Tuesday, August 29, 2006

TV News (Still) Stinks!

Anybody who proclaims to be a news junkie has plenty of reasons to be disgusted these days. Instead of accurately showing and telling us what is going on in not only our own community but the entire world, the 24-hour landscape is filled with talking heads reading the daily talking points along with pseudo-stories that would be better suited for the National Enquirer and People Magazine. Any time left over is devoted to celebrity over-hype, from Tom Cruise and his non-existent baby to reality television “stars” who should have disappeared the moment their show signed off for the last time.
In the coming weeks, the landscape is only going to get worse. CBS is basically just giving up, going for fake perkiness in the form of Katie Couric than the always reliable but not-as-good-looking Bob Shieffer. Locally, there’s a bit of a mass exodus from our local news programs…and I’m not just talking about the ventriloquist’s dummy accepting a job with the Mayor.
In the past two weeks, two news stories (one local, one national) has showcased the vast wasteland of the current business of deliver news.
Nationally, it was the strange case of John Karr. When the publicity-driven Colorado prosecutor announced the discovery of this lunatic, the cable news channels went into overdrive. In fact, I believe Nancy Grace may have had her first real one, if you know what I mean.
Everybody on television proclaimed this man as guilty before they even laid their eyes on him. Yet if anybody read the print stories surrounding this goofball, it was pretty clear that it was unlikely that John Karr had anything to do with the death of Jon Benet Ramsey.
It was pretty disheartening watching the so-called news that dominated the television. Rumor after rumor was reported as fact, and expert after expert were convinced he was the killer. Yet nobody asked any real questions. When everybody was up in arms over his so-called extravagant plane trip, was anybody asked about the necessity of keeping him out of the general traveler population, or whether the nice meal he was served was an interrogation method? Hell, no. It was easier just to have Ms. Grace and her ilk bitch and moan.
Even the entertainment news shows went into overdrive on this story. Entertainment Tonight even had one of their fluffheads ask “stars” their opinion on Carr’s dinner. Why should their opinion matter?
It’s now been discovered that Carr’s DNA does not match what was found on the scene of the crime. I suppose now we’ll get two more weeks of analysis of this piece of news.
On the local front, we’ve been overloaded with stories regarding the planned execution of Elijah Page. Over the last few days, all three of our TV news channels have run story after story. I guess nothing else has happened in Hudsonland.
Not that the local daily paper is any better. The front page has been dominated by the same story day after day. Yet even as Tuesday’s paper continued that trend, political columnist Dave Kranz was forced to admit that this was not a topic that was garnering much chatter.
Of course, the repeated stories of the crime Page admitted to committing and its effect on everybody involved in the story became moot Tuesday evening as Governor Mike Rounds halted the execution just hours before it was scheduled to be performed. After Rounds’ rambling, almost nonsensical press conference (the only worse speaker present was a certain KELO “reporter” who asked the first question), the local channels went almost non-stop on related stories. Some of these were necessary, but after the first couple I moved on to one of Maury Povich’s patented babydaddy episodes. I had had enough.
Although I’m personally against the death penalty, it is the current law of the land. I think I speak for many people in saying that the amount of newspaper space and airtime devoted to Page could have been cut by 90%. Certainly Rounds’ explanation could have been whittled down to a couple of sentences.
But who am I to talk? I just took 10 paragraphs to carry on a theme that I’ve had for years – TV news sucks!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Worst Album of All Time?

Press Release / New York, NY--(Market Wire)--Aug 22, 2006 -- On October 24, 2006 Restless Records will release Butchering The Beatles -- featuring the biggest, the baddest, the heaviest all-star line-up ever assembled to honor what is arguably the greatest band ever -- The Beatles. All-in-all, over 50 internationally known recording artists bring their unique bone-crushing slant to these remarkable songs. Produced by Grammy award-winning producer/guitarist Bob Kulick and ace engineer Brett Chassen, Butchering The Beatles features 12 new, ass-kicking versions of The Beatles' chart-topping hits including "Hey Jude," "I Feel Fine," and "Day Tripper," plus the more esoteric "Hey Bulldog," barked out by the legendary Alice Cooper and "Tomorrow Never Knows," uniquely interpreted by the iconic Billy Idol, alongside classic concept songs like "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Magical Mystery Tour."

When asked by Guitar Player magazine what possessed him to go all metal on The Beatles, Bob Kulick stated that, "Beatles songs are the Holy Grail. They're the best rock songs ever written. These new recordings are totally faithful, yet completely different. Billy Gibbons singing 'Revolution' or (Motorhead bassist) Lemmy singing 'Back In The USSR' are not exactly Paul McCartney or John Lennon. And of course, the guitar solo sections were lengthened to accommodate all the artists' solo styles."
Butchering The Beatles track listing:

1. "Hey Bulldog" - Alice Cooper, vox; Steve Vai, guitars; Duff McKagen (Velvet Revolver / Guns N Roses), bass; Mikkey Dee (Motorhead), drums.

2. "Back In The USSR" - Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), vox/bass; John5 (Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie), guitars; Eric Singer (Kiss / Alice Cooper), drums.

3. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" - Geoff Tate (Queensryche), vox; Michael Wilton (Queensryche), guitar; Craig Goldy (Dio), guitar; Rudy Sarzo (Dio), bass; Simon Wright (Dio), drums; Scott Warren (Dio), keys.

4. "Tomorrow Never Knows" - Billy Idol, vox; Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), guitars; Blasko (Ozzy Osbourne), bass; Brian Tichy (Billy Idol), drums.

5. "Magical Mystery Tour" - Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen / Soul Sirkus), vox; Yngwie Malmsteen (Rising Force / Alcatrazz), lead guitar; Bob Kulick, (Meat Loaf / Paul Stanley Band), rhythm guitar; Jeff Pilson (Dokken / Foreigner), bass; Frankie Banali (Wasp / Quiet Riot), drums.

6. "Revolution" - Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), vox / guitar; Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), guitar; Mike Porcaro (Toto), bass; Gregg Bisonnette (David Lee Roth / Ringo Starr Band), drums; Joseph Fazzio (Superjoint Ritual), drums.

7. "Day Tripper" - Jack Blades (Night Ranger / Damn Yankees), vox; Tommy Shaw (Styx / Damn Yankees), vox; Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake / Dio), guitars; Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake / Thin Lizzy), bass; Virgil Donati (Steve Vai / Soul Sirkus / Planet X), drums.

8. "I Feel Fine" - John Bush (Anthrax), vox; Stephen Carpenter (Deftones), guitar; Mike Inez (Ozzy Osbourne / Alice In Chains), bass; John Tempesta (The Cult / Testament), drums.

9. "Taxman" - Doug Pinnick (Kings X), vox; Steve Lukather (Toto), guitar; Tony Levin (John Lennon / Peter Gabriel), bass; Steve Ferrone (Eric Clapton / Tom Petty), drums.

10. "I Saw Her Standing There" - John Corabi (Motley Crue), vox; Phil Campbell (Motorhead), guitar; C.C. Deville (Poison), guitar; Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction), bass; Kenny Aronoff (Smashing Pumpkins / Jon Bon Jovi), drums.

11. "Hey Jude" - Tim "Ripper" Owens (Judas Priest / Iced Earth), vox; George Lynch (Dokken / Lynch Mob), guitar; Bob Kulick (Meat Loaf / Paul Stanley Band), rhythm guitar; Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge / Beck / Bogert & Appice), bass; Chris Slade (AC/DC), drums.

12. "Drive My Car" - Kip Winger (Winger), vox; Bruce Kulick (Kiss / Grand Funk), guitar; Tony Franklin (The Firm / Whitesnake), bass; Aynsley Dunbar (Whitesnake / Journey), drums.
WebLink: biz.yahoo.com/iw/060822/0156299.html.

A Comedy Lollapalooza?

What happens when you inject some rock 'n' roll into stand-up comedy? Read on.

Hours – and I do mean many, many hours – before the doors opened Saturday, August 26 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ thousands of people descended on the several sections of parking housed around the perimeter of the Garden State’s most popular amphitheater. Surely this would make sense for the PNC's many metal and rock shows. That is, the amount and quality of tailgating I found there is something that’s usually reserved for this venue’s more typical fare— Ozzfest, old 80s hair metal bands and the like.

There was lots of music blaring, throngs of people surrounding their cars, drinking from coolers, grilling, some enthusiasts building canopied sun shelters – or in this case, pissing rain shelters – and yes, I spotted a jovial group of people with an impressive beer pong table parked perfectly into one parking space.

