Blog Posts by bpardue

Posted by bpardue on 07/13/17
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Progressive rock is probably the most-maligned sub-genre of popular music (although disco gives it a run for its money). However, when played by truly adventurous musicians, prog rock could be pretty, magnificent, experimental or terrifying, often within the same 23-minute suite. Here, David Weigel tries to tell prog's story--from the heady joining of psychedelia and classical music in Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" to 70s classics by King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, ELP, Rush, etc., through to the corporate-prog of Asia, and finally on to the artists who kept prog alive from the 90s to the present (Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, The Mars Volta, etc.). If there's any central figure to all this, it's King Crimson's Robert Fripp, who kept breaking up his band just as it seemed on the verge of popular success, never compromising his musical vision. As a fan, it's easy to complain that the narrative is a bit too Anglo-centric (although some French and Italian bands are mentioned), but it generally gets the story right, and enough names and albums are dropped to give curious readers good music to track down.
Posted by bpardue on 02/21/17
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Guitar great Larry Coryell passed away on February 19. Through his early solo work on albums like Spaces and with his band The Eleventh House, Coryell was one of the core innovators of the jazz fusion movement, which merged jazz proficiency with the power and volume of rock and the cross-cultural influences of world music. His later work would turn more straight-ahead, but still commanded tremendous respect from jazz fans. For more of his albums, also check out hoopla.
Posted by bpardue on 01/26/17
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A team of chefs from the US have just won the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition for the first time ever. Andrew Friedman's Knives at Dawn (2009) recounts the 2008 effort to try and make the US team a serious contender in the annual event, despite never having finished better than sixth place. In her previous review of Knives at Dawn (print edition), mingh stated:
This is the story of what it took to compete with the tremendous dedication, creativity, and stress that comes with a competition of this stature. Andrew Friedman has access to all of the players involved and you read about the evolution of a dish from something plain to something magnificent.

A wonderfully engaging book about the haute couture of food competitions. If you like food challenge shows such as Top Chef, this may also pique your interest.
This edition is an eAudiobook, available immediately (no holds needed) through the library's subscription to hoopla digital.
Posted by bpardue on 08/15/16
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From the late 60s to mid-70s, a number German rock bands created a musical/social movement that has subsequently (and somewhat unfortunately) become known as "Krautrock." Stylistically diverse, it ranged from the "kosmische" jams of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel to the industrial explorations of early Cluster, the wild pastiche of Faust and the ever-more-automated stylings of Kraftwerk. There have been various attempts to cover the Krautrock scene in book form, most notably Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler​, but most have been personal impressions, discographies or article compilations. At last, music journalist David Stubbs has written the first "Great Big Book" on the topic: Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music. Stubbs' well-researched tome covers the emergence of protest & commune culture in post-war Germany and touches on all the big-name bands/movements within Krautrock: Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, HarmoniaFaust, the "Berlin School," etc., and even follows the music's influence on David Bowie, Brian Eno and more recent musicians. An excellent (if dense) read for fans of this unique and influential musical phenomenon. Readers may also enjoy Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and its Legacy. Quite a bit of the music mentioned in the two books can found in our catalog, as well as Hoopla Digital.
Posted by bpardue on 06/30/16
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This engaging book frames the history of 20th century architecture as a tug-of-war between two giants of the era: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Wright was the genius, the relentless champion of his own philosophy of "organic architecture," who rejected any relationship with the boxy modernism of the Bauhaus architects and their followers, even as they acknowledged their debt to Wright (although more as a predecessor than meaningful contemporary). At the same time, it's tempting to think of his masterpiece Fallingwater as a thinly-veiled attempt to outdo the modernists at their own game. Johnson, on the other hand, was a born-wealthy dilettante, who moved between architecture criticism and practice, as well as politics, journalism and music, looking for a field in which to make his mark. He was an early champion of all things modern--the rejection of hand-crafted materials for industrial steel and glass, and the complete removal of ornamentation from buildings. His own Glass House (inspired by plans for Mies' Farnsworth House in Plano, IL) is considered a classic of the style. Over time, Wright's and Johnson's paths would cross many times, their relationship (and opinions of each other) would move from respectful to contentious and back again. Clearly, there was gamesmanship and moments of self-promotion from each man, but there were also moments of actual affection. Author Hugh Howard gives us a well-researched, sweeping view, covering nearly 50 years of architectural history with many supplementary characters to help illuminate the long, complex relationship between these two architectural giants.
