Boccacio ’70 (1962, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti)

Categories: 1962 and Movies.

This is a collection of four roughly 50 minute long films (just three in the US theatrical edition) poking fun at the sexual mores of 1960s Italy (which is why there’s “’70” in the title???) in tribute to Decameron by Boccacio, a 14th century set of tales considered one of the early Italian literary masterpieces. Perhaps a little like The Canterbury Tales for all I know. Knowing how I generally feel about much Italian cinema in general, and Fellini in particular, and “sex comedies,” and learning that I have never heard of Boccacio or read Decameron, one might well wonder Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1962) edited by Donald Kagan

Categories: 1962, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is an old sampler of theories about the decline of the Roman Empire that I think was part of a class my father took in university. It was assembled in 1962, but the first issue with it is that many of the books and articles it draws on were published significantly earlier. And though we’ve learned a lot since 1962 about how to “do” history, they no doubt had learned much between 1916 and 1962. And I mention this because some of the excerpts included are laughably unsophisticated and one of them is actually a racist “explanation” of how Read More

The Twilight Zone (1999) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, and 1999.

Though not the composer of The Twilight Zone‘s most iconic theme, Herrmann composed music for both the overall show and individual episodes. This album collects the scores for seven of those episodes and includes a couple other pieces Herrmann did for the show. What Herrmann did here is remarkable. Much of this music is pretty typical of his science fiction music of the time, but it wasn’t typical for TV. (Remember, back then, American TV was indeed nothing like the movies: way lower production values, worse actors, usually, worse writing, etc.) Obviously The Twilight Zone helped change all that. But Read More

Fahrenheit 451 [et al.] (1995) by Bernard Hermann, performed by Seattle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1946, 1947, 1956, 1962, 1966, 1995, and Movies.

This is another Hermann compilation, a kind of scattershot one. The main feature of this compilation is ten pieces from Hermann’s score to Fahrenheit 451. I cannot say enough about the prelude. I am not sure where it stands in the history of film music, but it has become so unbelievably cliche as a custom to have a somber, eerie opening like that, it’s kind of incredible. And, to my knowledge, this is the first time ever. The rest of the score included is pretty good, too. Very Hermannesque, for lack of a better word. I haven’t seen the film Read More

All Fall Down (1962, John Frankenheimer)

Categories: 1962 and Movies.

This film is one of those over-baked Tennessee Williams-esque portraits of a family barely keeping it together, with an over-bearing mother (naturally), a drunk father (naturally) and a golden boy who isn’t quite so golden (naturally). We’ve seen this before, even if the story isn’t quite the same. Beatty seems to be doing a James Dean impersonation (well, maybe that’s not fair), Angela Lansbury is in full blown mother mode (though not at The Manchurian Candidate level, and in this case she’s got a drunk husband that makes her much more sympathetic) and Karl Malden is doing a thing that Read More

Undercurrent (1962, 2002) by Bill Evans and Jim Hall

Categories: 1962 and Music.

This is an excellent duo outing which shows off both Evans’ sort of left field brilliance and Hall’s kind of safe, kind of conservative, but still very pleasant and exceptionally played lines. (I feel like I’m a little hard on Hall and I really shouldn’t be.) It’s a perfect example of how greatness can be subtle – it doesn’t always have to hit you over the head. And it’s a perfect example of how the right pairings can bring out the best in players. This is sort of a match made in heaven in my mind. They are ideally suited Read More

Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs (1944? 1947? 1962, 1989)

Categories: 1943, 1947, 1962, 1989, and Music.

This is an impressive compilation of Guthrie (and friends) performing some Guthrie songs but mostly traditional songs, recorded (I believe) in the late ’40s. Because it’s not all Guthrie songs, it’s certainly not the best portrait of him as a songwriter (not that this matters all that much) and it’s more Guthrie as a performer, or how he was as a performer in the ’40s. (Again, I think it was the ’40s.) The performances are all great and the selection is strong. It’s an arbitrary collection, but it’s a good one. It’s still nothing definitive, and for someone like me, Read More

Dig It! (1962) by the Red Garland Quintet with John Coltrane

Categories: 1962 and Music.

This is a 1962 rarities album posing as a genuine session, essentially. The recordings were cobbled together from three separate dates in the late ’50s, and those dates were led by different people (not always Garland, as the attribution claims). And it’s hard to get excited about 1957-8 Trane on a 1962 album. He had moved so far forwards by ’62 that he barely sounded like the same person, if he did at all. Hell, Coltrane doesn’t even appear on every track. The music is pretty straight ahead hard bop / bop and it’s more interesting as a historical record, Read More

Complete Organ Works (2003) by Maurice Durufle, performed by Friedhelm Flamme

Categories: 1926, 1930, 1932, 1942, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1971, 2003, and Music.

The pipe organ must be one of the seriously neglected instruments of 20th century “classical” music, at least from the perspective of us musical naifs. I mean, even though there are plenty of notable organ and organ-centric compositions, very few of those have actually made it into mass awareness. The little bit of organ music we know is baroque. This is a welcome corrective. And, unlike so much famous organ music, here the critics can’t complain that the “organ isn’t old enough!” or anything like that, as 20th century organ music is performed on a 20th century organ. The music 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 collection is mostly filled with 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. Here are the films included in the collection. Titles in quotes are shorts and italicized titles 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 good 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 Read More