Box Full of Letters from Issue #38
Gold in that thar box!
Loved issue #37 [Jan.-Feb. 2002] as usual. Your side-by-side reviews of the new Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival boxes sounded just like I had written it…in 1973. Jerry Garcia was the tie-dyed SF hippie noodling aimlessly for hours. John Fogerty came out of the swamp (well, Oakland actually) with his Pendleton shirts and recycled Pops Staples riffs to save the radio from folks like Bobby Sherman. He sure sounded good then, but lots has happened in the past 30 years.
No question, CCR’s studio LPs included in their new box blow away all but a couple of the Dead’s meandering non-live efforts. But four of the original nine albums on the Golden Road box are live, an unheard-of ratio then or now. CCR’s live output stopped at two albums, both posthumous and one by the lame-duck post-Tom Fogerty trio. Their workmanlike concerts were virtual lip-syncs with fixed set lists and by-the-numbers performances.
For their part, the live Dead took chances. They fell off that tightrope often, but when they cooked, they burned like Miles Davis far more than they simmered like Booker T. The live albums in the new box eliminate the risk of a bad set, and hold up under repeated listening. The Dead studio albums are, well, loose, but far better than I remembered them at the time. The bonus tracks are largely live and show how quickly the Dead abandoned their studio treatments in favor of jazzy improvisation.
I still love CCR, and once in a while Cosmo’s Factory or Willy & The Poor Boys find their way to the turntable. But ultimately, John Fogerty comes across today as a faux bluesy oldies act, sort of like Pat Boone with a blue collar instead of white bucks. The Dead’s huge catalog of live releases (of which this box is but a sample) is more than a fad among leftover Deadheads.
Keep on chooglin’? No thanks, I’ll keep on truckin’!
— Sam Ingham
[Ed. note: Similar letters in support of the Grateful Dead (though more stridently so) were received from Doc Sonian and Mark Erickson of Oakland, California, and from Sean Baker.]
Mad in Madison
Though much has been written about Ryan Adams between these pages of late, I have a strong urge to add my two cents after seeing Adams perform at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison [Wisconsin] on December 7. What a disappointment it was.
I should say beforehand that I had been hotly anticipating this show for over a month, having never seen Adams live before. I’ve really admired his recorded work with Whiskeytown and solo for some time now, and I was really excited about this show. Unfortunately, Adams wasn’t.
Coming out to play over an hour after the opening act had left the stage turned the general air of anticipation into a general air of restlessness among the crowd. Looking like Truman Capote in his addled later incarnation, complete with long scarf, golf cap, and tinted glasses, Adams and his band tore through “New York New York” and “To Be Young…”, only to quickly throttle the momentum by taking five-minute breaks in between songs to light cigarettes and chat with bandmates with his back to the audience. And it went like that between every damn song!
At some point, Adams began to jaw with some kid down front who had apparently called him a “poser.” Hard to blame the guy at that point. Adams responded, “Fuck you. I make more money in two days than you do in a year.” He seemed unaware that he had just insulted most of us with that remark. What an ass he was.
The show had no momentum to regain. There were extended and pointless jams by a sloppy and ham-fisted band along with more verbal sparring. He likes to play the “bad boy,” I guess. My girlfriend and I left, along with a lot of other people, while Adams was still wasting time onstage. We’d already wasted enough time and money. In the lobby I noticed people trying to return souvenirs that they’d bought in anticipation of a great show, the poor suckers.
Despite this, I don’t think Mr. Blackstock was fair in his condemnation of Adams’ latest recorded offering. Much of Gold is quite fine, as is Heartbreaker. Maybe something else colored your judgment. Who knows? Maybe you saw Adams live recently too.
— Jef Leisgang
[Ed. note: Since you asked — no, I haven’t seen Adams live since well before Gold came out. I just think it’s not a very good record, particularly in light of everything Adams and Whiskeytown had released previously.]
Sittin’ & Thinkin:
How about Charles Wolfe?
For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the new Sittin’ & Thinkin’ columns, and hope it remains a regular feature. Writing (and reading) about music is better than writing about (or reading) Tom Wolfe.
— Dave Nash
Show me the music
I read the article on Matt Keating in your recent issue [#36, Nov.-Dec. 2001] and the sense that I get of the man is that he is probably a pretty good songwriter, a “serious artist” who writes songs with “depth,” though I am given no examples that might show this, other than that his songs are “elegant in structure and packed with wordplay that can amuse, dazzle, or hit way too close to home.” Instead of just stating this, how about giving us some examples from his actual songs?
The Keating article falls into the same pattern that so many of these kinds of articles do. The artist is portrayed as being true to his craft. He bemoans the shallow culture in which we live and how inhospitable it is for serious songwriters such as himself. He would starve to death before he would sing songs for that “other side, the big money side.” Really? With comments such as that, this “alt-country” thing can seem to be just as much about posturing and attitude as anything from the big money side.
I do like your magazine!
— Steve Patti
ALL THE FIXIN’S
In the Nov.-Dec. 2001 cover story on Jay Farrar, a lyric quoted from an outtake of Farrar’s new album was mistakenly referred to as being from the song “Different Kind Of Madness”. Though that song is in fact among the album’s outtakes, the lyric in question was from a different outtake titled “Station To Station”…. The article also stated that Farrar’s brother Wade played bass on the Sebastopol album. While Jay does have a brother named Wade, it was in fact another brother, Dade, who played on Sebastopol.