The Gates of Delirium: Why Do Clueless Gatekeepers Fumble at the Gates and Keep Their Jobs?

During his speech honoring Julia Louis-Dreyfus for being awarded the Mark Twain Prize For American Humor in 2018, Jerry Seinfeld makes fun of the fact that network TV executives aren’t to blame for what he stated were the invariably bad ideas they pitch to showrunners (aka notes) since, vis-√†-vis sitcoms, they are not funny people and aren’t supposed to be. So, it occurs to me: why don’t the networks hire comedians and/or comic writers who do have a solid grasp on humor? And if these aforementioned executives are that clueless about their purported jobs, why the hell are they employed in those positions in the first place?

And it’s not just sitcoms: the vast majority of classic and/or hugely successful books, movies, music and TV dramas have a common origin story of repeated rejection by the gatekeepers who are supposed to recognize quality or, at the very least, commercial potential. Sure, there are variables out there: an executive or company may pass on something because they’d rather not be associated with a certain project due to sensitivity or tone, for instance. Which is why I don’t blame them so much for the bad ideas they greenlight as much as I do for passing on the ones that are obviously great and/or blockbusters. I mean, unqualified people running key departments where careers are made or hindered? Ridiculous.

So why is it so common? Or rather, why is it an established part of the arts and commerce nexus? Sadly, I think it’s a crap shoot. In other words, in the most simplistic but probably accurate of terms, if you manage to claw your way to the top of the ladder and get lucky with a couple of hit projects, you get to keep your job and have those successes be the key part of your resum√©. For a while, at least. If not, like Denzel Washington in Philadelphia, can someone explain it to me? Like I'm a six year old?


Mr. Jones’ Top 5 Favorite Albums [1980]

The first year of the '80s decade just might be, musically speaking, my favorite of them all; this was after all the beginning of a rich musical adventure that started with me as barely a teenager engaging with the gems below and concluded with The Cure’s Disintegration 9 years later as a young adult, with so many varied and wonderful stops along the way.

Man, has it really been 40 years?

There are so many records I loved that year but here are, in alphabetical order by artist, my Top 5:

AC/DC Back in Black [Atlantic]
There's not much I can say about this one except that it brings back fond memories of listening to it with my dear friend Yiik-Funk Chong [RIP] and that I love it as much now as I did then. ALL killer no filler, indeed. Also, all these years later, the glorious intersection where Chuck Berry and Black Sabbath meet remains as awesome as ever and just sounds sooooo good.

PETER GABRIEL self-titled aka 'Melt' [Mercury]
I don't think my music directly reflects the indelible impact this album had on me, but it was along with King Crimson's Discipline [Warner Bros-1981] the album that made me want to be not just a  musician but an artist as well, and evokes a time when I would eat, breathe, sleep and dream music, as if nothing else could sustain me. Man...

THE POLICE Zenyatta Mondatta [A&M]
Derided not only by the band itself (especially Sting, for the band not having enough time and too mush pressure to adequately put an album together) but the press, as well. However, we who love it have had the last laugh: it's a banger and along with the previous year's Regatta de Blanc, the primo example of the classic Police sound. (I'll always be grateful to my then-new friend Mr. S for lending me the first three Police records in one shot, which I then proceeded to absorb in chronological order, gazing at each vinyl record as it spun on the turntable of our parents’ living room sound system, and culminating with Zenyatta.)

THE PRETENDERS self-titled [Sire]
The opening salvo by Chrissie Hynde and her killer band of co-horts was not just the best thing they ever did, it towers over the rest of their catalog. And in the majority of cases, dramatically so. (It is, after all, recognized as one of the greatest debut albums in rock history.) I actually remember exactly where I was the first time “Brass in Pocket” came on the radio. Yeah...

