Read the Music by Beth Winegarner – An Engaging Musical Gift

Allison Rich's Gift to Me - Read the Music Book by Beth Winegarner 03-19-18

I was incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Beth Winegarner’s collection of music essays titled, Read the Music as a thoughtful gift from a friend who warmly remarked, “it’s always good when a book finds its perfect owner.” She couldn’t be more right!

In the introduction, Winegarner professes the critical role of music in her life, calling it a “powerful emotionally restorative” and stating that interfacing with music taught her a great deal about her inner landscape to discover herself. This absolutely resonated with my own perspective about music and its impact on my life. Winegarner published hundreds of articles as a journalist in the 90s on musical subjects ranging from Tori Amos to doom metal, so she certainly has some experience in the field that I was eager to explore.

Beth cited a quote from an article from The War Against Silence web column which stated:

“Writing about music without writing about how it affects your life is, to me, an exercise in surreal opacity, like writing about sex or child-rearing without talking about love…”

That statement gave me pause to reflect on my own music journalism and to recognize opportunities where I might not have explored a featured recording as personally as I might have, and I’ll bear this in mind for future articles.

Beth’s writing style was enormously satisfying – she has a poetically-descriptive and impassioned flare when describing a piece of music, whether describing Maynard James Keenan’s vocals as, “smooth as blood over milk,” or Jeff Beck’s electric guitar as “bleating like exhaust from a cartoon Jetsons spaceship” or characterizing a string section as “sheer gossamer wings,” Winegarner always paints a brilliantly vivid musical scene for her readers. She even employs some purely poetic devices, like the elegant alliteration of her phrasing of the end of a song which “…comes to its crashing conclusion and is done, leaving us with spiraling spidery filigrees of feedback.” I can’t help but smile at that one.

What makes Beth’s reviews all the more engaging is her penchant for contextual examination. She characterizes artist’s works in relation to their inspiration, spanning a broad range of disciplines from Lovecraft, to Timothy Leary, to Crowley, the Necronomicon, deep listening, the Babylonian draconian goddess Tiamat, the Tolkien universe, the Hendrixian-inspired Sky Church of Seattle’s Experience Music Project, the Golden Ratio, Pagan spiritual lore, Tibetan Buddhism, Shamanism, the spiritual vocal technique of konnakol (speaking in tongues), sexuality, Biblical mythology, and hypnosis! The book concludes with two essays on the industrial goth band Nephilim including a track-by-track analysis of the Zoon LP for an impressively in-depth examination of the work’s central themes of The Watchers and The Book of Enoch.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn the perspective of a female music essayist, as that facet of academia is often monopolized by male writers. I’d previously enjoyed reading essays by the great composer Pauline Oliveros and by New York art-pop heiress Laurie Anderson, but Beth’s book was my first glimpse at contemporary essays on rock music of the 90s so it was a real treat. And her impassioned remarks about Tori Amos, Days of the New, A Perfect Circle, and other important artists of the decade did what all great music essayists strive for – they inspired me to dust off my neglected CD shelf and revisit some of these wonderful recordings. The book felt like a thoughtful conversation over coffee with a brilliantly introspective friend.

I want to extend a special thanks to the woman who bestowed the book upon me. Librarians indeed give the best gifts!

Vinylmania! Night in Buffalo, NY!

I had an absolute blast at the local Vinylmania record show last night!  I went to the event hoping to get some Klaus Schulze LPs (but honestly was not expecting to find any). I was blown away that one killer table hooked me up with several of his albums on the Brain label, all in fantastic condition!

I also took home The Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vol 2 LP, and J.R.R. Tolkien Reads & Sings The Lord of the Rings (all from that same table.)

We also picked up an original Roxy Music tee for my fiance.  An excellent way to celebrate my birthday!

klaus schulze\ R-566432-1170021681.jpeg



Read Along With Me / Smell the Gumbo

Last Sunday I took a trip back to my home town to celebrate my 30th birthday.  While I was there I picked up a number of records and ordered a few more that should arrive in the next few weeks.  I’ll save those for a future post.

These first three discs were found at the local public market / community garage sale.  Each is a book and record, two from 1976 and one from 1980.  They’ll be fun additions to my children’s LP collection.

Superman Book & Record (1976)

Star Trek Book & Record (1976)
Return of the King Book & Record (1980)
The third pic is a storybook record of Disney’s animated film, Return of the King.  It will sit nicely beside my other two Tolkein LPs.

Rankin / Bass' The Hobbit LP (1977)
Rankin/Bass’ The Hobbit (1977)

Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings (1978)

Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978)

While I was in town I visited all my favorite record shops.  In the first I went digging for Dr. John records missing from my collection.

Dr. John’s earliest recordings were far more experimental than the Cajun/Zydeco sound he’s best known for.  His first record, Gris Gris was an unparalleled exercise in gritty bayou voodoo – pure psychedelic gumbo blues with funky Afro-Caribbean drumming.

Dr. John - Gris Gris (1968)
According to the liner notes on Gris Gris, the band consisted of “Dr. Poo Pah Doo of Destine Tambourine and Dr. Ditmus of Conga, Dr. Boudreaux of Funky Knuckle Skins and Dr. Battiste of Scorpio in Bass Clef, Dr. McLean of Mandolin Comp. School, Dr. Mann of Bottleneck Learning, Dr. Bolden of The Immortal Flute Fleet, The Baron of Ronyards, Dido, China, Goncy O’Leary, Shirley Marie Laveaux, Dr. Durden, Governor Plas Johnson, Senator Bob West Bowing, Croaker Jean Freunx, Sister Stephanie and St. Theresa, John Gumbo, Cecilia La Favorite, Karla Le Jean who were all dreged up from The Rigolets by the Zombie of the Second Line. Under the eight visions of Professor Longhair reincannted the charts of now.”

Can you smell the gumbo?

The first Dr John album I spotted in the shop was a compilation of cutting room floor material released without his consent.  One of at least six unauthorized Dr John albums each named Zu Zu Man (this one on Trip records), it is rumored that other singer’s vocals were substituted for his own on some of the tracks.  The fantastic cover pic implies that these are Gris Gris era tunes, but after a quick sampling you can instantly tell they’re from much later on.  I decided to pass on Zu Zu man and kept looking.

Dr John - Zu Zu Man (Trip Records 1989)

Here’s another of the many Zu Zu man album covers…

Dr. John - Zu Zu Man (Thunderbolt 1989)
Then I found a disc that I had seen there a year earlier, and it was still in the same spot!  I later learned it had been placed on hold three times but was never picked up, so it was my lucky day.

Dr. John, the Night Tripper - Remedies (1970)
Remedies was Dr. John’s third full length album, and is often overlooked.  While side A isn’t particularly impressive, the second side is an obscure treat for fans of the first record.  “Angola Anthem” (a song about the Louisiana State Penitentiary) fills side B at 17:35 long.  If you’ve never heard early Dr. John, don’t listen to “Angola Anthem” until you’ve fully digested Gris Gris and the darker portions of Sun Moon & Herbs.