I have resisted since November. And I really did try and I thought I had succeeded. But then…how often is it Cecilia Bartoli comes to Copenhagen? Like – ever? And somehow the sneaky bastards of the Tivoli Concert Hall held back the cheap tickets until the expensive ones were sold. Hate that trick.
Well, the (reasonably) cheap ticket is now mine!! MWUAHAHAHAHA!
See you there Ceciliona!
by Guido Harari
Just felt like posting this:
This is one of my all-time favourite videos. The simplicity of the direction in the video, shaven down to the interaction between Cave and Harvey, does great justice to the intensity of the ballad’s melody and imagery, and the sea-green background works wonderfully in this song of the sea.
And then the song is just such a brilliant interpretation of a traditional by Nick Cave, an artist whose work hardly ever leaves my CD-player these days. I’m definitely more into his early-90s Bad Seeds era than his recent introspective piano-vocal songs, but at his best I think NC perfects that powerful expression of rock music underlining the roughness and soil-like originality of folk music that artists like Johnny Cash initiated.
Also? Nick Cave is damned sexy.
Words cannot express how badly I want this:
Because Bach is so totally my homeboy! He’s da man. I’d wear it for Christina Bjørkøe piano recitals and such.
And if I ever have a baby, it will be wearing this:
alternately with this:
(Or this. But only if it’s a boy, of course.)
Now all I need is to find a set of “La Povera Mia Cena Fu Interotta”-place mats, and I can die a happy woman. Seriously.
* Items courtesy of cafepress.com (search for “opera” and “johnny cash”), and the official Johnny Cash homepage.
…but don’t Jussi and Anna-Lisa Björling bear a slight resemblance to characters from a Botero painting in this video?
What a sweet little clip though. The two of them have such an endearing, unpretentious air to them. If they were alive today they could totally kick Alagna and Gheorghiu’s pompous asses. Except they would be too nice to do that, so they would just invite Alagna and Georghiu over for dill and new potatoes and cowberry jam, and then give them a subtle talking-to about how to and how not to behave at an opera house.
I used to be a hardcore Jussi Björling-fan when I was younger, but I’ve sort of forgotten about him since, and that’s a shame really, because he was an amazing tenor. His range was incredible, and he had such a fresh, soft sound that made him perfect for operatic tenor parts, a lot of which present a pure-of-heart, heroic character. I’ve yet to encounter a tenor who has a similar sound, but perhaps I haven’t looked closely enough. Does anyone have any suggestions?
A while ago I mentioned the box-set Unearthed in the comments for my review of Johnny Cash’s fourth American Recordings-album The Man Comes Around, and I think it’s about time that I review this outstanding edition – and it seems right to be reviewing Unearthed today of all days, since Johnny Cash would have turned 75 on this day, February 26 2007.
The album consists of all of five CDs; the first three containing songs that Johnny Cash recorded and produced with Rick Rubin but which were not included on the American Recordings, the fourth contains a collection of Cash’s recordings of songs from his mother’s old Heavenly Highway Hymnbook, the fifth is a highlights-CD with Rick Rubin’s estimate of the best of the first four American Recordings (number 5, A Hundred Highways, was only released after Unearthed), and in the box-set is included a booklet containing interviews with Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin and commentary for the tracks on the first three CDs.
I am completely floored by the album, and particularly the first three albums are a source of immense awe on my part. The American Recordings are in and of themselves incredible: Five whole CDs of covers and original songs, and hardly with one dull track among them, but then to be able to fill three full CDs with almost as big a repertoire of covers and originals…! Unbelievable. I hardly even know whether to laugh or cry about it. Surely this collection of discarded tracks, if nothing had before, bears witness to the fact that Johnny Cash and producer Rick Rubin were a match made in heaven, and, even more, to the fact that Johnny Cash was a larger-than-life artist of whom this world was robbed much too early. It’s almost unbearable to consider the works of art that could have flown from Johnny’s vocals and guitar-strings and Heavenly Highway Records.
