MEDiA: Gene Deitch, RIP

Gene, with sons Kim and Simon.
We’ve all been here, right?
What has come to be known more recently as ‘crate digging’.

Oh no! I just posted about cataloguing my CD collection on FB. I thought I’d illustrate that post with an image by Gene Deitch, whose character The Cat was an avid record collecting jazz buff.

Deitch did some amusingly prophetic cartoons.
Haha… love this!

In finding an apt image, I discovered that Gene passed, aged 95, in 2020. I have a nice book, Cat On A Hot Thin Groove, about his illustrations for Record Changer magazine.

I bought this book about him years ago.

He also created characters like Nudnik, as well as animating such famous cartoons as Tom and Jerry and Popeye, and doing all sorts of other artistic/illustrative work. I’ve peppered this post with a few images by him I either love for their visual artistry, or their comic wit, or, frequently, both.

I got the image at the top of this post from an excellent obit’ from the NY Times, which you can read in full here.

Deitch in his Prague home/studio, in later life.
I pinched this for an Xmas card one year.
Bold abstraction meets jazzy figuration.
His Record Changer covers alone would be a great legacy.

I’ve not watched Munro (1960) – see below – yet, but as soon as time allows, I’ll be doing so (tomorrow, perhaps?*) * aka later today!

I find Deitch’s art, by which I’m mainly referring to his Record Changer and jazz related cartoons, design and illustration work, really inspiring. His mainstream animation stuff I’m much less familiar with or aware of.

But, rather madly, I’ve discovered that Deitch was also involved with one of the earliest screen adaptations of Tolkien’s writings. I love Tolkien, and I was really quite surprised to find yet another point of connection here with Gene Deitch!

As with Munro, I’ve yet to watch this Hobbit based animation. I glanced at a minute or so of it, whilst drafting this post. It seems quite a loose adaptation! But I look forward to watching it in full.

MUSiC: Waka/Wazoo, Zappa, 50th Anniv. Set

Interesting, but…

I do love Zappa: iconoclast, relentless hard worker, experimenter, ribald irreverent wit, obsessive archivalist. I also love the breadth and depth, dependent upon that last facet of his work, of his recorded legacy.

But sometimes, and this might be a case in point, what’s happening with his bequest to history starts to seem like nothing so much as barrel scraping for financial gain.

Let’s take the video above, which gives a taster of this recent multi-disc set, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Waka/Wazoo mini electric big band era/experiment.

It basically sounds like the rhythm section backing track, sans horns, or big band brass overdubs. I actually really like hearing the music like this. But at the same time, if lots of the tracks here are simply rhythm section run throughs or alt takes, without the ‘topping’, it’s hardly a celebration of the big band idea!

I’ve read quite a few reviews of this set that express dissatisfaction or disappointment due to the original album tracks – which most buying this set (me included, should I buy it) will already own – only being on the fifth disc, which is Blu-Ray. Many, once again myself included, won’t have a Blu-Ray player, potentially making this crucial portion of the set redundant.

The group on tour…

Here’s a complete rundown of the contents of the discs:

CD1 - Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes

1. Your Mouth (Take 1)
2. Big Swifty (Alternate Take)
3. Minimal Art (Eat That Question – Version 1, Take 2)
4. Blessed Relief (Outtake Version)
5. Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo) (Outtake Version)
6. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Outtake Version)
7. Waka/Jawaka (Outtake Version)

CD2 - Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes, continued

1. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Take)
2. Eat That Question (Version 2, Alternate Take)
3. Big Swifty (Alternate Mix)
4. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Alternate Mix)
5. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal (Alternate Mix)
6. Waka/Jawaka (Alternate Mix)
7. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Mix)
8. Eat That Question (Alternate Mix)

CD3 - George Duke Demos – The Master Versions

1. For Love (I Come Your Friend)
2. Psychosomatic Dung
3. Uncle Remus (Instrumental)
4. Love

George Duke Session Outtakes

5. For Love (I Come Your Friend) (Basic Track, Take 1)
6. Psychosomatic Dung (Basic Track, Take 2)
7. Love (Basic Track, Take 1)

