Recap June 2022

Most popular post in June was Wentworth Perk Perks Up Sydney, that I originally posted in 2012 & reposted the link & boom! over 150 hits – making it the most popular post of the year so far. On some Fridays I have been going back into my archives to ten years ago to resurrect these old post. https://topoet.ca/…/25/wentworth-perk-perks-up-sydney-2/ 

Picture Perfect:  123 sections, about 174,000 words posted so far with at least 12,000 to be edited then posted. I say ‘at least’ as I am nearing the end & discovered that I merely made notes for the next two climactic scenes so there could easily be another 20,000 words yet, much of them being ‘fresh’ writing.

Started a new Wednesday format, giving the monks a rest for the summer. It’ll be called Summer Reflections 2022 where I post about my old clothes, recovery memories, Wicca, & whatever comes to mind.

Watched a slew of forgettable movies & a couple more memorable ones – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). Wow! I can’t recall when I saw this last but wow what a fabulous film with a vibrant performance by Robert Morse, who starred in the Broadway original. The set & costume work is spot on perfection in candy colours. The songs are fun, I love ‘I Believe In You.’ Fossey-esque choreography. Recent revival had Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, another Nick Jonas.

Equally memorable is Chinese Roulette directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Vivid colours in this turgid, painfully artificial & seemingly endless psychological drama that had me snickering at everything from the hairstyles, makeup, set up & particularly the soundtrack music. It also features an amazing performance by Andrea Schobe as the ultimate manipulative child. 

In June I re-read ‘Loving Man: A Photographic Guide to Gay Male Lovemaking – Mark Freedman Ph.D., Harvey Mayes – 1976 – 1st Edition’ Hardcover. I bought this book while I was still living in Sydney. I think I got it via The Playboy Book Club, as it was considered porn by customs & couldn’t be sold in Canada. It made my decision to escape Cape Breton very easy.

Reading it now I love the innocence of it – pre-HIV, pre-WWW, pre-apps – it reflects how things have changed & how they haven’t changed. Back in the day we used ‘looking for connections’ ad sections in gay magazines to meet outside of noisy smokey bars. Street cruising is now done with apps. Our current era of acceptance is still as fraught with prejudice & ignorance. Rainbow flags appear on businesses not because of inclusivity or to show support but to invite our gay dollars. 

from a past production

The less said about Hamlet the better – the best part was the amazing weather for the drive there & back lol. (Dull In Denmark https://topoet.ca/2022/06/24/dull-in-denmark/ )

Upcoming reviews: Rocky Horror Show (Stirling Summer Theatre! – yes Rocky is now safe for small town Ontario); Stratford: The Miser, All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet 911.

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Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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Dull In Denmark

 

Took another Stratford day-trip Wednesday to see Hamlet. First the good news – we had lunch at the re-located Features & were happy with the bright, spacious location. Same menu (on new a menu folder). Same staff. Best part, the washrooms are no longer down a slippery flight of rickety stairs into a dark low-ceilinged basement.

Now for the bad news, something was dull in the state of Denmark & it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it was the long pandemic delay that gave them too much time to simmer this production – a simmer that turned it into flavourless Hamlet.

The opening was promising with funeral organ music & the dead king in a glass coffin already on stage. Guards were contemporized into a dark suited security detail – earplug communicators etc. The ghost work was nicely handled. But after Hamlet ‘swears,’ I got sleepy & missed some things, including the To Be soliloquy. A sure sign of how dull the performances & staging where. I perked up when the travelling players finally arrived. 

from a past production

Overall it was, to me, an uninspired production, though the staging had some good elements. The use of the balcony mirrors & projections was interesting, as was hidden body mic on Ophelia. The costumes were street wear – as if the cast had arrived late & rushed on stage without changing out of their street clothes. I can’t even remember what Hamlet wore. Costumes should help define the characters & so everyone here was defined as nobodies. Laertes in sweatpants? How regal.

from a past production

Amaka Umeh in the lead works hard, saws the air at every possible moment but never found a character. The King lacked any sense of threat. Ophelia lacked wispiness & seemed more peeved than heart-broken. None of the principles felt that invested in their characters, none of them seemed to be enjoying being on stage.

In the end we were left with a dull silence.

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Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 



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Sweet Suzi Pia Mamie Ginger

I loved glam-rock’s Suzi Quatro when I first heard 49 Crash on the radio. I dug her tough girl look & her edgy sexual energy. I have by Suzi: Suzi Quatro (1973) Who is she singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ to? Her girlfriend? Quatro: 1974) her self-penned Klondyke Kate might answer that question.; Mama Won’t Like Me (1975); Aggro Phobia (1976) that includes an excellent Heartbreak Hotel; Suzi … and Other Four Letter Words (1979).

