Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home Part 2

Bob Dylan, Desolation Row

Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man

Okay, one more post on this monumental documentary/CD, as it's either this or Brangelina. I caught the second two-hour episode of No Direction Home Tuesday night, and wanted to give some thoughts. First off, Part 2 would seem a better option for the casual Bob Dylan fan, jumping into his story at the start of the 1960s. Director Martin Scorcese focuses on his music and life until about 1966, with concert footage, interviews, and clips from other documentaries from the time. No stories about his childhood and upbringing, more footage of the man himself as opposed to talking heads discussing him.

Man, the footage. Scorcese has come up with some wonderful scenes of the man live, including his infamous performances at Newport in 1965 and London in 1966. I think that the clips reminded me of what a powerful performer he was, able to captivate any audience, inspire them to tears or anger or whatever. Okay, okay, the main thing I took from the movie was an even worse case of adulation for the man, the myth, the legend. It's funny, because the main thing one takes from Dylan's words during the movie is his discomfort with the fan's obsession. He loathes the mindlessness that fandom encourages, and I agree completely.

And yet. I don't know, seeing Dylan walking around in shades, singing on stage, and being a total dick to idiotic interviewers is just cool to me. For real, the bol hung out with Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles, everyone and anyone from that era. Hearing "Visions of Johanna" brought me to tears, as it is a song that strikes me like little else ever has. Seeing him on stage, booed and heckled by his "fans," made me love him even more, as did his response: telling his band to "Play it fucking loud!" He's just cool, the embodiment to me, and it makes me feel pathetic and lame.

As for the documentary itself, it was an incredible letdown. First and foremost, it amazed that the film literally ends in 1966, with nothing about the next 40 years of the man's life or art. I mean, nothing on Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks. His addiction years, his return to glory over the past 10 years. Nothing, not a word.

The entire documentray betrayed Scorcese's bias, as it focused most of the second episode on the early 60's period, you know the one, the young Greenwich Village folkie, "Blowin' In The Wind", singing at the Washington Mall at the Civil Rights protests. For the love of G-d, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary "fame" is the most quoted person during the entire hour and a half. I think that No Direction Home is the greatest example yet of this syndrome, the inability of Dylan's early fans to see him as anything other than a protest singer. I must point out David Greenberg's article in Slate, "The 60's Trap: Why critics ignore the rest of Dylan's career". David Greenberg argues that this movie is but another product of this country's 60's fetish, a result of the power and numbers of the baby boomer generation.

Guess what people? He didn't stay a 20 year old singer, and he didn't sing the same series of folk solks, the same Woody Guthrie covers. Why? Because he was an artist, unafraid to experiment, to move on, to disappoint, to fail. There was a quote in the movie, which went something like "Dylan was one of the few artists whose fans came to the music, his music didn't have to come to them." That sums it up pretty well, and it is a shame that Scorcese didn't listen more closely to what was being said. Instead, we get a myopic, incomplete failure, a work unable to comprehend or deal with its complex, difficult subject.

Here are a few more tracks from Volume 7 of the Bootleg Series, both of these from the second disc. It's a strange disc, in all honesty, containing mainly outtakes from Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. There are a few live performances, but nothing that has been unheard or a cover or anything shocking. Looking at the tracklist to these two discs, I should have been better prepared for Scorcese's uninspiring, unremarkable movie. He was not willing to go beyond his preconceived notions or established taste to explore the man and music. A shame, as what could have been! I mean, a documentary by the director of Mean Streets about Bob Dylan. Pound for Pound's wet dream was actually just like being a Philly sports fan: high hopes become disappointment, despair and anger. Grrr.

P.S. The Phillies appear to have blown a chance at the playoffs during the last few days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Athenaeum in South Philly is Shut Down! L&I saves city from young artists!

