Highlights of my last several weeks’ listening, rated on a 10-point scale based on how close each rekkid came to making me/whether or not it made me shout. Also, many thanks to the wily music critic Anthony Heilbut and the indefatigable gospel archivist Opal Nations (at the perfectly-named PEWBURNER! website) for educating me and providing me resources!
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO RICHARD PENNIMAN – 8.0 – You might not be aware, but Richard Penniman is better known as Little Richard, and this comp, extracted from scarce vinyl, documents the various years during which he turned himself over to the church. It’s a more consistent and interesting listen than you might fear: he’s always fun when he’s talking (you get some testimony), he invests full feeling into well-traveled vessels like “Old Ship of Zion,” he’s a damn good preacher (“Coming Home”), and there’s a mighty thin line between sec and nonsec on “He Got What He Wanted (But He Lost What He Had)” and “Certainly Lord.” Whoever finally takes on the cross-referencing nightmare necessary to produce the definitive Little Richard comp will need to raid this.
The Violinaires: THE VIOLINAIRES OF DETROIT (1953-1968) (8.3) and GROOVIN’ WITH JESUS (7.5) – I never thought I’d ever buy a record with a title such as the one affixed to the latter release by this underrated gospel quartet, but that was before I heard their great screamer Robert Blair, who’s a hair from on par with Wilson Pickett, who once sang with the group. The former record is exciting as a result, excepting its secular tracks, though the uncategorizable Bizarro-Coasters track “All is Well, All is Well” will definitely keep your attention. You can program around those. Groovin’ (from the late Sixties) will also require your programming attention unless you dig versions of “Put Your Hand in the Hand” and “Let the Sunshine In” that Blair seems to have sat out (at least they’re back to back!), but there the quartet is backed by some very tough and funky Motor City soul players that let the street into the church a few steps.
The Original Blind Boys of Mississippi (featuring Archie Brownlee): THE GREAT LOST BLIND BOYS ALBUM – 10 – It’s great principally due to Brownlee, who with Julius Cheeks of the Sensational Nightingales was the greatest wailer in ’50s quartet gospel, without whom aspects of JB’s and the Wicked Pickett’s vocal attack (and I do mean attack) would have been missing. It’s lost because the recordings were released on Vee-Jay, a huge label at the time that collapsed into a mess and the oft-stunning catalog of which must be tied up in court as I type. But be patient and some sucker’ll sell it used for $5. Featuring the classics “I’m a Soldier,” “I’m Willing to Run,” “Where There’s a Will, There’s A Way,” and “I Never Heard a Man.” Woahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, indeed.
Nots: COSMETIC – 8.8 – After several perusals of Natalie Hoffman’s lyrics and album art, I can assure you she ain’t happy, she looks out of windows and into mirrors frequently and stands firmly unimpressed, and the nights are seldom what she is hoping for (I know Memphis–not to mention other cities–can be that way). So I gave up on those and just rocked along to her no-wave guitar (often in tandem, conversation, and competition with Alexandra Eastburn’s synth figures), got off on her magnificently snotty vocals, and let myself get carried along by their sonic rush. They’re not ones to tarry. Oh, and the drummer’s real good. Those two facts are related.
Marc Ribot: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS–LIVE IN TOKYO – 7.0 – The idea’s cute, and the players couldn’t be better chosen to execute it: apply the method of Ornette’s harmolodics, which on several releases were indeed catchier than most would expect, to TSOP: the sound of Philadelphia (with some Dayton, Ohio, thrown in). But somehow it doesn’t catch quite catch fire–at times, and I never thought I’d say this about a Ribot project, it’s boring. The structures of the original songs, maybe, aren’t built to shoot the improvs into the stratosphere, and the three-piece string section doesn’t really add up to anything but a reminder of the ol’ glitter-ball. The “disco” material shows off Jamaaladeen Tacuma as the underrecorded wonder he is on bass, but Calvin Weston sounds bored and his drums are way back in the mix. The show, really, for many who’ve been thinking about buying this, is the prospect of Ribot and Mary Halvorson interacting on guitars, and that ends up being the musical equivalent of a buddy movie sans chemistry.
DESCONTRUCÃO–A PORTRAIT OF THE SÃO PAULO MUSIC SCENE – 9.0 – From the liner notes, album art, and the compilation title, the featured artists’ mission seems to be “destroy to rebuilt” [sic].” Set up to be blown up are samba (of course, but they clearly LOVE it), jazz, rock, Afrobeat (!) and “most of all MPB” (that would be “musica popular brasileira). Sound familiar? It does to me–but it doesn’t sound quite like tropicalia. The energy’s not as zany, but it’s a good bit tougher, more serious in its mission, sounds to me. The vocalists can’t match the litheness and beauty of Veloso, Costa, Ben, and Gil (a tall order, that); on the other hand, the music compensates, if this makes sense, with a euphoniousness that often ranges further outside of Brazil than its famous predecessors’. Case in point: a few of their jazz ideas touch down in, oh, about ’65–not in bossa nova territory, but New Thing’s. A scene to watch. Now if I could just understand Portuguese I might know if they’ve got something to say about their government and economy.
Dead Moon: “Black September”/”Fire in the Western World“– 10 – A perfect 45 from the lovable folks at Voodoo Doughnut that captures the garage-punk trio at their peak, at a ’93 Satyricon concert on their home turf. Neither cut’s on the recent Record Store Day release, either.