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March 18, 1983 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-18
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The Abominable Showmnen
Nick Lowe
Columbia Records
By Jeffrey W. Manning
L IGHTS. CAMERA. Action: "Intro-
ducing the new album by one of the
most fabulous progenitots of today's
music scene, that ex-Rockpiler who
brought you such smash discs as Nick
the Knife, Pure Pop for Now People,
and the million-selling "Cruel to be
Ki.nd," Columbia is proud to present the
new release by the abominable
showman himself (enter a billion
prepubescent screams) ... Nick
Lowe! ! !"
Hold it. Stop. Let's get this straight:
We're all beyond the age of media
manipulation and consumer control;
we don't have rocks in our heads. This
Nick Lowe fellow is a flagrant example
of the most basic evil in the music in-
dustry - the hyped pseudo-rockstar.
He wears glitter jackets and sings mm-

dless lyrics about women and relation-
ships-on-ice, all in the traditional pop
format backed with polished violins and
layered back-up vocals. The guy even
wrote a song titled "Music for Money."
Shelve it with Huey Lewis and the
Now wait just another second.
There's something very peculiar about
the blatant admission of pop stardom
by Nick Lowe. Something else clearly
shines through the media hyped mish-
mash. A sort of honesty, perhaps?
Truth is: Nick Lowe has produced a
fine record. Granted, The Abominable
Showman is pure pop, but it's far from
commercial garbage. Nearly every
song on this record delivers a steady
dancehappy beat with catchy tunes that
I found myself unconsciously humming
while sitting in the diag last week.
That's what pop's all about.
The influence of early R&B and
rockabilly (the roots of contemporary
pop) on Nick are clearly evident.
Though Nick uses the same formulas in
structuring each song, the album
retains diversity, including a reggae
number and a frat-rock song in the vein
of The Swingin' Medallions. There are,
however, two weak cuts on the record,
conveniently placed at the end of each
side you can hit the reject button
without missing the album's redeeming
Stylistically, Nick is beginning to
drift from his guitar-based pop by em-
phasizing the organ on Showman.
Smart decision on Nick's part, con-

If IIIliii
I I I. 1
il! I , lhi I

of peril
The Year of Living Dangerously
Starring: Mel Gibson and Sigourney
Directed by Peter Weir
Playing at Fox-Village Theater
By Larry Dean
PETER WEIR, Australian film
director who, at one point in his
early career was coined "the nes Hit-
chcock" for his cool and suspenseful
direction of such films as Picnic At
Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, has
both embraced and abandoned that title
with his new film, The Year of Living
Dangerously, a tale of romance and ad-
venture set in revolution-torn 1965 In-
Weir tried to wiggle free of his Hitch-
cock image with 1981's Gallipoli, a
moving film starring Mel Gibson
(American-born star of The Year of
Living Dangerously, Mad Max, and the
riveting, action-packed surprise of last
summer, The Road Warrior) which
stated, more or less, that "war is hell,
war is a lie, and war is unfair"-not

exactly one of the newest themes on the
block. For all it's statement, visual
beauty and precedent-setting (its syn-
thesizer soundtrack was later adapted
and full-blown into the award-winning
schmaltzy score from Chariots of Fire,
for example), Gallipoli seemed too
hard a try by Weir to break free of the
mold he had been cast into.
In comparison, The Year of Living
Dangerously has Weir's heart as well
as his technical bravado behind it, and
it shows. When Weir read fellow-
-Australian C.J. Koch's novel of the
same name in 1978, he was so moved by
the author's gripping account of
upheaval in Indonesia that he im-
mediately sought, and was subsequen-
tly awarded, film rights to the story. Af-
ter that, he solicited the idea to
American studio MGM, who agreed to
back the film. It is the first film to be
sponsored to a great extent by an
American company throughout produc-
tion (Gallipoli was picked up for
distribution by movie-mogul Robert
Stigwood after production was com-
The Year of Living Dangerously
follows the story of Guy Hamilton (Gib-
son), an ambitious young radio jour-
nalist who is assigned to Djarkata
during Indonesia's rapidly-heating
revolutionary throes.
On first arrival, Hamilton is numb to
the agony and pestilence around him:
infants, half-starved, beg him for
money while their parents hoarde
small quantities of rice to feed their

