Archive for July, 2009

critic's pick 81

neil young: neil young (1968)

neil young: neil young (1968)

When the long promised first volume of Neil Young’s Archives surfaced in June after a wait of nearly two decades, the sense of letdown was unavoidable. What was teased as a treasure trove of unreleased material was an eight-CD package, much of which (including two full concert discs) was already commercially available. With a price tag of nearly $100 (DVD and Blu-Ray editions were even costlier), Archives wasn’t much of a find.

neil young and crazy horse: everybody knows this is nowhere (1969)

neil young and crazy horse: everybody knows this is nowhere (1969)

Now we have a real curiosity – Young’s first four albums, exquisitely remastered without any additional new material for about $11 a piece. Sure, Young die-hards have owned this music on CD for years. But the clarity of these new mixes may signal it’s time for an upgrade. It’s special enough, in fact, to warrant a serious overall re-examination the 1968 solo debut album Neil Young. More on that in a minute. But for anyone only modestly familiar with Young’s early music – and these four recordings outline the folk and electric elements that defined his career – these re-issues scream to be heard.

neil young: after the gold rush (1970)

neil young: after the gold rush (1970)

Young isn’t the guitar rock power broker here that he was when he let his band Crazy Horse run free later in the ‘70s. But there are still enough slow, deliberate and brooding rockers on these recordings to serve as cunning evil twins to his more fanciful hippie folk meditations. 1969’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, for instance, introduced the Danny Whitten-era Crazy Horse as well the jam staples Down By the River and Cowgirl in the Sand. But its leadoff tune, Cinnamon Girl, remains the most efficiently emotive three minute rocker Young has recorded.

neil young: harvest (1972)

neil young: harvest (1972)

Likewise, When You Dance and Southern Man (from 1970’s After the Gold Rush) along with Words and Alabama (from 1972’s commercial breakthrough Harvest) were galvanizing but ragged blasts of electric fire on albums noted largely for their calm acoustic appeal. On these new reissues, the raw, unrelenting drive of those tunes reveals a new crispness within the albums’ dark, country-inspired contours.

The overwhelming surprise here is Neil Young, an album often slammed by critics for its less-than-surefooted lyrical guise and ornate production. But the guitars and strings on this solo debut – and there are lots of both – simply glow. The modestly fuzzed out guitar on the opening instrumental The Emperor of Wyoming is the first clue of the album’s renewed vibrancy. Then a sweep of orchestral strings runs smack into an electric guitar torrent on The Loner and I’ve Been Waiting for You, two tunes of almost frightening isolationism. The show-stealer, though, is The Old Laughing Lady, where the record’s new mix of strings, electric piano and soul-inspired backing vocals are given a ghostly new presence. This is one of Young’s great underdog tunes from one of his most overlooked albums.

As with Archives, these albums only take us as far as 1972. The following year gave us Time Fades Away, Young’s bleakest, most unrefined recording. It has never been issued in any official form on CD. For now, the rediscovery of the Neil Young album is cause for celebration. But let’s see if this excavation of Young’s early music is now willing to dig up his most dangerous work.

When direct intervention of high office did the trick

New Straits Times April 18, 2004 | Ahmad A. Talib Ahmad A. Talib New Straits Times 04-18-2004 When direct intervention of high office did the trick Byline: Ahmad A. Talib Edition: New Sunday Times; 2* Section: Opinion Column: Pahit manis

SOMETIMES it requires the direct intervention of high office to get things moving or done. This was the case in Rembau, Negri Sembilan.

Mohd Yusof, chairman of one of the village development and security committees (JKKK) in the district, raised an issue which he had been pushing for the last two years.

He wanted a desktop computer for his committee to facilitate administrative work.

Speaking in the melodious Negri Sembilan accent, Mohd Yusof said: “Den dah banyak kali cubo mintak komputer. Payah bonar nak dapek. Kalau payah sangat, bagi ajo den liptop (I’ve been asking for a computer many times. But it’s so difficult to get one. Then just get me a laptop).”

It took everyone in the community hall quite a while to understand what he was trying to convey. Not only because he was using strange-sounding words but the public address sound system wasn’t exactly the best. here bilo weekly ad

It was only when someone clarified that Mohd Yusof was asking for a laptop that everyone laughed and understood what he meant.

He argued that he has been using a typewriter for six years but it had broken down and rendered obsolete by time. A personal computer would make his committee more efficient and effective, he said.

Another village head, Abdul Aziz Md Don, had another complaint. He lamented that his kampung had a nice community hall but cattle, fowl and goats use it as shelter.

