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E. E. Cummings – i sing of Olaf glad and big

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tumblr_me4j0frSrQ1qad1obo1_1280i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but–though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments–
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but–though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat–
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

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Reggae Covers: Pat Kelly – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum)

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Kingston Jamaica’s Pat Kelly is a veteran vocalist from the rocksteady days, recording for Duke Reid when Treasure Isle Records was the king of the dancehalls. Kelly modeled his vocal style on US soul singer Sam Cooke, a crooner’s method that finds a likely number in Procol Harum’s 1967 hit ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale.’ Kelly doesn’t really try anything unusual or new with this 1984 recording, though a talented vocalist rendering a memorable song is worth a listen even under the worst of circumstances.

And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well’ve been closed

Waylon Jennings – Waymore’s Blues

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You’ve got to hate country music or have a thing against Waylon to not find this song a sort of perfection.

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Waylon and his big ugly friend John, in 1974

Recorded in 1974 and released in 1975 at the height of Waylon’s popularity (and involvement with narcotics), Dreaming My Dreams was one of the first recordings over which Waylon had complete creative control. Outlaw Country had injected the sterile, formulaic Nashville country music industry with a greasy, redneck, pleasure-loving contagion: a mixture that resonated deeply with music fans who wanted their music to understand and console more of their lives than lost love, poverty, and God.

‘Waymore’s Blues’ has carved out a place for itself at the heart of Outlaw Country. Oft-covered by inheritors of Waylon’s bullshit-calling ways, it’s one of those touchstone songs: familiar like a church hymn, that speaks to the fundamental underlayment of a certain type of man. That second verse itself reads like a rhyme Waylon learned in Sunday school as a lad, only later to recur and be reinvented in his new aesthetic.

Well, I woke up this mornin’ it was drizzlin’ rain
Around the curve come a passenger train
Heard somebody yodel and a hobo moan
Jimmy he dead, he been a long time gone.
Been a long time gone…a long time gone.

If you want to get to heaven, gotta D-I-E
You gotta put on your coat and T-I-E
Want to get the rabbit out of the L-O-G
You gotta make a cold motion like a D-O-G
Like a D-O-G, like a D-O-G…yeah.

Well, I got a good woman, what’s the matter with me?
What makes me want to love every woman I see?
I was trifling when I met her now I’m trifling again
And every woman she sees looks like the place I came in.
Looks like the place I came in, the place I came in.

I got my name painted on my shirt
I ain’t no ordinary dude
I don’t have to work

As sinister and mesmerizing as the guitar lead is –as utterly noteworthy– it’s that “…” that makes me laugh. In context, in that last verse Waylon breaks the pattern of repetition that appears at the end of each previous verse. You expect him to repeat the line “I don’t have to work” but you see, Waylon ain’t no ordinary dude. He don’t have to live up to your expectations, see? He’s not just going to tell you he ain’t no ordinary dude, he’s damned well going to show you.

Knowing he was pissed off the whole time he was recording this take makes it all the more middle-finger-y. A little bit of music business lore around this song, recounted here at Wikipedia:

The sessions were halted because of miscommunication with Jennings and problems caused by his drug use. While recording “Waymore’s Blues”, Clement tried to eject Jennings’ wife and her sister from the control room. Confused by Clement’s gestures, Jennings assumed that the producer was distracted by talking to the women instead of following the session. The singer left the studio for two weeks and was persuaded to return after having dinner with Clement and his wife. When Jennings and Clement returned to redo “Waymore’s Blues,” they found that they could not reproduce the feel of the original track. They decided to use the original on the album, and this explains the abrupt fade at the end of the song – to cover up Jennings storming out of the studio.

So there’s real pissed-off working man in this song, not just the legend of it. This is what Outlaw Country was all about: bringing the sound & subject matter of country music into the relevant now.

Reggae Covers: John Holt – Just The Way You Are (Billy Joel)

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I’ve never been a big fan of Billy Joel’s music. You have to recognize the staying power and broad appeal of his music nonetheless so it’s unsurprising to find something of his in the covers-happy world of Jamaican popular music. Thankfully we find this classic hair-salon-muzak number in the capable hands of John Holt, who despite his inspired pedigree does little to interfere with the work of the original creative hand. Not even a horn chart, swelling strings, and a crew of ‘hoo-hoo’ background singers can make this a song you’d want to hear more than once. Alas. Can’t win ’em all.

Edgar Allan Poe – Alone

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Photo by flickr user Kevin Dooley. Appearing via cc: All rights revert to the originator.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were–I have not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring–
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow–I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone–
And all I lov’d–I lov’d alone–
Then–in my childhood–in the dawn
Of a most stormy life–was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still–
From the torrent, or the fountain–
From the red cliff of the mountain–
From the sun that ‘round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold–
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by–
From the thunder, and the storm–
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view–

                              -Edgar Allan Poe, 1875

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad

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Bruce Springsteen has acquired a certain Dylan-level ability to reflect on and reimagine his own work. His time with the E-Street Band prepared him perfectly for this moment, just as Dylan’s endless tour affords his evolving musical and lyrical ideas regular venue in front of gatherings worldwide of his most devoted fans.

This 2014 reimagining of the song ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad” –the opening track on Springsteen’s 1995 solo release of the same name– is as much Tom Morello’s as Springsteen’s. It takes the dark, finely-honed menace of the original recording and plugs it into Morello’s amp head, allowing it to transcend the limitations of solo performance in hard-fighting guitar leads and the biting harmonies he and Springsteen find around the vocal mic together (especially the chorus “Well the highway is alive tonight…”). Springsteen’s insane vocal range and power features throughout. I honestly can’t say enough good about this recording.

Listening to this and knowing what a music geek Morello is I had to smile in the realization that this project must’ve given him the biggest contact high of all time.

Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass