CLICK HERE to read these reviews as published by the Kinston Free Press.
Regina Spektor is widely known for being unknown to what’s left of the music buying market.
For the uninitiated, the Russian-born Spektor has a cheerful voice that could make a funeral dirge bounce, superb songs with sparse arrangements, and enough personality to sing the phone book and make it sound interesting.
While “Far” isn’t quite as strong as earlier albums “Begin to Hope” or “Soviet Kitsch,” it is a very strong album.
There is nothing here that will storm the charts, but several of these songs most likely will seep into your consciousness via placement in a movie, TV show or commercial. Most folks may look at this as selling out, but any artist who turns down an offer to have work presented to a large number of people is a certified putz.
“Blue Lips” and “Human of the Year” have hooks a mile wide that will satisfy the Spektor faithful, while “Eet” and “Genius Next Door” show that Spektor is always searching for a new way to make new sounds.
If you’re new to Regina Spektor, know that all of her records are worth owning. To make the ride a little more enjoyable, start with “Begin to Hope.” Doing that will make “Far” seem like a good sequel to a great movie.
“Reckoning,” released in 1984, was R.E.M.’s second album. The first album, “Murmur,” solidified the band members as darlings of college radio in 1983, and “Reckoning” proved that “Murmur” was not a fluke and that R.E.M. had plenty of gas in the tank.
Although it didn’t sell in droves, “Reckoning” helped the band build upon their small loyal fan base. Instead of shooting to the top of the charts and disappearing soon thereafter, R.E.M. set up shop in Georgia, thus climbing into popularity slowly and deliberately.
Being on the road for a year to promote their first album toughened up their sound, which accounts for the new sense of attack in songs such as “So. Central Rain,” “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” and “Pretty Persuasion,” are some of the greatest songs the band has ever recorded, yet for some reason they rarely make it into the band’s live shows.
Memorable guitar riffs, spooky vocals and southern mysticism are strung together in a way that the band would totally abandon by the 1990s. Critics gave them kudos for changing their sound, but some fans got off the bus and never got back on, even when “Out of Time” and “Automatic for the People” propelled the band into international stardom.
It’s important for an artist to grow, but it would be nice if R.E.M. would revisit this facet of their work just one more time.
(Reviews originally published in the Kinston Free Press in 2009).
Bryan Hanks opens the show with a tribute to his wife Tina and those who reached out during his time of need. UNC fan Jon Dawson reluctantly encourages Hanks to recount a positive story involving Mike Krzyzewski, and Jonathan Massey floats the zinger of all zingers – complete with musical accompaniment.
Jones County native Jeffrey Tambor developed a love for vegetables while working at a restaurant.
“I worked as a busboy at a steakhouse on Saturday nights when I was a teenager,” Tambor told The Free Press. “They started me off folding napkins, carrying out the garbage and sweeping up. Eventually I worked my way up to the big time — food prep.”
Tambor would arrive at the restaurant around 4 p.m. and start his shift by cutting carrots, cucumbers and lettuce for the salad bar.
“At first I didn’t pay much attention to what I was doing,” Tambor said. “After cutting up all the stuff for the salad bar, if I still had 10 fingers at the end of the night then it was a good day.”
In time, though, Tambor says he started to notice the beauty of the vegetables he was slicing to pieces.
“Have you ever really looked at a sliced cucumber?” Tambor said with tears in his eyes. “They are an exquisite creation of nature, and I’m sad to say that during my tenure as a table maintenance specialist at the Amorous Cowboy Steakhouse I desecrated thousands of them.”
Tambor says his awakening happened after snacking on what he thought was a portobello mushroom.
“Another busboy at the restaurant named Trey walked into the kitchen and dumped a bag of mushrooms on the prep table while I was slicing tomatoes,” Tambor said. “I assumed they were for the salad bar, so I sliced them up and ate a few just to see what they tasted like.”
As it turns out, the mushrooms weren’t meant for the salad bar.
“I bought them from a guy in the parking lot of a Phish concert up at Hampton,” said Trey, currently still employed as a busboy at the Amorous Cowboy Steakhouse. “Jeffrey just didn’t get Phish and I was trying to help him.”
The night Tambor ate the mushrooms he says he could hear their screams in his sleep.
“I relived every slice of every vegetable in a vivid eight-hour nightmare that night,” Tambor said. “The carrots were definitely the toughest vegetables, just letting out a very manly ‘oww’ with every cut. Conversely, the cucumbers screamed like a tea kettle. The following morning I swore to never harm any plant ever again.”
Tambor, now 60, says he doesn’t regret eating only meat for the past 42 years.
“Becoming a carnivortarian was just the first step in my crusade to save the plants,” Tambor said. “I haven’t mowed my lawn in over 30 years, as I view lawn mowers as weapons of mass destruction. I write to my congressman every week requesting he draw up legislation to make salad bars illegal. And these squirrels living in trees and eating acorns are nothing more than terrorists. I buy cheeseburgers for the squirrels in my neighborhood just so they’ll leave those beautiful oaks alone.”
When asked why he favors plants over animals, Tambor became incensed.
“Have you ever met a cat?” Tambor said.
Tambor isn’t alone in his crusade. Dr. Christopher Grogan (cjgrogan.com), Emeritus Research Botanist of the University Herbarium at Rutgers University, says plants are totally cooler than animals.
“In the spring I’ll be hosting a series of conferences that will focus on setting free all potted plants,” Grogan said. “By the year 2525, we hope to have relocated all potted plants into several large areas covered in free-range hibiscus, anthuriums and geraniums. These ‘florests’, if you will, will create a safe haven for thousands of plants and stinky hippies who accidentally hear the band Phish while sober.”
“Grogan and I see eye to eye on almost everything except the band Phish,” Tambor said. “Their version of ‘Quadrophenia’ from the 1995 Halloween concert was, in my estimation, diggity dank.”
To purchase Jon Dawson’s books click on the BOOKS link at the top of this page.
New album: Tomorrow Is Never
Artist: The Lovely Intangibles
Before hearing a note, the pedigree of The Lovely Intangibles should compel even the most jaded music snob to un-hunch their shoulders and take note.
With three members of The Lost Patrol (Stephen Massucci, Michael Williams and Tony Mann) and former Dotsun Moon vocalist Mary Ognibene forming the core unit, The Lovely Intangibles are in essence the auditory equivalent of a shuffled deck. Throw in a guest appearance by Renaissance bass legend Jon Camp and you’ve got an international incident on your hands.
These musicians are smart enough to play to their strengths on “Tomorrow Is Never”, yet this assemblage boasts it’s own identity. It would be silly to say fans of The Lost Patrol or Dotsun Moon wouldn’t want to inhale this album, but the resulting work has a unique sound that doesn’t merely mimic what it’s creators have done in the past.
Whether it’s the creeping menace of “It’s Just Like You” or the interstellar lushness of “Relapse”, The Lovely Intangibles construct perfect little ear movies. Massucci’s electric guitar work conjures images of ghosts partying in the dessert, while Ognibene’s voice is nuanced, powerful and inviting. At the base of it all, Williams’ acoustic guitar textures and Mann’s drumming form the perfect floating anchor.
At this point it’s too early to tell if The Lovely Intangibles is a momentary detour or a totally new mission for everyone involved. No matter what the future brings, this is an album that delivers from every angle. To sample the album, visit https://thelovelyintangibles.bandcamp.com.
Classic album: At Carnegie Hall
Artist: Dave Brubeck Quartet
When “At Carnegie Hall” was recorded in 1963, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was at the height of its powers. Four years on from the pop success of the “Time Out” LP, one of the all-time great jazz groups decided to commit one of its legendary live shows to tape.
Some jazz purists idiotically denounced the DBQ as a pop act, but after listening to the Herculean group interplay on these live versions of “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” “It’s a Raggy Waltz” and “Eleven Four” renders any detractors mute. For goodness sakes, “Blue Rondo…” was so ahead of its time that Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s version recorded roughly a decade later is (except for the amplification) identical.