Gibson and Weaver: Revolution and romance

Nick Lowe: Pop for showmen
sidering keyboardist Paul Carrack
plays on this album, possible in lieu of
fellow Rockpiler Dave Edmunds who is
conspicuously absent from Nick's
So sometime in coming days when the
weather warms up and you need some
happy music to play on your porch
while tossing a frisbee in the street,
keep Mr. Lowe in mind. Sure he's pop,
sure he's hyped, but who cares? He's

Weather Report
By Jerry Brabenec
T'S A LITTLE bit disconcerting to
realize that Weather Report has
been turning out albums for more than
a decade, making them a sort of later
day Modern Jazz Quartet: a jazz in-
Of all the offshoots of Miles Davis'
fusion school, only the volatile and
short lived Mahavishnu Orchestra ever
really excelled Weather Report in the
area of electronic jazz. John
McLaughlin wrote convoluted, vir-
tuosic charts for the Orchestra, but Joe
Zawinul made Weather Report's-
trademark a loping offbeat kind of
melody that frequently sounded like
half the notes were missing. The under-
stated, lyric, sax of Wayne Shorter,
Zawinul's atmospheric electronics, and
incredibly tight rhythm sections
became the band's bread and butter.
The Columbia Records PR machine
that was so instrumental in raising
Miles to godlike stature was unleashed
again to hype Weather Report, and
much was made of the band's Third
World influences and devotion to collec-
tive improvisation. The early albums

were indeed marked by very
imaginative percussion and electronic
textures, and a live cut from Japan, on
the second album, "I Sing the Body
Electric" (Whitman by way of Ray
Bradbury) may be the best thing the
band has ever recorded. A furious up-
tempo set closer, "Direction" jumped
off like a sprinter from the blocks, with
lots of percussion racket and the
propulsive bass of Miroslav Vituous
underlying a lightning interchange
between Shorter's soprano sax and
Zawinul's bombastic, distorted electric
piano. This cut is a euphoric com-
bination of tight interaction and total
balls-out spontaneity, but as the years
passed the band became more pop
oriented and the music totally arranged
and composed.
The new album, Procession, debuts a
new rhythm section: Omar Hakim on
drums, Victor Bailey on bass, and Jose
Rossy on percussion. This crew per-
forms adequately without a lot of flash,
which is a relief after excesses like
former bassist Jaco Pastorius' solo
renditions of "Purple Haze."
Unfortunately, this is just another
step in Joe Zawinul's complete
domination of the band. Saxophonist
Wayne Shorter is one of the most distin-
ctive stylists in jazz history and a fine
composer in his own right, but he's
reduced to doubling keyboard lines in
most of Zawinul's tightly arranged,
composed material. To compound the
problem, Zawinul has taken to writing a
lot of slow moody numbers that never
really go anywhere. Even on Night
Passage, their best recent album, there
are at least two Zawinul numbers that
are definitely musts-to-avoid. The music

still rises to a sort of intellectual
grooviness often, but no new ground is
being broken, and the collective im-
provisation and ethnic influences the
band was once known for have been
overwhelmed in a flood of Zawinulisms.
Most of the first side of the new album
is pretty good movie music: visually
evocative and moody. "Procession"
establishes a simmer of synthesizers
and a subtle walking tempo that is well
suited to the long lined, cumulative
power of the melody. Shorter's con-
tribution, "Plaza Real," has a sort of
sunny, Moorish surrealism, a mood of
ominous mystery in a broad daylight of
sunwashed adobe. "Two Lines" is the
most successful number, an uptempo
groove that alternates between rock
and swing, in which Zawinul's vocoded
synthesizer and Shorter's electric sax
exchange and blend phrases together.
"Where the Moon Goes" features the
Manhattan Transfer on vocals, soun-
ding cold and robotic as they sing a
litany of exotic place names. Vocal
lines like Life in Algeria I watched/
from the window of an airplane give
an interesting perspective on how
technology is a unifying and isolating
influence in the global village. This is
another long, slow paced tune, that
would probably develop great power
and effect in a live performance.
Weather Report is still the state of the
art as far as cooking rhythm sections
and electronic sounds go, and their
stretched out minimalist melody
remains totally unique, but there are
problems, because the Third World's
role in popular music has changed in
the last decade. Once Weather Report
was quite progressive with their em-