I just saw this urgent email from Sean Agnew at R5 Productions, and had to say something. Here is what Sean wrote:

Hello Our Friends at The South Philly Athenæum Really Need Your Help ! Please Read On :
The Department of Licensing and Inspection Strikes Again...........
This past Friday evening / Saturday morning Philadelphia's Department of Licensing and Inspection, The Philadelphia Police and Philadelphia Fire Department raided and proceeded to shut down "The South Philadelphia Athenæum" last evening. It was an amazing inspirational space located on Juniper Street which 30 of our friends called home. It reminded us of the old days at Stalag 13/Killtime but with a more Ft Thunder/Space 1026 vibe (if that make any sense) . The residents provided a place for hundreds of smaller touring bands to show case their work in Philadelphia, including The Double Leopards, Lightning Bolt, USAISAMONSTER, Nautical Almanac, Sunburned Hand Of The Man etc. They would often feed and house the bands at no cost to the artists. The shows were strictly donation only and they never took a dime for the space themselves, always passing on 100% of the the money to the bands. The Athenæum also provided silk screening facilities, meeting space, practice rooms and general studio space to dozens of Philadephia artists and musicians (including us at r5!)
The police immediately evicted all of the residents - not allowing them to gather their belongings, phones, clothes, food or anything else they would need to live "a normal life" for the next few days. If anyone is now found inside the building - they will be fined and jailed for upto 30 days. The police/L&I at this point and time are just giving the kids 2 hours to clear out the entire building early Monday or Tuesday morning. Imagine only getting 2 hrs to gather your life's belongings and work along with 30+ of your friends (creating a very chaotic and messy scenario - 30+ people moving out in just 120 minutes). The residents are now officially homeless with no real home to goto. Just crashing on the floors of various friends couches and floors.
Currently we are hoping that the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (a non profit pro-bono lawyers guild for smaller artists and musicians in philadelphia) will accept their Athenæum's plea and pick up their case to legally fight for a longer move-out period - an established period of time where all of the residents can gather all of their belongings in a proper, non-rushed "supermarket sweep" manner. In the meantime - we are looking for volunteers to help our 30+ friends gather as many of their possessions to move them outside of the building on Monday so that they can properly store them in new locations. Again they only have two hours to grab as much stuff as they can. We need to move instruments, clothes, computers, furniture, stereos, silk screen materials, p.a. equipment, paintings, sculptures etc etc.
If you can help assist in the efforts to move some of their belongings on Monday morning please e-mail : with your name and number (dont worry we are keeping the list private) . We'll provide you with more info tomorrow morning. The residents are especially looking for people with large vehicles or vans to move some of the bigger stuff to new locations (in addition to just getting their stuff outside of the building) .
Thanks !
sean / r5

Please feel free to get in touch at the email above, as that is the only contact info offered. Obviously, the move for the artists living at the Athenaeum is over, but I imagine that any offers of assistance post-move would be much appreciated.

I feel like I'm ready to scream, as my negative thoughts on Philly have been developing over the past few months and are now ready to burst out. The camel's back has broke, I fear. I am ashamed of this city today, and anyone who cares about Philadelphia and its future should feel the same way.

But, in an amazing gesture of patience (in fact, a stunning gesture to those who know me), I am going to hold off on any diatribe until all of the facts are in. I am going to try to find out more on this story, which has gotten no attention in any of the big media outlets yet. Original reporting might come to Pound for Pound, dear reader, as I get all A.J. Liebling on your asses. More to come in a few days...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

Bob Dylan, Song to Woody

Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (live)

Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man (Alternate Version; 1st Complete Take)

It seems fitting to start off this week dedicated to Bob Dylan with a look at his most recent release, the soundtrack to the documentary, No Direction Home. It's also Volume 7 of the Bootleg Series, an amazing project that has put out some of the man's most epic concerts and material that has never been heard. This particular release comes from the Dylan vaults, which Martin Scorcese had access to in putting together his movie.

Since the movie continues tonight, I am just going to make this short and sweet. It seems to make sense to give a few highlights from the first disc of Volume 7, as both a sample of the greatness of this release and as a nice source of motivation to watch Night 2 on PBS at 9 PM. These songs are a pretty good sample of what the discs offer, as you get 1) unreleased tunes, 2) classics and underrated songs played live and 3) outtakes from classic recording sessions.

