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Mike Doughty's Memoir About Drugs, Sex & Soul Coughing

Posted by Rachael McGovern, January 25, 2012 11:44am | Post a Comment

The Book of Drugs - Mike DoughtyFor most of my life I have been an avid reader, but for the last six months - or even a year if I'm being honest with myself - I've struggled to finish books, forcing myself to make the time to read. Happily, that streak has been broken with the new memoir by Mike Doughty, The Book of Drugs (Da Capo Press, 2012). I read it the first time in about two days, inhaling it as fast as I could between work and sleep. As soon as I finished it, I began reading it again. 

Mike Doughty is a solo artist today, but I came to know him as the frontman for Soul Coughing. The book's primary plotline is about his relationship with drugs, the trajectory of his addictions, and his recovery. But the secondary plot is about his relationship with, and to, his former band. Admittedly, that is why I picked up the book. Addiction in and of itself isn't as interesting to me as the person who is telling the story of addiction, and I was very interested in what Mike Doughty, the former lead singer, guitarist and lyricists for one of my favorite bands, had to say.

One of the things that I most appreciated about Soul Coughing was the mixture of intelligence and quirkiness, the wordplay and the soundplay (we'll pretend that's an actual word). Doughty uses those strengths in The Book of Drugs, telling his story with humor, wit, honesty, self-reflection, anger, passion, and sorrow. (For someone who says he was out of touch with his feelings for so long due to his addictions, he has come a long way in accessing those emotions and laying them on the page.) 

For me, the most salient scene from the book that illustrates how much his addiction affected him involved his daily trip to the ATM four blocks away. He would call his dealer and then descend his apartment building's stairs (a thirty minute process one way), walk down the block, and across a larger intersection. The whole trip - four blocks - took him ninety minutes, sometimes two hours. The fact that the ordeal of walking a few blocks seemed to him like a natural side effect of aging (he was thirty-something at the time), and not a by-product of his drug habit, was heartbreaking.

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More Journeys Off the Beaten Track

Posted by Rick Frystak, November 29, 2011 04:44pm | Post a Comment

Peter Michael Hamel
Hamel
Vertigo 6641 055, 1972

2-Lp set on German Vertigo circa 1972 brings us a spiritual journey of minimalism and creative spark, alone in the studio…tape running and overdubbing, often not listening to the previously recorded material. Hamel was doing multi-tracked organ, synths, piano and percussion in Germany at the same time as Riley, Glass and those guys were, quite forward-thinking. He worked with maestros Joseph Anton Reidl and Luc Ferrari, but never went in that conrete’ or collage direction as a style musically. Terry Riley is still doing live organ pieces just like these herein, and classical composers have struggled with this style for decades. Here in these discs we have 2 luscious sides of organ and synthesizer pieces with each instrument “beating” or modulating the other, simple rooted tones yet always moving with melody and logic; 1 side of prepared piano with a Cage influence, yet Hamel shows his prog/pop and Indonesian gamelan inclinations rhythmically and tonally. Nice! The last side is synthesizer overdubs with water and breath sounds, owing to Hamel’s heavy spiritual side and his immersion in this new minimalism. This record is still fresh now, and vibrates with a wonderful, contemporary accessibility and creative spark even after nearly 40 years. And this 2-disc set on Vertigo vinyl is rarer than a 2-dollar bill at this point.

 

Pat Martino

Strings!
 

Prestige 7547, 1968

Yes, the exclamation mark is in the title, as well it should be. Pat the jazz magician, folks saying “how (the hell) does he do that”?  Post-Wes Montgomerian bop-chops aplenty with a soaring, melodic style and body groove that shakes up the mind with every riff, the big sound is already here in the room, and he’s inspired on this gig. Joe Farrell plays reeds and flute here along with a burning rhythm section and piano (Walton), and his style compliments Pat’s guitar direction, his solos setting up the anticipation for the next guitar jaunt. Pat’s made many records, and these older straight-ahead titles tend to be overlooked, “Pat” being a name associated with guitar sainthood it would, wouldn’t it, with all the stuff out there. Shoudn't!  Blue label mono original, this one.  

 

Chico Hamilton

El Exigente (The Demanding One)
Flying Dutchman FDS-135 1970

A Chico live date with no information inside except the personnel, this one shimmers and shreds with live-gig improvisation and way-ahead-for-the-time sounds. Searing electric sax by Arnie Lawrence (never better), electric guitar by Bob Mann, and Steve Swallow on the electric bass. Lots of fuzz, and the horn sounds like a synth most of the time…maybe a Maestro attachment. As is Chico’s wont, the jams combine his tribal-like grooves with voodoo jazz vibe, and the soloists get to smoke away as Swallow does his usual thing with very melodic bass riffage. This begins to feel more like a monumental moment in time, as Chico and the men process Bitches Brew, White Room, A Love Supreme and Vaughn Williams all at once, gentle lyricism giving way to fire-y freakout. The guys are really listening to each other as well and the gig feels improvised and written out at the same time. Applause at the ends indicates immense satisfaction in the crowd. Never seen this on CD, either.

