THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE:
with THE WRECK of the EDMUND FITZGERALD: The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee. I inexplicably missed the 34rd anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald -- 729 feet-long, 75 feet in breadth, 39 feet in depth, weighing 13,632 gross tons -- an ore bulk carrier with a capacity of 25,000 tons. When it was launched on June 7 1958, at the Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan, Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. Here's misty, water-colored video of the launch.
The "Queen of the Great Lakes" sank in the eastern end of Lake Superior during a fierce storm -- including snow squalls -- that pounded the ship with 30-foot waves. The crew of 29 men perished; without witnesses, a definitive reason has never been determined. A Coast Guard report suggested that faulty hatches failed to keep water out of the ship's cargo holds, though others believe the ship struck an uncharted shoal and took on water. A documentary created and aired by the Discovery Channel concluded the loss of the due to freak waves that overwhelmed the faulty hatches.
After the wreck, the Rev. Richard Ingalls went to Mariners' Church in Detroit and rang its bell 29 times, once for each life lost. The church continues to hold an annual memorial, which includes reading the names of the crewmen and ringing the church bell. Here's video of Rev. Ingalls recounting that night.
At the request of family members surviving her crew, Fitzgerald's 200 lb. bronze bell was recovered by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in 1995, as a joint project with the National Geographic Society, Canadian Navy, Sony Corporation, and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The bell is now on display in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Here's a brief video from one of the underwater explorations of the wreck. Throw in the 3-D animation, and you'll feel just like Bill Paxton.
The song by Gordon Lightfoot spent 21 straight weeks on the pop charts, peaking at No. 2. And there's a homemade video for it, which I highly recommend. Beats the tar of Celine Dion! (PS: Ken King -- who has lived on the U.P. of Michigan, says the gales of November are quite something.)
FAVES 2009: I occasionally hear from folks who want to know what -- from among all of the posts I do here -- I recommend. To some degree, I recommend all of it, unless I expressly write otherwise (e.g., it's not my thing, but it might be yours). With the holiday shopping season upon us, I have tried to make a list of reasonable size. It's an unordered list. I likely will have overlooked something that I really dig. And some of these are grouped together, because that's the way they occurred to me at the moment. And note these are my faves; I'm not purporting to list the "Best" albums of the year.
KING KHAN: Case in point. When I was a full-time hipster, "What Is?" would have made my 2007 list as an import. But it became available here in the States this year, and it's a tasty amalgam of garage, psych and classic R & B, with a dash of old school funk that is totally in one of my wheelhouses. Indeed, "Land of the Freak" may be all of those things at once.
NEKO CASE found mainstream success this year with "Middle Cyclone," but I try not to be snobby about that sort of thing, despite he moving out of town. The mainstream could be cooler and I would be just fine with it.
GRIZZLY BEAR, like Neko, found mainstream success with "Veckatimest." But I have always been a sucker for odd, Brian Wilson-esque vocal pop, so there you have it. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE fits into roughly the same vein with "Merriweather Post Pavillion," though that's even more artsy. DIRTY PROJECTORS also fit the bill with "Bitte Orca".
M. WARD: Another artist on a roll, following last year's wonderful She & Him album with his own "Hold Time." And he managed to squeeze in the MONSTERS OF FOLK album with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and Saddle Creek's Mike Mogis.
ST. VINCENT: Annie Clark brought equal measures of Disney-esque whimsy and guitar shredding to "Actor" and improbably made it work.
RICHARD HAWLEY: "Truelove's Gutter" may be his most challenging, least accessible albums -- so if you haven't heard him, "Cole's Corner" or "Lady's Bridge" might be better entry points. But Hawley is another on this list who brings a classic sensibility into the heart of modern life. Music for 3 a.m.
GIRLS: "Album" is a fave of the moment, and I think it might just stick. Off-kilter. Askew. Profane!
CAMERA OBSCURA regularly taps into two of my other soft spots -- Spectorian pop and Northern Soul -- and "My Maudlin Career" is no exception. "The Sweetest Thing" just about is.
THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART: I love the Jesus and Mary Chain, and so does TPOBPAH, apparently. Then again, JAMC loved the VU and the Ramones, so it all comes around. It comes around so often that you have to be good to stand out, and they do. Fuzzy, fizzy pop for now people now. THE RAVEONETTES are also in this category; always good, but "In and Out of Control" is one of my faves of theirs. (I suspect SLEIGH BELLS will continue building buzz here, too.)
EDWARD SHARPE and the MAGNETIC ZEROS: Freaky collectives? Sure, I dig 'em. And I heard "Home" close out an episode of NBC's "Community," which was freaky-deaky.
THE XX: Come to think of it, this might not be one of my faves -- and they already lost a member -- but I respect 'em. Spare, spindly, and yet still atmospheric.
MAYER HAWTHORNE: Yep, I'm a sucker for classic R & B sounds, and all the more impressive for having made them all himself on "A Strange Arrangement," though he's got a band now. Also working the Wes Anderson vibe visually.
THE AVETT BROTHERS: "I and Love and You" has range and charm. I suppose it could be called Americana, but in the way The Band is -- not weighed down by too much reverence for the foundations upon which it builds. THE FELICE BROTHERS get honorable mention here for "Yonder is the Clock."
PHOENIX: They're from France, and yet I like "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix." So they must be doing something right, like becoming less ambient.
MASTODON: Okay, metal is really not my thing, but I know Pate bassist Mike Kelly likes his share, so "Crack the Skye" gets a mention here.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING: It's always somewhere on the net.
THANKSGIVING has a lot of myths, both traditional and the new "Pilgrims were evil" ones taught in some public schools. Not to mention the fights over kindergarteners dressing as Native Americans. However, if you read the journal of William Bradford -- who served some 35 years as governor of the Pilgims' colony -- you quickly discover that the Pilgrims' relationship with the natives was complex and that the colony was ultimately saved when Bradford started doing away with collectivism and granting property rights.
TURKEY TRACKER: Watch the bird.
CUTOUT BIN: From Vince Guaraldi to AC/DC, from Jackie Wilson to Graham Parker, from TMBG to Jimi Hendrix, plus Ray Davies, Blondie, Beck, Big Star and The Beatles, plus more -- this weekend's fortuitous finds can be jukeboxed or streamed separately via the Pate page at the ol' HM.