Albums & Ice Cream, edition 5

Earlier this week, two things happened to inspire the 5th issue/edition of Albums & Ice Cream. The weekly CSA (farm share) offered second pint of sweet cherries and I had a day trip with my son to the Jersey shore.

The first quart of cherries were pitted and set out on the table last week, eaten within a couple of days. The second quart was pitted, but after listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the car with my son explaining to me all of the musical details, it only made sense to put these together on this post.

I had a job as a teen at the Kenosha Spot Drive In; serving ice cream sundaes and making shakes, malts and root beer whirls. We had four flavors; vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and one rotating “other” flavor, either butter pecan, or New York Cherry. I loved that ice cream with hot fudge. I don’t see this flavor very often in our regular ice cream parlors, so I wonder if it’s a “vintage” flavor, or one that was more regional to the mid-west. Which would be weird since it was “New York” cherry.

Oddly, the only recipes I found were Philly style base.  I prefer the French style. I’m getting better at making my own custard base, with a bit of consideration toward sensibility. I’m not religiously following the instruction to use 6 egg yolks. I use three whole eggs, and temper them more carefully. The strainer takes care of the tiny bits of white that cook. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to keep it from freezing into a solid block of ice. This batch was a basic vanilla ice cream with an added splash of almond extract, then fresh local cherries cut in half and stirred into the custard by the machine.

While my son’s insights into the Pink Floyd album were more focused on the drums and lyrics, I was listening with a flush of memories of recording a Tribute Band of the album name in Rochester for my doctoral studies. I was applying anthropological theory and research practice to understand the attraction of a then new phenomenon in the local music scene; the tribute band. I saw a connection to audience building for the symphony orchestra, and made the case in my work, much to the dismay of the conservative music history department at Eastman. This was 1995, the height of the culture wars, and before the term” audience building” was a thing in the arts. I was onto something then, and I still am today.

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Albums & Ice Cream, 3rd edition – June 12

I’m finding inspiration for new music and books in traditional places; weekend reviews on television and radio, and recommendations from friends. CBS Saturday morning has two regular features that often inspire new music to explore (“Saturday Sessions”) and dining ideas from the segment, “The Dish.”

Anthony Mason is a great music reviewer/ interviewer. I’m so glad he’s on the air for these features that offer a slice of humanity to balance the political news. But this post isn’t a review of where I find ideas – it’s the 3rd installment of this summer’s blog series, “Albums & Ice Cream.”

On June 3, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys was on the segment to perform a couple of tracks of his new solo album, “Waiting on a Song.” If you head over to the CBS This Morning – Saturday website and scroll down, you’ll find three songs performed, and an interview with Dan Auerbach about making his second solo album. If you’re a fan of the Black Keys, this interview offers a good perspective on why his solo albums sound different from the style of the Black Keys. As a producer, he’s showing a particular feel that’s more of his origin story. I tend to favor artists who produce their albums. They have more vision for the overall listening experience. Here is another interview from NPR in which he digs further into his ideas.

“Waiting on a Song” (the title track) has a good retro country/folk feel. Hard to listen to without having your foot join in. But the track that really got me interested in the album was “Shine on Me.” The opening line, “You only got a couple miles to go – if you’re trying to drive me insane.”

Listening to the album – which Steve already had downloaded on iTunes because he’s way more on top of the music scene than I am – the ice cream flavor that came to mind is salted caramel. Caramel is a warm flavor to me; and a little bit of salt (of the earth) rounds out the flavor so much that I don’t feel I can ever eat too much of this stuff.

I found this recipe on Epicurious. I swapped Kosher salt for the “flaky sea salt” in the recipe – it’s going to melt anyway. I also accidentally added all of the cream to the cooked sugar. But it didn’t harm the process.

I’m starting to learn a better time management for making and setting ice cream. It’s similar to letting bread dough proof. In order for the ice cream to set up well, it has to sit in the freezer for about four hours before I can serve it. After having the family taste the custard before I put it in the ice cream maker, we we’re patient enough for that long.

What was left the day after stayed soft in the freezer. I’m starting to build a sense for what kind of recipes might be more successful than others. I’m liking where this adventure is going.

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Albums & Ice Cream – May 31

Albums & Ice Cream – May 31

A friend I met through Twitter has a theme on his Instagram account called “Dinner and Vinyl.” Following his inspiration, I will blend a couple of goals I have for mastering a cooking technique, expanding my listening experience, and enjoying both on our patio in the warm summer air. Fair readers, let me welcome you to a new weekly topic:

“Albums and Ice Cream.”

Albums – because it may not always be vinyl, but it will be the entire album of work with a few brief comments on the overall impression. There is artistic thought into the flow of an album; the order of songs and the sense of journey throughout. Sure, there will be songs that grab me more than others, but to fully experience the listening, I give myself the gift of undivided attention and don’t talk over it either.

