Monthly Archives: September 2013

What we’re listening to today — Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers

Here’s a feisty little ditty to kick off the week: The definitive version of eternal boy-man Jonathan Richman’s rockin’ “Roadrunner” as performed by the original incarnation of The Modern Lovers.

“Roadrunner (Twice)” is what happens when the Velvet Underground is cross-pollinated with Tommy James & the Shondells in the fertile pleathor bench seat of a salt-rusted Plymouth. Richman’s adenoidal warble declaims his love of Rock’ n Roll, driving the Massachusetts turnpike and AM radio while being urged on by future Talking Head Jerry Harrison’s dominant and dancing keyboards, future Car David Robinson’s hyper tom tom and cymbal-driven drumming and Ernie Brooks’ anchoring bass refrain. This cut is from the seminal LP The Modern Lovers, which was only released in 1976 on Beserkely Records, nearly 5 years after the demise of the original lineup. While Richman re-recorded the song several different ways (and later refused to play it in concert for many years) and he continued calling his backing bands “The Modern Lovers”, it’s this original version that made such a huge impression on the future of American DIY music. It packs a helluva lot of unbridled joy in its 4-minute run time and it arguably launched a multitude of geek-rockers from the Feelies to the Talking Heads to They Might Be Giants to Weezer and many more of the less-than-macho bands in the rock spectrum. In our age when nerds rule, Richman and Co. helped kick off the revolution.

What we’re drinking this weekend — Widow Jane Bourbon

A “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey” utilizing limestone mineral water from Rosendale, NY and blended in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Widow Jane nonetheless exhibits the best qualities of really fine Bourbon: a hot, almost cognac-like nose; a sweet caramel first impression; a hint of charred oak middle; and a lingering warm burnt orange peel finish.


Widow Jane is one of many eclectic and palate-pleasing products offered by the remarkable Cacao Prieto chocolatier and distiller, which is based out of a beautiful old brick building on Conover Street in Red Hook. But along with their amazing rum, we find the latest batch of 7-years-in-American-oak Bourbon absolutely one of the best liquors we’ve tasted lately with no off notes and smooth-sipping sweetness. At about 91 proof, adding a little branch water or an ice cube is quite all right and will open up the subtle flavors that seem to unfold like a long, warm wave over your tongue. It’s a bit too refined and expensive to be a mixing whiskey (around $58 a fifth) so best to just take your time and enjoy it on its on with a good friend or two. There’s enough going on in each sip to satisfy your senses over the long haul, no additives required. If you’re really craving an Old Fashioned or sour, pull out some Jim Beam and save the Widow Jane for another time. She’s worth it.

We highly recommend paying a visit to Cacao Prieto in person to sample their fantastic chocolate, chocalate-based liquors, stellar white rum and to stock up on the Widow Jane whiskeys available. If you can’t make it out to rapidly rebounding Red Hook, you can order this fine Bourbon through Astor Wines, as well as the vendors listed at the Widow Jane site.


What we’re listening to today — Right Now by Jackie McLean

One of the more intriguing and often overlooked alto sax men to come to prominence in the late 1950s and 60s, Jackie McLean straddles the line between the era’s reigning Hard Bop and the Free Jazz being pioneered by Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. With excellent support from an obscure but swinging rhythm section of pianist Larry Willis on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Clifford Jarvis on drums, “Right Now” from the eponymous 1965 Blue Note album is nine and a half minutes of hard charging excitement.

Anchored around a recurring piano-bass refrain reminiscent of Horace Parlan’s “Skoo Chee”, McLean’s hyperkinetic yet melodic sax is shown at its finest on this track and on the entire Right Now! album. In all, McLean recorded 21 albums as leader for Blue Note alone and was elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 2006.

Jackie McLean also passed away in 2006 after an up and down career, with bad contracts and time out for teaching at the University of Hartford. But he still performed intermittently and produced solid work until the end, often with his students. As a really fine and innovative sax player in a very exciting time for Jazz’s development, his almost-but-not-quite sweet and very often sharp sound is ripe for rediscovery.


A Sunday photo from NYC: View from the East River Ferry

Out on a little day trip today with my lovely wife, I took this from the stern of the cool public East River Ferry service on the way back from Governor’s Island.


Leaving the weekend in our wake on a beautiful late Summer Sunday, the Manhattan & Brooklyn Bridges and the new Freedom Tower & Downtown New York recede in one of the world’s great urban panoramas. Finally, New York City has begun to take advantage of its fantastic waterways and the stunning views they provide. For 5 bucks, you and your bike can travel to Brooklyn and Manhattan by boat and take off from there to find food, fun and adventure in the greatest city in the world. Not too shabby and beats a cab if you’ve got the time. You’ll definitely get a better tan, as well.

What we’re listening to today – Bad Night at the Whiskey by The Byrds

If you only know the Byrds from their famous early singles like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Feel a Whole Lot Better”, this late model track from 1969’s Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde might just hit you like a ton of bricks.

