Carlos Santana turns 70


When Carlos Santana turned 60, I wrote a piece in my now long-abandoned Underplayed Vinyl series, albums I owned as LPs, which I used to play constantly, but because I didn’t have an easily accessible record player, they didn’t get much action.

The album in question that I posted about, 10 years ago to the day, was Abraxas, Santana, the group’s, second collection. “In 2003 [it] was ranked number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time… Abraxas was deemed ‘culturally, historically, or artistically significant’ by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in their National Recording Registry in 2016.”

Like most of America, I discovered Santana at Woodstock. No, I didn’t go to the festival, but I saw the 1970 movie twice, in a row. Soul Sacrifice, complete with occasional feedback, was revelatory.

Carlos Santana and the various iterations of the group that bear his surname waxed and waned in popularity. For instance, the group was on recording hiatus for seven years in the 1990s.

In 1999, they released Supernatural, which debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200, and 18 weeks later, topped the US charts. I bought it, of course, but I agree with some of the critics that found that the plethora of guest stars means there’s lacking a “consistent voice that holds the album together.” Yet it had good, and commercially successful, songs.

I’ve recently picked up Santana IV, the return of the core band from the first three albums.

The group Santana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

LISTEN, in roughly chronological order; numbers represent the Billboard pop chart action.

Jingo, a/k/a Jin-Go-Lo-Ba, #56 in 1969 here or here
Evil Ways, #9 in 1970 here or here
Soul Sacrifice here or here, at Woodstock

Abraxas, full album, 1971 : here or here (includes Black Magic Woman, #4 in 1971; Oye Como Va, #13 in 1971)

No One to Depend On, #36 in 1972, here or here

Primera Invasion, 1981 here or here
Searchin’, 1981 here

Hold On, #15 in 1982, here or here

Smooth, featuring Rob Thomas, #1 for 12 weeks in 1999 here (single) or here (album)

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, featuring India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma, 2010 here (video) or here (album cut)

Anywhere You Want to Go, 2016 here or here

The decline of American democracy: Chavez, si; Hitler, nein

When I saw the Vox piece, The decline of American democracy won’t be televised, it made a lot of sense to me. Arthur has conveniently explained the premise further.

What I was really happy about in this piece, though, is what it does NOT contain: a reference to Adolf Hitler. It’s not that one cannot make parallels between what’s going on now in the United States and that prewar period “in which the Nazi party rose from obscurity to stand on the brink of complete power over Germany.” It’s that it has been used so often, in references to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, that it has lost almost all meaning.

The example used by Vox in the “democratic backsliding” is Hugo Chavez, the late leader of Venezuela, in his attacks on the courts, free press and other institutions designed to create checks and balances.

Not incidentally, his successor, Nicolas Maduro has thrown opponents in jail and now he’s pushing to rewrite the constitution, which will further consolidate his power. This week, his opponents organized an unofficial protest vote against the constitution change. Millions of Venezuelans showed up. Gunmen fired on crowd of protesters in Caracas, killing a woman and injuring others.

Another international story that’s caught my attention: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could lose his job. From, of all things, the Daily Skimm:

“Last year, the Panama Papers were leaked. They’re the millions of docs that outed some high-profile people for being shady with their finances to avoid the Tax Man. On the list: Sharif’s three adult kids. They allegedly used offshore companies to buy expensive London real estate. Pakistanis want to know where the money came from. So, the country’s Supreme Court asked a group of investigators to look into it.

“Last week, the investigators accused the Sharifs of forgery and hiding their financials, but the Sharifs say ‘not true.’ Sharif’s daughter – who also has political ambitions – gave investigators an ’06 document she says proves she doesn’t own these properties. But turns out, the doc was typed out in Calibri font…which didn’t come out until ’07. Oops.”

Of course, there are no parallels between these three children of a politician and any other three adult children of a public official. I just thought it was… interesting.

B is for the bike and the bus

One of the truly civilizing things about living in the Albany, NY area is the ability to ride the bike and the bus for certain trips. Someone noted that taking the bike on the bus to the bike repair place – broken spoke –
was the first time he had considered the value of having a couple bike racks on the bus. But in fact, I use the combo all the time.

Every 28 days, I have to go back to Corporate (frickin’) Woods, where I worked for too long, to get an allergy shot. I ride my bike through town to a rode called Northern Boulevard, then hitch the bike on the bus as it treks up that nasty Albany-Shaker Road hill.

