Friday, June 9, 2017

Beth Orton

Beth Orton
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Beth Orton's new album Kidsticks is already a year old. I had forgotten to keep up with the British singer-songwriter for awhile, it took an airplane ride across the Atlantic to reengage. The interactive media display on the back of the seat in front of me offered the full album which I listened to twice. Snow is the opening track and the one going into the Top 100 2017. Just as Cat Power's latest album Sun, five years old already, Kidsticks is a departure of her earlier albums and features electronics in place of the traditional instruments. The painting, rather slick for my standards, is larger than life. Portraits larger than life are rather uncomfortable to look at and I usually make an effort to avoid this. The last time I fell in the trap was, for some odd reason, also a Beth Orton portrait.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ralph Carney

Ralph Carney
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
I'm always happy to follow up on a recommendation, it doesn't always result in me painting a portrait of the musician, but sometimes it does, especially when the recommendation was made by an individual who knows what would interest me, and certainly when this individual knows a thing or two about what was recommended. Jade Dellinger told me to listen to Ralph Carney. It happens so often that I don't know about a musician I should know about. Ralph Carney is a legend of the Ohio (Akron) music scene and made his mark on the mainstream music scene as a longtime collaborator of Tom Waits, and with the Black Keys, Jonathan Richman, B-52's, and many others. His solo work is indeed worth every second spent exploring. No. 1 in my top 10 last week is a video posted on YouTube called Lament for Charleston. The multi-track saxophone recording the shootings at Charleston, SC and was influenced by Coltrane's Alabama.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bongwater (2)

Ann Magnuson, Kramer (Bongwater)
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Bongwater was formed by Mark Kramer and Ann Magnuson in 1985. The LP The Power of Pussy is from 1991. Members of the band then included David Licht and Dave Rick. Licht went on to form the Klezmatics, Rick to Phantom Tollbooth. Kramer founded Shimmy Disc Records in 1987 and is an influential producer (Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese, among many). Kramer, Licht and Eugene Chadbourne were in Shockabilly, a band that under a different name also included John Zorn. A host of names there, a who's who of the New York music scene in the 1980s, all Top 100 luminaries. Ann Magnuson (see previous post) is an actress and performance artist. Folk Song, the next entry in this year's list, is an epic nine minute extravaganza featuring a sample of Roundabout by Yes, it closes the Power of Pussy album.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Ann Magnuson
Oil on canvas paper, 16 x 12 inches, 2017
One of most exciting music videos on YouTube is a recording made on David Sanborn's Night Music that ran for two seasons on NBC from 1988-1990. The program is known as "the greatest music show on TV." In this particular episode David Sanborn (himself a notable jazz musician) is talking to Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame. Then the band comes up: It's Weir with the band Bongwater and the Pussywillows with special appearances by Screamin' Jay Hawkins(!) and Roky Erickson. After a crazy jam Hawkins disappears and Bongwater plays You Don't Love Me Yet, one of their signature tunes which is an original of Roky Erickson (of 13th Floor Elevators fame). Here's a link (I highly recommend viewing it.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cat Power and the Animals

Cat Power
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Some years ago I wondered what if Beth Orton were an animal what kind of animal she'd be. I suggested she may be a crow. One year later there was a song called Magpie on her (then) new album. Now, what kind of animal would Chan Marshall be? Of course Chan Marshall's alter ego is Cat Power, but I doubt her spirit animal would be a cat. There aren't many of her songs in which animals are named. I recall (from the top of my head) the Werewolf Song, a cover of a Michael Hurley original, then she did Salty Dog, an old blues song but that one's not about a dog at all. The newest Cat Power in my Top 100 is Sad Sad Song in which a killer whale plays a prominent role. The credits are Cat Power's but the lyrics are, in good blues tradition, an amalgam of various verses, some old some new, some hers, some by others. The whale verse appears to have been written by M. Ward, a contemporary West Coast musician. I don't see Cat Power a killer whale though, perhaps a zebra.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Tumivut: The Competition Song
16 x 12 nches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The Competition Song has now been listed in the Top 100 for three consecutive years and, because of it, also gained its place in the all time list of 500 recordings (going back to 1983). The performers are not known (to me) by name. I found them on YouTube years ago. I looked through all the comments to get information about their identity but no dice (there's one comment in which one of the singers is referred to as Charlotte). The comments to this video are mostly made by horny guys who get a boner from watching (deep throat singing is a favorite pun). There certainly is an element of eroticism embedded in the performance, and in all "katajjaq" performances, but it's not really sexual at all. The song is at the core (at least right now) of what the Top 100 is about; the search for the ultimate music recording that would illustrate the the essence of musical performance, and its origin. The competitiveness of it is an ongoing topic throughout my 35 year top 100 history, as the project itself is competitive—the ranking of music. The #1 every week is the ultimate musical recording (subjective). The video descriptor is: "Tumivut - Inuit Throat Singing - The Competiton Song at Aboriginal Day 2010 at The Forks in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada." The performance is not intended as art but it's a game. A lot of skill is required to compete but the outcome is objective—there's no jury—the winner is the one who keeps singing with a straight face, not missing a beat, no laughing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Patti Smith