Ice Cream – because… c’mon! Do I really have to explain that?

This post features a new to me chocolate ice cream recipe and Little Steven Van Zandt’s new album, “Soulfire.”

Downloaded last week, the first tune, “Soulfire” already claimed the spot for my song of the summer. It’s got a great opening feel that makes me want to get in the car and just drive. With each track, you start to hear similar arrangements to some of the E Street Band; no doubt, his touch. He produced the album with so much nostalgic sound. Give track 8 a listen and tell me if that doesn’t have a familiar groove. According to my husband, if it’s got a trombone solo, it’s already a classic. And yes, this tune has a trombone solo. If you haven’t closed your eyes and started a little sway while listening; you have no soul.

Here’s a solid introduction to the album by Lara Stavropoulos on udiscovermusic. com. In the article, she mentions some of the tools and people in the album. She also reminded me that it’s been twenty years since his last solo album. This album, dear Mr. Van Zandt, is so worth the wait. If you choose to look for it on Spotify, that’s fine. But do the artist a solid and buy the entire album. There’s more than 15 other musicians on the album to get paid, too.

The ice cream recipe was ok. It was a regular egg custard with a cocoa powder base, and chopped semi-sweet chocolate melted into the base before cooling and adding cream and vanilla. No matter how much you think the solid chocolate melted, there’s still a grainy feel to the custard. I’ll keep trying other chocolate ice cream recipes.

In case you’re wondering, I do have an electric ice cream machine that makes these experiments possible. It sits patiently in my basement storage area until Memorial Day and gets its full measure of work until Labor Day.

Well these posts are going to be fun to pull together. I hope you’ll join me in the fun of exploring new sounds and new tastes. If you do, please share!

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What I’m listening to – May 27

What I’m listening to – May 27

Another artist of my formative years passes, Gregg Allman. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Allman Brothers, but we do have “Eat a Peach” in our vinyl collection. We have a a friend sleepover going on, otherwise we’d be playing this now. I’ll pull it on tomorrow morning while peeling Sunday morning breakfast potatoes.

The social media scroll today was filled with tributes. One of my friends, who happens to be a fellow cheese head in addition to being a 20 year veteran of the Lehigh Valley music scene posted a picture of an altar and this reflection:

The Allmans just happened to be in town. One of the craziest concert experiences of my life ensued…they came out for the 2nd set and played in such a way that, stone cold sober as I was, they created some sort of frequencies, vibes, what-have-you, that I absolutely thought I was tripping…they literally were able to change the room through their music and take you to some completely different realm.

This got me thinking about the times I’ve found myself in this state. A higher lever of consciousness that you can’t look for, you just find yourself in it.

What are the conditions that encourage this mental state? Is it comfort? Hunger? Booze? Exhaustion? Deep knowledge? Variable of all the above?

If one were to ask me when I’ve been in this state myself, I can flash back to all of the details of the moment. My soul craves this place. Can you recall a time where you found yourself in this place?

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What I’m Listening To – May 15

My family took me out for Mother’s Day dinner last night. The restaurant had Frank Sinatra playing. I remember my father-in-law had a few of his albums. It’s the kind of music that brings a nostalgia and class to the moment.

We have this album on the home library; digital files. My Funny Valentine, The Girl Next Door, A Foggy Day, Like Someone in Love, I Get a Kick Out of You, Little Girl Blue, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, Violets for Your Furs. How can you not sing along with these tunes?

In keeping with the romance, I’ve added Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience to the playlist. [Whahhht?!?!] Yes, 50+ year old women like JT just as much as Ol’ Blue Eyes. There’s something about “Suit & Tie” that makes me wanna jump out of my office chair and dance. Good thing my office window looks out into a back yard.

Why so much romance? The temperatures are finally warming up. Long nights with beverages and lawn chairs on the patio. Music and conversation with Steve. These moments are precious.

No, the romance has nothing to do with the upcoming formal dance our kids are attending this Friday. (I’m still not ready for this turn in their teen lives.)

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What I’m Listening to – April 23

Lazy Sunday mornings. Kids sleep in after a late night of solving middle school social problems. The beasts wake me with demands of food and opening the back door.

I turn on the CD player to accompany puttering around the house, and prepare breakfast. I see the pile of CDs I’ve listened to in the afternoons. With the new job, I have an hour between the office and starting my chauffeur, cook services. Once dinner is done, I’m usually running to my own evening activities: teaching, rehearsals, or soaking in the many community cultural assets.

