Archive | pop culture RSS feed for this section

Hash’s Faves: Frank Frazetta

27 Nov
Frazetta_CappThis week’s General Fave is the artist Frank Frazetta. I was going to describe him as “the fantasy artist,” but that’s only what he was best-known for; he also worked in the comics field, advertising, commercial illustration, and science fiction. He was part of the legendary EC Comics stable, and of what was known as the Fleagles, a loose-knit crew of young artists who evolved out of the EC stable to work on Mad Magazine. He drew what’s known in the comics world as ”funny animal” stories, as well as westerns, romance and science-fiction (one of his covers for the Buck Rogers comic book is iconic, much as I hate to use that word, but it applies); he was Al Capp’s assistant for 9 years, drawing mostly the sexy women in the Lil’ Abner comic strip. He also occasionally assisted on the Playboy comic feature Little Annie Fanny, mostly drawing Annie (Frazetta’s women were scandalously sexy; he always claimed that his wife Ellie was his principal model).
whats-new-pussycat-2
He did a lot of work for Hollywood; although many of you probably aren’t aware of
this, if you’re of a certain age you’ve seen his work. He did the artwork for the posters, one-sheets and ad campaigns for movies like What’s New, Pussycat?, The Night They Raided Minsky’s, After The Fox, Fitzwilly, The Busy Body and many others.
Tarzan_Lost_EmpireThe work that catapulted him to pop-culture fame and recognition was probably the paperback cover work he did in the 60’s and 70’s, for Ace books’ Edgar Rice Burroughs editions (Tarzan, John Carter, etc.) and the Lancer books Conan series.
conan5

In the opinion of many, myself included, the Conan covers were his best work, especially the very first one in the series, Conan The Adventurer.

Frazetta_Neanderthal
He also did some very good work for Warren Magazines’ _Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella._
By all accounts he was a real mensch. He dominated the field for at least two decades. His philosophy and style fell out of favor in the 90’s and early ‘aughts, a period in which, in my humble opinion, typography went to hell in a handbasket. But I’ve tried to carry the torch in my own humble way…
Molly_Hatchet

The recognition he got for this work resulted in some high-visibility advertising and album cover work in the 80’s and 90’s, but he had some health problems as a result of long-term poisoning by the fumes from the kind of turpentine he used in his studio, and unfortunately some of his work during the 90’s especially had lost the indefinable magic that his mid-period paintings had. He also suffered a stroke that left his right arm almost completely paralyzed; he taught himself to paint with his left hand, but I don’t know how that worked out, since I don’t believe I’ve seen any of his work from this period. The last years of his life were fairly tragic. Along with his health problems (he had always been a rugged, active athlete, once having actually been scouted by the New York Giants), his lifelong companion Ellie died in 2009. Later that year his son, Frank Jr., was arrested for attempting to steal 90 of Frazetta’s paintings from the Frazetta Museum in Pennsylvania (charges were eventually dropped). And finally, on May 10,2010, Frazetta died.

City_In_The_Sea

Frazetta was the Charlie Parker/Coltrane/Bill Evans/Jaco of the fantasy art field; after his Conan covers appeared, his influence could be seen everywhere. Some of the young artists whose work closely resembled Frazetta, like Jeff Jones and Berni Wrightson, were eventually able to break free and find their own styles, while others like Boris Vallejo and Mike Hoffman became almost exact clones (not the worst thing to be, I guess). I must admit that when I thought I’d like to be a comics artist, the two stories that I actually had published (in a fanzine that I was the art director of; yeah, nepotism at its finest) bear Frazetta’s stamp to an embarrassing degree (I even styled my signature from those days after his). Thankfully, the only copies of those magazines that now exist are buried here in Hashimotoville, never to be seen by prying eyes.