The Grand Wazoo – Live

8. Approximate (Live – FZ Record Plant Mix)
10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live / Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
9. Winterland ’72 Opening And Band Introductions
10. Little Dots

CD4 - 10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live, continued (Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco)

1. America Drinks
2. Montana
3. Farther O’Blivion
4. Cosmik Debris
5. Chunga’s Revenge


Waka/Jawaka Blue-ray Audio
1. Big Swifty
2. Your Mouth
3. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal
4. Waka / Jawaka

The Grand Wazoo
1. The Grand Wazoo
2. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)
3. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
4. Eat That Question
5. Blessed Relief
A fan’s archival compilation of this era.

MEDiA: Royalist Propaganda Overload

I’d like to know who this brave lady is.

Teresa, having dined royally, so to speak, on Versailles, is now watching Marie Antoinette. As she does so it strikes me that in the last few decades we’ve seen not just a rising tide, but a veritable tsunami of royalist propaganda.

These two shows are about past French Royalty, admittedly. But the almost universal chorus of abjectly sycophantic bootlicking around the recent passing of Liz II really shocked and upset me. This toadying, far more than the passing of one elderly and obscenely overprivileged woman, is what I find deeply saddening.

We had a brief period, post WWII, in which, for a while, there was a semblance of some move towards real progressive and enlightened change in the UK. The creation of the NHS, a growth in the ambitions of the BBC. But all these things seems now to be under the very real threat of Tory vandalism and dissolution.

A great but rare sight. The ‘other’ view in public sight.*

And the orgy of misty-eyed revisionist veneration for royalty that we’re living through now is a stark reminder of the degree to which we are now an increasingly enslaved and backward looking nation.

I wondered if anyone in the UK shared my feelings, and googled the theme using numerous selections of search terms. And what I found most of was the very same obsequious royalist garbage that so disturbs me. It took quite some digging to begin to uncover what one might call such things as republican or anti-royalist stuff.

Alas, if only ‘t’were so.

Here is one of the few things I found. And it’s very good. I think I might try and use this and future similar posts to try and gather together such thoughts/links, etc.

Interesting to note that I can not, so far, find the names of either the ‘not my king’ lady, nor the ‘f*ck imperialism’ protestor. The former was allowed to continue her protest, whilst the latter was removed and charged with a ‘breach of peace‘.

A truly scary sign of our times…

In a previous post that touches on this theme I was able to find the identity of another protestor. That individual was Paul Powlesland, above, a barrister who said around the time:

‘One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It’s one of our most precious and sacred rights and it’s far more precious to me than the royal family is.’

Amen to that! But is the idea of free speech in the UK now no more than an illusion? It’s starting to look that way.

* The most recent Jubilee was, for the most part, a horrifying display of forelock tugging idiocy. I didn’t encounter any anti-Royal views in the media at the time. Even allusions to other viewpoints were rare. And, of course, the vast propaganda machine supporting royalty steamrolled over any neutered opposition. So Liz wasn’t the last of her ilk. Alas…

DAYS iN: Home – F-F-F-flippin’ F-F-F-freezin’!

I put all this lot on upon entering our home!

We just got back home, from childminding duties at my sister’s. As we occasionally do, we stayed a second night. I was exhausted after an evening shift delivering for Amazon, and then sharing a bottle of wine with Teresa and Hannah.

Amazon were taking the piss royally yesterday, on two fronts: first I arrived a few minutes late (2-3, or thereabouts) for a midday shift. The crappy Flex app then proceed to load so slowly that by the time it was up and running I’d ‘missed your [my!] slot’!

So I returned later the same day, and did an evening sesh. I try not to do these, on account of it being harder and more stressful in the dark of winter evenings/nights. And herein was the second Amazon piss-take:

Actually this was a double-barrelled piss fest: first I had an order ‘to be delivered no later than 4pm’. Yet it was the second delivery of about eight or so, and I didn’t start collecting the items, never mind delivering them, until 4pm, when my shift officially commenced!