Also in the Negri accent, Abdul Aziz said: “Balai rayo tu ponuh dengan binatang. Sebolah dopan balai tu berpagar tapi takek tu ajo. Bahagian topi, kiri, kanan dan belakang tak dipagar. Itu yang membuek kambing dan lombu sonang ajo keluar masuk (The hall is full of cattle, goats and fowl. The front part of the hall is fenced up but the rest is not. That’s why the animals walk in and out as and when they like).”

These two gentlemen were among 45 chairmen of the JKKK in the district who participated in an open dialogue with Menteri Besar Datuk Mohamad Hasan, installed as chief executive of Negri Sembilan on March 25.

The new Menteri Besar had his weekly executive council meeting in Rembau on Wednesday and plans to move from one district to another to enable him and the Exco to get nearer to the rakyat.

While this may not be a totally new exercise, his open dialogue with members of the village development and security committee was innovative and set a new norm in state administration.

“Apart from my Exco, I’m also bringing heads of department to join the dialogue. Members of Parliament are welcome too.

“I plan to rotate my Exco meeting by district as a means of bringing the Government to the rakyat.

“After the meeting, I’ll meet the chairmen of the JKKK and listen to their grievances and comments.

“This is the first time it’s being done in this format and I’m very encouraged by the response,” Mohamad Hasan said.

The Menteri Besar sought the help of the MP for Rembau, Datuk Firdaus Muhammad Rom Harun, to get Mohd Yusof and his JKKK a personal computer.

Mohd Yusof came away from the dialogue grinning from ear to ear because his plea has not only been heard but entertained as well. this web site bilo weekly ad

The state CEO has given a three-week deadline for the computer to be delivered and told the JKKK chief to make full use of the equipment.

As for Abdul Aziz, the Menteri Besar gave an on-the-spot approval for the community hall to be fully fenced once the District Officer has verified the request.

But the demands were not approved without the Menteri Besar voicing his concern (more like a warning to me though issued in a friendly manner).

A local lad himself, Mohamad Hasan, also in Negri accent, said: “Den raso den buleh buekkan pagar. Elok jugo kalau ado pagar. Tapi den risau sikit. Nanti, bilo pagar dah naik, orang kampung tak jugo gunokan balai tu dongan ponuh. Kalau cam tu, lobih baik tak payah buek balai rayo. Kerajaan bagi macam-macam kemudahan, tapi kadangkadang kito tak pandai nak menggunokan (I think I can approve the fences being put up. It’s good to have the hall fenced up. But I don’t want to see the kampung people not using the hall even after it has been properly fenced up).”

There was a chorus of “yes, you are right” from the attendance. If they had thought that they could raise any issue and get away with their requests without any hint of reprimand for their possible misuse of government help, the MB’s warning, issued in a soft and friendly tone, they were mistaken.

The JKKK chairmen were quick to give their word of honour that they would keep their side of the bargain.

Sitting and listening to the questions raised and answers given, I realised that the MB was setting a new benchmark in state administration. By going directly to the JKKK, he is able to get direct and uncoached feedback from the people.

The JKKK is an important grassroots machinery and serves as a platform for the kampung people to voice their views to Government, and vice versa.

Hence, the MB’s dialogue with the committee chairmen serves more than just an open dialogue but also as a recognition of their contribution to nation-building.

The manner in which Mohamad Hasan interacted with the village leaders also won any detractors to his side, if any.

It was obvious that he is quite used to settling problems by confronting them directly and fairly.

I learnt that when he was head honcho of Cycle and Carriage, the lean and spritely corporate CEO-turned-state CEO used to meet his departmental heads and senior executives most Wednesdays during a round of golf in Subang.

For about four hours, he and his exec-utives would “try” to play golf while discussing work.

“I used to get a lot of work done. A lot of problems are brought up for discussions and we make decisions too. Sometimes, we play good golf,” he said, adding that he has not touched his golf set for quite a while already.

Mohamad Hasan agrees that it should not take the Menteri Besar a long time to settle small and very local problems, such as requests for personal computers and fencing for community halls.

One JKKK chief said the street lighting in his kampung has not worked for some time and his complaints fell on deaf ears. Yet another lamented that the cemetery in his kampung is not fenced and left untended.

At Wednesday’s inaugural dialogue, departmental heads were made to give on- the-spot answers or solutions to the people’s problems. Even Tenaga Nasional sent a senior executive to answer complaints raised against it.

The State Assemblymen should take heed of the Menteri Besar’s serious push to get the political leadership more involved in day- to-day issues facing the rakyat and to get the bureaucracy to be more pro-active in problem solving.

The kampung people do not want to hear excuses. Neither do they understand the lengthy explanations why the procurement of spare parts is delaying the repair and upgrading of some public amenities.

