Prism Entertainment 2252
Prism Entertainment 2252
I'm currently hooked on 椎名林檎 (Shiina Ringo), aah-gain. This recurring addiction happens from time to time and, for me, always with the same kind of artist: preternaturally gifted, flawed but beautiful ladies with an unconventional way of expressing themselves though the kind of music that appeals to ears hungry for one-of-a-kind singer/song writers-- you know, the Tori/P.J./Bjork/types (I suppose you can replace Tori for Kate if you must). Shiina Ringo is the J pop equivalent to these select "raisin girls" of too-bold-for-Lilith Fair powerhouses of 90's female alt-rock superstardom. Not only has she been compared to each of the above ladies in one respect or another, she has also aroused Courtney Love's attention because of her song "Gips" ("Plaster Cast") in which she sings, "You always want to shrink away/and that makes me happy/because it's like Kurt/and that would make me Courtney;" she's a huge fan of Janis Ian, and many folks mention Shiina Ringo and Alanis Morrisette in the same breath, claiming that her voice sounds Alanis-ish. Though it's obvious that Ms. Shiina embraces all kinds of music -- her tunes vary wildly from the ornately orchestrated classical to slinky jazz to electro-dance to mainstream rock to grungey punk -- it's her vocal eccentricities (she's famous for rolling her "r"s gangsta style) and her thought-provoking, complex lyrics (which often feature sprinklings of archaic language and use of uncommon words/kanji characters) that have made her singularly famous. On top of all that, she's got wicked style, a style so influential that recent J pop starlets have fledged new careers by modeling themselves after Shiina Ringo. Vivienne Westwood has the trendsetting Ms. Shiina to thank for making her wares so sought after in Japan and Japanese culture mavins world wide have Shiina-san's recurring, totally "和" ("old Japan") fashion sensibilities to admire as she so frequently weaves the antiquated with the contemporary when it comes to her visual appearance whether it be in photos, music videos or live stage performances. There has even been a popular manga and film created with an admittedly Ringo-esque main character. Despite all this, my first impression of Shiina Ringo was a somewhat convoluted one given my inability to really "get" everything she was spitting, but --holy moly-- was the music fantastic! And that's all that really mattered at first. Since then I've grown into a comfort pocket with her music that, like so many other of my favorite artists, demands rummaging through on a regular basis. This time I decided to find out more about her; here are some basic facts and interesting nuggets of knowledge about Shiina Ringo -- J pop songstress extraordinaire:
Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, most famous for his album cover illustrations of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock 'n' Roll and his ground breaking art book Rock Dreams, died this past Monday of kidney cancer in Paris. He was 74.
Born in Brussels in 1934 into an aristocratic family, Peellaert broke with his family as a teenager, first by entering the military, then by choosing an art career over his father’s demands to pursue a career in medicine. Peellaert first major success was the comic strip, Les Aventures de Jodelle, published in 1966 in the French magazine Hara-Kiri. The central character, Jodelle, was modeled after Ye-Ye singer Sylvie Vartan. Peellart's second comic strip, Pravda, again modeled the heroine after a French singer, the iconic Françoise Hardy. In the 1970’s Peellaert went on to design movie posters for such films as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver; Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire and Robert Altman's Short Cuts.
But Peellaert is best known for his rock album covers -- especially his controversial Diamond Dogs design from 1974. The gate-fold cover features Bowie as a half-man, half-dog grotesque. Peellaert painted in a photo-realistic style and the controversy stems from how well he flaunted the hybrid genitalia. I guess that was something of a no-no in the early 1970’s. A few copies of the original cover inexplicably survived, today they fetch upwards of a few thousand dollars each. The initial RCA release had the genitalia airbrushed out, but the recent reissue on Rykodisc/EMI revives the original artwork.
"Carnival of Light," the long-rumored, almost mythical 14-minute experimental Beatles track, may soon see the light of day. Composed and performed only once for an electronic music festival in 1967, Sir Paul McCartney earlier this week confirmed that the recording exists, and the piece once thought to be too experimental for mainstream tastes might actually see a release date sometime in the near future.
In the 1990’s while preparing the Anthology collection, the Beatles plus producer George Martin vetoed its inclusion, deeming the track as being "too adventurous" for release. But McCartney feels the public is ready for the psychedelic/avant-garde inspired tune, which is said to include improvised distorted guitar, church organ, gargling, backwards tape sounds, random cacophony and band members shouting words or phrases like "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?"
First though, approval from the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, plus permission from Ringo Starr and George Martin would be required.
I found a video on YouTube that claims to contain actual "Carnival of Light" music. Of course if this is a real Beatles tracks, it's brilliant! If this is in fact not a recording from he Beatle's, it just becomes ... more stuff.
For years one of my favorite posters in the back hallways at Amoeba SF has been a bright, colorful border surrounding a black and white image of young Alex Chilton, leaning against a wall in an argyle tank top with the number 1970 below. I smiled every time I saw it but for some reason never gave it much thought...
Chilton has always been something of a cult hero with not one but two fine bands, The Box Tops and Big Star, that largely flew under the radar/were forgotten, and he wrote some of my favorite songs of all time while in different mutations of Big Star including "Thirteen" and "The Ballad of El Goodo" (from #1 Record) and "Nighttime" (off Third/Sister Lovers). He's a master of sweet, low-key ballads, but can also turn out pop perfection -- a very satisfying combo since basically it means he is something of a melodic genius.
This week I happened upon a copy of an album by Alex Chilton entitled 1970! I had somehow never bothered to figure out what that poster stood for, and now here it was, right in front of me. As it turns out, the album is a post Box Tops solo record made by Chilton in, of course, 1970, in Memphis, which was promptly forgotten and left untitled by both artist and producer when Chilton moved on to Big Star. The original, unadorned tapes were later discovered and released in 1996 by Chilton's famous Memphis label, Ardent Records.