VAN HALEN Women and Children First [Warner Bros.] 
You won’t find any big hit singles like on the previous two releases but the first VH album of all self-penned material is arguably their most cohesive and representative. Just check out the stomp and swagger of “…And The Cradle Will Rock”, “Everybody Wants Some"—immortalized in the ‘80s teen flick Better Off Dead—“Fools”, “Take Your Whiskey Home” and one of the band’s very best songs, “In A Simple Rhyme”. It was my introduction to VH and remains to this day, oh so near and dear to my heart.

GENESIS Duke [Atlantic]; DARYL HALL Sacred Songs [RCA]; HALL & OATES Voices [RCA]; PAUL McCARTNEY II [Columbia]; MOTORHEAD Ace of Spades [Bronze]; OZZY OSBOURNE Blizzard of Ozz [Jet]; RUSH Permanent Waves [Mercury]; XTC Black Sea [Virgin].


Looking Back: Patrick O'Hearn - 'Ancient Dreams'

Although many recognize Steven Halpern’s Spectrum Suite album [Halpern Sounds-1975] as ground zero for the New Age music movement, its influences precede it by a decade, as the music of Phillip Glass, Pink Floyd, Terry Riley, and others, laid the groundwork.

By the mid ‘80s, New Age was a big deal and had transcended its humble bookstore and health-food store retail origins: major labels picked up indies or started their own divisions to cater to the music’s growing audience; record stores established New Age sections (in 1981, a California Tower Records was the first to do so), and certain jazz and rock musicians started dabbling and released New Age records. (A significant chunk of The Police’s Andy Summers’ solo catalog falls into that category.) Former Frank Zappa/Missing Persons bassist Patrick O’Hearn was among the latter.

A charter member of former Tangerine Dream keyboardist Peter Baumann’s prestigious Private Music label—also home of Eddie Jobson, the aformentioned Tangerine Dream, and Yanni, among others—O’Hearn’s solo debut, Ancient Dreams [Private Music-1985] is a breathtaking example of what New Age music could be in the right hands, and is rightfully considered a classic of the genre.


Dave Coutts - "Saturday"

The dude had been seemingly AWOL from the music business after his tenure as vocalist/frontman of the one-off late '90s Stone Temple Pilots side project Talk Show. Turns out Coutts had indeed left the biz and started a family with his wife Tracy. But the death of a former bandmate in his pre-STP band, Ten Inch Men, brought him back to making music, and in 2018 he released a couple of tracks, including "Saturday", written during his Talk Show days but left off the band's lone self-titled album.


2019: THE YEAR IN REVIEW (sort of)

Despite this being not just the end of the year but the end of the decade, it's adios to 2019 with the briefest, shortest recap in the history of 5 and leaving whether to ponder the decade perhaps some other time. But truth be told the first two decades of the 21st century are sort of one big blur ‘round here, anyway, so… (The ‘00s review can be found here.) 
So, here we go...

[Prawn Song]
A proggy alt-rocker with a fondness for the weird and absurd and a melodic singer/songwriter with a taste for psych does not sound like the most auspicious musical combination. But these two talented gentlemen have made the most of their common ground, namely that sweet spot where Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd meets John Lennon in “I Am The Walrus” mode with a dash of early ‘70s King Crimson.

THE BEATLES Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Edition [Apple]

Giles Martin does his old man proud on this remix of the Fabs’ best sounding album—and arguably their best—giving it the proper sonic treatment it deserves. That it practically explodes from your speakers without sacrificing clarity or nuance is quite the triumphant achievement, indeed.

The Kominsky Method
(season 2) [Netflix] 

Watching Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas share scenes is nothing short of delight. This is the kind of show that, as I go through each one, inevitably makes me sad to acknowledge I’m counting down the episodes. Yup.

Runner up:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel [Amazon]
A little to precious at times and a bit demanding in the suspension of disbelief department, but a winner nonetheless.

The Overwhelming Return of Vinyl and the Death of the CD 

Despite CD players being eliminated from cars and computers while vinyl enjoys quite the resurgance, the pesky shiny discs refuse to die: they outsold vinyl records by more than twice as many units in the first half of 2019, 18.6m vs 8.6m units. And Discogs notes that while vinyl is their most popular format, CDs saw the biggest sales increase on the noted online music database/marketplace. So hold off, will ya?


