Author Archives: Roger Catlin

David Johansen tries to right a ‘Sinking Ship’

PHOTO: SIKELIA PRODUCTIONS | Nearly 40 years ago, when an inept politician took control in Trinidad and Tobago after the first prime minister leader died suddenly, the calypso singer Gypsy recorded a call to action. Not only was “Sinking Ship” a hit, it preceded both the worst ever electoral defeat of George Chambers’ party in 1986 and the rise of Gypsy, also known as Winston Peters, to his own political career, as member of Parliament. Now, David Johansen, onetime lead singer of The New York Dolls and the Harry Smiths, as well as accomplished solo artist, has taken up the call for his own country.

Johansen, 70, has released his own version of “Sinking Ship,” needing to only tweak a few lyrics to have it apply to America’s political condition. “I’ve always liked the song,” Johansen told The Vinyl District over the phone recently. Having recently played it on his own wide-ranging Mansion of Fun radio show on Sirius XM, it struck him, he said. “I should sing this song and make it about the U.S.”

Out now on streaming services, “Sinking Ship” doesn’t have to provide a lot of background on its target. “He’s unhinged! He’s gonna kill us all!” he begins. “This is an S.O.S. from the U.S.A.” He substitutes Barack Obama for Trinidad’s Eric Williams as a beloved and competent former leader and adds just a few key details: “Locking children up in cages / Dog-whistling your racists / How low can we go?” The solution to righting the ship, as it was in Trinidad, is up to the citizenry. “It’s up to you, it’s up to me,” Johansen sings, as Gypsy once did.

And where there is a soundbite from a Trinidadian politician on the original, a couple of quotes from Trump appear in the new one from “You should ask China” to “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle,” as the singer puts on a face mask.

“Sinking Ship” returns Johansen to the island sounds that fueled his biggest hit under the name Buster Poindexter, his 1987 cover of Arrow’s soca “Hot Hot Hot.” Calypso musicians are especially known for their topical songs, which helped fuel the independence movement in Trinidad and Tobago in the mid-1950s and later grew to comment on world events from artists such as Lord Kitchener to Mighty Sparrow.

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The Go-Go’s Reborn in Showtime Documentary

They weren’t the first all female rock band. Nor were they the first female band to write their own songs or play their own instruments. Rather, the very specific superlative accomplishment of The Go-Go’s is that they were the first all-female rock band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to become so successful—when their indelible 1981 debut album Beauty and the Beat went to No. 1.

Their seemingly swift rise, coupled with their own glamor and spunk, was followed by the inevitable slump and backlashes afforded such a band. By 1985, they had broken up. But many of their songs remain vibrant and sturdy all these years later, and were most recently featured in a 2018 Broadway production Head Over Heels. The band’s occasional reunions over the past few decades never fail to spark New Wave nostalgia among their fans.

Now their story is being told in perhaps the most complete way in Alison Ellwood’s new documentary The Go-Go’s, premiering Saturday, August 1 at 9PM on Showtime. Ellwood is becoming something of the queen of rockumentaries of late, following the big two part Laurel Canyon earlier this summer for Epix, and The History of the Eagles.

Here, it’s bracing to whip from early footage of teenage fans Belinda Carlisle or Jane Wiedlin ringing stages at early LA punk shows to seeing them today with the other band members—all in their early to mid 60s, with at least one of them already eligible for Medicare. As strange as it might seem to see a grey-haired Wiedlin, emulating the sharpest mom at PTA, or the impossibly sleek Carlisle, looking (and sounding) like Gloria Steinem, telling their remarkable tale, they also share a kind of sisterhood that means that even if they didn’t speak for five years following their bitter breakup, the bond would eventually bring them back together.

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Save Our Stages: David Byrne and Benjamin Clementine at the Anthem in Washington, DC, 5/12/18

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week as we did last week, we’re turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSDavid Byrne has always been as interested in visual art as in music. So his tours with the Taking Heads became increasingly more creative performance pieces with the herky, jerky music, big suits, and band movements to accompany his spiky, polyrthmic sounds. His solo tours were often just as arresting, and for the current “American Utopia” tour accompanying his first solo album in 16 years, he is breaking new ground.

