Good to My Earhole, July 9-20: What Might a Freetown Sound Like?

Hogberg

Anna Hogberg and mates attack!

Highlights of my last couple o’ weeks’ listening, ranked on a 10-point scale corresponding to chill bumps each rekkid raised:

MEET YOUR DEATH – 9.7 – Is this album a) the best rock and roll album of the year? b) the best North Mississippi blues album Jim Dickinson never made? c) the wild product of an orgy featuring The Stooges, The Scientists, and Jerry McCain? d) an r&b blowout so drunk on cheap wine it forgot its tenor sax and just blew harder through a handy harp? e) All of the above. If you know the answer–or need the answer–order the record right here from 12XU.

ANNA HOGBERG ATTACK – 10 – Probably reviewed this already (too lazy to check), but it is easily one of my favorite records of the year. Free jazz with form, variation, dynamics, humor, respect for the verities (I hear Ayler in there)–and ENERGY, played by a roving band of Swedish women. Consult Discogs for your best chance at buying.

Blood Orange/FREETOWN SOUND – 8.6 – Maybe it was just what was going on on our turf when I first heard it, but I consider Devonte Hynes’ newest creation an honest, intelligent, hopeful soul-salve delivered from what I hope is our future. It is OK to apply a salve in moderation, folks.

Barbara Lynn/HOT NIGHT TONIGHT 8.7 – 37 years after knocking us dead (well, I’d just been born, to tell you the truth) with “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” the husky-voiced lefty guitar-slinger from Beaumont, Texas, delivered this terrific album that few bought–their loss. Producer Don Smith created a Hi-like atmosphere for Ms. Lynn, keeping her vocals and axe up in the mix and lining up Charley Drayton and apparently unofficial Rolling Stone Daryl Jones as musical bedrock. The songs are very strong as well, Barbara’s own cautionary “Hear from My Daddy,” Eddie Floyd’s “Never Found a Man,” and (especially) former Cowboy Charles Scott Boyer’s “Don’t Hit Me No More” creating a powerful motif. I snapped it up in Louisville for $5; you can get it for less.

Horace Tapscott with the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra/LIVE AT IMMANUEL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (Los Angeles) – 9 – The great community organizer, educator, composer, pianist, and bandleader left precious few recordings behind (he had higher priorities). All I’ve heard are mighty fine, including this two-disc set from ’79. Though he only composed one of the songs here, his arrangements carefully anchor liberated wailing (Sabir Mateen in particular distinguishing himself on tenor) with dark, roiling rhythms that will sound familiar to fans of Sonny Criss’ Sonny’s Dream, which was arranged and written by Tapscott. The venue was most appropriate for the performance, and if the closing “Lift Every Voice” doesn’t moisten your eye, you might check yourself for calcification.

Dobie Gray/FROM WHERE I STAND – 8 – The “In Crowd”/“Drift Away” guy quietly and humbly covered a lot of ground in his career. This ’86 release found him making very mainstream country noises that often take on deeper resonances once you realize he’s black, which some don’t. Examples: the title tune (also the title tune of Warner Brothers’ criminally out-of-print three-disc set covering “The Black Experience in Country Music”), “The Dark Side of Town,” and “A Night in the Life of a Country Boy,” which but for a corny chorus could be Springsteen.

Good To My Earhole, June 17-July 3: “Masque of the Red Def”

Highlights of my last weeks’ listening, scored on a 10-point scale based on how hard it was for me to read while each record was playing (the harder the higher).

I’VE ALWAYS KEPT A UNICORN–THE ACOUSTIC SANDY DENNY – 8.5 – That title, plus the prospect of a folkie (albiet a rowdy one) knocking out mostly demos unadulterated by musical support that often enhanced, rather than limited, her performance, would seem a red flag. Not so. Across two discs, the too-soon-departed Ms. Denny demonstrates that her just-impure-enough timbre (gentle whiskey smoke), her way of thinking through phrasing based on a line’s meaning, and her attraction to the theme of mortality are enough to keep one’s attention rapt. A great complement to her performances with Fairport Convention and an insightful look into her development as a singer and writer–I eagerly await the book this accompanies.