I told the recipient that I’d have bent the laws of physics to deliver to him by 4pm, if it lay within my powers. And, if he was unhappy – fortunately he was a jovial and understanding chap, and was absolutely fine – please take it up with Amazon, and don’t blame me!

But the real piss take the second, was the sheer distances they had me travelling. I started in Cambourne, then went to Royston, then Potton, then Sandy, then home. I reckon that the fuel costs of this run will prob’ have accounted for half my earnings.

Lobster, a very hirsute, handsome and charming chap!

But my main prompt for this post was returning to our frigidarium home. Our car was plenty warm en-route home. With two of us in the the confines of a little MX5, plus the car heating, we were very cosy. The house was 8°C, according to our wall mounted central-heating doodad (thermostat/controller?).

The pic atop this post is how I got myself up to brave a trip to our littlest room! Which used to be an outside privy, when the house was built. And today feels like it still is! I was worried my bowels would refuse to open, so damn chilly was it!

I’m now enjoying that most plebeian of pleasures, a pot noodle. Pornography for the palette, granted. But warm and flavoursome. It maketh me happy!

MiSC: Politics & Media

This post arises out of my despair at being mugged every month by Virgin Media.

My loathing for Toryism grows and grows. Cursed with the Thatcherite style ‘choice’ of a shower of money-grabbing swindlers, aka broadband service providers, and currently being fleeced by Virgin Media, I can only marvel at how Boris, with his execrable ‘bus of lies’, had the bare-butt-faced-cheeks – the goddamn effrontery – to swindle, nay, to rape our nation so effectively.

Un-fucking-believable! Bohnson, you neo-fascist shitbag.

According to Bozo, Corbyn’s pledge to give all in the UK free internet was a ‘crazed communist’ plot. Instead of publicly owned assets that serve us all, we have shitty privately owned corporations intent on robbing us blind, the ongoing nightmare of Brexit, recession and rampant inflation. And still the billionaire press barons prop up the rotten Tory establishment, merrily scapegoating the weak and poor at the bottom of the collective heap, whilst they and their fat cat ilk wallow in the cream at the top.

A neo-liberalist wet-dream. AKA a nightmare.

Evil? Unquestionably. Beyond fucking disgusting? Indubitably. And these evil fuckers are currently embarked on a process of gutting the UK of any rights to protest. The real reason for Brexit. At a time when many scientists are saying humanity is teetering on the brink of self-annihilation, it’s business as usual for the robber barons.

Smiles and suits belie pure evil; a cabal of self serving right-wing hooligans.*

* I know there’s been a changing of the guard since these cyphers were photo-collaged together. But you can take pretty much any set of Tories, and the putrid essence of evil remains unchanged.

For the meat and potatoes, try this, in which some of the reasons for my anger are elucidated. For many years I’ve allowed my own personal issues and petty problems to contribute to almost total political apathy. But these self-serving bastards and their rapine policies are driving me back towards activism.

Abysmal (unelected) architects of the UK’s self-destruction.

So now we have Rishi Sunak, a product of The City, whose tax-dodging wife epitomises exactly what’s so rotten about Toryism. Another unelected (by the people of the UK) neo-liberal capitalist stooge. So he’s going to fix the appalling mess years of Tory misrule have brought about!?

Rishi to the rescue…

Pull the other one. Oh, wait… there is no other leg to pull. All the limbs of the rotten cadaver of British politics have already been torn off. The corpse of British Democracy has been sent to the Tower, hung, drawn and quartered.

The UK needs to see Toryism killed off. Banished. Fired into a black hole. Exorcised. Otherwise we are, er… royally fucked.

If only this were the end of such backwards ways.

HEALTH & WELLBEiNG: Taxed For Being Ill.

I have chronic conditions – psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – that require ongoing medication. And to pay for this – in addition to the taxes we all pay* – I pay a monthly direct-debit towards a prescription pre-payment scheme.

