Morrissey – The Fillmore, San Francisco 9/24/07

Last night I indulged my wife and took her to see some music. I was a bit peaved that tickets at the Fillmore could possibly cost $65 and that she spent another $35 on a tee shirt, but as I stood there, not quite sober, I couldn’t help but flash back to an earlier time. So much earlier in fact that as I ran the numbers it occurred to me that the last time that I had seen this guy was 23 years ago at the Agora Theater somewhere in Cleveland. Ohio. 23 years, ughhh. Back then I remember the singer being much younger, more brooding and affected, but in 1986 his songs were as familiar as anything, except perhaps the English Beat, given their aggressive overplay throughout the dorm rooms of my small private boarding school in Northeast Ohio. I also remember being absolutely bleary-eyed on Goebel or some premium 24 pack weekender, but can’t remember who else I was with. I still have the tattered stub for the show that I keep with all the other remnants of my musical past.

In any event if any of you do get the chance to see the slightly less fit and graying, still youthful 48 year old who at one point removed his sweaty black button down and launched in into the crowd, you should. His voice is still warm and distinctive and to hear him bust out a more psychedelic version of “How Soon Is Now” or “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” or “Everyday is Like Sunday” is a real treat. This was not a Smiths reunion tour, Morrissey was backed by a cadre of young, buff dudes wearing tight back t-shirts and matching yellow slacks, but the man is still a myth, and one probably more capable as a live performer and more intested in entertaining than he was back in the day. Oh well, it was nice to step back in 80’s again, you all should too, if not to just shock yourself back into your youth for a few hours. I’m sure he’ll be playing in a town near you very soon.

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)

I do my best not to write too much about art than will have no doubt gather its fair share of mainstream press. I try to pimp the small stuff, little gems shared by a secret society of seekers looking for diamonds. But as a lifelong Wilco/Uncle Tupelo fanatic, I feel compelled to say a few words about “Sky Blue Sky.” This is an Americana classic rock record built for sunny summer days and stony starry nights. There is something so organic going on here that it feels as if the CD should be stickered with a circle reading “there were no computers used in the making of this record.”
This is largely a guitar based rock record, lead by the earnest vocals of Jeff Tweedy and his band of rock historians who are able to graft sections of perfection from the forty years that have elapsed since that fateful summer of 1967. A song like “Side With the Seeds” is a beautiful love song but without the sappy preciousness that tends to scald similar sentiments. In the end after a record after record of raising the bar, the simplicity and straightforwardness of “Sky Blue Sky” just kind of stuck with me, as I’m sure it will for you.

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The Last Mogul: Life and Times of Lew Wasserman– Dir. Barry Avrich (Lew Wasserman)

Some great docs get by mostly on the heels of the captured on-screen magnetism of the subject, others on the clever way bits and pieces or the story are combined visually, and still others based purely on the story itself. In the case of the life of Lew Wasserman, the 100 minute film relies entirely on still pictures and interviews with friends and colleagues. “The Last Mogul” is Wasserman’s life story beginning with his childhood as a poor Jewish kid from Cleveland through his ascent to becoming one of the most influential men in the history of Hollywood.

“The Last Mogul” tells the story of a man who both was able to see and shape the future of the music, film and ultimately television. But unlike the celebrity CEOs of today, Wasserman believed that fame should be reserved for the stars and as such worked tirelessly in the background crafting the blueprint for how much of the packaging of creative assets still works today. Although far from a recluse, Wasserman didn’t do interviews, rarely gave speeches but instead reshaped Hollywood one deal at a time. It is hard to really get a sense at all for the man himself, but his legacy depicts a long long life of success so difficult to sustain in a town as cynical as LA you have to imagine it he was a moan to love and loath. Like “Easy Riders and Raging Bulls” this film is a history of one of one of most pervasive universally loved businesses in the world and of the man who helped create it.

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The Bees – Octopus (Astralwerks)

The Bees (formerly known as A Band of Bees) has always seemed a wonderfully pleasant enigma. A quartet from the tiny Isle of Wight, The Bees have evolved through three records from a spacey melodic pop band to a trippy rock band whose sound seems derived equally from 60’s Haight Street psychedelia to traditional R&B. As much as it is difficult to find a thematic arc from album to album, even amongst the ten delectable grooves on “Octopus,” the sound moves fluidly from an Afrobeat organ infused song like “Got to Let It Go” into a brass saturated Motown classic like “Just a Listening Man.”

In an era where most bands have a hard enough time mastering even one genuinely unique style, The Bees have extracted some of the most seminal beats from bygone eras and refashioned them into such a contemporary style that it actually feels completely original. Whether you are an indiephile or musicologist or merely passive music lover, this record will tap a universal nerve.

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