Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm very superficial, I hate everything official..



Grace Jones - Private Life (Remix By Paul "Groucho" Smykle at The Fallout Shelter)
Grace Jones - Feel Up (12" Mix)


Now that summer has unofficially ended, one of the highlights of this (at least for me) quick and dull summer was the week I spent in L.A. at the end of July. Initially planned around seeing Grace Jones at the Hollywood Bowl, as it turns out, taking a week off in L.A. was probably one of the best decisions I had made all year, although anyone looking at my bank account might disagree, but I digress..



Photo credit: Timothy Norris (LA Weekly)

As far as the show goes, despite her joking about shedding a few pounds in the L.A. heat, her presence that Sunday night at the Hollywood Bowl felt utterly and totally undiminished. While I'd obviously never seen her live before, much less when she was at the peak of her career, having arrived fashionably late (as always), armed with a whole new set of costumes (courtesy of Oscar winning designer Eiko Ishioka), she commanded the audience - comprised largely of hipsters, homosexuals and homosexual hipsters, with a style and dare I say, grace that completely belied her lengthy absence and her alleged 61 years. While it was a shared bill with local band Dengue Fever and indie darlings Of Montreal (who themselves commanded a major share of the audience), like a one-woman wrecking-crew though, she practically laid waste to the place, as the piles of raving press reviews seem to concur. She even, at least in my own biased opinion, made Of Montreal, who also came with their own formidable theatrics, which included (though wasn't limited to) live puppies and an on-stage marriage proposal, look like a bunch of kids playing dress-up.



Photo credit: CultureQueens

For anyone like myself, whose only concept of Grace Jones live was, until then, photos, fan recollections and the landmark "One Man Show" video, one of the things that came as a pleasant surprise was how much genuine personal charisma she had put into the show. For someone with a reputation as legendary and some might even say fearsome as hers is, and whose performances were often immortalized as either a kind of imposing, distant performance art, or reckless free-for-all in her underground years, talking to the audience from backstage during her costume changes, she managed to inject a surprising, even comforting level of warmth and intimacy into the night.

Sadly, none of my pix nor any of the video that I thought I was taking turned out well (so I nicked a couple of my favourites from L.A. Weekly and CultureQueens for this post), but it was probably one of the most electrically charged concerts I've been to in some time. I thought this video (and there are many out there) illustrated it quite well. I have to say, the "go, bitch, go!" remark towards the end, totally does it for me.



While I have to admit that the size and acoustics of the Bowl were impressive, I also have to admit also some disappointment with my seats, since somehow I thought I'd be quite a bit closer. Really though, there were no general seats close enough for my liking, and for someone as visual as Grace, that ended up feeling like a bit of a disservice (thanks to Enrique, Lala and Kevin for getting me that much closer though). While I suppose in the future I'd prefer to see her at a slightly more intimate venue, I'm glad I finally had the chance. While an apparent tiff between Róisín Murphy and Lady Gaga about who stole from who was raging on the blogosphere not too long after this, the woman whom they both so obviously (it doesn't even deserve to be argued) patterned themselves after, showed the children how it was done.

As far as these songs go, unfortunately she didn't perform either of them that night, but these are a couple that I've been going back to quite frequently lately. I had picked up this 12" several years ago, along with the similarly packaged Re-Mix Re-Mask set. As if I recalled hearing that there was a series of these 12" singles with the Grace masks on the covers, but I've only ever come across these two.

The remix of Grace's cover of The Pretenders' "Private Life" (which Chrissie Hynde herself had praised, quite lavishly - see the Compass Point Sessions liner notes) by renowned Reggae engineer and Don of Dub Paul "Groucho" Smykle (who had done a number mixes for Sly & Robbie, Black Uhuru and Grace herself around this time) had quite quickly become a favourite of mine. While not quite as compelling as the dark, dimensional (and originally unreleased) full-on dub mix included on the well-compiled Compass Point Sessions (1998, Island) set, taking out the distinctive percussion intro on the original mix, and instead highlighting Wally Badarou's distinctive synth work, all the while adding some extra drama, emphasizing and punctuating Grace's pointed delivery with a series of deep, echoey drum accents and vocal effects, the Groucho mix seems to meet half-way between the album version and the Compass Point Sessions dub mix. That, along with a series of guitar and percussion edits three-quarters of the way through make this a more spacious, dramatic mix compared to the original, at least in my opinion. A subtle, but ultimately effective job.

For a visual representation, the simple, yet compelling video of this is one of my favourites of her's. The eyes, the mask, the expressions - that's really all that there is, and yet is all that is needed.



Reportedly a song she wrote (and like many of them from the time, showing a distinct sense of humour) inspired by the time she supposedly ran off with the Hells Angels as a teenager (not making this up) "Feel Up" is supposedly "about being on a bike with a gentleman, where they do everything except have sex" (seriously, check the interview). This 12" of "Feel Up" has, as far as I know, not officially made it to CD/digital, I even recall this being a criticism of the Compass Point Sessions set when it came out, how neither this, nor the more elusive Larry Levan mix were included. Notably, the vocals and lyrics on this version are markedly different from the album version. It sounds like a completely different vocal take, for one thing, with additional verses, and in some parts, completely different lyrics altogether. A couple of minutes longer than the original and not quite as heavy on the patois either (I wish someone would translate), and a little more in line, at least it seems so, with the supposed theme. That being said, I'm a big fan of the extra prominent bass in this one, especially in the intro.