*Or ought to, and by and large do. I my view it’s those wealthy enough to dodge such joint responsibilities that are our biggest problem.

On my last visit to the chemist, to pick up my regular prescription meds, after 5 or 6 years of never being asked for any proof, I was asked. I told them I had none, as I’d never been asked before. They told me I’d have to bring some proof next time.

I’m not sure what constitutes proof? There’s no physical document or card anymore. There used to be a card. But that’s been scrapped. Toryism shaving off another small fraction from the public purse, to give the fat cats further scope to skim off more cream. So I guess I’ll just have to print out an appropriate email, if I can find one.

The Tories have always disliked the NHS, and for decades they have been systematically butchering it. Tragically the Blair/Brown Labour govt. colluded in the expansion of rapine capitalism within the NHS, making an already dodgy situation even worse. In many ways New Labour was Tory Lite. Tragic!

There are so many layers and levels to all the ramifications of the Tory ‘only money matters’ attitude (I won’t dignify it with the term philosophy!). One of these is to make parking at NHS facilities another opportunity for parasites to drain money from NHS workers and patients.

So not only am I taxed ‘at source’, to fund all our public services, including the wonderful institution that is the NHS. But, as an ill person – something that at its rotten core (I can’t say heart, Toryism has no heart) the right equates with ‘sin’* – I have to pay two more times: once more for my prescriptions, and again, to park.

Healthcare Tory style.

* There’s a barely disguised eugenicist Spencerian thread at the base of such ideologies, itself heir to the far older superstitions of religions, and dark pre-scientific (mis)understanding, which equates illness (and even ‘ugliness’) with sin and evil; outward manifestations of inner un-Godliness. Conditions that – rather than being understood and treated with due sympathy and care – are to be denigrated and punished.

MiSC: Joe Hill

Joe Hill.*

Thanks to a FB pal’s post I learned of Joe Hill today. Not heard of him before.

An itinerant worker of Swedish ancestry, Hill was a ‘Wobblie’, or member of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), rising to prominence in that organisation as a songwriter and cartoonist, as well as for his vocal activism.

Hill was executed, aged just 36, in 1915. Allegedly for a robbery in which two men, father and son (the elder an ex-policemen), were killed. I know next to nothing about all this. So I’ll be looking into it. It’s pretty fascinating!

Tom Morello of RATM credits a whole lineage of protest music to Joe Hill’s leading example, which is interesting. As a musician and artist I’m immediately drawn to Hill, not just because I share his politics to some extent (to what extent I don’t know as yet!), but because art and music are my ‘bag’.

Rather strikingly, Hill’s will, reproduced below (along with a post-mortem photo showing his corpse, complete with the execution bullet holes!), is in verse. A poet to the last!

The popular perception on the left is that Hill is a martyr, a scapegoat, a ‘pesky agitator’ silenced by the boss class. Hill refused to exonerate himself entirely, claiming he was innocent. But unwilling to name a lady for love of whom he had, he said, been shot by a another man!

The gunshot wound, which he presented to a doctor on the same day as the fatal double shooting of which he was eventually accused, was, it seems, what got him the death penalty.

A tantalising tale! I must find out more.

One of Hill’s cartoon. I’m assuming the pianist is a self-portrait?

* Quite a striking/good looking dude! Could’ve been played by a young Willem Defoe, perhaps?

MUSiC: Casiopea, 1979

I can’t believe I haven’t already posted this album!? Or have I!?

Utterly sublime! Pure unalloyed musical joy.

The YouTube video above was my introduction to Casiopea. And it was love at first sight/sound. Sadly only two or three tracks from this splendid performance are to be found online.

Like Led Zeppelin’s fabulous debut of a decade earlier, it’s the group’s brilliant drummer who kicks things off on 1979’s eponymous debut.

Bassist and co-founder Tetsuo Sakurai is clearly indebted to Antony Jackson and Headhunters era Hancock for the main spinal groove of opening number Time Limit. Horns are courtesy of Yankee-doodle fusionistas Dave Sanborn and the Brecker Bros.

