Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 22: Various Artists "'Til We Outnumber 'em" and Orson Welles First Person Singular "Dracula"

As much as the Albatross reflects my whims, it fairly decently reflects my interests as well. The perils of the Albatross and my ability to enjoy all of that on demand are well documented at this point.

I have to admit that while I have more or less complained about that in virtually every preamble (I'll eventually reach a point where I can convince myself that I don't need a preamble), there's a big part of me that I think in a way prefers it. I mean, I still listen to it on shuffle in iTunes. My favorite way to navigate the internet is through the StumbleUpon button. I have unwatched TV shows sitting on my TiVO and on the hard drive while shows I'm far less interested in scroll by in front of me.

I like to be entertained passively, and I might be the last of that breed, as even people in my generation, who didn't grow up with internet but instead grew up to invent it as we know it today, have taken to on-demand entertainment. And I don't blame them. It's awesome. But for some reason I like having the programing just happen.

That's not to say that I'm totally alone. The aforementioned Stumble does that for you, as does the rightfully popular Pandora. Technology has just enabled it to be rather fine tuned.

But for discovery to happen, sometimes you have to open things up for complete accidents.

This would be a better preamble for stuff I didn't think I would like, but today is as right up my alley as it can be without any jazz in it.

Various Artists
'Till We Outnumber 'em

After A Mighty Wind, it's hard not to approach a gathering of folk singers without a little chuckle. And this is a pretty mighty collection of folk singers, gathered to pay tribute to Woody Guthrie.

The various performers perform their versions of various Guthrie songs, and some people share stories about Guthrie or how Guthrie affected their lives. The nice part about folk music is that the music isn't really sacred, so covers open themselves to stylistic interpretation. As mindbogglingly interesting as the Pete Seeger album was, musically it was pretty flat and similar track to track. That's just the kind of music it is.

But here the takes are wide ranging, as rockers like Springsteen take on songs, or 'modern' folk artists like Ani DeFranco and Indigo Girls take on songs in their own ways.

Interspersed are some readings, almost Beat-like, including Tim Robbins reading Born Naked through a megaphone.

This album was released when that whole new folk thing was pretty big, about the right time to do that. About the only one missing from it is Tracy Chapman.

And of course the concert ends with an all-star rendition of This Land is Your Land lead by Arlo, who apparently is also telling a story over the top of it. Arlo, of course, is an awesome story teller. Turns out it's the story that forms the title of the concert.

The brevity of the post (relative to most others) might lead you to believe that it wasn't that much to write about, but it was fascinating, I ended up just listening to it instead of typing. This was pretty good.

Orson Wells Mercury Theater on the Air
The Best of Old Time Radio Starring Orson Welles V.3 Dracula

To me, first, he was the man who would sell no wine before it was time. Then he was the man who provided "the standard rich and famous contract" for Kermit and his Muppet friends.

Finally, he was the voice of the living planet in the original Transformers movie.

Eventually he was the guy who fooled everyone with his famous Halloween broadcast of War of the Worlds, though much more was made of that than it was.

I hadn't realized it at the time, but before all of that, he was The Shadow to me.

When we would drive home late at night we would have to drive through a tree-covered grove on a two lane road. Late at night, my dad would tune to a radio station that would play old time radio programs, including what would become my favorite, The Shadow. Welles was the original voice of The Shadow as we know him (there was a Shadow that was a host to an anthology program, but The Shadow that solved crimes himself, that was Welles first.)

This formed the basis for an early love of radio theater. A large portion of my on-purpose collection consists of collections of radio theater, including this Orson Welles collections, of which Volume 3 has come up, Dracula. I don't know where the rest of the CDs are, I think one of the six is already on the hard drive (the Shadow episodes, not surprisingly). I also don't remember if I got this as a promo or if I bought it. It's a screaming bargain for what you get, which includes a Welles interviewing Wells recording (Orson and H.G.).

I don't know that I can come up with something to say about Welles that hasn't been covered by, well, anybody. As I studied film, he obviously became an important figure again.

Welles does a fairly faithful abridged adaptation, complete with the wanton blood transfusions by anyone with a vein to save Lucy from the vampire's efforts. Of course it also has a centuries old man who sucks blood to live and can turn into a bat and a wolf, so...

I have to admit that, like many people, I'm about vampired out. But there's no glittering here.

Dracula adaptations tend to leave out or marginalize my favorite character from the novel, Renfield. He is not present in this adaptation either.

Orson Welles has a knack for drama, and of course it's on display here. A lot of my favorite elements are missing, but that happens.

Agnes Moorehead was Mina Harker. For me, Moorehead will always be Samantha's mother and Darrin's meddling mother in law. And Margo Lane.

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