Art of McCartney – CD Review

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Fresh off the heels of Eric Clapton’s tribute to  J.J. Cale comes a tribute album to a music icon, Paul McCartney, “sung by the world’s greatest artists.”  There needs to be an asterisk pointing to a disclaimer noting “when they were relevant.”  junk

It’s not the songs, of course.  It’s not the musicianship.  And it’s not (all of) the artists.  It’s the uninspired and insipid concept and production.

On Clapton’s CD, the choice was made to make the the entirety sound like a JJ Cale album, which at worst might point people to the source material.  

It’s similar here in that the majority of songs are played by McCartney’s touring band in almost note for note mimicry.   And why not? They can play this stuff perfectly, and probably have played half or more of these songs in front of millions.   And if that makes it literally and figuratively easier for the world’s “best” to record mail in their vocals, all the easier, right?  

Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Steve Miller, Roger Daltrey (The Who), Heart, Jeff Lynne (ELO), Barry Gibb (Bee Gees), Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Dr. John, Alice Cooper, BB King, Sammy Hagar... KISS for goodness sakes. 

Now, do you want to hear those artists sing Sir Paul’s songs, or interpret them?  If you like Karaoke and are a big fan of one or more of these artists, then this CD is for you.

It struggles from the start, with one of McCartney’s triumphs, “Maybe I’m Amazed.”  Billy Joel doesn’t sound like Billy Joel anymore.  He can whistle fine, but despite his straining effort, his voice creaks from an old man’s bones.  Roger Daltrey attacks “Birthday” like he’s wanted to cover the song all of his life.   He should have just done it 25 years ago.  It makes me appreciate Dylan the more for reinventing his persona with a caustic charm over the last 20 years... but Dylan and pop song covers just don’t go together, friendship or not (“Things We Said Today”). 

Heart?  Well, the Wilson sisters cover “Band on the Run,” and turn a rocker into a ballad.  If I hadn’t seen the credits, I wouldn’t have known who was singing.  C’mon folks, Gretchen Wilson could have done wonders.    Harry Connick, Jr.?  And “My Love?”  Meh. How about Michael Bublé?  Smokey Robinson’s cover of “So Bad?”  This performance would have him booted in the first round from any reality show (and for choice of songs).   

And those are just some of the less than satisfactory examples.  A producer who carried his own weight would have told Barry Gibb that he was uninspired and pointed out to Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) that “Mary” has two syllables, and “words” has one, not two.  And so on.  Hit the del button and move on.   

That’s not to say that there are not a few decent moments.  Brian Wilson at least manages to work in an interesting arrangement of (a great deep cut track) “Wanderlust.”  “Bluebird,” one of McCartney’s breeziest guilty pleasures, benefits from Corrine Bailey Rice’s jazzy approach, but how much better would it have been with her own band?  Otherwise, hmm.  B.B. King enjoyably covers one of Sir Paul’s few blues tunes, “On the Way,” an overlooked gem from McCartney II.  

Indictment:  There is not a single song here that sounds better than McCartney’s original version.   Where any of these songs made it to my playlist, I would not swap out the original for one of these covers.  Steve Miller, Paul Rodgers, Jeff Lynne, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard... good job, but you had one hand tied behind your back. 

For laughs, Willie Nelson, whose voice is ageless compared to his peers, chose the Beatles’ classic, “Yesterday.”    As the song goes, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it looks like they’re here to stay.”   I imagine this dreck will have a far briefer season than than his tax woes.

Recommended Songs:  None, as recorded here.

1 of 5 STARS

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Sweet Old Girl

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While the summer days grew longer
it was clear that her days grew short
bursts of energy were reserved for meal times
eating voraciously after excited snorts.

 

You know... you know,  that each shiny puppy
will someday wear out its days
but there’s a mystery about the journey
and so much life to be lived along the way

 

Even dog years don’t extend the reach of time, though
and activity slows to a quiet patient slumber
when all it takes is the attention of a touch
a kind tone,  and a “good girl”  to work wonders

 

What does she dream about
when she’s sleep barking at night?
Is she challenging other dogs
or chasing after things she likes?