Now, I could ride to the allergist, but time is the enemy here, for I need to catch a bus OUT of Corporate Woods, and since I have to wait 30 minutes AFTER the shot, I stay on the bus. On the subsequent trip then to work, I can ride at least partway to work, and faster than by bus alone.

There are several reasons to take the bike on the bus:

*law – it’s illegal to ride the bike on the highway. As the crow flies, the shortest route from my house to Corporate Woods is I-90, but it would be not only unlawful but dangerous to ride the bike on the interstate

*time – I COULD ride to Schenectady, the next city to the west, but that would take a while

*energy – that is to say, mine, especially when it comes to hills

*the weather – never was that more true than on May 18. I was planning on riding the two miles home, but a severe thunderstorm began. Walking to the bus stop, I got soaked. Putting my bike on the bu, I was paranoid about being electrocuted.

I think the first time I saw bikes on mass transit was back in the late 1980s, when one could put a two-wheeler on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, in San Francisco-Oakland, California. It made sense to me and I’m happy for the option.

Incidentally, Jen Reviews has put out a “detailed, up-to-date 7,000 word guide on how to choose a bike according to science” that describes “10 factors to consider.”

ABC Wednesday, Round 21

The Selma Diamond voice at the CVS

The CVS in my neighborhood I have visited many times. There is a regular set of registers near the entrance/exit of the building, plus a pharmacy register in the back.

I had noticed that some items had been rearranged the last time I went there. Some short woman with one of those carts one can purchase was muttering that she can’t find anything. I tried to commiserate with her; “Yeah, they have moved some items around.” She snapped back, not really at me, but very loudly, “And I DON’T LIKE IT!”

Then she, standing a good twenty feet away from the pharmacist, started berating him , demanding that he help her find some items. This went on while he was dealing with another customer in front of him.

I meandered to the front of the store to get an item. There were two staffed registers. There was a customer at one, and a customer who had just finished his transaction. The two people in line PLEADED with the sales clerk momentarily without a customer to PLEASE help that woman find what she wanted, forgoing being checked out sooner.

“I’m never coming back to this store ever again,” she snarled. I’m sure more than one person in the building was thinking, “Is that a promise?” Then she upbraided no one in particular, “They need to put everything back the way it was!”

And that clerk did help her, but evidently she needed another item. She barks again at the pharmacist, insisting he take care of her, because she was next, though she’s STILL 20 feet from the queue. The front-store clerk returned, as he could hear her kvetching again.

It only occurred to me later that she sounded rather like the late actress Selma Diamond, only five times LOUDER.

Leaving the CVS, I run into one of my friends from my former church on the way to the laundromat. I related the CVS story. She acknowledges that she too has a phobia of going to a store and not being able to find anything. But, I noted, “you just leave, not make everyone around you miserable.”

Music, July 1971: “He’s Hot. He’s Sexy. And He’s Dead.”

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

I was working at the comic book store in July 1981, when the headline that is the title of this piece was splashed across the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It was referring to Jim Morrison, the third prominent musician in a brief period a decade earlier to die at the age of 27, after Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Morrison’s death created this odd obsession about 27, but it also mythologized the Doors’ lead singer. (I went out briefly in the late 1970s with a woman who was part of that JM cult.)

But three Londoners would take their place, and the place of the now-dissolved Beatles, in the charts. One was Steven Georgiou, who had a minor hit as early as 1966, but then suffered from TB. Reemerging in 1970, “he was a regular James Taylor.”

“Cat Stevens became enormously successful in 1971… he had a lovely voice..and an angel face, the kind that seemed to match the sensitivity of the material.” I bought my share of his albums. Carly Simon’s Anticipation was about him, as was Legend in Your Own Time; before Cat introduced Carly to JT, Cat and Carly were an item.

“The 1971 generation of singer-songwriters… were increasingly infatuated with each other.” This briefly included Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen. He later apologized for writing about it in Chelsea Hotel #2.

Marc Feld, like Cat, was a descendant of immigrants. He became Marc Bolan of T. Rex, an artist who would perform sitting down because he was influenced by Ravi Shankar. He had a way of infuriating the British press at a time when, because one had limited opportunity to be heard, the image that one projected mattered. But that summer, T. Rex had some massive hits, notably Bang A Gong.

Rod Stewart had been with the Faces, but his third solo album, Every Picture Tells A Story, which was another album everyone in my dorm had, “was about to propel him into a different orbit… Everything Rod sang sounded like an old song, and everyone prefers a song they already know.”

