Sunday, July 25, 2010
STAN RIDGWAY "Neon Mirage" / A440 Records
Release Date Retail 2011: CD, MP3 @ Amazon, itunes, Cdbaby, everywhere
Catalog #: a4401-2
Barcode #: 724101225727
INFORMED BY LOSS AND LIGHT, NEW ALBUM IS ARTIST’S MOST ECLECTIC AND REVEALING
Wall of Voodoo frontman is flanked by Dave Alvin, Pietra Wexstun, Ralph Carney, Rick King and the late Amy Farris
"Music is more than just chords and notes to me, it has the ability to make pictures in the mind. My records are designed to be seen as well as heard. There’s a weird old American jukebox in my head and it still plays everything that’s ever got under my skin." -- Stan Ridgway
Does a songwriter chase his muse – or is it the other way ‘round? That’s but one of the intriguing notions at the heart of Stan Ridgway’s 2010 release, Neon Mirage, arguably the most refined, yet musically eclectic collection of the veteran L.A. singer-songwriter/Wall of Voodoo founder’s career. “You never really have a choice about the tone and subject matter of the records you make,” Ridgway confides. “At least I don’t. They’re obsessions, really. It’s about the music, and how it heals the mind.” When Stan lost a beloved uncle, a colleague (Texas violinist Amy Farris, whose brilliant Neon Mirage work serves as fitting elegy), and the man who inspired so much of the musician’s own worldview, his own father, during the album’s writing/recording, Ridgway responded with some of the most reflective – if no less joyous – songs he’d ever recorded. “Events like that can’t help but have an impact on the music you’re making at the time,” Stan admits. "You’d be lying to yourself — and your listeners — if you thought otherwise. I've probably confused people with my music, my choices, the albums and the changes in direction from year to year. But I can’t help it. There’s a weird old American jukebox in my head and it still plays everything that’s ever got under my skin.”
Stan Ridgway Website: http://www.stanridgway.com
Stan Ridgway Online Store: http://www.cdbaby.com/artist/stanridgway
Posted by Stan Ridgway at 12:09 PM
1. Big Green Tree
Growing up as a teen, the records I obsessed on one year were all from singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Tom Rush, Neil Young, Buffy St. Marie, Leonard Cohen and Tim Buckley. Some of their spacious productions could just sweep you away. Intimate but expansive, mysterious and questioning, the themes were searching and philosophical. What purpose do we have? What happens when we die? Is there an answer, or only more questions?
Fellow musical astronaut and genius pal Dave Alvin expertly produced this one and also played some guitar as well. And this song was also one of Amy's favorites when Pietra and I and the band played shows with her.
That day in the studio, Amy insisted we cut it. I'd recorded it before for the album "Black Diamond", but when we all finished this first song that day, well? - we all knew we'd caught something real special. And the sessions were off to a great start.
2. This Town They Call Fate
The longer you live, the more death stalks the shadows. You reach a certain age, lose a few folks, and it begins to feel familiar. It’s not a surprise anymore, and gets strangely easier to accept – hey, no one lives forever! That's an uncomfortable feeling. Or is it? That eventual fate is the one thing we all have in common. Sometimes it can lead to desperate measures to secure safety. But is anybody really safe? We bolt the doors, but we all still hear the knock. How do we answer?
3. Desert Of Dreams
Originally the name of the album when I started, but of course “things changed.” We're still in a downward devaluation of almost everything - what were we thinking? You can sell a dream, sure! But once you buy into one, it’s easier to ignore the writing on the wall. Bandits in suits made fortunes off people and their dreams, then did their best to get the customer to look the other way. Nothing is now worth what it was sold as. Was it ever? Los Angeles is still home for us though. And the city is still a surreal place, filled with well..dreams huh ? The ol'city is seen differently from wherever you're standing - at the moment. I think that is its charm! It's really all about the "dreams". Ralph Carney’s sax and flute work really puts this one over the top. Thank you Ralph.
4. Halfway There
A moving car. An old church. A wedding and a funeral. A couple chasing a dream and getting closer to the halfway mark. Is it the destination, or the struggle and idealism of getting there that makes up a life? This was our final recording with Amy Farris and the poignancy of her playing makes it even more bittersweet.
