The Rolling Stones Special Edition: A big and better bang!

Nov 10 / 2005


The new edition of "A Bigger Bang" comes with a bonus DVD that features a whole bunch of goodies including two brand new songs "Under The Radar" and "Don’t Wanna Go Home".

The DVD also includes the video for "Streets of Love", complete with commentary from Jake Nava, the music video director himself. Also featured on the DVD are two TV performances of the songs "Streets Of Love" and "Rough Justice", both filmed in Toronto.

"The Bigger Bang" special edition also contain interviews with each band member of the Rolling Stones and exclusive studio footage in the shape of "An Introduction to A Bigger Bang", plus a unique photo gallery.

And just when you thought things could not get any better... a week later, on November 28, "Rarities: 1971- 2003" hit UK record shops! The 16-track collection is brimming with delights from The Rolling Stones - songs that have never surfaced on CD, as well as rare "b" sides, hard to find mixes and previously unreleased tracks.

Highlights include a live version of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock", recorded at Leeds University in 1971; the beautiful "Through The Lonely Nights", a Jagger/Richards original, which was the "b" side to 1974's "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" single, and "If I Was A Dancer (Dance part 2)", the first Rolling Stones song to credit Ronnie Wood as part of the writing team and previously only available on a 12" promo!

The digipak album comes complete with a full track by track annotation in a 20 page booklet with rare pictures of the band by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Track listing:

Fancy Man Blues
Tumbling Dice (live)
Wild Horses
Beast Of Burden (live)
Anyway You Look At It
If I Was A Dancer (Dance Part 2)
Miss You (Dance version)
Wish I’d Never Met You
I Just Wanna Make Love To You (live)
Mixed Emotions (12" version)
Through The Lonely Nights
Live With Me (live)
Let It Rock (live)
Harlem Shuffle (NY Mix)
Mannish Boy
Thru and Thru (live)

"A Bigger Bang" is released on November 21st.

"Rarities: 1971-2003" is released on November 28th.

Black Celebration: Welcome to Harkonin's metal smorgasbord

Riverfront Times

Nov 9 / 2005

By Paul Friswold

Harkonin vocalist Jason Barron laughs explosively, interrupts himself mid-sentence and surreptitiously palms the lighter his son Braden has been using to singe table-top debris. He smiles at Braden, who's unaware that the lighter he's looking for is hidden in his father's hand — the hand with "blut" tattooed across the knuckles in thickly serif-ed letters. Braden, a wiry kid who can't be more than twelve, gives up looking and resumes agitating for a quick run to KFC, but he knows he's outnumbered by the rest of Harkonin: bassist Tom Quach, guitarist Matt Coyle and drummer Clayton Gore. Still, his mention of The Colonel reminds the elder Barron of a recent discovery at another fast-food joint.

"The Long John Silver's off of St. Charles Rock Road has the baddest jukebox there, dude," Barron testifies. "Everything in it is good."

"There's a jukebox at Long John Silver's?" Coyle asks.

"Yes! It was a bunch of Frankie Valli and Chuck Berry and James Brown and I'm just like pickin' all this shit," Barron says. "My girlfriend is like, 'Are we gonna go?' I told her, 'I'm still eatin' a hush puppy!' I'm playin' all this shit." He laughs again, louder this time.

Chuck Berry may be an odd choice for a vocalist, but Frankie Valli and James Brown make more sense. The latter's earthy grunts and syncopated yelps have clearly rubbed off on Barron, who howls with feral delight in his own song "Heksenbränd," right before he grates out, "Heksenbränd, the witches' fire/Demon princess, whore of the undead/I pump you full of sin."

Behind Barron's acidic rasp, Gore stomps out a lung-flattening double-bass pattern, with Quach's guttural bass sliding deeper into the abyss with every riff. Coyle shreds an inverted scale of nasally sharp notes between Barron's outbursts, and then Harkonin collectively leap forward into the galloping race against death that causes heads to snap with vicious glee; just when your neck is good and warmed up, they rein it back to a dangerous, martial lurch.

Three gut-churning riffs in just under four minutes — any one of them worth their weight in pure, unadulterated metal — show how the band has staked out a territory somewhere between the raw, immediate roar of the Scandinavian hordes and the groove of classic death/thrash. It's the sort of visceral assault that aficionados of the form endlessly seek out, and Harkonin's Sermons of Anguish is absolutely filthy with them.