And then there was the golf carts— or, one golf cart in particular. The one with stand-up comedian Jim Norton hanging is bare ass off the side, greeting every last fan as it sped through the lots. It was official: the Opie & Anthony circus had arrived. They've recently injected radio with a much needed dose of excitement, dominating both sattelite (XM) and terrestial radio (Free FM). So it's no surprise they made this, their Traveling Virus tour a total rock ‘n’ roll event.

To see more than 10 thousand people gather for one night of stand-up is something of a rarity. It’s par, pretty standard for music events, like the John Mayer and Sheryl Crow show scheduled for the next night. But for comedy? This was something special.

Before the show but after the tailgating, most people took a stroll through the sideshow area – dubbed “the village” – outside the theater. Opie & Anthony show regulars antagonized each other in a human petting zoo; fans took their chances at the “drown the clown” booth (was that Robert Kelly in there?); t-shirts were given away for those willing to kick stuffed dogs or drown baby dolls; and, the Wahoo Skiffle Crazies, the self proclaimed premier jug band of Staten Island performed for confused yet entertained onlookers.

It all combined to create a festive appetizer to a night of stellar comedy. Once in the theater area, the crowd was treated to a pair of rotating strippers from Manhattan’s club HeadQuarters. When it was time, Rich Vos did a more than competent job hosting the first half of the show, even managing to do some crowd work at one point, making out with new wife, comic Bonnie McFarlane in front of the audience. Before the intermission, the crowd was treated to X-rated ventriloquist act Otto and George and Tourgasm standout Robert Kelly, who killed the crowd with his ever self effacing humor about getting fat, the struggles of pissing while you’re erect and the fact that his fiancé “cleans me with a cloth like a wounded elephant” after having sex.

Tracy Morgan, who I spotted backstage working out some material about Michael Jackson’s kid, Blanket, whom he predicts will join gangs as a young adult due to his unfortunate name, managed to weave the bit into his set; the crowd ate it up. Modern day TV legend Bob Saget closed the first half of the show, jibing himself and his eight-year run as Danny Tanner in Full House and his subsequent appearances in Dirty Work and America’s Funniest Home Videos. He was also sure to give props to New Jersey: “Some people think that Jersey is the taint between Philly and New York City,” he said. “It’s not. It’s the hole. And I want to fuck this hole.”

The second half of the show saw Opie & Anthony regulars Patrice O’Neal, Bill Burr and, of course, Norton take to the stage. Most notably, Norton told a story about how two years ago in Las Vegas, he had a three-way romp with porn legend Ron Jeremy and a woman who remained nameless. Norton also told us that he (Norton, not Jeremy) enjoys getting his ass licked— brutal honesty or just plain disgusting for a cheap laugh? Either way, that’s why we love him.

With an incredibly strong set, Carlos Mencia closed out the show. Sure, Comedy Central’s Mind of Mencia is wildly popular. But I think it sometimes forces us to forget the breadth of his material. Yeah, his race material is funny but this set made me remember how much I like his bits about how American parents coddle their kids into being a bunch of pussies. In an unrelated bit, near the end of his time, when he seductively spit on the long black phallus of his microphone, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. I think I did a bit both. But what would Jesus do?

— Dylan P. Gadino

Sunday, August 27, 2006

More Info on Brand's Senseless Death

Friday, August 25, 2006


Copyright © 2006 Republican-American

NAUGATUCK -- Brandilynn Fambrough had so much more to accomplish in her young life, friends and co-workers said Thursday.

Fambrough, 28, was murdered early Sunday morning when her estranged boyfriend, Robert Krueger, 25, of Brick, N.J., shot her several times outside of her apartment on Andrew Avenue. Krueger then killed himself.

Police have ruled it a murder/suicide. They said they do not know the motive and Krueger did not leave a suicide note.

Friends said Fambrough met Krueger on an Internet site and dated him for about six weeks, deciding she only wanted a Platonic relationship. Krueger showed up at her apartment around 5 a.m. Sunday and asked Fambrough to step outside. Inside, several of Fambrough's friends were there for a sleepover, police said. Krueger then took out a gun and shot Fambrough several times, according to police.

"It's just a senseless thing and greedy to take her life,'' said Fred Bobson, partner at DT Holdings in Stamford, where Fambrough worked as an administrative assistant. "This whole thing is horrendous. Everyone that knew her feels bad. She had so much more to accomplish in her young life.''

Bobson said the commute from Naugatuck, where she had found an affordable rental, to Stamford every day was long and that she recently found an apartment in the Stamford area.