 

She was a cute enough puppy, I guess
she liked being dragged on the floor like a mop
a blended Heinz 57 mix of genetics
the type not found unless you seek to adopt



Puppies should play on our terms, right?
but she saw no point when asked to catch or fetch
and she was by no means a pretty dog
given her crooked tail and cheery Jaws of death

 

How far and wide would suburban dogs wander
if people let them be true to their nature?
we don’t stop to weigh whether cruelty or kindness
is found on a leash or confined to an acre

This one’s nose let her live beyond herself, I think,
taking pleasure in what comes from out there
give her a shoe or a pants leg freshly arrived
or witness her draw in the fullness of the evening air

 

Dogs achieve varied means of expressing themselves
whether a look, or prancing, or a “woo woo woo”
that last was an excited greeting shared just for me
inexplicable and unfair in my wife’s point of view

 

Too soon Gypsy slowed to a being a sweet old girl
even dog years don’t help in judging life complete
but throughout this girl was loving and faithful
what i once called a stupid dog was far more sweet.

 

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Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

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Each year for the last 16 or so I’ve been part of a group that shares their “Top 20” year end music releases.  While some might hope to find their own favorites held in others’ high regard, the point is to discover that artist that we would have otherwise missed. 

In 2003, that artist was Damien Rice, whose debut “O” was a raw, tortured affair full of the singer-songwriter angst that I generally frown upon.  But he did it so well, with evocative vocals, simple guitars, DRicestrings and a flair for sharing all that is wrong but occasionally right in his relationships. 

Eight years after his disappointing follow-up, he returns eight years older and apparently none the wiser in his relationships.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  If relational hopes and failings are the only things which stir him to write songs, then its probably best that he never find that perfect someone.

Let’s sample some lyrics!

you helped me love, you helped me live
you helped me learn how to forgive, didn’t you?
i wish that i could say the same,
but when you left, you left the blame, didn’t you?

So, let’s see... she was great and he changed for the better, mostly.  But he’s still a cad and cut herself free from the loser.  Cheerio.

I've never been with anyone
In the way I've been with you
But if love is not for fun,
Then it's doomed

Generally speaking, the lyrics have been pored over.  What he says he means to say.  But I wonder if he actually thinks about how self-absorbed he comes across.  If love is not for fun?  Wake up.  It’s an impossible expectation to define a committed relationship that way.  So... perhaps he left the day when things didn’t seem fun, and, per the previous quote (a different song...), she left.

I have tried but I don't fit
Into this box you call a gift
When I could be wild and free
But god forbid, then you might envy me…

These are terrific lines, honestly expressed.  I guess he’s searching for that special someone, to paraphrase David Crosby, who if they can’t be with the one they love then loves the one they’re with. 

So come let me love you
Come let me love you
And then… colour me in

It’s all a bit one sided, isn’t it?

Add slicker production values and a more mature voice that no longer bleeds naked emotion, and it’s still quite good.  But it’s not what it was, and worse, once the lyrical riddles are solved, who cares?

Recommended: Title track and “Colour Me In”

2 of 5 STARS

 

 

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Review

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I’m continuing to plug along and read the science fiction and fantasy books that appear in NPR’s Top 100 list (public vote).  The “score” isn’t so good.  I’ve read (or listened to an unabridged audiobook) 31.  I’ve watched a movie of an additional four, which doesn’t exactly count.  I’ve got three more in hand, and... we’ll see how far I go.  Some, which are listed as a single entry, are actually a series of books.  So, for example, while I would like to say I’ve read the Top 10, I’ve read the Top 4, but #5 is R.R. Martin’s “Fire and Ice” series.  I’ve seen enough snippets of the “Game of Thrones” to see that there’s not enough there to pique my interest.  I like to have at least one protagonist, you see.

My latest conquest was #64, Susanna Clark’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.”  I’d seen this around for years.  The cover and typeface made me curious; the thickness (~1000 pages in paperback) discouraged me.  That said, finding a copy for $2.99 can change one’s mind, especially after finding that it’s on The List.

