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Zuider Zee
(image) Lost tracks from one of Memphis’ seminal bands are released.

As I speak with the songwriter on the other end of the phone, it's a bit difficult to believe that he's from Lafayette, Louisiana: His accent is colored with the rounded tones of the English midlands. "I bounce back and forth between the U.S. and the U.K., as you can hear in my voice," explains Richard Orange, chief guitarist and songwriter of the long lost Memphis band Zuider Zee. Though he now lives in Orange County, California, to these ears, it's proof positive that he is an artist committed to growth and change, just as he was in the early 1970s, when his group was poised to take the world by storm.

Memphis is already familiar with one tale of unsung power pop masters who cut marvelous tracks here in the early 1970s, only to languish in obscurity. So iconic is the Big Star story that it's a shock to learn, with this year's release of Zuider Zee's Zeenith (Light in the Attic Records), that there was an even more obscure band woodshedding and recording in Memphis at the same time. Like Big Star, Zuider Zee (it rhymes with cider tea) was creating highly original music that holds up remarkably well today, but that is where all Big Star comparisons must end.

The greater adventurism in the songs, sounds, and arrangements of Zeenith are what make Zuider Zee unique, somehow redefining both power pop and prog rock simultaneously. Certainly, the band was drawing inspiration from the Beatles' example of constant evolution, not to mention other sounds coming from across the pond. "What I liked at the time was mostly from England. I just adored King Crimson," says Orange. Like those icons of prog, Zuider Zee was actively seeking novel sounds, textures, and harmonies (including a greater use of keyboards). But, unlike most prog, all innovations were in the service of concise songs that eschewed long flights of virtuosity.

Hearing the adventurism of Zuider Zee's production and songcraft, it's astounding that all of the tracks on Zeenith were previously unreleased, having been cut as demos at Memphis' Trans Maximus International (TMI) studios. Those demos arose from still earlier demos the band cut in Louisiana under the name Thomas Edisun's Electric Light Bulb Band [sic]. When Mississippi-based promoter and manager Leland Russell heard those, "he came and hunted me down in high school," says Orange. Ultimately, Russell convinced them all to join him in a move to Memphis, where he set them up in a band house across from his new home on Raleigh LaGrange.

Once there, they relentlessly honed their material. "One thing I can say about that band is, I made them rehearse a lot," recalls Orange. "We were very well rehearsed before we would go in and cut. So we could do a lot of those arrangements in real time." The blend of turn-on-a-dime performances and imaginative production bells and whistles adds up to a kind of loose perfectionism in the tracks. While Orange's voice has echoes of Paul McCartney or Freddie Mercury, things never get too glossy: The foibles give the record an earthy humanity that is sometimes missing from power pop.

Ultimately, Zuider Zee did get their big break with a major label, but that was years after these demos, and it was too little, too late. "The material on Zeenith wasn't really an album. We just put that together for this release. Zuider Zee on Columbia Records in 1975 was a big deal. But they just completely dropped the ball. Probably no one's heard of it because they never released a single. And in those days, radio wouldn't play you unless you told them what to play."

As if to refute the fickle logic of major labels like Columbia, the once-forgotten demos pre-dating their big break now add up to one of the best releases of 2018, or any year: a strange, inventive hybrid made by Louisiana boys stuck in the Bluff City, casting their eyes to England for a bit of transcendence.

Year One
Year One
Work by Jill Samuels
Opening reception Friday, November 9, 6-8pm
Eclectic Eye
242 South Cooper Street

Year One is a collection of mixed-media pieces that utilize acrylic, watercolor, maps and embroidery thread in their creation. These pieces carry distinct, feminine material references, while dealing with the human experiences of chance, intuition, balance and control. This collection of abstract pieces evokes nuanced responses that are clear, emotional and reflective. 

After teaching elementary school for more than a decade, Jill Samuels committed herself to developing an established studio practice. Upon completion of her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she continued her education at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and Flicker Street Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Jill currently works in her studio, in the historic South Main Arts District in Memphis, and has shown work locally at the Levy Gallery and Art Village Gallery.