"She was so happy that she was moving closer to work,'' he said.

He said Fambrough was "family" to him and had a tough life after leaving home in Washington state when she was a teenager. "She had a rough life but she was working out of it,'' he said. "She was such a great person and so full of life and she touched everyone she met,'' he said.

Mickey Berkowitz of Stamford said Fambrough worked as a nanny for him and his wife, Lynda, for more than three years. He said she grew up in the Seattle area but left home when she was around 15. He said she moved out of his home last September and in April started working full-time for DT Holdings, a jewelry manufacturing company.

"She was like a daughter and was infectious in her charm, and very honest and sincere,'' said Berkowitz. He said she also had a "very positive'' impact on children. A tree will be planted in her honor at the Northeast Elementary School in Stamford, where Fambrough met many staff members and children while acting as nanny to his child.

Kevin Marino, another partner of DT Holdings, said they have been in shock since learning that Fambrough was murdered. He said she will be "terribly missed'' at the company where she had easily made friends.

"Her concern for other people's lives, feelings and happiness was genuine,'' he said "She left us entirely too soon.''

Friends and family members said goodbye during services Thursday at the Leo T. Gallagher & Sons Funeral Home on Summer Street in Stamford, not far from where she worked at DT Holdings.

She is survived by her mother, Sherry Fambrough; a brother, Ronald Fambrough; and a sister, Tammy Fambrough, all of Seattle. They could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jody Schwann? Give Me a Break

There are some weeks that I am forced to spend hours and hours to come up with a suitable “Get Out of Town” target. This is not one of them. In fact, the first part of what you’re about to read pretty much wrote itself.
The story begins shortly after I got off work Monday night. I headed home and just seconds after hitting the bachelor chair for my nightly nap the phone rang. And then it rang again. Then my cell phone rang.
I logged onto the computer and found a handful of emails from friends, relatives, and even a former city council member. They all wanted to know the same thing – have I heard the news?
Obviously, the news wasn’t that, to quote a classic 50’s rock and roll song, “there’s good rockin’ tonight” (although there was probably some boots knockin’ in one local household). This was a different kind of news – an announcement so obscenely silly that nobody, and I mean nobody, would have dared predict.
If you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about, I have four key phrases: Dave Munson, Jody Schwann, Chief of Staff, $98,000.
What the fuck is our moronic mayor thinking? I guess maybe it makes sense for the man who talks out of both sides of his mouth to hire a person whose mouth doesn’t move when she speaks. No, it still makes no sense.
What exactly are her qualifications? Idiotboy said on the news last night that her so-called expertise with government-related stories was what attracted her to him. Uh, right. I guess compared to her predecessor, John Bachman, that may be true.
It seems to me that the way to get a job with the mayor is to throw the most softballs. Through every controversy concerning the mayor, it was only her channel that he would use, and she was the only “reporter” to get the elusive “open-door” leader to chat. Inevitably, the softballs she lobbed were so easy to hit that even the Canaries could have reached base.
And she gets a salary of $98,000? That’s more than the sum total of her four years at KELO! Hell, I’d kiss Munson’s ass for that kind of change…and I’m more qualified!
Before I get carried away, I have something more serious to discuss today. As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the Opie and Anthony show on XM radio. Earlier this year, they hooked up some cameras in their studio, and one could watch their broadcasts on a program called Paltalk.
The Paltalk experience didn’t end when the show was over, though. The O&A fan room was a 24-hour room where fans of the show hung out and drank, argued, laughed, and did everything else that friends would do.
And that’s exactly what we had become – friends. Any time I was bored, I knew that a hundred or so of my friends would be hanging out online – some just communicating in text but a good percentage of them also speaking on cam. Since the show’s home base is located in New York, quite a few of these new friends lived in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philly.
Because of their proximity to each other, there have been many get-togethers, and they have also been broadcast on Paltalk. This past weekend people from all over the country gathered in New Jersey for a softball game. Included in this group was a beautiful young woman from western Canada named Jen, who had saved money for months to make the trip.
The night before the game, Jen and a couple of others gathered at the home of a woman named Brand, who had started dating Bobby, another Paltalker, a couple of months earlier. I checked in just before going to bed late Saturday night, and they were having a great time.
I checked in on the softball game the following afternoon, and these five people hadn’t shown up. Rumors had been floating around all day, but most people figured they had just overslept.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. At around 5:30 a.m., Brand and Bobby had an argument in her driveway. He pulled out a gun, and after shooting her a number of times, put the gun to his own head. Jen witnessed the entire event.
Obviously, the room was devastated when the news came down. It may seem hard for anybody who is not a part of this room to understand, but although we see each other in one-inch square cams, we really are friends. I see and talk to these people every day, and both Brand and Bobby knew me as well as anybody.
The big concern right now (besides the well-being of their surviving family and friends) is that the media may turn this into a Myspace-type scandal. This wasn’t a pedophile stalker situation like we hear about on the news everyday. The fact that these two people met on Paltalk has no bearing on the events that occurred early Sunday morning. They could have just easily met at the supermarket; or a bar. Hell, they could have even met at an Opie and Anthony event. It was a real relationship that had a tragic ending.
Those who have come into contact with me in the past couple of days can no understand why I’ve been so subdued. While plenty of people in my life have died over the years, none have died in these sort of circumstances. I’m just thankful that I had other online friends such as Casey, Catherine, Lucci, and three beautiful ladies named Jamie to help cheer me up. Too bad all of these beauties live thousands of miles away. I could use some extra special help to get over my grief.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Amateur Night at Scarlett's!