On the vast, completely empty stage at the Anthem Saturday, ringed only by a curtain of chains, he appeared at a table and chair and picked up the life-sized model of a brain as he pointed out hemispheres of the organ and sang, “Here is a region of abundant details, here is a region that is seldom used…” It was just about the last stage props put on the stage. When joined by his musicians—nine all dressed in similar grey suits and two singers—they were all fully portable.

With wireless microphones, a wireless bass, wireless guitar, and wireless keyboard (which provided a lot of the sound), fully half of the musicians were assigned to parts of what would be a traditional drum set—toms, snare, timbale, other percussion—as if they were ready to be a marching band. Instead of striding into the crowd in formation though, they moved in planned patterns, stood 12-people across, or in two six-person lines, in a circle or a pinwheel in what must be the most choreographed rock concert for musicians ever devised.

So unusual did it seem, with nary a snaking wire, microphone stand, effects box, amp, or drum set in sight that it almost seemed like an all-dancing, little-playing track show. Byrne had to stop in the middle of the show to point out that it was not the case. Indeed, the dozen could have marched down the aisles and into the boxes, wifi willing, but chose to stay on the well-lit set, which changed hue or intensity with every song.

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Save Our Stages: Ex
Hex and The Messthetics at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, 5/10/19

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week and next we’ll be turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Mixed amid the sheer exhilaration of an Ex Hex gig at the 9:30 Club is the added pride of a hometown date. The DC rockers led by Mary Timony, once of Helium, Wild Flag, and Autoclave, quite rightfully nearly sold out the place, but I’m wondering why the trio isn’t selling out everywhere they go.

The songs are catchy, the guitars rock out, the female harmonies alternately bracing and empowering. Female-led bands aren’t the novelty they once were, thankfully, and the trio has moved into trying to recreate the crunching, double-guitar attack of arena rock. But they’re better than that, with catchier songs that are smarter and more fun. One quietly has to be happy they aren’t bigger than they are, or they’d be in some cavernous theater or arena instead of a cozier rock club.

Closing out a six-week US tour to boost their newest release on Merge, It’s Real, the band seemed as fresh as if starting it, a big neon logo behind them underscoring their determination to glow. Topping a bill that also boasted the best of DC rock, particularly The Messthetics, the instrumental power trio of guitar whiz Anthony Pirog with the Fugazi rhythm section of Brendan Canty on drums and Joe Lally on bass, the night seemed to make a case of the health of rock in the Nation’s Capital.

Ex Hex is almost sunny compared to their darker sound, but there’s every indication that Timony wants to stretch things out on guitar as well, even if her songs seem best suited to be short and exuberantly punchy as anything from the Ramones. She means to get more textures and aggressive sharpness with every release, though, with a couple of the tracks on It’s Real clocking in at over five minutes.

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TVD Video Premiere:
The Roadside Bandits Project, “My Own Lies”

The Roadside Bandits Project, from West London producer Santi Arribas, takes on the scourge of untrustworthy public servants with the directness of Gang of Four, whose lead singer John Sterry collaborates and sings the group’s latest snarling single “My Own Lies.” “I look you in the eye,” Sterry snarls, “and I almost believe my own lies.”

The Vinyl District is proud to premiere the timely video for “My Own Lies” today, with its very contemporary Know Nothing declaration “You don’t need knowledge to know/ Experts are past it/ Time to put your faith on show” coming just a week after Sen. Rand Paul mused pretty much the same thing in a Senate coronavirus hearing (“We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best for everyone.”)

Politics rule on The Roadside Bandits Project’s eponymously named album this fall, with songs like “Borders,” “Landfill,” and an earlier single “Sombre Circus” featuring Nell Bryden. The new video for “My Own Lies” features sinister footsteps, under the table payments, and a cactus-headed politician that seems out of Magritte. We also see Sterry sing, but only in a very close shot of his mouth—showing only the parts of his face that would be covered by a mask in the pandemic era.

