by Peter Cates
Allegiance Records AV 431, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded 1982.
John Stewart (1939-2008) was arguably one of the dozen or so finest singer/songwriters to emerge during the folk/rock era of the ‘60s. When he was picked by the Kingston Trio to replace original member Dave Guard in 1961, his singing, composing, instrumentals and comic spokesman skills added much to the live concerts and recordings for the Trio’s remaining six years before disbanding in 1968.
The launch of his solo career with 1968’s Signals through the Glass would turn out to be, because of its over-produced arrangements (although I still treasure it), a mere taste of the brilliance manifested later in California Bloodlines, Willard, Sunstorm and others over the next 40 years. His songs were stories of the American experience wrought with a uniquely original musical voice- folk, country, Aaron Copland, blues, pop and disco, all blended into the most engaging, individualistic goulash to be heard anywhere. Whether a Mississippi back road, the spectacular dark prairie skies of Nebraska or wistful memories of the woman who got away, Stewart internalized these experiences and transformed them into something very special.
1982’s Blondes is an assortment of 10 songs of exceptional quality, a standard that Stewart, for all his gifts, didn’t always sustain. The general theme is the stark, glittering reality of the early ‘80s California urban landscape, saturated with the refuse of pipe dreams, lonely hearts thousands of miles from home and other on-going forms of emotional brokenness. A few titles reveal a lot – Girl Down the River, Angeles (The City of the Angels), Queen of Hollywood High, Golden Gate; my favorite, by a tiny margin, is You Won’t Be Going Home, a piercingly eloquent four minutes of music that ranks with anything I have heard from any genre.
As so often the case, Stewart has the finest vocal/instrumental talent money can buy. Here, Lindsay Buckingham and Linda Ronstadt do a couple of backups.
Through Amazon and its vendors, Blondes is available for $9 as an mp3, 15 dollars as an LP, and 19 bucks as a CD .
Stabat Mater; Teresa Stitch-Randall, soprano; Elizabeth Hoengen, alto; Anton Heiller, organ; Mario Rossi conducting the Vienna Akademiekammerchor and Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Vanguard SRV-195SD, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded mid-’50s.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, 1710-1736, earned a precarious living composing for the Italian nobility before dying at 26 from tuberculosis. Being one of his two best known works along with the opera La Serva Padrona, these would not be heard until after the composer’s death. Stabat was commissioned by a few nobles for performance before a private gathering and had no liturgical purpose. But it has a lovely intimate, devotional quality and is sung very well by the two fine soloists and women’s choir under Rossi’s authoritative leadership.
Copies of the LP and CD start at just over $2.
The Time of Your Life
starring James Cagney, William Bendix, Ward Bond, Broderick Crawford, Tom Powers, Wayne Morris, Jeanne Cagney, James Barton, etc.; directed by H.C. Potter; produced by William Cagney; released by United Artists; 1948; 109 minutes; based on a play by William Saroyan.
This all time favorite of mine, and very underrated, deals with folks who frequent a San Francisco waterfront bar, just “being themselves!” It features some of Hollywood’s finest alpha male actors – Cagney, Morris, Bond, Crawford, etc. Special fun – just don’t bring any preconceptions !
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