I struggled throughout most of the past evening coming up with a target for this week’s episode of “Get Out of Town”. One positive aspect of being a negative creep with no life is the simple fact that there’s always somebody to focus my wrath.
The truth is I’m too excited this morning to cause anybody any grief…excited being the key word. For the third (or is it fourth?) straight year, I will a judge at the annual Amateur Night competition at Scarlet O’Hara’s. Yes, this goofball gets to be Al Bundy for one night – just call it Christmas in August.
Generally speaking, watching amateurs do the job of the pro’s is a depressing event. Not in the world of stripping, though. There’s something refreshing about watching young, fresh-faced, non-jaded ladies strutting across the stage for the first time.
Sure, there’s bound to be a couple of train wrecks. It’s also almost guaranteed that one or two will have a bit of an “attitude” that will cause us to immediately disqualify them as professionals. Those ladies will be more than made up by the half dozen or so whose initial reluctance will culminate in a standing ovation..and I don’t mean just hands being raised.
As a public service to my future new friends, I have a few suggestions for those interested in signing up tonight. Actually, even veteran dancers may want to pay attention to today’s lesson.
1. I can be bribed. ‘Nuff said…meet me at the judge’s table before the show begins.
2. Music may not be an official category, but it does influence my vote. Stay away from the obvious clichés – particularly “Girls Girls Girls”. It’s been done…and done and done. The worst I ever saw was some piece of white trash that used “Redneck Woman”. Ugh. Please save that for the clems at the small town clubs during hunting season. Use some originality! One of my favorite dancers of all time was a little cutie from Minneapolis who danced to old school Social Distortion. I wanted to marry her the moment the song started.
3. No glitter! Why oh why do dancers cover their upper body with glitter? It may look okay onstage, but it ends up on anybody who comes into contact with you offstage, particularly if you give any private dances. Many guys don’t need to explain themselves when they go home. Hell, I have nobody waiting for me and I hate when that garbage is all over my clothes.
4. On a similar note, relax on the perfume. Yes, I realize that part of the reason so many dancers cover their body with perfume is to mask the perspiration that comes with six hours of dancing. But even women that have no problem with their significant others going to the nudie bar may not appreciate guys coming home with any smell other than smoke.
5. Simplify your stage show. I realize that many ladies consider what they’re doing art, but there’s nothing really erotic about elaborate stunts involving fire or toys other than what you can find at Annabelles. Pole shows are fine, but don’t forget everybody waiting to hand over their hard-earned dollars. Do some dancing, take off as much clothing as the law allows, and look like you’re having fun.
6. Drop the attitude. I realize that walking around almost naked for six hours a night can get old really quickly, especially considering the idiots you’re dealing with for the majority of the night. But you are trying to win our favor. Declining your offer for a private dance is not a reason for you to turn nasty on us. Our reasons are varied – maybe you’re not really our type, maybe we’re waiting for a specific person, or maybe we just spent some money on a lady. Since there’s a possibility we’ll come back to you later, maybe you should just smile and say something nice when we say no.
7. Those who are considering making a career out of dancing should immediately purchase Diablo Cody’s “Candy Girl”. Cody was a normal Minneapolis office worker who on a whim entered an amateur contest. She didn’t win, but it led to two years at various Twin Cities clubs. Now a City Pages columnist with a screenplay in development in Hollywood, Cody’s witty memoir documents both the good and bad aspects of this surprisingly competitive occupation.
This concludes today’s lesson. Join me tonight at 8:30 at Scarlet O’Hara’s where I will be joined by Cade, Chris, Eric, and a couple of other judges to choose this year’s Amateur Night champion. And remember, bribes (and not just financial bribes) are appreciated!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Road Construction Stinks!

