Monthly Archives: May 2010

It’s Serge!

Scouring for platters in the land o’ the frogs. Guarantee: no fromage.

By Blurt Staff

When BLURT blogger Carl Hanni decided to take a well-needed vacation recently, he didn’t just gas up and grab one of those AAA trip planners – he booked a flight to France.

And then he sat on his hands, thanks to that little business of a volcano in Iceland spewing crap into the atmosphere and bringing air traffic in Europe to a standstill.

Luckily, he was able to resume his plans not long after, and with renewed vigor, he hit the Continent, seeking fine wine and even finer vinyl. Did we mention Hanni, who pens our “Sonic Reducer” column, is a DJ and a crate digger? Explains Hanni in his latest blog, “France is not a cheap place to record shop in, new or used,
but nonetheless I managed to come away with a short stack of treasures, 7 and
12 inch both. Here are some of the highlights, all of them French, all on
vinyl….”

And highlights they are, in particular a nice stack of Serge Gainsbourg recs. Read about that and some of Hanni’s other scores at his new “Sonic Reducer.”

 

 

SONIC REDUCER / CARL HANNI

 

By Carl Hanni

 

Digging (in) France

 

So, I found myself scouting
records in Nantes, France. Nantes
is a beautiful, old-new city that also happens to be home to a band (French
Cowboy), a DJ (French Tourist) and a label (Havalina Records) that have
numerous connections to my home, Tucson,
AZ. The genesis of that
connection is a pretty interesting story, but not really relevant to today’s
topic of record digging in France…

 

France is not a cheap place to record shop in, new or used,
but nonetheless I managed to come away with a short stack of treasures, 7 and
12 inch both. Here are some of the highlights, all of them French, all on
vinyl.

 

Serge Gainsbourg, Aux
Armes et Caetera
. When urged to buy national hero Serge Gainsbourg’s
reggae album my first reaction was skepticism, but Aux Armes et Caetera is absurdly good. Recorded in Jamaica
(thank god) in 1979 with Sly & Robbie, the I-Threes and other roots reggae
aces, Aux Armes… is smooth, sexy and completely believable, which is
more than I can say for most any other white-guy-in-Jamaica record I can think
of. The French’ unceasing attachment to Serge Gainsbourg makes me strangely
happy.

 

Serge Gainsbourg,  Anna soundtrack. Starring Anna Karina and Jean-Claude Brialy;
Gainsbourg wrote the music and is also one of the stars, along with Marianne
Faithful. This is a fabulous collection of cinematic French pop, circa swinging
1967. Buy it if you can find it.

 

Ben & The Platano Group,
Paris Soul
. Bought on the insistence of French Tourist, Paris Soul turns out to be a DJ’s dream find. First released in 1972, Ben & The
Plantano Group mix up French funk, Latin Jazz and more, sometimes sounding like
French version of vintage, Hammond
organ driven El Chicano. Understandably highly sought after by collectors and
DJs, I found a fine re-release from the original label,  Barclay Records.

 

Starshooter: the first
release (1978) from this French punk rock band tears it up and down. Working
out of Lyon, they managed a huge European hit
in 1978 with “Get Baque” before running into some legal trouble with it.
Previously unknown to me, now I’m all over it.

 

Francoise Hardy: the
fifth record, from 1965, by the popular French chanteuse with the dreamy voice
and sexy bangs. Includes a cover of “When I Get Through with You”  (“Quel
Mal Y A-T-Il A Ca”) first recorded by Patsy Cline in 1962 and the hit
“L’Amitie.”

 

Manset: Another
one courtesy of French Tourist, who gifted it my way. I’m still getting a grip
on this one from 1972. Intense singer/songwriter/rock/pop. He swears it’s a
masterpiece. I’m feeling the language barrier on this one. 

