Archive for December, 2010

dr. billy taylor, 1921-2010

dr. billy taylor

dr. billy taylor

We wind down the last hours of 2010 with a remembrance of one of jazz music’s greatest friends.

For the better part of his career, Dr. Billy Taylor, who died Tuesday of heart failure at age 89, vigorously promoted jazz through the media, through educational programs and, of course, through performance. He was also a lecturer, journalist and disc jockey – occupations he used to further enlighten the world around him to the music he was so  devoted to.

Though possessed with piano style built upon scholarly tradition (a January 2000 performance at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, with a trio that sported a very young Winard Harper on drums, featured elegant readings of Body and Soul, Confirmation and a sublime half-hour medley of Duke Ellington compositions), Taylor made some of his greatest artistic achievements offstage.

Few artists prior to the reign of Wynton Marsalis were so consistently active and visible in educating audiences on jazz history through the media. Taylor hosted numerous programs on jazz for National Public Radio and was a frequent contributor to the CBS news/variety show Sunday Morning. He was an avid educator, as well, who taught jazz classes in several universities. But perhaps his most vital educational project was Jazzmobile, which presented free jazz performances by major artists in housing projects and less affluent areas of New York City.

Sometimes it was easy to lose track of Taylor’s own distinctive jazz voice in the midst of his tireless championing of the music itself. His compositions were much like his personality: soft-spoken but demonstrative, yet heavily traditional, especially when it came to reflecting the inspirations that developed into jazz. A highlight of the Frankfort concert, and many of the other frequent performances Taylor gave in the region during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, was the gospel-inspired civil rights movement anthem I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free. The tune has been rightly cited by many critics cite as a benchmark work for the pianist.

“In many places outside the United States, in many countries that are vastly poorer, we don’t see the prejudices, the mind set that says, ‘The arts are not important,'” Taylor told me in an interview prior to the Frankfort performance. “What jazz does, as people outside this country have discovered, is that it helps even more than other types of music to develop individuality.”

still scorching

jason and the scorchers: pontus snibb, jason ringenberg, warner e. hodges and al collins.

today's jason and the scorchers: pontus snibb, jason ringenberg, warner e. hodges and al collins. photo by tony mottram.

There is a blast of white hot cowpunk fire at the onset of Halycon Times, the first album of new music by Jason and the Scorchers in 12 years, that does more than merely announce the re-arrival of the veteran Nashville band.

Against an almost atomic country groove – one that reflects less the generic genre hybrid known as “country rock” in favor of high-octane hoedown music as played by, say, The Ramones – frontman/founder Jason Ringenberg spins the yarn of a rural misfit that plays right to the renegade spirit that has modestly served as the Scorchers’ musical base for nearly 30 years.

Specifically, the album-opening Moonshine Guy outlines a protagonist who is a “three legged mule in a one horse town” living “a life that plays like a country song that you never heard on the radio.”

scorcher-in-chief jason ringenberg. photo by tony mottram.

still scorcher-in-chief jason ringenberg. photo by tony mottram.

“We were at our publisher’s office in Nashville, looking out over Music Row,” said Ringenberg about how the tune came together. “All these people were driving by in their expensive cars and designer suits. I kept thinking about how Nashville was built on blue collar country music but has changed so dramatically into something quite different.

“So we crafted this character called the Moonshine Guy who is so unrepentant and hates the country music that gets played on the radio but, of course, loves real country music.”

Like so much of the music Jason and the Scorchers have created over the years, the song possesses the kind of narrative country soul, freewheeling attitude and homemade hillbilly lyricism Nashville all but abandoned years ago.

Of course, the songs of Jason and the Scorchers have always been served with a rockier fortitude than traditional or contemporary country. The storylines may reflect Ernest Tubb. But the twang is heartily turbo-charged. Hey, the music is not termed cowpunk for nothing.

“Sure, I wished we had more commercial success than we did,” said Scorchers guitarist and co-founder Warner E. Hodges. “But I dig the fact that we’re now some 29 years deep as a band and can still be viewed as valid. People still hear the records, still find the songs to be influential and, basically, still understand where we’re coming from.”

New Year’s band: Jason and the Scorchers’ return to Lexington as headliners for New Year’s Eve activities at Buster’s is more than an end-of-the-year party for the band. It’s also an anniversary. The first performance to feature the longrunning Scorchers lineup of Ringenberg, Hodges, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Perry Baggs was New Year’s Eve 1981.

“We played in Murfreesboro, Tenn. at this little club called K.O. Jams,” recalled Hodges. “It was actually pretty cool. Nobody knew the band, obviously. But Jeff, Perry and I had played around the area in various punk bands. Jason had done two gigs previously. At the first, he opened for this little Georgia band called R.E.M. At the other, he opened for this rock ‘n’ roll legend people know as Carl Perkins.

“So it was a fun night. It was a little bit crazy, but any Scorchers show that’s worth a damn always is.”

For many, the calling card of Jason and the Scorchers came in 1984 at the beginning stages of a national country roots and rock movement with the second edition of an EP disc called Fervor. It boasted five Ringenberg originals along with a raucous country outburst (I Can’t Help Myself) by the late Louisville songsmith Tim Krekel. But the leadoff tune told the whole story of the Scorchers – a punk-charged, honky tonk infused revision of Bob Dylan’s Absolutely Sweet Marie.

“These days, to hear that our music is an inspiration for younger bands is always an honor,” Ringenberg said. “It makes me think back to the days when I got to meet some of my heroes, like Bob Dylan. Those were big, big moments for me. To think that might be happening now in the other direction for newer bands is quite an honor.”

The Scorchers’ version of Absolutely Sweet Marie also began something of a tradition for the band of opening its albums with collar-grabbing tunes that immediately unleash the full, playful ferocity of its rocking country sound. The tradition carried through tunes like Golden Ball and Chain (the gospel-tinged self-help send up that opened 1986’s Still Standing album) and the spry-spirited Cry By Night Operator and Self-Sabotage (which opened the ‘90s comeback records A Blazing Grace and Clear Impetuous Morning, respectively) right up through Moonshine Guy.

guitarist/co-founder warner e. hodges. photo by brydgett carrillo.

guitarist/co-founder warner e. hodges. photo by brydgett carrillo.