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was minding my own business in my bachelor chair, watching some of my ever-growing stockpile of unwatched DVD’s, when my phone rang. It was my good buddy Cade, asking if I was going to come judge the Battle of the Bands competition at the Fairgrounds.
Now I remember Cade asking if I would be a part of this event, but nothing else had been said. I figured one of my enemies had me taken off the gig. After apologizing, I asked when I needed to be there. Five o’clock. A look at my clock showed it was 4:38. How the hell was I going to get there in time?
I pulled up my pants, slipped on some sandals, and hopped in Ginger the Jeep. It was doubtful that I’d make it from my home just off South Bahnson by five, but I was going to give it my best shot. The wheels in my pea-brain were spinning as I turned onto 26th Street. I knew that 10th Street and 12th Street were a mess, and even in light traffic they were going to slow me down. I decided to head a couple of blocks farther north to 8th Street and took that to Western Avenue, where I veered south to 10th. I took that street all the way past Kiwanis, where it veered over to 12th Street.
I was relieved that there was little traffic on the entire route, and when I pulled into the Fairgrounds parking lot I was pleased to find out that the show hadn’t yet started. The time? 4:58.
Three days later, I had another similar experience, but not with such good results. As everybody knows, I hit Black Sheep Coffee a handful of times per day. On this particular afternoon, I needed to once again head towards the Fairgrounds after filling my mug with java. This trip wasn’t going to be so easy, though.
Thanks to the 12th Street construction, I couldn’t turn left out of the parking lot. I also couldn’t end up on 12th Street by going around the block, either, as the city had outlawed left turns from Grange Avenue. In the past few days, I had gotten used to just driving down to 18th, and taking that street to the west. Well, construction had begun that day on 18th. What’s a boy to do?
I tried 15th Street. No luck. I veered over to 14th, and after maneuvering around an open sewer drain was finally able to get moving. The time it took me to finally make my destination? Let’s just say it took less time to go three times as far just a few days before.
This is a typical day in my life, as not only is Black Sheep surrounded by construction but almost every street between that business and my office on 41st Street. In fact, here’s a partial list of streets tore up between Minnesota Avenue and Western Avenue – 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21th, 33rd (in two separate spots), and 38th. Add to that the two colleges and one hospital that takes up multiple blocks, and there are only three streets that are completely clear from Minnesota and Western – 22nd, 26th, and 37th (which was under construction until a couple of weeks ago).
I understand that the city is working on a big drainage project that will hopefully ease the flooding problems of recent years. But I wonder how wise it is to have all these streets tore up at the same time. Sure, most of my anger is the simple fact that this mess affects me. But how smart is it to force almost an entire section of the city to travel on a handful of streets that weren’t built to accommodate such a workload?
I’m no city engineer, so I’m not going to pretend to have the answers. Yet I can’t help but think that maybe the drainage project could have been delayed until the massive 10th and 12th Street projects are completed. Or could the drainage work been done in shifts? Do all these streets really need to be tore up at the same time?
What’s worse is the lack of notice on the majority of these streets. I never read about anything beyond the bigger projects, and there’s a serious lack of signage to prepare anybody for most of the side street work. I would get used to one route, only to discover another street tore up the next day. So I’d turn onto another street, and a block later that one would also be blocked off.
Bottom line – a boy that gets no sleep needs his coffee…and a boy with no coffee is in no mood for silly games with blocked streets and detours. Maybe it helps my weekly rant to keep me pissed off, but some days I’d love to just be a happy lil’ bastard. I’d love a perfect day where a hot piece of ass winks at me, the roads are cleared of morons, nothing but magic comes out of my Ipods, and tasty coffee can be purchased with little hassle. Ah, this fat piece of crap can always dream.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Hudson Guide to the Jayhawks