Diamanda Galas/MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH TRILOGY – 8.4 – Based on one observation of her live performance (on NBC’s much-missed Night Music) and a few listens to a comp prepared by a friend, I, at 25 or so, judged Ms. Galas hilariously and unbearably pretentious–but I was so much older then. My ear has since become less guarded; my musical desires more extreme in this time of relative artistic timidity. A Kyle Gann review piqued my curiosity about this haunted, spell-casting, spirit-calling item, and damned if it didn’t kick my ass this morning (as they say). The frightening intensity I was prepared for; the dynamics and wit and conceptual skill, not so much. I even laughed when (I think) she was wanting me to. If you’re familiar with the wicked Poe story and love it madly (as you should, students), you’re going to want to hear it. I am saving my second exploration of it for ballast against an appropriate time I’d prefer does not come. A voice for the ages, if not all ages.

JD Allen/AMERICANA–MUSINGS ON JAZZ AND BLUES – 9.3 – Imagine a classic Rollins trio crossed with the dark, earthy intensity of a deep pre-Meditations Coltrane session, and you’ve got this. Yep, it’s that good. Detroit native Allen has honed this group (Gregg August on bass, Rudy Royston on drums) across several excellent albums, resulting in one I’d definitely recommend to anyone missing the days when those two forebears ruled the tenor world. That’s not to say it’s a throwback. Hard to believe, but, as Allen argues, there’s a need for those musings in 2016. A nice musical way to, say, treat that reeling feeling you may have had after watching the Roots remake or the O. J. 30 for 30.

**JOHNNY BURNETTE’S ROCK AND ROLL TRIO AND THEIR ROCKIN’ FRIENDS FROM MEMPHIS – 8.8 – Well, since both Burnettes had gone to meet Elvis by the time of this 1980 release on Rock-A-Billy Records, the billing’s confusing: the rhythm section is the one which backed the original slashing unit on its best recordings, the guitarist is indeed fellow original Paul Burlison, who still strikes lightning, but the vocalists are the deceased brothers’ pals, most notably the unflappable Charlie Feathers. Against the odds (have you heard of Robert Geisley, Glenn Honeycutt, or Marcus Van Story, three of the other lead vocalists?), the project works. There’s something about Memphis, about rockabilly, and about locals who don’t stop believing. Secret weapon: Jim Dickinson on piano and vocals.

EARL HINES PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON – 9.5 – Hines recorded these between his 68th and 72nd birthday, and that fact plus a peek at the man’s toup and glasses on the cover might warn you away. But one of jazz’s first pianistic avant-gardists–maybe the first instrumental match for Armstrong, as he proved in their recordings together–still had plenty tricks up his sleeve. My favorites are sly runs where he takes off with the rhythm and/or melody like a cat burglar clambering up a roof or rappelling down a wall; even recording in the wake of Cecil Taylor, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell (who’d all have been lesser without his influence), he’s flat-out exciting. The Ellington selections mix time-honored classics with forgotten gems. Note: look for Hines’ equally dazzling tributes to Louis and W. C. Handy, from the same period.

**JOHNNY GIMBLE’S TEXAS DANCE PARTY – 9.0 – “PRODUCED IN TEXAS BY TEXANS,” the credits boast; master fiddler Gimble’s bandmates–The Bosque Bandits!– are listed by their Texas homes (Waco, Dallas, Austin–and Gimble’s been everywhere, man). And the music, recorded live on August 29, 1975 at Austin’s Chaparral Club, is indeed pure, lively Texas dance hall swing–but don’t think you’ll be treated by old warhorse tunes. When’s the last time you heard “La Zinda Waltz,” “Under the ‘X’ in Texas,” “Bosque Bandit,” or “Blues for Joe Tee”? An irresistibly warm and surprising half-hour, and like I said but don’t trust me, Gimble is a flat-out master.

**I recently scored both of these from European sellers, and, as a result, I have no more musical grails to seek. I guess that means I can sit back and just wait for new stuff….