“That’s kind of a reflection of how we open our live shows: hard and fast,” Hodges said. “Jason has always been big on just slapping folks in the face right out of the box when we hit the stage.”

The New Scorchers: Jason and the Scorchers, as many fans came to know them, fell apart as the ‘80s concluded but were back in action by the mid ‘90s with its lineup intact. But prior to the release of the fine 1998 live album Midnight Roads and Stages Seen, the wheels came off seemingly for good. Johnson departed, reportedly on good terms, in 1996. Mounting health problems for Baggs stemming from diabetes forced him to leave in 2002. By that point, the Scorchers were essentially dormant.

“It was pretty difficult after Jeff left, but we sort of gamely went on,” Ringenberg said. “But when Perry left, it was impossible. We did a few shows, but there was no band to speak of. Replacing Perry was really hard.”

“It wasn’t just that Perry was a great drummer,” Hodges said. “He was also a strong background vocalist who contributed a few songs to the records.”

So pulling together for Halycon Times meant recruiting a new rhythm section – bassist Al Collins and Swedish drummer Pontus Snibb – as well as a host of longtime friends like former Georgia Satellites chieftain Dan Baird (Hodges plays in Baird’s newest band, Homemade Sin, in addition to Scorchers duties), veteran songsmith Tommy Womack and the frontman of the British band Wildhearts known simply as Ginger. Even Baggs returned to the fold long enough to add harmony vocals to 5 of the album’s 14 songs.

Together they constructed a vital cowpunk drive that is faithful to Scorchers tradition. But it remains the still-combustible chemistry between Ringenberg and Hodges that fuels Halycon Times as well as new readings of decades-old Scorchers rockers.

“Warner is in a place that I don’t think anybody has ever been in terms of his guitar work,” Ringenberg said. “It’s a very strange place where country roots music meets hillbilly music, punk rock and classic rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t think anybody will ever master that sound as well as Warner has.”

“I’ve watched Jason beat it, beat it and beat it for 29 years,” Hodges said. “He practically kills himself trying to put on a good show for the people. He gives 150 % every night he’s out there. Dan Baird is one of those guys. Iggy Pop is one of those guys. And you better believe Jason is, too.”

Jason and the Scorchers, 500 Miles to Memphis and Fifth on the Floor perform at 9 p.m. Dec. 31 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $15 advance, $17 day-of-show. Call: (859) 368-8871.

sir paul and mr. merle go to washington

the 2011 kennedy center honors recipients. from left: merle haggard,

the 2011 kennedy center honors recipients. from left: merle haggard, jerry herman, bill t. jones, oprah winfrey and paul mccartney. photograph by jacquelyn martin/ap.

Just a reminder that tonight marks the broadcast of the 33rd annual Kennedy Center Honors. Though traditionally held in Washington on the first Sunday of December (in this year’s case, Dec. 5), the ceremony marking the country’s highest honor for artistic achievement has long been one of the few television highlights aired during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Tonight’s honorees include a pair of favorites here at The Musical Box: Paul McCartney and Merle Haggard. Oprah Winfrey, Broadway composer/lyricist Jerry Herman and dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones round out the recipients. But McCartney and Haggard will be the ones we have our eyes and ears on.

McCartney has been especially visible over the last year through a series of international stadium concerts and a whirlwind set of New York appearances throughout the fall that culminated with his first ever date at the famed Apollo Theatre and a return appearance on Saturday Night Live.

The Kennedy Center award comes on the heels of two releases that should insure continued fascination with McCartney’s music during the years to come – the debut issue of the Beatles catalog through iTunes and the fall re-release on CD of what remains his finest post-Beatles work, 1973’s Band on the Run.

Over the weekend, I listened to the landmark 1965 Beatles album Rubber Soul back-to-back with Band on the Run. While there is no denying that McCartney’s music was never stronger than when challenged and supported by John Lennon’s equally towering pop sensibilities, both recordings possess a melodic depth rich with lyrical grace, emotional accessibility and compositional simplicity.

Similarly, I also listened to Haggard’s 1968 album Mama Tried alongside 2010’s I Am What I Am over Christmas weekend. While there is a considerable stylistic contrast between the two, the experience was akin to listening to one of Johnny Cash’s vintage Columbia albums from the ‘60s together with an entry from his outstanding Rick Rubin-produced recordings that served as epic coda to a career that, at its conclusion, was ignored completely by country radio.

In other words, the earlier work defines a powerfully original voice while the latter offers a sage-like update that upholds country’s blue collar conviction with poetic ease. In either instance, Haggard is a stylistic innovator and straight-shooting storyteller whose music is, thankfully, light years removed from the pandering, half-baked pop that passes for country music today.

The Kennedy Center Honors airs tonight at 9 on CBS.

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christmas break

the scariest marley of them all: frnak finlay in the 1984 TV adaptation of "A Christsmas Carol" starrig George C. Scott.

the scariest marley of them all: frank finlay in the 1984 tv adaptation of "a christmas carol" starring george c. scott.

The mistletoe is hung, the tree is trimmed and the holiday parades, pageants and parties are all complete. Nothing to do now but wait for tonight’s predicted snowfall (on Christmas Eve night, no less… how cool is that?), the midnight visitation by Marley’s Ghost (can’t he just knock like everyone else?) and the celebration and seasonal exhale known as Christmas Day.

We’re closing up shop here at The Musical Box for a few days (or, as Alistair Sims’ Scrooge said in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, we are “retiring to bedlam”). But we will be back next week to preview the annual broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors and the upcoming New Year’s Eve bash with Jason and the Scorchers at Buster’s.

Until then, have a magnificent holiday. Be well. Be safe. Be back soon.

Vonage releases calling app for iPhone, BlackBerry

AP Online October 5, 2009 | PETER SVENSSON Vonage Holdings Corp., a pioneer in Internet-based home phone service, is launching applications for the iPhone and BlackBerry that undercut the international calling rates of major wireless carriers.

