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February 02, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-02-02

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Saturday, February 2, 1985

Page 5

Londoner sings of life and hard times

By Hobey Echlin

It was with high hopes that I entered
the still-open Joe's Tuesday night for
the none-too-publicized appearance of
East End London's Billy Bragg. I had
seen him once before, when he warmed-
up, unbilled and unexpectedly, for Echo
and the Bunnymen last summer. The
guy sure had guts, getting up to play his
solo electric guitar show in front of a
theater of anxious E and the B-men
fans. And it was with even higher hopes
that I left Joe's after a truly
phenomenal show. But more about that
later,
Who is this Billy Bragg you ask? A 22
year-old Socialist Labor party member
who grew up with Anglicized
American culture fused into his
musical soul. He got his first guitar
when he was 11 and his first electric a
year later. He began writing poetry
when he was 8. Between Jan and Dean
and Motown, among countless other in-
fluences, he formed his musical
background as an East End kid
growing up hearing songs about
America.
But he's also got a reality far
removed from the "Route 66" of his
growing up. This is a hard reality: an
England that won't let the world know
its mining industry is shut down
because of a strike to which the gover-
nment offers no mediation or aid, only
censorship of any press that tries to
alert the world to the English miner s

plight. This reality is living with the
fact that your government sends 280
servicemen to foreign graves in order
to gain 180 seats in Parliament, while
the rest of the world thinks the Falklan-
ds War is a grand show of nationalism
and rightful imperialism.
And on top of that he's had his share
of love and strife, and combinations
thereof. Add to this one hell of a per-
sonality, a likeable cockney accent, and
a solo electric guitar played through an
undoctored Roland amplifier, and you
have the most refreshing and inspiring
twist in modern music since Simon and
Garfunkel's acoustic tales of life and
love. Enter Billy Bragg, the kid from
East End with a scratchy guitar and a
fistful of original songs.
The close intimacy of Joe's Star
Lounge provided the medium for this
inspired performance. Everything
seemed to click right. Audience reac-
tions were perfectly timed. The fun
songs gained a smile, the humorous
ones a chuckle, and the serious ones a
second look at the issues presented.
I mean, here's a guy who, armed with
a single guitar and lone amp, can keep
your attention and awe for as long as it
takes him to do what he wants to do. A
little laughing, a lot of thinking, and
almost two hours later, he's ready to let
you go. He's shown you his funny side
and his serious side, blended just right:
he's no preacher, he's no comedian,
just a solo performer. He'll make a lit-
tle fun of the guitar solo, distinguishing
between the Prince and the Van Halen

solo position. A few songs later and he's
telling you about the English gover-
nment's censoring of the press.
Another two songs and he recounts a
meeting in a New Jersey restroom with
Bruce Springsteen, who tells him to
write more songs about women in cars.
Add to this Billy's impersonation of
Bruce's "Born in the U.S.A." urination
stance, and you want to buy this Bragg
a beer.
Musically the show excelled, again
aided by the comfortable intimacy of
Joe's. Drawing from Life's a Riot with
Billy Bragg, his first EP and even more
from the new Brewing Up with Billy
Bragg, the 2-hour set stood not as a
bunch of politics and love songs, but
rather a profession of one man's talent
and diversity. From the humor of
"Richard" to the political commentary
of "Island of No Return" Bragg shared
his certain knack for musically tran-
slating the headlines and his broken
heart on equal footing through a few
chords on a noisy guitar and a voice
that echoes an inner spirit. The guitar
consciously echoes the emotion of the
voice and the soul: the poet has his lyre,
Billy has his gift. Just as his "Myth of
Trust" hit with its own sad heartfelt
style, so did "It Says Here", with its an-
themic exposition of British censorship,
rile the crowd in its slashingly sarcastic
way.
This is no-illusions emotion. No gim-
micks, no effects, no abstract imagery
to choke on, just a bare-bones literal
transformation of feelings into some
catchy songs.

Pennie Smith, known for her tour photos of the Clash and the Jam, captures another Britisher, Billy Bragg. Is this an
omen of things to come?

Richman hits Halfway Inn

Dvorak cantata at Hill

By Dennis Harvey
History forgets a lot more than it
remembers, and as time passes there's
generally only room left in the memory
for the truly great and the true eccen-
trics. The debate has been raging (well,
at least among the few of us who care)
for years whether Jonathan Richman
belongs among the elevated former, or
whether he's just a particularly alar-
ming example of the latter. whatever
your verdict - and it's likely to be one
extreme or the other - you haven't led
a completely well-rounded life until
you've seen Jonathan Richman live,
and the opportunity is no further away
than Saturday, Feb. 2., at East quad's
Halfway Inn.
Richman first won attention in the
early '70s as lead singer for the Modern
Lovers, a monicker he was to hang onto
throughout the next decade's band per-
sonnel changes. The original Lovers
also included future members of The
Cars and other bands of import, attrac-
ted a lot of culty media attention, and
had already broken up by the time their
first album came out in 1974.
The sensibly titled Modern Lovers fast
became a cult favorite, with cuts like
"Roadrunner" and "Pablo Picasso" an-

ticipating the stripped-down sounds and
aggressive oddity of the upcoming punk
explosion.
ImmediatelyafterwardRichman
started confounding fans of that record
with a series of LP's on Berserkley that
moved toward a sort of folk '50's-
rock/children's music slant - genially
clumsy, Mom's-basement-as-studio
music with self-explanatory, wide-eyed
names like "There's an Abominable
Snowman in the Supermarket," "I'm
Nature's Mosquito" and "Ice Cream
Man." Many's the listener who's run
screaming from the room when first
exposed to the stuff, and it can quite
easily be cloying, but if you can locate
that shred of complete gullibility
somewhere inside you, Richman's
whimsies get perilously charming and
addictive fast.
From there, it's just a short jump to
grinning idiotically as Jonathan kneels
on the floor and looks like a begging
puppy while singing "I'm a Little
Dinosaur," which he will no doubt do at
the Halfway shows.
Halfway shows are scheduled for 9
and 11 p.m., and tickets (at $9) are
available from P.J.'s Used Records,
Schoolkids, and all Ticketworld outlets.

