Highlight of my week’s listening–yep, that’s singular–ranked on a scale Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings forced me to use:
Jason Derulo/TALK DIRTY – 9.5 – Okay. First, the sheer dam-bustin’ daily flood of music makes it impossible to hear everything right when it comes out, so get off my ass for just now bringing this up. Second, though I was apprised of the excellence of this should-be-illegal album long ago…well, look, I am a 54-year-old white dude, and it seems of shaky grace for me to be carrying around–or actively and avidly listening to–a record that has a cover like this one (I have a habit of picturing myself in the position of artists, and I collapse in laughter at the thought of me walking in ol’ Jace’s shoes there, or through the songs). Then I found out he’s involved in those…talent shows. HOWEVER–I decided to take the plunge for gits and shiggles. I have been feeling my age and mortality of late, and maybe I was questing after a jolt. Who knows? Too, I’ve always dug black music barely more than white (that distinction is slowly being erased, and bully for that), Al Green’s my man, so, as Sam Peckinpah wrote, “Let’s go–why not?”
I am helplessly in love with this record! Each of the first four songs are augmented with fabolous, tweak-ready, ALIEN noises: Balkan Beat Box-isms, what sounds like a toy flute, synthesized trumpets (?), corny oldsters Snoop and 2 Chainz, thonkin’ bass. Plus, besides singing ok, Mr. Derulo has a sense of humor–bondage and Kama Sutra? The lyrics are mostly dumb, but when I listen to it as pure music, under the guidance of Mr. John Cage, it’s irresistible. Maybe his Haitian heritage helps?
There’s a Black-Eyed Peas moment (still, though, pretty much an up, given our times), and some yawny semi-slow ones, but–returning to a nod above–no one who dug/digs classic era Al Green has a right to scorn this. Jason does NOT have those pipes, but the package is so physically stimulating you can’t afford to miss it. Like I wrote posting the title song to Facebook, “Uncle!” Let me up! I hate strip jointz, but long live bubble gum.
August 7, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s birthday (by the way), is not a neat place at which to break off a list, but I have time, inspiration, and beer at my behest, so here it is. Some opening comments:
*I stared at that #1 for a long time. But I couldn’t do anything about it. Nothing is wrong with me or my judgment. And She knocked Anna Hogberg (who, right?) out of the top spot.
*I acknowledge that much of my Top 10 is the result of my political biases, as well as the fact that I am very much aware that I, more than usual, am in the midst of a terrible and/or wonderful history being made, or making us.
*My tastes are all over the place, but as Duke said, and I paraphrase, there is just good and bad music. I can’t in good conscience separate, say, septuagenarian free-jazzer Joe McPhee from yearling rock and roller Joe Toledo–it wouldn’t be worthy of my United States citizenship. Plus, I’m sorry, it’s just boring to listen to the same genre or whatever all day–not to mention all year.
So I humbly submit my favorite 25 rekkids–in order of the amount of mental, physical, and spiritual stimulation they give me, from most to least–of this roiling year that’s just gonna burble and bubble and boil more furiously until New Year’s Eve. Each item has a little surprise (sometimes not so surprising) linked to it for your enjoyment, edification, or consumeristic/aesthetic impulses.
Highlights of my last two weeks’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale depending on how the landing was stuck:
The Paranoid Style/ROLLING DISCLOSURE – 9.5 – I haven’t read Richard Hofstadter (yet), I don’t need convincing that, in this life, so and so is fucked, and it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. But I am happy to report none of the above impacts my enjoyment of this boisterous, tuneful, sardonic, allusive rock and roll album (yeah–you remember rock and roll?). In fact, one of the main pleasures of this record is how much helpless joy Elizabeth Bracy and her bandmates exude while taking it all apart. Another is listening for how Bracy retools other pop folks’ catchy lines to make her points (my favorite is extracted from a Carpenters sugar cube). Easily one of the best rockin’ records of 2016 (check the band’s track record), and I advise you quickly do the work to find and buy it, as it is an accurate marker of these times. Aren’t you gonna want to recall them?
THE EARL BOSTIC STORY – 8 – Bostic has always been one of my favorite saxophonists. After counseling such future titans as John Coltrane, he crossed over from jazz into r&b and pop, largely on the power of the unruly, RAW way he’d tear into a chorus or riff. Though some folks consider his musical context a little too moldy, I treasure the gash he rips in them (just listen to “Flamingo,” one of his big hits)–and he’s remarkably reliable across a box set. Fans of James Carter who are in the dark might wanna check where some of that cat’s irreverence comes from.
Aaron Neville/APACHE – 7.8 – New Orleans’ toughest-looking pussycat hasn’t had this much musical muscle behind him in years, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs. No star producers or players in the band, either. Not all the lyrics are winners, and I suppose the sound looks back too sentimentally on ’70s styles. But–there’s that voice, the 75-year-old grain of which cuts some of its youthful sweetness, and several of the tunes are real convincers. Picks to click: “All of the Above,” “Ain’t Gonna Judge You,” and–especially–“Make Your Momma Cry.”
James Moody (with Kenny Barron)/FLY ME TO THE MOON – 8.3 – Moody’d never quite struck deep with me ’til I heard this two-fer-one CD. My problem was listening for flash, excitement, and aggression–whether on tenor, alto, or flute (an instrument I give very little room in jazz), the man just plays with quietly intense smarts, skill, and soul. From ’62 and ’64 sessions for Argo, with excellent runs at “Sonnymoon for Two” and (Dizzy’s) “Ole” and some sharp arrangements.
HONKY TONK AMNESIA–THE HARD COUNTRY SOUND OF MOE BANDY– 8.5 – “You wroooote/’Your Cheeeeeeatin’ Heart’ about/A gal like my/FIRST [my caps] ex-wife,” Moe sang on Paul Craft’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” and there were many more such wry laments on his three albums for GRC–which would all probably fit on a single disc. This ain’t it–the folks at Razor & Tie always did a great job, but Bandy’s usually tame or pat later stuff crowds out the likes of “This Time I Won’t Cheat on Her Again” and “It’s Better Than Going Home Alone.” However, honky-tonk cravers will get a buzz on from a mere perusal of the writing credits (Sanger Shafer, Curley Putman, Dallas Frazier, Wayne Carson, and Sonny Throckmorton), and Bandy, droller than he was hard, was just the mind and voice to put their songs across.
Leonard Cohen/LIVE IN LONDON – 10 – Cohen’s mos def recorded too many live albums, but if you have to have one, this be it. Perhaps I am influenced by having been hypnotized and charmed in person by a show from this 2008-2009 tour, but the selections, arrangements, and players are simply unerring, and the main attraction is blissfully at peace with the sands left in his hourglass. Whether he’s telling a story about his then-96-year-old-teacher apologizing for not being dead, thanking us for keeping his songs alive on “Tower of Song” (in which he still hasn’t moved up a floor on ol’ Hank), or intoning knowingly on the eternal “Who By Fire” (in a magnificent new setting), his eyes smile as he awaits his maker. We can all use that model–he’s still waiting, by the way. This review is for my friend Deke, whose eyes smiled, too.