 

Francois Rabbath,  The
Sound of a Bass
. The most unexpected and off the wall of all my finds.
Wildly inventive double-bass and drums jazz excursions from a Syrian-born,
Paris-bassed (sorry!) player, originally released in 1963. With just his own
bass and drummer Armand Molinetti, Rabbath concocts a head-altering series of
compositions/themes, with descriptions that include “Ironical jazz in the vein
of present day life” (“Creasy Course”), “Magic transposition of the ambiguity
of every day life” (“Kobolds”) and my favorite, “Malicious dissonances over
five octaves” (“Basses en Fugue”). The latter has to be heard to be believed;
that’s a bass making all those eerie, other-worldy sounds, apparently. 

 

Whizz Vol. 2, Psychodrama
Francias 1966-70
. Note: that’s Psychodrama, not Psychedelic. Not
knowing what they are singing about, I’m left to infer/make up what these
fifteen tracks of demented, whacked French psychodrama might be all about. 
Rock, psych, pop, cinematic bits and the pleasingly unclassifiable all stand
and deliver…something. The music is fabulous; the prevailing feeling is one
of giddy hysteria. Gifted by Benjamin in Paris. 

 

I also scored choice ones by Bohannon, Santa Esmeralda and David Murray and a fabulous
compilation of psychedelic funk from around the world called Psych Funk
101
. On seven inch, I picked up some choice jazz singles by Art
Blakey
(“Moanin’ pts. 1 and 2”) and Jimmy Smith (“When the Saints
Go Marching in” b/w “Prayer Meetin'”), hip hop by Phase II, Technotronic,
Tidee-T
(“Sequential Groove”) and Joe Bataan (“Rap-O Clap-O”), Timmy
Thomas
‘ classic “Why Can’t We Live Together” (w/the great “Funky Me” on the
flip) + the 80s dance classic “Bustin’ Out” by Material w/Nona Hendryx and two vintage Manu Dibango singles, “Soul Makossa” and “Super Kumba.”
A real find was a three song single by the recently deceased Lizzy Mercer
Descloux
, including “Fog Horn Blues” w/Chet Baker on horn. Score!

 

Thanks for scouting help to
Laurent Marescal, Julia Butault, French Tourist, Anthony at Melomane Records
and that guy in the market in Nantes
who cut me a deal on all the vinyl and singles. Also thanks for all the CDs
that came my way, especially the Serge Gainsbourg 3-fer from Laurent.

 

***

You can leave comments below or e-mail them to me directly at modmedia@theriver.com .

 

Carl Hanni is a music writer, music publicist, disc jockey, book hound
and vinyl archivist living in Tucson, AZ. He hosts an occasional concert and
film series at The Screen
ing Room in downtown Tucson, “The B-Side”
program on KXCI (Tuesday nights midnight – 2 a.m.) and spins records wherever
and whenever he can. He currently writes for Blurt, Tucson Weekly, and
(occasionally) Goldmine and Signal To Noise.

 

 

 

It's Serge!

Scouring for platters in the land o’ the frogs. Guarantee: no fromage.

By Blurt Staff

When BLURT blogger Carl Hanni decided to take a well-needed vacation recently, he didn’t just gas up and grab one of those AAA trip planners – he booked a flight to France.

And then he sat on his hands, thanks to that little business of a volcano in Iceland spewing crap into the atmosphere and bringing air traffic in Europe to a standstill.

Luckily, he was able to resume his plans not long after, and with renewed vigor, he hit the Continent, seeking fine wine and even finer vinyl. Did we mention Hanni, who pens our “Sonic Reducer” column, is a DJ and a crate digger? Explains Hanni in his latest blog, “France is not a cheap place to record shop in, new or used,
but nonetheless I managed to come away with a short stack of treasures, 7 and
12 inch both. Here are some of the highlights, all of them French, all on
vinyl….”

And highlights they are, in particular a nice stack of Serge Gainsbourg recs. Read about that and some of Hanni’s other scores at his new “Sonic Reducer.”

 

 

Dio Funeral Joyful Despite Protests

Rightwing “godhatesfags.com”
church just ain’t no good at stoppin’ the rockin’…

 

By Fred Mills

 

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that the
funeral service held yesterday in Los Angeles at
Forest Lawn
Memorial Park came off unscathed
despite the presence of “a few members” of the notorious Westboro Baptist
Church who demonstrated
outside the Park’s gates.