Patti Smith
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
To Patti Smith poems are like prayers. In an interview she said that she gave up on religion but never on prayer. Her song lyrics are like prayers, some literally so (as in Gloria). Some of her songs are introduced by a prayer and some prayers are directed at specific people. In her lyrics she talks to (and prays for) Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patty Hearst (and many others, her Rock and Roll Niggers). Patty Hearst is addressed introducing a cover of Hendrix's Hey Joe, Brian Jones is spoken to introducing Lou Reed's We're gonna have a real good time together. Collected on UbuWeb are some early recordings by Patti Smith, poetry readings basically with minimal accompaniment by her longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye. These recordings are the groundwork for a series of highly important and influential albums she produced in the late seventies and early eighties.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


CocoRosie (Sierra and Bianca Casady)
Oil on canvas paper, 16 x 12 inches, 2017
The sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady started CocoRosie in Paris, France, in 2003, when they were both living there. Sierra and Bianca were nicknamed Coco and Rosie by their mother, hence the name for the group that initially only consisted of the two sisters. The two of them made tape recordings in their bathroom that later became their first album La maison de mon rêve. A number of tracks from this album had been on my iTunes for about a decade but somehow they never made the list of the top 100 until the song Terrible Angels randomly started playing on my computer the other day. It was my friend Wim, way back when, who suggested I listen to CocoRosie, stating he liked them much better than Cat Power (who I was listening to a lot then.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Two new issues of the zine Ach Ja have just been completed in an open edition. Where the first three didn't relate well to this blog, numbers 4 and 5 fit right in. The latest Ach Ja #5: The Awkward  Relationship Between Rock Music and Art is full of text with few images. The zine is a material record of a talk that I recently presented at the Center for the Arts at Bonita Springs. Ach Ja #4: Record Sleeve Selfies on the other hand has little text and lots of artwork. The content is a sampling of the record sleeve self portraits that I've been working on since the beginning of this year. Several new portraits (not included in the posts on this blog) feature in this 24 page zine including this Bengal: Songs of the Madmen

If you're interested in a copy of these zines, shoot me an email. These, as well as the first three, you can own for ten bucks (plus some postage). Ach Ja: Surrealist Techniques; Ach Ja #2: Art and Poetry in a Hostile Climate; Ach Ja #3: Shamanism, Artists, Healers, Priests, have been produced in 2015 and 2016. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

E.V.T. (Extended Vocal Techniques)

Shelley Hirsch
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The term E.V.T. (extended vocal techniques) bridges the gap between the contemporary avant-garde and indigenous (or prehistoric) musical practices. The larger umbrella term ethnopoetics covers the ranges of vocal expression tracing singing and poetry back to its ancient origins. As Jerome Rothenberg beautifully states on Ubuweb,com: "Poems performed are poems sounded, where the sounding by the voice or by instruments acting as surrogate voices can bring a new sense of power/empowerment to performers and auditors. The further extensions and transformations of voice move it closer and closer to "the condition of music," to the point where words and syntax — the common constituents of language — are obscured, subordinated, or totally abandoned. The push toward such a poetry has long been present at the far limits of the modernist project and with it the recognition of similar processes and works outside of literature as such." So we're dealing here with the "conditions of music" which ultimately is the goal for any serious musicologist or connoisseur. The "ethnopoetics" page on UbuWeb easily traverses eras and continents, from isolated cultures to the western avant-garde. Shelley Hirsch is not included in the sound recordings featured on Ethnopoetics but we do find her work on the UbuWeb site under a compilation curated by Barbara Ess and Glen Branca (Just Another Asshole #5). The Shelley Hirsch performance in the top 100 list this year however, does not come from UbuWeb but was found on YouTube. You see and hear Hirsch performing with the artist and DJ Christian Marclay, himself a veteran of the Top 100 in a concert for the benefit of Roulette TV.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Full Moon (The Green M.I.A. Portrait)

16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Ever since Born Free hit the markets in 2010 I've been a fan of M.I.A. I first heard the the song in Believer: 2010 Music Issue magazine. It was brand new then, recorded in 2009. Later I bought the 2LP set Maya and later yet I came across my favorite version of the song when she performed it at Letterman's Late Show. It's been in the Top 100 every year since 2010 and at #1 from 2012-2016. The performance of Born Free at Letterman's features the keyboards of Martin Rev, co author (with Alan Vega) of the song Ghost Rider, that prominently features behind M.I.A.'s text and vocals. M.I.A. was "born free" in England but her parents were not so free as they went in exile being hunted by the Sri Lankan Army. The date of her birth was July 18, 1975, precisely 11 years after my own.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Residents

The Residents
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas board, 2017
This year sees a resurgence of music from when I started the top 100 at the most intense music fan years of my life. I guess when people get older they tend to revisit the music with which they grew up. The Residents surely falls into this category. The song Hello Skinny from Duck Stab/Buster & Glen (1978) was listed in mid-eighties, and the Top 100 had never seen a Residents song in its list since. I had never painted The Residents before and they're notoriously hard to paint because their identities are not known. As a portrait painter I could not portray any of The Residents but could possibly revert to Snakefinger, listed on the song's credits, and whose identity is known but never was an official member of the Residents. The band members have always hid behind masks, most prominently in the shape of an eyeball. Now this landscape painting, a sunset, had been sitting on my shelves for almost a year, ever since I had to fill in teaching a painting class that would only use a palette knife. I had never painted with a palette knife before and decided I would be brave and do a demo anyways. I never liked palette knife paintings and the result of my demo was horrible, even though the students seemed to like it, and, when looking at it from a distance, it wasn't quite so bad. I didn't throw it out. So now when it was time to paint The Residents I saw an opportunity to use it. Sunsets make it that everything seen in front of it turn black, silhouettes. It took me a half an hour to paint the silhouettes of the Residents, eyeballs and all.