Anguish's dark majesty is all the more remarkable because half of this Harkonin is relatively new to the band since its 2003 release, Seductress of the Unlight. Drummer Mike Evans and guitarists Drake Poeschel and Lael Clark have been replaced by Gore and Coyle, respectively. Some of those departures were amicable — and some weren't.

"Drake went to medical school; Mike's becoming a lawyer in Chicago," Gore explains. "I was just playing drums by myself, and the opportunity to play with these guys came up. When Drake left we were looking for a second guitarist, and Matt came in. Little did we know he'd be the only guitarist."

Lael Clark's reasons for no longer being part of Harkonin are not really open for discussion. "Ask Warghoul about him," Coyle says, referring to the Illinois band Clark joined and has since been "excommunicated" from, according to the latest posting on Warghoul's Web site. No other explanation for Clark's exit is offered.

The changes in personnel have definitely altered Harkonin's songwriting process. Quach notes that before, "Drake wrote the majority of the songs, and Lael wrote some. I was kinda the guy who was like, 'OK. I'll play that song.'"

"Drake was very specific with his stuff," Barron adds. "He could play those black-metal riffs like crazy."

"Yeah, he was picky about his music," Quach agrees. "There's a lot of metal out there, but Drake only listened to, like, five bands."

Not that Quach and Barron are knocking the earlier incarnation of their band; Seductress of the Unlight still packs an impressive wallop, after all. But the current version of Harkonin isn't afraid to break off from a riff to explore something that lies beneath the surface of the song, finding dark places that yield much more rewarding thrills. You can bang your head to Seductress, but you can throw your whole body into Sermons' horrific maelstrom.

And in the hinterlands of extreme metal, that sort of power gets you noticed — but not as quickly as Harkonin would like. "We're entirely self-funded," Gore explains. "We put out both CDs on our own, send 'em out all over the place just like any other band. Labels, like the big labels, are more interested in signing stuff they know is gonna sell, that sounds like everybody else. Like joke metal or mall metal. Or metalcore. They'll sign anybody if you're a metalcore band." He sniffs.

"But eventually, as much as word's getting around, somebody's gonna knock on our door and we'll get the right deal. We can continue to do this ourselves, as long as it takes [to get signed]. Matt works at a studio, we can get a good rate there, and we can always record. And Lee [Skyles] from Chunks of Meat does good putting the package [shows] together and that's right in town. But ideally we'd like to get the hell out of here."

Coyle agrees that extensive touring is the dream, but not financially possible right now. "We can book our own shows out of town, but it'd be nice to get some support so we could tour for a couple months and come back."

"Do we have to come back?" Barron asks. (Probably, if they want to see their drummer again — Gore has two kids and a job).

Still, even if they lock up a record deal, the members of Harkonin have no illusions about the commercial viability of their music. In the marginalized world of extreme metal, where bloody-guts intensity and liver-scorching blasphemy win fans' black hearts, there's little promise of radio play or even mainstream exposure on the level of a more commercial band such as Slipknot — and Harkonin knows it.

"This kind of music is always going to be underground," Gore says. "Success is relative. If you're looking to make money, you're in the wrong genre."

"We could do some Weezer-sounding shit and be rich right now!" Barron laughs.

Coyle leans back from the table. It's getting late. Day and night jobs, kids, girlfriends, wives and Braden's dinner all loom in the middle-future. One more full set looms in the immediate future, and Coyle eyes his matte-black Les Paul like it's the only thing that really matters. But first he wants to make one thing clear.

"We write metal," he says. "I'm not one of those people who says, 'I'm writing this for myself and I don't care if anyone hears it.' I do want to please metalheads. I write for metalheads. I write what I like, and dude, metalheads will like this."

But Coyle's only half-right: Metalheads will love this.

"Betsey Brown" gives voice to a St. Louis girl living through desegregation

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

May 1 / 2005

By Jane Henderson

The Browns couldn't keep up with the Smiths.

But in the world of literature, the Browns may have surpassed them.

Sally Benson's Smith family of "Meet Me in St. Louis" - the rambunctious, happy World's Fair-goers of 1904 - lived on Kensington Avenue just north of Delmar Boulevard near Kingshighway. Ntozake Shange's Brown family from her novel "Betsey Brown" - another large, happy, extended family in a turn-of-the-century home - lived on Windermere Place just north of Delmar near Union Boulevard.

Except for the fact that the Browns lived a half-century later, they were practically neighbors.

