Highlights of my last week’s worth of listening (and I WAS listening), scored on a 10-point scale, with 7-and-(rounded) up qualifying for my huntin’ and peckin’:
Beyonce/LEMONADE (DVD) – 9.7 – Never much a fan–she seemed too bland outside of Destiny’s Child, and that ad she made while writhing in bills (as well as other shilling) kept plenty white capitalists laughing all the way to the bank–I had my ass royally kicked by “Formation” and moved it right into my class’ curriculum. Regardless of academic parsing to the contrary, though, the video’s THE thing. Besides imagery and scenarios and words that should rightly scare the shit out of men of all stripes who grip the methods of the past with white knuckles–and empower the heck out of women of all stripes–there’s more music in the visual version, too, as well as side talk, back talk, and clipped talk, which I should remind you is also music. Her canny spoken and hoarse patches signify, too, and make up for the (very minimal) sappy stuff. Bonus: a Second Amendment-touting, cherchez l’homme country song with funky baritone blats!
Aretha Franklin/LADY SOUL – 9.5 – I feel moved to comment on this seeming no-brainer, as I imagine many of our passionate youth may be settling for comps and single downloads. The Queen’s first three on Atlantic are boss, and having re-attended to them while reading David Ritz’s scintillating bio RESPECT, this has become my favorite, end-to-end. Of course, there’s Ree’s voice and piano. But check the guitarists, too: Jimmy Johnson, Joe South, Eric Clapton, and a dude named Bobby Womack.
Jace Clayton/THE JULIUS EASTMAN MEMORY DEPOT – 9.0 – Jace may be known to you as djRupture; Julius Eastman may well be unknown to you, but I’d argue he was one of the greats of the Morton Feldman school of classical composition. I’m sure his lack of recognition has nothing to do with his being black and gay, but forget about that and enjoy two of his greatest compositions (“Crazy Nigger” and “Gay Guerilla”), played by virtuoso pianists, fed through Clayton’s computer, and lovingly and intriguingly effed with. Beauty in repetition–in this case, artfully disrupted by digital genius.
Peter Maxwell Davies (composer)/MISS DONNITHORNE’S MAGGOT b/w EIGHT SONGS FOR A MAD KING – 10.0 – I have to admit: I’m obsessed with Julius Eastman. How did I not read/hear about him ’til a quarter-century after he passed? Here, in the role of the deteriorating George III, he delivers a groundbreaking vocal performance that conveys the reality of mental illness while remaining, well, ART. That is not an easy trick. If you’re tired of clearing the room of unwelcome guests with Captain Beefheart or Peter Brotzmann records, check into this, friends. It holds up absorbed in tranquility, as well.
Tacocat/LOST TIME – 8.8 – These wisecrackers from Seattle realize the potential of lost garage rockers The Pleasure Seekers’ “What a Way to Die” (see also Suzi Quatro, Pinky Tuscadero), and, somewhat less impressively, bottle up the last 35 years of Lady Rock, shake it up, and let it fizz! Recommended to Beyonce in about two months: “Men Explain Things to Me.”
Jack DeJohnette/IN MOVEMENT – 8.8 – The auteur convenes the Coltrane Quartet Legacy–Ravi Coltrane on saxes, Matthew Garrison on bass and electronics–and lays down some tracks that tactfully and punctually rip through the gauze of Manfred Eicher’s trademark ECM production. They take on Ravi’s dad’s seemingly sacrosanct “Alabama” and survive by loosening it up. They crick your double-taking neck on Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” where Ravi conjures Dave Liebman (remember him?) and Matthew conjures Michael Henderson (remember him?). They go out on a “Soulful Ballad” that really is.
Various Artists/LETRA & MUSICA–A TRIBUTE TO BOB DYLAN – 6.95 – Tribute albums do usually suck, and this one outta Brazil usually does. The vocalists slavishly follow Dylan’s original melodies and intonations, and whoever told the artists that guitars are only to be acoustically strummed needs to find a new profession. BUT–it’s worth a mention for two songs that belong to the sub-canon of classic Dylan covers, as a result of the interpreters taking risks. Caetano Veloso, who knows from tear gas, water cannons, Molotov cocktails and rocks, turns “Jokerman” into an incantation, almost falling into ritual ululations at several points; Renato Russo switches up the pronouns and turns “If You See H[im], Say Hello” into a landmark of broken gay love.