In a band that existed from 1964-1973, the Byrds’ only constant wound up being Roger McGuinn, as they became as famous for line up changes and stylistic shifts as for their musical output. But what remains now after all that history is put away is the glorious music throughout their many iterations. Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde inaugurates the Clarence White-era of the band and follows directly after Gram Parsons‘ departure. So while the album still resonates with the influence of Parsons’ innovative country-rock synthesis on such tracks as the all-time great “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” and the traditional ode to a deceased hound dog “Old Blue”, the other tracks border on heavy metal, with White’s heavily distorted and piercing guitar solos soaring over McGuinn’s ominous doom & gloom vocals, all surrounded by John York’s thundering bass and multi-instrmentalist Gene Parsons thumping out a brutal rhythm on the skins. Tracks like “Whiskey” and the scorching cover of Dylan & Danko’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” come fascinatingly close to Led Zeppelin-esque heaviness almost simultaneous to the release of Led Zep I. But then the Byrds in all their incarnations were always trailblazers and at the sharp end of musical trends. From adapting Dylan into 3-minute chiming folk rock pop songs to the raga-inspired psychedelia of “Eight Miles High” to the amazingly unlikely and artistically significant Gram Parsons-Roger McGuinn country rock of Sweethearts of the Rodeo, the Byrds always seemed to be one step ahead of the pack even if they didn’t always reap the commercial rewards of such foresight. Reflecting the prevailing mood of pessimism at the end of the 60s, the late-era gem “Bad Night at the Whiskey” shows the Byrds still had plenty to offer the world of Rock ‘n Roll even if they couldn’t quite make up their mind which way they wanted to fly off to next.

What we’re watching – C’était un Rendezvous

I thought today I’d dedicate a few lines to my favourite short film of all-time, Claude Lelouche‘s 1976 high-speed masterpiece, C’était un Rendezvous. The film is only 8 minutes and 38 seconds long, but if you love cars like I love cars, it’s one for the best films out there.
The premise of the film is simple. A camera is mounted to the front of a car and the audience is given a front row, drivers point of view as an unknown man takes to the streets of Paris just before dawn, and drives fast (and I mean really fast), through the city streets just as Paris is beginning to stir, to finally reach a street in Montmartre where we find a lovely blond woman waiting for him. Hence the title, “It was a date.” Of course what makes the film exciting isn’t the plot, it’s watching the streets of Paris whiz by at breakneck speed as the anonymous driver handles the car beautifully through every dangerous curve he encounters. It’s 8 and a half minutes of adrenaline, screaming engine, squealing tires, great driving, and beautiful scenery. Here’s a clip, showing the last 2 minutes of the film…

After seeing this movie for the first time, I had all the questions one would expect. Who was driving that car?! What kind of a car was it? Did they block the streets or did they really just go for it, outlaw style? Now we know all of the answers. Continue reading

Gorgeous Lady of the Week – Charlize Theron

Women simply don’t get much more gorgeouser than Ms. Theron.


The South African-born goddess is one of the few modern actresses who could conceivably hold her own with the sexy and talented leading ladies of the past like Faye Dunaway, Julie Christie and Grace Kelly, as her Best actress Oscar from her startling performance in Monster attests. But more characteristic of her screen persona and less flashy than that homely and chilling portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornous are the scheming sci-fi ice queen Meredith Vickers in Prometheus and the hilariously messed up and self-centered Mavis Gary in Young Adult.

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Aside from her statuesque beauty, Charlize radiates athleticism, class and a sharp intelligence. She also displays an attractive tomboyish competitiveness worthy of a Howard Hawks’ leading lady, fully on display in the “Driving School” feature from the DVD of 2003’s successful remake of the Italian Job:

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What we’re listening to today – Room a Thousand Years Wide by Soundgarden

Because some days you just have to do what the MC5 so indelicately ordered us to do: Kick Out the Jams, Motherf*#ers!

“Room a Thousand Years Wide” from Soundgarden’s 1991 nitro-fueled Badmotorfinger does that kicking just right. It’s not Grunge so much as it is pure plutonium. With the best hard rock voice since Robert Plant, frontman Chris Cornell’s controlled screams and 3-octave range tear through the mix like a band saw through glass. Meanwhile, Kim Thayil on guitar, Ben Shepherd on bass and Matt Cameron on drums conspire to drive an 18-wheeler off the edge of the Grand Canyon and recreate the sound of its metal fatiguing on the way down. Crank it loud enough and it’ll peel the paint of the room and get you arrested for broadcasting such “disturbing” music in polite society. But won’t that spice up your humpday?

Tomorrow inevitably begat tomorrow but all these years later Soundgarden remains one of the top hard rock bands of the 90s or any other era. Search ’em out with your good eye closed or open–either way you’re going to find some sweet, sweet heavy metal.

What we’ll be wearing this Fall — Baracuta windbreakers

It’s mid-September and there’s finally a chill in the air here in NYC. And that means that soon it will be the best time of year for a man sartorially speaking: Fall, when we get rid of shorts and short sleeves and welcome back light jackets, sweaters and corduroy pants from their Summer banishment deep in our closets. One thing that is de riguer for Autumn’s changeable moods is a good windbreaker. In our opinion, some of the very best windbreakers you can add to your wardrobe are made by Baracuta of England.


Founded in pre-war Manchester and now part of the quality portfolio of WP Lavori In Corso of Bologna’s brands, the classic Baracuta G9 was popular with the post-War Ivy League golf and preppy set. But it really came into its own as a mid-20th Century icon when James Dean wore a blazing red one as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a symbol of his fiery and conflicted character if ever there was one.


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