But even if they had shared temporal as well as physical space, the Smiths wouldn't have invited the middle-class, African-American Browns for a stroll in Forest Park.

At its heart, "Betsey Brown" is a story similar to "Meet Me in St. Louis," although more serious. Its heroine is a young girl who squabbles and plays with her brother and sisters, who's attracted to a neighbor boy, who feels safe in the cocoon of family and who witnesses a turning point in St. Louis history - in this case, the desegregation of the city's schools.

Area librarians chose "Betsey Brown" as this year's selection in Read MOre, the statewide reading club. Published in 1985, the book has been taught in schools for a couple of decades, often as a jumping-off point to discuss the social issues of school desegregation. It is a novel, but based on the St. Louis childhood of its author, who was known in the 1950s as Paulette Williams. She later took a Zulu name, Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-zaki Shon-gay).

Shange, who lives in Oakland, Calif., says she's honored by the Read MOre selection. "I was surprised. I wrote it so long ago. I have nothing but gladness that I was able to honor the experiences I had in Missouri."

She will talk about her life and "Betsey Brown" at public events here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

"That particular part of my life is very important and very special," Shange says in a telephone interview.

Shange has always written about the experiences of African-American girls and women. With "Betsey Brown," she says, she wanted to show elements of life that Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright hadn't: "They hadn't dealt with children in adult situations or with children's communities.

"I tried to create lives in 'Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo' and 'Betsey Brown' that had depth and complexity and dealt with issues that these girls faced by themselves."

Shange is not as well known for those novels as she is for drama and poetry. Her most famous work is the staged "choreopoem" "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf."

She danced and recited poetry here in the 1975 production of "For Colored Girls" and a story in this newspaper called the 27-year-old a "dramatic figure" with a bright head scarf and pierced nose.

She is still involved with drama and interweaving art forms. But she is no longer so young and discloses that at 57 she is "permanently disabled." She may have had several small strokes that compromised her left side. "It's not as noticeable as it used to be," she says, although she often uses a cane and seems to talk somewhat slowly and deliberately.

As a dancer, it was hard to accept limitations to her body. But she's working with a trainer to strengthen her muscles. "I still have great flexibility. It's primarily a strength and control thing."

Just as significant for Shange is that her voice has changed, becoming more blunt. "My voice has always been more of a musical voice. So, I've been trying to work with what I've got."

Shange's art has always revolved around music and sound. As a poet, her writing was meant to be read aloud, of course. But sound carries through even the novels. In "Betsey Brown," sound "traveled uncannily" in the family's house, where members argued over whether to tune into "Howdy-Doody" or "American Bandstand." In the first chapter, Betsey practices for an elocution contest, her siblings yell at each other and their father bangs a conga drum while chanting, "The Negro race is a mighty one/The work of the Negro is never done." Even outside, after the family has scattered to school and work, "slurring oaks and jays" break the quiet.

Shange captures dialects with judicious use of irregular spelling: children may be spelled "chirren" and going "goin." The irregular spelling she uses can even be inconsistent, she says. "With" sometimes sounds like "wid" and sometimes like "wit," she says. "There is not one massive black English," she says.

She wanted to make sure that it was clear that black people spoke in many different ways. Long before Nelly came along, Shange was told that she had a St. Louis rhythm in her work. Chicagoans, she says, talk at a higher interval than St. Louisans. "It's the difference between an alto and a bass - that's really very intriguing to me."

"With Missouri there are very significant Southern traces. It almost sounds like Memphis. We're very tied to the South that way."

The dialects around 15 Windermere Place, where she lived, varied among the families - East Indian, Haitian, Latin, white.

As a girl, Paulette Williams, who was born in New Jersey, told people she was from Carolina. Her grandmother was from Charleston and her mother's community in the Bronx was very Charlestonian.

In "Betsey Brown" the fictional mother and grandmother take pride in good manners. The mother "Jane was not crazy about her children screaming at each other or about her husband's idea of reveille. Cuba, yes, St. Louis, no. St. Louis was still an old-fashioned place."

In this old-fashioned place, though, the father in the book, as in Shange's real life, brings some newer notions about music and the role of black people in America.

Almost all biographical information about Shange's St. Louis years notes that she lived near Chuck Berry and that other famous musicians and writers visited their home.