It was deserving.  In short, it’s about two magicians who rekindle magic in England.  The “rekindle” is the key.  The book is an alternative history approach where it is a given that magic was once commonplace in England, and everyone knows it.  To this end, Clarke includes references to various historical books that shed light on some of the nuances of this.  Footnotes galore, and often humorous.  But it’s never tongue in cheek.

It’s also not a fast paced book.  Story sections are not set apart in clear chapters, and, on occasion, even the following paragraph, without a separation line, abruptly changes the narrative direction.  It’s strange, but it is imaginative throughout, and diction choices are often enough of a reward to keep plowing ahead.  

So... I usually try to find some interesting quotes.  This book is loaded with dry, penetrating wit. 

“They were Englishmen, and to them, the decline of other nations was the most natural thing in the world.  They belonged to a race blessed with so sensitive an appreciation of its own talents (and so doubtful an opinion of any body else’s) that they many not have been at all surprised to learn that the Venetians themselves had been entirely ignorant of the merits of their own city – until Englishmen had come to tell them it was delightful.”

“Such nonsense!” declared Dr. Greysteel.  “Whoever heard of cats doing anything useful!”
”Except for staring at one in a supercilious manner,” said Strange.  “That has a sort of moral usefulness, I suppose, in making one feel uncomfortable and encouraging sober reflection upon one’s imperfections.”

“Mr. Robinson was a polished sort of person. He was so clean and healthy and pleased about everything that he positively shone - which is only to be expected in a fairy or an angel, but is somewhat disconcerting in an attorney.”

“For, though the room was silent, the silence of half a hundred cats is a peculiar thing, like fifty individual silences all piled one on top of another.”

“Ha!' said the tall man drily. 'He was in high luck. Rich old uncles who die are in shockingly short supply.”

“But, though French, she was also very brave...”

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.”

4 of 5 STARS

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The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun

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There was a female singer I recall that took great pleasure not just in entertaining her audiences, but bolstering her spiritual self-esteem based on the feedback from her fans, who frequently used the word “healing.”  I scratched my head at that, weighing the possibilities of music’s influence on human synapses versus her self idolatry.  tgoastt

The first song of this CD, “Too Deep,” speaks to that at a different level.  I haven’t followed Sean Lennon’s career (yes, the younger son of the Beatle), but I did see his “band” as a warm-up act a few years ago.  It was passable and, in retrospect, probably a stepping stone on the path to Midnight Sun.  This song carries the weight of the world, not in a lyrical oppression or somber tones, but the pure density of its sound.  Let’s see:  electric guitar, synthesizer, bass, percussion, Hammond organ.  The number of instruments doesn’t crowd the aural space, but, supposing that this project lingered as a work in progress for years, it’s just over-baked, smoking the house.  But... then there’s this voice, high above the pollution, the sound of an angel calling the listener to rise above a million New York taxis... healing.  It works, after that point.

Such is the effect of Lennon’s key band mate, collaborator, and girlfriend, Atlanta’s own Charlotte Kemp Muhl.  It’s not that she’s on her way to stardom, but she has that special whimsy that complements Lennon’s almost to perfection, rescuing Lennon from the psychedelic din.

This is a difficult album for me to listen to in a setting.  At times, the myriad electronic squirks and fuzz tones annoy, at other times, they’re embellish.  Strong bass lines benefit many of the songs, and they show good taste in bringing in other instruments, like horns.  In other words, there are ample subtleties to appreciate, not that his occasional lead guitar and lap steel talents disappoint.

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Lyrically, we’ll just say it’s an obtuse work.  “Down the yellow brick road all the homeless scarecrows pimps and witches know red shoes won’t get you home.”  Pick any stanza of any song, really.  “Everywhere you go you’re in a microscope / You’re living in a fishbowl and your mind’s under control / so say a prayer for the internet billionaire / a solar flare will burn the hair of a man and polar bear.”  Did the lyrics influence the music?  Or the music the lyrics?  Maybe they went to Colorado for inspiration.

In any case, there are some fine songs here.  Just try them two to three at a time.  Next time, maybe they’ll consider a “just a little less is more” approach.

Recommended songs: “Moth of a Flame,” “Last Call,” “Don’t Look Back Orpheus”

3 of 5 STARS

 

 

 

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Look at the Red Tree!