I chose the first one as an example of category 1, a beautiful song sung to Woody Guthrie, perhaps Dylan's earliest and most lasting influence. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is a live version, and throws the gauntlet down. This is serious shit, eight and a half minutes of the apocalypse, a foreboding, lyrical cry from the darkness. A stunning song, a Dylan classic and a great live version here. The third is an outtake from the Bringing It Back Home album, an alternate take of "Mr. Tambourine Man". I prefer the album version, which does not have the backing vocal and features only Dylan's voice.

Tomorrow, I will give my thoughts on the documentary (and the thoughts of many others) and some mp3 highlights of Disc 2. Later, I will mix it up, giving my thoughts on Dylan, why his music has had such a profound impact on me, look at some of the great writers who have written about the man, his own recent memoir, his Jewishness, his underrated mid-70s output and his live performances. Of course, it will all be accompanied by music, as I think that is the most fitting tribute to the man. He is probably the most-written about artist this side of James Joyce, so it might be time to the man's art and words speak for themselves, free of interpretation.

Monday, September 26, 2005

No Direction Home Tonight

Tune into PBS tonight to catch the first part of the Martin Scorcese-directed documentary on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. It starts at 9 o'clock, and finishes up tomorrow night at the same time. More importantly, at least to me, Robert Zimmerman Week starts here at Pound for Pound shortly.

Oh, and of course, Arrested Development, Laguna Beach and Sweet Sixteen, but you don't need me to tell you that, right?

The DJ Screw Tribute at at Joe's Pub

E.S.G., Swangin' and Bangin' (screwed)

E.S.G., The South

E.S.G., City Under Siege

E.S.G. and Slim Thug, Get Ya Hands Up

Grit Boys (feat. Great Sc), Live From Da Hood

I wanted to recap my recent stay in NYC, as some truly epic events went down in my second favorite city. First up, Roxy Cottontail and Matt Sonzala of Houston So Real fame put together a tribute to DJ Screw at Joe's Pub Thursday night (September 15th). The names alone were awe-inspiring: Bun B, ESG, Grit Boys, Screwed Up Click, Lil O. It was both a showcase for Houston's rap talent old and new, and a tribute to the man who made all of this possible, the founder of the screwed up sound, Robert Davis. To top it all off, it was a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims, fitting for a night dedicate to Southern music.

First, the good. The music exceeded my expectations, as I have come to expect little from a live hip hop shows. This night was a revelation. The performers (well, most of them) were great live, engaged and animated. The promoters had things running smoothly, as each act promptly followed the one before, meaning there were few lulls or drops in energy. Best of all, it was a chance to see legends, L-E-G-E-N-D-S, up close and personal. I mean, I was stage right, a few feet at most from Bun B, ESG and everyone else up there. I can't thank Matt and Roxy enough for putting all the time and hustle into bringing Houston to the rest of the world. They doing yeoman's work, and deserve all of the props in the world. Getting to hear Bun, ESG, Lil O (a revelation), the Screwed Up Click and the Grit Boys live wasn't possible until these two got to work. Oh, and hearing ESG go off for 20 minutes made the entire next paragraph worth it, for real. He was amazing, perhaps the best live hip hop set I have ever heard, as he had every single person who made it until 3 am mesmerized, no easy task. Check the mp3s above for a taste, as I might try to put up some more if there is interest.

Okay, let me just get some of the bad off of my chest, as it really upset me that night. Arriving at Joe's Pub around 11:15 or so, I was shocked to see a line stretching down Lafayette. I knew that this was a hot show and part of the CMJ Festival, but couldn't understand this sort of wait. No big deal, as being on the guest list seemed like it should get us in right away. MC and I soon realized that everyone in line was on the guest list! We then proceeded to wait for an hour and 45 minutes to get let in. Group after group arrived, walked to the front of the line and were let in through the rope with no problem. Listen, I don't mind DJ Green Lantern getting let in right away, but the girl with her nipple exposed by her skimpy top? C'mon, mang. At one point, the man responsible for the door informed us that the list had been ripped up, and only "artists and important people would be getting in." That was all that was said to us the entire night, which only added to the frustration. Fortunately, one of the doormen spoke up for us (actually for MC, as no one cares about my lame ass, including me) and we got in and all was forgotten. The saddest/most frustrating part was that the place was nowhere near capacity, and all of the people who walked away because of the wait would have packed the place.