After the taught and energised slap around the chops that is Time Limit, things shift down a few gears for the silky smooth boudoir vibes of Tears Of The Star. Founder member and guitarist Issei Noro plays a beautiful acoustic guitar solo, after which bassist Tetsua Sakurai shows his tastefully restrained chops, deploying a wonderful classical guitar style (fingered tremolo?) on his bass. And then the song builds to a climactic keys segment, before returning to the opening mellow vibe, to shimmer out with a smattering of sexy sax. Fantastic!

Track three Space Road starts with a more upbeat version of the groove that Tears finished with, before launching into a very energised slightly Latin-esque groove, over which the chords progress in a manner that suggest a constant rising of pitch and energy. These guys really are incredibly tight and sympathetic. Midway through Noro goes into his solo, starting with a kind of crying seagull sound that reminds me of another Jap-Fusion guitar monster, (what’s his name? The Rainbow Goblins dude… is it Masayoshi Takanaka?). For the keys solo, Sasaki goes to his cowbell. More cowbell!!! The energy is off the charts, but it’s all so controlled, and clean. Really incredible.

I think on this debut disc all compositions are by guitarist, Issei Noro. They really capture or represent a certain very bright very positive era of fusion. And on that note, we get to Midnight Rendezvous. Definitely a Desert Island Discs choice pour moi! I’m going to have to teach myself the drum parts to this sublime recording.

The groove is a masterfully balanced combo’ of simplicity and subtly challengingly nuanced feel. One of those rare and beautiful moments where everything is in perfect balance. You wouldn’t want to add or take anything way. It’s perfect! Noro’s guitar solo exemplifies this: structured, and yet excitingly on the edge, as if perfectly poised between composed and improvised. No wonder they play it more or less note for note live. Why mess with perfection?

Sasaki gets a kind of outro solo, in which he really just grooves, rather than out and out soloing. And again, it’s perfect for the song. His chops are, frankly, staggering. Once again attaining that perfect sweet spot between composition and improvisation.

Sooo ‘80s, in the best of all possible ways.

What was side two kicks off – or on CD continues – with the majestic Far Away. Strings are added to the mix here, as indeed they are on numerous tracks. The strings are credited to ‘Tomato Strings’! Whoever that was, they’re once again pitch perfect. Noro’s signature riff on Far Away is the perfect bedrock for the band to groove and solo on. And like the entire album, it’s suffused with a joyfulness characteristic of the fusion these guys make.

Swallow sees the tempo raised again, Sasaki’s drumming simultaneously ballistic and yet tightly focussed, restrained even. Astonishing! And like every instrument on these recordings, his kit – drums and cymbals – sounds utterly perfect. I’d love to know exactly what cymbals he plays. They have a sound I want to be able to emulate/recreate.

They reach a pitch of ballistic bombast in this track, just before Sasaki’s brief but powerful drum solo, that captures the intensity of their live performances. What an incredible band! Awesome is a much overused and abused term these days. But it’s just right for these dudes.

The penultimate track is the only number to feature vocals. And, like everything else here, they’re absolutely terrific! Kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t have more vocals in their music? But really they are an instrumental jazz fusion outfit. So their instruments do the singing, by and large. But it’s interesting to note that they could sing, and beautifully. Noro even goes a bit Benson, delivering a tasty scat’n’axe solo.

The album finishes, all too briefly, clocking in at under 40 minutes, on another atomic fusion bomb, Black Joke, the other track from the 1979 live performance viewable – see video above (warning: humongous bass solo alert!) – on YouTube. Phew!!! What a magical excursion to a land of musical waves, mountains and exquisite cherry blossoms!

What a band! Minoru, Sasaki, Tetsuo and Noro.

Although I’m primarily a drummer, and totally dig the brilliance of Takashi Sasaki’s jaw-dropping performances throughout this album, props have to to every single person playing on this utterly magnificent album. And Black Joke signs off just as they started, all cylinders firing in beautiful concert.