 

WBC, of course, is led by homophobic fundamentalist preacher
Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, and the home of the ever-delightful
GodHatesFags.com anti-gay website. The church had indicated they intended to
disrupt the service
because Dio pioneered the so-called “devil horn” sign and
encouraged music fans to worship the devil and hate god. On their website they
had posted a message that encouraged members to show up at the funeral in L.A. “to remind you who
worship that old serpent, Satan, that your time is very short… We’ll be there!
Just because the chances of any of God’s elect being amongst this group of
heavy metal sycophants is slim to none does not mean they should not get some
good words.”

 

Speaking of good words, Phelps & Co. handily forgot to
mention that Dio and his wife had been very socially active over the years,
most notably with Children of the Night, which is a teenage prostitution
rehabilitation organization.

 

At any rate, “heavy metal sycophants” clearly outnumbered
the Bible-thumpers, and as more than 1,200 fans inside the Park’s Hall of
Liberty and hundreds more gathered outside, artists such as Scott Warren of
Heaven and Hell, John Payne of Asia, Joey Belladonna of Anthras, Glenn Hughes
of Deep Purple, Geoff Tate of Queensryche and Paul Shortino of Quiet Riot
performed in tribute to the late Dio.

 

The rocker passed away May 16, at age 67, from stomach
cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap Trick Takes Sgt. Pepper To Vegas

 

Quite possibly the
best reason to take a trip to Las Vegas since
the legendary “cheap cocaine in the Nevada
desert” incident of several years ago…

 

By Blurt Staff

 

It was forty-three
years ago today, when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…
Okay, so
technically it will be 43 years this coming Wednesday – on June 2, 1967, the
Beatles’ epochal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely
Hearts Club Band
was released and nothing was ever the same in the rock
world.

 

Meanwhile, it was exactly a year and one day ago when we
reported the news about Cheap Trick planning to release a live recording of
them performing Sgt. Pepper’s in its
entirety- although that news turned out to be premature, and it took them
several months to get around to issuing the CD and DVD. When it did come out,
however, reviewers were quick to praise the music as well as original Beatles
engineer Geoff Emerick’s work on the sound and the New York Philharmonic’s
orchestral contributions. It also included an Abbey Road medley encoure of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.”

 

Now
comes word that Cheap Trick will be doing a limited engagement in Las Vegas at the Paris
Las Vegas Theatre from June 11 through July 31, 20 shows in all, in which they
do the Sgt. Pepper’s album. Emerick
will once again supervise the audio production, while Emmy-award winning
production designer René Lagler designed the sixties-evocative sets that
include a 60′-wide by 12′-high elevated orchestra stage and three turn-table
entranceways. The band, accompanied by an orchestra, will also be doing
“select” originals that “lend themselves” to orchestral arrangements.

 

“We
have created an energetic and spectacular interpretation of an album that was
absolutely groundbreaking when it was released 43 years ago,” said producer
Bill Edwards, in a statement.  “These
songs are known and loved by millions of people and Cheap Trick has captured
the essence of ‘Sgt Pepper’ in their unique style and recreated one of the most
beloved and timeless musical works of modern times.”

 

Added
Emerick, “The album
will come to life in its entirety as never before presented in “Sgt Pepper
Live” at Paris Las Vegas. I’m happy to be a part of this event and to revisit
this celebrated music once again.”

 

More
details, naturally, can be found at the band’s website.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Michael Graham / via CheapTrick.com]

 

 

 

 

 

John Wesley Harding Online-Only CD

 

First volume of solo
acoustic demos of tunes culled from his back catalog. Second volume due later
this year.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

The ever-prolific John Wesley Harding has a new goodie that
you can only get at his JohnWesleyHarding.com website. Titled John Wesley Harding Sings to a Small Guitar
Vol. 1
, it contains 14 previously unreleased tracks, all originals, that
cover 15 years’ worth of his career. It’s just him and his acoustic guitar (“with
occasional harmonica blast,” we are told), on demos of tunes that found their
way onto such albums as Awake, The Name
Above the Title
and the recent Who
Was Changed & Who Was Dead.