But I won’t think of that. Instead I’ll rejoice at this evidence of incredible productivity on Cash’s part while he was still alive, and enjoy the numerous wonderful tracks on these three CDs of initially discarded American recordings. Because they are indeed enjoyable. Cash’s cover version of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” is my favourite of the tracks. A melancholy, solemn tune which lends strength from Cash’s sensitivity as a singer, and, I’ll venture, from the vulnerability that crept into his singing voice during his last years, it easily competes with equally beautiful cover versions from the actual American Recordings, such as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” from The Man Comes Around. There are quite a few of these solemn songs included on Unearthed that seem to relate in someway to America as native soil. In the case of “Wichita Lineman” the theme is touched upon lightly, yet with some insistence through the specific-geographical proper name in the title, and the solemnity in the tune that adds to the lyrics an air of mythology: “I am a lineman for the county./And I drive the mainroad./Lookin’ in the sun for another overload./I hear you singing in the wire./I can hear you thru the whine./And the Wichita Lineman,/is still on the line.” As if the lineman here is a kind of latter-day, bureaucratized lone rider, standing as he does between two states and reaching out and longing to belong in either of them, to love unconditionally and to be loved. Beautiful.
A much more direct approach to the theme of America is found on Unearthed in songs like the cover versions of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” (sung as a duet with Joe Strummer) and Neil Young’s “Pocahontas”. The two are, each in their own way, surprising tracks in as much as they are quite far from being typical Cash-style songs; the former being decidedly reggae, right down to the lyrics (“Old pirates, yes, they rob I;/Sold I to the merchant ships,/Minutes after they took I/From the bottomless pit.”, and the latter being unusually psychedelic for Cash. But they both work really well. Cash has plenty enough revolutionary spirit (as proven at his prison concerts earlier in his career) to match Bob Marley, and plenty enough visionary imagination to pull off the spaced-out Neil Young-lyrics, and, as Rick Rubin notes in the written commentary for the song; it adds something really wonderful to the Pocahontas-Marlon Brando-meeting motif when Johnny Cash, himself an American icon, is the one singing it: “And maybe Marlon Brando/Will be there by the fire/We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood/And the good things there for hire/And the Astrodome/and the first tepee/Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me.”
Equally successful tracks are the Kris Kristoffersen cover versions featured on the album, “Casey’s Last Ride” and “Just the Other Side of Nowhere”. Both of these melodic, subtly tragic little epics seem to revolve around the theme of the corruption and coldness of the city as opposed, supposedly, to the genuineness and friendliness of the rural. Such a distinction tends towards the contrived, and it seems somewhat out of place for Cash who I think had plenty of urban energy in his rock’n roll sound, but Kristoffersen’s musicality and sense of rhythm is undeniable, and Cash does a great job of depicting in his interprestation a resigned frustration on behalf of Kristoffersen’s protagonists, recalling his sympathetic approach towards outlaws as seen in songs like “San Quentin”. However, Cash’s best homage to his own country background is of course found in his folk ballads and the album has some very good songs of that genre. The best of these is the first track of the first CD “Long Black Veil”. Cash has recorded it before, but this is one of those songs that wins something by getting repeated by the older Cash – his aged, slightly shaky voice with its significant vibrato makes the sinister, ghostly retrospective all the more effective. In another featured folk-song, Cash is every bit as cheerful and humorous-harking as he was sinister and ghostly in the before-mentioned, namely “Cindy” in which we are also treated to another duet between Cash and Nick Cave (their first duet being “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” which was included on The Man Comes Around). It’s a completely bizarre lovesong (“Cindy is my honey/the sweetest in the South/when we kissed the bees would always/swarm around her mouth”!) and Nick Cave’s strange, sneering vocal compliments both Cash’s fatherly baritone and this bizarreness beautifully, in a way that doesn’t allow you to forget that these are respectively the murderers of Eliza Day and Delia joining each other in a serenade…! As much as Unearthed is a rock album it is, however, a kind of museal artefact, a documentation of the work-in-progress of an American legend, and there are tracks on the album where this aspect is particularly evident. There is a track on the first CD titled “Book Review” on the first CD that features John’s voice, incidentally caught by a microphone, as he shares with Rick Rubin his thoughts on a Kahlil Gibran novel he’d just read, and on the third CD, even more interesting, an early and somewhat bland version of “The Man Comes Around” before Cash and Rick Rubin had worked out the lustrous, explosive orchestration that we find in the brilliant final version on American Recordings IV. These are marvellous little pieces of insider-knowledge for any fan of Cash – but of course, being, as they are essentially, curiosities, they do end up being the tracks one is most likely to skip past when listening to the album.