Her sound moved gradually from glam-rock to hard rock. The lps are a mix of original songs written with Len Tucky, covers & pure pop bliss by songwriters & producers Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn i.e. 48 Crash. I had all these at vinyl at one time. The later work is ‘softer’ & more diverse in sound. Although she has a rocker persona she was never a tough or as direct as Chrissie Hynde.

Another band that profited from Chapman & Chinn is The Sweet: Desolation Boulevard (1974) with hit song “Ballroom Blitz.” A dynamic collection of radio friendly pop perfect for the times. Chapman & Chinn are that era’s George Martin producing hits for many British groups. Like the later hit producer Trevor Horn you knew when you were hearing a Chapman & Chinn production.

Mamie Van Doren was a low-rent Jayne Mansfield (who in turn was a low rent Marilyn Monroe). She starred in many drive-in exploitation films. Here I  The Girl Who Invented Rock & Roll (1997): a great compilation of famous fun including the juicy ‘The Beat Generation.’ I also have the Dean Elliot soundtrack for College Confidential (1959) – one of Mamie’s movies that is a searing look at college life with songs 🙂

It only seemed right to include Pia Zadora’s I Am What I Am (1986). This lp was much better than I expected. Pia can actually sing & could have been a Lady Gaga with the right dance music producer & could also do a great duet lp with Tony Bennett. I suspect she was too comfortable to stretch beyond a tasteful choice of material Finally something on the ‘what the fuck’ side of pop, Ginger Baker’s Airforce 2 (1970) includes his take on  Cream’s Sweet Wine. I put it here because of the sweetly off-kilter female vocalist on all the cuts. Baker is a powerhouse drummer & used his fame from Cream to produce some intriguing lps of world music. Intriguing but the critics found them puzzling & not nearly as rock as Cream & thus were disappointed. But you know I rather enjoy the Airforce’s rather shambling production & horns. 

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Hola Flora e amigos

I have two mp3 cd collections of Latino music anchored by Flora Purim – a diverse mix of Spanish & Portuguese musicians, of vintage & modern artists.

By Flora Purim (Brazil) I have Butterfly Dreams (1973), Stories To Tell (1974), Open Your Eyes You Can Fly (1976),Everyday Everynight (1978), Sings Milton Nascimento (2000). (elsewhere I have her work with Chick Corea, & Airto Moreira)

I first heard her with Chick Corea. Chick is one of the lollards of jazz-rock & also a jazz piano god. As a result her first few lps have a strong feel for jazz-rock but in a much more Latino direction. She a clear soaring voice that is comfortable with adult pop, avant guard experimental, folk & jazz. Check out Dr. Jive on YouTube – it is an amazing rush of energy & merges her sensibilities in an almost psychedelic explosion. I love all these lps.   

Flora didn’t appear in a void though, she was preceded in the 50’s by Yma Sumac, a Peruvian-American coloratura soprano with a range of over four and a half octaves. I have her Mambo! (1954) , Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Voices of the Xtabay (1950). The queen of exotica she picked up where Carmen Miranda left off with a series of amazing, authentic recordings that haven’t been bettered. The original cover art alone on these is amazing. Grab a hits collection.

Sergio Mendes Brazil’66 brought an interesting spin on Latino music by interpreting current pop songs as sambas etc. I have Fool on The Hill (1968), Four Sider (1972). They mix Brazilian standards as well thus exposing us try their native sounds as well. A bit middle-of-the-road – an easier to take version of Flora Purim lol.

If you want to step even deeper try Sivuca (Brazil): Sivuca (1978), Quinteto Ulrapuru (2010) – I had his 78 lp on vinyl on the east coast & loved it – playful, romantic street/folk music. the 2010 lp is mature & verges of modern classical. Hermeto Pascol’s (Brazil): Eu e Eles (1999) Is a fun, quirky work – he plays in the studio with sound effects & almost silly vocal styles: words gargled with water. 

Violeta Parra (Chile) (1917-1967): Las ultimas composiciones, is best known for ‘Gracias a la Vida’ which is given an amazing recording by Mercedes Sosa. Parra is a folkie solo singer – a sweet voice, an acoustic guitar with songs of political protest, love & hope. Obscure, mind you. She reminds me of the 60’s coffee house scene.

Mane Silvera & Swami Jr.- Ima: with Silvera on sax, Jr. on acoustic guitar. I borrow this cd from the library, made a cassette copy & then downloaded the mp3 – I love love love this jazz duo – playful, lyrical & one of my favourites. Who could resist a musician named Swami Jr? I love the playing of both these  musicians & have more by each elsewhere in my collection. This is a must have.  

Jon Hendricks’s Salud! Joao Gilberto (1963) is a pleasant exploration of Gilberto that was ahead of its time. Easy listening takes on classic songs by one of America’s foremost male jazz singers.

