Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sun Downers / Beach Bummed

Crosby, Stills & Nash - The Lee Shore
Dennis Wilson - Moonshine
Eden Ahbez - Eden's Island
Gabor Szabo - Gypsy Gueen
Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown

Sundowning refers to a diverse set of psychological symptoms which can arise in the elderly, particularly those afflicted with Alzheimer's, during the onset of evening. Those afflicted can become restless, highly confused, begin to 'shadow' their caretaker, or experience signs of dementia. Medical science provides us with a handful of various explanations for this, but has not considered the possibility that this state might be a byproduct of the momentary alignment between the time of day and the stage of one's own life as it inexorably draws to a close. In any case, it would be reductive to assume that sundowning is only a threat to the old, and not instead recognize it as a general trait of the human condition. Man is the animal who, in the late afternoon, becomes confused. The time of late afternoon can be understood in a myriad of ways, as a time of day, as a time in one's life, and so on.

It is not difficult to imagine that all of the above compositions might have been composed under the greying light and sway of lengthening shadow.
Not included here is perhaps the epic mother of all beach-downer jams, "On the Beach" by Neil Young. In regards to AC's readership, this track perfectly occupies a meridian where either you already have it or you should go out and get it yourself. AC is about joy and love, but also about individual empowerment.

1. The Lee Shore (by David Crosby)

Superior boxed-set version of this track from 4-Way Street.

A lee shore is a shore that is closest to the leeward side of an ocean vessel. In regards to the direction of the wind, the vessel's sides are divided between windward and leeward sides - the leeward side is the side opposing the one directly facing the wind. In effect, the boat is always being slightly blown towards the lee shore, a condition which puts it interestingly at odds with the sentiments in this highly romantic-nomad, near-mystical ode to unfettered nautical wandering. Which is in fact another name for endless grift.

A highly recommended track, well-suited for the twilight hours, or any solitary nomadism. (special thanks to JF for digging this one up. Here is a photo of him in his extensive CSN archives:)

2. Dennis Wilson - Moonshine

From the recently reissued Pacific Ocean Blues by the Beach Boy's drummer - pretty much stunningly downer beach record. Wilson's voice is touchingly weary and strained in parts, and the string/choir sections so fragile, it makes Dennis seem like Nick Drake's acid casualty older brother. Sounds a bit like the most achingly convalescent Spiritualized tracks sometimes as well.

3. Eden Ahbez - Eden's Island

Emma N. sent me this. It sounds like Martin Denny meets Moondog: hazy exotica, drifty group vocals from an album recorded by an ueber-hippie who gained fame for writing "Nature Boy" for Nat King Cole. Ahbez ended up a kind of a weirdo-dropout shaman cult figure.

This is additionally pretty cool: someone has answering machine messages from Eden that they saved:

which don't really shed much light on the guy but are highly entertaining due to the musical patterns of oral communication, especially the monological ramblings of a talented eccentric, and remind one of the sorts of snippets of Americana dialogue used in Harry Partch's works.

4. Gabor Sazbo - Gypsy Queen

Hungarian guitar player, records deep soul-jazz instrumental tracks that could be DJ Shadow samples. Which is pretty much a subcategory of music now: stuff that Shadow could have sampled. This track has cool breezy beats. Plus it's fun to say "Gabor Szabo," like you're a magician.

5. Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown

It's called "Sundown." And it' s just seriously one of the best 70s folk-rocker jams, like ever. It's written about his then-girlfriend Cathy Smith, with whom he had a tumultuous affair in a time when he was married to another woman and drank alot. Smith later gained notoriety for being the person who injected John Belushi with a fatal heroin overdose - for which she wound up serving time in the California penal system.

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