Brando's Autumn On Hold | Michael Jackson: You Read It Here First | James Carr
Marlon Brando's big comeback was meant to be as the star of a movie adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Autumn of the Patriarch. Sean Penn was supposed to direct Autumn, but two obstacles have occurred, says screenwriter and producer Jerzy Kromolowski.
"First there's the whole issue of the strike. Second, Garcia Marquez has been very sick. So the whole thing is on hold. I don't know if it will ever happen. It's too bad, the part was written specifically for Brando."
Kromolowski and Penn — who collaborated on The Pledge, which opens January 19th — are nevertheless going ahead with another project, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.
"Oh you know Hollywood," Kromolowski told me. "A studio executive actually thought the book was written by a friend of mine named William Faulkner. He said, You tell your friend Bill Faulkner." I couldn't believe it. Faulkner and Hemingway are the only American novelists to win the Nobel Prize.
"For years Faulkner's daughter wouldn't give the rights to the book. So I wrote the script on spec and showed it to her. She said, 'Bless you, you got it right.' It's a black comedy."
As I Lay Dying may also be affected by the looming Hollywood strike, however. "It's a summer shoot, down in Oxford, Mississippi, mostly outdoors. If we can't shoot it this summer, we have to wait."
Big news yesterday that Michael Jackson would be recording some songs with his brothers. Also, according to the Associated Press, he's doing a conference on children February 14th at Carnegie Hall.
Of course readers of this column knew all this weeks ago — on November 22nd! Michael told me in an exclusive interview that he was planning to record with his brothers once he'd finished his album and produced a record for his nephews' group, 3T.
Yesterday's announcement seems to have been prompted by brother Jermaine Jackson, who told a satellite radio interview that a full reunion was planned. Poor Jermaine — he's trying to cash in on Michael, while Michael's just hopeful he can cash in on himself. Those Jacksons sure know how dredge a well until it's dry. I hope, for Jermaine's sake, that there's something left to capitalize on.
The great soul singer James Carr passed away Sunday night in Memphis. He was only 58, but had been ill for some time, as readers of this column know. What an absolute shame this is: there is no video of James anywhere and barely a mention of him in the various bombastic histories of rock and roll. I am hopeful that Michael Greene and the folks at the Grammys include a picture and mention of him in their Grammy memorial on February 21st.
James' greatest hits, Essential James Carr, is a one-CD set available from Razor and Tie Records via CDNow.com. After so many years of mental anguish, may he rest in peace. And my many thanks to Sharon MacIntosh and the folks at the Court Manor Nursing Home in Memphis for taking such good care of James in his last year.
Quinton Claunch, Carr's longtime friend and producer, recalled last night: "He had a heart as big as a mountain and never said anything bad about anyone. He was the greatest R&B voice that's ever come along, the greatest talent. His timing was impeccable and he could learn a song fast. I think he fronted some shows for Otis Redding, and played with a lot of the big acts."
Carr's last show in New York, a rarity, was in 1992 with Carla Thomas, another legend (and still alive and singing like an angel in Memphis).
Besides all the early stuff, Claunch recorded two albums with James in the late 80s and early 90s. "I picked him up every Saturday and drove him to Iuka, Mississippi, 130 miles from Memphis. We'd drive down there, man and do one a song a week. It took 10 weeks. He was a true friend. I was crazy about him."
Claunch recently found five unreleased tracks of Carr's that he produced — "It sounds as good as anything he recorded in the Sixties." 24-Karat Soul will be released nationally sometime this winter, produced by Claunch. I've heard some of the unreleased stuff and it's extraordinary.
Herewith are the liner notes to Essential James Carr, written by Tim Schuller, which tell James Carr's story.
In 1967, mysterious James Carr cut "The Dark End of the Street," a true gem of soul. It was a hit. He had others, though none as big, and a magnificent voice. He was also neurotic, given to depression and unfit for showbiz. This is a 20-cut overview of his output from 1964-'69.
Carr wasn't a songwriter. He sang what was handed him, so not everything here is great. "Freedom Train" sounds like a TV ad, but his wraparound voice intensified even such relative fluff.
With good material, he was transcendent. "The Dark End of the Street" was written by those two influential white dudes of Southern soul, Dan Penn and Chips Moman. From the echoplexed chord that guitarist Reg Young uses to intro the song, it's a statement of captivating power. The lyrics are good, and so's the playing, but it's Carr's voice — dark, lustrous and taut with emotion — that makes the song immortal.
Rife with gospel fervor is "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man." He heads into Otis Redding turf with 'Coming Back to Me Baby' and the fervid 'Love Attack,' both sides of a 45 from 1966. Two years earlier he cut "You Don't Want Me," more of a straight blues song than anything else he ever did, and spurred by a fine horn section.
Wrackingly poignant (and sadly prophetic) is "You've Got My Mind Messed Up." Even perky "Lovable Girl" is given weight by his compelling voice and sheer emotionality. Some might be surprised to note he was charting as recently as 1969, with a good version of "To Love Somebody" (by the Bee Gees).
Missing from Carr's oeuvre are screechy, happy soul raves à la James Brown. Some cuts are lively, but Carr's side of soul was a somber one. Credit Razor & Tie for being ballsy enough to release this CD in delicious mono, and for including a well-written essay by Colin Escott. This is an essential collection for soul fans, by an artist who sang so movingly of the dark because he knew it all too well.