The free programs let users place calls that are routed over Vonage’s network, at least for the international leg.

The calls are placed as local wireless calls, using up minutes on the cell phone plan, although the iPhone will use Wi-Fi instead if that’s available. (That works as well on the iPhone’s sibling, the iPod Touch, which goes online only with Wi-Fi.) Vonage then carries the calls to their overseas destination.

The fact that the Vonage app for the iPhone can use the cellular voice channel is unusual. Several other voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP, apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch can already place calls over Wi-Fi. But Google Inc.’s Voice application, which is designed to use the cellular network, has not been approved. site google voice app

Google says its Voice program was rejected by Apple for duplicating the built-in functions of the phone, and the Web search company implies that Apple is protecting the revenue stream of iPhone carriers like AT&T Inc. by not approving the application. Like Vonage’s application, Google Voice provides low international calling rates.

Apple says the Google Voice app hasn’t been rejected, but is still being reviewed for inclusion in the App Store. The Federal Communications Commission is probing the disagreement.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the company considers Vonage’s application to be in the same category as other VoIP apps that have already been approved for the iPhone. She would not elaborate on whether Apple considers there to be significant differences between Vonage’s program and Google Voice.

As an example of its prices, Vonage will carry a call to Colombia for 5 cents per minute. AT&T charges $2.19 per minute, or 17 cents per minute if the caller has signed up for a $3.99-per-month international calling plan.

Vonage is the largest of the independent companies that supply their subscribers with adapters that let them plug their home phones into their broadband connections. The new applications for mobile phones have no direct tie to that business _ subscribers to Vonage’s home phones will pay the same rates as other users of the apps. go to site google voice app

A few years ago, Vonage added hundreds of thousands of customers per quarter, thanks in part to its offer of unlimited domestic calling for a flat monthly rate. But growth tapered off as Vonage battled patent lawsuits, while cable and phone companies countered with their own unlimited-calling plans. Subscriber numbers are now slowly shrinking, to about 2.5 million at the end of June. That makes it the eighth-largest landline phone company in the U.S.

Vonage’s stock was in danger of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange for being less than $1, but the shares shot up in late August after the company announced that it would bundle free calls to 60 countries in its new basic home plan. On Monday morning, the shares rose 17 cents, or 13 percent, to $1.49.

(This version corrects that BlackBerry version does not use Wi-Fi.) PETER SVENSSON

the subtle sounds of a vintage christmas

the original grinch, circa 1965, "stuffing the tree up."

you're a mean one: the original grinch, circa 1966

By the conventional means with which we normally view live music as it occurs on Friday and Saturday nights, we have now upon us what can rightly viewed as a slow weekend.

The clubs will be closed. The arenas will be empty. The theatres will be dark. Nearly all manner of entertainment life as we know it will be stilled for a few days. Looking for cool live music tonight or tomorrow? Go to church.

So what The Musical Box has come up with as Christmas knocks on our door this weekend is something different – a sampler of soundtracks, if you will, that embrace the holiday’s unavoidable sense of tradition. This is music designed over the decades not as something that sits in the spotlight, but rather in the distance (or, in some cases, in the shadows) as accompaniment for some of the greatest Yuletide stories ever told in film or on television.

Sadly, not all of these tales make the TV rounds at holiday time. Some, thankfully, do. And with shopping season nearly over, your best bet to sneak a peak at their narrative and musical magic over the holiday weekend is to search them out on the internet. Discovering even one of them is like getting a Christmas card from another time. Their looks and, of course, sounds may seem distant and foreign. But their sentiments remain wondrously timeless.

Happy hunting and Merry Christmas.

patrick macnee and diana rigg having a dickens of a christmas in "one too many christmas trees"

patrick macnee and diana rigg having a dickens of a christmas in "one too many christmas trees" (1965)

+ Too Many Christmas Trees (1965) – A holiday episode from Diana Rigg’s first year on The Avengers. The plot deals with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Mrs. Peel (the drop dead gorgeous Rigg) getting invited to a Christmas getaway at the estate of Brandon Story, an eccentric publisher that has his guests dress up at a Christmas Eve ball as characters out of Charles Dickens stories. There is a cockamamie sub-plot about criminal psychics. But the Yuletide charm of Steed as Sydney Carton and Mrs. Peel as Oliver Twist is a delight. The score, all hushed tones of winds and strings, is ultra discreet. But Macnee and Rigg take the musical reins by singing ancient folk songs to combat the evil psychics. Best viewed after the kids turn in. Seriously. A bonus: Story is played by Mervyn Johns, who portrayed Bob Cratchit in the 1951 film of A Christmas Carol. Speaking of which…

the greatest screen scrooge of all: alastair sim in "a christmas carol" (1951)

the greatest screen scrooge of them all: alastair sim in "a christmas carol" (1951)

+ A Christmas Carol (1951) – As overly familiar as it might seem to be, Dickens’ epic holiday ghost story remains a vital tale of reclamation and continues to define the human side of the holiday season. Many expert tellings of the tale exist and many a fine actor (Albert Finney, George C. Scott, Mr. Magoo) have portrayed the unrelenting miser Ebenezer Scrooge. But this exquisite black and white version with the great British actor Alistair Sim tops them all. Again, the orchestral score is powerfully subtle. It chirps merrily along when the story takes us through the streets of Camden Town. But the way the strings slice through the starkly lit, spider-webbed corners of Scrooge’s shabby digs as Marley’s Ghost appears is downright creepy. Put this one on tonight just before midnight for maximum spookiness.

charlie brown eyes his tree in "a charlie brown christmas" (1965)

charlie brown meets his favorite holiday tree in "a charlie brown christmas" (1965)

+ A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Admittedly, this is an obvious choice. But so what? You need a score card to count the ways A Charlie Brown Christmas remains relevant today. It’s a tale told completely through the innocence of children but addresses ever-so-gingerly such grown-up themes as holiday commercialism and seasonal discontent while cutting to the chase to explain, as Linus puts it, “what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” But the music simply beams. It is as childlike as the storyline with a piano trio swing score that reinvented the career of pianist Vince Guaraldi. The music glides like a ballet one minute and bounces with irrepressible bop joy the next. A rightly recognized classic all the way around. Put this one on as you wrap last minute presents this afternoon.