One of the more shocking musical stories of this year can be found in the liner notes to Taking the Long Way, the chart-topping new album by the Dixie Chicks. One expects to find names such as Sheryl Crow, Mike Campbell, and Bonnie Raitt on a disc as commercial as this. But how in the world did former Jayhawks leader Gary Louris end up on this album?
Louris not only contributes acoustic and electric guitars, but also “co-wrote” four of the album’s fourteen tracks. (To add to the surprise, former Trip Shakespeare/Semisonic leader Dan Wilson contributed six additional songs.)
In some respects, Louris’ input should not be so surprising. It was well documented that the Dixie Chicks were looking to bridge the gap between rock and country, a format that had worked so well for The Jayhawks over the course of their twenty-year career. Yet despite critical acclaim and a devoted fan base that has stuck with the band through problems with labels and personnel, this underappreciated Minneapolis band never quite hit the big time.
Louris disbanded the band last year, but is busier than ever. Along with his work with the ‘Chicks, Louris can be found on recent releases by Old 97’s leader Rhett Miller, singer/songwriter Tim Easton, and up-and-coming Minneapolis alt-country act Limbeck. July 18 saw a new release by Golden Smog, the “supergroup” that also features members of Wilco and Soul Asylum. If that wasn’t enough, Louris is also currently on the road in a surprise reunion with former Jayhawks co-leader Mark Olson.
With all this in mind, Prime felt it was a good time to take a look back at the back catalog of the band that, along with Uncle Tupelo, almost single-handedly created the “alt-country” genre.

The Jayhawks (aka “the Bunkhouse album”) (1986)

Let’s put it this way – if you own this piece of vinyl, don’t break the seal, as it’s worth at least a couple hundred bucks. An early version of the Jayhawks lucked into a gig opening for Alex Chilton, and stockbroker Charlie Pine was so impressed he became their manager and benefactor. He funded this recording, whose pressing was limited to either a few hundred or a couple thousand (depending on who tells the story), and the album was primarily sold at legendary Minneapolis record store Oarfolkjokepus.
Never released on CD (although it turns up now and then on Lost Highway’s release schedule), a fan-mastered version turns up on quite a few bootleg lists. Although the album certainly sets the stage for the Gram Parson-influenced magic they would release over the next few years, the small recording budget limits its appeal to non-fans.
Grade: B-

Blue Earth (1989)

When Bunkhouse failed to capture the attention of major labels, the band continued to record demos (50 or so tracks have come to light in recent years). The cream of these recordings almost led to a deal with A&M, but when they declined Twin Tone offered to release a remixed version. Olson’s mournful tenor was quickly maturing, as were Louris’ perfect harmonies and Neil Young-ish guitar work. Still, the limited recording budget hampers the overall impact of the album.
Grade: B

Hollywood Town Hall (1992)

Finally, the band received their big break. Renowned producer George Drakoulias reportedly heard Blue Earth while on hold with a Twin Tone record exec, and immediately signed the band to Rick Rubin’s Def American label. Drakhoulias headed the production on their major-label debut, which furthered the Parsons influence but added a slightly rougher Crazy Horse-ish roots-rock edge.
While the production certainly was an improvement on previous recordings, it’s the songs that stand out on this influential album. Quite frankly, there’s not a bad song to be found on this album. “Waiting For the Sun”, “Take Me With You”, “Two Angels”, “Sister Cry” – most bands would die for a couple of songs as great as these. HTH has six more that are equally great.
Grade: A+

Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995)

Despite tons of favorable press, HTH fell just short of going gold. This follow-up stuck to much of the same formula as the previous album, but the songs were more pop-oriented. Yet ten years later, Tomorrow has aged extremely well, particularly on tracks such as the minor hit “Blue”, “Two Hearts”, and the epic finale “Ten Little Kids”.
Grade: A

Sound of Lies (1997)

Disaster struck just as the band seemed destined for…uh, greener pastures. Mark Olson left the band to record and tour with wife Victoria Williams. Louris decided to keep the band going, but it was obviously a completely different band without Olson’s songs and their trademark Olson/Louris harmonies.
Yet Sound of Lies is better to be expected. Louris turned the band into a more rock-oriented group, and new drummer Tim O’Reagan’s backing vocals meshed quite well with Louris. But the overall vibe of the album suggested that it was an extremely tough album to make.
Grade: B

Smile (2000)

