Hash’s Faves” Frank Kelly Freas

25 Jan

This week’s General Fave is the science-fiction artist Frank Kelly Freas, more commonlyFreas 1
known as Kelly Freas. He was an incredibly prolific artist; I’m guessing his science-fiction work alone numbers well into the thousands, of book and magazine covers as well as interior illustrations. He also painted the official insignia for Skylab I, more than 500 portraits of saints for the Franciscans, and numerous cover paintings for Mad Magazine (although Norman Mingo was the more-or-less official artist for Alfred E. Neuman’s likeness, Freas did quite a lot of Neuman covers, and they’re every bit as good as Mingo’s).

Although I’m guessing I saw many of those Mad covers, I didn’t really Freas_2become aware of Freas’ work until I saw his cover for Analog Magazine in May of 1967. I had been a science-fiction reader (hardcore fans almost NEVER call it “sci-fi”) since I was very young; I think Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was my first, checked out from my grammar school’s reading room in 1962, followed by *Andre Norton’s Daybreak 2250 A.D.,* purchased from a mail-order book club. I wasn’t into the magazines so much, but some thing about Freas’ cover painting compelled me to buy this one; I have no memory whatsoever of the story that it illustrated.

Born in 1922, he sold his first magazine cover painting to the venerable Weird Tales in 1950. Gnome Press published Freas_3three book covers in 1952, and he started working for Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1953; Astounding changed its name to Analog and Freas worked for them until 2003. He started working for Mad in 1957, and painted most of their covers until 1962, which would have been right around the time that I started reading the magazine. He also painted hundreds of covers for the paperback publishers Ace, DAW, Signet, Avon, Ballantine and Lancer.

His style is instantly recognizable. His draftsmanship is clean, and his color palette really made some of his book covers (more so than the magazine covers) literally jump off the racks. His black-and-white work was always beautiful as well; he had a technique that I especially
Freas_4jpgloved, pen and ink on a textured illustration board that used to be called either Ross board or coquille board; sports cartoonists used to use the technique a lot. After the
main illustration was done with the brush, he’s go over it and add shade values with a lithographic crayon. He also did a lot of scratchboard work, as well as straight-ahead pen and ink.

Like all artists, he had some visual tropes – the Kelly Freas spaceship, which owed a lot to the kind of streamlined spaceships drawn by Flash Gordon artist Mac Raboy; futuristic cities and space stations; robots; and of course, sexy (and usually scantily clad) women. Good lord, those Kelly Freas women! But like all artists, great and not-so, every once in a while he painted something that was completely uncharacteristic, like these cute lil’ creatures:

Freas_5

He was nominated for the annual Hugo Award for best science-fiction artist a remarkable 20 times, and won the award 11 times, an unbroken record. He died in 2005, and by all accounts he was a warm, humorous guy, a frequent guest of honor or simple attendee at many science-fiction conventions. He dominated the field in a way that I think no one before or since has.

Freas_6jpg

 

Freas_7

 

Freas_12

 

Freas_10

 

Freas_9

 

Freas_7

 

Freas_4

 

Freas_2

 

Freas_6

 

–Steve Hashimoto

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

Three Waterfalls, One Canyon

10 Jan

This post is by Loy Addington. He uploaded the photos below on Facebook, and I asked permission to use them in Dumbfounding Stories. He agreed and also sent along some text putting them into context.

10505501_1158304030893251_7291271848840460552_nSometime around December, 2016, our dogs Daisy and Tuffy Lou insisted on going for a hike after being rained in for two days. I tagged along. The weather had cleared, and we went to one of my favorite spots: an area of three waterfalls located within a forty acre parcel of Shawnee National Forest. It’s in a box canyon formed by three small, steep creeks that form the first major tributary to Lick Creek.  All he rushing water here creates a roar that increases the feeling of being totally immersed in this environment.

I have no jurisdiction there, but since this place is so near and dear to my heart, I have included it as part of my empire. Which actually means I’m the self-appointed garbage man. I would not easily volunteer its location. Scatter my ashes here!