art carney does santa claus in "the night of the meel" (1960)

art carney stars as a "loaded" santa claus in "the night of the meek" (1960)

+ The Night of the Meek (1960) – If the ScyFy network had any nerve they would show this outstanding holiday episode of The Twilight Zone around the clock on Christmas just as WTBS traditionally runs A Christmas Story. The Night of the Meek represented series creator Rod Serling at his Dickensian best. There are no monsters on airplane wings, no paranoid suburban freak shows here – just a drunkard dime store Santa Claus played by Honeymooner Art Carney who gets fired from his job on Christmas Eve. Seeing nothing but misery and poverty in the streets he has been cast out to, Carney makes a profound and selfless Christmas wish that, of course, comes true. The music? Well, let’s put it this way. You will never hear The First Noel quite the same way again after seeing this. Ideal for Christmas Eve evening viewing. (The Night of the Meek is viewable at

+ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Another no-brainer of a pick. Forget the windbag Hollywood version starring Jim Carrey. The magic of the holiday beast known as the Grinch is the creation of the ultimate odd couple: Dr. Seuss and Boris Karloff. Together they give life to the land of Whoville, where Christmas is welcomed with smiles, songs and Rube Goldberg-like toys that create the “noise, noise, noise” that sends the green-hued Grinch into conniption fits. The great Karloff, in one of his final projects, served as the voice of the Grinch as well as the story’s narrator. The resulting warmth he provides is intoxicating. The Seuss music is as classic as the storyline, from the chorus of Welcome Christmas sung in the Whoville town square to the booming baritone voiced Thurl Ravenscroft belting out You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (“You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich… with arsenic sauce”). Perfect for Christmas Eve afternoon viewing with the family or on Christmas morning, providing you can detour the kids from the tree. Otherwise, check it out on ABC Family at 7 or 9:30 p.m. Christmas evening,


States News Service March 1, 2011 WASHINGTON, DC — The following information was released by TechAmerica:

Dear Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of TechAmerica, the largest voice for the U.S. technology industry representing over 1,200 companies, I’m writing to underscore the adverse impact that a government shutdown would have on hundreds of technology companies which currently contract with the U.S. Government and the over 7.6 million federal government contractor employees in the private sector. here government shutdown military pay

While we applaud Congress for apparently reaching a recent continuing resolution agreement which will avert a government shutdown and keep the government running another two weeks, we strongly urge you to pass a broader measure to fund the government through fiscal year 2011. The on-again, off-again nature of the current budget debate in conjunction with the on-going, looming possibility of a government shutdown has brought business between contractors and the federal government to a virtual stand still. This climate of uncertainty has resulted in an adverse ripple effect causing the private sector and government agencies to halt or freeze advances in government services largely due to the current unresolved long-term budget situation.

Federal contractors and their employees depend on government operations in order to sustain both their business, as well as their finances. Government agencies often utilize contractors in order to provide talent it cannot recruit, specialized services that it cannot produce, competition it cannot generate among its own organizations, and equipment that it cannot and should not build itself. Federal government contractors often perform vital work such as researching new vaccines, running federal computer systems and making body armor, weapons and meals for the military. The reliability of a stable customer found in the federal government as the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world is often an economic driver for business productivity and continued job creation especially during difficult economic times.

As Congress continues to debate a long-term budget resolution, we’re hopeful that you will keep in mind the severe impact that a shutdown would have on the thousands of companies and their millions of employees as well as the goods and services provided by them daily to federal agencies. Specifically, thousands of businesses would be left to wonder how awarded contracts will move forward. Many federal contractors fulfilling current opportunities have already allocated dollars towards those projects and are bidding on new ones, with the assumption that those investments would be recouped when the contract payments are made. But the uncertainty of how to juggle those resources, in the meantime, creates cash flow problems for all businesses contracting with the federal government. in our site government shutdown military pay

In addition, many small businesses will not be able to survive a combination of the inability to work during a protracted shutdown, coupled with not receiving prompt payment for services rendered that were already performed directly for the government. We believe the uncertainty could force federal contractors to lay-off employees and cut back on salaries and benefits in order to remain fiscally solvent. The amount of revenue lost in the case of a shutdown can be difficult, if not impossible, to make up during the rest of a company’s fiscal year and can ultimately lead to the elimination of jobs across the country.

TechAmerica strongly urges you to consider the adverse economic implications that a federal government shutdown would have on federal contractors and their employees. We recommend that Congress and the Administration work together to expedite passage of a long-term FY 2011 spending bill in order to avoid uncertainty in the marketplace that we believe could undermine our fragile economic recovery and halt needed government services for the American public. We also write President Obama today with a similar request urging the White House to work with Congress on finding a long-term budget solution.

Thank you for your consideration of TechAmerica’s views on this important matter.

Sincerely, Phillip J. Bond Preisdent and CEO

critic's pick 155

in the wake of poseidon

in the wake of poseidon

Reissues of the second and fourth albums by the longstanding progressive ensemble King Crimson might seem unlikely companions as Christmas weekend ensues. But then again, the wintry feel of 1970’s In the Wake of Poseidon and 1971’s Islands remains profound. Now with the brilliant clarity of new stereo and 5.1 mixes, along with a smattering of previously unreleased relics from the original recording sessions, both albums reawaken as potent timepieces from prog rock’s dark past. Why not then spending a few winter evenings discovering (or rediscovering) their riches?

In the Wake of Poseidon was released following the original Crimson lineup’s fragmentation and eventual dissolve. Greg Lake hung around for a few tracks before leaving to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. So did the sibling rhythm section of Michael and Peter Giles As such, there are deep echoes of the band’s mighty debut album, 1969’s In the Court of the Crimson King, especially in the flood of mellotron and the distant choir-like chorus that fuels Poseidon‘s title tune.