In this collection are couple of Spanish lps as well. Antologia Del Tango Argentino – a collection of archival tangos – yes there was a major recording industry outside of the USA. Finally a dip into more recent sounds with Orishas (Cuban hip hop): Emigrante (2002), El Kilo (2005). Energetic, passionate & full of samples of Cuban big band & jazz. Remarkable modern music.

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Recap May 2022

They wouldn’t let me try it on 😦

The TOpoet.ca following blog grew to ! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. That Canada tops the list is unusual. That Poland (Witaj Polsko) & Ecuador (Hola lectores en ecuador) are in the top 10 is a surprise. Hello to my fans in Morocco (مرحباً أيها القراء في المغرب)!

Picture Perfect -119 sections, about 169,000 words posted so far with  20,000 approx to be edited then posted. These last sections took a fair amount editing, fresh writing & even some minor side plot development as I inch closer to the final big scenes now that the remains of the abducted children have been found. 

Watched an amazing documentary ‘Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra’ which starts as history of the Australian aboriginal dance company & becomes a powerful mediation on the cost of creativity. The dancing is stunning, the music is incredible & the cost of creativity is heartbreaking. A must see that is streaming on TVO.

Watched Midsommar, bound to be come a season favourite. The depth of research was gratifying & the ritual aspects of the story were spot on & thought totally imaginary felt authentic. When I watch it again I will skip to when they arrive in Sweden as the first act is dreary & quickly drained my sympathy for any of the characters. By the time they got to the commune I was happy with all of them dying. 

The extras on our edition of the DVD were banal though I was surprised that only one, of all the leads was American, as I assumed they all were until I heard their actual accents: Irish, Scottish, & that weird accent that is sort of Manx-African-Aussie. Sadly the soundtrack lp contains none of the Swedish chanting – so I didn’t buy it.

Read an excellent set of short stories: 13 Views of the Suicide Woods by Bracken MacLeod. Eerie, scary, inventive well-written tales that are Twilight Zone extreme with explicit gore & violence. Highly recommended for any horror fans.

May has been a month full of of activity, of breaking routines & getting dirty. Dirty digging in the dirt to get my garden ready for the summer. Some hostas were split & halves replanted else where in the garden. All the perennials returned, some worse for winter wear mind you. Loads of annuals planted – asters, alyssum, begonia, marigolds, snap dragons, impatiens, daisies, pansies, petunias, coleus, plus seeds are sprouting for four kinds of morning glory. It will a colourful garden for sure. 

a side & b side 🙂 bluer than they appear here

Getting back to my roots by adding some Stonehenge Preseli bluestone to my rock/crystal collection. Part of Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones made of bluestone that is only found is & was quarried from Preseli, Wales. I did an esty search & ordered some. 

Coming up in June is a day trip to Stratford to see Hamlet – after the excellent Richard III we saw in May I’m looking forward to this season’s take on Hamlet.

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Psychic Dance

Psychic TV, an English experimental video art and music group, was influential in pioneering the acid house genre. They have released over one hundred full-length albums to date. Never heard of them? Well, neither had I until someone posted a one of their videos. The images were chaotic but the music had a good beat & you could dance to it 🙂

I have their Hacienda (1984), Peak Hour (1993). The music is interesting & arty & at times danceable. Musique concrète is the basis of their sonic experimentalism & it often works, some track are aimless repetitions, some shouted, some live & although there is a decade between these releases to flow seamlessly into each other. Fun stuff to stretch musical horizons.

On this mp3 compilation I added Evo Mix (2013) – dance tracks by Dschinghis Khan, C.C Catch & Mafikizolo – world music with a definite Slavic flavour. I saw a video by Dschinghis Khan & loved it & wasn’t disappointed by this too-short collection.

Keeping with that house music feel I found We Love Berlin 8.1 (2013) an 3.5 hour compilation by various artists, or is it remixers & DJ’s? This is ideal typing music that can keep the fingers moving to beat. Consistently uptempo this is great & cheerful electrodance. One of the groups I really liked on it was Jeans Team so I picked up their  Das ist Alkomerz (2013) – Berlin-based electronic music group with a sweet sound.

Finally a standalone a May 2001 compilation by the British magazine Q: Essential Dance – featuring The Stereo MCs, Moby, Fat Boy Slim & more. These were cds exclusive to Q & made great samplers of underground sound though nearly every band on this cd became above ground big hitters. Some are still around today. Odd how music from 2000 is now considered retro. 