“The video tries to show through simple imagery, the behavior of modern politicians whose only resource to convince the public is to lie,” Arribas says. “The symbolism highlights their cynicism and detachment, as well as the way in which they attempt to bolster support, appease and control by building a narrative which is everything to everyone.”

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TVD Premiere:
Honey Radar,
“Wind-Up Man”

Leave it to lo-fi Philly rockers Honey Radar to dig up and redo one of The Monkees’ most obscure songs. The appropriately robotic “Wind-Up Man,” a self-lacerating attack at the cookie cutter pop music machine that created the Prefab Four, was first performed in the strange and equally obscure TV special 33 1/2 Revolutions Per Monkee that was also the last creative endeavor of the original quartet before they broke up.

For Honey Radar, it’s one of a slew of recordings collected for a compilation of things they did for the Atlanta-based label Chunklet Industries. Sing the Snow Away: The Chunklet Years is due in stores June 20, but The Vinyl District is proud today to debut that weird Monkees cover that works better and certainly rocks harder in the hands of Honey Radar than it did by its originators, who never did commit it to a recording.

“The Monkees were the first group I was obsessed with when I was a little kid,” says Honey Radar bandleader Jason Henn. Though he says the 1969, purposely trippy 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee TV special was “almost unwatchable, worse than Magical Mystery Tour,” it had “some songs in it that I like, and ‘Wind-up Man’ always sounded to me like it would make a good straight-forward rock song.”

The band played it live a few times and put it on a 2016 split single with label owner Henry Owings where it stood out, mostly because his side was more conceptual comedy—Owings’ extended impression of the band Slint: three minutes of awkward silence, poking fun of that band’s lengthy breaks between songs at gigs.

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TVD Video Premiere: India Ramey, “King of
the Ashes”

PHOTO: STACIE HUCKEBA | India Ramey didn’t know for certain what would happen when she saw a political ill wind blow in late 2016. Still, she wrote the clarion warning “King of the Ashes” unaware it’d be so well suited to the most challenging American spring anyone can remember, with with more than 109,000 dead from a pandemic, millions out of work, and uprisings in every state against the country’s historic pandemic, racism. As such, Ramey’s warning, with twangy guitar and a call to action, couldn’t be more timely.

The Vinyl District is proud to premiere the stirring “King of the Ashes” video, a harbinger of her upcoming fourth album Shallow Graves due in stores September 4. “I woke up in a different world today,” it begins. “All that I held dear had been stripped away.” She warns of a man about to burn everything down, who preys on the fearful and the weak, who will “burn it down to be king of the ashes.”

By the time Ramey calls for people to rise up in the first ringing chorus, it’s all too clear of whom she speaks. “I wrote it about Trump, and was predicting that there would be some sort of apocalypse under his reign,” says Ramey, who was a a deputy district attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, before she became one of Nashville’s most promising voices.

“I am sorry to say that I was right. It proved to be quite the prophetic song, unfortunately,” says Ramey, who has been pegged an alt country performer to watch since her first album Junkyard Angel a decade ago. With a bracing righteousness that matches her tunefulness, Ramey is sometimes categorized alongside Jason Isbell, whose Southeastern engineer Mark Petaccia produced the new disc, her first since 2017’s Southern Gothic-flavored Snake Handler.

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Laurel Canyon’s countercultural history explored in new doc airing now on epix

Throughout history there have been communities where creative people gather, attracting like-minded artists who create something that becomes a legacy. Usually it involves low rent. In Los Angeles, the woody hills above Sunset with its cul de sacs and affordable rentals helped nurture what was also the natural sounding outgrowth of folk into rock in the late ’60s with occasional twangs of country.