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Visiting my daughter, it was time to find boots for her first winter in the Boston area.  These would be, first, “winter” boots presumably tall enough to prevent snow from entering, waterproof, and as soft, warm and cuddly as a kitten within.

The day started off as a beautiful autumn New England day, so nice that the city sidewalks were full of bicyclists and jogging bunnies.  Below is the Charles River, which divides Boston from Cambridge.  We walked across the bridge, which is wider than it seemed.

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After lunch, purchasing said boots, and checking out Newbury Comics, the view looked like this:

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Not trusting my iPhone’s pedometer, MapQuest suggests we walked about 7 miles for... boots.  Anyone who wants undistracted quality time with their child (or parent), go shopping for boots in Boston.

Womens Timberland 8-Inch Boots Gray

After finding these 1.73 miles into our trek, we continued to search for other options before returning to get them.  This took us, twice, through Boston Common, Boston’s principal downtown park.  It’s the oldest park in the U.S., and occupies about 50 acres.  It is in good condition, but it’s also well worn.

So, we’re walking along, and there’s all these people, picking up red leaves under a tree that has nearly found the end of its season.  They’re treating the leaves like they’re the strangest and most unique thing that nature might ever produce.  Selfies all around!  Ooh, and what a cute squirrel! 

Seriously, the cameras come out for Boston’s RED TREE, including the DSLRs.  They should rename their baseball team.

Upon the return trip, we observed a mom with a stroller excitedly instructing her uncomprehending infant, saying “Look at the Red Tree!”

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Sorry.  But, it makes you wonder if these people ever leave the City limits or have ever heard of New England’s fall foliage.  Nature at its finest?   Given the numerous squirrels and ducks, the only wild life observed were the grade school kids running amok.

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The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale

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I’m one of the many who probably first heard of JJ Cale through Eric Clapton, who added to his mid-70’s success with by covering two of Cale’s songs, “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”  It would be many years later before I got around to listening to some of his albums, which were consistently a laid back affair, both in vocal delivery and musical style.  Shuffling, breezy, the same style that Clapton would borrow for his own song, “Lay Down Sally.”

Fast forward many years, and after a collaboration album between the two and appearances together at Clapton’s Crossroads festivals, Cale passed away.   So, we arrive at a tribute album, and the question is whether or not one is necessary. 

These types of albums are fairly frequent, often by younger artists who are honored to cover songs by others who influenced them, or, as in this case, in remembrance. Lennon, Harrison, Santana, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, an upcoming 42 track release of McCartney... Clapton will have his own someday.  So, the cause is understood.

I don’t really care for those types of albums.  If I like the artist, I’ll listen to the original.  If there’s an artist I like covering one of the songs, I’ll listen to the one song.  Narrow minded, I know.  Usually, artists take someone’s song, and, for better or worse, interpret it in their own style.  A couple of great examples are Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s “Along the Watchtower” and Roxy Music’s cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”   Neither of those were tributes, but cover songs are nothing new. 

So this tribute album is a bit of a changeup.  The album is credited to “Eric Clapton and Friends.”   As that might suggest, Clapton is the leader, and his core band plays throughout, with assistance from “friends” Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Albert Lee and Cale’s band mate Don White.  But instead of turning the artists loose to interpret, Clapton produces the affair with a heavy hand, in a “who sounds the most like JJ” vocal restriction.  Tom Petty?  It’s like they whittled the high end off at the production board.  Knopfler?  Better, but vocals buried in the mix.  Mayer gets a fair turn, but it’s really only Willie Nelson whose voice who can’t be neutralized.  It’s just weird.  Clapton may as well have remastered Cale’s original works. 

There’s nothing wrong here.  Actually, I like the idea that  of a tribute album with cohesiveness.  It’s just too bad that there’s no enthusiasm to be heard.  It’s all quite listenable, but too safe.

Recommended: “Call Me the Breeze,” “Someday,” “Sensitive Kind”

3 of 5 STARS

 

 

 

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Horse Rescue

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It had been a while since I had been out on a photography outing with the group that I joined a few years ago.  This visit was for the Save the Horses farm in Cumming, GA.  Am I interested in horses?  No.  Is my wife?  Yes.