Anyway, in conclusion, while seeing Grace was one of the highlights (and I must see her again), I have to admit, getting lost in L.A. for about a week was actually good for my sanity, as ironic as that might sound. Do hope to be back for more one of these days.

P.S. Major thanks/shout out to Enrique for a great intro and helping me navigate. I really appreciate it!

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
STRANGE WEATHER - THE TUMULTUOUS RE-EMERGENCE OF GRACE JONES (PART TWO) (TUESDAY JANUARY 6, 2009)
STRANGE WEATHER - THE TUMULTUOUS RE-EMERGENCE OF GRACE JONES (PART ONE) (WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 24, 2008)
DEAR SANTA.. (WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 24, 2008)
THE RETURN OF GRACE JONES? (FRIDAY JUNE 20, 2008)
RÓISÍN MURPHY AND SOME OTHER NEWER SHIT THAT GETS ME ALL EXCITED.. (THURSDAY APRIL 17, 2008)
NO HITTIN' BELOW THE BELT.. (THURSDAY JUNE 29, 2006)
DISCO REISSUES UPDATE (MARCH 17TH - APRIL 12TH (THURSDAY MARCH 16, 2006)

LINKS:
DISCOGS: GRACE JONES - PRIVATE LIFE/MY JAMAICAN GUY/FEEL UP/SHE'S LOST CONTROL 12"
DISCOGS: PAUL "GROUCHO" SMYKLE
WIKIPEDIA: GRACE JONES - PRIVATE LIFE (SONG)

LOS ANGELES TIMES: GRACE JONES IN A FLASH (BY REED JOHNSON) (JULY 26, 2009)
POP & HISS - THE L.A. TIMES MUSIC BLOG: LIVE REVIEW: GRACE JONES, OF MONTREAL AND DENGUE FEVER AT KCRW'S WORLD FESTIVAL AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (JULY 27, 2009)
LA WEEKLY: GRACE JONES' TRIUMPHANT HOLLYWOOD BOWL DEBUT (BY RANDALL ROBERTS) (JULY 27, 2009)
VARIETY: GRACE JONES, OF MONTREAL, DENGUE FEVER (CONCERT REVIEW) (BY PHIL GALLO) (JULY 27, 2009)
BLACKBOOK - GRACE JONES' COSTUME ORGY AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (BY ALISA GOULD-SIMON) (JULY 27, 2009)
MTV NEWSROOM: LADY GAGA, YOU ARE NO GRACE JONES (BY KATIE BYRNE) (JULY 27, 2009)
NME: A VIEW TO A THRILL - GRACE JONES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (BY LYNDSEY PARKER) (JULY 27, 2009)
CYANA TREND LAND: GRACE JONES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL: THE DIVA REBORN (JULY 27, 2009)
POPBYTES: GRACE JONES DAZZLED AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (JULY 27, 2009)
SOUNDBLEED: GRACE JONES AND OF MONTREAL SLAYED THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (BY DAVID BOND) (JULY 27, 2009)
LA WEEKLY: GRACE JONES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (BY RANDALL ROBERTS) (JULY 29, 2009)
L.A. RECORD - GRACE JONES + OF MONTREAL @ THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL (JULY 30, 2009)
CULTUREQUEENS: DIVINE DIVA - GRACE JONES (AUGUST 3, 2009)

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS, VISUAL DISCO

9 comments:

RevUp64 said...

Thank you SO much for this! I crave every Grace Jones kibble I can get my hands on =)

Jason Fist said...

Many thanks for this, but divshare sucks bigtime! (sends me on an almost endless loop of clicking and waiting. Argh!)

Mediafire might be worth trying. Free, no waiting...

Tommy said...

No problem, RevUp64!

Hey Jason, sorry about divshare. zShare wasn't working right at the time, so I settled for that. Just changed over the links and added a zip link with both tracks on mediafire. Hope it works better now.

soulbrotha said...

You know I'm lovin' you right now, right? :D

I'm sorry that she wasn't in a more intimate spot than she was in New York. It really is a different experience within spitting distance. But either way, the bitch commands and destroys all pretenders! Puppies? Pfft! She probably ate them for breakfast the next morning! HA!

Tommy said...

lol.. I always love reading your comments Soulbrotha :)

Yeah, I probably should have waited for the NY tickets to go on sale. I think the LA ones went a little earlier. Anyway, one day I'll see her again. Your comments about her eating puppies reminded me of the time they did that absurd parody of her on In Living Color.. "I WANT ALLIGATOR!!!"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqUenSypcKU

soulbrotha said...

HAHAHA! I totally forgot about that!

"WOULD YOU LIKE A PIECE OF MY TAIL, HAR-VAAAY??!!"

Comedy gold.

Enrique said...

Tommy: Great to finally meet you! - Enrique

Tommy said...

Was great meeting you too Enrique! THanks again for everything. I finally found some of the video I took that night at the concert. I'll have to put it up on here sometime after I get back..

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