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Cheesy Music A Part of Me

This wildly eclectic, nearly 7 hour, mp3 compilation includes: David McCallum: Music A Part of Me; Louie Shelton: Touch Me; Neil Hefti: Batman, Lord Love A Duck; T-tauri: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; Armando Trovajoli: Seven Golden Men, Gente Di Roma; Rostal & Schaefer: The Beatles Concerto; Count Basie: Basie Meets Bond, Basie On The Beatles. The connecting thread being cheesy instrumental fun.

David McCallum co-starred in the TV show Man From U.N.C.L.E & thanks to his TV fame released a couple of instrumental lps one of which was Music A Part of Me (1966). He conducted the audio orchestra on covers such as We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, Taste of Honey, as well some original pieces. Easy listening lounge music. Clearly the precursor to Symphonic Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd et al.

Louie Shelton was an in demand studio guitarist who released one lp (which I had on vinyl) Touch Me (1968) A mix of covers like Whiter Shade of Pale & some original pieces, one of which Theme For A Rainy Day is sublime perfection. Sweet chorus pops up one a couple of tracks. His playing is relaxing & never lapses into jazz.

Neil Hefti has the highest music profile here thanks to his music for TV’s Batman. He wrote a load of stuff, commercial jingles & even some movie soundtracks, including the classic Lord Love A Duck. Poppy organ go-go music with some quacking. I love the sweater buying music. It makes me want to put on a pair of white go-go boots & do The Pony. 

There was an industry around remaking The Beatles, resulting in endless adaptations. I have Bach Beatles covers, Russian covers. On this cd is Rostal & Schaefer: The Beatles Concerto – another prelude to symphonic Who. One side is the ‘concerto’ the other a set of ‘impressions’ – all very tasteful but too respectful. Ferrante & Teicher for a ‘hipper’ crowd 🙂

Also looking for a hipper crowd is Count Basie with a couple of cover sets: Basie Meets Bond, Basie On The Beatles. This was/is a jazz industry – cover albums of current pop, soundtracks. Think Vitamin String Quartet. There is good playing & it is better than elevator music. 

Let’s take a quick trip to Italy with a couple of real soundtracks by Armando Trovajoli. Seven Golden Men (1965), Gente Di Roma (2003). I bought the lp of Golden Men in a remainder bin at Zellar’s or maybe it was K-Mart way back in the early 80’s & I loved it then & still dote on it now. This is a prime example of those European soundtracks brimming with wordless, female scat singers. I’ve never seen this crime-caper movie & keep wishing TCM would dig it up. Gente I downloaded just to have something else by Armando but it is merely tasteful not cheesy. He has over 300 credits as composer and/or conductor almost all soundtracks.

Finally T-Tauri’s Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1998) – Out of the Netherlands comes this six-piece Symphonic Orchestra with a Rock’N’Roll attitude the violin, guitar, kettle drums & carillon. For many Pictures is classical cheese in any form. I have too many versions to count & this is as good as any of them. 

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Richard III

 

They wouldn’t let me try it on 😦

We were eager to this Festival production of Richard III at the new Tom Patterson Theatre. A fitting choice as Richard was one of the productions featured in the first season of Stratford in 1953. It starred Alec Guinness as Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed the preview production of Ricard iii I saw earlier this week. All I know of Richard is the myth that Shakespeare’s play solidified. A myth that centres around the death of the princes in the tower. From the play one gets the idea that the years of his reign were spent solely in conflict about his right to rule while denying any knowledge off what happed to the princes.

Director Antoni Cimolino has given this  production has an amazing opening scene that gives Richard a stunning entrance. Inventive & intuitive it took my breath away. You’ll have to see it for yourself as I’m not giving it away here. Unfortunately his first monologue ‘Now is the winter’ was marred by a cell phone ringing :-(. 

I wonder that this isn’t considered one of  Shakespeare’s problem plays with the endless assortment of characters – so many one really needs a cheat sheet app to keep track of who is whose sister, wife, window, mother, grandmother, which lord is on which side. At least in this production the women were dressed differently enough one could tell them apart, but the lords & underlings wore such similarly styled & dull colour clothes & hair they were interchangeable. 

Colm Feore is excellent as the sly, manipulative Richard; André Sills is a formidable Buckingham (how long before he does Falstaff?). Lucy Peacock as Elizabeth steals every scene she is in, even with Feore. Her scene with Seana McKenna (Margaret),

 Diana Leblanc (Duchess of something) is a stand out as each truest out-do the other in their hatred of Richard. Another great scene was Richard’s ‘seduction’ of Lady Anne (Jessica B. Hill) was a fine example of gaslighting & victim-blaming ‘it’s your fault I killed your husband – you are so beautiful I had no choice’ 

The finale was puzzling as the cast morphed into modern dress for a funeral. I’m not sure who the funeral was for: Richard? A dynamic production I’d recommend to anyone, even more so to anyone who knows the historical context & can tell a mother from a daughter.

I did try this one on
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