Louris almost completely rid the band of influences of Gram and Neil on this unabashedly power pop album whose title “just happens” to share the name with the infamous abandoned Beach Boys epic. Only “What Led Me To This Town” could conceivably fit on Hollywood Town Hall or Tomorrow the Green Grass. Conversely, tracks such as “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and the title track could easily share space on a Raspberries or Tom Petty album.
Grade: A-

Live From the Women’s Club, Vol. 1 (2002) and Vol. 2 (2004)

The Jayhawks found their post-Smile years waiting to see exactly which label would end up with their contract (Def American was shuffled between three different conglomerates before ending up on Universal). During this downtime, the band toured as heavily as ever, and sold this acoustic recording (augmented with Smile demos) at their shows. Although not the classic live album this band deserves, the acoustic format is highlighted by the growing comfort level of Louris and O’Reagan’s vocals.

Rainy Day Music (2003)

Although they obviously had no idea that this would be their swan song, Rainy Day Music is the culmination of their entire career. The pop-oriented style of their more recent albums was seemingly effortlessly blended into the country-ish sound of their original lineup. Hampered only by its extreme length (a song or two could have easily been discarded), Louris’ superb songwriting on this album probably set the stage for his “surprise” hiring by the Dixie Chicks.
Grade: A

Are Women Really Better Communicators? KDLT's Jen Wahle Thinks So.

One of my proudest moments in the dozen or so years I was affiliated with the Tempest was when we put together a parody issue of the Argus Leader. Instead of the usual half-ass job we were famous for, we actually all put in a ton of time and energy to make it just right.
We made fun of columnists such as Terry Woster and Dave Kranz, and completely copied the Argus layout and writing styles. Their precursor to Link had just been introduced, so my main job was imitating then-music editor Bob Keyes. Besides a few not-so-good-natured digs at a few local bands, I even poked a little fun at my friends at KRRO.
I’ve always wanted to be involved in a follow-up to that infamous issue, but I concluded last week that there’s really no need. Our daily paper is unintentionally hilarious on its own.
Here’s an example. Last week they ran a front page headline regarding the attendance of various free events held recently in our fine city. The story itself is fine, but the claim that over a half million people attended either Jazzfest, Lifelight, and the air show is so ridiculous that it should never be used as a fact in a newspaper article.
I’m not saying that any of these events are not noteworthy, or that they don’t attract a lot of people. But the press release mentality of those involved in all three events results in numbers that in no way represents reality. As I’ve said many times before, I believe they hired their counters from the Million Man March.
Not that our downtown leaders are any better at accurately counting people. It seems like every event held downtown, from Hot Harley Nights to Germanfest to the Augustana Homecoming Parade, have led to newspaper stories claiming that almost everybody in the eastern half of the state has squeezed into a three block radius downtown. Uh, no.
Just when I finished laughing at that ridiculous story comes another laugh riot, this time on the front page of the Life section. In a national story lamenting the lack of men entering the television news business, Argus writers added some local flavor that should have never made the final edition.
There were some locals that provided a bit of reality in their comments – namely, the beautiful Shannon Stevens from KSFY. Of course, she could say about anything and I’d still be staring at her luscious legs.
Leave it to KDLT’s Jen Wahle to use the same clichés that plague their nightly broadcasts. While admitting that low pay was one factor keeping men from going in to that somewhat glamorous field, she ruined any credibility with this statement, “it’s a good profession for women because women are natural communicators.” Uh, right.
That may be the stupidest remark I’ve heard from somebody employed in a field that routinely says stupid things. I’ve never bought into the “women do this and men do that” line of thinking. People are people, and their qualities and expertise has more to do with their individuality than what combination of X’s and O’s mommy and daddy’s chromosomes put together.
Yet Ms. Wahle didn’t stop there. She went on to say, “we have a lot of women on camera in this market that are very good role models for young women…they all work to get out into the community and make a difference”. Ugh. Sure, the three television stations (and all of the radio stations) do their part in various charitable functions. Really, though, how much of this is done so they can show their employees doing good deeds in news reports and commercials? And is this really a man vs. woman scenario? I give Shawn Cable a lot of grief, but to be fair he’s involved in as many of these functions as any local female reporter.
Since Ms. Wahle wants us to go back to an earlier time when men and women had their assigned places in society, I’ll play along. Hey Jen, why don’t you go back to the kitchen? Ok, that’s too harsh. Here’s a piece of advice – maybe you should just stick to reading the teleprompter. Analysis is obviously not your strongest suit.