Listen to:

Every Picture Tells A Story – Rod Stewart here or here
Jeepster- T. Rex here or here
Tuesday’s Dead – Cat Stevens here or here
Riders on the Storm – the Doors here or here
I’m Eighteen – Alice Cooper here or here
Without You – Harry Nilsson here or here

Not squeezing more in

On a Saturday morning, we were scheduled to go to the Wizard’s Wardrobe to do a little cleanup, then onto New Paltz to see one of my oldest friends.

My wife, announced that she was going to go to the store to pick up a few things. My heart sank, just a little bit. This would take her longer that she thought – it almost always does. This would make us late for appointment #1, which would make us tardy to appointment #2.

Then, abruptly, she decided to stay home and relax for a few moments before we had to go. I was pleased but shocked. And I had nothing to do with this. She was downstairs, and I was upstairs, and I had only responded to her initial decision with a neutral-sounding “O.K.”

Another story: I was relating something at work about someone who used to be there – for reasons of privacy, I won’t say who – but the problems we were seeing she related to problems she was seeing in her workplace. And it gave me a whole new perspective.

Another story: sometimes her husband is crazy, and she more or less accepts that. We were at the MacHaydn Theatre about 40 miles away. She was going to wait for a lot of the other cars to get out of the parking lot before she tried, even though she had had opportunities.

Well, I was having some sort of claustrophobic panic attack, and she accommodated my irrational need to get out of that parking space. She puts up with a lot.

The blurry picture, BTW, was taken by me on my tablet on May 15, our anniversary. Yes, I suck at this; tell me something I DON’T know. But most of the pictures of her in this blog were taken years ago, some before we even met.

Happy birthday, honey. I love you.

Movie review: Paris Can Wait

Random Final JEOPARDY! answer: Later an Oscar winner, she appeared as the child baptized towards the end of “The Godfather”. Question at the end.

I could have waited to watch the new movie Paris Can Wait. But it was something my wife wanted to see. And it had Diane Lane, who I think is the bee’s knees. So off we went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany while the Daughter was out of town.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“When her director husband is occupied with work in Paris, an American woman takes a jaunt with his business associate, a charming Gallic rogue who is happy to squire her on a tour of some of the finest meals in Provence. The first feature directed by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis and director of the “Apocalypse Now” documentary ‘Hearts of Darkness’.”

Alec Baldwin is playing pretty much the same role I’ve seen him in another movie, Michael, the distracted husband, who is too busy to see that his wife Anne (Lane) is not particularly engaged in life.

This film looked REALLY nice, with the sights and sounds across France. The food looked particularly great. Yet for much of the time, I just did not care about the heavy-duty flirtation by Jacques (Arnaud Viard).

In fact, in some ways I felt that that Anne had left the controlling neediness of Michael, to the controlling side tripping of Jacques, and I found this actually irritating.

It wasn’t until fairly late in the film that the audience realizes a particular linkage between Anne and Jacques, by which point I did not much care.

Some reviewer suggested that it was that Viard is not classically handsome, but I don’t think that was the problem.

my spouse enjoyed Paris Can Wait far more than I.

Random Final JEOPARDY! question: Who is Sofia Coppola, the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola and Eleanor Coppola. So as Trebek noted, “She had an in in getting the role.”

Music shaming and Pooh relating

Another from Arthur query for Ask Roger Anything:

Have you ever been chastised by a group you were part of for liking a pop culture performer (band or solo artist)? For example, black people, fellow church members, your group at university, whatever, who collectively disapproved of someone you liked (regardless of whether they knew you liked that act or not). If so, how did that make you feel?

Not that I can recall as a collective. Individuals, I can certainly remember. My sister’s boyfriend in high school who thought my taste in music was too “white”. Then he’d find artists such as Three Dog Night or Blood, Sweat, and Tears and embrace them.

This reminds me that he also liked Bridge Over Troubled Water, the Simon & Garfunkel song, and in fact bought my sister the single. Well, she was disappointed that he had not purchased the album of the same name for her. Shortly thereafter, I bought the LP for me and noticed that the single version and album versions were in different keys! So, thanks, George.

Also, my girlfriend c 1979 had a son who was a teenager, and he really mocked me playing the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever.

I have an extraordinary memory for playing music that I like but that others didn’t: buying my mother Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, and that was a dud gift. Some of the cast of the production of Boys in the Band finding Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon boring. Friend Carol from high school hated At the Zoo and Strawberry Fields Forever, A DJ I knew giving up on Maybe Tomorrow by the Jackson Five.
***
Tom the Mayor wonders:

Are there any Bands or singers you saw and said to yourself, “I wish they had stayed retired!”