More than 50 years after its heyday, Laurel Canyon has been heralded of late in documentary films. First came Jakob Dylan’s Echo in the Canyon, which was built around interviews with surviving originators alongside rehearsals for a contemporary salute to the bands. After a short run in theaters last year, it’s now showing on Netflix. Now comes the more expansive Laurel Canyon, a two-part, two-night, four-hour film that premiered on epix Sunday (May 31) and concludes this Sunday (June 7) and is available on demand.

With the goofy catchphrase of “Everything They Touched Turned to Music” it aims to capture a magic time when guitars rang through the hallows and The Byrds, The Turtles, Frank Zappa, and The Doors were all neighbors, more often trading joints than cups of sugar, and always apparently open to drop over and jam.

Alison Ellwood, whose previous similar extended music documentary was History of the Eagles, begins with what looks like it will be a ton of previously unseen or otherwise rare home movies of activities in Laurel Canyon, when handheld movie cameras were just another avenue of creativity for those capturing the freewheeling spirit of the era.

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TVD Premiere, Hawk,
“I Believe in You”

The road to joy in rock ’n’ roll is one of simplicity. A few chords, a pleasing refrain, and repeat ’til nirvana. It’s a familiar roadmap for Hawk, the project that brought 2016’s I’m on Fire and 2018’s Bomb Pop. It happens again like clockwork with the new Fly, which arrives in stores on May 15.

Not to be mistaken for the Pennsylvania metal band of the same name, this Hawk is a project that’s been hiding in plain sight for a few years, with Venice, California, writer and singer David Hawkins and guitarist Aaron Bakker at the center of an impressive pop supergroup, featuring multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, legendary Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, and now Mott the Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher. (Gary Louris who was part of past Hawk projects as well as Hawkins’ folk rock chamber group Be, had to bow out this time due to commitments to his main band, The Jayhawks).

The Vinyl District is proud to debut a particularly uplifting Fly track in these dark times, “I Believe in You.” Written to encourage his daughter, its opening line is a classic phrase of power pop, “Oh girl, you know that it’s true”—that’s much more in the vein of The Monkees (from “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”) than Milli Vanilli. With his formidable colleagues, Hawkins whips it up into a layered rock confection, with harmonies, keyboards, and a ringing Stringfellow guitar solo to boot while repeating its urgent truth.

“I wrote this song for my daughter. She is one of the coolest people I know; she is so positive and kind despite facing her own challenges, and every day she wakes up with a smile and shares it with everyone she sees; it’s really inspiring. I wrote it to celebrate her and encourage her,” Hawkins tells us. “I came up with the words and melody while I was feeding her breakfast one day, and I just started singing it to her in the mornings to start the day. She loves it. I had to explain to her what ‘outta sight’ means—so cute. She was super excited when I told her ‘her song’ was going to be on the record, and she just beams every time I play it.”

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Roger Joseph Manning Jr., The TVD Interview

Keyboard maven, studio whiz, and go-to arranger Roger Joseph Manning Jr. has created in a number of forums since 1994 when the colorful and influential band Jellyfish that he co-founded with Andy Strummer broke up. But even after putting together bands that include Imperial Drag, Moog Cookbook, and TV Eyes, and working with artists from Beck to Air to Cheap Trick, Manning has returned to working with two other members of the final iteration of Jellyfish.

Manning had worked with Tim Smith and Eric Dover in other projects (including Umajets and Imperial Drag), but working together brought back a kind of Jellyfish sound to the group they’re calling The Lickerish Quartet (after the title of an arty 1970 Italian porn flick). Their debut EP “Threesome Vol. 1” is due in stores on May 15 via The Lickerish Quartet Label Logic, distributed by Ingrooves. We caught up with Manning over the phone from Los Angeles.

How is the pandemic lockdown affecting you?

Fortunately there’s very little strife at my end. I am mostly at home during the week anyway, working in my music room on a variety of things. So, aside from procuring supplies. I don’t mind that. My girl, who is a lot more social than me and her job requires her to be more social, she’s having a tougher time of it. But I’m just like pretty much business as usual.