 

Folks who order the CD (which includes a poster that has a
complete song-by-song list of every demo session JWH ever committed to tape)
will get a download code shortly after placing the order so they can start
listening right away. According to JWH, “There are no other ways to buy the
record, and no other formats in which to buy it, though a digital only version
of the album will later be available through iTunes.”

 

Meanwhile, you can hear a couple of samples now if you need
convincing:

 

Go to www.johnwesleyharding.com to hear “The Dark Waltz”, or go to www.myspace.com/wesleystace for “Funny Old New World.”

 

Full tracklisting is below, followed by an explanatory note
that JWH helpful provided us. He indicates that a Vol. 2 is in the works for
later this year.

 

Track Listing:

 

1. History In The Remaking (from JWH’s New Deal demo)

2. Funny Old New World (from Confessions of St. Ace demo)

3. The Dark Waltz (from JWH’s New Deal demo)

4. Be With Him (from Adam’s Apple demo)

5. Circles (from Why We Fight demo)

6. The True Story of Buddy The Kid (from Awake demo)

7. Good For the Ratings (from The Name Above The Title demo)

8. The Splendid Life (from Who Was Changed & Who Was Dead
demo)

9. I See You (from Why We Fight demo)

10 Its Never Too Late (from JWH’s New Deal demo)

11. The Undercard (from Awake demo)

12. Dear Lawyer (from Who Was Changed & Who Was Dead
demo)

13. Rock’n’Roll Code (from Adam’s Apple demo) 

14. Write What You Know (from Confessions of St. Ace demo)

 

 

Throughout my career,
I’ve chosen, for whatever reason, to make my demos in epic sessions often
lasting three or four hours, thirty or so songs at a time. Each one of these
demos, though it is only me and an acoustic guitar, gets a name that ends up as
the first working title of the forthcoming album: from Love Songs In The Face
of Social Adversity (1988) to Dilettante’s Inferno (2006.) It’s the unedited,
alternative history of my albums, and, since I’ve never owned any equipment
that could remotely be described as a “home studio”, it always takes
place in someone else’s studio.

 

“JWH Sings To A
Small Guitar” Vols I and II contain the best of these otherwise unreleased
songs from the many sessions – none have been released, most have never even
been played live. Often these songs were forgotten because I had written too
many by the time I next made a record; sometimes because they didn’t suit the
style of the album I wanted to make. Some get passed from one demo tape to the
next, changing titles on the way. Some, including many you know, never got
recorded as demos at all because they popped up at the wrong time. 

 

You’ll find a
 complete sessionography of these tapes on a poster. You’ll notice that
some of the tapes are in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order: I recorded
them this way to stop me putting all my favourites at the top. Equal
opportunities for all songs! Also, it’s interesting to realize things I
couldn’t have told you (and to wonder why those things were): like the fact
that 50/50 Split could easily have been on “Here Comes The Groom”, or
that When You Smile could have been on “JWH’s New Deal”, let alone
“Awake” and “Confessions”, before it was finally rewritten
to become the closing track on “Adam’s Apple”, or that Byron Road was
finally renamed Narrow Road after five years and three recordings. Why?

 

I am making my next
demo of new songs next month, recording my next record of band new songs in
November, and releasing Vol II of “JWH Sings To A Small Guitar”
before the year is out.

 

In the
meanwhile… 

best wishes from

JWH

 

 

 

 

PLAY FOR TODAY: VIDEO GAMES / AARON BURGESS

 

Column #5: Skate 3, Lost Planet 2, Alan
Wake

 

By Aaron Burgess

 

Game
of the Minute:
Skate 3

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Developer: Black Box / Publisher: Electronic Arts

ESRB
Rating:
T

 

 

 

Skate
and destroy.
Having long ago trounced Tony Hawk’s franchise,
EA/Black Box’s Skate now occupies a
proud, if lonely, spot at the top of the skateboarding-videogame heap. And
while the upcoming Shaun White Skateboarding looks
as though it may be a formidable challenger, Skate remains untouchable-and well worth getting your hands on-in
its third installment.