Thanks to MC for making me stay in line, putting up with my moody ass, and just generally being down. I don't know what I'd do without her.

Matt has posted up some thoughts and frustrations with the night at Houston So Real, and it actually made me feel better. In fact, I wanted to hug him and tell him that everything was alright, that it was a great night in spite of a few bad apples disguised as doormen. I don't mean to throw out any hate here, as that is the last thing I want. I just want to make sure that this party can become a regular one, and that it won't push away the very fans who make these nights so much fun. Go here for Matt's pictures and thoughts on his entire trip to NYC, which was more exciting and eventful than my entire year. Go here for Roxy's flics, including lots of great shots of the great one, Bun B.

What would it take to make something like this happen in Philadelphia? Hmmm, we'll have to look into this.

Finally, it appears that this night was also the most recent edition of the blogger convention, a nice followup to the Kano/grime stuff from last month. lemon-red was there, and he's so famous now that he gets his picture up everywhere, hanging with the legend, Broken Language. Catchdubs seems to have been there, That Good Good clearly was, the Fader guys were there, Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage too (one of the few to stick around for ESG it seems). In a great job of blocking (theater term), I realize that I was literally on the complete opposite side of the club from this group of A-Listers. The D-list never hurt so bad. Oh blogosphere, what will it take to make it to the next level? What must I do? Are you there G-d? It's me, Jack.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Sound of Music

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Juelz Santana, There It Is (The Whistle Song)

Mariah Carey, We Belong Together

The Smiths, Accept Yourself

John Zorn, Enfant

Rich Boy (featuring Pitbull), Get To Poppin'

The day has finally come, the return of mp3s to Pound for Pound. Mark the date, make it a national holiday, celebrate people. I purchased an AirPort card earlier today, and now am sitting in a cafe writing this post. What a world! What next? A man on the moon? Steroids in baseball? America at war because of lies and more lies? Anyway, it is so nice to be back on my Mac, so sweet, so gentle, so forgiving. How anyone could use a PC is beyond me? It must have some connection to the Bush victory in 2004, and the rising level of sado-masochistic behavior in this country.

For those in Philly, I must recommend Hausbrandt, a cafe at 207 S. 15th Street (between Walnut and Locust). Good coffee and expresso, as they are the only outlet for the Hausbrandt bean in our fair city. This is a popular brand in Europe, so you know it must be good. Best of all, they offer free wireless access. Free, unlike the Starbucks across the street, you corporate whores.

Anyway, there will be a fury of posts this weekend and next week, as I now can finally upload the music to finish up my drafts. The above tracks are just some random ish to get me back in the game, like playing a few games at AA, just to get your swing back. I know that lemon-red has probably put most of this up like two years ago, but what can I do? Actually, it is a sort of frightening look at my internal soundtrack, and should give a sense of the anything-goes attitude that's been adopted here. Actually, listening to the John Zorn track from Spy vs. Spy (Zorn's tribute to Ornette Coleman), it may get me put on a watch list. Harlem to the LES, way down to Atlanta, across the ocean to Manchester, then up to whatever planet Mariah Carey came from. [Whoever guesses which song is my favorite of these 5 gets a prize, just as my bol Jayo gets for his Bob Dylan catch.]

Next, a recap of the Tribute to DJ Screw at Joe's Pub last week, with lots of songs from the various performers to make it up to my dear readers. ESG, Bun B, Grit Boys, DJ Screw and Lil O shall all make an appearance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Television: Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover

Since MC and I stayed in last night, getting our rest on, I have to let everyone know about the TV goodness that kept us company.