phasis on Central American, African
and Middle Eastern harmonies and
sonorities, but the increasing populrity
of reggae and African artists like King
Sunny Ade and Fela have acquainted
the public with Third World music
straight from the source, and there is
less of an inclination to take Joe
Zawinul-s slightly tired compositional
style seriously. Wayne Shorter released
an album entitled Native Dancer with
Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento
that is one of the masterpieces of jazz
eclectism, but this talent is being
wasted, the original aims of the band
have been lost, and Weather Report
seems to be stuck in a sort of over-
produced limbo.

Cr I
m AnArbor
Antiquarian Book Fair
Saturday, March 19,10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Michigan Union Ballroom
30 dealers
with books
from fve
*C centuries.
- rx*First editionsI
T e _ "Fine printing
*Old & rare
Free Admission
Sponsored by the Ann Arbor
D Antiquarian Book Dealers Assoc.
- . _ 1-

ailing families; and everywhere-on
walls, in posters, banners, and placar-
ds, the face and name of Sukarno, the
"God-King," self-proclaimed ruler who
dictates over a starving populace while
lavishing himself with girl friends and
other luxuries light-years beyond his
peoples' merest wishes.
Hamilton has lucked into the job of
covering the political atmosphere of
Djakarta. Only he is young and unex-
perienced; after his first broadcast, the
home-office wires back that it was nice
and well-spoken, but emotion and con-
tentless-all talk and no feeling.
It takes the interference of Billy
Kwan (Linda Hunt) to spark some
sympathy into Hamilton's "it's-just-
my-job" demeanor. Kwan is a
Eurasian cameraman, born of In-
donesian and Australian parents, who
takes an instant liking to Hamilton. At
first skeptical as to the talents of the
pint-sized Kwan, Hamilton is soon tur-
ned about-face when Billy arranges an
exclusive interview with a member of
the Communist faction for him. From
that moment on, Hamilton's passion
ignites, and, joining with Kwan in an
exclusive partnership, the two befuddle
and make envious their fellow jour-
As Kwan, Linda Hunt has a terribly
difficult role to undertake. A New York
stage actress whose only previous film
appearance was a bit part in Robert
Altman's snooze-a-thon, Popeye, Hunt
portrays Billy as a wraith-like presen-
ce, omnipotent and selfless; it is her
narration that binds the central
characters' actions into one cohesive
whole. In a voice that is both poetic and
child-like with earnest wonder, she
ruminates on Hamilton and Jill Bryant,
(sigourney Weaver), a British at-
tache-keeps photos of them and writ-
ten "progress reports" in individual
files, like journalistic diary entries.
Hunt makes the male Billy Kwan role
tangible while retaining an air of
ghostliness that lends the film a quiet,
religious quality. She is fascinating.
The Year of Living Dangerously is
more a romance than a place for
political grandstanding. It's a fact that
filming in the Phillippines was can-
celled a week early due to rumors cir-
culating that the film was anti-Muslim
and real riots began to erupt during
staged scenes; and both Weir and Gib-
son were subject to an alarming num-
ber of threatening phone calls during
their stay in the country.r

film its
they ca
themes f
seen wal
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the door
braces h
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ty to see
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their cai
tenets of
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which, ir
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Weir, his
have be
has cra

12 Weekend/March 18, 1983

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