Rapture, Melissa Wilkinson

Work up through December 5
Clough Hanson Gallery
Rhodes College

Artists explore the body at, against, and beyond its boundaries, creating hybrids, amalgams, and excesses that illuminate the ways that politics and pleasures are made flesh. Featuring work by Katie Torn, Alex Paulus, Melissa Wilkinson, and Moth Moth Moth and the Haus of Phantosea.

Clough-Hanson Gallery is located in Clough Hall on the campus of Rhodes College. The gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday, 11-5. Admission is always free. 
Huge Lineup Of Memphis Musicians Come Together To Benefit Saxophone Legend Dr. Herman Green
Octogenarian saxophone legend Dr. Herman Green is one of Memphis' most loved and respected musicians. Some recent health problems have left him in a bad spot, so his friends have organized a concert to help him out. And Dr. Green has a lot of friends.

This Saturday, November 10th, beginning at 3 p.m. and running until the wee hours of Sunday, Rum Boogie Cafe will be packed wall to wall with some prime Memphis talent, thanks to his friend and longtime bandmate in Freeworld, Richard Cushing, and Memphis Blues Society board member Mark E. Caldwell. Just check out this mind boggling, two-stage lineup: 

Blues Hall

3:00 – 3:25 p.m.: Southern Avenue
3:35 – 4:00 p.m.: Blind Mississippi Morris
4:10 – 4:35 p.m.: Brad Webb & Friends
4:45 – 5:10 p.m.: Papa Don McMinn’s Blues Babies
5:20 – 5:45 p.m.: Tlaxica & Pope
5:55 – 6:25 p.m.: Mojo Medicine Machine
6:35 – 7:00 p.m.: Eric Hughes Band (w/ Mick Kolassa)
7:10 – 7:35 p.m.: Booker Brown
7:45 – 8:10 p.m.: Outer Ring
8:20 – 8:50 p.m.: Mark “Muleman” Massey
9:00 – 9:30 p.m.: Vince Johnson & Plantation Allstars
9:40 – 10:05 p.m.: Lizzard Kings
10:15 – 11:00 p.m.: Chinese Connection Dub Embassy
11:15 – 1:00 a.m.: Sister Lucille

Rum Boogie Café

3:00 – 3:25 p.m.: Billy Gibson Duo
3:35 – 4:00 p.m.: Barbara Blue Band
4:10 – 4:35 p.m.: Mighty Souls Brass Band
4:45 – 5:10 p.m.: Robert Nighthawk & Wampus Cats
5:20 – 5:45 p.m.: Jack Rowell & Royal Blues Band
5:55 – 6:25 p.m.: Delta Project
6:35 – 7:00 p.m.: Ghost Town Blues Band
7:10 – 7:35 p.m.: Devil Train
7:45 – 8:10 p.m.: Earl “The Pearl” Banks
8:20 – 8:50 p.m.m: Ross Rice
9:00 – 9:30 p.m.: The Temprees
9:40 – 10:05 p.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Ms. Zeno & Al Corte)
10:15 – 11:00 p.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Ross Rice)
11:15 – 1:00 a.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Dr. Herman Green)

If you can't find something you like in there, I don't know if I can help you. If you can't make the show, but still want to help out the good doctor, you can contribute to the GoFundMe drive at this link.
The Death of Fear

The Death of Fear
Opening reception Friday, November 9
Beverly + Sam Ross Gallery
Christian Brothers University

The Death of Fear explores President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 concept of Freedom from Fear from the perspective of two artists, Nelson Gutierrez and Sisavanh Houghton who immigrated to the United States. Through methods of isolation, abstraction and collage, each artist explore states of flux, the disconnection from destructive places or politics, and the fearless pursuit for a better life.This exhibition is par of For Freedoms which is a platform for greater participation in the arts and in civil society. They produce exhibitions, installations, public programs, and billboard campaigns to advocate for inclusive civic participation. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear— For Freedoms Federation uses art to encourage and deepen public explorations of freedom in the 21st century. Founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms Federation encourages new forms of critical discourse. Their mission is to use art as a vehicle to build greater participation in American Democracy.             
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