Drummer Andy Anderson (The Cure, Steve Hillage, Peter Gabriel); the incomparable Ginger Baker; Silver Jews frontman David Berman; Alabama 3’s Jake Black; the great studio drummer Hal Blaine; South African singer and apartheid activist Johnny Clegg; the legendary Dick Dale; Germs bassist Lorna Doom; The "Captain" in Captain and Tennille, Daryl Dragon; American psych godfather Roky Erickson; The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint; Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson; Brazilian legend Joao Gilberto; co-founder, lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Talk Talk, Mark Hollis; Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter; rapper Nipsey Hussle; the great Dr. John; singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston; rocker Eddie Money; The Meters and Neville Brothers’ Art Neville; singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer Ric Ocasek; singer/songwriter Leon Redbone; multi-instrumentalist and Big Black bassist Dave Riley; English Beat and General Public’s Ranking Roger; Kim Shattuck of The Muffs and The Pixies; Shawn Smith of Brad, Satchel and solo fame; The Monkees’ Peter Tork; the one and only Scott Walker; singer/songwriter and Bridge School founder Pegi Young.


New York State of Jazz

The Iridium
Times Square, NYC

Bar Thalia @ Symphony Space
Upper West Side, NYC

Yeah, NoLa and KC...but we’ve also got that jazz magic here in NYC. Every single night. Whether it’s legends or local heroes, we’ve got it covered. And this weekend was just another reminder.

Closing out his 2-night Iridium stint, Saturday night’s late set by the legendary Mr. 335 was simply pure delight. Backed by an excellent 5 piece band—which included the astoundingly impressive playing of his son, bassist Travis Carlton—he ripped thru choice cuts from his catalog and a smattering of Steely Dan faves including “Black Friday”, “Josie” and “Kid Charlemagne” for an intimate but adoring crowd who celebrated every note and every nuance of his 90 minute set.

[Decker flanked by Bryant (left) and Greene (right)]

On Sunday, the rainy October night was the perfect backdrop for the deep, mellow groove of the great Mr. Decker, a singular jazz vocalist and local treasure. (Full disclosure: Decker is a professional colleague and dear personal friend.) Performing alongside the brilliant guitarist Freddie Bryant and outstanding upright bassist Hill Greene for a small but enraptured audience of uptown jazz fans, Decker’s velvet smooth baritone was every bit as impressive as on his multiple critically acclaimed albums. But among a night of gems, like the standard "Come Rain or Come Shine" and a series of wonderful originals, there was an unexpected curveball: a bossa nova-flavored take on The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows”, making it clear the old dog’s not averse to showing us his new tricks.

6, 9 or Both?

It has become customary for the last couple of generations to bemoan the cultural prospects of the one immediately following them, decrying falling standards in art, cinema, literature, music and even television. (Although the latter has enjoined an undeniable renaissance since the last days of the 20th century.) And while some of this might legitimately be ‘back in my day’ nostalgia, it’s no less true that from the vantage point of a Kardashian world in which the US is run by an unfit, former reality show star turned president, it seems practically unfathomable that MTV not only used to air music videos but also—and during prime time, mind you—short films recreating scenes from literary classics like “The Metamorphosis”.

Which leads me to ponder the following: what is in fact more surreal—that approximately 20 years ago a for-profit pop culture TV network purposely included Kafka in their programming or our current reality?


A Brief Appearance Before The Court Of The Crimson King (1969-1974)

Inspired by the short takes (props, JD Considine) I did for each of the albums in the Joni Mitchell box set covering her first decade of studio releases, I thought I'd do the same for Messr. Fripp and co.
In this case, however, there was no album release to serve as a catalyst and it's actually half a decade (1969-1974) I'm "covering" here. (I was actually gonna focus on the '80s quartet but that'll be for another time.) Also, curiously enough, they released seven studio albums during that half decade span...which is the same amount of studio releases they've put out in the almost 45 years since. Hmm.
Btw, these aren't really reviews but brief impressions I wanted to share of albums that, in some cases, I had not heard since the 20th century. So, here we go...

