Posts Tagged ‘Bill Frisell’

Sometime around 1990 I broke a shovel while trying to lever a stump out of my wife’s garden. I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I’d like to think this was bearded Greg, our favorite. Whoever it was handed down a shovel from the wall rack and said, “This is our best.”

Greg wasn’t kidding. I used that shovel in the yards and gardens of the three houses we’ve owned, digging holes for the A-Z of green growing things that Special D has planted and digging out the remains of plants that displeased her. I moved rocks. I dug post holes. I dug a ditch when one of our pipes burst underground and the plumber, who couldn’t maneuver a back hoe in the confined space at the side of our house, threatened to do it himself for a breathtaking $100 per hour.

I levered out many a stump of a plant or tree that just didn’t work anymore. I’m good at it; so good, in fact, that my metal name is Stümp Gryndr, though the sporting press refers to me as Death to Rooted Things. Here’s an azalea stump I vanquished in 2009, with a 35-pound corgi, the late Teddy, for scale:

Teddy digs it out 0909
Notice: No corgis were hurt or inconvenienced in the extraction and removal of this stump. This corgi received a transfer of one (1) Alpo Snap as soon as he was released from duty.

But last week I fought a four-year-old vine maple stump and the stump won. My shovel gave me 25 years of good service. I wish I could give you the name of the manufacturer but I long ago wore any corporate iconography off the handle.

Recycle, reuse, spend some intimate time with your tools
As a New Englander, I hate waste. What was I going to do with a broken shovel? Turn it into a stake for the garden. You pound these into the corners and when you drag your hoses across the lawn the stake keeps you from decapitating something your spouse might get wicked mad about.

Here’s the patient before surgery.

Shovel 1

Cut off the blade. I took it to my local recycler and lowered it, after a moment of respectful silence, into the metals bin.

Shovel 2

I sliced off the rubber jacket, which amazingly had stayed snug to the handle all these years, and exposed the original color of the wood.

Shovel 3

Then, through a mysterious process known only to me and Black & Decker, I sharpened one end.

Shovel 4

The result is a stake that’s just over a yard long (one full meter to the Russian Federation reader who visited this blog today). Use a heavy hammer to bury it about halfway. Here’s a stake I made earlier this summer:

Shovel 5

What if you don’t want to wait until you break a shovel?
You could invite me over to break one. Better yet, go to estate sales. The people who are passing away now and taking leave of their earthly possessions bought long-handled garden tools in an era when those handles were made of a dense wood that lasts a long time underground and exposed to the weather. I usually find them for a dollar or two. Recycle the metal business end and I won’t yell at you!

On the day I broke my shovel, I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I told him my story and said, “I’ll be back for my next shovel around 2040.” He said, solemnly, “I will not be working here.”

Next post: I’m gonna fill you full of lead (No. 2-5/10).

Random Pick of the Day
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (2003)
Includes their exquisite covers of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe” and Coldplay’s “Yellow,” though you also have to put up with their perspectives on “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Random Pan of the Day
Randy Newman, Land of Dreams (1988)
Some beautiful piano work here, particularly on “Dixie Flyer,” but most of it sounds like Mr. Newman’s many many many soundtracks. The rap parodies were funny in 1988, if you were white and nervous about rap. And yet this is the guy who gave us Sail Away (how can you beat “You Can Leave Your Hat On”?) and the soundtrack to The Natural (which brought the whole movie to life).

Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
Various artists

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were hard-working members of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. When they decided to form their own band (everyone who worked for John Mayall in the 1960s formed his own band), they discovered that their true skills were not playing the drums and the bass, respectively. The one thing they did better than anything was finding talent.

They started off by recruiting guitarist Peter Green. Peter Green is one of our unsung Jewish guitar heroes, the guy who was hired to replace Eric Clapton when Clapton left the Blues Breakers to form Cream. (What a résumé entry: “Replaced Eric Clapton while maintaining band productivity.”)

Green took Fleetwood Mac in a blues-rock direction, naturally, but Fleetwood and McVie were looking for something more lucrative. They got rid of Green and hired two singer-songwriters, Robert Welch and Christine Perfect, who began the band’s transition from blues to pop. (Perfect later married McVie.)

Fleetwood and McVie eventually ditched Welch and brought in two more singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. That, as Ruk the android declared on a memorable episode of classic Star Trek, was the equation. In the mid-’70s there was no band bigger than Fleetwood Mac. Everywhere I went, everyone seemed to have Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977) in the plastic crates that held their records. I owned Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. Yes, it’s true. I spent money on Fleetwood Mac records, I didn’t change stations when Fleetwood Mac songs came on the radio, and I put coins in jukeboxes so I could hear really dumb stuff like “Monday Morning” and “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” You can understand why I’m a snob today. I have much to atone for.

(In 1992, the Clintons used “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” as their campaign theme song. Fleetwood Mac immediately reformed and went on tour. I will never forgive the Clintons for this.)

By the early 1980s I’d shaken off Fleetwood Mac the way a dog shakes off water after a swim. I came to believe that the final word on Fleetwood Mac was sung by The Rotters in their insightful single, “Sit on My Face, Stevie Nicks.” But then I encountered this tribute CD. Once again, I’ve been proven wrong. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

Just Tell Me That You Want Me (this terrific title is a line from one of their worst songs, “Tusk”) is a collection of talent so deep that Beck isn’t even mentioned on the cover. He’s buried in the credits. Most of the interpretations are sincere, some are quite imaginative, and only a few are duds. Just Tell Me That You Want Me scores far higher than I expected.

