Part 18) – Syncretism, Erogenous & Sequela

Ankidroid additions related to Science, History and Philosophy. More information about Anki can be found in this article.

Syncretic (ie Religion)

  1. The combination of different forms of beliefs or practice.
  2. The fusion of two or more different inflectional forms.

Hellenistic culture in the age that followed Alexander the Great itself showed syncretist features, essentially blending of Mesopotamian, Persian, Anatolian, Egyptian (and eventually Etruscan–Roman) elements within an Hellenic formula.

Gnosticism is identified as an early form of syncretism that challenged the beliefs of early Christians. Gnostic dualism posited that only spiritual or invisible things were good, and that material or visible things were evil….In the first few centuries after the death of Jesus, there were various competing “Jesus movements”. The Roman emperors used syncretism to help unite the expanding empire. Social conversion to Christianity happened all over Europe. It became even more effective when missionaries concurred with established cultural traditions and interlaced them into a fundamentally Christian synthesis.

Buddhism has syncretized with many traditional beliefs in East Asian societies as it was seen as compatible with local religions. Notable syncretization of Buddhism with local beliefs includes the Three Teachings, or Triple Religion, that harmonizes Mahayana Buddhism with Confucian philosophy and elements of Taoism, and Shinbutsu-shūgō, which is a syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism.

Reference:
1. Religious Syncretism – wikipédia

Erogenous (Adj.)

(Of part of the body) Sensitive to sexual stimulation.

Sequela (Noun)

A condition which is the result of a previous disease or injury; a secondary result. As for example, a sequela of polio.

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Happy (1998) – Bruce Springsteen

This song wooshes me back to living in Northcote, Melbourne cerca 2005. I had a girlfriend called Claire who was a clairvoyant. She was a busty, curly-short haired blonde who had these little freckles peppered around her face. I don’t think we ever had chit-chat, rather a fully transcendental conversation about the big questions in life.

I was smitten…Us two lost souls hang out a lot in her big yellow family-house beside the train-tracks and we shared moments in time that just clicked.
Claire and I often played today’s track Happy to represent what all was ‘good’ in our world together. Even when I hear it now I can’t help but think of these idealic – surreal capsules of time and place with her. Sure, they were short-lived, but we did achieve this ‘happy‘ which Bruce conveys in his song.

Some need gold and some need diamond rings
Or a drug to take away the pain that living brings
A promise of a better world to come
When whatever here is done


I don’t need that sky of blue, babe
All I know’s since I found you
I’m happy when I’m in your arms
Happy, darling, come the dark
Happy when I taste your kiss
I’m happy in a love like this

Happy comes from Tracks, a four-disc box set by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, released in 1998 containing 66 songs. This box set mostly consists of never-before-released songs recorded during the sessions for his many albums. I went to town with this goldmine of music. Many songs like Happy were unknown until their release and some of them will feature in my project. Happy is a little gem and I never grow tired of listening to it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any specific information about it online. It’s impressive how this song was never released on an album or even performed live. What a great repertoire!

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23/05/22 – 29/05/22 Top Gun, The Asteroid, Bristol Arm & Venus

news on the march

Welcome to Monday’s News on the March – The week that was in my digital world.

Top Gun: Maverick a Blast from the Past
Movie review by Reely Bernie

I am enthused by all the positive reviews for the Top Gun sequal. My blogger buddy Reely Bernie who writes movie reviews has written an article here which seems consistent with the plethora of positive critique for this movie.

‘Top Gun: Maverick will leave less of an impact down the road, but it’s a worthy sequel, respectfully paying homage to its predecessor while capturing the daunting possibilities of g-force in today’s aircraft. The trip down memory lane might even draw a few tough guy tears amidst the action.‘ (Read more from Reely here)

I’ll leave you with another one of my other favourite critics of movies – The Critical Drinker:

The Day the Mesozoic Died – The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs
Video by biointeractive

Ever wonder why the dinosaurs disappeared? HHMI BioInteractive investigates the cause of the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period—and the clues come from paleontology, chemistry, physics, and biology. This three-act film tells the story of the extraordinary detective work that solved one of the greatest scientific mysteries of all time. Explore the fossil evidence of these prehistoric animals, and other organisms that went extinct, through this lively educational video. (View entire presentation here)

The Bristol Arm
Blog article at nickreeves

I enjoy reading Nick Reeves’ creative writing pieces. The article concludes with a very lucid and breezy version of Dylan’s – If You See Her Say Hello.