Good to My Earhole, June 1-16: Headfirst into the (Summer) Flames

Highlights of my June listening so far, ranked on a 10-point scale determined by a drunken game of darts:

Van Morrison/IT’S TOO LATE TO START NOW, VOLS. II, II, IV and DVD – 9.0 – Volume 1 was so good I spoiled a great date during my wayward youth just to concentrate on it. This ain’t quite that, but if you want to hear how an orchestra can be fitted effectively to a rock/r&b/folk/you-name-it singer’s attack, dig in. And The Man himself is in great form saving Hard Nose the Highway from its studio wreckage, taking Kermit the Frog to Belfast (thanks, Ken!), and proving he’s no sobersides by doing Louis Prima justice. Plus: many early ’70s classics from his own pen, and a too-short video that burns. Docked 0.5 for too many versions.

Morton Feldman/ROTHKO CHAPEL + WHY PATTERNS? – 9 – A classical-expert friend told me,” Debussy did all this years ago and he only needed six minutes to make his point.” Well, he also hadn’t been to the meditative sanctuary of the title, which is decorated only with Rothko paintings, and not only did Feldman capture Rothko’s simple but resonant approach, but he also got the peace and beauty you can experience therein.

Chance the Rapper/COLORING BOOK – 10 – I often have former students who are now old rap heads asking me rhetorically, “What new can compare to the old?” I also have friends who ask the same question about music in general. After giving this mixtape (wait, is it?) four progressively more enjoyable plays, I’d offer it as an answer to both parties. How’s this for a review: it makes me happy. And it ain’t sappy. Dude’s smart, funny, and versatile, with a bouquet-like imagination. He’s also bemused, but determined. And does he have help, from Jay Electronica to, um, The Biebs.

Elizabeth Cook/EXODUS OF VENUS – 8 – On first contact, I reported that she had one foot in the mountains and one foot in Florida, which, by the latter, I meant (metaphorically) in a dark, dangerous, crazy swamp–her home swamp, hiding the demons of excess, heartbreak, and, well, the habits of Venus. For those who love her spunk, unfortunately, she’s also a bit ankle-deep in swampy production. I implore you to be patient with this unregenerate honky tonk wonder as she looses her inner Stevie Nicks (who of a certain age doesn’t have one of those within?), and you’ll get paid with some perky-catchy from the likes of “Straight Jacket Love,” “Broke Down in London on the M25,” and the pick-to-click “Methadone Blues.” She goes out on a meditation which remembers Tabitha Tuders (could have been me, I can hear her thinking), and reaches out to Tuders’ grieving mama.

Allen Toussaint/AMERICAN TUNES – 8.8 – He didn’t know he’d be shuffling off this mortal coil after playing a European show shortly after he recorded these–but it’s a valediction nonetheless. Professor Longhair‘s all over the record–including hidden within Toussaint’s last original, the opening “Delores’ Boyfriend”–but he’s woven into the quiet, seductive eloquence that’s AT’s trademark. He also pays lovely tribute to his fellow groundbreaking Creole Louis Gottschalk and his fellow bon vivant Fats Waller, makes two stops at Ellington’s station (with controlled aid from Rhiannen Giddens), and applies his own vocals only to Paul Simon’s appropriate title closer. He didn’t assemble it–but he might as well have.

Last Exit/HEADFIRST INTO THE FLAMES – 9 – The record isn’t called that for nuthin’, folks! When drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, (electric) bassist Bill Laswell, saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, and (electric!!!) guitarist Sonny Sharrock collectively improvised, there was no foreground or background. As such, under the live conditions in which they always recorded, you might expect a dialogue of the deaf. Fact is, through the caterwaul, you can hear them listening to each other, and creating structures. This is their best album; I have ’em all. Decider: it features some of Sharrock’s greatest chainsaw jazz creations. Try it if you can stand the wailing heat, or if you need to clear the room.

 

Good to My Earhole, May 20-31: “The Style You Haven’t Done Yet?”

Highlights of my last week’s worth of listening, scored on a whole-numbers-only scale I stole from a Freemason:

Paul Rutherford/THE GENTLE HARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE – 10 – Not just one of the best free jazz records I’ve ever heard, but an all-out fireworks display, all on the ‘bone. With some chuckles and sobs for modulation’s sake.

