Song In My Head #96: “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Baby Lemonade

Almost immediately after pressing “publish” on the previous post (try saying that three times fast!), I was longing to hear this fantastically fuzzed-out Bee Gees cover. Baby Lemonade was beloved in their native Los Angeles (and by those who’d seen them backing up Love’s Arthur Lee) when they recorded “How Deep Is Your Love?” in 1992, but I didn’t discover the band until I picked up a copy of Melody Fair, the Bee Gees tribute album featuring this song. (Indie label Eggbert Records achieved notoriety among power-pop fans for its tribute records; those unswayed by Melody Fair fell hard for 1995’s Sing Hollies In Reverse. Naturally, I loved both! I can’t tell if Eggbert is still operational or not from its web presence, but you can hear sound clips and read Jud Cost’s excellent liner notes there, at least.) There should be more rocking reinterpretations of the Bee Gees’ disco era; if you know of one, please tell all in the comments!

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Burning questions about the Bee Gees concert medley

At lunch today, the restaurant’s music rocked so hard that I felt like the hero of this Archie Bell tune. I suddenly understood that deciding whether to eat or dance is an actual problem, especially when the Bee Gees started to play. (Before I continue, I should establish that I genuinely love the Bee Gees. One of my first and most-cherished records is a copy of Saturday Night Fever, eagerly cast off by a family friend embarrassed to have a disco album around in the early ’80s. I’ve long believed that Barry Gibb is the modern master of the minor key, and I stand by that statement. To reassure you music geek types, I also enjoy the band’s Beatlesque pop and challenging baroque eras. I even have the weird Sesame Street Fever record with its Robin Gibb cameo, though it’s only a bit of dialogue with Cookie Monster.) Anyway, the lengthy (string? synthesizer?) intro to “Night Fever” began, with enough background noise to let me know it came from a live recording. However, nobody in the audience cheered until Barry started to sing. My confusion mounted when the song abruptly veered into “More Than A Woman,” which had no audience reaction before the chorus. I’ve been thinking about this all afternoon. Even casual Bee Gees listeners would know the Saturday Night Fever material best, and wouldn’t a Bee Gees reunion tour audience be comprised of devoted, expert fans? I’m convinced that the weird crowd noise placement was added after the fact, to disguise some sort of recording or remastering glitch. Any recording engineers or Bee Gees superfans out there willing to explain? I’m truly puzzled…

This year’s summer reading (so far)!

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Summer reading is in full swing again, and what better way to celebrate than with my annual library book shelfie (as requested by the Santa Cruz Public Libraries summer reading bingo card)? So far, I highly recommend Robert Gordon’s Memphis Rent Party, which is every bit as spellbinding as his 1995 classic It Came From Memphis. Since I’m enrolled in eight different summer reading programs so far (with more to follow, because I’m obsessed), I’ll need plenty of book suggestions. Please sound off in the comments!

Congratulations To Cheryl Anderson, Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year

Not only was I touched by Cheryl Anderson’s warm demeanor when I first interviewed her in 2005, I was amazed by her stamina. She was working as the choral director for four of Cabrillo College’s six chorus groups on campus, and had recently led the Cabrillo Youth Chorus through a concert tour of eastern Europe. (You can read that interview in the “Cabrillo’s Harmonic Convergence” chapter of Going Coastal.) Since then, she’s served a two-year term as the Western Division President of the American Choral Directors Association and become the music director at the Peace United Church of Santa Cruz, while entering her 28th year as Cabrillo’s Director of Choral and Vocal Studies. On June 1st, the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission will name her as Santa Cruz County’s Artist of the Year for 2018. In celebration, a free gala performance will take place at Cabrillo’s Crocker Theater from 7 to 9 p.m. The retrospective of Anderson’s favorite music will include performances from six of her choral groups. Tickets are free, but available only from the box office on the night of the show; visit the Artist of the Year website for information.