Martin Kettle, formally of Stoneyclough but now resident of Penn Beacon, was stood on a table in the Eight Kings. He was taping the fourth corner of a large poster of Bob Dylan’s face to the wall at the end of the bar.

“No, no, Sam,” he was saying. “It’s ‘uff’, not ‘ow’. Stoneyclough.” He stretched a little higher and I could see that there was still a price sticker on the sole of his left Chelsea boot. With a huff and a scuttle he got off the table and the three of us looked up at Bob.

Dylan is buttoned up, angular. Angelic, monochrome. Highway 61 Revisited. Words form from the very last tendrils of his hair: Penn Beacon’s 1st Bob Dylan Appreciation Evening.  In smaller print (and quite artfully placed on Bob’s shoulders), are penned the date, the details, etc. A speech bubble reckoned Dylan to be saying, ‘FREE! MUSIC AND QUIZ! Hosted by Martin Kettle.’…. (Read entire blog article here)

Venus Death of a Planet
Documentary at SpaceRip

This fascinating documentary examined how Venus has a surface of climatic death due to the following: its steady declining stores of water; lack of a magnetic field (to protect it from the sun’s rays); no plate tectonics to drag carbon down into its crust and hordes of volcanos blasting CO2 into its skies.

Earth has about 8 kms of hard crust under the oceans and 30km under land. The skin of Venus is twice as thick. The surface of Venus is so hot it can melt lead, but in the sulfuric acid clouds at a height of 50km the temperature is 25 degrees and perhaps useful when entertaining the following concept:

HAVOC (Height Altitude Venus Operational Concept) whereby Venus might be surveyed by developing a human outpost through a balloon-born habitat. A science city in the clouds. (Watch documentary here)

news on the march the end

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Hang Down Your Head (1985) – Tom Waits

Tom Waits, 1985 New York Photosession

Hang Down Your Head is the second song to feature here from Tom Waits’ highly acclaimed Rain Dogs record. The song is in the same vein as Tom Waits’ earlier work, featuring a more gentle and conventional melodic structure about lost-love. Allmusic critic Stewart Mason called the song “among the most direct and effective things Waits has ever written‘. I love the warmth of the guitar and other instrumentals which juxtaposes the sense of pain one hears in Tom’s voice as he languishes over a woman called Marie who he cared deeply about.

Tear the promise from my heart
Tear my heart today
You have found another
Baby, I must go away

Hang down your head for sorrow
Hang down your head for me
Hang down your head tomorrow
Hang down your head, Marie

The usual Tom style lyrics of dark imagery and story don’t exist here in this song in their usual way. But that should not be confused with something not up to the mark. The richness of language is vividly visible in the lyrics. The guitar lick is very jazzy. Overall a very good song. Vocalist Lucinda Williams recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack of the crime/drama series Crossing Jordan, released in 2003. 

Rain Dogs peaked at number 29 on the UK charts and number 188 on the US Billboard Top 200. In 1989, it was ranked number 21 on the Rolling Stone list of the “100 greatest albums of the 1980s.”

References:
1. Hang Down Your Head – wikipedia

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The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) – Joel and Ethan Coen (Friday’s Finest)

Coen brothers’ movies have featured a lot here and today’s movie is another impressive film from their extensive canon. The Man Who Wasn’t There is an intriguing film noir set in 1949 and tells the story of Ed Crane, a withdrawn barber who leads an ordinary life in a small California town with his wife, who he suspects is having an affair with his boss. I just like how this film is stylised with its moody texture in black and white. The movie just lets things happen naturally. The Cohen brothers have a reputation for the old quirks and here is no different mixing the steady noir narration with talk of haircuts and bingo makes for a strange if humorous mix. Thornton as the meekish protagonist is a great selection as he features well in the black and white shadows and his voice suits the noir narration. His face becomes a landscape of shifting shadows, while he doesn’t move a muscle. He is able to give the impression of a man at war with himself even while sitting perfectly still and staring ahead.

IMDB Storyline:
1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It’s a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law’s shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen.

The Coens began developing the idea from a 1940s haircut poster they saw while filming The Hudsucker Proxy. The plot was heavily influenced by James M. Cain’s crime novels, primarily Double IndemnityThe Postman Always Rings Twice, and Mildred Pierce. The film premiered and participated in the official selection at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where Joel Coen won the award for best director. Upon its theatrical release, it was lukewarm at the box office. However, it was well-received by film critics.

A significant portion of the filming took place over a day in the city of Orange, which was used to represent the exteriors of the town of Santa Rosa, where the majority of the film is set. Although only one day was shot in Orange, the team worked for more than two weeks setting the streets according to the year 1949: traffic signs were replaced, facades were modified and minor street repairs were made. The exterior scenes of Ed Crane’s house were filmed in the Pasadena neighborhood of Bungalow Heaven, a popular and affordable location in the mid-twentieth century. 

Presented below is the trailer to the film which effectively captures the style and feel of the movie. I really like the music in this too:

Sometimes the more you look, the less you really know

References:
1. The Man Who Wasn’t There – wikipedia

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Handle With Care (1988) – The Traveling Wilburys

It’s fascinating watching the making of the Wilburys and the process by which they realised a track. Jeff Lynn recalled, ‘Just sitting around in a circle, like 5 of us just strumming acoustic guitars and coming up with a song in a couple of hours. It was almost ready to record. It was unbelievable stuffThe whole thing took six weeks from the first chord to the finished mix of the last song.
Petty said, ‘The whole experience was just some of the best days of my life and I think it was probably for us all. The thing that might be hard to understand is what good friends we were..it was a bunch of friends that just happened to be really good at making music….None of this would have happened without him (George Harrison). It was George’s band and it was a dream he had for a long time.’

Handle With Care is the 4th song to feature here from The Traveling Wilburys, but it was the debut hit single as the opening track of their album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. I think it’s one of the most significant songs of the last 50 years. It peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, number 2 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart and was a top-five hit in Australia and New Zealand.

According to wikipedia: The song was the first recording made by the group, although it was originally intended as a bonus track on a European single by George Harrison. When he and Jeff Lynne presented the song to Harrison’s record company, the executives insisted it was too good for that purpose, a decision that resulted in the formation of the Wilburys.  With no professional studios available at such short notice, Harrison phoned Bob Dylan, who agreed to let them use his garage studio in Malibu (see image left – wikipedia). Tom Petty, who had also been working with Lynne in Los Angeles, was invited the following day, when Harrison went to retrieve his guitar from Petty’s house. George said, I have the first lines, ‘Been beat up and battered around‘, and Dylan asked: ‘So what will we call it‘? George saw a box laying there with the sticker and responded ‘Handle With Care‘ and Dylan responded ‘Oh yeh. Good.’  

Been beat up and battered around
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found
Handle me with care


Reputation’s changeable
Situation’s tolerable
But, baby, you’re adorable
Handle me with care


I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?

Coupled with a fantastic lyric, this song has a stupendous acoustic and vocal harmony. I was in awe from first listen. I don’t know how many times I have heard this song over the years, but it’s a lot and I still find it a very pleasureable listening experience. It was an exceptional launching pad for the group. Petty and his band the Heartbreakers often performed Handle with Care in concert. Lynne sang it with them at the Concert for George, a year after Harrison’s death in November 2001. The music video below for Handle with Care was filmed at an abandoned brewery near Union Station in Los Angeles.

References:
1. Hand With Care (song) – The Traveling Wilburies

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