Posted by bpardue on 01/06/16
Pianist Paul Bley, 83, passed away this week. He leaves behind a jazz legacy of boundless progression and experimentation. After a fairly straightforward start to his recording career in 1953, he soon headed a trio that featured up-and-coming free jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In the 1960s, he was one of the first jazz musicians to use synthesizers. Later, he would champion such new artists as Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. By the end of his career, he had over 150 albums to his name. There are numerous Bley albums available on Hoopla Digital. 
Here is an NPR report on Bley from 1/6/16:
Posted by bpardue on 01/04/16
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As a New Jersey kid growing up in the 1970s, I loved soccer. I remember being completely thrilled when the New York Cosmos brought on the legendary Pele, immediately catapulting the then-struggling North American Soccer League (NASL) into the national spotlight and seemingly making soccer America's "next big thing." For the next several years, I thrived as a Cosmos fan (sorry Sting enthusiasts!) and completely bought into the idea that big-time soccer was soon to be a permanent fixture on prime-time TV. Of course, I knew nothing of the NASL's disastrous business model, and didn't realize that, when teams weren't drawing 30,000+ crowds for games against the Cosmos, they were lucky to be filling 15,000 seats in NFL stadiums.
Ian Penderleith's Rock & Roll Soccer gives us a good long glance at the NASL and considers what made it special (great international talent, a willingness to try and create a league based on attractive, fan-friendly soccer when European teams were becoming ever more defense-oriented) and what ultimately brought it down (excessive focus on the Cosmos, allowing for too much expansion too quickly, etc.).
The approach is thematic rather than sequential. Chapters focus on topics like "Pele vs. Eusebio" or "The NASL vs. Fifa and the world," with quite a bit of sidebar-like inserts to illustrate points. This means that the timeline jumps around a bit, but it still makes for a lively, entertaining read. There are plenty of colorful anecdotes about legendary players like Pele, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Giorgio Chinaglia, along with accounts from lesser-known American players, as well.
Ultimately, did the NASL help or hurt soccer's profile in the US? Is the current league, Major League Soccer, successfully managing expansion in a fashion that will avoid NASL's disastrous collapse? You can take either side, but the story of American soccer is certainly not complete without the NASL.
Posted by bpardue on 12/18/15
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Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has built up an impressive discography. Now, he shows up on two very different collaborations. First, he teams up with former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and a formidable group of session musicians to create the Kickstarter-funded Better Late Than Never. Ponty and Anderson contrubute a number of newly-composed songs, such as "One in the Rhythm of Hope," and there are a number of reworkings of Yes tunes ("And You And I," "Roundabout," etc.) and Ponty songs with added vocals ("Infinite Mirage--Soul Eternal"). Overall, the proceedings are more rock/fusion than jazz and are a nice listen for fans of either musician.
For the more jazz-minded fan, Ponty has also collaborated with legendary bassist Stanley Clarke and French guitarist Bireli Lagrene for the album D-Sringz. The album feels like a more modern version of Stephane Grappelli's and Django Reinhardts' Hot Club performances--everything swings and there are some fantastic takes on classics, such as Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (most famously recorded by both Cannonball Adderly and The Buckinghams). The album is also available in hoopla.
Posted by bpardue on 10/01/15
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Think of this 2008 book as kind of a "Freakonomics of Driving." Vanderbilt asks many questions about life on the road (Is it better to merge early for a lane reduction, or wait until just before your lane disappears? Do traffic signs make roads safer? Do we really drive as well as we think we do? Do trucks cause more accidents? What are the most dangerous vehicles on the road?) and considers them through from scientific, social and psychological aspects. An engaging read, which will have you reflecting on your own habits, as well. Written in 2008, it anticipates, but just misses some of the impact of the most modern technology on driving, such as the latest smart phones (he makes lots of references to Blackberries), but still worth reading today.
Posted by bpardue on 07/02/15
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Progressive rock legends Yes lost their only constant member with the passing of co-founder/bassist Chris Squire on June 27. This is probably as good a time as any to sit back and take a long listen to their music--and there's no better way to binge-listen than this box set that captures their work from their eponymous 1967 release, up to 1987's "Big Generator." There's clearly an evolution to their sound--the baroque intricacies of Fragile and Close to the Edge (not to mention the epic excess of Tales from Topographic Oceans) give way to the more straightforward 80s sounds of 90125 and Big Generator. Through each of their periods and stylistic incarnations, however, the group managed to create its own unique sound, creating plenty of musical gems along the way. Also check out the always-available albums by Yes on hoopla digital.
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