So, while she took pictures of horses, I explored elsewhere.  I felt welcomed:

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Hey, bricks have interesting textures.  I’ll take a picture of those at the horse rescue!

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Hmm, gnarly tree lichen!

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A petrified metropolis.  That’s fun!

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A rubber ducky in a tub!

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Bacon.

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Chickens?  More edibles.

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The foreground chicken would actually be worth a macro shot for his colorful feathers.  Cropping it didn’t reveal a fine focus, but I had fun with it anyway.

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There was “art” or horse themed wherevers all over the farm.

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See?  More art.

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And, finally, an obligatory horse picture!

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Pink Floyd – Endless River

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It’s been 20 years since the last Pink Floyd album... the same 20 years since I saw them in concert.  Twenty years doesn’t  buy what it used to...

And the band is picking up where they left off, which is not so amazing as they raided 20 hours of leftover recordings from that recording session.  David Gilmour, one of two remaining members, attributes this year long effort as a tribute to Rick Wright, their keyboardist who died in 2008, upon whose recordings this album is principally built. 

If that’s the case, I’m fine with it.  I’m not sure that he ever got the credit he deserves for shaping the Floyd sound.   And if 47 minutes of this album are instrumental, that’s okay, too.  There are plenty of us whose ears track to the music, certainly more than the “trials and tribulations of a rock star” lyrics which tended to infest their lyrics back in their heydey.

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Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason have augmented those tapes, as 60% of the content involves re-recording and supplementing the source material.   It is said that there was some discussion about taking the instrumental sections that were left over and making an “ambient” music album, way back then.  Twenty years later, this release delivers far more interesting music than what Brian Eno might place in that genre, but it’s also not the earth shaking musical release for which many might hope. 

I have no doubt that this sum is greater than the pieces with which they began.  What is left, though, is an aggravating, but rewarding... no, a rewarding but aggravating experience.

This is a beautiful recording.  It really is.  It’s produced to perfection, with crisp acoustic and electric slide guitar providing context or, on occasion, forward movement to Wright’s keyboards.  Other instrumental adornments shape the music for a pleasing accessibility.  And, the Endless River is 53 minutes of bona fide Pink Floyd music.   If Roger Waters, their former bassist/lyricist/singer who departed the band over tensions with Gilmour, might still remark that the music created after he was separated from the band “doesn’t sound Pink Floyd enough,” it does to my ears – and always has. 

That said, if I credit this as an instrumental album more than an ambient one, it still lacks the context or substance that Gilmour or Waters might add via lyrics.  It’s said by some that there are four musical sections or movements within the greater whole.  I don’t hear it.  Maybe that’s because some try to find purpose in a double vinyl album which would equate to roughly 13 minutes per side.  Puhleez.

Instead, I hear beautiful music which lazily makes it way, eventually finding a heartbeat when Gilmour decides to shape the tones into something more evocative.  And when he awakens the listener from the slumber, there’s a hope for something aggressive around the corner, where he uncorks his guitar and lets it loose. 

That moment never arrives.  “Anisina,” Allons-Y (1 & 2), and “Surfacing” each have an elevated pulse but never break a sweat.  Which leaves, by default, the closer, “Louder Than Words,” as the CD’s most satisfying song, not because of the (admittedly welcome) vocals, but for the sense of structure and purpose for Gilmour’s flourishes. 

Endless River is an apt title.  It has a sufficiency in its duration, the production values are pristine, and it flows like a Saturday afternoon nap.  I’ll enjoy it for what it is.  But, what I wanted was something that might be more aptly titled Turbulent Waters.  Or, to be contrary at a literary level, “Comfortably Numb.”  

Instead, Endless River flows with the smoothness of a Swiss watch’s automatic movement, and at 53 minutes, we reach the end of Pink Floyd’s final cut.    

3 of 5 STARS

 

 


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The Gorrie Museum

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Two bucks.  That’s what it costs to enter the the State of Florida’s Gorrie Museum.  Given a spare 15 minutes, that’s something to do, right?  Even if it’s 10 or 20. It takes however long it takes.  But, it was there in Apalachicola, so why not?

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Who?