-First, Arrested Development's third season began last night on Fox at 8 P.M. It's a new day, but same time, for the greatest show ever. That's right, I said it. It's still kinda stunning that we are even going to get another season, after the constant threats of cancellation hung over production last year. It is even more stunning that people don't watch this show, and that critics don't ride its jock constantly. Everybody Loves Raymond wins an Emmy for Best Comedy? Are you kidding me? Are the voters from Narnia? Is every day Opposite Day in Hollywood, where garbage is honored and the talentless rule? Maybe I'm just out of touch. Anyway, the Bluth family is back, and I couldn't be happier. Great site here for all of your AD needs. Good season premiere, great start to the week.

-MTV drops back-to-back madness during the 10 Spot (10-11 P.M.), with new episodes of Laguna Beach and Sweet Sixteen. It's a great hour exposing the shallowness, tastelessness and inanity of the rich, making you feel better that you didn't grow up rich. Of course, once you get the bills and see your bank statement, this hour looks pretty fucking worthless. Whatever. Can I just say that 1) I am really getting sick of Kristen, with her constant need for attention and not coming to Jessica's defense when Alex was talking shit, 2) Jason is the most inarticulate human being since and 3) I am totally embarrassing and should not be allowed to watch reality shows involving high school kids. Oh, and why weren't there divo parties when I was growing up? I am sure that my father would gladly have thrown a 6 figure party to celebrate my birthday, complete with fashion show and new BMW. When I say "6 figure party", I mean an alarm clock or right hook at my head. If you are not watching these shows, I'm not sure what you talk about at the Food Court or on IM. Get up on this ish, or doom yourself to pop irrelevance.

-The first person who emails or posts a reply below that takes my hints and names the person who is the upcoming focus at Pound for Pound will receive a special mp3 as first prize. Get to it readers, as this is a lay-up.

-Finally, I want to leave you with a wonderful quote from the Richard Ford essay I linked to a few days ago. It sums up the brilliance of New Orleans, the city, any city, in its role as tolerant center, open to any and all. The city as haven, as transgressive site. A space for our projections, our dreams, our secrets, our nightmares.

"It is - New Orleans is - a city foremost for special projections, for the things you can't do, see, think, consume, feel, forget up in Jackson or Little Rock or home in Topeka. 'We're at the jumping-off place,' Miss Welty wrote. This was about Plaquemines, just across the river. It is - New Orleans - the place where the firm ground ceases and the unsound footing begins. A certain kind of person likes such a place. A certain kind of person wants to go there and never leave."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Are You Ready?

I just wanted to drop a line and let y'all know that the music posting will resume in the next day or so. I spent the weekend in NYC, and I will simply say it was a epic run. It's hard to imagine having the good fortune to see Bun B, Hollertronix, DJ Assault, ESG, the Screwed Up Click, DJs Caps and Jones (what happened to Lady Sovereign?), all in the space of three days! It was a massive music weekend which has rejuvenated my musicality, whatever the hell that means. MP3s will start again with my recap of said events, including a once-in-a-lifetime show by Memphis' finest, whose new album drops shortly. Tear da club up, indeed.

Our next focus, which will come later in the week, might come as a surprise to regular readers of this site, departing from my tried and true formula of bass and more bass. Pound for Pound isn't just about ass 'n' titties, ass 'n' titties. I am not going to give away the focus of this week, but I will give a hint. His direction home is more than 200 miles from Minneapolis, in spite of what he has sung. The focus of a documentary out this week, done by American's greatest living film director, Abe Zimmerman's son will be our focus here as well, giving me a chance to discuss the musician who matters the most to me.

Okay, lots of stuff to get to this week. I am so excited to get some great music out, expanding the sonic pallette of this blog, talking more about cities. Can you feel it? "Because something is happening here/But you don't know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?" Check back often and find out just what is going down here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Prayer for a City

It has been a terrible two weeks, as I am sure that everyone knows. It has taken me a few days to put this post together, as the events in Louisiana and Mississippi have left me saddened, angry, depressed and disgusted. While I will return in future posts to deal with the embarassment of the Bush administration's response, the attacks on the victims of this disaster, and the notion of race and class, I want this first post to be an elegy. I want to express my sorrow at the events that have transpired in the U.S. Gulf Coast, as one can only cry at the destruction and misery that Katrina brought. I can only express my heartache and send prayers and thoughts to all of those effected by this tragedy. See the end of the post for a list of charities and organization providing aid to that area.

