First and foremost, a very happy birthday to Miss Claire Bea, and many more. In honor of your birthday, I've bought a Powerball ticket, and if I win, you get a third. So fingers crossed . . .
I'd like to get down to Portland today for at least part of the Maine Festival of the Book, but have a frightening pile of things to do, and the service light's on in my car. The car did make it up to Waterville and back last night, for the opening night of "Camelot" at the Waterville Opera House. Congratulations to the cast and orchestra on excellent performances; the show runs five more performances, through April 18.
1. "Long Distance Runaround," Red House Painters. A terrific, deconstructed cover of the Yes classic. Halfway through it becomes a snarling electric guitar solo that turns the whole song into a kind of sonnet, lazy octet atop a spinning sestet. Thanks to Jon Jordan for recommending this album (Songs for a Blue Guitar).
2. "Desire As," Prefab Sprout. These guys never got the attention they deserved in the United States. I was only vaguely aware of them until a friend gave me the 2-CD reissue of their masterpiece, Steve McQueen, for Christmas a couple of years ago. The album has been near the top of my playlist ever since. This cut is from the second disc; it's an acoustic reinvention of a song that appears on the first disc as a straightforward pop breakup song. The acoustic rearrangement turns it into something both dreamier and more powerful: "I've got six things on my mind/You're no longer one of them."
3. "Ripple," Grateful Dead. One of the best-known tracks off American Beauty. I never liked it much, but it's grown on me over the years. Before you ask, I have never tasted Ripple, the wine. It's not still on the market, is it?
4. "King Porter Stomp [Live]," Louis Armstrong. Man, I love a trumpet. Which reminds me: I need to find a place to watch "Treme" tomorrow night, having given up my HBO more than a year ago. Do you live in central Maine? Do you have HBO? Can I come over to your house to watch TV? I'll bring snacks.
5. "What's a Fella Gotta Do," The Eels. Ooh, it's a Jordan family set this morning; this track was a gift from the astonishing Jennifer. Thanks, Jen! Hombre Lobo is a brilliant album — and perfect house-cleaning music, so I'd better get to it.