Archive for June, 2011


“The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron” (subtitled “A Collection of Poetry and Music”) is a 1978 album by spoken word and rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron. Like many of Scott-Heron’s albums, the album’s content primarily addresses political and social issues; however, The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron relies far more on his spoken word delivery than his other albums.

Whereas much of the artist’s earlier albums contained backup jazz-funk music from Brian Jackson, many of these tracks, which address contemporary issues such as Watergate, the pardon of Richard Nixon and the Attica Prison riot, are either live recordings or studio-recorded songs with little more than sparse drum backing or occasional instrumentation.

But what makes Gil Scott-Heron’s poems so powerful is that they don’t serve just as snapshots of a time past, put seem as pertinent today as ever. For the basic issues he’s taking about – our country’s military presence abroad, the rising prison population, political corruption, the growing influence of the wealthiest corporations on governmental policy, police brutality, etc. – have not disappeared in the last 30 years, and in some cases are continually growing worse. It’s hard to hear Scott-Heron say “Ask them what we’re fighting for and they never mention the economics of war” and not see the relevance still today.

Gil Scott Heron’s poetry is so powerful in part because of the issues he raises, but his delivery, style and articulateness can’t go unmentioned. A few of the tracks here are live, and the audience’s reactions drive home the humor and general friendly tone that Scott-Heron exudes, even while ripping our government to shreds (and rightfully so). He also uses repetition and verbal devices, taking a phrase and building a poem around the permutations of it. “The Ghetto Code” uses the letter ‘C’ to jump into all sorts of issues, while the first track on the album leads off with a faux phone call (famously used by Boogie Down Productions on their classic “Why Is That?”): “Click! Whirr…Click! ‘I’m sorry, the government you have elected is inoperative’.”

Gil Scott-Heron – The Mind Of Gil Scott-Heron
(320 kbps, front cover included)

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“The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron” (subtitled “A Collection of Poetry and Music”) is a 1978 album by spoken word and rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron. Like many of Scott-Heron’s albums, the album’s content primarily addresses political and social issues; however, The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron relies far more on his spoken word delivery than his other albums.

Whereas much of the artist’s earlier albums contained backup jazz-funk music from Brian Jackson, many of these tracks, which address contemporary issues such as Watergate, the pardon of Richard Nixon and the Attica Prison riot, are either live recordings or studio-recorded songs with little more than sparse drum backing or occasional instrumentation.

But what makes Gil Scott-Heron’s poems so powerful is that they don’t serve just as snapshots of a time past, put seem as pertinent today as ever. For the basic issues he’s taking about – our country’s military presence abroad, the rising prison population, political corruption, the growing influence of the wealthiest corporations on governmental policy, police brutality, etc. – have not disappeared in the last 30 years, and in some cases are continually growing worse. It’s hard to hear Scott-Heron say “Ask them what we’re fighting for and they never mention the economics of war” and not see the relevance still today.

Gil Scott Heron’s poetry is so powerful in part because of the issues he raises, but his delivery, style and articulateness can’t go unmentioned. A few of the tracks here are live, and the audience’s reactions drive home the humor and general friendly tone that Scott-Heron exudes, even while ripping our government to shreds (and rightfully so). He also uses repetition and verbal devices, taking a phrase and building a poem around the permutations of it. “The Ghetto Code” uses the letter ‘C’ to jump into all sorts of issues, while the first track on the album leads off with a faux phone call (famously used by Boogie Down Productions on their classic “Why Is That?”): “Click! Whirr…Click! ‘I’m sorry, the government you have elected is inoperative’.”

Gil Scott-Heron – The Mind Of Gil Scott-Heron
(320 kbps, front cover included)

One of the most fascinating figures of rock’s fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the ’60s.

The most noticeable thing about “Camera Obscura”, only Nico’s sixth solo album in almost 20 years, is how relaxed she seems. Maybe it was a result of the security that now enveloped her, following her rediscovery and total reinvention in the arms of the British post-punk/goth scene – people say that artists do their best work while they’re living on the edge, and Nico’s canon was living proof of that. But it was all behind her now and, if “Camera Obscura” does not sound positively comfortable, it’s at least less despairing than its predecessors. Not that she had changed her stance too much – listening to Nico remains a cathartic, solitary experience. But the claustrophobia that was so essential to each of her albums as far as “Drama of Exile” has given way to vistas that, aided by John Cale’s wide-open production, render “Camera Obscura” an easy listen by comparison.

Indeed, the reliance on the studio is so pronounced that there are moments when the album’s closest antecedent lies in Cale’s own past albums, with Nico’s voice buried so deeply inside the mix that it’s almost unnoticeable. Both the (studio improvised?) title cut and the lengthy “Fearfully in Danger” are absolutely Cale territory and, if Nico is allowed to shine at all, it’s on “My Funny Valentine,” executed precisely as one would hope she’d do it – all sad and dark, with just a faint smile playing around her lips – and “Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen”, a strident Teutonic ballad that, were its source better known, would doubtless be as universally effective as her rendition of “Deutschlandlied” proved a decade before. The title, incidentally, translates as “the song of the lonely girls,” a subject about which Nico certainly knew a thing or two.

“Camera Obscura” is not classic Nico, but it’s by no means disposable. Indeed, accepting that Cale’s overwhelming presence should at least earn him a co-billing in the credits, there really is no one else who could have made a record like this.

(320 kbps)

One of the most fascinating figures of rock’s fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the ’60s.

The most noticeable thing about “Camera Obscura”, only Nico’s sixth solo album in almost 20 years, is how relaxed she seems. Maybe it was a result of the security that now enveloped her, following her rediscovery and total reinvention in the arms of the British post-punk/goth scene – people say that artists do their best work while they’re living on the edge, and Nico’s canon was living proof of that. But it was all behind her now and, if “Camera Obscura” does not sound positively comfortable, it’s at least less despairing than its predecessors. Not that she had changed her stance too much – listening to Nico remains a cathartic, solitary experience. But the claustrophobia that was so essential to each of her albums as far as “Drama of Exile” has given way to vistas that, aided by John Cale’s wide-open production, render “Camera Obscura” an easy listen by comparison.

Indeed, the reliance on the studio is so pronounced that there are moments when the album’s closest antecedent lies in Cale’s own past albums, with Nico’s voice buried so deeply inside the mix that it’s almost unnoticeable. Both the (studio improvised?) title cut and the lengthy “Fearfully in Danger” are absolutely Cale territory and, if Nico is allowed to shine at all, it’s on “My Funny Valentine,” executed precisely as one would hope she’d do it – all sad and dark, with just a faint smile playing around her lips – and “Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen”, a strident Teutonic ballad that, were its source better known, would doubtless be as universally effective as her rendition of “Deutschlandlied” proved a decade before. The title, incidentally, translates as “the song of the lonely girls,” a subject about which Nico certainly knew a thing or two.

“Camera Obscura” is not classic Nico, but it’s by no means disposable. Indeed, accepting that Cale’s overwhelming presence should at least earn him a co-billing in the credits, there really is no one else who could have made a record like this.

(320 kbps)

Guy Debord’s “THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE”, originally published in 1967,
is easily the most important radical book of the twentieth century.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory tower of
“philosophical discourse” nor an impulsive “rant” or “protest.” It is an
effort to clarify the nature of the situation in which we find ourselves and
the advantages and drawbacks of various methods for changing it. It examines
the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the present society —
what is really going on behind the spectacular surface phenomena that we are
conditioned to perceive as the only reality.

Guy Debord, the self-proclaimed leader of the Situationist International, was certainly responsible for the longevity and high profile of Situationist ideas, although the equation of the SI with Guy Debord would be misleading.
Brilliant but autocratic, Debord helped both unify situationist praxis and destroy its expansion into areas not explicitly in line with his own ideas.

His text “The Society of the Spectacle” remains today one of the great theoretical works on modern-day capital, cultural imperialism, and the role of mediation in social relationships.

You can read it here:
http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/pub_contents/4

…or here:
http://www.bopsecrets.org/images/sos.pdf

Guy Debord’s “THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE”, originally published in 1967,
is easily the most important radical book of the twentieth century.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory tower of
“philosophical discourse” nor an impulsive “rant” or “protest.” It is an
effort to clarify the nature of the situation in which we find ourselves and
the advantages and drawbacks of various methods for changing it. It examines
the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the present society —
what is really going on behind the spectacular surface phenomena that we are
conditioned to perceive as the only reality.