 

As we saw with Skate 2, Skate 3 doesn’t so much redefine its
predecessor as it masterfully dials up the game’s core elements-although this
time out, the changes carry more weight. (Skate
2
, for all its high points, felt more like an expansion pack.) Gameplay and
game physics offer unparalleled fluidity and realism; the new fictional setting
of Port Carverton offers thousands of new spots and hidden areas to rule; and
the online element offers a brain-bending number of challenges, contests and
spot battles to pursue with friends. Even the process of getting your head
around the game has received more attention this time-whether in the addition
of actor Jason Lee (himself an old pro skater) as the comical
new character “Coach Frank,” or in the new difficulty settings, which help to ease
the learning curve for new players as much as they let veterans exploit Skate‘s penchant for realism.

 

Instead of tossing your skater into a typical career
mode, Skate 3 puts you in charge of an
entire skateboard company-which, in keeping with the game’s focus on
customization, you can tweak to be as realistic or off-the-wall as you like. (Having
always taken more of a fantasy-football nerd approach to Skate, I based my team on the 1988-1989 Powell Peralta rosters.
Don’t ask…) Along the way, you’ll have the chance to boost your company’s brand-and
board sales-by winning contests, nailing challenges and recruiting the best shredders
(AI and otherwise) to rip alongside you. You can even poach skaters from your
own Skate friends list and sign them
to your team-provided your friend
already has a skater customized, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to customizing your player and
teammates, you can also build, save and share your own skateparks throughout Skate 3. The sheer number of tools and
objects available in the new park creator can be intimidating, especially to
those of us with fleeting attention spans, but as with real-life skateboarding,
sometimes you only find the perfect line after you’ve remade your surroundings
to match your imagination. What’s more, you can share your park with the Skate online community and rack up
royalties based on how many other players download your content. (The same
applies to the videos and images you capture during the game, too.)

 

While it’s true that skateboarding is a solitary
activity, Skate 3 approaches co-op
play with enough anarchistic spirit to keep it from falling into “team sport”
territory. Nearly every single-player challenge in the game is available to
tackle with teams, but if you’ve ever skated with friends in real life, you may
soon find yourself bypassing the game’s stock challenges to create your own.
Move objects to help each other find the perfect line. Share trick tips in real
time as your buddy aims to conquer that killer gap or ledge. Or, simply follow
your friends around Skate 3‘s
seemingly endless environment. With no security to stop you (another welcome
change from previous games), Skate 3 is yours to conquer.

 

Rating: 9

 

 

 

Lost Planet 2

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Developer
/ Publisher:
Capcom

ESRB
Rating:
T

 

 

 

We can’t fight alone against the monster. There’s a story somewhere within the alternately fiery and icy worlds of Lost Planet 2, but it’s likely the first
thing you’ll disregard once you dive into the game. The sequel to 2007’s
well-received Lost Planet: Extreme Condition,
Lost Planet 2 turns elements like
storytelling and characters (here a nameless, faceless crew of mech-suited
monster hunters) into mere vehicles for its pulse-quickening action and breathtaking
visuals. All of which is to say, it doesn’t fix what the first game already got
praised for breaking over its knee.

 

Set 10 years in the future from its predecessor, Lost Planet 2 finds you on the same
“lost planet” of E.D.N. III where the original game unleashed hell-only this
time, much of the snowy environment has melted away to reveal jungles,
underwater bases and a host of other locales (including, yes, some snowy
climes). Oh, and let’s not forget the Akrid: In Lost Planet 2, the monstrous insect species that terrorized the
first game has grown to positively epic proportions in the new, warmer climate-and
that’s not even taking into account the boss levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While it’s possible to move through Lost Planet 2 in solo mode, the
borderline brain-dead AI that comprises your team provides a sound argument for
recruiting real teammates to help you fight. With up to three real friends by your
side, you can better coordinate attacks against the Akrid-although, thanks to a
somewhat counter-intuitive control system, you may all have a learning curve to
overcome before you can start clobbering objectives. Some battles will find you
and teammates needing to operate multiple weapons or pieces of gear in sequence
to take down a monster; in others, you’ll need the intuitive diversions only a
sentient player can provide if you’re going to buy enough time to rejuvenate
yourself after an attack. No matter what, you’re not going to get the support
you need from a bot.

