The Racoonists Lagniappe Session

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

In the introduction of his new autobiography, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording With Wilco, Etc, Jeff Tweedy confesses: I wish this book was about the Raccoonists. “If you’re not familiar with the Raccoonists, I’m not sure where you get the nerve calling yourself of a fan,” Tweedy writes. “How have you not heard of the band I started with my kids, Spencer and Sammy?”

Spoiler alert, the book covers much more than the exploits of Tweedy’s least prolific side project — previous to today’s installment of the Lagniappe Sessions, the Raccoonists only had only one release to their name: a seven-inch split with Deerhoof. But nonetheless, Tweedy’s connection to his family, including his Raccoonists bandmates and wife Susan, is one of the primary focuses of the new book. And for the Tweedys, music is part of the fabric of their shared life. Whether record shopping or jamming — jamming is the preferred nomenclature for the trio — music serves an important function in their family life. “I didn’t have to push them at all,” Tweedy says of Spencer and Sam’s interest in music. “Yeah, they listen to so much music. We are constantly, all day long, throughout the day, sending links to songs and stuff that we are discovering and rediscovering.”

In that spirit, the Raccoonists return, with covers of George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You” and Skip Spence’s wounded Oar composition “Broken Heart.” The Tweedys, in their own words, below.

“We like to record the way some families like to play catch or go to the movies. It’s just kinda something we do. But we usually play our own songs or just make stuff up, so this session is the first time we really set out to cover songs we love.”

The Raccoonists :: Awaiting On You All [Early Take] (George Harrison)

“We picked the Early Takes version of this song because it’s so much more powerful than the full-on, Phil Spector-produced one from All Things Must Pass. Both are great but there’s something more emotional and badass about hearing George (and now Sammy) so clearly. A lot of what we do on other records is the Early Takes approach: stripping things down, letting the song do the work, recording before we really have any idea what’s going on. It usually doesn’t matter that you don’t know the song yet as long as you can feel it.”

The Raccoonists :: Broken Heart (Alexander “Skip” Spence)

“We had thought it was weird for a young person (Sammy) to sing Skip Spence lyrics. But it turns out that Skip Spence was twenty-two when he made Oar, so we’re not sure what’s going on there. In any case, it’s a scary, sad, great song. This is actually the second time a Raccoonists member has covered “Broken Heart,” since Jeff (Dad) recorded it in Beck’s Record Club project in 2009. But it’s nice to have our own version now.”

The Racoonists Lagniappe Session

Jeff Tweedy’s Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording With Wilco, Etc is available now; his new solo album Warm will be released via dBpm Records November 30.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen / photo: Susan Tweedy

Francis Lai

This past week we lost one of the most prolific and influential French film composers, Francis Lai. Best known for his collaborations with director Claude Lelouch, as well as his Academy Award winning score for Love Story (1970), Lai scored over 130 films in his lifetime — between 1966 and 2015.

Among the many maestros to hail from France-Jean Claude Varnier, François de Roubaix, Michel Legrand to name a few-Lai stands out from his contemporaries for his ability to capture a specific emotion and explore it to its furthest depths, both light and dark. This is perhaps most evident with his score for the 1967 film Vivre pour Vivre (Live for Life), where Francis Lai creates an atmosphere of both romance and regret, reflecting and complimenting the tone of the film while also creating pieces that can stand on their own. The film’s main theme is a clear example of this talent — it begins with a simple organ motif, quickly developing into a breezy, kinetic waltz. The descending key changes imply both the excitement of new love as well as the uncertainty that follows.

Such was the gift of Francis Lai, an incredibly important and dynamic figure of 20th century film music. words / maston

Francis Lai :: Vivre Pour Vivre
Francis Lai :: Un Homme Et Une Femme

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In 1973, Charles Mingus’ career was on the upswing. After a few years out of music, some band squabbles, and even getting evicted while being filmed by a documentary crew, he was finally getting something approximating his due.

There were the lavish orchestrations of 1972’s  Let My Children Hear Music, a record deal with Atlantic and his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog. A New Yorker profile from around this time speaks to how even his live shows were improving: “I heard half a dozen long numbers,” wrote Whitney Balliett, “and they were exceptional.” They could’ve been describing BBE’s new five-CD box set Live in Detroit.

Taken from a run of shows at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery, this set catches Mingus in an oft-overlooked period. He’s joined here by Don Pullen on piano, John Stubblefield on sax, Roy Brooks on drums, and Joe Gardiner on trumpet. It’s a different lineup than what he’d feature on Mingus Moves, which he’d release later that year. But then, there isn’t much trace of that record here, either.

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There are no links here to tracks from what I suppose is now deemed, Van Morrison: Live In Boston 1968. The title is intentionally bland, purely informational. As outlined by Ryan H. Walsh, writer of one of this year’s best books, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, the whole thing is likely a copyright maneuver – some legal wrangling to keep possession with its maker, fifty-years after its creation. There’s some hope and/or speculation that maybe this precipitates a release, but probably not. It doesn’t seem Morrison wants it to see daylight.

The recording is just that – a recording: an hour plus of the artist working out some material, in a pretty low-stakes environment. Morrison was mere months from creating his masterpiece, but in his own mind, these were not serendipitous days. This was a “tour”, one mucking around New England to land some cash — something to help get by while he laid-low around Boston. That this release, or lack there of, is not a transformational recording should be no be a surprise. For one, if it were, the lawyered-up Mr. Morrison would have likely monetized it much earlier. But further, it’s just one recording from what was ostensibly a very unremarkable time. The show is merely special because it was caught on tape, as there is no immense library of recordings from this era to choose from.

