Well what a long road it has been for this project. We first reported on it here at Totally Gonzo back in October of 2009 and have been eagerly awaiting its release ever since. Last November we received a tantalising update on the record courtesy of Ethan Persoff, who also earlier contributed an intriguing profile of Paris Records and their projects to the Evergreen Review. For those of you interested in work by Burroughs, Terry Southern, Ginsberg et al his article is a must read.
As for the Kentucky Derby project well I am delighted to say the wait is finally over and the record is finally available via iTunes and Amazon. I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard about this record. I’m don’t ever really listen to audio books and I always get nervous about any adaptation or interpretation of Thompson’s writing. When it works it is great but when it doesn’t…well the less said the better.
Thankfully, this record has more than exceeded my expectations. Which is a huge relief as The Kentucky Derby article is one of my favourite pieces by Thompson and is pretty much hallowed ground in the Gonzo cannon. Failure is not an option. I think it is fair to say that full credit must go to Michael Minzer for bringing Hal Willner on board as producer along with composer Bill Frisell, whose accompanying musical score is a delight and without which this project would have no doubt suffered greatly.
As for the cast, obviously the number one question concerns Tim Robbins role as Hunter. When he was first announced in the role I was intrigued. I never thought that he was an obvious choice for the part but I have always been a huge fan of his work ever since I saw The Shawshank Redemption (if you are one of the few mortals who haven’t seen this film then you need to rectify this immediately). I suppose having gotten used to Johnny Depp portraying Thompson onscreen it has become difficult to imagine anyone else playing that role. Comparisons are inevitable, even for such a different project as this. Thankfully however, Robbins is an inspired choice as the Good Doctor. At first it is a bit jarring to hear another actor take on the role, but what a take it is. Robbins brings a wealth of experience to the table here and it really shows. Some people might find Robbins increasingly frenetic delivery a little odd but I think it fits with the material well, particularly as a reflection of the manic energy that defines the Gonzo narrative.
I also took particular delight in the fact that Ralph Steadman came on board to play his part in the story, which lends that extra dimension of authentic Gonzo flavour to the album, not to mention his iconic Kentucky Derby artwork that decorates the sleeve of the album and CD itself. The rest of the cast put in solid performances but I have to single out Dr. John for his take on Jimbo which had me grinning like a fool. He absolutely nails the part.
So now that the 138th Kentucky Derby is less than a month away, what better way to mark the occasion than to make yourself a Mint Julep and listen to this fantastic release courtesy of Paris Records and 429 Records.
All the best,
COMPETITION: If you would like to win 1 0f 5 copies of the album courtesy of 429records than check the Official Totally Gonzo Facebook Page for details.
Received a much appreciated heads-up recently on this project from Ethan Persoff who was lucky enough to get a pre-release listen courtesy of Michael Minzer, owner of Paris Records. Ethan wrote a great piece a while back about the company and their work (material by Burroughs, Ginsberg etc) which you can read here.
As for the Kentucky Derby record, here is what Ethan has to say:
” The album (a seven year effort) is a line-by-line rendition of the original article that Thompson wrote for Scanlan’s. Cast is Hunter S. Thompson played by Tim Robbins, Ralph Steadman performing as himself, and additional voice acting that includes Dr John and Annie Ross.
The music by Bill Frisell is quite strong, and perfect for the text (and not what one would expect). The entire atmosphere adds up to something very memorable – both surprising and a little haunting. I loved it.”
You can read the entire article, including details of the albums release here.
Ok for now,
Here is part 1 of a 2 part update tonight devoted to Ralph Steadman. Below is a video featuring none other than Nils Lofgren and a very special Fender Stratocaster with exclusive artwork by Ralph Steadman. This beauty is going under the hammer for charity and the starting bid is a whopping $30,000. It will no doubt go for a lot more.
The guitar is going to be on display for the next six months at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix before it departs to its new home. If you are interested in bidding you can do so here.
I on the other hand, as a lowly student, will be fawning over it like Wayne Campbell. Meanwhile stay tuned for some great Steadman news.
The folks over at The Quietus really gifted the Gonzo world a rare treat this week by unearthing this great interview with Hunter from 1998. It is fairly lengthy and covers some very interesting topics – from Bill Clinton to The Rum Diary. I’m not going to jabber on about this too much, it is just great to read new words (old words?) from the man, particularly in relation to his thoughts on Paul Kemp and Yeamon – check it out here.
In keeping with the whole Rum Diary focus, long time Gonzo devotee Robert Chalmers checks in over at The Independent with a great interview with Bruce Robinson – in which the director of The Rum Diary discussing everything from how he thought he was going to die in a plane crash with Johnny Depp to why writing The Rum Diary screenplay dredged up some old demons. Read the entire piece here.
Also Ralph Steadman is now a contributor over at Kotori Magazine. Check out his thoughts on smoking and not to mention his poetry! Thanks to Jake McGee for the heads up!
Ok for now – time to raise a toast to The Good Doctor,
A while back I blogged about this upcoming release and I was wondering how the project was coming along, so I decided to contact Paris Records to find out. Good news – they have just recorded the music tracks for the album in NYC.
Bill Frisell assembled a group of top New York session musicians to record his original compositions for the Paris Records project. Producers Hal Willner and Michael Minzer were very pleased indeed with the results– Minzer described the music as ” a picnic at Cape Fear. ” There’s some eerie tunes comin down……
Also I am delighted that Michael Minzer has decided to kindly share with us some photos from the recording session.
left to right: Ron Miles (trumpet), Bill Frisell (composer) and Jenny Scheinman (Violin)
Willner and Minzer ” You want THE EDGE ??…You got it!!! ”
I have to say that this project is shaping up to be something really special and as soon as there is a release date I will be sure to let you all know. Hopefully “soon” is the word!
Ok for now,
UPDATE: Anna Minzer has blogged about her father’s project and has revealed a tentative release date of Fall 2010. To read the article and see more pictures of the recording session click here.
UPDATE 2: Ralph Steadman has the entire Kentucky Derby article including original artwork over at his site.
Just received a heads up on this very exciting project. Many thanks to Rupe for spotting this and getting in touch!
So why I am so excited? How does a spoken word album of The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, starring Tim Robbins as Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman as … well, Ralph Steadman, sound to your Gonzo ears? Believe it or not the project is almost finished and should be coming to light by either the end of the year or early 2010 on Paris Records. Michael Minzer, founder of Paris Records, recently discussed the project with the Evergreenreview, and by the sounds of it we are in for a real treat.
According to Minzer, Robbins’ take on Hunter is the best he has ever heard. He is also thinking of releasing the record on vinyl only, at least for its initial release. Whatever form the release does take it will include previously unpublished photos taken by Steadman at the Derby in 1970!
I want this now!
Check out the entire interview with Michael Minzer here, you have to scroll down half way to read about the project and see a photo of Ralph and Tim recording their parts.