 

In addition to bringing back the man-hunting
Fugitive Mode from the first Lost Planet,
the competitive multiplayer modes in Lost
Planet 2
do a solid job of covering the bases: You get a pair of
elimination modes, as well as some monster-ridden variations on conquest and
capture the flag, the majority of which incorporate a robust variety of maps
and host-customization capabilities. And, thanks to some fun reward features,
including a rich ranking system in which your weapons grow in direct proportion
to your monster-hunting mojo, the multiplayer challenges offer plenty of
bragging rights. Just be sure you’ve got some pals to play with-because no
matter how you decide to enter it, Lost
Planet 2
is only as rewarding as the number of friends you have to get, er,
lost with.

 

Rating: 7

 

 

 

Alan Wake

Platform: Xbox 360

Developer: Remedy Entertainment / Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

ESRB
Rating:
T

 

 

 

Welcome
to my nightmare.
Alan Wake, the titular hero of Alan Wake, isn’t a hero at all-unless
you’re the type of player who sees Stephen King on par with Master Chief. A
popular crime novelist by trade, Wake is an unwitting protagonist who, jarred
from his vacation by a series of unfortunate events, finds himself at the
center of a story that’s equal parts Twin Peaks and Max Payne. (Incidentally,
Max Payne series developer Remedy Entertainment
is the creepy, creative brain behind Alan
Wake
.)

 

Plagued by writer’s block, Alan Wake journeys
with his wife, Alice, to the Twin Peaks-reminiscent
Pacific Northwest town of Bright
Falls, where Wake hopes he’ll be able to recapture some of his creative energy.
After one night in the town, however, Wake’s world turns on its ear, with his
wife, his cabin and his entire sense of reality becoming captives of the town’s
shadowy atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

Gameplay and story are intertwined in Alan Wake, and even though the game’s
control scheme incorporates elements (onscreen prompts that correspond to
specific character actions) that fans of Heavy
Rain
will find familiar, this is anything but a me-too version of that
nail-biter. Classic gaming tropes-from object collection to boss battles-pop up
throughout Alan Wake, providing just
enough of a respite from the weirdness to keep you grounded. Meanwhile, though
the game technically plays like a third-person shooter (at least in its more
action-oriented sequences), much of the focus is on the “fourth person” of
Wake’s flashlight beam, which simultaneously provides you with a lifeline while
intensifying the game’s terror and ambiguity. What you can’t see, after all, is
always scarier than what’s right there in front of you.

 

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that
light-whether your flashlight or the random sources of illumination available
in your environment-is key to surviving the darkness that is Alan Wake. And while it sometimes relies
a bit too much on gaming conventions, the story goes far enough off the rails
that by the time you complete it, you’ll find yourself not just wondering how
things ended up this way, but also how long it’ll be until the Alan Wake sequel arrives.

 

Rating: 8

 

 

LETTERS FROM THE ROAD: Leo Blais

You guessed it, another edition of LETTERS FROM THE ROAD, our guest post series where we invite musicians we are FREAKING nuts about to take over and write whatever they like. 2 rules: it has to be in the form of a letter, it has to have something to do with music. Introducing my new sonic crush, Leo Blais, Buy everything he’s ever made… seriously. FYI, we featured him on THE DAILY DOSE not too long ago đŸ™‚

Dear vocal cords,

I wanted to write you and say how disappointed I am with you and how you let me down during my performance of ‘O Holy Night’ during the Christmas Mass when I was 12. I practiced my ass off the whole month leading up to it and you failed me! Not to mention, you teased me with your beautiful sounds of song and then, unlike most kids on Christmas, you took back your gift and left me with no vocal cords at all.

