I have to remind myself that this is just a listening diary; I don’t have to render final judgment, as if that’s even possible, given Heraclitus’ dictum. Reason that occurs to me is I’m preparing to report on a couple of fresh items, and hesitated, thinking I needed multiple spins under my belt to lay down any verbiage. No I don’t!
Kendrick Lamar, et al.: Soundtrack to the film Black Panther–Lordy, I had high hopes for this, a condition in which I am not alone. Well: it’s solid, it’s streamlined, it’s got nuggets of language that signal symbolic import…but damned if, taken altogether, the effect isn’t a little muted, a little too professional, given this occasion and these times. On top of that, was I wrong to be excited about the possible tapping of African influence for the musical settings? There are brief sprinklings, but that’s it; thing is, the potential for a stunning sound environment was breathtaking. The highlights are, unsurprisingly, the tracks Mr. Lamar dominates–and shining appearances by Khalid (“The Ways”), Ab-Soul and Anderson .Paak (“Bloody Waters”). Maybe the movie will tease out the record’s virtues.
Rich Kreuger: Life Ain’t That Long–I have a stubborn opinion regarding Bruce Springsteen. Though by unanimous acclaim his greatest work is from Born to Run on, I’ve always had a deeper, more durable feeling for the goofy humor, crazy images, and exciting loghorrea of Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, and The E-Street Shuffle, not to mention the loosey-goosey quality of his band. We will never see its like again; those qualities seem so much the product of a young man discovering his powers. Well–imagine those qualities–adjusted for grizzledness–emanating from a long-striving singer-songwriter..say, a 58-year-old neonatologist with a knack for reflection and the TMI temptations that can frequently come with it. That’s what we have in Chicago’s Mr. Kreuger, whom I learned about from a certain critic named Robert Christgau, who I’ve occasionally (along with many pals) been a signal extender. This record does reach out and grab you with its details and desperation, though I am not sure about the drummer, and the general lack of discernible melody can interfere with Rich’s loghorreic charm. But damn, I’m rooting for him, and I’d see him live in a heartbeat. Get his music and more info here.
Modern Jazz Quartet: Dedicated to Connie–A magical ’60s concert from Slovenia, excavated by leader John Lewis on the occasion of drummer Connie Kay’s passing.
Memphis Minnie: Complete Published Recordings 1937-1963–Told ya I was nursing a blues hangover she laid on me. Take a nip: