Category Archives: Live Music Log

Blood On The Tracks – Bryan Ferry’s ‘The Bride Stripped Bare’

This is lovely and thorough perspective on a great (undiscovered by many) album. Bryan Ferry is the man. Enjoy!

The Immortal Jukebox

‘Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row’

(Bob Dylan)

‘He had made his choice, chosen Ophelia, chosen the sweet poison and drunk it. Wanting above all to be brave and kind, he had wanted, even more than that, to be loved. So it had been. So it would ever be … ‘

(Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Tender Is The Night’)

‘Can’t let go, There’s a madness in my soul tonight, Can’t let go…’

(Bryan Ferry, ‘Can’t Let Go’)

In 1978 Bryan Ferry experienced something new in his, until then, wholly successful and glittering career – failure. His fifth, and to my mind by far his best solo record, ‘The Bride Stripped Bare’ an adult work drenched in passion, paranoia and desperate desire emerged at the height of the punk era in the UK and was (apart…

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I Forgot How Much I Love Blues in the Night

My husband gave me Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely on CD for my birthday. It had been awhile since I had listened to it.

Only

I guess the fact that this and another called No One Cares are my favorite Sinatra albums says something about me. I love the minor key, the tune with the lonely sound.

It’s true. It’s not gratuitous or melodramatic  It’s not this:

I’m losing my hearing

I’ve lost sight in one eye

I’m sorry I can’t hear you

Did you really say goodbye?

No.  It’s something else. These are torch songs, sad songs of unrequited love which help you to feel all the somber moods of lost love and lost hopes. It’s the quiet resignation, the acceptance of something gone by. Why should this be so darn enjoyable? Only the Lonely evokes a mood like few things I’ve heard, and it’s so internally consistent that it’s almost impossible to separate the individual songs from the whole.

Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely was one of the earliest concept albums, a distinction to be credited to Sinatra, a distinction soon to be lost in this age of context-less, cherry-picked tune selection.

I became a Sinatra fan in the 70’s, in my teens, listening to Sinatra’s whole oevre with my Dad. We would listen to this album and I Remember Tommy, his homage to Tommy Dorsey, and various repackaged compilations.  On the weekends, the radio would be tuned to our local-gone-national radio institutions Friday with Frank, and Sunday with Sinatra, hosted by Sid Mark.  Mr. Mark has been producing this wall-to-wall Sinatra-only program for 57 years. Learn more here: The Sounds of Sinatra with Sid Mark

My Dad was a freight locomotive engineer but he had an excellent singing voice somewhat like Dick Haymes.  When he came back from World War II, he had a new wife and needed to find a job, so there was no time to pursue the possibility of a singing career (and I doubt he really wanted to.) But he had an ear for good music.

I received a priceless education on popular music in the house in which I grew up.  My oldest brother listened to The Beatles and Bob Dylan. My oldest sister experimented with pop-jazz like Herb Alpert and Brazil ’66, along with some folk like Peter, Paul and Mary, and my middle sister loved Motown.  My two other brothers played everything from Chicago to Sly and the Family Stone to you name it. My Mom listened to the latest pop on the radio and classical too. I’m really grateful for the education; I shudder at the mention of homes where music wasn’t playing somewhere most of the time, or where the listening choices are so tightly micromanaged as to permit only one bland flavor, or, worst of all, where no one is particularly interested in music. Cultural education is best caught, less so taught. It needs to be liberal and broad, and I don’t say that about much.  It is sadly neglected these days and we are paying a price.

The songs are: Only the Lonely, Angel Eyes,  What’s New?, Willow Weep for Me, Goodbye,  Blues in the Night,  Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,  Ebb Tide,  Spring is Here,  Gone with the Wind,  One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).  The CD release includes Where or When.

Every one is a gem. Here are two:

Song to the Siren

Some lovely thoughts from someone dear to me. And that song again…

Glass Planet

So I’m sitting in my little gray cube at work tapping away at the plastic keys, focused on electrical design type stuff.  I’m securely insulated at a safe distance from any natural-light-admitting windows with nothing to hold my attention but the blinky little symbols on the screen.  Once I get the doohickeys arranged in the proper sequence the thingamajig should work.  Yay.

Eyes and hands are on autopilot but the ears aren’t even in the building.  They’re encased in life-preserving headphones filled with the elixir of Bryan Ferry singing “Song to the Siren.” I’m in two places at once.  Guess which one is more real?

I’m not kidding.  I’m listening to this thing and my heart is pounding.  I’m seeing things.  I smell the ocean.  I see mermaids and I hear them sing.  The tragedy of obsessive human passion embracing its own destruction brings actual tears to my eyes. …

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Someone in My Place

A thousand miles of pain I’m sure
Led you to the threshold
Of my heart’s screen door
To tell me what it is I’m dying for
Gravity comes
Like a cold cold rain
To lead me to the rope again
But someone is standing in my place…

These words are a stanza from John Mark McMillan’s Carbon Ribs. More famously the author of the Christian culture standard How He Loves, JMM writes lyrics which hold their own as poetry. (Look up Ten Thousand sometime.) His lyrics are so good they don’t need the music, but the music is just about sublime sometimes. The words punch me in the gut and bring tears to my eyes; the music puts me in another place.

I experienced actual worship through music for the first time, almost the only time, at a JMM concert. We were outdoors on the lawn of a church.  It was June, and all around us the sky was full of darkening clouds and distant lightning.  But there was literally a circle of clear sky over our heads. The storm never reached us.

As JMM sang praise and love to his Savior. What allowed me to worship wasn’t the weather, but the music shared together in praise of Someone else. For once the music was not just for my listening pleasure.

I want to think about someone standing in my place.

It’s all about love. Jesus said:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15: 12, 13

Not luck and lollipops, not a panacea, not a magic gesture which makes everyone happy in the chick flick or the Disney.  Not fair-weather love. Love which I can know is genuine because it costs.

Love is love when it costs the lover to love. What can the cost be? It can be self-determination, self-interest, turf…my time, my schedule, my priorities…my things, my personal space, my comfort…my goals, my dreams, my plans…my self-esteem, my truth, my pride…my safety. My life.

Jesus gave up every one of these things. He gave up all self-interest in a way no one else ever has. He never, not one time in his life, made a choice because it was what He wanted, because it made him comfortable, or because he preferred it.  He always chose what His Father wanted, every time, every minute of his life.

It is the literal truth that He went to his death in my place, and in yours. He rejected the credit, the adulation and the power, all he had every right to claim. He truly deserves all the glory, honor, love and obedience that there is. Instead he chose loneliness, ridicule, rejection, humiliation, torture, and excruciating death.

That humiliation is what I have earned. That death I deserve.. I must let this sink in and really believe it, or I let it become a catchphrase with no real meaning. I deserve the grotesque punishment he received. Me.

Cause I’m a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs

Remember facing something overwhelming. That awful thing looms over your every minute and you can’t forget it. You want with all your might to go back to your careless mundane everyday life; you’ll be so thankful if you can ever be there again. Or you’re going to have major surgery and you’re imagining all possible ways that something could go wrong.  You’re imagining dying. You can’t forget your anxiety til it’s over.

Then someone knocks on your door.  You open it and it’s an acquaintance you haven’t thought much about for weeks.  He tells you that he will undergo the surgery in your place.  In fact, he’ll take your cancer from you and put in in his own body, and then he’ll have the surgery for you. And he’ll make certain you never have cancer again. He can do all this.

Imagine your reaction.

Imagine you’ve committed terrible crimes. You’re repulsed by what you’ve done to fellow human beings. You’re horrified that what you’ve done can’t be undone. Your guilt is real; any hopes for your future, all your comfort with yourself, all gone. You are tried, convicted and sentenced. The sentence is death, right now, and you deserve it. You’re led up the stairs to face the noose.

Then someone knocks on the door. The door is opened and it’s that acquaintance again.  He walks decidedly to the stairs and climbs up to the platform.  He looks you in the eyes, gently but firmly pushes you aside and stands in your place.  He puts the rope around his neck and falls through the trap. He is executed.

Yes, he can do this too, though He has committed no crime; because He has committed no offense. Your crime is recompensed. Justice is satisfied. You are redeemed to live free and without guilt.

All of these hypotheticals are true; I am guilty enough to die. I have callously offended God and his invaluable human creations. Self-cancer is eating away at me. I cannot save myself in either case. But that Someone is able to do all the rescuing, and He did.

And one day when I’m free
I will sit

A cripple at your table

And I sit beside you

Bryan Ferry at the Tower, Philadelphia

On the way to the Tower to see Bryan Ferry, we popped Olympia into the CD player. Song to the Siren.  It seemed like the culmination of Bryan’s work since the beginning, pulling together all the strands of his art into one gorgeous romantic anthem. Words and music deceptively simple on the surface. Complex layers of vast sound and intimate meaning lie beneath, over a compellingly driving rhythm. Wistful images form in your mind. A song like ocean waves. There are real whale songs in the mix.

Bryan Ferry is the sole inhabitant of his own genre. There is no one like him. Song to the Siren is actually a cover of a Tim Buckley song from the 60’s, but Bryan has made it his own.

My twenty-something daughter Eva is also a fan. Explaining Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry to people in her own generation (who ought to know) has been a challenge. How would you describe Bryan Ferry? That the hipsters haven’t yet caught on was evident at the show: almost everyone in the audience was 45 and up.

I discovered Roxy Music a little later than my art college friends, in 1979. It was Siren. That album forever changed my relationship to music and I have internalized it differently since. To be honest, in trying to describe my changing reaction to Bryan Ferry’s music over the years, words fail me.

By the time I found them, Roxy Music was almost done, having broken up after Manifesto in ’77. They would reunite a couple more times but Bryan, Andy and Phil had moved into solo artist territory. The glam heyday which they had helped to create seemed to my 19 year-old mind like ancient rock history. Music changed fast in those days and artists remade themselves about once a year complete with a new concept album. Though RM had only begun eight years before, they had released six albums, a lot of evolving material.

My husband and I have seen Mr. Ferry only once before. On April 23, 1983, tickets went on sale to see Roxy Music at the Tower. That also happened to be our wedding day. We drove to the ticket office and bought those tickets in the morning, and we got married at 1:00.