In the Court of the Crimson King [Atlantic - 1969]
50 years later still a masterpiece. But you all knew that. The title track still gets to me. And "21st Century Schizoid Man" is still the shit.

In the Wake of Poseidon  [Atlantic - 1970]
Probably the "nicest" record in the band’s catalog. Oh, and the Lake-sung version of “Cadence and Cascade” should’ve been included instead of Gordon Haskell’s. Speaking of which…

Lizard [Atlantic - 1970] 
I like his bass playing but Haskell’s singing is not my cup of tea. Neither is this record, to be honest.

Islands [Atlantic - 1971]
A little more bite than the previous two but, like them, it’s still a bit too precious.

Larks’ Tounges In Aspic [Island - 1973]
With new additions John Wetton and Bill Bruford on board they really start going somewhere, especially during part 2 of the title track, which brings back some of the attitude sorely lacking since the debut.

Starless and Bible Black [Island - 1974]
Now we’re cooking! And it would only get better.

Red  [Island - 1974]
Fripp, Wetton and Bruford were about to go their separate ways but you can’t tell from the badass music on here. And so, the Crimson story ends (or so it was thought at the time) like it began: on a magnificent high note.


Right Back Atcha

This Is Boomerang
[Bandcamp - 2019]

As anyone who has witnessed their pummeling onslaught live knows, this Brooklyn-based fireball of a duo pulls no punches. But the most recent release by Even Twice (vocalist/bassist Robert Hait; vocalist/drummer Pat O’Shea) makes it clear these gentleman are not just your run-of-the-mill loudmongers but also posses a gift for nuance they are none too shy about flaunting.

On the 7-song EP This Is Boomerang, the band’s trademark post-punk/prog is effortlessly blended with elements of psych and catchy melodies, resulting in an interesting hybrid that manages to cover much ground while retaining all the power and focus of the Even Twice experience. It’s also a treat to hear both of these distinct but similarly expressive vocalists exhibit their wares in this context, adding another layer to a sound that, taking into account the sonic limitations inherent in a duo format, could come across quite monochromatic in lesser hands.

Bravo. What’ll these crazy kids cook up next?


Mr. Jones’ 5 Fave Songs About Fellow Musicians

[in alphabetical order by artist]

CHRIS CORNELL “Wave Goodbye”
Dedicated to Jeff Buckley, this soulful tune is from Cornell’s debut album ‘Euphoria Morning’ [A&M-1999] and alludes to Buckley's demise with a clever pun as its title.

CPR “Morrison”
Oliver Stone’s 1993 movie about The Doors was the inspiration for the first song David Crosby wrote with his long lost son, keyboardist James Raymond, for the self-titled, debut CPR album, released in 1999. Key lyric: Croz puts aside the poetic imagery of the verses and sings bluntly about Stone's characterization of his friend in the song’s chorus, “I’ve seen that movie / and it wasn’t like that”. Yikes!

The John Lennon tributes are plentiful and include high profile ones by George Harrison and Elton John, but I’m most partial to this heartfelt track from his old writing partner.

It’s the only one from this bunch that was written while its subject was still alive and the lone uptempo rocker here. If not their top song, one of the band’s very best. Oh, and the implied advice to "never travel far / without a little Big Star" is one I have always adhered to.

TEMPLE OF THE DOG “Say Hello 2 Heaven”
Wrapping up this quintet as it began with another song written by Cornell, this time a moving tribute to his old friend and roommate, the late Andrew Wood, frontman for the bands Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. In a career full of them, this is arguably, Cornell’s finest recorded vocal. (Btw, Alice in Chains' “Would?” is also about Wood.)

Honorable Mention:
SONIC YOUTH "Teenage Riot"
It's not clear whether it's about an alternate reality where J Mascis is President of the United States (we’ll take it!!!) or president of the alternative dream but, regardless, it's a longtime fave that ALWAYS makes me smile.