5. Turn A Blind Eye
Most people know that the environment is in trouble, the destruction of natural things that once destroyed will not grow back. The powers that be roll on - and over - everything. Praying won't help and only the Indians seemed to have things in balance. But they were in the way of “progress,” too, and so were stomped on and marginalized as “not realistic” - meaning “not profitable”. How can you convince people that survival, honoring and protecting the Earth, must come before commerce? There's a war on - and Wall St. is handing out the blindfolds. This song is not specifically about just that issue - it’s a warning song that can include anything we decide to not see.
6. Wandering Star
The records of late 50's/early 60’s Nashville are favorites of mine. Patsy Cline and producer Owen Bradley teamed up for a while, and the “Nashville Sound” reached an apex of artistry and musicianship that's hard to beat. Great songs, great singers, great musicians, great producers, great studios - all on one record! I get nostalgic for that era, and this is an attempt at capturing a little bit of that flavor. Its also a song about a friend you lost somewhere along the way, yet keep thinking of. Where did they go? Why did they leave? Are they okay?
7. Flag Up On A Pole
Youthful idealism is easily swayed when the motive is “Honor, God and Country.” To protect positive values is not a bad thing. But all governments know that if they can turn people against one another for a cause or a flag, then war can continue to do big business. And the war machine eats its young. Yet there's always more where that came from, thirsty for purpose. War is a false contest where “winning” it is just a tragic illusion.
8. Lenny Bruce
(words and music by Bob Dylan)
Another tune we cut the same day as “Big Green Tree” with Pietra, Amy and Brett. When our friend Dave Alvin offered to help and produce a couple of studio dates, this was the song that got us there. I had performed it at a special McCabe's show in April 09 for another good brother in arms and friend, songwriter and master guitarist Peter Case, to help out with mounting medical bills from a recent surgery he had. I sang this that night and Dave said - let's record it! Well I said OK ! Bob Dylan did a great thing with this song. It’s not only about Lenny, but about anyone who's taking point on the battlefield - artistic or otherwise – that place “where every victory hurts.” The song also makes a point of questioning why someone like Lenny Bruce could be unjustly hounded and vilified, while true crime pervades more powerful circles - corporate boardrooms and the politicians’ pockets they line - protected and shielded from any real justice or punishment. What did Lenny ever do? He never “cut off any babies heads.” They slapped a label on him, and he fought them for it. His ghost walks on - and on. But they killed him just the same. This song is also for the brilliant George Carlin, another personal hero of mine, who was also inspired by Lenny. The musical interplay here between Amy Farris and Pietra Wexstun is both subtle and striking. A stately elegance, with a perfect mix of sadness and yes, celebration, of a life, but one cut far too short.
9. Scavenger Hunt
A good mystery seems to be about a search for an elusive person or object. The audience is presented with clues and is led to believe that the point of the story is to finally find and capture this object, and the mystery will be solved. Alfred Hitchcock, another favorite of mine, called this device “the MacGuffin,” which he explained to interviewer Francois Truffaut: A man sees an unusual device stowed aboard a train, and asks its apparent owner, “What is that?” The other fellow says, “That’s a MacGuffin.” The first man asks, “What’s a MacGuffin?” The other guy replies, “It’s a device for trapping lions in the Scottish highlands.” The first man scoffs, “But there are no lions in the Scottish highlands!” The other guy arches an eyebrow and says, “Well, then that’s no MacGuffin!” In truth “Scavenger Hunt” is not about the object at all. It’s only there to keep your attention while other, deeper material is introduced about the characters, their relationships, their pasts - and their betrayals. Like Hitch said, “a MacGuffin is nothing at all.” Rick King's lead guitar here really burns it up !
