Friday, November 19, 2010

Phil Lesh: Searching for The Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead

Phil Lesh's autobiography is certainly a book with extreme cult popularity much like the Grateful Dead themselves. I had heard good things from members of groups I perform with; most notably the bass player (duh) from Spidergawd, a Los Angeles based jam-band- named after the spacey Garcia improvisational track from his 1972 solo debut "Garcia"- that specializes in playing many Dead tunes along with other classic rock, country, funk, bluegrass, etc. , and original music in similar veins. I have seen multiple documentaries on the Dead including "From Anthem to Beauty," "The Grateful Dead Movie," "Grateful Dawg," and the BBC documentary "Can't take it with You," on the debacle and litigation involving Jerry Garcia's estate after he passed in 1995, but this was the first tell all I'd read. Phil Lesh is certainly one of the most important voices on the Grateful Dead that survive today. Sure, I'd be just as happy to hear Billy the K's take or Bobby's, and I'd be very interested in Robert Hunter's, but Phil is the member of the band who has fought the hardest to keep the music alive all of this time. A main organizer of The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Dead, and now Furthur, Lesh has championed the Weir song title turned mantra that "The Music Never Stopped." The background on Lesh's musical beginnings and the slow formation and reformation of the band which would eventually become The Grateful Dead is intriguing to say the least and by the time we get to Jerry's death and the infinite sadness, fighting, and struggle that would occur post I was ready to start over and get back to the happy times. Recommended to Dead Heads, bass players, sound engineers, and roots music lovers.

The Reversal: Michael Connelly

The new Connelly is about as good as they've been in the past eighteen years, I'd say. As mentioned on the many other reviews on this blog I have read a number of these somewhere in the teens. This new one has both of his recently prominent main characters and also a background cast of many of the players from the entire catalogue of the author. Terry McCaleb and some other crew members from Blood Work and The Poet are among the very few left out, I'll leave it at that. Some new developments have arisen after 9 Dragons, which was one of the very first novels spoken of on this blog and was read during December of last year along with four or five other books and helped me to decide upon this mission/new year's resolution to read more. I suppose I should say "Spoiler Alert!" if you do read Connelly and haven't digested that one yet. Mainly, Bosch is now a single dad raising his daughter here in Los Angeles after the loss of his wife in Tokyo during the madness of that last chapter, which saw Bosch fighting crime in a new country for the first time. The Reversal, refers to this theme of 180 degree change in Bosch's life as well as to the role of Mickey Haller, his long lost half brother from The Lincoln Lawyer, and other novels, who crosses the aisle to work with his ex-wife Maggie McPherson for the prosecution. The book changes perspectives back and forth each chapter from Bosch to Haller and burns on at a break-neck pace, which Connelly's readers have come to love and expect. So, if you've ever read any of these I urge you to welcome back your old pals Harry and Mick and have a nice couple of days in Los Angeles. These novels never take longer than that once you've got them started. Happy reading, The Midge.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grand Design: Steven Hawking

I don't really know what to tell you about this one. It is the newest book published by the greatest astrophysicist, cosmologist, and overall scientist of our time. The more answers we find the more questions arise and we have made some astonishing leaps, but continue to search for more and probably always will. I found it to be certainly worth while and chock-full of information and of the type of terrible jokes you would expect to hear from such a brilliant mind. Read it or don't, I doubt anything I try to explain would sway you either way on this one. I will tell you that he delves into and explains the entire history and progression of modern science and the theories of important scientists and mathematicians dating back to Pythagoras, Galileo, and Einstein, and the theories of Alchemy, Relativity, Super String, and most newly and notably M-Theory. He also discusses experiments, models, theories, and possibilities of other universes, dimensions, and the ongoing search for the "Unified theory of everything," (as Jeff Tweedy sings) which has been carried out through the ages and continues still. Wrap your head around this one if you can. I tried and think maybe ten more readings would help...or would they.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Life: Keith Richards

I've heard some complaints, and other criticisms about this book, but I just don't agree. I don't think Keith sits back and bitches the whole time by any means. I think he jumps around and rambles a little and is completely honest in his judgments of characters around him, but he is also completely honest and tough on himself, much like the twenty times nastier and completely open Miles Davis in his autobiography co-authored by Quincy Thorpe (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT WESTERN MUSIC HISTORY AND MOST CERTAINLY JAZZ). I will also give this a 5-Star, highly recommended, A+, (or whatever you want to call it), rating. I know what you're thinking: "Midge, you recommend every book you read and only choose ones that you have a high probability of liking." Well there is some truth to that even though it disregards my review of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Still, this book is a really engaging and fun read about a band that is as important as any other in the forming and shaping of Rock-and-Roll. Sure, they began by reproducing songs written and performed by African American artists, but much like with straight blues, jazz, and other African American forms of music, the mass public didn't fully pay attention on a grand scale until white performers began to play the music. Sad fact, but people like Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis, were some of the first to turn average white America on to the music of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters. Eventually, rock and roll would become a major American staple of pop-culture, but it was slow and tough going for a while. Artists like all of the aforementioned and Ray Charles, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many more both white and black would each play a very significant role in the transformation and opening of eyes, ears, hearts, and minds. The "Brittish Invasion," is as important to the forming of American popular music as any other chapter of it's growth over the last one hundred and twenty years and the Stones are easily in the top two bands of that era and obviously the only one still tearing down the house. Although, it should be noted that Paul McCartney continues the Beatles legacy, vibe, and spirit by still delighting audiences with moving and highly technical renditions of his entire catalogue. Keith is the main songwriter from the Stones. He wrote all the riffs and most of the songs. Jagger wrote some beauties, too, including "Brown Sugar," and "Miss You," and collaborated on the lyrics of almost every tune, but Keith often came up with not only the song structure and melodies, but often the original lyrical idea as well as sometimes writing the entirety of the lyrics. Sure, he bitches about Brian Jones and Jagger, but he compares he and Jagger's relationship to that of brothers who always fight, but contain a deeply rooted love for each other and would kill for one another. So, take it with a grain of salt and step back. Critical reflection is an important part of reading any book. You have to decide what is real, fantasy, fiction, and embellishment on the author's part. The stories of drug busts, car crashes, drugs, giant inflatable cocks, groupies, drugs, jamaica, New York, drugs, and all the other ramblings including rendezvous' with some of the greatest musicians of rock and roll history including eventually playing with all of his childhood heroes make for a "fantastic fucking read" (sloppy drunken English accent). Read on friends and I'll try to as well. Your pal, The Midget.