First, read this piece by Penn professor and one of the leading thinkers on cities, Witold Rybczynski, on the tragedy that is New Orleans today. I have never been to this city, but have always wanted to visit and see one of the unique urban centers in the world. As a jazz fan, this is a mecca, the birthplace for the first great, indigenous American music. A cosmopolitan site, a port city that has served home to all people, races and religions. Hell, it gave me and the world the Cash Money Millionaires and No Limit Records, some of my favorite hip hop and seminal figures in the rise of the South in hip hop music.

Rybcinski verbalizes the tragedy that has happened, as NO sits under water today. So much has been lost in terms of architecture, business, cultural institutions and people. Like the good folks at Media Bistro, this article really put the immense scope of the tragedy in perspective, getting through the anger at the federal response to the disaster and the images on television. While I have never stepped foot in this city, I feel a sadness that overwhelms me. At the heart of this blog is the city, the urban space, and each and every city has a special place in my heart. I feel tremendous sadness when I think that New Orleans sits under water, that it might never be rebuilt. I don't really know what else to add, which brings me to the next essay.

Read this piece by Richard Ford, one of America's great writers, which offers his thoughts from the perspective of a native of New Orleans. His love for his city and the resulting sense of loss is overwhelming, making this essay for the Guardian a rare piece that offers no answers. Instead, Ford acknowledges the near-impossibility of words in the face of tragedy. But, yet, he writes, and struggles to understand and begins to look ahead. Magnificent.

Finally, take a look at this article in the New York Times by Samuel Freedman, which looks at the musical heritage of New Orleans and a radio show trying to help heal those left behind with songs from this past. Nick Spitzer's "American Routes" has traced the musical history of the city, and his most recent show evoked both the indestructible spirit of cities and the scope of the tragedy. It is hard to think of this city without thinking of music, from its role in the birth of jazz, its Jazzfest, its clubs, and its homegrown musicians like the Neville Brothers, the Marsalis brothers, Harry Connick Jr., et al.

When I get back to my computer, I will add some songs to this post from Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives and Sevens, some Cash Money ish, some No Limit stuff, Dr. John, Randy Newman and whatever else comes to mind. [Ed. note: I am still away from my laptop and won't be for a few more days, so the mp3s will have to wait until after this weekend. Check back on this and subsequent posts next week for a tribute to the music of New Orleans. Again, sorry for the lack of music lately, but I know that y'all have been hoping to hear me ramble on about cities and death. And by "hoping", I mean dreading.]

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm Baaaack!

Cheah! Pound for Pound is back, dear reader. I apologize for the extended absence, but my personal life took precedent for the past week. Yes, I have a personal life. No really, I do. Whatever. Now, I am happy to say that things are back to normal. Or, as normal as they get for me.

I am writing from the Lower East Side tonight, whose application I am considering for the position of next Philadelphia precinct. For real, though, the LES is amazing, a paradigm for urban space, the realization of so much that Pound for Pound stands for, a site where the past, present and future mingle on a daily basis.

For those in NYC tonight, I must recommend Favela Clash 2 at Joe's Pub. That's right, a night devoted to the music of the Brazilian slums, baile funk, and the Jamaican ones, dancehall. DJ Sujinho is the main attraction, the man who dropped the baile funk mix, I Love Baile Funk, a few weeks back. It now has This one is brought to you by Roxy Cottontail, who seems to have her hand in everything good going down in downtown Manhattan. Check out her site, and find out what is coming next (the Tittsworth show on Friday is so necessary). Go here and see what the Fader guys have to say, and the Village Voice write-up on this celebration of Brazilian independence.

Check in regularly again, as I will be posting at a regular schedule. Philly talk, fantasy football ruminations, ghettotech, hell maybe even the Sujinho mix. I am sorry for the recent silence, but promise to make it up to everyone in a big way.