Guy Debord, the self-proclaimed leader of the Situationist International, was certainly responsible for the longevity and high profile of Situationist ideas, although the equation of the SI with Guy Debord would be misleading.
Brilliant but autocratic, Debord helped both unify situationist praxis and destroy its expansion into areas not explicitly in line with his own ideas.

His text “The Society of the Spectacle” remains today one of the great theoretical works on modern-day capital, cultural imperialism, and the role of mediation in social relationships.

You can read it here:
http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/pub_contents/4

…or here:
http://www.bopsecrets.org/images/sos.pdf

“We weep when a child is born into this world.
We sing and dance when the good Lord takes someone home.” – Mourmer at a Jazz Funeral

The traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral is as much a part of New Orleans culture as is traditonal jazz itself. If could almost be said, the jazz grew out of the funeral music of the New Orleans of the late nineteenth century. The roots of the tradition are believed to be hundreds of years old, and to be connected to the culture of the people who occupy the are of West Africa that is now called Benin and Nigeria; this region of Africa was known as the “Slave Coast” to the Europeans of the seventeenth century. The captured people of that area took with them to the New World a sophisticated social structure that included two aspects important to the traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral. Firstly, societies, often secret, were formed to ensure that their members received a proper burial at the time of death, and secondly, a funeral was seen as a major celebration. With the “Christianisation” of the African-Americans that occured over the ensuing centuries and with the growth of the Baptist and Methodist Churches in particualr, another factor came into play that surely strenghtened this notion of a funeral as a celebration. This was the commonly held belief that a birth, an arrival in the secualr world, was a time for tears, and a death, an end to earthly sorrows, was a time for rejoicing.

So, it would be unusual for a New Orleans inhabitant not to be a member of some organisation or other. On their death, that individuals would be accompanied to their final resting-place by the brass band of the society of which he or she was a member. The traditional New Orleans Funeral had two stages accompanied by music. The first was a procession of mourners journeying slowly to the cemetery accompanied by a brass band playing a slow, mournful dirge or spiritual. This was followed after the burial itself by a lively return from the cemetery to the sound of rousing music. And what better rosing music could there be than that played by a couple of “hot” jazz musicians?

Wonderful compilation with songs by Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly roll Morton, Clarence Williams, the Eureka Brass Band and many more:

Funeral Songs – Dead Man Blues CD 1
Funeral Songs – Dead Man Blues CD 2

“We weep when a child is born into this world.
We sing and dance when the good Lord takes someone home.” – Mourmer at a Jazz Funeral

The traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral is as much a part of New Orleans culture as is traditonal jazz itself. If could almost be said, the jazz grew out of the funeral music of the New Orleans of the late nineteenth century. The roots of the tradition are believed to be hundreds of years old, and to be connected to the culture of the people who occupy the are of West Africa that is now called Benin and Nigeria; this region of Africa was known as the “Slave Coast” to the Europeans of the seventeenth century. The captured people of that area took with them to the New World a sophisticated social structure that included two aspects important to the traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral. Firstly, societies, often secret, were formed to ensure that their members received a proper burial at the time of death, and secondly, a funeral was seen as a major celebration. With the “Christianisation” of the African-Americans that occured over the ensuing centuries and with the growth of the Baptist and Methodist Churches in particualr, another factor came into play that surely strenghtened this notion of a funeral as a celebration. This was the commonly held belief that a birth, an arrival in the secualr world, was a time for tears, and a death, an end to earthly sorrows, was a time for rejoicing.

So, it would be unusual for a New Orleans inhabitant not to be a member of some organisation or other. On their death, that individuals would be accompanied to their final resting-place by the brass band of the society of which he or she was a member. The traditional New Orleans Funeral had two stages accompanied by music. The first was a procession of mourners journeying slowly to the cemetery accompanied by a brass band playing a slow, mournful dirge or spiritual. This was followed after the burial itself by a lively return from the cemetery to the sound of rousing music. And what better rosing music could there be than that played by a couple of “hot” jazz musicians?

Wonderful compilation with songs by Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly roll Morton, Clarence Williams, the Eureka Brass Band and many more:

Funeral Songs – Dead Man Blues CD 1
Funeral Songs – Dead Man Blues CD 2

Walter Benjamin was a German marxist and literary critic.