“Spare us the explanation and excuses. Just give us what was promised,” an elderly village head said after the dialogue.

I’m sure that the wakil rakyat would have taken serious note of the implications of the dialogue.

The MB was merely taking the direct, simple and most transparent route to tackle problems affecting the rakyat.

The dialogue serves also as a check and balance exercise for everyone – the wakil rakyat must work and serve their constituencies; the people must make sure that the amenities provided are fully utilised; and the state CEO get a first-hand report card on his Exco and fellow state assemblymen.

If Mohamad Hasan continues with this approach, I’m sure he’ll be able to have time for his golf and take his car for a spin.

In three weeks’ time, I’ll check if Mohd Yusof has already received his desktop computer. And a week after that, I’ll know for sure if he knows how to use it.

And who knows, some of us may even get invited to the doa selamat when the balai raya in Sri Gadong is fully fenced up.

Ahmad A. Talib

in performance: neko case

neko case. photo by jason creps.

neko case. photo by jason creps.

It wasn’t the most ideal of performance scenarios. And, to be fair, tapings of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour are all but advertised as being something quite removed from a full blown concert experience. Still, when a singer like Neko Case chooses the program for her first local stage outing in three years, expectations tend to run a bit high. As a result, it was pretty tough to walk away from the Kentucky Theatre last night and not still feel a little, well, hungry.

On the down side, the taping, quite uncharacteristically, had to contend with a number of technical glitches that grounded the program to a halt for about 15 minutes just as it was beginning.  Similarly, the usually orderly, low volume WoodSongs sound mix tended to mute Case,  keeping her canyon-sized wail a bit under glass.

Nonetheless, Case seemed to know what she was stepping into. Instead of her full band, she employed only guitarist Paul Rigby – who nicely serenaded the crowd with Chet Atkins-style picking during the unplanned downtime – and longtime vocal chum Kelly Hogan. Within this sparsely designed trio sound, Case never let things get stuffy. Rigby used sketchy outlines of chords to produce a mock-twang backdrop for the gorgeous slow motion harmonies Case and Hogan created during That Teenage Feeling. Rigby later offered modestly dissonant accompaniment to Maybe Sparrow, perhaps the evening’s only tune to break through the safety net sound mix.

As usual, there was wonderment and wanderlust to spare in Case’s songs, especially during an appropriately atmospheric encore version of I Wish I Was the Moon (the only tune in Case’s set that didn’t come from her last two albums, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone). There were also occasional hiccups outside of the technical bugs, including a stripped down but oddly sped up People Got a Lotta Nerve.

But there were ample delights, too, like the title tune to Middle Cyclone where Hogan played a homemade music box instrument dubbed the “shigby” that colored the song’s stormy, reverb-doused charm.

On its own, this was a fun but imperfect evening. Now maybe we convince Case, Hogan and Rigby to round up the full band, set up shop for a full evening on the Kentucky’s main stage and let things really rip.

pink floyd’s lunar jam

Thanks to a blog on The New York Times called The Lede for tipping us off to a fine, fun and very obscure mini-soundtrack for today’s 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic inaugural moon landing.

As The Lede explains, those champion celestial rockers Pink Floyd were in the BBC studios jamming four decades ago this very evening when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hit the lunar surface.

More recently, a bootleg recording of a five minute excerpt from that jam titled Moonhead was paired with some Apollo video transmissions and posted on youtube. The music on The Lede’s link is a little fuzzy and consists mostly of meditative noodling from the late, great Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. Oh yes, and there is a minor technicality with the youtube video… like the fact that it probably came from Apollo 17 in 1972  and not Apollo 11 in 1969. Still, this is a suitably trippy tribute to America’s giant leap onto the light side of the moon from a band that made a career out of celebrating it’s dark side.

This makes me think of a slogan Pink Floyd used on its t-shirts when the band played Rupp Arena for two nights in November 1987: “Still first in space.” How stellar.

cyclone neko

neko case performs tonight at woodsongs. photo by jason creps.

neko case performs tonight at woodsongs. photo by jason creps.

The song that always slays me is Deep Red Bells. To this day, if anyone asks what is so arresting about the music of Neko Case, that’s the first tune they are sent to.

The guitars ring and swirl, owing equally to country and psychedelia with a touch of Twin Peaks-style twang. It could be The Cure or The Byrds at work, if you didn’t know better.

Then we have the imagery, like the reference to the Valley of the Shadow and the bells that beckon you it. Ask not for whom the deep red bells toll, eh?