I am sad to admit that this is how I tend to feel about the entire fourth CD, My Mother’s Hymnbook, as well. The CD features John doing simple versions of his childhood hymns (vocal and guitar), and while I am touched by this simplicity and by the faithful sincerity that I don’t doubt that he put into the recording of the hymns, (I fondly imagine the young JR humming them along with his mother while working himself to the bone in the cotton fields), fact remains that the hymns don’t really touch me, and I tend to skip the CD altogether. I think Cash always expressed his passion as a devout Christian much more efficiently when he combining it with the rawness and complexity of rock songs rather than when adding to it the sweetness of hymns. “Old Chunk of Coal” with its rough imagery, and “Bird on a Wire” with its painful portrait of a Christian like an adolescent child, struggling to be obedient and to break free at the same time, are much more successful musical testimonies of Cash’s religious beliefs in my opinion, and both are to be found Unearthed (on CDs 1 and 2, respectively).
I’ve borrowed Unearthed from the public library, but I’m so in love with it that I’ll have to purchase it somehow. I advise every Cash-fan out there to do the same. The album is fantastic, and the accompanying booklet of interviews and commentaries are as informative as any lengthy biography. Unearthed, this glorious American Recordings-flea market is a wonderful celebration of an over-brimming, inspired artist.
Happy Birthday, John.
Marie and I are nice girls. You know that. We have always done our homework, we speak almost like the Queen, we listen to opera, we are good to the animals and elderly citizens and we prefer eating ecological products.
But we also like to be out of character. And being out of character for the two of us has to include Terkel. Terkel is only 12, he’s ugly, his language is foul and he does not stand up for his friends. And yet – we love him.
This is Terkel:
His film is called Terkel in Trouble, it’s for children and was one of the biggest commercial successes in Danish theatres in 2004.
A couple of weeks ago we realised that Terkel is out there. He actually roams large parts of Europe. The UK of course, but also Germany and Italy. Even Norway even though they tried to ban him because of his language (oh these Norwegians – when are they going to relax?).
I am especially glad to present you with the Italian trailer.
Terrrrkel! Aren’t those r’s marvellous? Terrrrrrrrkel! I love it. And I love that Eros Ramazotti quality this song gets when sung in Italian. Well, perhaps not the lyrics:
Fanculo a te, sei troppo un cesso e tua mamma gonfia banane giganti a mazzi da sei.
I will not translate that since I am a nice girl. I will only say that it involves someone’s mother and some giant bananas. In bunches of six, even.
It comes in German too.
In Germany they have copied the Danish version to perfection since one person makes all the voices. In the Danish version it was Anders Matthesen (who is also the man behind the story) who is a stand-up comedian and a genius. He made a lot of radio for children and many of the characters in Terkel in Trouble are from those radio programmes.
There are some hilarious songs in Terkel in Trouble and then there is one with a more sombre tone. Unfortunately I cannot find it in English. So you’ll have to watch the Norwegian version.
I’ve translated the lyrics for you:
This is the story of the boy named Quang
He’s 7, lives in Thailand and his working day is long
He gets up early and goes to bed real late
Quang has a lot to do even though he’s just a boy
Each morning a quarter to five Quang walks down alone
through hawthorns and thistles, to a boat by the river shore
The water is cold and dark but the family has debts
so he dives for pearls, mostly without any luck.
So what the fuck makes you think
I will listen to your complaints
that you don’t like your spinach and your allowance is too small
You have your fast food and your nintendo, you have time for play and fun
and there are thousands of children
who wish they were in your shoes.
Quang is the eldest out of ten
so he’s the one to cook dinner when the day is over
There are mouths enough to feed
and that is often hard
So Quang has bought a tube of glue
they will sniff for dessert.
When Quang has put the small ones to bed
he is really tired himself
But he must into to town again
even though it’s night
He has a date that he planned yesterday
with his boyfriend, Heinrich Schulze, who is 45 years old.
So how can you tell me
that your life sucks
Please see it all in a larger perspective
Think about others than yourself
Learn from my song
Remember you’re all right
if your life is not like Quang’s.
Right. And you know what? The hippie guy with the guitar, Gunnar (or Justin), has the voice of Toby Stephens in the English version! Now that is what I call out of character, and it means I will have to buy the English version when it comes in dvd. Just to hear Quang’s song! Toby Stephens is my latest crush (cf.) and him being part of Terkel in Trouble does not curb my crush the least. On the contrary! Now, just a reminder…
And now for those patient ones of you who aren’t Norwegian, Italian or German: The English trailer.