The group captured on “At Carnegie Hall” is the quintessential DBQ lineup: Dave Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (saxophone), Eugene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums). There is no greater sound in jazz or any other type of music than the combination of Brubeck’s massive, melodic chord work meshed with the exotic, airy alto sax of Paul Desmond. Just listen to the accessible but mysterious melodic groove of “Take Five” to hear this band’s masterful blend of innovation and digestibility.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet served as a gateway drug into jazz for many avowed non-jazz fans. “At Carnegie Hall” isn’t just a bunch of musos trying to out-solo one another, but rather a band working with and off of one another. The innovations these four musicians made under the umbrella of jazz rank neck and neck with the stylistic innovations of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
“At Carnegie Hall” may not turn you into a jazz fan, but it will turn you into a Dave Brubeck Quartet fan.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Brooks’ Place BBQ parking is packed with people with a penchant for wood-cooked swine.
“We cook only the porkiest pigs with wood that’s been marinated with our secret family barbecue sauce,” said owner/operator Albert Brooks. “Even the ashes taste good.”
A fixture in Greene County since 1978, Brooks’ Place has earned a reputation as one of the top barbecue restaurants in the United States. Hundreds of dignitaries, entertainers and professional athletes have dined on the wooden picnic tables in the Brook’s Place dining room over the years.
“Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. came in here a few years ago,” said Brooks’ Place Table Maintenance Administrator Max Gail. “I wasn’t a fan of either of them politically, but they were decent tippers. Bush kept talking about the time his son tried to barbecue a pop tart; Clinton just kept asking all the waitresses if they were familiar with the erotic properties of coleslaw.”
Brooks says their famous customers are great for business, but the restaurant’s success comes down to the loyalty of their regular customers.
“We have the best customers in the world,” Brooks said. “Back in ‘82 when things got tight and we had to switch from pig to yak for a few months, our regulars kept us going. The steam of celebrities dried up during that time, but you couldn’t keep our regulars away.”
The most celebrated Brooks’ Place regular — Danny Arnold — passed away in 2013 at the age of 92.
“Danny would’ve eaten a hammer if you dipped it in Brooks’ barbecue sauce,” Gail said. “He ate breakfast and lunch here every day for nearly 30 years. After a while the barbecue got so good to him he started ordering it for breakfast. We tried to steer him into more traditional breakfast fare such as grits or brains and eggs, but he wanted ribs. Since he was such a good customer, Albert started setting a little bit of barbecue aside for him every Wednesday and Saturday. After a while we figured out how to stretch out through the week.”
When Danny Arnold passed away, Brooks’ Place served ribs for breakfast all week in his honor.
“It took a while to get used to not seeing Danny sitting at his favorite table, stirring his coffee with a rib,” Brooks said. “By the time we all got used to the idea of him not being here, strange things started happening.”
Brooks stressed that he’s never believed in the paranormal.
“I’ve never paid any attention to this talk of boogers, haints and woogie-boogies,” Brooks said. “But I’ve seen some stuff over the last few months that cannot be explained. I haven’t had a drink since I woke up on a tractor in the middle of Times Square in 1980, and I stopped freebasing peanut butter a year after that. What I saw was as real as the Donna Fargo tattoo on my mama’s shoulder.”
Brooks says on more than one occasion, what he describes as a “ghostly presence” has intervened while his famous sauce is being made.
“Last November I was alone in the kitchen mixing up the sauce, and just as I’m putting the lid on the pot, the white pepper slid across the table into my hand,” Brooks said. “I thought maybe the table was uneven so I put the pepper back, but then the lid flew off the pot and the pepper lifted off the table and started shaking over the sauce pot as if someone was trying to tell me it needed more pepper — which is something Danny said to me nearly every day for 30 years.”
According to Gail, this type of activity is now a weekly occurrence.
“If somebody comes in and doesn’t take their hat off to eat there’s a good chance they’ll leave with the imprint of a napkin holder on their fard,” Gail said. “Danny couldn’t stand it when somebody kept their hat on to eat. I truly believe he’s poppin’ people in the gourd from beyond the grave.”
Although the ghostly activities were initially met with trepidation and ruined work pants, Brooks says his staff and customers have grown to enjoy their periodic visits from Danny Arnold’s ghost.
“It’s good to know Danny’s spirit is still here,” said longtime Brooks’ Place waitress Lois Mulholland. “Maybe some time up there with the big guy will make him a better tipper.”
Jon Dawson’s books are available via the BOOKS link at the top of this page. Contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.