What’s it like to release a project from a new band in the middle of all of it?

Mostly, I’ve come to find, it’s a blessing for the fans, who couldn’t be happier about having I guess what I call a pleasant distraction at this time. They have been demonstrating in their correspondence to us how appreciative they are that this happened when it did.

Obviously, we didn’t time it that way. And I’ve been thankful that the music has been able to take their minds off things. Of course, it’s all a double-edged sword. People are tightening their belts financially, obviously, so I don’t know who even wants to throw down for a $15 CD or whatever, vs. if we were in a regular economic climate like the oasis we were all on last year.

There are going to be three EPS, is that the plan?

Yeah, that is the plan. And we have most of the music ready to go. So barring anything unforeseen, that’s what the public should get within the next year and a half or so.

Why did you decide to release it that way, rather than on one album?

Mostly from an advised business standpoint of how things operate today, getting music to fans and that interaction, how it’s done now. Because everything is so singles-driven, because of DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music.

It’s certainly not my preference. It’s not what I grew up with. I like being lost in somebody’s 45-minute soundtrack that they would present with 10 or 12 songs. but I think an EP is a good compromise. I think it’s enough of a detour that really keeps the fans entertained for a while, and sets up an environment of—well hey, if you want some more, we’ve got something a few months away as opposed to a year or two away.

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Liveat930.com brings the live concert experience to your quarantine

PHOTOS: JOHN SHORE | In our time of the Coronavirus Clampdown, fans of live music are feeling the void, just as musicians have seen their livelihoods temporarily disappear. The nation’s string of music clubs reliably alive with nightly shows are shuttered and empty as the streets around them. One of the nation’s best-loved venues, the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC is attempting to fill that void by streaming a string of live shows it shot for a public television series that ran a few years back.

The 12 episodes of Live at 9:30, recorded in 2015 and 2016, features performances from nearly 60 different artists—from heritage acts like Garbage, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The English Beat to local heroes Trouble Funk and Thievery Corporation to groups that have long since outgrown playing 1,200-capacity clubs like the 9:30: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Grace Potter, and Lake Street Dive.

Filmed with 15 different cameras, the intent was to “capture the energy of the audience, something we unfortunately can’t reproduce at the moment,” says 9:30 spokesman Jordan Grobe. The shows, streaming free on Liveat930.com, reflect not only the energy of the room, but the variety of its bookings.

“Each episode focuses on five different artists to show people different genres they might not be familiar with,” Grobe says. “So for instance, you might love Gogol Bordello, but not be familiar with Shakey Graves, so those are in an episode together.” “The format of it is sort of a reverse Saturday Night Live, where instead of it being 85 percent comedy, 15 percent music, it’s 85 percent music, 15 percent variety.”

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Cáit O’Riordan,
The TVD Interview

PHOTO ABOVE: JOHAN VIPPER | March gives way to thoughts of St. Patrick’s Day and the raucous annual gigs from the premiere Celtic punk band The Pogues, who supercharged traditional melodies even as frontman Shane MacGowan crafted songs as indelible as any from the Emerald Isle on classic albums like 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. The band was active until 1996, reunited in 2001, and continued to tour yearly until they called it quits in 2014.

But in 2011, Peter “Spider” Stacy, who was living in New Orleans and working on a Pogues musical with the team from HBO’s The Deuce and The Wire, saw a set from the Lost Bayou Ramblers that had a familiar verve, despite a wholly different background. Stacy, who handled tin whistle for The Pogues took over vocals when MacGowan was fired from the band in 1991, sat in with the Ramblers for a few gigs and the Cajun musicians learned some Pogues songs.

Adding original Pogues bassist Cáit O’Riordan last year boosted the authenticity of the group which adopted a touring name Poguetry from the 1986 EP “Poguetry in Motion.” The group is on its biggest US tour to date, blending the sound and fury of The Pogues with some Cajun fervor. The Grammy-winning Ramblers open the shows with their own set as well.