Frank’s work isn’t perfect; it pains me to say that, but it’s true. Sometimes his anatomy gets a little wonky; I don’t think he ever formally studied anatomy, as in dissecting cadavers (just as he used Ellie as his primary female model, Ellie said that he used himself as his male model). His mentor, Roy G. Krenkel, did, I think; Roy’s figures always look alive and fluid, whereas sometimes Frank’s can be stiff, and sometimes if you really look carefully, limbs can look out of place, and there are funny lumps. But that’s only occasionally (Wally Wood, another of my favorite artists, also sometimes had weird anatomy). Frank was a child prodigy, the story being that he attended the Brooklyn Academy of Arts at age 8, which was run by an instructor named Michael Falanga. I think Falanga was so bowled over by the kid’s precocity that he let Frank get away with murder, and even Frazetta admits that he didn’t learn much there.

As with a lot of people with incredible natural talent, I think Frank sometimes coasted. But Frank’s coasting was usually better than anybody else’s flat-out running. At his best, his figures burst with life and have a tangible weight, but the thing that I think I love the most in his best work is the sense of mystery. He doesn’t feel compelled to paint every detail, often merely suggesting stuff going on in the background. The work of his that I find the least interesting, from his “turpentine” period, seems over-painted and over-rendered. But that’s just nit-picking and sour grapes; if I could draw and paint like him, I’d be one happy (and wealthier) camper.

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

 

163984_190498084309709_7503578_n

Steve Hashimoto

 

Midwest Action! reviews He Flies

12 Nov

midwestaxn_logo_200x200pxMidwest Action!, a site with some street cred around the heartland, recently reviewed my He Flies album. I probably won’t destroy any suspense by saying they liked it. Otherwise, why would I be putting up a link to the review  here? But I did think the reviewer had an interesting take on He Flies, and the site imbedded mp3s of of four of the He Flies package v4.2.inddalbum’s songs. I was also surprised to see which four they chose to imbed. Anyhow, the review’s at: Midwest Action!

True Colors by Gina Clowes

29 Oct

The following review originally appeared as a Facebook post by Lew Hendrix. An accomplished player of the banjo (among other instruments), Lew gets just a little technical here and there for a non-banjoist such as myself, but I found the review a pleasure to read and interesting enough that I downloaded the album in question. (Of which I’m glad.)

 

True Colors, a review

Lew Hendrix

 

51GutcoITeL._AC_US200_I want my music friends to take note of Gina Clowes‘s first album True Colors. It amazes me, for there is something highly original here, something that I can’t see where it comes from, or just how it’s done. I knew Gina was a fine banjo picker before I got this CD, but it still astounded me.

When you hear True Colors, don’t expect traditional bluegrass banjo consisting of 3-finger rolls, flattened 3rds and 7ths, interspersed with a crop of standard licks. Don’t expect newgrass either. Of course, Gina uses banjo rolls, but also novel licks, pinches, chokes, and full chords whapped hard or expressed subtly where you don’t expect them. Still, these novel, unexpected, sounds seem just right in context. Gina’s vocals are interesting too. Her voice often sounds quiet, but she alters it to sound sarcastic, wistful, and the like, to fit the mood of the song. I find the music so interesting that I keep playing certain cuts over and over to catch a certain phrase, vocal intonation, or a gob of banjo notes and chords.

All but one of the songs and tunes are original. Some shade wonderfully into a different

Gina Clowes

Gina Clowes

genre, such as gypsy jazz, western swing, or baroque, becoming musical fusions. The lyrical songs are just as diverse in their topics and moods. The lack of traditional cabin-in-the-hills songs and only one love-lost song makes room for songs of positive love (“True Colors”), personal strength (“Puppet Show”), wife abuse (“For Better or for Worse”), finding God (“Looking for Sunshine”), and a bittersweet song of temporary separation (“I’ll Stay Home”).

Technically, the recording of the songs is great: Each instrument and voice comes through clearly and with much better tone than most bluegrass CDs have. Mark Stoffel is one of three people listed in the recording and mixing, and this sounds like his work.

If you don’t want to take my word on True Colors, you can listen to snippets on Amazon.
P.S. A caveat: I’m biased toward this sort of “bluegrass from a different mother.” My attention span usually ends in the middle of a traditional bluegrass album.

 

Reviewer Lew Hendrix plays a pretty mean banjo himself. Based in the Carbondale, Illinois area, he performs and teaches in that locale.