But all of that pales once the voice enters. Case’s singing rings out on the songs as if it was recorded on an mid-autumn evening – a time when there’s just enough chill in the air to silence the crickets so her vocals can wail on for miles. But when the tune briefly jumps into country mode for its last verse (the one that suggests casting your soul about “like an old paper bag past empty lots and early graves”), the mood becomes all the more wondrous. The twinge of reverb on the chorus serves as icing.

Deep Red Bells was the sign that Case’s music was becoming less agreeable to categorization as it became more popular. The evolution was already in place when Case made her Lexington debut with an October 2000 concert at Lynagh’s Music Club behind her Furnace Room Lullaby album. Many at the time made her out to be the new chanteuse of the alt-country movement. But the singer would have none of that.

“I don’t want to be ghettoized by some term like alternative country,” Case said prior to that performance. “I’ve listened to country music growing up, and that’s the music I want to play. I don’t feel I have to justify it by saying it’s ‘alternative’ or anything else.”

In terms of artistic progression, of course, Deep Red Bells is ancient history for Case, who returns to Lexington tonight for a sold out taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. The song was recorded for her 2002 Blacklisted album, the third of her six LP-length recordings but the last for the indie Chicago label Bloodshot.

By the time Case played The Dame in 2006 with the sublime Canadian neo-country stylists The Sadies, the blurring of stylistic boundaries was more than apparent. Her then-current album, 2004’s The Tigers Have Spoken, was a concert scrapbook of a record. The leadoff song, If You Knew, was another Neko primer tune with lyrics of jagged and restless romanticism, a richly complimentary Sadies backdrop full of Byrds-like guitar jangle, strong elements of vintage girl group pop thanks to harmonies by Kelly Hogan (who will again accompany Case at WoodSongs) and Carolyn Mark and a soaring vocal lead seemingly propelled by a deep, nocturnal muse.

The rest of the album merrily shot all over the map, from covers of tunes written or popularized by Loretta Lynn (a commanding pedal steel hullabaloo version of Rated X), The Shangri Las (a tambourine shaking, twang fortified The Train From Kansas City), Buffy Sainte-Marie (a harmony happy reading of Soulful Shade of Blue) as well as an update of Blacklisted‘s title tune that sounds like a night train bound for bedlam.

“I’m sure there are a million common threads Buffy Sainte-Marie and Loretta Lynn share,” Case said before the Dame concert. “As far as why we chose these particular tunes … well, we don’t completely know the answer to that. We like them in a way fans like them. It’s not an intellectual process.”

All of which set the stage for Middle Cyclone, the album that became a certifiable hit for Case in March. It shot to No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200, outscored only by U2 and Taylor Swift.

There is a vicious streak to some of the Cyclone songs. Some it is ripe with retribution, as in People Got a Lotta Nerve, where man’s molestation of animals literally bites him back. “I’m a man man man man man man eater,” Case sings in chant like glee as though she is one of the killer whales imprisoned in the song. “But still you’re surprised prised prised, when I eat ‘ya.”

Storm/cyclone/tornado imagery pervades the rest of the album, upping the restlessness level established on her early records. But again, the jangly pop sound and that positively royal voice disarm the tune’s initial sting.

“Putting her big torchy voice behind larger than life imagery, she’s fearless through every transformation, merging herself with storms,” wrote Jon Pareles of Middle Cyclone last March in The New York Times. “She’s as dangerous as she is devoted.”

True to that form, Case appears to be very much the warrior on the cover of Middle Cyclone as she sits atop the roof of her 1968 Mercury Cougar brandishing a rapier.

“I don’t like getting my picture taken,” Case told Time Out New York before a spring performance at the Nokia Theater. “I thought if I was an eight year old boy, what would I want to see on the cover of my record? If I was an eight year old boy, I’d want me to have a sword.”

Neko Case performs at 7 tonight for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. The taping is sold out.

summer album of the week 07/18

elvis costello: imperial bedroom (released july 1982)

elvis costello: imperial bedroom (released july 1982)

This might just be Elvis Costello’s finest hour – a lavish, ultra-summery set from 1982 that juggled British pop eccentricity, sweeping American soul and Costello’s still acidic gift for lyrical gab. Imperial Bedroom may have edged Costello closer to the pop mainstream, but songs like Beyond Belief, Shabby Doll and Man Out of Time retained the ragged literary darkness that defined Costello’s music over the preceding five years. The broader pop excursions, however – the Kinks-style Pidgin English, the grand orchestral pop nugget … And in Every Home, the after hours piano lament Almost Blue and one of the most vibrant but overlooked gems in the entire Costello canon, The Small Faces-esque The Loved Ones – illuminate the breadth of an ever expanding pop vision. Elvis lives, indeed.