Dr. John Gorrie (1803 - 1855) was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.  How that refrigerator works is probably the least interesting thing in the building.  Here’s a mockup of what it looked like:

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So much so that the “guide” was at a loss to explain it.  It’s written elsewhere, but it involves air, water, brine and compression, and results in ice being formed in the upper box.

The better question is “Why?”

Well, malaria.  Or, mal-aria (bad air).  Let’s get the gory details.  “Yellow fever” was common in hot, tropical areas with high humidity and rapid decomposition of vegetation.   It starts with shivering, violent chills, high fever, insatiable thirst, headaches, drenching sweat and back and leg pain.  In a day came jaundice and yellow body color.  And, later, 12% to 70% of its victims survived, and the remainder coughed up dark blood, body temperature drops, the pulse fades, and the comatose patient, cold to the touch, would die in 8-10 hours.

And it struck Apalachicola in 1941.  Dr. Gorrie, born in Charleston, SC and educated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York (CPSWDNY?), happened to be a local business and civic leader of a town and port doing well at the time, due to cotton.

Regrettably short of being a healing aide, then ice was at least helpful for comfort.  Said ice, cut in the winter in northern lakes, was stored in underground ice houses, packed in sawdust and shipped around the Florida Keys by a sailing vessel.  Available in the summer in Apalachicola at a dockside near you.

Why not make it instead?

"If the air were highly compressed, it would heat up by the energy of compression. If this compressed air were run through metal pipes cooled with water, and if this air cooled to the water temperature was expanded down to atmospheric pressure again, very low temperatures could be obtained, even low enough to freeze water in pans in a refrigerator box." The compressor could be powered by horse, water, wind driven sails, or steam power.”

Ice making wasn’t new, but his particular method and purpose of air-conditioning was a major step towards life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  He never made any money off of it, however.  It worked, but it wasn’t reliable to scale it as a business, and others moved the innovation forwards.

The museum had a diorama essentially showing that you put ice at the ceiling, cool air travels down, and the air is recycled from floor level to the attic for airflow.

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A bonus fact was the Apalachicola Sponge Exchange.  Key West was the largest producer of sponges, and the locals were #2, supplying up to a third of the sponges in Florida.   More evidence of a pretty interesting ecosystem.

Oh, and here’s our hero:

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What’s Happening in Apalachicola, FL

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We visited this small town on the Gulf coast of Florida for a nephew’s wedding.  My knowledge of the area was mostly that we had a college friend who worked in a medical clinic nearby for a couple of years and was bored given the absence of things to do in a more urban environment.  And, of course, being from the Atlanta area, we frequently read about the consumption of water from and the pollution to the Chattahoochee River, which winds its way down the GA and AL border to this small town in Florida.

It’s a fairly lengthy trek from the Big City to the Little Town, population ~ 2,231 (census: 2010).   The town was once the third largest point on the Gulf of Mexico, and has progressed through a variety of major industries including cypress harvesting, cotton, and when depletion and economics changed all that, to seafood.  Today, Apalachicola accounts for 90% of domestic oyster production (which adds up to only 10% of U.S. consumption), which is why the quality of the water flow matters from the Chattahoochee.  We even saw a scientifically occupied person taking sediment samples to monitor that very thing.

The town doesn’t look like this, but I suppose this building is a sign of how far the Apalachicola has come in updating a downtown area full of restaurants, shops, art galleries, etc.  Likewise, many of the historic homes have come into the caring hands of people with disposable income.

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Which is good, because the average household income is less than $45,000/yr.  So.  What does it have to offer? (aside from photography opportunities...)

Well, Oyster House Brewing Company.  That was a shock.  Yep, downtown.  It’s not often open to the public, but it’s there.  Imagine one brewery per 2,200 people as a national ratio.  Apocalyptic?  The beer was only satisfactory, but still shocking nonetheless.

We tried two restaurants which were not only satisfactory but excellent.  Those would be Hole in the Wall Seafood, which had a literal hole in the wall, and the Owl Cafe, which absolutely nailed a wedding reception, including sociable space, food, and beverage service. 

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Two stories about, essentially, my one day in town:

Story #1. 

