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Wednesday, Dec 13 1995
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Dinah Washington
Blue Gardenia: Songs of Love
(EmArcy/Verve)

"Just bring me the bitch who can do what I can do -- and do it all well," Dinah Washington once said. That's a typical quip from the legendary jazz vocalist -- vitriolic, but dead-on. More than 24 albums strong (she recorded 444 songs for Mercury alone), Washington's repertoire remains pretty much unchallenged three decades after her death.

Like Billie Holiday, Washington lived a tough life, but there's not a sign of it in the music of Blue Gardenia: Songs of Love. A new compilation of tracks recorded between 1954 and 1961, two years before Washington swallowed a lethal mix of alcohol and diet pills, this disc confirms that when it came to her art, she was no fool, contrary to any lyrics she sang about silly love. Washington would have approved of the CD cover: the infamous bridge from Madison County superimposed over her portrait.

The true blue cuts "I'll Close My Eyes," "Never Let Me Go," and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" are backed by famed soloists from the Quincy Jones Orchestra -- Lucky Thompson, Clark Terry, and Benny Golson, among others. The jazz side of Washington's soul really stretches out on "There Is No Greater Love," her milky yet ironic and worldly voice rising above the equally gorgeous trumpet streaks of Clifford Brown's and Max Roach's plush rhythms. On the title cut, Paul Quinichettes' sax notes mime Washington's scintillating syllables. Other choice cuts are "Unforgettable," "When I Fall in Love," "I'm a Fool to Want You," and "This Love of Mine," in which she imbues jazz with elements from gospel, blues, R&B, and bebop.

"Nobody ever asked me for any hair," Washington once argued when asked that she glamorize her simple 'do and image. Why bother? She knew it was her voice, not her looks, that truly mattered. And after one listen to Blue Gardenia, it's obvious that no one can conquer a song like Dinah Washington can.

-- Zoe Anglesey

Red Red Meat
Bunny Gets Paid
(Sub Pop)

Last year, an SF Weekly writer dissed Chicago's Red Red Meat for being self-indulgent and unoriginal, for evoking many bands but sounding like none in particular. "A thin carpaccio of meat," he sniffed, "proves sufficient." Trouble is, of course, that the critic in question was I, and I'd kill for just about anything that would get the taste of my own foot out of my mouth.

Red Red Meat (not to be confused with locals Red Meat) are purveyors of "difficult" music, and the tertiary Bunny Gets Paid is the toughest yet: Many songs ("Idiot Son," "Variations on Nadia's Theme") don't actually start or end, but fall together like lovers, syncopate for a while, then drift apart. The vocals are buried, Tim Rutili's shy voice one element in a sonic wash that leans toward junkie country. Imagine Flaming Lips covering a Merle Haggard ballad. Even discernible snippets of lyric -- "pissed in the hibachi," "feel like sex and talk like 25" -- don't make much sense. Genuine stop-alongs like "Chain Chain Chain" or the slow-dancing "Oxtail" come along only occasionally.

But like a large mosaic made of a thousand tiny images, Red Red Meat's music comes into focus when you don't scrutinize it, a crucial difference I couldn't see last year. Take "Buttered," an impressionistic soliloquy built of Rutili's $10 guitar and hoarse voice: It's lovely, hollow, bittersweet. Throughout it, echoes of strings and synthesizer gust into the song like gathering wind, or the chills you feel in the weeks before winter comes. Though you can't hear its words, you arrive at the song's end feeling deep, unspoken loneliness and loss.

Take a step back and blur your eyes a bit; it took me almost two years to appreciate Red Red Meat and the palate should be satisfied far faster. Call it an acquired taste.

-- Colin Berry

About The Author

Colin Berry

About The Author

Zoe Anglesey

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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