As Anna revealed recently, we have lately, after seeing the movie Walk the Line developed a love for the music of Johnny Cash, and while Anna elaborated on her girlcrush on the portrayer of June Carter’s part, Reese Witherspoon (a girlcrush that I totally share, mind you), we both feel that Johnny Cash has earned an ode, too. So I’ve decided to take it upon me to write a tribute to this long legged guitar pickin’ man. Let me start out by saying that like Anna, I was completely taken aback by the impact Mr. Cash’s music has had on me. As readers of this blog will know, I’m an avid opera lover, and I cannot remember the last time I found myself surrendering so completely to a non-operatic composer, and of course I’ve been scratching my head with puzzlement, trying to figure out why it is that Mr. Johnny Cash has managed to win me over the way he has.
His music is catchy, to be sure, but so is the music of lots of other artists. Mr. Cash was talented, yes, but so are a lot of other contemporary musicians, and I have been hauled by various well-meaning boyfriends through endless lines of CDs with highly estimated names such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, Captain Beefheart, Neil Young and whathaveyou, none of which ever managed to make any lasting impression on me.
Get rhythm when you get the blues
The only thing I’m able to chalk it down to is that overwhelming, life-assuring, triumphant openness to the joy of music that I find in his music. Performing throughout his career songs as completely different as the arch-American, folk-y country song “The Wreck of the Old 97” and the dark, urban, metrosexual “Own Personal Jesus”, Johnny Cash always seemed to be willing to go, open-mindedly, wherever the music led him, and this openness is the most important factor to me in all his works.
Because it’s always there, that bubbling curiosity that playful exploration. His songs are most often introduced with a few, very simple notes played by the bass in a steady, predictable pace and rhythm. But then, through his composition, through his guitar solos and the epically dynamic progression of his stanzas, he lets each of the songs develop their own personal style and expression. An example is the song “Walk the line”: At first glance a pretty dull composition, almost like a finger exercise for a child; no bridge or any real chorus, just the same eight bars repeated five times in different keys. Upon studying the song a little closer, however, one will find, that this is the point exactly: It is indeed an exercise! As the lyrics betray, the song is about a man’s love for a woman, and how this love makes him want to struggle to become a better man, and it is this struggle that we find in the simplistic song. Rather than going off into extremities, rather than throwing himself into daring and sophisticated bridges and choruses, the persona of the song keeps to his straight and narrow path, and practises his eight little bars with the obedience of a child at lessons, practising his finger exercises and scales.
I love that! And it’s everywhere in his songs, at least the way I see it. You can hear the train’s puff-puffing in “Folsom Prison Blues”, you can hear the shoeshine boy’s rhythmic movements in “Get rhythm”, and the manic tempo and high notes of “Cocaine Blues” urgently mimic the reckless state of mind of the cocaine addict. It’s music at its finest, I think: It takes over when words fail you and expresses so much more than words ever could.
“…I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die”
That being said, however, I really love Johnny Cash’s lyrics, too. They hold a musicality that allows the lyrics to blend beautifully with the music, and with a ruthless, almost brutal honesty that becomes particularly moving in the songs in which Cash speaks on behalf of the desperado. The inmate’s painful recollection of his own cold-blooded murder of a man in Reno in “Folsom Prison Blues”, his own fate contrasted by the carefree, innocent travellers in the dining car of the passing train, the wife-murderer’s outcry to the Lord in “Cocaine Blues” and his breathless, minute recollection of his trial; all this becomes so incredibly moving through Cash’s scarce and coarse lyrics. And the fact that Cash did special concerts in prisons, wanting to raise a debate about the wretched conditions in American prisons only makes his lyrical tributes to the desperados more sympathetic.
Hotter than a pepper sprout
Which brings me to the last part of this little ode. Because apart from Cash’s artistic achievements, he just seemed like a really likeable person. He was quirky (those weird movements with his chin! The pacing back and forth on the stage! That deep voice!), and charismatic, he had a sense of humour (“A boy named Sue” – ‘Nuff said.), and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m totally crushing on the guy. Add to this the story of his own personal suffering: Addicted to narcotics and booze, arrested and going broke, then sobering up and getting his life back on track – he really was all those things he sung about. A desperado, and then an obedient child doing finger exercises.
And then of course, he was in love. And as Anna’s and my own dreamy facial expressions when we’re watching the proposal scene in Walk the Line will testify, it is just impossible not to be moved by such a strong-lived love as the one between Johnny Cash and June Carter. Anna sent me this link yesterday of a you-tubed interview with Johnny and June from 1980, and I cannot believe what an adorable couple they made.
