The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (1974) by Peter Hammill

Categories: 1974 and Music.

This is a weird combination of what sounds like super eccentric singer-songwriter solo stuff and music that is basically Van Der Graaf Generator. It’s an odd mix that I would find less appealing if I didn’t like Hammill or VDGG so much. It’s great that Hammill wrote so much so that even when the band was on hiatus he just had so much material. But one of the things I struggle with while listening to solo albums from the frontmen or songwriters of bands is when their solo music sounds too much like their band. That’s a weird problem to Read More

A Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavettes)

Categories: 1974 and Movies.

This is a powerful drama about mental illness that benefits from Cassavetes’ near complete rejection of traditional Hollywood methods. And though the acting is, at times, too much, it’s insanely nuanced compared to Tennessee Williams’ takes on the subject, for example. Falk in particular forces us to ask ‘what is mental illness?’ as he has issues of his own. We also get a bit of a time capsule back to a time when this stuff really, really wasn’t understand (not that it’s that well understood now) and how people were just completely unable to cope with this kind of thing. Read More

Percussion Music: Works by Varese, Colgrass, Saperstein, Cowell, Wuorinen (1974, 1997, Nonesuch) by the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble

Categories: 1974, 1997, and Music.

This is a fine selection of modern “art music” attempts to break out of western traditions by making percussive music. Not really knowing a ton about any of the composers save Varese that’s tough for me to say, but it seems a fair sample. Colgrass’s piece in particular is a highlight. It’s nice to see that there was an orchestra dedicated to this kind of music back in the ’70s, a time when one would thing there would be a least some empathy between rock musicians trying to expand their horizons and “art” composers and ensembles trying to expand theirs. Read More

Thieves like Us (1974, Robert Altman)

Categories: 1974 and Movies.

There are no typical movie gangsters in this film. They are petty cons; the supposedly smartest turns out to be an angry drunk, the novice is the only one who appears to know what he wants out of life or have any kind of moral sense, and the wise old one is foolish. Just as with the characters, the film avoids traditional bank caper flick cliches: there is very little action and much more focus on the boredom in between (a little like the French Connection, that way). The result is a far more interesting and meaningful film than your Read More

Zardoz (1974 John Boorman)

Categories: 1974 and Movies.

The overall idea, and many of the other ideas within – though there are far too many – is very strong and appealing. Unfortunately, Boorman seems to have been determined to make some kind of statement (very after the fact) about the hippies and so the entire film is filled with characters who look hilariously dated. In fact it comes off looking like the ’60s equivalent of a ’50s “this is what the future will look like” sci-fi film (even though it was made in the mid ’70s). The script doesn’t help (Boorman should have gotten help with the dialogue) Read More

Michel Brault: Oeuvres 1958-1974

Categories: 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1974, and Movies.

Though not every film is absolutely stand out, this is mostly great stuff and very well worth watching, especially for Canadians. We can see that the Canadian film tradition was a little richer than more recent NFB material might have led us to believe. Here we have engaging, sometimes provocative, examinations of both minor and serious issues within our culture. Brault’s work should be far more well known outside of Quebec than it currently is. It should be watched in schools. “Les Raquetteurs” aka “The Snowshoers” (1958): 7/10 “La lutte” aka “Wrestling” (1961): 8/10 “Quebec, USA ou L’invasion pacifique” aka Read More

The 50th Anniversary Collection by James Brown (Polydor 2003)

Categories: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 2003, and Music.

James Brown’s importance can not be understated. He is on The List of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century (along with Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Frank Zappa and maybe a few others). This compilation of his hit singles gives a very idea of his progression and how he turned gritty soul and R and B into funk and thus got sampled more than any other band leader ever. The one downside is that this compilation of his hit singles is missing one of his biggest hits. Hard to understand that one. Read More

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974, Sam Peckinpah)

Categories: 1974 and Movies.

In the CD player: Live at the BBC by (Peter Green’s) Fleetwood Mac. People only seem to know the famous, crappy Fleetwood Mac. It’s a shame since they were originally a fantastic band. It’s good to hear them live. I wish Canadian radio featured live or recorded live performances. It would be cool. They’re pretty eclectic on this set, though it does collect performances over the course of three or four years. I watched Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia yesterday. This is a film that many people have said is shit while Ebert has maintained it as a Read More