10. Behind The Mask
Sometimes you wonder if you're just getting worn down, tired, and your mind is just raw with it all. Your emotions can freeze up. Smoke, mirrors and maybe a few disguises help everyone at times. Especially when the outlook isn’t good. You put up barriers. Protect yourself. And you put on the good show to protect others from that harsh truth as well. We'd all just collapse on the floor if we didn't try and put a “good face on it” once and a while. And who are we really when the façade finally drops? I believe there is something we're made of beyond the things that happen to us. A soul? Something…
11. Neon Mirage
Like something you think you see, and are drawn to, but aren’t sure if it’s real or not. But you know the journey to find the Truth of what it is will be long and filled with great sacrifice. And it may take much longer than you think. Then, what if we do finally get there and it’s like Gertrude Stein said of an unfortunate Bayside city, “There is no there, there”?! Or, upon arriving where you'd seen it last, it suddenly jumps out in front again, miles and miles away and out of reach. Is it playing with us? True victory is not always measured in my mind by material possessions, or awards, or money. Victory can also be just as much the quest itself - an end in itself. And the end becomes the beginning. Onward march to victory. Even if it is just a mirage. We've already won.
(Morricone and Alessandroni, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Jeff Beck and so many others have used the electric guitar in place of a singing voice. By that I mean that the melodies played by the guitar could just as well be sung - that's how close they sound to seemingly saying something profound and not just “riffing.” They speak. I love the guitar and this piece was inspired by folks like them and their music.)
12. Day Up In The Sun
The outward appearances of people and their situations - and the initial impressions you can get can be wrong a lot of the time. Everyone's got an important story inside them, and many personal accomplishments no one can always really see from the outside.
Ridgway Online Music Store:
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Recent reviews on "Neon Mirage"
Ex-Wall of Voodoo leader Stan Ridgway is in a reflective mood on "Neon Mirage" (****, out Aug. 24 on A440), one of the finest outings in his idiosyncratic career. Featuring the outstanding roots rocker Dave Alvin and prized session violinist Amy Farris, Ridgway looks for permanence in a forever-changing world (just like Arcade Fire) on "Big Green Tree" and "Behind The Mask," while pondering mortality on "Halfway There."
Ridgway persevered through a lot of loss during the recording of this album, including the deaths of both his father and Farris, making this project all the more poignant. Call this one a tender and much-deserved triumph over adversity.
Classic Rock Examiner
Singer-songwriter Stan Ridgway used to head up the quirky, colorful Wall of Voodoo, an 80s signature new wave group. Ridgway's unique, warbling voice shaped their synth/Western image and popularized such hits as "Mexican Radio," an MTV favorite, and "Call Of The West." For various reasons, Ridgway left the band and went solo in '83. He did quite well on his own, too, contributing to the Rumble Fish soundtrack and churning out numerous successful solo albums. In 2005 he released Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs, an album that held a lot of meaning for Stan because it followed the death of two of his bandmates, guitarist Marc Moreland and drummer Joe Nanini, who he'd immortalised on one of the album's songs.
Ridgway's current album Neon Mirage, is wrapped in poignancy. With the passage of time comes change and Ridgway's style is now an even more eclectic mixture of raw emotion, Tex-Mex jazzy beats and outlaw guitar rhythms. The twelve tracks range from introspective ("Behind the Mask") to patriotic ("Flag Up a Pole'). This is a winning combination of grit and grease, a buffer and a salve. A clear vision by an artist who's focused, complex and sincere.
Wall Of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgway Unveils ‘Neon Mirage’
Ridgway’s latest solo outing is, after all, a document of a tragic time that saw some key people in the L.A. singer/songwriter’s life depart this mortal vale. On his first solo album since 2004’s Snakebite, Ridgway maintains the same sardonic outlook and colorful style that’s been a part of his m.o. from the beginning of his career, but the losses that occurred during Neon Mirage’s making add an extra quotient of gravitas to the whole affair.
While Ridgway’s characteristic black humor — a trait he says he learned from his father — keeps the record from getting too morose, some of the songs are meditations on the Big Issues, like fate and mortality. Renowned roots-rock troubadour Dave Alvin, who came up alongside Ridgway on the ’80s L.A. scene as a member of The Blasters, is on hand to help realize Ridgway’s vision, as is longtime keyboardist/collaborator Pietra Wexstun, and former Tin Huey member/Tom Waits sideman Ralph Carney.
BONUS TRACK # 1 to "NEON MIRAGE" ( free to those who join up on the email list )
Posted by Stan Ridgway at 11:58 AM