Wednesday, September 17, 2008

SNL - Newly Relevant or a Shadow of the Past?

The wide cast of web-pinion seems divided on whether the current SNL cast is poised on the verge of renewed greatness, or at the edge of the abyss (Check the comments here). Having not been a regular watcher since the mid-90's, I can't vouch for anything other than this 2008 season-opening clip. It's as if Tina Fey was born to play Sarah Palin. Not so much Amy Poehler's Hillary likeness, her mannerisms actually aren't quite shrill or shrewish enough (Does she also play Martha Stewart?) It works because of Fey's fearlessness.
I can see the value of that trait in comedy as well as in life.

I find life a lot less funny since giving up beer and taking on full-time parenting, financial and social anxiety as a replacement. The early 90s were SNL's golden age to me and represent a time in my life when everything wasn't life and death:

Dennis Miller, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler before he became obnoxious, David Spade, Julia Sweeney, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman - a veritable laundry list of hilarity, memorable sketches and characters. One of the criticisms of this period is Lorne Michaels' overuse of recurring characters, and I agree. Maybe Rob Schneider wouldn't have been reduced to doing horrendously unfunny movies (see The Animal) if he'd been allowed to stretch his legs a bit instead of being "Copier Guy" for three years straight. Still, say what you will about the cast's post-SNL careers, they were all at the top of their game on the show, and the recent retrospective "SNL In The 90's" only reaffirms my view. Instant (mostly undeserved) nostalgia is all the rage these days but in this case it's warranted.

With all the doom and gloom coming out of the media since the summer, I still believe it's important to be able to laugh at something before you deconstruct and analyze it into the ground. Tina Fey is doing a great job of it.

(Oct. 9th Update: See YouTube for some amazing clips of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer relaying a similar message, this Palin thing has become quite the phenomenon. Perhaps Palin would do better in interviews and the polls if she paid Fey to impersonate her at press conferences, and quietly drop the folksy Fargo schtick when asked a serious question, about, say, the US government's $700 billion financial bailout. Katie Couric was obviously baiting her. It doesn't excuse Palin's atrocious ignorance or inability to properly deflect the question, but what was the point - unless you or your employer is distincly partisan. I suppose Couric would say the "truth had to be exposed".)

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Steely Dan Show - 2008-07-10 Bethel Woods NY

Here's the link (sorry, now a dead link as MusicWebtown is becoming a paid service) to this well recorded show, not sure if you can download the mp3's and save 'em to your hard drive. All that comes up for me is Apple's much-despised Quicktime web player. Utterly useless.

This is an audience recording but is very clear, decent stereo separation. For all you drummers or wannabees (like myself) out there check Keith Carlock's small break towards the end of track one, an instrumental medley of "Everyone's Gone To the Movies" and "The Fez". The man is a monster, both of the groove and has stellar chops to boot when required. The great thing is he always manages to keep it interesting, probably more for himself than anyone else. The side benefit is if you're a musician or just a really avid music fan, you'll quite often break out in to a smile at some of his references.

Donald Fagens' voice is as good as I've heard it in 15 years of touring and Walter Becker's guitar sounds like he actually rehearsed as opposed to the noodling I was used to from previous tours.

The rearrangements of classic tunes include a funked-up version of "Show Biz Kids" that improves and expands upon the droning one-dimensionality of the original; it's almost a complete rewrite and if you've never heard it, it a real groovin' treat. "Everything You Did" gets the reggae-lite treatment that characterized both the "Gaucho"-era outtake "The Second Arrangement" and Becker's recent solo album Circus Money. See if you can spot the "new" chord in the verses...

Special props to Jon Herington's amazingly lithe adaptation of all the session players in the 'Dan's "magnificent" history while retaining his own style. He really puts a unique personal stamp on every song. The horns are tasty and more up-front than in most of their recorded output.