We caught up with O’Riordan, 55, over the phone from New York. shortly after the first gig on the tour which continues this weekend in Philly, DC, Brooklyn, and beyond.

You just played the first gig of this tour last weekend at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. How did it go?

It went great. It’s an amazing venue. And it was Friday night in New Orleans. But it was the Friday after Mardi Gras, so we weren’t sure what state people would be in. But people just wanted to dance and have a good time, which is everything that you could want from an audience.

How did it all get started?

Spider lived in Louisiana and he went out one night and saw this band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and he just immediately amazed by them and introduced himself and they all got along great and they started writing together. Spider was a guest on the Ramblers album that won a Grammy last year (for Best Regional Roots Music Album), Kalenda. They tried out a few gigs.

And then me and Spider met up in Dublin at a big concert that was celebrating Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday at Ireland’s National Concert Hall [in 2018]. Spider and I were in the house band for that and that went great; and we just got to talking, and we started talking about Louisiana, and he said, “You should come out and do some gigs with us.” So I did. We did some Christmas gigs and they were great. I just had the same reaction to the Ramblers as he did. I thought these guys are incredible. It’s such a pleasure to work with them.

They seem to come from such a different background—Cajun rather than Celtic.

Obviously it is, it’s a different background. But there’s so many parallels. It’s that thing of carrying a culture inside you, but being surrounded by a different culture, a much different culture that is trying to crush out your own culture. When you’re put under that pressure, you either crumble or you get stronger in your own culture, which very much happened with the London Irish under Thatcher. And I see these guys, the Cajuns, cause they’re working really hard to keep their music alive and their language alive—there’s a lot of parallels there.

Were they even aware of The Pogues when Spider first met them?

I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine why they would be. In my world I’m pretty urban, my life is pretty much Dublin, London, New York, Boston, LA. In that world—people my age—everybody knows “Fairytale of New York” at least. They all have an image of, if not The Pogues, they’ll see Shane in their mind’s eye and have a whole idea of what goes on with that—mostly drinking and the rowdiness and the green beer. I just love the opportunity to just iterate always that Shane is actually one of the great Irish poets. I always encourage people to listen to the lyrics. But if they do just want to dance and yell, that’s good too.

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Sergio Mendes: Bringing ‘Joy’ to Screens and Vinyl

Six decades after the rise of bossa nova, and more than a half century since the heyday of Brasil ’66, the music of Sergio Mendes is poised for another serge in popularity with the release of a new documentary and album.

John Scheinfeld’s new documentary Sergio Mendes: In the Key of Joy premieres Saturday, January 18 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Next month it will be accompanied by a new album of the same name, In the Key of Joy on Concord Records, with a slate of new songs with guests stars that include Common, Hermeto Pascoal, and Joe Pizzulo among others.

“One aspect of Sergio’s long and impressive career that has impressed me is how he has successfully navigated the career peaks and valleys encountered by most artists,” says Scheinfeld, whose previous films include The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? and Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. “Amazingly, he has found a way to push the envelope and transform his sound from decade to decade while always remaining relevant and staying true to his musical roots.”

A three-time Grammy winner, Mendes has released dozens of albums over the years, had some top 10 singles with remakes of “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” in 1968, and returned with a hit 15 years later with another Top 5 hit, “Never Gonna Let You Go.” He remade his “Mas Que Nada” with Black Eyed Peas in 2006 and earned an Oscar nomination for a song in the 2012 animated Rio. We caught up with Mendes, 78, this week over the phone in a call from his home in Woodland Hills, California.

How long did it take to put the documentary together?

Two years. John Scheinfeld did the John Coltrane documentary and Harry Nilsson. He’s a great guy, very musical. We went to Brazil, we interviewed a lot of people down there, we got a lot of old, great footage. And it’s just great. I’m very, very happy about it.

And you recorded a new album to come about the same time?