This is not to say there isn’t incredible work here, and enough for any historian or fan of the album that came shortly after to chew on. Opener “Cyprus Avenue” feels fully formed, perhaps the highlight of the evening. Indeed, all three tracks that ended up on Astral Weeks (“Beside You” and “Madame George”) feel close to their final form – stripping away any last vestige of the romantic notion, passed down by older siblings and in dorm rooms for five decades, that the album was created in some kind of trance-like stream-of-consciousness. If Morrison was merely going through the paces, he entered this show with a strong notion of direction for his new material.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard every Wednesday at 7pm PST with encore broadcasts on-demand via the SIRIUS/XM app.

SIRIUS 543: Fugazi – Lusty Scripps ++ 39 Clocks – DNS ++ Blurt – Get 3.43 ++ Deerhunter – Leather Jacket II ++ X Ray Pop – La Machine á Rêver ++ The Fall – Eat Y’self Fitter (AD edit) ++ Blurt – My Mother Was A Friend Of An Enemy Of The People ++ Omni – Sunset Preacher ++ Royal Family And The Poor – Art On 45 ++ The Fall – Middle Mass ++ Lizzy Mercier Descloux – No Golden Throat ++ ESG – It’s Alright ++ Arthur Russell – Make 1, 2 ++ Tim Presley’s White Fence – Phone ++ PAINT – Heaven In Farsi ++ Pink Floyd – Doing it! ++ Richard Swift – HZLWD ++ Maston – Love Theme Nº 2 ++ Maston – Infinite Bliss ++ Maston – Evening ++ Wire – Used To ++ Eno Moebius Roedelius – The Shade ++ Barry Walker – Accretion ++ David Darling – Cycle Two: Namaste  ++ Julee Cruise – Questions In A World Of Blue ++ Daniel Lanois – Low Sudden ++ Glenn Mercer – Twenty Nine Palms ++ Yasuaki Shimizu – 案山子 ++ Creation Rebel / New Age Steppers – Earthwire Line ++ El Guincho – Marimba (With Adrian De Alfonso) ++ Daisuke Kuroda – Meditation (In Tribute) ++ Tomasz Stańko Quintet – Boratka Flute’s Ballad (AD edit) ++ Kikagaku Moyo – Nazo Nazo ++ Amedeo Tommasi – Alghe Romantiche ++ Sandro Perri – Everybody’s Paris Pt. III (feat. Dan Bejar) ++ Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Suspended Variations V ++ Mikael Tariverdiev – Summer Blues ++ Sandro Perri – Changes ++ Elephant Micah – Fire A ++ African Head Charge – Stebeni’s Theme

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47 years after its original release and resounding commercial failure, the Hampton Grease Band’s Music To Eat stands as a crucial entry in the experimental American music canon. Roaring out of Atlanta in the late ’60s, HGB was led by quixotic vocalist Col. Bruce Hampton, alongside guitarists Glenn Phillips and Harold Kelling, and the rhythm section of bassist Mike Holbrook and drummer Jerry Fields. Though the poly-genre avant-garde sounds of Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa serve as apt comparisons, the Grease Band was its own thing, blending jazz, blues, rock, with inscrutable and demented cut-up poetry. Though the band never recorded a follow-up, Music To Eat would go on to cult status, inspiring nascent punks and the burgeoning jam band scene of the 1990s, of which Hampton was a figurehead with his Aquarium Rescue Unit outfit, which shared stages with Phish, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Widespread Panic.

Recently, Real Gone Music reissued the record on “Georgia Peach” colored vinyl, dedicating the release to Hampton, who passed away in 2017 after collapsing on stage. Guitarist Glenn Phillips, whose solo discography is vast and picks up the thread first tied by Hampton Grease Band, joined Aquarium Drunkard to discuss the record’s baffling genesis and legacy. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and cohesion.

Aquarium Drunkard: It’s taken some time for Music to Eat to get its due, but at this point, it’s a cult classic. The oft-repeated story is that it was at one point one of the worst selling records in the Columbia catalog. Were you ever able to verify that?

Glenn Phillips: There were a lot of complications when it came out. Business-wise, the way things were with the band and management. The way the deal was structured [was] through [record man] Phil Walden, who inserted himself into the middle of the deal and got a great deal of money and very little of it filtered down to the band. Columbia had put forth a lot of money to him to promote the record, which Phil wasn’t legally obligated to do. So Columbia felt kind of burned by the deal. They felt they had already put the money out to market it and they didn’t want to have to do it again. So the record didn’t get much marketing when it came out. The people at Columbia did not know what they were dealing with. The music was very eccentric, very in its own world, and they were literally marketing that record as a comedy album. They labeled it “comedy” and it was getting filed alongside Don Rickles and Bill Cosby, you know in the comedy [sections of record stores]. So what we were told at the time was, and this was just that time, we were told that it was the second worst-selling Columbia record, second only to a yoga record. And that may very well be true, that’s what we were told at the time. Now here we are in 2018, and that story has gotten repeated a lot. I don’t think that’s probably true at this point in time.

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Here’s one we’ve been listening to and playing regularly on the show since PAINT principal, Pedrum Siadatian, shared it with us this time last year: “Heaven In Farsi”– a tune that is now available, as of last week, via PAINT’s debut lp on Mexican Summer.

Produced by the singular touch of Frank Maston, whose own lp, Tulips, was one of our favorite long-players of 2017, the instrumental “Farsi” rides a languid, undulating plane – that like Maston’s own work, feels at once cinematic, intimate and hypnotic.

PAINT :: Heaven In Farsi