I believe that show at the Tower in May of 1983 was the very last appearance that Roxy Music ever made in the U.S. (I could be wrong.) It was awesome.

Bryan Ferry is probably the foremost artist in his own right who is also a devoted cover artist. There are eight RM studio albums and 15 BF albums. Most of the solo albums have one to several covers, aside from the ones which are dedicated tribute/cover albums. There is Dylanesque, The Jazz Age, and As Time Goes By.
Last night I didn’t know what we would hear. His body of work is so vast that he couldn’t even do a survey in one evening. It was wonderful. We met a friend from art school after the show, who put it this way: “It was everything I wanted.”

Except, curiously I thought, he did not do Song to the Siren.

BF 010

They started off running with Re-Make/Re-Model. So many early Roxy songs, so satisfying. Kiss and Tell, Slave to Love, Ladytron! If There Is Something! Oh Yeah, Stronger Through the Years, Reason or Rhyme, Don’t Stop the Dance! Loop di Li, Johnny and Mary, Tara, Take a Chance with Me, Can’t Let Go, More Than this, Avalon, Casanova!!, Love is the Drug, Both Ends Burning, Jealous Guy…and Editions of You.

So many times I had to turn to Eva with my excited happy face. Each one seemed like a thoughtful gift to cherished fans. I was so glad that Eva was there; she has superb musical sense and really “gets” Mr. Ferry.

The band was excellent.  They were often mimicking the riffs we hear on our albums, but it was quite clear that this was a really superlative bunch of musicians. It was cool to see Fonzi Thornton again; he was in the same spot in 1983 as well.

BF 007

On the down side: the sound system was not as crisp as one would like. When Bryan spoke to the audience, words were hard to make out. Oh yes, and I wasn’t in the front row. That too.

Let it be noted that Mr. Ferry, rather than referencing cheesesteaks or Phillies, as all other performers do, related a memory about the Duchamp at the Philadelphia Art Museum which inspired The Bride Stripped Bare. He is one of a kind.

He had cancelled the preceding three shows because of illness, and at first it seemed he was spending most of his time sitting at the keyboard.  But as the night wore on, he seemed to be gaining energy, having more fun. More and more his flashing smile lit up that giant room.

No, there are no pictures of us with Mr. Ferry.  I’ll never have the opportunity to meet him, and I think he can happily go through life without my brilliant fan comment: “Bjhgudfbuvdtncqosncnq.”

The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.

PASSENGER 008

Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.

PASSENGER 009

I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.

NIN

NIN 013

I saw Nine Inch Nails last night in Camden, NJ with daughter Eva and our friend Ken. She is a dedicated fan, and she considers it an accomplishment to take me to see them. Him. Trent Reznor.
I’m really still an outsider to his music, but I do appreciate it, and I do enjoy it. Anger, atheism and in-your-face language are prominent elements; I’m only formerly angry so it’s a stretch.  And if you’ve read my Dear Blank  you know my stance on language. And God. God Box

NIN is important to Eva. That’s why I was there.  We both find music necessary. To listen passively to music and then let it go is incomprehensible to both of us. We must understand what is being said, how it’s being said, what influenced the artist to say it, and evaluate the effectiveness of his methods.  Then we must choose to reject or to internalize it.

In My Concert Shoes I discussed the importance of sharing concert experiences with my daughters. Yo, they’re the most fun people I know.

Reznor’s music is refreshingly  honest. No teenage poser angst. Doubtful but still questioning, anger and despair in the search for answers. Sometimes a dialogue with God, though it may be an angry one. Drug abuse, exhaustion and recovery have influenced the work.  All is expressed in the most concise manner possible.

Artistic integrity is rarer than it should be. It sounds great.

He’s done an interesting thing. Trent Reznor has founded a genre which he still owns. You recognize a song by NIN without being told; nobody sounds like NIN. Reznor has branded NIN like no one has branded anything. (My daughter can explain his marketing genius.) But he has managed to keep the focus on the music rather than on his celebrity.

It was an amazing show. Soundgarden and all their pyramids opened, finished, lights went up, stage was re-set. Half the audience outside getting drinks, Trent Reznor walked unannounced across the stage to the mike, and began. Drummer started playing and drum set wheeled over, other band members joined. Then the lights went down.

NIN 006

There was no doubt that Trent Reznor was in control of the room.

Powerful, relentless, energetic sound. It is the most aggressive performance I’ve ever experienced. There are no breaks in the music or the visuals, no time to catch your breath. It is an onslaught. I felt assaulted.  But after all, it’s only music, so nobody gets hurt.

The visual show is even more an assault. Each and every song has a visual concept of its own. It’s gorgeous and overwhelming. There was a time I had to lower my head and close my eyes but I could still see the flashing lights. Moving light panels meticulously choreographed.  A light show in turn sultry, somber, blinding, dazzling, frenetic. The visual effects alone were worth the price of the show.

NIN 010      NIN 012

NIN 007    NIN 015

I sincerely apologize for my pictures.

Thank you Eva!  Thanks Ken!