Monday, August 30, 2010

TVD Previews the next Story/Stereo with John Davis

Story/Stereo, the brilliant (and
free!) evening of both words and music at Bethesda's Writer's Center returns for a new season on September 3rd and we're delighted to be joined here all week by the musical guest on the program, John Davis.

John will be performing tracks
on Friday night spanning his career to date. It's being called, appropriately enough, "John Davis plays John Davis." Expect to hear material from Title Tracks, Georgie James, and Q and Not U.

In advance of the evening, we've asked John to pull the curtain back a bit on his well of inspiration and rattle off the first five tracks that make their appearance on random shuffle on his ipod. Now, those of you who've been reading the blog for a while know that we ran a similar feature a little while back with uh, shall we say, 'revealing' results—both good and well, ...bad. We're much more optimistic in regard to John's taste level.

So, without further ado, all this week John Davis (and his ipod) are your guest DJs on The Vinyl District. —Ed.

Environments “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore”
Kind of dumb to have this one come up first when I press shuffle on my mp3 player but the shuffle logic has its own sense of humor. If you’ve combed through thrift stores for LPs, you’re probably familiar with the “Environments” series of soundscape LPs. Very much a product of the 70s, you had one side of an LP with, say, a 25-minute thunderstorm. The other side would be a creaking boat adrift on the sea, as you do. Sometimes they got deep, like “Tintinnabulation” (from Environments 2), which essentially sounds like a Buddha Box that you can’t modify. My personal favorite, as I’m sure you’re wondering, is “Gentle Rain In a Pine Forest.” Make of that what you will. That said, “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” is pretty good, too, though 31-minute tracks should not be coming up in shuffle, especially first. Also unclear is what renders this recording “psychologically ultimate.” Still, I can listen to stuff like this ALL day.

Link Wray“Deuces Wild”
Raw, guttural music from an early D.C. musical legend. If we’re naming restaurants after Marvin Gaye here, I think we need something for Link, too. For more on Link's story, read Mark Opsasnick’s interesting overview of the early rock scene in the D.C.-area, “Capitol Rock.” I had no idea P.G. County was such a hotbed. As for “Deuces Wild,” it’s not as well-known as “Rumble,” of course, but it’s a fierce, feral slice of instrumental badness and a good way to start the day.

This is from “Up,” R.E.M.’s first record without founding drummer Bill Berry (from ’98, I think). Coming off the absurd winning streak that this band ran, essentially, from its inception in the early 80s up through the mid-90s (although 1994’s “Monster” was the first sign that trouble was afoot), “Up” was a disappointment at the time. The loss of Berry was palpable and the record is overlong, certainly. There are some highlights, however (“Daysleeper,” “Lotus” and “Suspicion,” for starters) and the somber vibe is sometimes appealing. Still, when my old Georgie James bandmate Laura Burhenn told me that “Up” was her favorite R.E.M. record, it led to great consternation on my part.

Booker T. And The MGs"Something"
This is from Booker T and The MGs' stupendous record, “McLemore Avenue,” their collection of covers of songs from The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” I can only imagine how flattered The Beatles must have been to have their tunes covered by musicians the caliber of the MGs. No joke, this band and this record are outstanding. It was a huge thrill to traverse the real McLemore Ave in Memphis the couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to pass through town and check out the Stax Museum that stands on the site. If you’ve never been, please do go. I touched Isaac Hayes’ car there!

Marek Grechuta – "Gdziekolwiek"
I can’t tell you how great this song is. It’s a bit like Scott Walker or “Odessa”-era Bee Gees but nowhere near the drama. Grechuta was a Polish singer-songwriter who had a voice that really haunts me. It’s not especially striking in any obvious way but it’s evocative, for sure, and it transcends the fact that I can’t decipher a word (he sings in his native language). Plaintive and direct, Grechuta’s voice and this song will always remain with me. Like his fellow countryman Andrzej Wajda’s films, there’s a deep current of sadness running through Grechuta’s music but also a resolve and a clarity that keep things from dissolving into the maudlin.

Link Wray - Deuces Wild (Mp3)
R.E.M. - Lotus (Mp3)
Booker T. And The MGs - Something (Mp3)

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