Minoru Mukaiya’s keys are note perfect, the selection of sounds, from mellifluous Rhodes to funky synths capturing a period vibe that to me is pure heaven. Tetsuo’s bass playing is muscular and lithe, light or heavy, and – like everything else here – pitched to sublime perfection. Band founder/leader and chief composer Issei Noro is on blinding form. Whether he’s shredding, or laying down the greasiest fonkiest riffs, he’s always bang on the money.

And Takashi Sasaki? Well, as I’ve already said numerous times above… words fail me. Drumming attains musical perfection sometimes. And this is a case in point. There are a few albums – LeRoy Hutson’s mid ‘70s stuff – or tracks (Herbie’s Actual Proof, Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher, Toto’s Georgy Porgy) – and this, which attain a peak of perfection I can only be dazzled by and forlornly dream of aspiring to.

If you dig the first Casiopea album, as I do, you’ll want their second, Super Flight (pictured above) as well. It’s the last to feature the sublime drumming talents of Takashi Sasaki. Or would that actually be Mint Jams? The latter sees the arrival of the very talented Akira Jimbo. But it may also feature Sasaki on some tracks.

This disc sees the arrival of new drummer, Akira Jimbo.


Fans of the line up that recorded Casiopea’s first two albums, with the astonishingly crisp, precise and lightly deft drumming of Takashi Sasaki, might enjoy this recording, by keys player Tatsuya Kohima, which features the Casiopea lads as session backing band.

MUSiC: How Many More Times, Led Zeppelin, 1969

Wow! An absolute monstrosity. Led Zeppeloid, at their Titanic swaggering best. With a fuzzed out riff that is pure Valhalla. The power trio of Page, Jones and Bonham, with Plant as hoodoo shaman, stride across continents in shining iron bellbottoms, their sloshing wake a tsunami that drowns entire nations in 100% proof rock’n’roll.

And what amazes me. Nay, astounds me. Is that despite all the trappings that might make for a very dated sound, the energy is so massively ‘in the present’, it sounds as fresh today as it ever did.

People often think of Whole Lotta Love as The Zep’s totemic riff Leviathan. And of course, that’s a fabulous track as well. But there’s something about the joyous elastic bounce of the How Many More Times riff that transcends almost all ostensibly similar rock music.

MUSiC: Joni’s For The Roses, 50th Anniversary Edition

It’s incredibly rare that I hear of this sort of thing before it happens. More typically I learn about it long after. And frequently – the Burt Bacharach or Magma complete box-sets, for example – it’s so long after that they are no longer available at anything but insanely high prices, if at all.

But, for once, I’ve heard some fab news with almost perfect timing. Joni’s For The Roses, released in ‘72, the year I was born, is now, like me, 50 years old. And it has been released in a remastered form, on vinyl. Including a rather snazzy blue version. So I’ve ordered me a copy.

Joni, Nordic mermaid nature girl Goddess.

Teresa and I are currently on holiday in Cardiff, with family, visiting my sister Abbie, and her husband Dan, who’re now living here, in the Welsh capital. When I learned of this reissue, yesterday, I immediately ordered it. And today I got an email confirming it has been dispatched. We travel home today, so I’m looking forward to it arriving soon.

For The Roses, her fifth studio album, is part of Joni’s early years run of pure gold. Rather like Woody Allen’s purple patch, or Tom Waits in his prime; such artistic genius and musical gloriousness is to be savoured and treasured.

Overshadowed by her two best-selling albums – Blue, which was her previous release, and Court And Spark, which came next – I hold Roses to be an overlooked meisterwerk. My picks/favourites are Barangrill, Electricity, and Woman Of Heart And Mind.

According to the Wikipedia article on For The Roses ‘she originally intended for the cover to be a drawing entitled For the Roses, the imagery in which relating to her feelings on the music industry.’ I’d love to see the artwork in question! I wonder if I can do some sleuthing in that direction?