Destabilized Collector’s Blues (May 18th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

I’ve finally been rocked by the streaming revolution. In multiple senses of that main verb.

I’d just looked at a list of new rekkids to be released on this particular Friday. I’ve been reluctantly enjoying the heck out of Apple Music, which I’m now subscribing to, and realized that, hey, I could kick back and sample fresh tracks for a few hours. I was honestly pretty excited, and a decent day it was, nicely summed up by these examples:

So I’m listening to all of this very provocative and promising music and thinking to myself, “OK, what am I gonna buy? What digital, what vinyl, what CD?” I’m starting to drool–shopping is easy and there’s much to be bought–when I realize, I mean really realize in my 10,000-plus-units-in-every-medium-in-my-house record collector’s soul, that I don’t have to buy any of them. This may seem like a “duh” moment, but I buy for many reasons. Creators need to be paid. I like to hold albums, study their artwork, and read their liner notes. I take pride in having what my friends need but don’t have. I like to save on data when I’m out of wifi range. I’m a born curator and I love libraries, so I’m building my own. CDs and vinyl sound better. What if the web collapses? What will I leave my heirs (What heirs, asks the Greek chorus)?

But seriously. What do I need more stuff for? I began to think back across the past month, and sat bolt upright: hey, I don’t have the new Willie album, the new Sons of Kemet, the new Bettye LaVette–yet I am still a functioning human being. Normally, I’d already have those. Have have have have. My head was spinning. Really it was. I don’t buy anything voluntarily but books, booze, and toons, pretty much, and that’s been my practice for, oh, 38 years!

What has it all been for?

I’m not panicking. I know there are multiple other answers to that question than a resonating “NAUGHT!” In fact, later, Nicole, who has always encouraged my accumulation and even occasionally tried to prevent me from selling records, suggested, “Hey, I love records! Let’s just get the stuff that’s epic?” Yes, but I have a touch lower bar for “epic” than my beloved does–I’m sure next month’s new Joe McPhee will meet my definition, but I’m not sure she’s familiar with The Poughkeepsie Gypsy’s work. Also, am I cheating artists? What about my vow to pay cash for every Swamp Dogg record that comes out the chute? And didn’t I just sell 500 CDs…to make room for more?

Perhaps, in life and record collecting, the questions are more important than the answers. I’ll keep you posted. I wonder if the Wussy LP that’s on the way will qualify, but I can always check…Apple Music.

Hot takes on the above?

Bombino: every househod needs a Bombino album. Like the above, they’re all good. Straight-up Agadez-style desert blues, no impure funny business–aside from some skankin’.

Parquet Courts: I hate these guys because they’re too cute (musically and formally) by half, but I love them because they have the particular music and forms that I happen to be weak for down cold. BUT first half of this one has emotional fire, too, and thus is my favorite music of theirs ever.

Courtney Barnett: Opens with a weird, slow, kinda whiny one, but recovers with a vengeance. Not as catchy as last time, but more grown.

MC Paul Barman: In your face from jump, he’s got the rhymes as per usual—plus Questlove, DOOM, and Masta Ace.

Angelika Niescier: The lady can blow, and she pretty much must wail, with the true genius of the drums Tyshawn Sorey clattering and hissing behind her on his kit.

Note: above are very hot takes—one listen while cramming other things into my living

Out of This World (April 10th, 2018, Columbia, Mo)

Elza

Nope, this ain’t about Gino Washington! On one hand…have you ever felt like you just want to get out of this country for awhile? Yeah, me, too, so I did so through musical trips to Agadez, Lagos, and Rio (I also went to Manhattan, but it might as well have been Rio or Sao Paulo).

Also, unlike the night before, I was not about to get distracted by a damn haint (aka Hank Williams, Sr.) while I was trying to read. I am borderline insane when it comes to reading, and I added three new books to my active stack of three. If you’re curious, they were Colin Escott’s update of his solid Williams bio, I Saw the Light (the Hank fire’s done been lit); Gayle Ward’s Rosetta Tharpe book Shout Sister Shout!, which for some odd reason I didn’t read when immediately when it was published; and Patrick Parr’s account of the late-teenage MLK, The Seminarian: Martin Luther King, Jr. Comes of Age, which tells many relatively new stories, including this one. So, anyway, I picked some international groove music, though at least two of my selections were jumpy and angular enough to break my page-gaze.