The Fall/FALL IN A HOLE – 9 – I am still searching for a Fall album I don’t like. I’ll just say it–the best live British punk record I’ve ever heard, if you wanna call ’em punks. They (he) were (is)–and more.

Boogie Down Productions/GHETTO MUSIC: THE BLUEPRINT OF HIP HOP – 9 – Objectively, I know there are better BDP rekkids; heck, The Return of the Boom-Bap is “better.” Scott LaRock is absent. Some of the wisdom isn’t all that wise. But I can’t help it–this is the one I get out when I need KRS-1. I love how he bobs and weaves around the uncharacteristically quirky beat of “The Style You Haven’t Done Yet.” I love in spite of my lack of belief his bars of Biblical genealogy. I love his philosophical interrogations of authority, whether in the classroom, the courtroom, or the squad room. I love his reggae-rap fusion. From the cover art to the oddly murky production to the blunt beauty of Kris’ attack to the beats beats beats, it’s one unified MF. And I’m a gestalt guy.

Johnnie Allan/PROMISED LAND – 8 – Swamp pop just gets me like Western swing: I am moved by the often-homely-but-always-sincere striving of the regular guys who do the singing. As if to match, the music’s just as often warmly soulful–never hot. Multi-artist compilations are generally the way to go, even for the enthusiast, but, loving Allan’s absolutely terrific, accordian-juiced title cover version already, I thought I’d gamble on an overview. Won that bet–nothing as scintillating as “Promised Land,” but nothing duff, either. Even the graduation song brings a smile, as does his Johnny Horton rewrite and his runs at “Sweet Dreams” and “Tonight I Started Loving You Again”–two songs that could have been tailor-written for the genre. Thought: hot’s good, but is warm more durable?

Novos Baianos/ACABOU CHORARE – 10 – Damn, I thought I had Brazilian pop-rock circa ’68-’72 covered! Wrong again! I stumbled on this item (or, um, it was PUT in my path) while buying something else on the Innertubes, and it knocked my hat in the creek. I believe the title translates to “No more crying,” and it’s so effervescent in its rhythms, alternating vocals, and electric-acoustic attack, I’d wager it could pull a guy back from the edge. Player to bend an ear to, though he’ll grab you by that appendage willy-nilly: Pepeu Gomes, on guitar and more. This ain’t tropicalia; it’s too breezy. But you’ll be surprised by the directions the breeze shifts–give the whole record a test-drive above.

Kel Assouf/TIKOUNEN – 9 – Taureg stylings straight from the sand dunes …of Brussels. But don’t you fear. The impurities delightfully mixed in here are the reasons to check it out: big beats, guitar that’s more riff-friendly than your average desert bluesman’s, garage-rock keyboards that add texture, and a movie star (in my mind, anyway) sharing vocals. That would be Ms.Toulou Kiki, of Timbuktu fame; if you haven’t checked that film out yet, you have your homework. A nice counter to the fallacious complaint that all, uh, Northern nomadic music sounds the same. You’re not leaning forward far enough, pal!

Good to My Earhole, May 12-19: “OK Men Now Let’s Get in Formation”

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.

Good to My Earhole, April 30-May 5: “I’ll Start”

Highlights of my last seven days’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale that correlates (+0.999999) with increases in my heart rate:

ANGRY ANGLES – 9.3 – Along with the lesser (but still excellent) River City Tan-Lines, a great Memphis-area band I somehow missed. It’s Jay Reatard before his final burst, abetted only by Alix Smith on bass and pen, and it’s fer damn sure a punk rawk blast. Originals like “You Lied,” “The 15th,” and “She’s Dead” hold their own with killer covers of Wire, Devo, The Oblivians, and The Urinals. Talk about your increases in heart rate….

Julius Eastman/UNJUST MALAISE – 10 – A fitting title for this collection (look him up). Eastman was a minimalist/hypnotist in the classical field, and while that ain’t normally my bag, the opener on this three-disker hooked me post-haste: “Stay On It” is Morton Feldman gone…Caribbean?! Yeah. Elsewhere, Eastman’s booming vocals on “Prelude to ‘The Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc'” will force you to wonder what the saints did say, and “Gay Guerilla,” “Evil Nigger,” and “Crazy Nigger” are more than just attention-getting titles. Three discs I’d turn around and play all over again with pleasure and concentration.I just might, as soon as I post this.

