Like a Record, Baby

Tunes, tunes, everywhereWe’re at the soft world-is-our-oyster all-the-possibilities stage of our next Home Office Records release, a heaping helping of a live EP by Ethan Lipton. I haven’t talked much about Ethan here, since Pepper of the Earth is about blogging, not flogging our wares. On the other hand, it is about My Favorite Things, so there.

New parents post about their kids, and record guys post about their records. The sky is blue. You know how it goes.

Deadlines are breathing close – we have a publicity thing looming near on the horizon and nothing is quite done yet, not quite – but the mixes are resolving, like film in the chemical pans, from streaks of raw grain into images, taking on texture and weight and personality. The graphics are spiffy, light-hearted, and fun. Last night the advance rough mix of “Lonely Poor and Fat” winged in from Boston, and a whole section of the sequence snapped into final form. And we’ve got the end and we’re nearly there on the beginning, and all of this is good.

This record won’t be for everyone, and as an indie label that’s pretty much how we like it. Ethan is like a well-mannered but brash dinner guest toasting Tom Lehrer over aperitifs at Randy Newman‘s dinner party. If those names don’t mean much to you, here’s help: Tom Lehrer is a Professor of Mathematics who translated The Wizard of Oz into Latin, taught extensively at Harvard and MIT (and at last call was teaching courses in math and musical theatre at University of California, Santa Cruz), and spent a chunk of his life writing and singing truly classic satirical songs (“Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” “The Masochism Tango,” and “The Vatican Rag” are just a few). He also wrote and sang the “Silent E” song from The Electric Company. Randy Newman – well, come on, you know Randy Newman. You do. Brilliant, crusty, insightful, expressive, unique, plays piano. That’s the one. Yes, all right, “Short People,” fine, if we have to be cheap about it.

Ethan Lipton is a playwright and a transplanted Los Angeles surfer writer, the kind of sharp observer who says the sorts of things most people don’t. That’s good two ways: it’s good that most people don’t, and it’s good that Ethan does. When Pierre and I first saw him perform it was solo, in the enviable but difficult dressed slot between burlesque dancers (this is a position with an inescapable subtext: “Hello, I’m not going to take my clothes off, but I hope you’ll like me anyway.” Though in compensation you get to hang out backstage with the girls). We were transported by the sheer wonderful folly of a well-turned-out guy in a good suit singing gentle tweaks at life, a capella and alone and oblivious to the strangeness of it.

“That,” I said to Pierre, “takes balls.”

If that sounds like fun to you, you can listen to some Ethan Lipton rough mixes. Rough mixes. That means what it says, they aren’t done, they’re just there for your checking-out pleasure. If that doesn’t sound like fun, you might be interested in Ethan Lipton’s helpful suggestions for coping with life, the universe, and everything. Or not. He’s got recipes, too.

Ethan’s CD is part of our new family of SQUIRT recordings, about which more later, but in short SQUIRTs are limited-release hand-numbered boutique editions that are kinda special and personal in a tousled kind of way … we’ll get into this another time.

Robert Burke Warren - ...To This DayLast night Robert Burke Warren sang at The Living Room, a welcome break from his Babylonian Captivity of 2003 (only one gig the whole year in New York, bummer). I wrote a piece on Robert Burke Warren a few years back when I was doing regular columns for MusicDish online. It’s excitable and overwritten, but it touches all the bases, if not exactly in order. Ah, youth. Maybe I’ll rewrite it some day.

Today Robert’s music is as spry and dry as ever, and if anything he has sharpened his already fine sense of leave-taking, regret, and rambunctious sorrow. A regulation set was far too short to address everything that needed to be said after a year of recording and family life upstate (they have TREES and ANIMALS up there, or so I hear). His new songs were tender and delightfully complete, his old favorites well-missed and welcome back. Robert’s new CD, Lazyeye, should be out sooner than later. His 1999 debut record, …To This Day, is simply glorious.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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