But new voices are enlisted to crack Crimson open. The extraordinary jazz journeyman Keith Tippett dresses the playful and lyrically impenetrable Cat Food with piano animation that dances a fractured jazz ballet around Robert Fripp’s guitar leads. Saxophonist Mel Collins is the ace in the hole, though, amid the new Crimson ranks. He ignites the brutish bounce of Pictures of a City and cools Poseidon‘s waters with lovely flute colors during two versions of Cadence and Cascade that showcase the album’s spacious new mix by Fripp and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson.



Islands was viewed by some Crimson fans and critics as the black sheep of the band’s early albums. A record with a glorious split personality, it shifted between meaty quartet rock ‘n roll (Ladies of the Road) and expansive, moodier and even chamber style adventures. The new mix (again piloted by Wilson) enhances and, in many instances, vindicates both extremes.

The track that leaps out of the new edition is the wildly propulsive instrumental A Sailor’s Tale. The late Ian Wallace kick starts the tune as if it were a jazz reverie before unison lines by Fripp and Collins set it ablaze. The guitar and sax lines then split and begin feeding off each other. For seven minutes, right up until a booming blast of mellotron caps everything off, the tune’s invention and drama never abates.

Islands‘ title tune summons the album’s other persona with elegiac strings, reeds and a ghostly cornet solo from Mark Charig that brings the record’s original six songs to a close. Luckily, this edition sports an alternate version of the entire album through a series of bonus tracks. What better place to spend the holidays, then, than in these newly charted Islands.

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r.e.m. for free

R.E.M. is offering a nice little holiday freebie this season.

Specifically, Discoverer, the leadoff tune to its forthcoming Collapse Into Now album is being made available as a free download on the band’s website,

Collapse Into Now , R.E.M.’s 15th studio album, won’t be released until March 8, so this is quite a tasty little preview. Clocking in at just over 3 ½ minutes, Discoverer is a feisty, blurry, live-sounding slice of electric psychedelia, though a step back from the brutish immediacy of 2008’s Accelerate.

The website has lots of other info on Collapse Into Now, as well, but no word on when or if a tour is slated to follow the album’s spring release.

Home-repair scams // Con man reveals how pros operate

Chicago Sun-Times April 26, 1987 | Larry Weintraub A con man who spent more than half his life cheating people on home repairs has revealed in detail the secret techniques ripoff artists use to fleece unwary homeowners of millions of dollars.

Springtime in the metropolitan area always brings a bumper crop of “down men,” “setup men,” “junkmen,” and “closers” – fast-talking pros set to empty the pockets of innocent householders, said Jeffrey Serafin, who perfected his sales skills across the nation and has practiced them for the past year in Chicago’s western suburbs.

After a troubled Serafin made the decision to leave the rackets, he told his story to the Chicago Sun-Times and lawmen, naming crooked contracting firms and individuals, many with mob connections.

He was shot and wounded for blowing the whistle on his former associates. Authorities say they are taking his account of the crimes seriously and are working to build cases based on the information.

The leading figures in Serafin’s narrative concentrate on heating scams in April and May, then switch in June to air-conditioning. But he noted that similar con games are played by unscrupulous peddlers of siding, waterproofing, plumbing, roofing, sewer and other repairs and remodeling.

They refer contemptuously to their victims as “mopes,” “mooches,” “fish,” “suckers” and “paychecks,” and despite Illinois’ Home Repair Fraud Act of 1986, which stiffened penalties, con men continue to rake in huge, illicit profits at a record pace, said Serafin.

Statistics compiled by the Illinois attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau show homeowner fraud was higher last year than in 1985 in virtually every category.

Principal home-repair scams that Serafin cited include: Conning new homeowners – misrepresenting themselves to new homeowners as the regular heating contractor for the old owner as a means to get in the door to work their scams. Setting time bombs – fiddling with controls on heating systems during hot weather – or air-conditioning in winter – so the equipment won’t do its job months later. Juicing a boiler – squirting liquid inside equipment to fake leaks. Spiking a boiler – ruining perfectly good equipment. Tops and bottoms – selling complete chimney liners but installing only the end pieces that are visible.

The man who left the ranks of con men to cleanse his life has been warned by his old collegues that he will not live to testify against them.

In order to regain custody of his three children and fulfill promises he made to a priest and the “respectable woman” he loves, Serafin, who claims to be one of the top five hustlers, or closers, in the Midwest, told federal and county authorities he is willing to provide the evidence they need.

On April 18 – after he began telling authorities the names of his former colleagues in home-repair con games – Serafin was shot by an unknown assailant. The bullet tore through his right thigh. He is now under police protection at an undisclosed location.

Rather than allow his former collegues to practice their shady skills in this busy season for home repairs while investigators run down his leads, Serafin, 29, decided to unveil the “theatrical productions” crafted to harvest home improvement dollars.

Historically, elderly people and women alone have been most easily duped. But the mind games are so sophisticated that Serafin himself has conned “lawyers, doctors, engineers, even an architect.” “I’ve been told `no’ five times and still walked out with a signed contract,” he boasted. go to website hp warranty check

Con men have a name for the cloud of verbiage they use. They call it “the gas.” Here are Serafin’s accounts of some typical “gas” attacks: THE NEW OWNER “Sharpie contractors subscribe to real estate trade magazines which report sales of older homes. They list addresses and names of the old and new owners.

“We’ll go to a house. `Hi, is so-and-so (the former owner) in? It’s the heating men.’ The pigeon figures you’re the regulars.

“`She doesn’t live here any more,’ he’ll say. `We bought the place a couple of months back.’ “`I wondered why we couldn’t reach her,’ you’ll tell him. `We came out to see why she hadn’t called for the warranty check on the burner. We put it in. If you’re the new owner, you get the same deal. Open the back door and we’ll show you what to turn on, blah, blah . . .’ or off, or whatever.

” You’re dressed as a serviceman or your partner, the `down man’ or `setup man,’ is. You keep spouting gas as you head for the basement.

” `You’ve got a 25-year-old boiler. It must need cleaning. You haven’t had it cleaned or anything, have you?’ See, you’re pumping him for information.