Bryan Ferry/OLYMPIA – 9.3 – A very beautiful–and lush–recording. Ferry is in great voice and, as always, there’s a tricky mind fully engaged behind it. Featuring old pals named Eno, Mackay, and Manzanera in supporting roles, and a dude named Nile Rodgers on rhythm guitar. What amazes me about the record is how deftly certain elements are integrated: a cast of a thousand players into a singular sound; nice new Ferry originals with his usual sharp interpretative choice; flesh and blood noises with electronic ones; passionate swell with technological precision. In case you’d lost track of him, like I had (it’s a 2010 release), attend to it.

(the above ain’t me, but I couldn’t resist….)

Dinah Washington/DRINKING AGAIN – 9.0 – Spotted in the stacks at Vintage Vinyl by my eagle-eyed better half, we have played the heck out of this vinyl slab–and it had been played a lot before it was sold. It is worth a decent price for the desolate title track (no one’s done it better), but she’s in very fine form on the other standards Don Costa conducted and arranged for her. A fantastic late-night choice, and an even better one if you haven’t gotten beyond Washington’s classics.

GAL COSTA – 9.0 – I will never stop pushing the music of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, a not-quite-two-year-long explosion of weirdly catchy and politically complicated art that was garroted by a dictatorship. Costa was, maybe, “The First Lady of Tropicalia,” and her debut record is a wonderful way in for those a mite skeptical of descriptors like “weirdly catchy.” In her singing and rhythms, you can clearly hear the subgenre’s direct line back to samba and bossa nova. In that, you will be easefully rocked into a buzz–Rogerio Duprat’s arrangements and tunes by Veloso/Gil, though, will JUST nudge you out of that area where pure enjoyment is, um, counterrevolutionary, Or something like that. Pick to click: “Vou Recomecar” (or, translated, “I’ll Start”–a fetching title, that).

Robbie Fulks/UPLAND STORIES – 9.3 – The SOUTHEASTERN sequel/step-further that SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE wasn’t. Jason Isbell, you’ve been served, buddy. (I only say this because I want more great music from both guys.) Oh-so-sensitively produced (I’m not kidding) by Steve Albini, and, if it means anything, I didn’t plan on reviewing this–Fulks is very hit-or-miss with me, and I am wearying of so-called Americana. But playing it while I was writing was a beautiful mistake; on “America is a Hard Religion,” Fulks does the seemingly impossible by updating the Stanley Brothers (if not Tom Ashley!) to this precise moment in time. Guitar Gable and King Karl, Linda Gail Lewis, Sid Selvidge–you Southerners will have to wait another week.

Good to My Earhole, April 20-27: “Chaos and Disorder.”

Prince

I dig not dig that Prince left us. Honestly, I played Dirty Mind at least four times (yes, Whitney Shroyer–the best album of the ’80s), 1999 twice, re-watched Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times to my and my wife’s great happiness, and wrote this via an email to a Purple-agnostic friend the morning after he passed:

Having grown up with The Purple One (he was just three years my senior, and part of my life since I was a 17-year-old lifeguard hearing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on the juke), I find it hard to be too objective. In terms of entertainment value and sheer skill (vocal range, instrumental facility, compositional acumen, dancing) he leaves MJ in the dust. He effectively synthesized JB, Sly, punk ‘n’ new wave, a dab o’ Dylan (the sui generis musical visionary) and other stuff it’s too early for me to pull out into his own totally inimitable blend–a little mind-blowing. He was at the forefront of gender-bend (and lyrical taboo-violation!) in terms of being an AMERICAN artist and being popularly successful–many forget he was called “faggot” relentlessly in the early days (including by Stones fans when they took him on tour in ’81). Tipper Gore had to create the PMRC to deal with his existence in pop music. It’s like Chamberlain and the widening of the lane (that didn’t work any better than the PMRC). Also–so generous in writing songs for other artists and producing their records! PLUS: outside of having a dirty mind, he was one clean motherfucker.