These hours of reflection and listening to music are precious. Some of the playlist for this past week was:

Billy Childs – Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
My introduction to this music came at my former admin position. Deborah Sacarakis, the artistic director for the guest artist series at Zoellner, brings stellar artists to Bethlehem. Hearing Esperanza Spalding, and Lisa Fischer live at Baker Hall earlier made connecting to this album even sweeter. The featured artists on the album were replaced by his touring musicians; all spectacular. The drummer of this performance was wicked.

One of the things I miss was the privilege I had to meet the artists backstage, or catch a bit of the sound check. I was also able to connect a group of Lehigh students to meet the artist before the concert and take pictures with him. I’m hoping that in their future, they recall the moment fondly.

These memories are implanted in my head. They surface when I pull up the CD.

Don’t take my word for the excellence of the music. Here’s a review. Or watch this mix of videos with the artists

Convinced yet? Buy It.

Last week was Easter Sunday. My husband has a tradition of listening to the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar. I still get chills hearing Ian Gillan singing “I only want to say (Gethsemane).”

I’ve added to the tradition with Peter Gabriel’s “Passion: Music for The Last Temptation Of Christ, a film by Martin Scorsese.” It’s one of my favorite Peter Gabriel albums. The instrumental album mixes electronics with western and middle eastern instruments beautifully. Here’s track number 12.

Right now, I’m listening to Vance Gilbert’s Old White Men album.

The first time I heard Vance was in Bowling Green, Ohio. A friend was trying to launch a folk music series in the restaurant that regularly featured live jazz. I was smitten with his music and audience banter. When I moved to Bethlehem, I saw he was playing at Godfrey Daniels. Feeling a bit homesick for my Bowling Green friends, I thought to go hear him. It was my first time attending a concert at Godfrey’s. My husband went with me. Vance played “Old White Men” and we both found that same speck of dust in our eyes.

We bought the album that night. I take it for a spin when I need a little grounding. Vance’s music does that for my soul. I signed up for his newsletter on his website for a little Vitamin Vance. He blogs about his gigs or sometimes his reactions to events. His response to the Sandy Hook shooting was the tenderness and anger I wanted to express. He did it for me.

I hear Vance live at Godfrey’s whenever I can. I hope after you read this, and dig a little bit into his music, you might make an effort to remember I said it’s a show you don’t want to miss. No need to thank me. Thank Vance by supporting his music.

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What I’m Listening To This Week – April 1

Inspirations to revisit the vinyl collection come from anywhere. This week, a Facebook friend posted a video of David Crosby and Graham Nash singing Stephen Still’s song “Find The Cost Of Freedom ” with David Gilmour.

Powerful stuff, especially given the lyrics relevance today. Of course this became the ear worm for the morning shower, and coffee, and lingered through morning writing sessions. It was the devil that needed to be heard.

Crosby Stills Nash Young – So Far (1974)
I was nine years old when the album was released. I remember hearing it a few years later when my sister would play it on her side of the room to help her fall asleep. I can’t help but sing along to all of these songs. I try my hand at the harmonies, grateful that the only souls can hear me try to sing them are the beasts in the house.

Side One
Déjà Vu
Helplessly Hoping
Wooden Ships
Teach Your Children
Find the Cost of Freedom

Side Two
Our House
Suite Judy Blue Eyes

The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl (1984)
Do the math; you’ll find me old enough to be in college when this album was released. I’ve got a reunion coming up this summer. Our Facebook group has been pretty actively sharing memories and photos. There’s one thread of songs we’d want to hear at the event. There’s too much music from these times in our lives to squeeze into a few parties. And if you have the entire album, connecting the songs as they were intended to be heard by the artists and the producers is what makes an album a much deeper listening experience than singles on the (hate to say it, but it’s the truth…) oldies stations.

Speaking of oldies, I’ve given you links to videos for some songs of the album. If you wasted lots of time watching late night MTV music videos, here’s another way to skip along memory lane. If I couldn’t find an original video, I found concert footage of the album tour. If I couldn’t find that, I didn’t link to a video. I’ll say that looking up videos of my youth is a rabbit hole with many turns. It’s perfect activity for insomnia. You’re welcome.

Side 1
Middle of the Road
Back on the Chain Gang
Time the Avenger
Watching the Clothes
Show Me

Side 2
My City Was Gone (note: not happy that a certain radio talk show host took this as his theme song; but she got the last punch in-1)
Thin Line Between Love and Hate
I Hurt You
2000 Miles

Final thought – if any reader can tell me the geographical connection between these two albums, you’ll win the fur-lined teacup. Go ahead, do a little research. Wikipedia is a totally acceptable starting point in my classroom.

1- “Really Randoms: Chrissie Hynde, Ricky Martin, Jimmy Page”. Rolling Stone. February 17, 2009.