 

Jerry Goldsmith
Chinatown
 

ABC ABDP-848  1974

One of my favorite soundtracks and best themes of all time, Chinatown never ceases to enchant me. Echo-y strings, piano and trumpet vividly recall the imagery of the film, and no less make a musical journey of their own with each listen. Amazing arranging and color shaping of the musical pallette, with harps, zither and percussion guarding the narrative and supporting every emotion conveyed in the musical saga. Small descriptive segments of ecstasy and sympathetic sound brought together as a perfect whole. Goldsmith did this more than a few times in his career (Islands In The Stream comes to mind) but Chinatown remains an iconic piece of cinematic history, and continues to deliver the goods. John Huston must have flipped (in a good way) when he heard this.

 

Alvin Lucier

Music For Solo Performer (for enormously amplified brainwaves and percussion)
Lovely Music VR 1014  1982
 
2 people, Mr. Lucier and Pauline Oliveros, have electrodes attached to their scalps which are routed through amplifiers to loudspeakers, and solenoids controlling sticks and beaters. The speakers are placed on or near percussion instruments, and henceforth manipulated by the alpha waves of said performer, good bad and ugly. The sound manufactured is not composed or conceived. It is a result of the brian waves being transferred into sound by the near-by instruments beind vibrated by the speakers. A perennial party and sit-down dinner favorite, this record will  be your constant companion on road trips and beach parties. No, but yeah, but seriously, I’m “blown away” by the music that can be made just by thinking.  Sections of this piece are by turns calm and serene, and then popping with action and spirit, all in these performances sounded out percussively yet MUSICAL! What was Alvin thinking? Literally.
 


Timothy Leary Ph.D, Ralph Metzner Ph.D, Richard Alpert Ph.D

The Psychedelic Experience
Broadside Records BRX 601 1966 (Signed by Timothy Leary)

Fantastic document on LP record, of the principles and actions of the LSD experience, quite new in 1966. Recited by these 3 gents, this disc is the reading of portions of a text into the mind expansion and exploration of other states of consciousness via the cosmic voyage, in this case LSD, and the stages of change within the self and ego from the chemical and the "proper" way to attempt management of the ingestion of said drug and the results. It's a wonderful piece of spoken word and, the affecting delivery of each of the men’s tableaus on the quest for other forms of consciousness is hypnotizing and enthralling, especially Leary’s portions. Sound quality notwithstanding (as many Folkways pressings are sub-audiophile quality to say the least), the record is a compelling look at a time in our culture that changed history. This copy of the record was hastily signed by Leary, as related by the previous owner, whose father was an autograph collector.

(In which we tackle Thanksgiving issues the Food Network won't.)

Posted by Job O Brother, November 22, 2010 05:01pm | Post a Comment

Let’s just say, theoretically, that some of your family is in town visiting for Thanksgiving weekend and, theoretically, your 72-year-old mother brings you a few gifts, like freshly dried seaweed, homemade hummus (green with pureed parsley), and a circus clown tin full of Mexican Wedding Cakes laced with greenbud marijuana, which, theoretically, you eat two of and the next day you are crazy hung-over and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch old re-runs of Leave It To Beaver but you have to write this blog you’re now reading. Theoretically.

What music do you listen to?


The munchies!

Frankly, the whole scenario is a bit far-fetched, and I’m not sure why you’re even bringing it up. Certainly nothing like this is what I’m going through right now, because marijuana is illegal and I’ve never even heard of it.

But, if I were in such a ridiculous situation, I suppose the sort of thing I would enjoy listening to would be this…

The Ahmad Jamal Trio makes wherever you are feel like the inside of a soothing bubble bath. With Epsom salts. It’s especially good music when you’re fatigued but don’t want to be, because it relaxes the entire environment, and suddenly your slow pace and barely functioning mind don’t seem so out-of-place. You’re no longer fatigued – now you’re just a cool, kick-back cat with no tick-tock countdown to the ringer, dig?

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Sun Araw's Latest Head Trip, Off Duty, Out This Week!

Posted by Kells, October 7, 2010 09:00am | Post a Comment
The new Sun Araw, Off Duty, is out this week on Woodsist and, man, is it as heavy as he's ever been...














...and the good news is that if you spaced on picking up Boat Trip on vinyl, the good folks at Woodsist have included it on the CD release of Off Duty. For those of you who've long been riding on the so-called "chill wave" (I prefer to call it "berm highs," but what's a girl to do) this release is as essential as Sun Araw's previous nuggets of music made by people taking drugs to make music to take drugs to, or music to not take drugs to because the music is so "druggy" you don't have to. Seriously, I don't see ever coming back from the next-next level trips that come of digging into Sun Araw with a juggernaut of a buzz on, just sayin. Anyhoo, if you like space, beaches, Spacemen 3, Lee "Scratch" Perry's 'Black Arc' period and never fake the funk, then consider this your next stop on the midnight train to oblivion....

"Last Chants"

Father's Day (contains spoilers)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 20, 2010 09:16pm | Post a Comment


It's a Hallmark card not yet writ

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