Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I remember sometime in the late-seventies chancing upon something or other about Woody Guthrie which mentioned (with typical downhome righteousness I might add) how his guitar was emblazoned with the then-popular sentiment "This Machine Kills Fascists". Funny enough how the more left-leaning than now creature known as myself thought it would be real keen if some electrified rock singer of the then and there would have embossed on his guitar "This Machine Kills FOLKIES" which I guess really summed up my sentiments! Well, it would after years of listening to (against my will?) beyond-mellow folksingers who have found the path to inner righteousness and the bank with a little MOR here and a touch of white guilt tug there coming off like Frank Sinatra meets Joan Baez.

And considering how even ol' Joanie Phoanie herself went in for the big production and trendy career moves in later years maybe the blasts from a few electric guitars would have been the best way to off that peace creep hussy, or at least send her back to her treehouse where she can eat all the Quaker Oats she wants until she bursts for all I care.

So yeah, reviewing this particular platter will be quite a challenge, but the again you know I just love to tackle a wide variety of recordings which lie outside of what many think is my horse-blindered musical scope. And a challenge it will be...y'see, I could take the easy way out and just say that this Cee-Dee's nothing but a buncha aging folkies who are still stuck in 1963 gathering around on their great Spiritual Leader's birthday singing the old songs w/o a clue as to how to relate to the world as it is here in the 21st, but I won't. This may be true, but there is a lot more to this platter that you'll want me to tell you about.

Recorded over the course of eight of these "Birthday Bashes" (though not always falling on Guthrie's actual date of arrival) first at the CB's 313 Gallery and later on the Bowery Poetry Club, OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO THE PARADISE features a selection of what I guess are some of the bard's more "important" songs being sung round robin style by not only a buncha folkies who are probably old enough to have given Woody his first woody, but a few youngsters who probably wish they were around so they coulda. The resultant spew is mixed, at times sounding like an inspired campfire singalong at one of those fifties-era communist kid camps that Pete Seeger used to inhabit to the music that would have been heard coming out of any typical folk boom college dorm being played by the right sort of proper self-conscious co-ed who loathed the co-option of their movement via HOOTENANNY.

Now even an old fanabla such as I can admit that some of this is entertaining, interesting, engaging and perhaps even enveloping enough in a downhome old-timey way. An example of this would be the highly romanticized story of Pretty Boy Floyd which in typical folk ballad tradition attempts to make the notorious killer into a Robin Hood-patterned hero who helped out poverty-stricken dust-bowled families. Nice if not exactly attuned to my own sense of hard gnarl. A couple, such as "Harriet Tubman's Ballad" and "How Can You Keep On Moving", have more of a more post-rock drive to 'em that would have made 'em standard fare amongst the En Why anti-folk gang who seemed to make a minor kerfuffle in eighties-era New York. However, most if this just sounds like the same acoustic plunk that hippoid teachers and "with it" religious workers still play for kids thinking that it will "reach" within their "inner being" or some other sort of I'm OK You're OK quap, not realizing that for a good portion of these kids the new DNA makeup is bred from the electronic grist of Burroughs, Warhol, Reed and the riddled children that have spurted from their loins. I'm sure this is something that is quite hard for the folksters to cram into their minds, but sheesh, sometimes even I have a hard time trying to get my entire reason for being geared to the fact that it's NOT 1972, ifyaknowaddamean...

But then again, the only thing that I really know about Guthrie is that, besides being the father to that cutesy-wootsey teen idol Arlo (who I actually though was a gal until seeing the front cover of the ALICE'S RESTAURANT album thus noticing no boobies!) he was a real stinker! I remember hearing this story about the time he was staying with Will Geer and his common law wife and the two of 'em couldn't stand the stench that the un-bathed Guthrie was leaving in their log cabin, so a plan was devised and executed where Geer and his "paramour" would ambush Guthrie, pull his clothes off, dunk him in a hot tub and scrub him down real hard-like with Pine Sol. It was a chore and Guthrie put up a good fight, but in the end he was smelling pretty good even if he was madder than a wet (albeit clean) hen. Somehow its these stinkeroo stories that always stick out in my mind, like when I hear about a certain celebrity or underground music fixture who really could put a pile of cow dung (especially if the cows were fed garlic) to shame, so if I ever do play this Cee-Dee again I'll be sure to hold my nose in honor of a guy who thought so much of himself he was bound to let the world know about it one way or the other!

1 comment:

song 2 the siren said...

Pearls Before Swine or Ed Askew I can see maybe once or twice in a lifetime being in the mood for, and some of those early Velvet demos where they got all folkie on their "standards" are sometimes alright for a change, but jeez the thought of listening to that cd end to end sort of scares me.

On the cover you have 1) a dude in some sort of khaki safari getup, 2) the word "poetry", and 3) the phrase "open your hearts". That's like a big neon sign signalling exactly what a person is getting themselves into.