My son had to get his haircut before the wedding, as he was a groomsman.  Long story short, the only place that showed up on Yelp was the Mane Salon (and Day Spa).  The series of conversations went like this:

I call. “Give me your number. I’ll call you back when I get done with this nail appointment.”

I wait an hour.  Pictures have to be taken in 4 hours.  We stop by.  She’s doing nails.  “Come back in about an hour.”

We come back in about an hour.  “Almost done with this haircut.”  We watch football, which the ladies gathered knew something about, and listen to ladies having fun talking. 

Those lady include the one lady working, who presumably owns the place, a friend who’s keeping her company probably for the afternoon, and the lady who was getting her hair cut (and hung around to let it dry and whatever). 

The stylist asks my son how he wants his hair cut.  I show her a picture on my phone.  She looks back and forth, in exaggerated looks of a discerning eye, and says, “That is you, isn’t it?  You’re a good looking boy.”  Then I have to show thIMG_4839e pictures to the other two ladies, and they agree with the picture, if not the person before them.  The haircut begins with a “I’ve never cut a man’s hair before...”, in jest, and after the floor is littered with hair, she turns my son toward her friend, who says, “When you came in here, you looked pooooooor.  Now you look like you got money.”  

It was almost on of those “Pay for the comedy;  the haircut is free” kind of places.  Ah, the small town South.

Story #2:

I drop my son off at 4:00.  I then refill the gas tank and scrape away the remains of many a bug that had been attracted to the headlights the night before.  I decide that, since there is time, I may as well go find the rumored marina where the shrimp boats dock.  But first, I’m reminded of the Gorrie Museum that my wife and I had passed by.  So I do that, and soak in all that there is to soak (forthcoming post), then I’m off to find the marina.

And I find the marina, and I take a suitable number of obligatory “Shrimp Boats at Dock” photos.  This one will do:

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Scenic, eh?

Then I’m off to the condo to pick up my wife.  It’s now 4:45.  (Time lapse if you missed it:  45 minutes).  It’s amazing what you can get done in a town with no traffic lights.

Well, about that condo.  The first floor has some shops in it, and the second floor was converted to living space.  I didn’t take any pictures within, but it’s quite well done, both in the renovation and the owner’s taste in styling.  The building is historic and served the maritime businesses for stock and repairs and such for years.

Here’s the deck, at least.

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And that deck overlooks:

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Yeah, well, normally there’s a couple of shrimp or oyster boats docked there, too. 

We enjoyed it more than others that came for the wedding, I think, and I’d like to return once more just for the photography exercise, the lack of traffic, the food, and some really nice locals.

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Robin Trower – Variety Playhouse Concert Review

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This was my third time seeing Robin Trower, the first being in May, 2009.  I enjoyed that show, but it was only after that show that I really began to listen to his music, and, likely opposite his legions of fans, predominantly his new material.

Both on record and live, his nuance of tone, control, and expression warmed my ears to what he was about.  I saw him at Variety again in 2009, more familiar with his songs and was blown away, both by his skills and the volume.

Fast forward 5 years, which seems impossible, and he’s back.  This time, I returned with my son in tow.  After a great burger at Vortex, we waited in line outside the venue and listened to Trower’s older faithful recollect “that time back in...,” “new music sucks,” “damn the wealthy and Republicans,” and similar as they admired each others concert T-shirts from some time ago.   So we waited almost an hour, with plenty of folks in front and later behind, and they would all eventually fill the place as it was a sold-out show (capacity ~1,100).

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As disclosed, they were all older folks, standing in line for an hour so they could find seats for the show.   There’s an irony in that which I’ll explain in a bit.  When the doors opened, they all found seats, ignoring the standing area in front of the stage.   This was outstanding for a guy who likes to take pictures and for a son who might learn a trick or two watching Trower do his thing. 

After a brief, obligatory opening act, Trower took the stage.  He’s jettisoned his previous touring band and gone to a trio.  To my ears, the drummer, Chris Taggart, provided a bigger punch when needed and was otherwise very adept at whatever style was needed.  The rhythm section was a step up.  The bassist/vocalist I really can’t comment on as he couldn’t be heard much in my corner, Trower’s Marshall amps being the culprit.