 

 

Hash’s Faves: “Deserted Cities of the Heart”

14 May

Wheels_Of_FireThis week’s pick is more goddam hippie music; it’s the song “Deserted Cities of the Heart”performed by Cream, written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, from the band’s 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. The basic band of Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were augmented on the studio disc (it was a double album, one disc recorded in the studio and the other live) by producer/multi-instrumentalist Felix Pappalardi. On this particular song Bruce plays bass, acoustic guitar, cello and sings; Clapton plays electric guitar; Baker plays drums and tambourine; and Pappalardi plays the viola.

I’ve been keeping this under my hat for awhile, but for the last year I’ve been rehearsing with a new band (our maiden voyage will be on July 21) called Medicated Goo. It’s led by guitarist/vocalist John Kimsey, and is kind of an offshoot project of his Art Thieves and Twisted Roots Ensemble bands, both of which I’ve been a part of. We’re joined by John’s longtime musical partner-in-crime Dr. Brad Newton on drums; I’m playing bass and a little bit of guitar (!). The band is a cover band, with our repertoire limited (kind of) to the music of Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Traffic, although that allows us a certain amount of leeway (we play a couple of Blind Faith tunes and various other miscellanea). So what I’m trying to say here is that I’ve been immersing myself in the music of Cream.

This is the music that I grew up with, and with rare exceptions I’ve been finding that every song we add to the repertoire, I know in my bones. Maybe I’ve never played it before, on either instrument, but in my head I know how the song goes. But the really cool thing is that now that I’m way older and hopefully have a little more knowledge, I can really appreciate what made this group so special. The particular combination of personalities and musical backgrounds combined perfectly, as far as I’m concerned. In the great John McLaughlin biography Bathed In Lightning there’s talk that he was approached to be part of the band that Bruce and Baker were forming, but for whatever reason he declined. As much as I love McLaughlin, and as intriguing a band that that would have been, it wouldn’t have been the same; John was too much of a jazz player, and would have tipped the scales of the band’s chemistry too far in that direction, I think. Clapton’s background, personality, and his love for the blues helped to ground the band; Clapton himself would never describe himself as a jazz player, but he was sufficiently open-minded to be able to fit in with what the other two guys brought to the table. Baker really was a jazz drummer, while Bruce brought this whole other thing. Besides being a pretty good, and experienced jazz musician, he also had some folky leanings, and had some classical aspirations as well.

This song highlights all of these things; it has a rockin’, bluesy solo by Clapton, and the instrumental interludes sound like a combination of Baker’s jazz background and Bruce’s classicism. I wonder who came up with those bars of 3/4 in the verses, Baker or Bruce? And Jack’s bass playing is just beautiful, driving yet lyrical. The lyrics, by poet Pete Brown, are sufficiently surrealistic to accompany whatever trip you might have been on (I always pictured this song accompanying a painting by de Chirico).

Much like the Beatles, the personalities had quite a lot to do with the band’s creativity. Say what you will about Ringo’s drumming (personally, I think he’s a great drummer), but the Beatles simply would not have been as great with any other drummer. And although they started out as chums, I think that their last few albums, when personalities started to clash, were arguably their finest. And so it was with Cream; Baker and Bruce cordially (and sometimes not-so-cordially) hated each other, and I think that accounts for quite a bit of the fire, and certainly the tension, in their music. Clapton would eventually opt out of the drama, choosing the laid-back vibe of Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett’s band, and a long period of heroin and alcohol addiction. Cream’s career only lasted 2 years, with 4 studio albums, but they helped to change the face of rock music. I’d be willing to bet that quite a few rock musicians of my generation had their eyes and ears opened to the possibilities of jazz by their extended jamming, and for better or for worse the long, extended jam became a staple of rock music; punk and grunge music (again, for better or for worse) arose as a reaction against those excesses.

You can listen to it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL0yTZhuMzE

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

163984_190498084309709_7503578_n

Steve Hashimoto

He Flies: Some Info

3 Apr

We just finished a CD called He Flies, and it’s streaming free at BandCamp:

The CD is also available at CD Baby and digital downloads are available there, too. Digital downloads are also available at Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and everywhere else you can download music. (At iTunes just get into the store & search for “He Flies by Kent McDaniel.”)

