Today in Music History

On September 18, 1970, rock legend Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Mary Abbot's Hospital in London at the age of 27. The details of this fateful night are the stuff of lore, but the facts are that Jimi took several sleeping pills and later choked to death on his own vomit. Legend has it that the guitar hero left a message for his manager that said "I need help bad man" earlier that evening.

His reign as master showman and songwriter may have lasted only 4 years (1967-1970), but his influence on rock music is perhaps only eclipsed by The Beatles. Known for writing some of the edgiest and most memorable riffs set to wax, one needs only mention the titles Purple Haze, Fire, Foxy Lady, or Hey Joe, and the visceral imprint of the songs immediately returns. If you haven't revisited Hendrix' work with The Jimi Hendrix Experience or with Band of Gypsys, you may be surprised how well these classics have aged.

Bearded Ballads

I heard Fleet Foxes for the first time at a concert festival this summer, where I was censured by a devoted fan. "Shhhh, I'm trying to listen here!" the enraptured audiophile spat. I tried to be mad at her, but the rest of the crowd looked like they were at Dylan's 1966 Royal Albert Hall show (if only more bearded and plaid), so I shut my mouth and listened. There must be something to this band.

Fleet Foxes' eponymous debut LP combines CSNY harmonies with naturalist lyrics straight out of an Appalachian songbook. Although the lyrical tone is optimistic, Pecknold refrains from the saccharine. The best songs on the record are pop structured, uptempo ballads best suited to summer nights around a campfire. After a few turns through this filler-free 40 minute album you'll likely be crooning along, the key to every successful Sub Pop release.

Dancin' in the barn

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Put on your dancing shoes this Saturday and head out to Dexter to hear Billy King & the Idylls, a popular local band led by guitarist/songwriter King whose music blends folk, pop, bluegrass, swing, and rock. The dancing is followed by a bonfire. Proceeds go to the Washtenaw Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving farmland in the county. The dance will be held at 11300 Island Lake Rd., (off Dexter-Pinckney Rd. just west of downtown Dexter). Park next door at Ruhlig's Farm Market. $10 (couples, $15; family, $20) suggested donation. 223-2321, 302-LAND.

Portishead: Third

In spare moments, I dream of the horror film I'd like to produce: harrowing, soul-piercing work that leaves viewers devoid of hope in 90 short minutes. The soundtrack is always the same; Beth Gibbons, lead vocalist of Portishead, sings unaccompanied, warbling in despair and moaning in her peerless croon. Portishead's first release in eleven years, Third, is not far from this vision, especially in Gibbons' contributions, but its sound is sharply different than their trip-hop prototype of the late '90s. The lush textures and high-production remain, but the breakbeats have been outmoded, morphing into experimental percussion more Steve Reich than Tricky. Plenty of surprises, each darker than the last, await the listener throughout this record, so take a listen today.

Jazz, Hoops and Bad Boy

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Walter Dean Myers was interviewed recently by NPR, maybe because he just had an August birthday or maybe because he's a respected heavyweight when it comes to writing for teens. He's released two titles just this year, which makes about 70 titles all total. The Iraq War is the setting of Sunrise Over Fallujah a story told by Robin Perry, a young recruit from Harlem.
Myers son, Christopher, creates images with collage and photos, and joined up with his Dad on Harlem which was named a Caldecott Honor Book.

The Global Jazz Trio Visits The Ark

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Detroit jazz musicians, The Global Jazz Trio, bring their jazz jams to The Ark in Ann Arbor on Monday, September 8 at 8pm. Band member Mark Hershberger describes their music as “a world influenced jazz that combines African, Latin, Asian and European influences with traditional jazz and funk to form a global jazz for all people.” Cool! Check out The Ark’s website for details and ticket information.

The Dresden Dolls

Bad pickup lines and corny jokes are two things I never tire of overhearing. So you can imagine how happy I was to eavesdrop on the following at a recent concert. "My name's John, are you into the Brechtian punk cabaret scene?" I was overwhelmed. Would this be the worst pickup line or the world's corniest joke? I waited with baited breath, soon to discover that this earnest young gent was trying unsuccessfully to get a date. Moreover, through his sermon I learned all about The Dresden Dolls, who indeed self-describe their brand of vaudevillian rock as John had. After checking out The Dresden Dolls' latest release, No, Virginia, from the AADL, I wished that things had ended better for our hero, for the band's unique blend of raucous female vocals and driving, Weimar-era piano lines was quite refreshing. My hope is that somewhere he found a soulmate because the music -- like Hesse's Magic Theatre -- is "not for everybody," and perhaps "for madmen only."

Isaac Hayes dies at 65

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Musician, composer and producer, Isaac Hayes, died August 11 at the age of 65. Hayes was best known for the theme from Shaft which won an Academy Award (and revitalized the "Best Song" category in the process), but in the 1960s and ’70s he was one of the principal songwriters for Stax Records, the Memphis R&B label that offered a grittier counterpoint to Motown. Hayes started writing songs with David Porter, which included numbers like “Soul Man” and "Hold On, I’m Comin’" written for Sam and Dave. In the 1990s he provided the voice for Chef on South Park.

The Iguanas Visit The Ark

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If you’re looking to see a fun band with Latin flair and bit of Cajun funk then why not check out The Iguanas at The Ark on Saturday August 23. They call their music "Chicano Rock with a greasy New Orleans second-line/mambo flavor." Talk about fun! The show starts at 8pm, see The Ark’s site for ticket information. Cha cha cha!

Music in Manchester

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Drive or bike to Manchester this Saturday for the 7th Annual Riverfolk Music and Arts Festival. Some of the featured musicians will be singer/songwriter, Vienna Tang who won rave reviews at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival a few years ago, Tumbao Bravo, a Cuban jazz ensemble, local acts, a fiddle contest and special activities for children. And all for only $12 at the gate ($10 in advance). Kids twelve and under admitted free. Begin the party Friday night with a "Boogie Woogie Barbeque and Cash Bar" plus entertainment.

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