” `Oh, no, nothing,’ he says. `We just moved in.’ “He’s glad to see you. They don’t know squat about the heating system. So far, everything he’s discovered about the house is gonna cost him. It’s about time he found a bonus. Now you know it’s all right to write a cleaning.

” `We’ll get you cleaned up for $28.50,’ you tell him. `We’ll clean it and go over it with a fine tooth comb, make sure everything is alright. This used to be oil heat, but we converted to gas, put this burner in. That’s what’s warranteed. No way this obsolete boiler is gonna be warranteed.’ “You’ve planted a seed now. He’s not going to be surprised when he needs work, but you’re not going to push him just yet.

” `Give me $14 down and the balance when we’re through,’ you tell him. You go from there next time. You’ve made expenses, even if nothing more happens.

“If you get in the house and find a more modern unit, have a look with the flashlight and shoot for a repair. We call it a wipeoff.

” `Your burners are warping,’ you tell him. `We’ll rebore them, clean them out, blah, blah, small crack, blah, adjust your blah, blah.’ ” SETTING A TIME BOMB “Now you send him upstairs to turn the thermostat up, down, whatever. You’ve gotta get rid of him long enough to screw around with the system.

“You could just set the controls way down and put your sticker up. When the heating season comes in the fall, all he’ll see is that it doesn’t work. It comes on but something isn’t right. Then he sees the sticker and calls.

“You send the down man. Before he goes, he checks the office records to see when you were last there, what you told the guy that time and what you did before leaving. Those books are very important. Sometimes operators steal each other’s records and go to war over it. Those are your sucker lists.

” `What’s the problem?’ the down man asks when he’s there. He’s feeling them out. A good setup man can tell in five minutes what you’ll spend. He might `juice’ your furnace so we can sell you a new boiler you don’t need.” JUICING “A setup man sometimes uses a plastic bottle called a `juicer’ to squirt liquid deep in your boiler while you are upstairs diddling the thermostat or wherever he sent you. Usually, he squirts baby oil so it doesn’t evaporate. He wants it to still be there when the closer – waiting about 10 minutes away – arrives. He tells the customer:

” `I can see it’s been leaking, but I don’t know if I can seal it.’ Your guy shows it to the fish. `To be honest, I don’t run into this very often. Let me call the service manager. Maybe we can seal it. That would save you a lot of money.’ He’s planting seeds again, the expectation of expense.

“`If it were a pump or gas valve I could fix it right up for you. But my service manager is the expert on that. He’s the only one who can OK a seal.’ “When I get down to the basement, I’m cranky. `Why are you bothering me?’ I complain. `I’ve got four more calls to make this afternoon, blah, blah.’ ” `You know I can’t do a seal on my own,’ my guy says. `Look what happens when the heat goes on.’ Then he sends the fish up to the thermostat and fills me in on how the scam is going.

“The fish returns and I pull my head out of the boiler. I’m still sore at my down man. `How long have you been with this company? Can’t you tell when a boiler can’t be sealed? There’s no way to seal this.’ ” `What about the warranty?’ the down man wants to know. The pigeon is right with him.

” `Well, I can give you an allowance.’ I’m working the guy now. `It’ll help quite a bit. Really, with an allowance it isn’t going to be that bad.’ ” `What would a new one cost?’ the mooch wants to know. I’ve been waiting for him to ask. Now I send the down man to fetch catalogues from the car and copy the old boiler’s serial number. It’s all a lot of crap. I say while we’re waiting, `Let’s go upstairs. We can have some coffee and see what’s what.’ “The real reason we went upstairs was to get the wife involved. You’ve got to sell them both.

“Let her husband explain. He saw the drops. Let him be the smart one and sell her for you.

“I make a call to the office. `Warranty number blah, blah. Yeah, put me in the computer.’ If they’re resisting, I might give ’em: go to web site hp warranty check

” `I want your business now and 25 years from now. I gotta take care of you. You want some alley mechanic coming in here, some fly-by-night messing you over? You got a leaky boiler. It could blow. Don’t you read the papers? People get hurt, killed.

“Listen, I’ll give you $500 for the old pump and burner. We’ll buy back the burner.’ All the time, I’m showing him my books. `Normally the boiler would be $3,200,’ I say. I can always come down.

” `Subtract the $500, it’s $2,700, with a year’s free service, copper boiler, blah, blah, save you half of what you spend on gas, pay for itself, blah, blah, blah.’ I’ve got a line for every objection. There’s no way they’re getting off the hook. SPIKING A BOILER “Once they sign, the real bum’s rush begins. Never tell them they have three days to change their mind. `You’ll have heat tonight. We’ll get the old boiler out and the new one in,’ I say. We call another member of the team, `the junkman.’ All he does is remove boilers. He’ll have it out in 30 minutes.

“There goes any evidence of what you might have done to the old one. If you think the mooch might be coming out of the gas, give your setup man the high sign. He’ll spike the boiler, put a hole in it.

“Installers come out that night. Otherwise the sucker might shop around the next day for a deal. If he starts worrying about the price, get on the phone and give ’em more gas. You’re now hustling your boss on their behalf.

” `I know how low I can go. I gave them everything I can. What can you do? They’re really nice people.’ Cover the mouthpiece and ask, `Are you senior citizens? No?’ Give them a big wink and say to the phone, `Yeah, they’re senior citizens. Give them the 10 percent.’ “Now you’ve knocked a couple of hundred dollars off, but for over $2,000 you sold them something they didn’t need that cost the company about $400.” TOPS AND BOTTOMS “This month and next, they’re working those files, looking for easy fish. We call them laydowns. The sharpies are pushing chimney liners. You phone to say a man is coming out to put the warranty sticker on the boiler or whatever. `How’s it running?’ They don’t know. That’s promising. `I’ll check it myself.’ “At the house, you’re puzzled. `Hmmm. It shouldn’t be doing that. Look, Missuz, you spent $3,500 for a boiler and you’re burning it up. It’s warping, blah, blah. If you don’t have the proper draft, you lose the warranty.’ “Send her to diddle the thermostat and toss the handful of broken bricks you carry in the cleanout door. When she gets back, check the door and show her what you `found.’ “You sell her a liner, `all surgical stainless steel, a year’s free service and 25-year warranty. No charge for resealing the furnace.’ The whole package for maybe $2,000.