Song In My Head #95: “Lee Remick” by the Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens released many fine songs during their 28-year career. Even so, I never understood why the Australian band’s 1978 debut single seems to fly under the radar. (Heck, even its B-side “Karen,” admittedly a prime example of the underrated “librarian crush” genre, is mentioned more often these days.) From the hoarsely harmonized “ba-ba-bas” to the chunky drums to the guileless rhyming of “gems” with “Gems” (Screen, that is), “Lee Remick” charmed its way into my heart instantly. (I’m still shocked that Robert Forster’s lyrics don’t mention Remick’s impressive baton-twirling skills, featured in the classic movie A Face In The Crowd. Oh, well. As I recall, the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson is a fan of that film, so fingers crossed that he will someday write a song about that…)

Adventures In Dessert #2: Matcha Muffins (or are they canneles?)

At long last, it’s time for the latest installment of Adventures In Dessert, where I try to replicate an intriguing sweet I’ve eaten by reverse-engineering various recipes. The saga of today’s treat begins at Academic Coffee in San Jose. As I ordered my latte, I spotted several individual banana cream pies in the refrigerator, and attempted to order one. The very friendly baristas informed me that, since they were day-olds, Third Culture Bakery had instructed them not to sell any. (I appreciate the dedication to quality, but believe me, that was I risk I remain willing to take.) Undaunted, a barista gave me a guided tour of Third Culture Bakery’s other items in the pastry case. I recognized the mochi muffin from trips to San Francisco’s Chapter 2 Coffee, but I opted for the matcha muffin instead. It turned out to be an excellent choice indeed, but something nagged at me as I devoured it. The crispy, caramelized exterior gave me a hint, but the custardy interior convinced me. That’s no muffin, buddy–that’s a cannelé!

Still obsessed a week later, I turned to Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipes cookbook for help. (Even if you have no desire to cook, it’s worth reading for the dreamy essays Ansel includes about pastries, baking, and creativity. They make up the first third of the book, and justify the cover price in themselves.) I used his Cannelé de Bordeaux recipe, whisking in a generous teaspoon of powdered matcha tea powder. After chilling the batter overnight, I proceeded to the most intimidating step.

I rarely make cannelés, because the process tends to annoy me. I don’t have the fancy fluted copper molds (which you must coat with melted beeswax), and the silicone molds get greasy and produce substandard results. So, I was happy to substitute plain metal muffin tins. The book directed me to preheat the molds in a 450-degree oven, and, nervously, I did. After five minutes, the kitchen started to smell like something was burning. Adhering to the “when the smoke alarm buzzes, dinner is ready” adage, I took the pan out, quickly brushed the molds with melted butter, filled them with batter (leaving a 1/4-inch space at the top), and baked for 20 minutes. While Ansel said they’d need about 35 minutes at 350 degrees after that, the muffins were looking pretty dark to me already. After turning the oven down to 350 and giving the muffins ten more minutes, I took them out to cool while I worked on the glaze.

The Third Culture matcha muffins have a lovely white chocolate-matcha drizzle, so I chopped up an ounce of white chocolate and placed it in a microwavable bowl. White chocolate tends to seize on me, so after much consideration I poured in a teaspoon of oil. A few pulses in the microwave melted it, and I whisked in about a half teaspoon of matcha powder. It ended up flowing too freely, giving me Jackson Pollock-esque squiggles instead of neat little lines. (Next time, I’ll keep the chocolate and matcha mixture unadulterated and pipe it with a paper cone.) Here’s what it looked like:

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I couldn’t resist eating one warm, but I should have taken Ansel at his word: these are much better at room temperature. Warm, the muffin was a bit sweet, and the tea flavor was not very pronounced. (When I stayed wakeful long after Game Four of the Sharks/Golden Knights playoff series had ended that night, I knew that a lack of tea in the batter was not the problem.) A room-temperature matcha muffin had much better flavor balance, and the texture had become even more luscious:

 

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I was very happy with the results, though I still won’t be making cannelés too often. When I do, though, I plan to use the muffin tins. While they lack the pretty fluting of an official cannelé mold, they come much closer to replicating the sought-after crust. I plan to buy a mochi muffin the next time I see one, unless someone relents and lets me have a banana cream pie instead. (Please?)