You cannot go wrong with Bombino, the great guitarist from Niger. The man can work up a serious head of sustained, flowing steam with just six strings and percussion propulsion. His album from 2013, Nomad, is a great introduction to his work, and, if you get the chance to see him live, GO–we witnessed him at Minglewood Hall in Memphis opening for Gogol Bordello, and he made it very tough for the headliners to keep us at the venue:

 

Despite the man’s sprawling discography, you also cannot stumble randomly selecting works by the great Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. I did not choose randomly; I picked my favorite Kuti Komp, The Best of Black President, Volume 2, which features an extended version of the eternal, and eternally sorrowful, and eternally motivating “Sorrow, Tears, and Blood” (“it’s their regular trademark”). It’s where I’d start anyone new to Fela’s Afrobeat wiles.

 

Have you heard of Elza Soares  (that’s her pic at the top)? That’s OK, neither had I until a couple years ago. Apparently, she’s thought of by some as the Tina Turner of Brazilian music, but what you need to know is that she’s a defiant octogenarian who, in 2016, plunged headlong into an thrilling avant-garde setting and sprung some samba sujo (“dirty samba”–that alone should tempt you to put it on) on our unsuspecting ears. The resulting record, A mulher do fim do mundo (The Woman at the End of the World), intentionally or not, captures the beauty, sensuality, surprise, and madness of modern Brazil. Come to think of it, I think Brazilians have it a good deal worse than we do.

 

I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say it, but if you go Brazilian on a particular day of listening your ears likely won’t go back to where they were until the next day. I closed out with Arto Lindsay’s Cuidado Madame; Arto’s a New Yorker, but he’s been dedicated to adapting classic Brazilian musical styles–bossa nova, samba, and the wild, wooly, and wonderful variant called Tropicalia–to stateside pop forms, though it’s sometimes been hard to discern much of our traditions in his more recent music. This is his most recent release; it’s quite great, especially after repeated exposure. I love it in particular for two reasons: the opener, which features Mr. Lindsay writing his name on his lover’s naked belly until she forgets her own, and the multiple tracks on which, more often than has been his recent habit, he expresses himself on his inimitably untutored guitar. Also, the critic Robert Christgau once described Lindsay as being James Brown trapped in Don Knotts’ body; I’d update that from the Godfather of Soul to His Purpleness.

Short-shrift Division:

Tapper Zukie: Man Ah Warrior–Spacey early ’70s dub, driven by the bass line from “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Here, take a hit:

 

LIST TIME ONCE AGAIN! 35 Great Rekkids from this Haunted Year (kind of)

The first third of this haunted year is over: list time! I’ve got 35 rekkids so far that could conceivably make my year-end best-of (alphabetized, because I don’t have the energy to rank ’em–except my Top 10, asterisked and bolded for your convenience). That’s complicated by one that I was way behind on (even further than I was on Jazmine Sullivan) that might be argued as impacting 2016, a Brazilian record from a few years back that just came into most of our earlines, an addictive Serengeti EP project, and a documentary that I want to count.

*Angry Angles: Angry Angles
Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by “The Color of Pomegranates”
*Bombino: Azel
*Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (film)
Bowie, David: Blackstar
Bradley, Charles: Changes
Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011
Childbirth: Women’s Rights
Dalek: Asphault for Eden
Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody
Hemphill, Julius: Julius Hemphill Plays the Songs of Allen Lowe
*Hogberg, Anna: Anna Hogberg Attack
*Kool and Kass: Barter 7
*Iyer, Vijay, and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke
Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered
Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway
Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle
McPhee, Joe, and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
*Mexrissey: No Manchester
Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
Parquet Courts: Human Performance

Perfecto: You Can’t Run from The Rhythm
Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago
Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn
Reed, Blind Alfred: Blind Alfred Reed–Appalachian Visionary
Rihanna: Anti
Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage—Road Shows, Volume Four
Simpson, Sturgill: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Stetson, Colin: Sorrow—A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
Threadgill, Henry: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
*Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
Various Artists: Original Cast Recording of Hamilton#
Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius
*Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música–Multishow Live
*Williams, Saul: Martyr Loser King
Wills, Bob, and the Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

Wussy: “Ceremony”/”Days and Nights”
Wussy: Forever Sounds
Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea#

*Top 10 selections—as of now
# Complicated by not being 2016 by a long shot.

