01.28.12

I watched the 1979 adaptation of Dracula because I thought Frank Langella was an interesting choice as the count. This version was kind of fun, mostly
due to this strange take on sex with a vampire.

There were a few psudo-psychedelic moments like this in the movie.

Check out the bat flying over the knee.

Sir Donald Pleasence and Sir Laurence Olivier knighted up this movie. I wouldn’t recommend it over Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre of the same year, but it has a shade of the same vibe if you’re looking for some 70s movies with a gothic feel.

01.10.12

Blind Willie Johnson
Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
(Mississippi)

There is a legend that Blind Willie Johnson was arrested for singing “If I Had My Way, I’d Tear This Building Down” in front of a New Orleans courthouse. While there are several versions of the contention, it is generally agreed that the Johnson’s detainment was based on a misunderstanding. Whether or not the police believed Johnson was inciting a riot or making a threat, the incident is a testament to the power his singing. He made it real in front of the courthouse decades ago, and he made it real to artists such as Bob Dylan, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Billy Childish, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin who are among the multitudes who have covered songs Johnson was known for. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground is a collection of nearly all of Johnson’s recorded output (omissions being alternate takes). The album contains twenty-six songs from five recording sessions: a body of work from a man whose actual birthday and birthplace can only be confirmed by vague declarations on his death certificate. Details life and death are in question and linger as a longstanding rock mystery. It is the stuff music legends are made of.

Mississippi Records is becoming a premier label for reissues. Combining folksy packaging with contemporary design, the artwork looks timeless without the typical trappings of “collection” style layouts. It is an appropriately tasteful frame for this compilation of Johnson’s interpretation of spirituals. His gravel-tinged vocals and heavy-handed style of slide guitar picking create an infectiously haunting sound. “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole” a slow burn that shows the seams of Gospel melody conceits evolving into popular music. The tune is representative of a style of dark proselytizing that reminds us that the bible can be sourced for chilling imagery.

A woman named Angeline, who is generally thought to be one of his wives, accentuates Johnson’s evocative style with a series of chilling backing vocals on many of the tracks. Angeline’s matter-of-fact vocals were laid down in several of Johnson’s recording sessions. Bringing up the rear with melodically hollow tones, the back up vocals emphasize the ghostly temperament Johnson creates in songs like “I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge.”

“Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)” is a melancholy caterwaul that was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the record that was stored aboard the Voyager 1 satellite on its journey through the solar system. The song floats through space representing the human race along with tracks by Bach and Chuck Berry. That certainly makes the album worthy of any serious music collection.

 

 


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