I was alone. I was confused. Shaken. We tried everything to coax you back. I even made your favorite, but even tea and lemon juice couldn’t stop this train wreck of a rendition. My little brother had the 1st verse and nailed it like a champ. You, on the other hand, hit the high register like Don Flamenco taunting Little Mac in Mike Tyson’s punch out. Lets just say, you were not up to snuff []

 

A Triple-A radio programming veteran, Kate has served as Music Director of the Loft at XM, Midday Host at WYEP, Evening Host at both WNCS and WUIN, as well as Content Supervisor for Pump Audio. Currently, she’s the CEO of Outlandos Music, a new-music discovery service for grown-ups. Kate has been nationally recognized for her ardent presentation of music and her ability to champion talented, compelling artists.

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010 R.I.P.

 

Simply put, the man
was a giant and a legend.

 

By Fred Mills

 

Famed actor and director Dennis Hopper died this morning in
his Venice, Calif.
(near Los Angeles) home following a battle with
prostate cancer, according to the L.A. Times. He was 74.

 

Hopper had been in the news frequently since his illness was
disclosed to the public last September, including a contentious divorce battle
with fifth wife Victoria Duffy, for his work on a book of his photography, and
for his involvement with television series Crash. On March 26 he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where a
visibly frail hopper posed with his friend and fellow actor Jack Nicholson.

 

The man’s filmography is impressive even by “veteran actor”
standards, as this long list at his Wikipedia page attests. Among his iconic
roles were Rebel Without A Cause, The
Trip, Apocalypse Now, Hoosiers, Blue Velvet
and of course Easy Rider. And his wild-child image,
though a checkered one that sometimes got in the way of Hopper’s career
advancing, was almost as memorable as his acting. That he later grew up and out
of that image and came back for the proverbial second act was inspiring to
actors and fans alike.

 

On a personal note: in regards to Easy Rider,  which Hopper
directed in addition to sharing lead actor duties with Peter Fonda, I’ll never
forget seeing the 1969 movie as a young teenager and memorizing lines uttered
by Hopper, Fonda and Jack Nicholson. I also identified strongly with the
hippies-and-rebels themes that ran through the movie and, since I lived in the
south at the time and knew my share of unreconstructed rednecks, I found the
ending (in which Hopper and Fonda get blown away by a shotgun-wielding,
pickup-truck driving redneck) both profoundly moving and disturbing. To my
impressionable young, budding-countercultural mind, Hopper’s long-haired,
buckskin-clad, David Crosbyesque character was one of the more memorable ones I
had seen in cinema up until that point – and, quite probably, to this day.

 

Rest in peace you crazy motherfucker.

 

 

 

First Look: New Kaiser Cartel Album

 

Secret Transit, out June 8 via the band’s own Daniel Records
label and funded via fan pledges finds the Brooklyn
guy-gal duo upping the ante with an emphatic pop sound.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

 

Kaiser Cartel, an unassuming boy/girl duo
comprised of singer Courtney Kaiser and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Benjamin
Cartel, have managed to settle well below the radar, despite an album and
several EPs that have reflected the twosome’s loftier inclinations. Secret Transit more or less ups the
ante, substituting an emphatic pop sound for the low-key ruminations that
defined their previous attempts. The first half of the record refuses to
falter, propelled by a decidedly insistent sound, manifest in the raging pulse
of “Falling,” the harmonies and handclaps of “Around You” and the kinetic
frenzy found in the aptly titled “Ready to Go.” Courtney Kaiser’s chirpy vocals
give the album a girl group persona, especially on songs like “Carroll Street” and
“Worn Out Nervous Condition,” where a giddy unabashed exuberance all but
dominates the proceedings.

 

That said, the back portion of the album
offers moments of repose, from the eerie, ethereal spin of “Minefield” and “The
Wait” to the somber strum of “Wherever You Go.” No matter though; Secret Transit shows the drive and
determination to bring this pair the larger audience they deserve.

 

[Photo Credit: Anthony Byrd]