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emergency power

the felice brothers: greg farley, james felice, ian felice, christmas clapton

the felice brothers: greg farley, james felice, christmas clapton, ian felice

The trouble started right around sundown, just as The Felice Brothers took the stage. That’s when the power went out.

Thus, the coarse, celebratory music of the ensemble – a family band from upstate New York that blends modern and Appalachian accented folk, zydeco, blues, primitive country and more into a Band-like roots music quilt with sometimes punkish leanings – were left without any power. Well, actually the Felices had power to spare. They just had no amplification to shove behind it when facing a hearty Friday evening crowd at the Christ the King Oktoberfest.

But being the industrious natives of the Catskills that they are, the brothers re-defined the term unplugged and played guitars, washboards and drums right in the middle of the crowd in their natural, unamped state.

Sure, if you were more than 10 feet from the players, you couldn’t hear a blessed thing. But if you were in front and at the feet of the Felice Brothers, the sense of immediacy and ingenuity surrounding busted up spirituals like Saved and Reverend Mr. Black was considerable.

The Felices overcame the blackout conditions so readily that one had to believe the band was accustomed to such emergencies. Sure enough, it had dealt with a similar power outage a month earlier at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival.

“I guess all that prepared us pretty well for Lexington,” remarked accordionist James Felice. “We’ve dealt with things like that before. We just sensed that the crowd wanted to hear our music, so we worked things out the only way we could. I mean, it’s the crowd’s show, after all. Not ours.”

The band formed when the three eldest of seven Felice children – (James, percussionist/vocalist Simone and guitarist/vocalist Ian) teamed with two family pals (bassist Christmas Clapton and fiddler Greg Farley) and began playing rural flavored folk, blues and country at family barbeques. From there, they found steady work by busking in subway stations near Brooklyn and Greenwich Village.

“Where we grew up was just this poor community in upstate New York, a place pretty indistinguishable from, say, any sort of small Appalachian town. The countryside was really the same. So was the poverty.

“Musically, our inspirations came more from the radio. There were some great songwriters and great bands that came from the Catskills. But most of the music we listened to growing up came from the South – from Mississippi, Alabama and, of course, Kentucky. We were really into the music that was going on down in your part of the world.

The band began recording and releasing independent recordings in 2006. One of them, 2007’s Adventures of The Felice Brothers, Vol. 1, was recorded live to two tracks in a chicken coup.

A self-titled debut album last year for the Team Love label began to widen the word on the Felices, making the band a staple of jam band clubs and festivals. Such notoriety increased after a brief tour last winter with fellow acoustic roots revisionist troupe Old Crow Medicine Show. In April came a new album called Yonder is the Clock. The title comes from the deadly forewarning of a fortune teller in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger.

“The other records we did were done very much in piecemeal fashion,” Felice said. “We would record a couple of songs whenever we had the time. Here, we knew we actually were going to have the time to make an album, a real collection of songs.

“We also knew we were going to be making a record that people might actually get to hear. On the last few records, we didn’t really didn’t know what the hell was going to happen with them.”

One thing the Felices can count on happening in August is a nine city trek dubbed The Big Surprise Tour (after Yonder is the Clock‘s sleepy, summery leadoff tune). Completing the bill will be Old Crow Medicine Show, The David Rawlings Machine featuring Gillian Welch and Justin Townes Earle. The tour will play Louisville’s Waterfront Park on Aug. 12.

The night before the Louisville show, Simone Felice, who is sitting out the summer with his siblings, will perform at the Southgate House in Newport with his new acoustic Americana project, The Duke and the King.

“We were really excited when the idea first came up for The Big Surprise Tour, even though we didn’t even know if it would be possible to get everybody together,” James Felice said. “It will be an honor to play with these folks.

“Tours like this tell us that we’re reaching more people. We’re definitely doing much better than we were a year or two ago. Of course we always want to be able to play in front of more people and maybe even make a dollar or two along the way because we’re all still so friggin’ broke.

“Still, this is an amazing job to have. I don’t mind being a little bit poor if I can just keep doing this for the rest of my life. But the more people that hear our music, the better.”

FIRE POWER

Sun Publications (IL) June 10, 1998 Jim Pierson is a die-hard charcoal grill fan. He got his charcoal grill as a wedding present 16 years ago. go to website charcoal grill

The grill has seen so much use the lid handle has broken off and he’s resorted to using a pair of vice grip pliers in place of it.

“I just can’t take myself away from the charcoal,” he said.

Pierson, owner of Jen’s Do It Center in Lockport, said people buy charcoal grills because of the flavor and gas grills because of the convenience.