What’s good
You can tell who the muscle was out there because 10 of these 17 songs were written by Stevie Nicks. For my money, the finest performance is turned in by Marianne Faithfull on Nicks’ “Angel.” Ms. Faithfull can turn any fluffy pop song into the King James Bible and as usual she doesn’t disappoint. Bill Frisell, another huge talent not noted in the advertising, plays guitar. He spends the last minute and a half of the song ascending into heaven. I rate this disc a Buy for “Angel” alone.

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top provides the vocals on Peter Green’s “Oh Well.” You can hear the ghost of John Lee Hooker in his growls. The New Pornographers turn Christine McVie’s “Think About Me” into a fun Beatles romp. The Crystal Ark, a band I’ve never heard of, convert Lindsey Buckingham’s unlistenable “Tusk” into something I almost like. Two names I’m learning about, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, create a beautiful cover of Nicks’ “Storms.” St. Vincent, a name you can’t avoid hearing these days, turns “Sisters of the Moon” (Nicks again) into a hard, almost dirty rocker. I never thought I’d connect adjectives such as “hard” and “dirty” with Fleetwood Mac.

Another band I don’t know, Best Coast, was assigned Nicks’ “Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac’s signature song. Though Best Coast stays close to the original, I’m highlighting this track because their singer, Bethany Cosentino, sings like a female Johnny Cash.

Of course, you can’t discuss Fleetwood Mac without complaining about something. For one thing, the cheap paper CD holder was designed to spill the CD out of its sleeve and onto the floor of your car just as you’re changing lanes. But I have something bigger in mind.

Robert Welch: Fleetwood footnote
Robert Welch was not an unappreciated genius and I’m not launching a crusade on his behalf. In 1994 he re-recorded his Greatest Hits and managed to de-improve all of them. But he wrote the only two original Fleetwood Mac songs I still like: “Future Games” and “Bermuda Triangle,” so I feel I should say something in his defense.

“Bermuda Triangle” is the closest this band ever came to a dance number. It would’ve been a perfect song for The B-52s, who would’ve injected 10ccs of humor. (Welch believed he was warning the public about a hazard to navigation.) This song is not covered on Just Tell Me That You Want Me.

“Future Games” is. I know that not all who wander are lost, but the boys in the band were lost in the dreamy, meandering “Future Games.” Still, this 8-minute song pre-dates Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon by a year and Pink Floyd acknowledges it as an influence. With better editing (or fewer recreational drugs?), “Future Games” could’ve been one of the decade’s classics. It’s good, OK?

In their cover, MGMT sings the lyrics through a vocoder to produce a computer-like voice. An old computer. Like Matthew Broderick/Ally Sheedy WarGames old computer. Neil Young tried this in 1982 with Trans and got nowhere, and he’s a god. Even Gary Numan, who is a computer, never tried to sing like one. MGMT made a huge mistake and I’m glad this record’s producers stuck this thing at the end so it’s easy to skip.

Don’t stop thinking about Fleetwood Mac
A tribute CD should show you an old band in a new light. Just Tell Me That You Want Me, like Various Artists for the Masses, the Depeche Mode tribute, accomplishes this mission. Despite “Future Games” and a couple of other miscues (“Silver Springs” sounds as if it was recorded in the bathroom of a bus station), let me just tell you: You want this CD.

Tomorrow night, Sins of the ’70s Week continues with: Chicago. Colour my world, dudes!


My people! The cash has been rolling in since I launched this blog on November 4, 2010. PolitiFact rates this assertion as Pants on Fire. I haven’t made a penny, but I have listened to Johnny Cash at San Quentin (what a record) and anyway blogging is fun and a relief from the cruel indifference of a world that has yet to form a cult around me. (I’ve also listened to Love by The Cult. Imagine if AC/DC got religion, but not one that anyone would recognize.)

I indexed the first year of Run-DMSteve in November of 2011. You can find it over there on the left in the Blogroll. (The Rolling Stones, Now! – A look back at the band as they moved from covering their American blues idols to writing their own songs. They’re barely a year away from incandescence.) The end of 2012 was kind of busy and I didn’t index the second year until January 2013. With that precedent in mind, I present the official authorized index to the third year!

Thanks as always for being there, reading this stuff or pretending to read this stuff and making appropriate or inappropriate comments. I couldn’t do it without you, Special D, WordPress, and the weekend of classes I took at the International House of Critics. (J. Geils Band, Full House vs. House of Pain, House of Pain. J. Geils wins!)


Bikini Machine

Kid Rock

Ray Parker, Jr.

The Pretenders

Paul Simon

Siouxsie & The Banshees

Talking Heads

2013 Clarion West Write-a-thon
Introducing the whole thing

It’s all about to happen

The Write-a-thon finally starts (Day 1)

The Write-a-thon finally ends, thank God (Day 41)

The summing up

Teddy Ballgame

“Let Me Count the Ways” Week
I start reviewing every band with a number in its name

I run out of every band with a number in its name (or so I thought)

A tale of two miracles

Baby Boomers Social Club

Ask Run-DMSteve asks Run-DMSteve

Round-up of albums released at Christmas 2013 but are not about Christmas in 2013 or any other year

Good Dog Happy Man

Random Pick of the Day
Bill Frisell, Good Dog, Happy Man (1999)
A guitar album of considerable skill, yet somehow with little to stick to your memory or disturb your concentration. For example, the title track – it’s pretty, and it floats away while you’re listening to it. I think that would make Good Dog, Happy Man a good listen when you’re out for a spin. Totally excellent cover art.