The Williams girls were friends with Chuck Berry's daughters, she says. Berry's trouble with the law is mentioned in "Betsey Brown" - 1959 was the year he was arrested for taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines. But Shange doesn't discuss any sounds of "Maybellene" coming from next door. She highlights visits, instead, from people like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and W.E.B. DuBois. But it wasn't just that the men were friends with her father, Paul T. Williams, a surgeon at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, and mother, Eloise, a psychiatric social worker. The fact was, Shange says now, that hotels would not accept black guests - so they had to stay with black families that owned larger houses.

Her father was an admirer of blues, bebop and jazz, which Shange heard from his records. "One way or another there was a confluence of musical influences," she says.

"Later, as a teenager and young adult, I was able to put names to those things I had heard, which allowed me to develop into a performing poet who was able to work with musicians from all schools of black and Latin music."

Her father also brought African doctors home from Homer G. Phillips, and Shange learned that the country wasn't the way "Tarzan" movies made it seem, that there were in fact educated medical professionals who spoke several languages.

In the novel, the father quizzes the children about African-American music and African politics: "Betsey, what's the most standard of blues forms?" "Charlie, who invented the banjo?" "Sharon, what is the name of the President of Ghana?"

His wife thinks he goes too far when he wants to take them to a demonstration "against that racist paragon of Southern gentility, the Chase Hotel." She doesn't want him to endanger their children just so they can "pee after some po white trash, or rich white trash for that matter."

The house on Windermere is just around the corner from Soldan High School and a block west of Clark elementary school.

The street was planned in 1895 as a private place for well-off white people who could afford to build homes costing at least $5,000. No. 27 Windermere Place - with six bedrooms and more than 4,300 square feet - is currently listed for sale at $425,000. No. 4 is listed at $399,000.

The Hollie family that lives in Berry's old house, No. 13, moved there in 1977.

"We're in the midst of a lot of redevelopment," Rita Hollie says. "It's been a good, stable neighborhood. We have a good sense of community."

Just west of the cul-de-sac is a park where Visitation Academy was before it was demolished in the early 1960s. The small neighborhood is known as Visitation Park.

The park itself, however, was renamed Ivory Perry after the civil rights worker. A few years ago, it gained notoriety because a boy was mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs in the park. The incident led not only to a stray roundup but a fund-raising campaign for a new city animal shelter.

Nearby criminal activity has kept neighbors watching out for one another, but overall the street has been quiet, Hollie says.

She had not heard of Shange's novel, she says. But last year, she had her house on tour, and some of the Berrys came through.

"The daughters remembered that the third-floor ballroom had been a play area. Mrs. Berry said that if we put (the house) on the market we should notify her.

"Folks are beginning to discover Windermere Place. They are beginning to notice that there are houses on Windermere comparable to those south of Delmar."

The Hollies sent their children to Catholic schools, but when Shange came to St. Louis, she went just down the street to Clark (now called Clark Accelerated Academy).

In 1959, she entered a gifted program and was one of the first black students to attend the Dewey School on Clayton Avenue. She told the Post-Dispatch in 1976 that "I was surrounded all day by white children with whom I had very tenuous relationships. . . . Being part of a historical movement, the civil rights movement, had implications nobody knew it had."

Today, Shange remembers the school system as remarkable and says she had an "incredible educational foundation."

She doesn't know if today's city students have the same opportunities. But the desegregation of schools was never the only issue she wanted to explore in "Betsey Brown."

"My life as a black person was very, very full, and that issue about being in school was just one thing I had to deal with."

She wanted to make it evident that the black communities of the 1950s were "bountiful and supportive and that integration somewhat disrupted that."

The once self-described black nationalist admits today, though, that "I'm not sure I would have gotten the same education I got if I hadn't been put in the gifted program."

Although St. Louis may not be as segregated as it was 50 years ago, it still seems somewhat unaware of its own diversity. Jonathan C. Smith, assistant professor of American Studies at St. Louis University, grew up in Chicago. When he came here to Washington University, Smith says, he was surprised that employers, schools and communities seemed to stay in their own small worlds, giving few signs of acknowledging others. "If you're at SLU, (you think St. Louis) looks like SLU. If you're at Washington University, it looks like Washington University to you.

"If your community happens to be white, you probably don't know how diverse the black community is," he says.

Read MOre is a collaborative effort by Missouri public libraries, bookstores such as Left Bank Books and other organizations such as the Missouri Historical Society and the Missouri Humanities Council. It started in 2002 with the book "Farewell to Manzanar." The next pick was "Enemy Women," and the third was "Mississippi Solo". This year's book is Ntozake Shange's "Betsey Brown".