“The reason most people prefer the charcoal is because they prefer the charcoal taste,” he said.

Whether there’s a difference in taste is debatable.

“It doesn’t matter which you cook with,” said Dave Adams, lawn and garden manager for Consumers True Value Hardware Store in Manhattan.

Adams said the flavor is the same, no matter which type of grill is used. But, charcoal lovers are charcoal lovers.

“What you find with charcoal vs. gas is people who started out with charcoal will not convert,” he said.

For him, charcoal is a hassle.

“Charcoal you have to prepare for,” Adams said.

“To me it’s a nuisance.” Gas is more convenient.

“It’s typical of today’s society,” he said.

“They want fire now.” Charcoal grills require about a half-hour to get the heat up to cooking temperature, Adams said.

Gas grills are instant.

But, some charcoal lovers can’t be convinced.

“You won’t convert them,” Adams said.

“They might convert themselves.” Pierson said he will probably buy a gas grill soon because they are much more convenient.

The heat in a gas grill can be regulated similarly to a gas stove, which is another added convenience, according to Steve Schultz, manager of the Plainfield Ace Hardware Store.

“With charcoal it is a lot more difficult to control your temperature,” he said.

Sales have been good at the Plainfield Ace this year.

They’ve sold more grills so far this year than they did all last year, Schultz said.

And they are selling two or three gas grills to every one charcoal grill.

Yet another factor that comes into play is cost.

Charcoal grills cost anywhere from $5 to $200, whereas gas grills start under $200 and can cost as much as $3,500 “for a kitchen on wheels,” Pierson said.

Gas grills tend not to last as long as charcoal grills either because they have many more parts that are liable to break or wear out, he added.

Yet the cost of a bag of charcoal compared to gas is a long-term cost factor to keep in mind, too.

Charcoal costs around $5 to $6 for a 20-pound bag that lasts for five uses or so, Pierson said.

Having a 20-pound propane tank filled costs around $12 and it will last much longer.

Cooking over either type of heat is a healthful way to go, according to Betty Hughes, director of consumer affairs for Weber-Stephen Products.

Her company, located in Palatine, offers both gas and charcoal grills.

“They both cook pretty much the same,” she said, “no matter which one you use.” The health factor in grilling meat, according to Hughes, is that the fat is dripping off the meat and then is burned by the fire.

The burning fat gives the food that smoky flavor and keeps it off the plate, she added.

Another advantage to using charcoal is that woods such as apple, hickory or cherry can be used to smoke meat much more easily in a charcoal grill, Pierson said.

It’s a much messier process in a gas grill, he added. this web site charcoal grill

For folks who are wondering if charcoal might be imparting carcinogens to grilled foods, Hughes has a simple response.

“I think there (are) all kinds of fallacies in this world,” she said, “and that’s probably one of them.” ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS CAN PLAY A ROLE In the gas vs. charcoal grill debate, consideration for the environment can also be a factor.

It’s not the main sources of heat that are of concern, although natural gas does burn cleaner than charcoal, according to Brian Urbaszewski, environmental protection specialist with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

But rather, it is the charcoal lighter fluid that can be a problem.

“Gas grills are better because they don’t use barbecue lighter fluid,” he said.

“Gas grills burn much cleaner, too.” The problem is grills tend to be used more in the hotter months, Urbaszewski said, which is the same time high ozone days can be a problem in the region.

Hot sunny days with little wind allow ozone to be created on the ground level.

Ozone is good when it is 15 miles up in the atmosphere where it belongs, but when it is on ground level it causes smog, he added.

When charcoal lighter fluid is sprayed on charcoal about half of it evaporates, Urbaszewski said.

When this happens volatile organic compounds that contribute to the creation of ozone are released, too.

Urbaszewski suggests using an alternate method to ignite charcoal.

First, hardware stores sell a device similar to a coffee can in shape in which a wadded up piece of newspaper is placed in the bottom and then the charcoal is placed on top of that.

After the paper is ignited it will get the charcoal burning, too.

Another alternative is using an electric wand starter.

These have a handle and a heating element similar to an electric stove coil which is placed on the charcoal and then gets it burning.

Urbaszewski suggests simply, “When you’re barbecuing try not to use lighter fluid.”

paul and dave

paul mccartney after performing on the roof of the ed sullivan theater yesterday in new york for 'the late show with david letterman.' ap photo by charles sykes.

paul mccartney after performing on the marquee of the ed sullivan theater yesterday in new york. ap photo by charles sykes.

At the age of 67, Paul McCartney can still stop traffic in one of the mightiest cities of the world.