I think one thing that makes him hard to assess at this moment is since the peaking of rap (’89-’95), he’s been foundering–I mean live he would still kick anybody’s ass doing a greatest hits set, but he hadn’t quite figured out how to be post-50 Prince. Finding religion and falling under the influence of a charismatic (Larry Graham, formerly of the Family Stone, OF ALL PEOPLE!!!) did not help. But several artists, Dylan among them, and I’d argue the Stones (less effectively), struggled with the same dilemma. Artists in the wilderness–a trope since Dante. Easily one of the greats–cranked his music for a good three hours with windows open yesterday afternoon, and Nicole and I re-watched both Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times last night.”

I am hyperbolizing a few places in there, but only a few. I would add if I could re-send that he was wonderfully weird and could strike the normal (whoever they are) DEEP. He was dedicated to inclusion (maybe he learned it from Sly). And those Stones fans’ epithets (I heard ’em in my hometown of Carthage, Missouri, too)? Without an iota of protest on his part, he just shut ’em up. And made plenty of them fans, dragging them kicking and screaming in-to the pur-ple rain. I’ll never forget the Lefty Brothers covering that song at a honky tonk in Springfield (aka “Banks and Bibles, Missouri”).

Adios.

Anyway….

OTHER highlights of my last week’s listening, scored on a mystic 10-point scale for which I am only a medium:

James Booker/GONZO: MORE THAN THE 45s – 8.5 – A collection of The Piano Prince’s early recordings, including “Doing the Hambone,” a regional hit scored when he was a mere 14 (his piano’s under the mix a bit), “Gonzo,” a 1960 #3 R&B smash that allegedly inspired Hunter S. Thompson, its superior flip “Cool Turkey,” a crazed organ workout Garth Hudson must have worn out, and many more wonderful oddities. He shoulda been a contender, and his zany keyboard genius thrills me.

THE SWAN SILVERTONES/SAVIOUR PASS ME NOT – 10 – There is little American gospel music more sublime than what the Swan Silvertones recorded for Vee-Jay. One reason is the transported, flexible, and very sexy vocals of the Reverend Claude Jeter, whom a little kid named Al Green was definitely tuned in to; another is bassman William Conner, whose larynx still beats other folks’ four-strings. This two-fer-one disc includes the definitive version of the classic “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” and a “Lord’s Prayer” the beauty of which will shock you.

Parquet Courts/HUMAN PERFORMANCE – 8.8 – Rock and roll! Or is it? These dudes are intimately familiar with my (and many of your) sweet spots. Every time my attention starts to drift, they poke one (Mo Tucker percussion, Lou Reed drone-solo, deadpan Richman phrasing, rave-ups–not to say they are only masters of VU-and-offshoots moves), to the point where I start to wonder, “Are these pastiches of pastiches, pastiched together?” I guess that’s modern art for you: the poking of sweet spots. At any rate, critics are doing handsprings over the lyrics suddenly meaning things, to which I quietly respond, “And where did that get Michael Stipe?” What they oughtta work on is the vocal attack, which usually projects all of the personality of this album’s title.

The Del McCoury Band/DEL AND WOODY – 8.5 – How deep is the barrel of Woody Guthrie lyrics he didn’t write tunes for? Only daughter Nora knows for sure, but I can vouch that, from the evidence of this collection, the bottom has not been reached. Highlights are hymns to national road building, inexpensive mechanics, and poor folks’ food. Plus, this band can pick and move.

Prince/CHAOS AND DISORDER – 8.8 – You might have missed this ’96 release–because the late great Purple One had lost his grip on the charts and was knee-deep in label-wrangling. But, hey, if you dug his guitar-playing as much as his other 1,000 gifts, this is a nook to go back and explore. Also, if you’re imagining what might emerge from the vault if his estate will ever allow it, this is a fascinating hint.

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil/DOIS AMIGOS, UM SECULO DE MUSICA – 9.5 – Just two 73-year-old Brazilians, their songs, and their acoustic guitars, performing to the home crowd across two discs. But the rhythms, melodies, and vocal passion, fueled by fifty years of friendship, political commitment, and complicated patriotism, will mesmerize you. I need not remind you today to give men their propers while they are living. Tropicalia fans, you know what to do.