*Sigh*. May they both rest in peace. Thank you for the music.
This is somewhat strange. Something has happened. I…I actually like country music it turns out. Or let’s keep it down a little: I like Johnny Cash. Ever since Marie wrote that post about how she imagines Siegfried singing Ring of Fire as an intermezzo before awakening Brünnhilde he has been haunting me. I have been listening to Ring of Fire a 1000 times and every time I smile and see Siegfried getting his old guitar.
Tonight I watched Walk the Line which is a marvellous film and of course that just spurred my interest. It is like the Three Tenors of country music. You know a lot of people began listening to opera because of the Three Tenors and now I am listening to Johnny Cash because of Walk the Line.
Besides from the great music the film is mainly wonderful because of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon playing Johnny Cash and June Carter (the love of his life). I think I have only seen Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator where he’s a lethal crybaby (which he does remarkably well), but his portrayal of Cash was heart wringing and I am amazed that he sings so well. And of course he was totally hot too.
But now for a regular ode. Reese Witherspoon is the best! I first noticed her in Pleasantville from 1998 but not until Vanity Fair from 2004 did I truly realise my love for this actress. When I one afternoon kept talking about the wonderful Becky Sharp played by Witherspoon a friend of mine said something I thought I should never have heard come from her lips: “But she was great in Legally Blonde too”. Legally f*** Blonde?! I had forgotten, or maybe even suppressed Legally Blonde that I once watched on my way home from New York one autumn some years ago. Terrible movie – but there she was again, and she was quite delicious and cute and GOOD!
As June Carter she has all the spunk, humour and seriousness you would want from an actress portraying a country singer rescuing another human being from complete self destruction. And topping that with a marvellous voice just made me adore her even more. I want to be her! Look at her – and love her:
And one from Vanity Fair (don’t mind the troll next to her – he’s just another one of Becky Sharp’s tricks):
Our Andreas Scholl obsession is not going to end. Ever! So here is today’s fantabulous news: Andreas Scholl will be back on the stage of The Royal Theatre to perform in Händel’s Partenope in the 2008-2009 season. And to add whipped cream to pie: the director of the marvellous Giulio Cesare, Francisco Negrin, will be back too.
How good can it get? Andreas Scholl and Francisco Negrininoooo!
And while waiting for that we will enjoy Mr Scholl in concert with Paul McCreesh next spring. Sigh.
Even though I haven’t been doing any gender studies or the like I would characterise myself as a feminist. And as such I am in grave need of role models who are not from my mother’s generation. Ever since I received the book De røde sko. Feminisme nu (The Red Shoes. Feminism Now)
as a gift from a friend a couple of years ago I have been a fan of this woman:
Leonora Christina Skov who was the editor of said marvellous book.
I was reminded of my fandom this weekend when she appeared in a newspaper column entitled “Big White Men”. She is a regular writer in the newspaper Weekendavisen and since I renewed my subscription of this organ I have been reading all her columns with ill-concealed satisfaction.
Not only is Ms Skov a modern feminist with great ideas about gender she also is a fabulous writer with enough well tempered venom to kill a room full of bawling broad shouldered misogynists and not only – but also those who keep saying that feminism is a dead cause since we have accomplished all equality goals. The column was an answer to a reader criticising her appearance in the Danish news programme Deadline where she apparently had ranted about Big White Men (who she defines as self-asserting, self-important individuals who make their voices heard without any self-irony). The reader characterised Ms Skov as a man-hater and basically told her to shut the f… up.
Here is a wonderful excerpt of Ms Skov’s answer:
“(… )you can hardly doubt that I personify the no. 1 nightmare of the Danish Realm: the young, foaming femi-fury with a female symbol up my sleeve and vendetta-like madness in my eyes.
Week after week you see me assume a ninja pose and slash all publications written by white males in this country, and the more the gentle readers and the honourable editor of Weekendavisen try to stop me the more strained will my man-rancour be.”
I know my translation does little honour to the original but anyhow I think it’s a brilliant text. And when she then moves on to talk more generally about how despised feminism and feminists are and how it affects our understanding of the public debate I feel both entertained and enlightened.
I will not bore you any further. I just wanted to proclaim:
I am a fan of Leonora Christina Skov!
You can read more on The Red Shoes here (in danish).