Yesterday, the one-time Beatle returned to the venue that essentially introduced him to the United States in February 1964, the Ed Sullivan Theater – home, since 1993, to The Late Show with David Letterman. As a buildup to his concerts this weekend at Citi Field, McCartney was invited by Letterman to perform not on the Sullivan stage, but above it – specifically, on the theater’s marquee, which faces Broadway.

If the televised images were any indication, McCartney was quite the hit on the Great White Way. The fan turnout, though older and more ordered than in the ’60s, was as wondrously massive. Save for a strip of barricaded blacktop in front of the theater, Broadway was flooded with people hoping to catch a free glimpse of a pop music forefather in action.

McCartney played two tunes. One was old and famous, the other new and unknown. The first, a spot-on Get Back, purposely recalled the famous 1969 rooftop concert The Beatles filmed in London for Let It Be. Get Back was one of the five songs The Beatles played in what became their last public performance before dissolving in 1970.

The second song offered yesterday was the U2-esque Sing the Changes – a simple, jubilant, riff-saturated rocker McCartney cut last year with The Firemen.

McCartney also sat for an interview with Letterman prior to the performance. He discussed, among other fleeting topics, the stage fright he battled when faced with the prospect of singing Yesterday on the Sullivan stage at the height of Beatlemania without his bandmates.

As the story goes, the floor manager asked McCartney that night if he was nervous. When the singer said he wasn’t, the manager replied, “You should be. There’s 70 million people watching.”

Letterman, sharp as ever, had the final, self-deprecating word on the tale. “Sadly, you won’t have that problem tonight.”

down for the upload

axl rose

axl rose. photo by kevin mazur/wireimage.

Looks like the one person who did any visible publicity for the Titanic of all rock albums, Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, was rewarded on Monday with a year’s probation for his work.

OK, OK. The guilty party wasn’t an actual music industry publicist, but blogger Kevin Cogill. He leaked nine tracks online from the album ahead of its official release date last November.

Chinese Democracy has since become one of the biggest clams in rock ‘n roll history. It took 14 years, an estimated $13 million and what waning credibility GNR leader Axl Rose still possessed to complete. After entering the charts at No. 3, it fizzled and disappeared altogether in a matter of weeks.

There was little promotional push given to the record, no touring to back it up and no discernable publicity help from Rose. Now, roughly seven months after the album died a quick death, the guy who actually got the word out on the record gets sentenced.

We all know the evils of up/downloading copyrighted material. It’s illegal as can be, even though it’s done on the internet with laughable regularity and seemingly minimal corrective oversight. Among Mr. Cogill’s rites of remorse: making public service announcements on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America. That’s kind of like asking a drunk driver to endorse Jim Beam.

Oh, brother. No wonder the music industry as we know it is at the brink of extinction.

critic’s pick 80

son volt: american central dust

son volt: american central dust

From the moment Jay Farrar stepped back from the wreckage of the genre-defining alt-country troupe Uncle Tupelo to form the more streamlined Son Volt in 1995, a sound was set. If Bill Monroe provided a high lonesome moan to Americana music, Farrar gave it a low lonesome mumble – a voice that encapsulated literary and social references along with stream of consciousness narratives as restless as the electric grinds supplied by his bandmates. Only the abstract interludes of a 2003 solo album, Terroir Blues, seemed to dramatically shift his musical course.

And for the most part, fans and critics seemed to love the whole resolute nature of Son Volt. Then Farrar got a bug, slapped some horns onto a 2007 Son Volt tune called The Picture and everyone acted as though the sky was falling. Jeez, can’t a guy break from the norm without everyone thinking he’s been bought out by Disney?

Obviously not with Farrar. His newest Son Volt work, American Central Dust, is a return to the band’s murky, neo-country roots. A retreat? Perhaps. Here’s the thing though. The music may seem almost shamelessly familiar – from the playfully askew wordplay in Dust of Daylight (“there are ways to buy trouble, but a bail bondsman finds friends in jail”) to the percussive stutter, lap steel atmospherics and layers of twang and tremolo that pepper Farrar’s tale of “cavalier progress” in Down to the Wire. But it’s still a glorious listen. Homemade, earthy, live, unfashionably emotive – American Central Dust is all that and more.

As with Son Volt’s two previous Sony albums (American Central Dust moves the band to Rounder), the new recording is cleaner sonically and more cohesive lyrically than its ‘90s records. That robs the band of a little of its mystery. After all, in his day, Farrar was as champion of an electric mumbler as Michael Stipe was on the IRS albums of R.E.M.

But clarity suits American Central Dust. Farrar frames most of the tunes in acoustics – specifically a mingling of guitar and piano. The heavy electric lifting is left to two new recruits: guitarist Chris Masterson (from country rocker Jack Ingram’s band) and Mark Spencer (one time Blood Orange and a veteran of many Farrar solo projects).

