The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Maybe the People Would Be the Times....Turns Out Not So Much

The word "legend" might be the most improperly used word in the English language. Journalists and bloggers alike rush to call anyone with even a modicum of popularity, a legend. In 25 years, it's highly likely that some ignorant writer will call Britney Spears a pop legend. In reality, only a few artists per generation are worthy of being called legends. Sadly, last Thursday a true musical legend passed away, Love's Arthur Lee.

There's no need for me to write a full-fledged obituary for the man, as the LA Times has already done so here. Not to mention today's remembrance of Lee from none other than Doors drummer, John Densmore.

In Densmore's piece, he recalls "a drive down from Laurel Canyon to the Chinese restaurant next to Greenblatt's Deli to get egg fried rice for breakfast. On one of those excursions "My Little Red Book" came on the radio, Love's cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song. "If we could make a record as good as that," Jim said, "I'd be happy."

I've posted the song above, gleaned from a 1965 or 1966 appearance on American Bandstand. As it has been mentioned numerous times in the press, Love never became stars the way their LA counterparts, The Doors, The Byrds and Frank Zappa did. However, this lack of star wattage was no way a barometer of Arthur Lee's remarkable talent and ability.

In just three years, Lee and Love recorded three of the finest albums of all-time, with their epononymous 1965 debut, 1966's Da Capo and their acknowledged masterpiece, 1967's Forever Changes. The first two are nearly perfect albums, but Forever Changes is easily one of the 10 best albums ever made. I can't begin to capture the fractured brilliance of its poetry, the shimmering complexity of its arrangements and its overwhelming, back-breaking genius. If you don't own it, you must own a copy. I'm not being hyperbolic, it's that good.

In many ways, Arthur Lee's story was tragic. Jim Morrison regarded them as his favorite band of all-time and in fact, Lee recommended that Electra sign The Doors. Within a year's time, The Doors had become Electra's main priority, leaving Love out in the cold. It didn't help matters that Lee was known for a domineering controlling streak which helped contribute to the original lineup's demise after just three albums. His life was plagued by drug abuse and jail time, but over the past few years he seemed to have picked up the pieces and began to tour again.

I was fortunate enough to catch two Love shows in this later incarnation of the band (which was really just Arthur Lee and Baby Lemonade). The first show was at the 2004 Sunset Junction festival, the second the next day at Spaceland. They're the only band I've ever paid to see twice in as many days and they were worth every penny. Their concert at Spaceland was probably one of the five best shows I've ever seen. Despite being 60 years-old, Arthur Lee was incredibly dynamic, his voice remarkably ageless, his energy levels high, his talent on the harmonica and the guitar still prodigious.

Perhaps the saddest part of his untimely death is the fact that he still possessed formidable skills even at his advanced age, yet he never had the full chance to reach the wider audiences that we undoubtedly deserved. A legend is dead and he will never be replaced. In my eyes, Love will remain the quintessential LA band and Lee the quintessential eccentric Los Angeles individual. R.I.P Arthur.

Okay, so to quote Marty McFly, the stuff above was pretty "heavy." However, I saw Talledega Nights this weekend and wrote the review for Stylus. Talladega Nights was definitely not heavy.

Though the Stylus score says "B." I actually awarded it a B+/B, but Stylus doesn't do the slashes, so the "B" will have to suffice. You can read the review to find out more, but basically I probably went into this film with much too high of expectations. I heard about a NASCAR movie starring Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen and produced by Judd Apatow and I immediately concluded that this was going to be a comedy of world-beating brilliance. Turns out not so much.

Nonethess, the film was solid and I recommend it to anyone who likes smart dumb comedies. Skeet on Mischa also has his take on the film today and I'm pretty sure he came to the same exact conclusions I did, only he came in with very low expectations and ended up liking it more than he thought he would.

By now you've probably noticed that the film made $50 million this weekend, which me thinks to be good news for Hollywood. While you may or may not find Will Ferrell's schtick a bit old, I'll take a movie like this anyday over the same tired action cliches being recycled in dreck like Miami Vice. And by the way, did anyone notice that went from 1st to 4th over the weekend, with a whopping 62.4 percent drop from the week before, making it a certifiable flop, proving once again that Colin Farrell might just be the least bankable star in all of Hollywood. This is fine by me, as I'm no Farrell fan. It's rare that I disagree with the Neil Young of the blogosphere, Uncle Granbo, but we're gonna' have to agree to disagree on Colin Farrell. He's like Sean Connery if Sean Connery really really sucked.

Lastly, I finally got around to seeing the Strangers With Candy movie and left the theater with mixed emotions. It wasn't that I found the TV show so much better, in fact I'm ashamed to admit it but I've never actually seen the show (hey...I don't even own a working TV...I make due). However, like Talladega Nights, Candy was a series of skits, some of which worked, some of which didn't.

The truth is I just don't find Amy Sedaris all that funny. It's not that I find her unfunny, it's more that her sense of humor is a more gross-out and crude than I typically find funny. In a way, she's like a poor man's Tina Fey. She's inevitably a great character actress, but probably not able to carry an entire movie.

On the other hand, I found every scene with Stephen Colbert, laugh-out-loud brilliant. Right now, Colbert is in a heated battle with Sacha Baron Cohen for the title of funniest man on earth.

The movie also has some surprising cameos, including a hilarious turn by Matthew Broderick, one of the most underrated comic actors of the last 20 years. I don't know why no one ever mentions Broderick's all-around excellence. If his performances in Ferris Bueller and Election aren't enough to put him on the short-list of funniest actors around, I don't know what will.

Strangers With Candy is a decent, funny film. It's tone is rather uneven and one gets the sense that they put this together on a very low-budget in a very short amount of time. Undoubtedly, it'll turn out to be a solid rental that will give you some satisfying cheap laughs and won't require you to think much. However, anytime you see written by Stephen Colbert in the titles, you expect something of unadulterated genius. I suppose this is what led to my slight disappointment with the film. Either way, there's always the Colbert Report. Speaking of which, check out this op-ed about the Report in the LA Times today from Nebraska congressman, Lee Terry. Terry was mocked on the show and obviously understands its brilliance. In the opinion piece, he basically calls for all congressman to appear on the show. Needless to say Lee Terry =definitely alright in my book.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous silawela said...

I do not know if I would even call Talladega Nights a smart/dumb comedy. That is almost giving it too much credit. That movie should/could have been much more entertaining. Worth seeing? Yes, but perhaps on HBO not the theater.
I do agree about Amy Sedaris, she kinda bugs me out.

Great write up about Arthur Lee, it is always better to read about a great musician when it is written by a true fan which you obviously are. I don't give you enough credit, you do have decent taste in music.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

thanks for the begrudging praise...I am honoered. The thing about Talladega Nights is you're right it should've been better but these are bright guys, and it really shows in the concept and the way they draw the Girard character. I went in thinking it was gonna' be another Wayne's World but it was more like another Anchorman, which I liked alot but I wouldn't compare the two either.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Terry Lee is officially all sorts of awesome...

And my gosh...Silvia is giving you credit for your music taste now...Perhaps there is a God?

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The LA Times piece is F.U.N.N.Y.

Lee Terry seems to be a pretty rad congressman. I see him now and then on CSPAN (don't ask) usually talking about hydrogen fuel cells and he makes good points, but also has a quick wit.


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