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And that’s okay, because to a person, no one is really there to hear the song lyrics.  It’s about the man with the guitar.

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This was probably the finest concert of his I’ve seen.  Trower seemed energized and very much into his performance, despite an all but absent repartee with the crowd.  “Thank you” was pretty much the sum of it. 

It’s also interesting that Trower sounded so fresh because the set list (at end of this post) has been static this tour.   I’ve previously commented that his show in Vegas was 90 minutes.  I assumed it was a venue restriction to get the fans back out in the casino.  Only, he did the same when I saw him at Variety.  This time, the full set was done in one hour (remember all those older fans who stood so they could sit?  Irony.)  After two minutes, at most, he returned to play two songs in a 15 minute encore.

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All too brief. 

In part recognizing Bridge of Sigh’s 40th anniversary, Trower played 5 songs from his classic album, the most sterling of which was an inspired silo for the title track.  If there’s a bone to pick, “That’s Alright Mama” is a nice cover tune, but if he wants to please from his Roots and Branches CD, “Hard to Thrill” was there for the taking.   It’s about the guitar, not the song.  And if there was a surprise, it was that Trower sang two of his newer songs, which he seems to have been reluctant to do in the other tours. 

Otherwise, Trower has a fairly simple pedal setup, and there’s only a couple of buttons that he uses to alter his sound beyond the base configuration.  Other than using a Wah, it’s just him getting every sound out of his guitar.  Perhaps other guitar makers might also take note of his Stratocaster, because I only observed him make one minor tuning adjustment throughout the show.  On the other hand, if he had to tune more often, maybe he would chat with the audience...

My favorites were “See My Life,” “The Turning,” “Little Bit of Sympathy,” and, of course, “Bridge of Sighs.”

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For those who enjoy the many expressions of Trower as he shapes his notes, I took lots of pictures.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Set List:

Somebody Calling
Rise Up Like the Sun
See My Life
Daydream
Lady Love
Snakes & Ladders
Day of the Eagle
Bridge of Sighs
That’s Alright Mama
Confessing Midnight
Little Red Rooster
The Turning
Not Inside Outside
Little Bit of Sympathy

Encore:

Too Rolling Stoned
For Earth Below

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Wings of Freedom Tour

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A friend found this advertisement in the newspaper, which, in and of itself, tests the limits of probability.  Who reads papers?

Wings of freeedom

In any case, he did, and we set off for a morning at the airport to experience several World War II airplanes more directly than the confines of a museum or the virtual recreations possible in video games or movies.

Included were the planes pictured, presented by Collings Foundation, which also has other interests.  At $12 per person, they can’t afford their fuel.  Which is why they also sell rides at a heftier price.

We arrived to find the bombers taking off, which begged the question of the timing of their return.  They did, after their “morning flight.”  I guess they dry out of old age if you don’t pump liquids through them.

This particular B-17, one of 10 still flying, did not actually see combat action but served as a sea rescue plane.  Still, it’s been restored. 

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Hmm.  The windshield looks like it drove up from Florida during love bug mating season...

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Hello, Windex.  Wow, that’s better.

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One of a number of interesting observations is exactly how much of a shell these planes are.  The metal isn’t thick, and I have to wonder if it would give way to a .22 rifle.  Or pistol.

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The B-24 Liberator was used in combat by the Royal Air Force, left in India after the war, and was eventually restored and decorated with the markings of a famous plane which never lost a crew member in 130 missions.

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These might be fun to shoot...

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The ball turret might be fun, too...

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...except that you have to get into it through here.  For scale, note the 0.50 cal waist gun positions on either side.

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The P-51 was there to be looked at, except for the few who might purchase a flight ($3,200).  Also, if that’s too expensive, you can go out and buy one.  I didn’t learn the history on this particular plane, but the absence of guns suggests it might have been a trainer.

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Holding the camera above my head and hoping for the best revealed the cockpit.

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We spent about 2 hours looking at the planes.  Pilot areas were obviously off-limits as these are still flown, but otherwise access throughout the planes was pretty liberal.

I took lots of pictures, which can be viewed HERE.

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No paparazzi!

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