The lyrics to all the songs are up at BandCamp, too.

And here are the people who played on the album:

Alpha

Alpha Stewart plays percussion and/or drum kit on “May You Still Believe,” “He Flies,” and “Big Jim.” He’s who we count on for drums when we play out.

Robert

Robert Marshall plays drums on “Zombies Stink (& Vampires Suck),” “May Third,” & “Your Love Set Me Free.” He also mixed and mastered the album, at The Cave Recording in Evanston, Illinois.

photo

Dorothy McDaniel, plays bass and flute.

andrew mac

Andy MacCrimmon plays drums on “Over Yonder & Round The Bend,” “Cards on the Table,” and “Dance Till Morning Light.”

10270435_10206767890249288_1459133332981736693_n

Nicki Broeker sings harmony on “Cards on the Table.”

j.t

John Temmerman plays sax and saxello on “May You Still Believe” and “Cards on the Table.”

gus

Gus Friedlander plays banjo on “over Yonder & round the Bend.”

Me

Kent McDaniel is on vocals, acoustic and electric guitar. And wrote the ten originals on the album.

Playlist: Live at Custer Street

3 Apr

Here’s a playlist of the songs we recorded for our Live At Custer Street Album, recorded a few summRecorded at Custer Street Fair in Evanston, Illinoisers ago at Evanston’s Custer Street Fair. Originally we were only recording the songs to use with a video of the show we were making. After we listened to the set, though, we decided we had to do an album with it; it’d come off too nice not to. I’m playing guitar, Dorothy McDaniel’s playing bass, and Vic Varjan’s on drums. Dorothy and I are both singing, but I imagine you’ll be able to hear who is who.

If you really go for any of the tunes, you’re in luck: They’re all available just about anywhere music downloads are sold.

Hash’s Faves: “Tell Me a Bedtime Story

22 Feb

220px-fat_albert_rotundaThis week’s pick is by Herbie Hancock, from his 1969 album Fat Albert Rotunda. It’s the lovely (and difficult tune) “Tell Me A Bedtime Story.” Herbie’s on electric piano, with Joe Henderson on tenor sax and alto flute; Garnett Brown on trombone; Johnny Coles on trumpet and flugelhorn; Buster Williams on bass; Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums and George Devens on percussion. Herbie wrote the tune, and Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer.

At the time of its release, much was made of the fact that Herbie mostly played Fender Rhodes piano on the album, and that he seemed to drawing influences from pop and soul music, but I dunno, it sure sounds like jazz to me. The orchestration is dense, for a small ensemble, but Van Gelder opens up the space and everything sounds light and airy. He had recorded each of these musicians many times, and I’m sure his familiarity with their personal sounds helped him to create that space. (Evidently he also mastered the record, as vinyl copies bear his signature on what record collectors call “the tail-off”.) There’s not much blowing; it’s more of a through-composed chamber piece, but there’s plenty of material to base improvisation on, for the brave or foolhardy (my bands have attempted to play this tune for years).

This album is at the crossroads, historically, of jazz-fusion music. Herbie had played on Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way album earlier in 1969; after this project he’d form his Mwandishi band, a group that has been, to me at least, criminally under-recognized. Mwandishi’s music was funky, with electric bass ostinatos and spacy Fender Rhodes, but on top of the spooky grooves Bennie Maupin, Eddie Henderson and Julian Priester blew with an amazing amount of freedom; this music was much closer to the very early music by Weather Report, and also is related to Miles’ Bitches Brew work. The instrumentation of the Mwandishi band is exactly the same as on this particular cut, but the differences are astonishing. After three albums with Mwandishi, Herbie would form The Headhunters band, which was out-and-out funk.

Fat Albert Rotunda should be recognized as one of the seminal albums of jazz-fusion, pointing the way ahead but still very solidly grounded in the tradition.

You can listen to it here:

 

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

163984_190498084309709_7503578_n

Steve Hashimoto