“What she gets is a draincap on top and a bottom – just what shows. And the shaft.” Larry Weintraub

captain beefheart, 1941-2010

captain beefheart (don van vliet) circa 1982

captain beefheart (don van vliet) circa 1982

Stumble upon some vintage interview footage of Don Van Vliet (there is a ton of it on youtube) and one might suspect the gnomish, wide eyed visage glancing from underneath a broad brimmed hat housed a presence that didn’t seem quite of our time. You would be correct in that assumption, too.

For decades, the man known to audiences of outer fringe rock ‘n’ roll as Captain Beefheart oversaw a brand of electric music full of keen, askew grooves that offered often incantatory express routes to the avant garde.

He was jazz. He was punk. He was the blues. He was musical abstraction and animation in the extreme. He was, in truth, an original. Van Vliet died Friday at the age of 69, after having been retired from performance work for over a quarter century. Active as an expressionist painter in later years, he intermittingly lived as a recluse in the Mojave Desert. For much of the past two decades, he also battled multiple sclerosis.

Van Vliet’s music was defined by 1969’s Trout Mask Replica album – a modernist quilt of criss-crossing rock and jazz textures that remains challenging listening even today, even when viewed more completely with period Beefheart albums like Safe as Milk (1967), Mirror Man (1971) and Clear Spot (1972) as well as with collaborations with longtime ally Frank Zappa (which came to a head on the latter’s immortal Hot Rats).

Van Vliet was often viewed as one of the post-psychedelic age’s great eccentrics. Perhaps he was. But a later wave of albums that surfaced at the height of the post-punk movement with a new version of his long running Magic Band reaffirmed his greatness.

Recordings like Shiny Beast (1978), Doc at the Radar Station (1980, a career triumph outdone only by Trout Mask Replica) and his career finale Ice Cream for Crow (1982) scaled back the sound but intensified the brutal, free jazz outbursts of his music.

“I don’t do music,” a confident Beefheart told an Amsterdam audience in 1980 on the heels of Radar Station‘s release. “I do spells.”

Indeed he did. How assuring it is to know that with the Captain now dutifully discharged, those spells continue to linger.

First nominees announced

The Pantagraph Bloomington, IL November 1, 2004 | PANTAGRAPH STAFF BLOOMINGTON — The annual Student of the Year college scholarship competition has nominated six students in its first week.

The program, sponsored by The Pantagraph, includes 36 Central Illinois high schools. Each school will nominate candidates whose profiles will appear in The Pantagraph every Monday through the end of January. The students are eligible to compete for one of two $5,000 Student of the Year awards. here pulaski high school

The students for this week are Ashley Grimes and Benjamin Fraley, both of Ridgeview High School; Kaelyn Riley of Lexington High School; Kristi McKinley of Flanagan High School; and Molly Gleason and Jeremy Ott, both of Mount Pulaski High School.

Selections are based upon several criteria, including scholastic achievement, involvement in school activities, leadership and responsibility, ambition and community involvement. Financial need is not a consideration.

The number of Students of the Week will vary based on the school’s enrollment. Schools with 500 or more students will nominate three seniors. Those with 200 to 499 students will nominate two seniors. Schools with fewer than 200 students will nominate one senior.

In February, a panel will screen the weekly nominees, based on student applications and grade transcripts, and choose 10 students from schools with enrollments of more than 500, and 10 students from schools with enrollments of fewer than 500.

These 20 students will be the finalists and will be asked to complete essay questions, submit college test scores and conduct an interview in March with a panel of judges. The judges will name two $5,000 Student of the Year winners — one from the larger schools and one from the smaller schools.

This week’s nominee profiles include:

* Grimes, daughter of Daniel and Karen Grimes of Colfax, attends Ridgeview High School, where she is a member of National Honor Society; Spanish Club; class officer, president; SADD; CAPTAINS; and co-chairman of homecoming week activities. She is also active in band and volleyball.

She volunteers at church activities and has worked as a baby- sitter/tutor.

* Fraley, son of Jim and Margie Fraley and Chuck and Jody Robbins, of rural Cooksville, attends Ridgeview High School, where he is a member of National Honor Society; National Art Honor Society; Presidential Scholar; student council; CAPTAINS; class officer; Spanish club; and art club. He is also active in the fall play, spring musical, marching band, jazz band and concert band. pulaski high school

He volunteers for various community service projects and is employed at the high school during the summer as a summer custodian.

* Riley, daughter of Jim and Kim Riley of Lexington, attends Lexington High School, where she is a member of National Honor Society; Key Club; math team; scholastic team; WYSE; yearbook staff; student council; and varsity softball team.

She volunteers for various community projects and has been employed part-time at Pacific Sunwear of California.

* McKinley, daughter of Frank and Lori McKinley of Flanagan, attends Flanagan High School, where she is a member of Ray LaHood Leadership Convention; National Honor Society; student council; class officer, president, four years; band; marching band; pep band; chorus; yearbook staff; track; basketball team; cheer-leading; and volleyball team.

She is involved in various community service activities and has worked for Roeschley Hybrids for a few years de-tasseling and has baby-sat during the summer.

* Gleason, daughter of Robert and Nina Gleason of Elkhart, attends Mount Pulaski High School, where she is a member of National Honor Society; WYSE Academic Challenge Team; student council; Jets Design (science club); drama club; 4-H; prom committee; basketball team; and softball team.

She is involved in various community service activities and was employed to aid a veterinarian.

* Ott, son of Raudal Ott and Diana Ott of Elkhart, attends Mount Pulaski High School, where he is a member of National Honor Society; WYSE Academic Challenge Team; student achievement workshop; Scholastic Bowl; Science Olympiad; yearbook; prom committee; student council; concert band; marching band; and football team.

He is involved in various community service activities and was employed in the summers of 2003 and 2004 by Wibben’s Detassling.


at last, the fifth

Even with the most literal of intentions, there has never been anything final about The Last Waltz.