By Mike Gallatin
The Prague Symphony Orchestra
along with The Festival Chorus will
be presenting Dvorak's The Spec-
tre's Bride this Saturday evening at
Hill Auditorium. The cantata is
scored for soloists, chorus, and or-
chestra and is known for its display
of Dvorak's lyrical gift as well as his
sense for the dramatic. Magdalena
Blahusiakova will be the soprano
soloist; Michael Sylvester, tenor;
and Ivan Kusnjer, baritone.
The elaborate chorus parts create
the proper mood and atmosphere
and the orchestra evokes a sense of
the super-natural. The three part
scheme of the music corresponds to
the three scenes in which the
dramatic tale has its setting - the
girl's room, the journey by night,
and the graveyard. Dvorak's sense
of nationalism and interest in folk
tales motivated him to select The
Spectre's Bride from the ballads of
Czechoslovakian poet K.J. Erben's

work, "Garland of Folk Poetry."
Antonin Dvorak's music is charac-
terized by warm color, pronounced
rhythms, and abundant, free flowing
melodies. His popular Slavonic Dan-
ces distinguished Bohemia. much
like Chopin's mazurka's did Poland.
while perhaps best known as the
composer of the New World Sym-
phony, the Cello Concerto in B minor
and the oft-parodied Humoresque,
Dvorak also composed many operas
and vocal works. Stabat Mater was
so well received that he was com-
missioned to write a cantata, The
Spectre's Bride in 1885.
The work, like his operas, has not
been as popular internationally as it
has within the confines of
Czechoslavakia, but recently there
has been a revival of interest in its
performance. Jiri Blohlavek is an
able-bodied young conductor and
with the polished Prague Symphony
Orchestra at his. disposal it is most
likelly that renewed respect will be
created for this needlessly neglected
work.

"I'm not eccentric," Jonathan Richman seems to be saying. See the show
and judge for yourself.

Who says clarinet is ju
with solo classical clarinet literature w
By Neil Galanter can be easily solved this week, and no'
it is not a crash music history course in nh
r those of you who remember play- Clarinet Lit. 100. It is the brilliant young fa
Aing an instrument in a high school clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, who will ts
band or orchestra, the memories may be appearing with the Detroit Symr -
be a mixture of good and bad. Remem- phony tonight at Ford Auditorium in te
ber the uneven wind section? Too many Detriot in a performance of Mozart's p
clarinets, not enough oboes, and worse Clarinet Concerto in A Major. p
yet not even one single bassoon. Too Stoltzman is one of the preeminent hi
many clarinets I said? That's right, the leading soloists on today's concert
clarinet was always the most popularly scene and he has soloed with more than
played instrument. Peter played it, Joe sixty orchestras throughout the world p
played it and so did Susie, Cindy and including appearances with the sym- le
Michelle. phonies of New York, Toronto, San A
What's the point though, of all this Francisco, Philadelphia, London and
chitter-chatter about the clarinet? The Montreal, just to name a few.
point is that after a high school band Born in Omaha Nebraska, Stoltzman H
situation, moving into the classical attended Ohio State University and i
music world, the clarinet seems to lose went on to receive a Masters degree C
its "overplayed-ness" considerably, from Yale University where he worked G
especially as a solo instrument. There with Keith Wilson. He also studied with
are really very few solo classical Kalman Opperman at Columbia
clarinetists on the concert scene, but University. In the summer of 1967,
that really doesn't make much sense Richard Stoltzman began an
because as a solo instrument the association with the famed Marlboro
clarinet is absolutely sublime. Music Festival in Marlboro, Vermont
The solution to not being familiar and there he met pianist Peter Serkin
.R with this entire ad $1."0 off adult eve
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st for high
ith whom he eventually formed the
oted chamber esemble TASHI. Also in
he late sixties Stoltzman joined the
culty of the California Institute of Ar-
where he developed a jazz Music
rogram. Stoltzman is equally in-
rested in the art of jazz and im-
rovisation and he has done extensive
ork in this area of music in addition to
is work as a classical musician.
His impressive career also flourishes
s a chamber musician as he regularly
lays as a guest soloist with many
ading string quartets including the
madeus, Tokyo, Cleveland and Guar-
eri. Recordings come next on the list.
e received a 1983 Grammy Award for
is recording on RCA of the Brahms
larinet Sonatas with pianist Richard
oode, and he is contracted as a recor-

school?
ding artist with Desmar, Orion, and
Red Seal Recording Companies.
A highlight in his career was in 1982
when he became the first 'clarinetist
ever to give a recital at Carnegie Hall.
His regular recital activities have in-
cluded performances with such well
known pianists as his friend Peter
Serkin and pianist Emmanuel Ax also.
Tickets range in price from $10 to $19
and are available at the box office of
Ford Auditorium in Detroit.
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