Johnny Goldstein – An Elegy For The Lost City
Johnny Goldstein is a Woodstock Generation New Orleanian, forced upriver to St. Louis by life’s circumstance. An award-winning songwriter/composer, guitarist, beloved teacher and producer and now, an author, Goldstein was influenced by Dickens, Twain, John Irving, Vonnegut, Kozinski and Koontz. He’s an easily-crazed Cardinal fan, a passionate cook, gardener and critter lover, and much to his surprise– for the last 30 years a serious meditator, preternaturally drawn to an ancient Tibetan lineage.
Music that seemed to flow through the pages of Elegy in tandem with the offbeat characters proved to be the perfect, compelling narrative for a next generation of audiobook to accompany the novel. Inspired to create what Goldstein calls the “World’s First Audio Book in Radio Form,” the audio work is essentially a throwback to classic radio drama from the 30s and 40s. In many respects and with better technology, it is more like a modern film soundtrack overflowing with the music that defines New Orleans as well as the panorama of rock ‘n roll legends influenced by the City’s iconic musicians. The Beatles as well as Satchmo and Randy Newman plus dozens of other musical artists set the backdrop for this old-school radio drama heightened by the lush, ambient sounds of everyday New Orleans. Rock ‘n roll took a back seat somewhere with Johnny and the rest is history.
An Elegy for the Lost City is based on three characters from Goldstein’s original songs. The fiction series would not exist had his performing career not been ended by a 2006 car accident. There is a first time for everything, as audiobooks aren’t something of the norm for this reviewer. Little did I know what was waiting here, but much did I find out when delving into it. This is an epic little tale with all kinds of great music and stories within the overall story. I think it should be more exposed, let alone audiobook more explored by myself and whoever I can put onto them. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear both the music and the words. Between the two, there is literally a supertanker full of artistic expression and cultural appreciation to absorb. And these expressions are not only Goldstein’s, as he incorporates a lot of other talent here and exposes them as part of the whole project. All of the tunes are great, even the background music during more heavily spoken parts. You can get lost in this but always find your way back to something good, or you can listen in complete order. Either way it’s a cool release indeed which starts off with a smooth jazz piano and plays into another instrumental before the story begins. And then his voice becomes the focal point but there is a lot of separated tracks to hear, and you never get bored. It’s a very surprisingly good and well mixed collection of music and stories. He turns out to be a great musician working with others of that ilk to make this all it is. Tracks worth mentioning are all of them, but the list tends to be long and also splintered quite a bit for the listener who’s not used to this. But if “Waiting” w/Kevin Bilchick doesn’t get your blood boiling, then this is not for you. The acoustic wonderment of this is very New Orleans but also very Americana in general. I am a fan of Cajun Zydeco, so of course this is all up my alley but that doesn’t mean after one listen I can claim every bit of knowledge in this to be fully analyzed. But the music is what way anyway, something that can please even the least serious music fan. I like Goldstein’s voice whether he’s talking or singing. He tends to remind me a lot of Doctor John, which I suppose doesn’t drop the apple far from the New Orleans tree, being right in it, actually. But since I like that style, especially accompanied by piano, it works for me. His guitar playing is something I also find to be very good. But all of the players in this book also are a good match for him as well. You can’t knock any of the musicianship whatsoever on this. He surrounded himself with all the right stuff to get his story out in radio playing fashion. “River Song” (brand new century) adds all the country vibes needed for a southern tune, and the lyrics also reflect that about it. I liked hearing that song so much I played it three times in a row. To keep the radio feel strong there is a “Radio Spot” –Elegy Benefits that goes the distance to define the importance of the radio airplay style in which this is narrated, with a cute but effective advertisement thrown in.
It also includes much venue atmosphere and live renditions. This book has it all, really. It glorifies everything from Louie Armstrong to baseball, good food and drink, some darker moments to keep it reality based even though it’s also fantasy based. And then there is always the approach to hearing it like all one song, where you don’t get involved in the parts so much as you do the content as a whole. Any way you slice it this is a great educational book about the New Orleans and its crazy but entertaining elements.