This is not a great place to visit in summer, because the forest canopy holds in the4 heat and humidity exuded by the rock face of the bluffs. But in winter it can be a paradise, the south facing bluff face capturing and radiating heat as it blocks the north wind. Incidentally, this line of bluffs extends from Grand Tower on the Mississippi to Golconda on the Ohio, and its length contains many rock shelters. All of them  show evidence of prehistoric occupation, from the Paleolithic to Mississipian eras. 350 million years ago this area was the edge of what is now the Gulf of Mexico. The bluffs are composed of sedimentary rock (sandstone). The base of Lick Creek, just 400m south, is limestone from the ancient sea.

There are cultural features in the canyon that may have created by historic or by prehistoric peoples, I’m not sure which. One photo in this post is of a large basin in the 1creek. The basin has been cleared of all rock to create an area that could have been used for bathing, baptism, prayer? And a rock wall has been constructed along the edge of the main creek. It’s typical of prehistoric construction but in a very atypical location. That large “turtle” rock seen in the post is all natural, but prehistoric people were known to revere turtle images. Finally, an exceptionally large mortar hole was revealed when an old post oak tree there was blown over. I believe it was created by prehistoric people, and judging by its size and location, it seems to me to be ceremonial. In other words, this place is sacred.

10

9

 

 

During the winter I make several trips, especially after rain, to bask in my favorite area. During such extreme rain events I have to carry Tuffy across the many brooks, small but very swift when rain swollen. Tuffy is the little woolly one. Both  dogs are rescue dogs.  I’m including several other shots below from our hike that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

5

 

7

 

8

And here are two photos and a short video from a hike we took to the canyon in April, 2017:

april ii

 

april

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

loy addington

A native of Southern Illinois, Loy Addington is the long-time host of “Lonesome Roy’s Country Hoedown” on WDBX radio.

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.

 

 

The McDaniels on WDBX

18 Oct

Dorothy and I appeared live recently on WDBX radio in Carbondale during Lonesome Roy’s Country Hoedown. And a fun hour it was. Loy Addington, who hosts the show, is a smooth interviewer and a funny guy. Talking with him was a kick, and in between conversations Dorothy and I played songs. Several originals, along with some Hank, Merle, Prine, Carter Family, and a little jazz we snuck in, too. (Loy forgave us.)

22135317_1708095622580753_703388590419928748_o (1)

The talk  ranged from Carbondale’s music scene, to growing tomatoes, to songwriting, to my new album, to the relationship between Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Bonnie Owens as it related to “Swinging Doors.” Concerning that last topic, I got disabused of a long held misconception of mine. You can check it all out by clicking the link below. I hope you’ll use headphones. On my laptop you can’t hear Dorothy’s bass at all, and the overall sound’s a little tinny. With phones the bass comes through nice and clear and the whole mix sounds fuller.

 

 

As I said, we talked some about my new album.  It’s called He Flies, and if  you want to check it out, it’s streaming free at Band Camp.

WDBX, where the show aired, is a gem of a station. It’s line-up rocks, and no program director or AI algorithm sets the playlist. The DJs are are volunteers who just share IMG_0204 (1)the type of music  they know and love best. A pretty refreshing mix results: blues, metal, country, jazz, hip-hop, punk, world music, electronic, classical, and various points in between. And whoever chooses the DJ volunteers does a good job. Overall, they sound pretty damn professional. I hear it’s unusual for a town of Carbondale’s size (27,000) to have a community radio station. Carbondale’s fortunate to have it.

I got started listening to it while I was vacationing down here from Chicago, and I streamed the station for years back home in Chicago. Now that I’m back in Carbondale, I’m glad to get a chance to play for the station. It’s broadcasts are fresh, high energy, and highly recommended. The station streams on the net. Check it out: WDBX

 

More Action Shots

 

22137071_1708095432580772_1646833464449273652_o (1)
.

 

22135354_1708095479247434_2270550342859855878_o (1)

 

22095893_1708095532580762_6911397929357877952_o (1)

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