Y’know, I don’t. I figure to let them and/or the marketplace decide. It seems that some artists such as Roger Waters and Fleetwood Mac are doing farewell tours, and that’s cool.

I AM amazed that the Rolling Stones are still at it, though.

What Character in Winnie The Pooh Are You? I read an article years ago that every Pooh character is a personality type.

My knee-jerk reaction was to say Eeyore. But I decided to take one of those highly scientific tests on Facebook. The results: Eeyore:

“You may be the ‘Debby-Downer’ of your group of friends, but that’s just because you’re realistic. You tend to be pessimistic and gloomy at times, but you know when to pull out your smile at the perfect moment. Being very cute doesn’t hurt either.”

Rabid goats and rabid fans

There’s only three of us, but we calendar a LOT these days so that we don’t inadvertently book a couple items on the same day. These all happened in June.

ITEM: The Wife and I saw, at the local Steamer Number 10 theater, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, an “unauthorized parody” written by Bert V. Royal. The “play imagines characters from the popular comic strip Peanuts as degenerate teenagers.”

It starts when “CB and CB’s sister have a funeral for their dog, who recently contracted rabies and was put down after killing ‘a little yellow bird’.” This is NOT children’s fare.

It was very good, but obviously very dark. I would like to believe that the homophobia displayed by Matt, a manifestation of Pig Pen, would as virulent in 2017 as it was when the play was first performed in 2004, but maybe it’s not.

Here’s the script.

ITEM: Friends of ours gave us tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra, which is a very fine symphony indeed. This program was held at the EMPAC, a fascinatingly cool structure.

The logistical issue was the birthday party to which the Daughter was invited late in the afternoon, but that ended up working out well. She stayed at the party long enough that she was home alone only about an hour. In large part, that was aided by the ASO decided NOT to perform the first piece on the program because ot wasn’t ready, the first time that’s happened when we’ve attended. But the other four pieces were quite enough.

ITEM: The three of us saw the last performance of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the MacHadyn Theater. All I know of this musical is the LP I owned, barely 30 minutes. This is expanded by at least three songs. The performances were good, but the storybook is still very thin.

ITEM: Another trip to MacHadyn a couple weeks later to see Anything Goes. The first time I had seen it was a couple years ago at Catskill High School. I continue to marvel how well they coordinate people coming off and on this tiny stage.

ITEM: I’ve mentioned our church’s relationship with Giffen Elementary School, with with the Book and Author event the past five years, and tutoring for even longer. We went to the grand opening of Wizard’s Wardrobe, “a non-profit organization providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End of Albany.”

So it was distressing I read that rabid goats had to be euthanized at Albany’s Radix Center. Three second-grade classes at Giffen Memorial Elementary School took field trips to the Radix Center during this time period. Yuck.

A is for animals

I noticed this spring that I was much more aware of the animals in my midst. I heard the birds more clearly, and I spotted a woodpecker, a blue jay, a cardinal, and perhaps the fattest robin, sitting on our fence, that I’ve ever seen.

The neighbor’s cat, an outside feline, seems to want to come to our house. More than once, he was sitting right at the front door, and once at the back door. We think this would engender a bad outcome, especially because our indoor male cat, Midnight, is sometimes barely pleasant to us and our girl cat, Stormy.

We made the mistake of leaving a used pitcher of maple syrup on the kitchen counter after having pancakes. The next morning, the pitcher was overrun by ants! Yuck. We hadn’t seen any before then, in months. Now that we’ve cut off the food supply, we still see a stray insect in the strangest places, such as on the ceiling. The Daughter does NOT like them.

During a severe thunderstorm on May 18, we saw something crossing our yard. But it wasn’t until a massive lightning flash that I could determine it was a skunk. I felt sorry for it, almost.

But our strangest visitor to our backyard has to be the woodchuck. We never had one before this year, but this one has come by at least a half dozen times. My wife and I decided we needed to name the creature, so we call him/her? – we have no idea! – Murray, after Bill Murray, who was involved in a popular movie about February 2.

Initially, he may have been attracted to the compost bin deep in the back of the yard. But he has ventured much farther towards the back porch, digging holes for no discernible reason, and eating the grass, likely the clover.

He almost got to the picnic table near the house one morning when the next-door neighbor came out and startled Murray. For a nearly round creature, he moved surprisingly fast.

So there’s our recent menagerie, wild and domesticated.

ABC Wednesday at its new home, Round 21