There is also no problem is letting listeners in on the stories, as well. Though still impenetrable at times, there is imagery here that links a troubled past (more specifically, a Southern past) to a present that is unexpectedly hopeful.

Sultana, for instance, outlines an epic maritime disaster from 1865. The story is told in sobering but plain speaking terms, from the boiler explosion aboard the overloaded ship that triggered the catastrophe to the deaths lost to the “cold Mississippi” as a result. Musically, the song is as stark as its storyline with only violin (courtesy of the album’s lone guest, Eleanor Whitmore), piano and an echo of acoustic lap steel guitar on deck.

Equally evocative and as eloquently desperate is Exiles, which outlines escape from a broken world where “hustlers and wolves walk freely through the door.” Spirits are never dashed, though (“the best religion is faith in man”) as the tune’s studied midtempo sway of acoustics and searing pedal steel guitar add to the majesty.

Aside from the folkish elements, there are no massive stylistic leaps here. But the thematic and musical landscapes are nonetheless arresting. Their shapes and souls remain human and exact long after the dust of American Central Dust settles.

music to study shakespeare by

I’ve been on an adventure since Memorial Day. While playing host here at The Musical Box, I’ve been moonlighting in Summerfest’s production of Henry IV, Part I. Normally, I like to keep these avenues of my working life separate and not unduly promote what I do in one field to the other camp. But as I delved into studies for a portrayal of Falstaff, music tagged along. Well, maybe I dragged it in against its will.

Perhaps the most rudimentary preparation for a role is the learning of lines. Serious work on a character can’t begin until lines are down. But that doesn’t always make learning them any easier, especially in my somewhat advancing years. So when time permitted for me to actually work on lines at home, I usually found quiet instrumental progressive music to be of help. I’m not talking new age wallpaper filler here, but seriously composed or improvised, ambient-inclined instrumental music. Some might view such a commodity as background music. But for me, it was a companion this summer – an integral ally in the formative stages of creating a character.

So I thought I would share with you the short list of music that accompanied my Shakespeare studies this summer. Sure, they helped bring Falstaff to life. But they also remained captivating listens all on their own – much like a fine soundtrack album does when listened to completely free of the movie it was designed for.

These, then, were the albums that became my good friends this summer:

robert fripp: at the end of time

robert fripp: at the end of time

Robert Fripp: At the End of Time – Churchscapes Live in England and Estonia 2006. Fripp has been the guitarist/guiding force of King Crimson for 40 years. But At the End of Time captures a guitar voice he dubs “soundscapes” (re-dubbed “churchscapes” here after the environments the recordings were created in). The result is a wash of keyboard like chimes and orchestration with a remarkably emotive and reflective ebb and flow. 

andy summers:mysterious barricades

andy summers: mysterious barricades

Andy Summers: Mysterious Barricades – Intrigued after covering a Louisville stop of the 2007 reunion tour by The Police, I dug up a handful of out-of-print solo recordings by the band’s guitarist, Andy Summers. Some sport light Brazilian acoustics, other are more ornately rockish. By my favorite is this 1988 guitar/keyboards collaboration with composer/producer/engineer David Hentschel that is as serene as it is summery.

phillip glass: the "heroes" symphony

phillip glass: the "heroes" symphony

Philip Glass: The “Heroes” Symphony – A re-discovery from 1996, Heroes re-arranges and orchestrates six songs written during David Bowie’s late ‘70s Berlin residency with Brian Eno. Some tunes possess a distant Eastern accent (Abdulmajid), others have a muted British majesty that differs greatly from Bowie’s blueprints (Sons of the Silent Age). A lovely, tense and dramatic listen as well as one of Glass’ most accessible works.

harold budd/clive wright: candylion

harold budd/clive wright: candylion

Harold Budd and Clive Wright: Candylion – Long known as a creative co-hort of Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins, keyboardist Budd was on the brink of retirement when he began collaborations with guitarist Wright. Released in April, Candylion is their second joint album. While sonically more engaging than its title suggests, the liberal use of space, echo and tasteful strings make Candylion a wondrous, atmospheric delight.

anthony phillips: field day

anthony phillips: field day

Anthony Phillips: Field Day – This two-disc 2005 set by founding Genesis guitarist Phillips (he left the band long before stardom hit) has such a distinctly warm and wintry feel that I usually save it for Christmastime. Trouble is, I haven’t stopped listening to it since last December. As such, its blend of classical folk and progressive accents performed on acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and charanga is now a year round fave.

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