Yes, It’s got a lot of young artists—newcomers—and a lot of new songs, no covers. And of course vinyl, which I love. I have a 26-year-old, he buys two records a week. And his deck, you know, the turntables…the other day I had dinner with my friend, the great engineer Bernie Grundman, and he was talking all about the resurgence of vinyl. We are all very happy about it.

It’s part of your legacy too, with those great albums of the ’60s and their great artwork. You don’t get that impact in smaller formats.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Or streaming—you hear one thing and throw it away. It’s kind of weird for me.

You’ve never taken a break, have you? You’ve been performing pretty consistently for six decades?

As long as God allows me to do it and gives me the health, I’m there and ready.

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TVD Live: Jesse Malin with Ryan Adams and Chuck Prophet at the Hotel Cafe, 1/9

What was already a pretty nifty small club gig—with New York rocker Jesse Malin and his band headlining a show also featuring Chuck Prophet at Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe turned into something more notable when the guest stars started coming in during Malin’s encore.

First there was Richard Bacchus of his old band D Generation—together they did “Capital Offender,” the only song from that outfit Malin played all night. But then a puffy, wild-haired, bespectacled rocker in flannel came out. It was Ryan Adams, on stage for the first time in nearly a year, when a New York Times story alleging sexual misconduct made him drop out of sight—the first major #MeToo reckoning in the rock world. Plans to release the first of three albums he announced he’d put out last year were dashed by his record company. Three equipment companies withdrew endorsements.

But Malin stayed a friend to Adams, inviting him on to play what turned out to be five songs from The Fine Art of Self Destruction, the 2003 solo debut from Malin that Adams had produced and played on. It was also the first album Adams ever produced. As Adams careened around the stage, playing mostly rhythm and adding the occasional harmony vocal, they played “Queen of the Underworld,” “Wendy,” “Downliner,” “Solitaire” and the suddenly ironic title song—a big boost to Adams fans who cheered the return online the next day.

The appearance seemed a bit different tonally from the rest of the set, with otherwise concentrated on the album he recorded out in Los Angeles with Lucinda Williams and released last year, Sunset Kids. Malin, at 51, carries the mantle of New York rock traditions dating back to Dion, with a tough guy demeanor and a heart of gold. With his newsboy cap and thin frame, he can churn up the rock with his band, but also slow it down for an acoustic confessional. As a performer, he’ll jump on the drum stand, abandon the stage, wander through the crowd and end up standing on the bar in the rear of the room — all while still connected with a wire; no wireless microphone for this guy.

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TVD Live: She & Him Christmas Party at the Anthem, 12/5

PHOTO: DAN WINTERS | The first time Zooey Deschanel sang a Christmas song for huge audiences was 16 years ago in the movie Elf, crooning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the shower, eventually dueting with an unwelcome Will Ferrell. It was that moment that showed M. Ward that the actress could actually sing, and they eventually got together to form the duo She & Him, which continued to record originals and covers even as her star rose as the star of TV’s The New Girl for seven seasons.

The third album for the two was a Christmas release, as was their sixth, two years ago. That makes fully one third of the She & Him recorded output Yuletide music. So Christmas is a big deal for them. Hence a big “Christmas Party” tour that filled Washington, DC’s cavernous Anthem with good cheer if not completely with fans. A lot of them came in holiday finery so extreme there was a costume show and competition mid-show, hosted by the comic who opened the show Pete Lee, whose schtick is being a wide-eyed innocent, not unlike a certain overgrown elf Deschanel has worked with before. Six Christmas trees stayed alight on the broad stage all night and a huge 10-foot video screen looped a fireplace fire throughout.

Deschanel’s well-defined favorite holiday period was clear from her choice of the the 1944 Frank Loesser duet she did in Elf—relying on the kind of mid-20th century, postwar pop standards popular way before her time—from about the time her father was born. That lent a kind of draggy, melancholy haze to the first half of the show, weighed down with slowed versions of nostalgic standbys from your mom’s Firestone albums like “Happy Holiday,” “The Christmas Waltz,” and “The Christmas Song.”

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | Leave a comment
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