Born into a prosperous Jewish family, Benjamin studied philosophy in Berlin, Freiburg, Munich, and Bern. He settled in Berlin in 1920 and worked thereafter as a literary critic and translator. His half-hearted pursuit of an academic career was cut short when the University of Frankfurt rejected his brilliant but unconventional doctoral thesis, “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (1928).
Benjamin eventually settled in Paris after leaving Germany in 1933 after Hitler came to power. He continued to write essays and reviews for literary journals, but when Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940 he fled south with the hope of escaping to the US via Spain.

Informed by the chief of police at the Franco-Spanish border that he would be turned over to the Gestapo, Benjamin committed suicide.
The posthumous publication of Benjamin’s prolific output won him a growing reputation in the later 20th century. The essays containing his philosophical reflections on literature are written in a dense and concentrated style that contains a strong poetic strain. He mixes social criticism and linguistic analysis with historical nostalgia while communicating an underlying sense of pathos and pessimism. The metaphysical quality of his early critical thought gave way to a Marxist inclination in the 1930s.
Benjamin’s pronounced intellectual independence and originality are evident in the extended essay “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” and the essays collected in “Illuminations”.
The approach to art of the USSR under Stalin was typified, first, by the persecution of all those who expressed any independent thought, and, second, by the adoption of Socialist Realism – the view that art is dedicated to the “realistic” representation of – simplistic, optimistic – “proletarian values” and proletarian life.
Subsequent Marxist thinking about art has been largely influenced by Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukács however. Both were exponents of Marxist humanism who saw the important contribution of Marxist theory to aesthetics in the analysis of the condition of labour and in the critique of the alienated and “reified” consciousness of man under capitalism.

Benjamin’s collection of essays The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936, just follow the link and enjoy reading…) attempts to describe the changed experience of art in the modern world and sees the rise of Fascism and mass society as the culmination of a process of debasement, whereby art ceases to be a means of instruction and becomes instead a mere gratification, a matter of taste alone.

“Communism responds by politicising art” – that is, by making art into the instrument by which the false consciousness of the mass man is to be overthrown.

Walter Benjamin was a German marxist and literary critic.

Born into a prosperous Jewish family, Benjamin studied philosophy in Berlin, Freiburg, Munich, and Bern. He settled in Berlin in 1920 and worked thereafter as a literary critic and translator. His half-hearted pursuit of an academic career was cut short when the University of Frankfurt rejected his brilliant but unconventional doctoral thesis, “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (1928).
Benjamin eventually settled in Paris after leaving Germany in 1933 after Hitler came to power. He continued to write essays and reviews for literary journals, but when Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940 he fled south with the hope of escaping to the US via Spain.

Informed by the chief of police at the Franco-Spanish border that he would be turned over to the Gestapo, Benjamin committed suicide.
The posthumous publication of Benjamin’s prolific output won him a growing reputation in the later 20th century. The essays containing his philosophical reflections on literature are written in a dense and concentrated style that contains a strong poetic strain. He mixes social criticism and linguistic analysis with historical nostalgia while communicating an underlying sense of pathos and pessimism. The metaphysical quality of his early critical thought gave way to a Marxist inclination in the 1930s.
Benjamin’s pronounced intellectual independence and originality are evident in the extended essay “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” and the essays collected in “Illuminations”.
The approach to art of the USSR under Stalin was typified, first, by the persecution of all those who expressed any independent thought, and, second, by the adoption of Socialist Realism – the view that art is dedicated to the “realistic” representation of – simplistic, optimistic – “proletarian values” and proletarian life.
Subsequent Marxist thinking about art has been largely influenced by Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukács however. Both were exponents of Marxist humanism who saw the important contribution of Marxist theory to aesthetics in the analysis of the condition of labour and in the critique of the alienated and “reified” consciousness of man under capitalism.

Benjamin’s collection of essays The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936, just follow the link and enjoy reading…) attempts to describe the changed experience of art in the modern world and sees the rise of Fascism and mass society as the culmination of a process of debasement, whereby art ceases to be a means of instruction and becomes instead a mere gratification, a matter of taste alone.

“Communism responds by politicising art” – that is, by making art into the instrument by which the false consciousness of the mass man is to be overthrown.