The event was staged on Thanksgiving night of 1976 at the famed (and now, long defunct) San Francisco rock emporium known as Winterland. There, the five groundbreaking musicians known simply as The Band – one-time backup players for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan as well as creators of such masterful Americana songs as The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek  – assembled for a final performance after a 16 year touring career.

The concert boasted a gallery of rock celebrities, including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and others. Martin Scorsese filmed the whole event while a subsequent multi-disc live album chronicled all of the music.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end of The Band. After regrouping in the ‘80s without guitarist/composer Robbie Robertson, it lost keyboardist Richard Manual (he hung himself in a Florida hotel room after a 1986 show) and eventually recorded three albums of varying quality before bassist Rick Danko died in 1999.

A few years back, local pop pro Ray live agaiSmith of the Lexington band Tula decided it would be a cool idea to stage a regional recreation of The Last Waltz as close to Thanksgiving weekend as possible by employing a legion of artists from here at home as the special guests. The result was a coming together of the Central Kentucky music scene that proved wildly popular. Initial performances at the original West Main locations of The Dame were sellouts.

And so Smith staged it again. And again. Now, the event still titled The Last Waltz is entering its 5th year. While the 2010 edition of The Last Waltz comes at the tail end of the Christmas season, its musical makeup will remain the same. Tula will serve as the house band, the guests will sing a song or two each and by the end of the evening, roughly the same setlist performed decades ago at Winterland – The Band’s hits as well as the cover tunes – will live again.

This year’s Last Waltz guest list will include Coralee, Otto Helmuth, Willie Eames, Karly Dawn Higgins, Brett Ratliff, Lee Owen, Brandon Bowlds, Robby Cosenza and more.

Cosenza takes special honors in local Last Waltz history for taking on what has long been considered the program’s least loved song, Neil Diamond’s Dry Your Eyes. Diamond was invited to the Winterland Last Waltz because Robertson produced the singer’s then-newest album. Cosenza’s rendition has been eerily and almost comically faithful to the Diamond original.

Otherwise, the main thing to keep in mind is the Lexington Last Waltz concerts, which have become part of local music tradition, almost always sellout. The more expansive confines of Buster’s ensure room for a bigger turnout. Still, expect little by way of waltzing room on Saturday when Tula again strikes up The Band.

The Last Waltz will be performed at 9 toight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Admission is $10. Call (859) 368-8871.

heading to the hall

dr. john

The 2011 induction class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was announced yesterday, boasted a few welcome surprises and at least one serious head scratcher.

Among those entering the Hall on March 14 during ceremonies at New York’s Waldorf Astoria will be Dr. John (cool), Tom Waits (double cool), Alice Cooper (OK, I guess… certainly his early ‘70s albums were groundbreaking), Darlene Love (a powerhouse pop voice for over 40 years), Neil Diamond (what the…) and Leon Russell (though only for the “sideman” honor known as the Award for Musical Excellence).

In interviews published yesterday at, Dr. John and Waits expressed surprise and gratitude for the induction.

tom waits

tom waits

Waits said the honor made him think of his late mother.

“I wish she was alive to hear the news. She didn’t respond to rock and roll per se, but she would have loved to have a reason to get all dolled up… And the idea of having a Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria, would for her have been the cat’s pajamas. Actually, my mom made a pretty mean Waldorf herself.”

Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, said the Hall induction, while immensely gratifying, won’t push him any closer to retirement.

“I think it’s only proper that I play until the last note of a set, then fall over and die. The band won’t have to play an encore and they’ll still get paid for a gig.”


The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) August 22, 1998 | Oliver Staley Staff writer A 25,000-square-foot Barnes and Noble is coming to the NorthTown Mall in time for Christmas 1999.

Or maybe it isn’t.

Depending on whom you ask, Barnes and Noble has or has not signed a letter of intent for its second Spokane store.

“We have a signed letter of intent,” said Laurent Poole of the Sabey Corp., which sold the mall two weeks ago but is still handling leasing duties for the mall’s expansion. website barnes and noble coupon code

“No letter of intent has been signed as of yet,” said David Kuryk, Barnes and Noble’s director of editorial services.

What gives?

The only concrete evidence that Barnes and Noble is headed to NorthTown is a logo painted on the side of the building.

Poole said the logo is on the wall only because Barnes and Noble asked for it.

“On our letter of intent, it said we had to put up a sign,” Poole said.

However, Kuryk said Sabey may have been overly enthusiastic about the prospects of Barnes and Noble signing and jumped the gun.

“Developers love to say they’re talking with us,” he said. “It drums up trade for their property.” But it’s more than just talk, Poole said.

“We’re all moving forward,” he said. “We’re all spending a lot of time and a lot of money moving on that.” Kuryk did confirm that Barnes and Noble – which in November opens its first store in the region near the Spokane Valley Mall – is in discussions with NorthTown.

“We’re working with them,” he said. “It’s almost a done deal.” David Sabey sold the NorthTown Mall Aug. 6 to Salt Lake City-based JP Realty, but the construction arm of his company is still under contract to build a $54 million expansion, in which the Barnes and Noble would be located.

In addition, the Seattle-based Sabey Corp. also is the leasing agent for the expansion, which includes 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, Poole said. web site barnes and noble coupon code

“We were doing it for so long, it wasn’t efficient for JP (Realty) to jump in and start again,” he said.

In addition to the proposed Barnes and Noble, the Sabey Corp. is talking to an undisclosed apparel retailer to lease 21,000 square feet in the expansion.

Other confirmed tenants include a 13-screen Act III movie theater and a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant.

While a department store has been discussed as a future additional anchor tenant at the mall, that leasing would be handled by JP Realty, Poole said.

Barnes and Noble has been rumored to be looking both downtown and in North Spokane, for another Spokane location to complement its Valley store, but the logo at NorthTown is the first indication that the company has picked a location.

Poole said Barnes and Noble’s reluctance to say they have committed to the space is not worrisome.

“Nothing is a done deal until it’s done, but it’s nothing we view as problematic,” he said.

Oliver Staley Staff writer

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