Good To My Earhole, April 1-10: “Not Counting Merle–Well, Except for One Rekkid”

Highlights of last ten days’ listening, ranked on a highly suspect 10-point scale (but if I’m listing it, I’m liking it!):

Bombino/Azel – 9.8 – A helpless “desert blues” addict, even I questioned whether I needed another record by the man from Agadez. Yep–I did. My favorite new record of any kind of 2016, it displays more variation in rhythm, intensity, and tone than your typical Tuareg release; I like a guy who, in ten songs, can evoke Hendrix, Hooker, Kimbrough, and Spence, and this is easily the best of the four of his five records I’ve heard. Also, he takes a few chances, including a reggae that explodes, and when he locks into one of those inevitable hypnotic phrases, it’s like a downed power line whipping around in your front yard. The ululations of the women who support him are perfectly timed, too.

Anthony Braxton/3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011 – 8.5 – When I learned that these compositions for septet required each player to carry into the studio an iPod loaded with Braxton’s complete (?) studio and live recordings, ready to be activated at will (or conductor’s nod?) in the midst of each take, I couldn’t resist. Plus it’s cheap for three disks. But: does it sound good? Well, I like free jazz, and though I cannot pretend to understand most of Mr. Braxton’s notes, I think this comment may convince you whether you should try it or not: “What we have here is a ‘state of music’….the friendly experiencer can walk through the ‘parks’ of the music on the way to engage in a sonic tennis match….I am moving towards a kind of action video game paradigm where [the listener] can make internal decisions inside of the greater music space that will affect the particulars of a given sonic fantasy….” In addition, his notes end with this: “[hee hee hee].” I love a giddy visionary septuagenarian.

The Fall/The Fall Box Set 1976-2007 – 9.5 – A wise man once said that the test of a great box set is that the last disc sounds as great as the first. I’m not sure that’s true here, but I can say after listening through all five of these discs in a row, I was never bored, and delighted, amused, or ON FIRE 80% of the time. I don’t care whether he’s barking out inscrutable lyrics while riding the same two-chord riff for five minutes; I don’t care whether he’s embarking on a poetry reading, a rockabilly cover, or dance floor throb. I’ll go wherever Mark E. Smith wants to lead, even if he’s only backed by your granny on bongos. I regret it took me 25 years to catch on.

Merle Haggard/If I Could Only Fly – 9.5 – The late master had a tendency to mar his every release with at least two flat-to-bad songs. This 2000 comeback–from health battles, from lethargy, from writer’s block, maybe–might be his best album, end to end, though it includes no single song most aficionados would put in The Hag Top 20. But no dogs, either. The band’s great (of course), and his singing’s as detailed and smart as ever. Picks to click: a look back that’s compassionate rather than judgmental; a paean/envoi to unprotected sex; two nods of gratitude, one to spawn and one to the uncle who taught him “Rubber Dolly”; some strong love songs; and the definitive version of Blaze Foley’s title song, which many have attempted to scale before, including Merle. I guess the pick to click is the whole thing.

George Jones/Live at Dancetown USA – 8.5 – Fired up by Rich Kienzle’s nice new Jones bio, I revisited several Jones holdings squirreled away in the pad. Here’s one Possum fans might not have heard, a ’65 live set in a real honky-tonk, seemingly unedited. Though George doesn’t sing with exquisite care–he seems in a hurry at times–he’s still the greatest singer in country music history. He covers his current hit catalog, takes a pell-mell run at “Boney Moronie,” delivers a couple of classic, corny bon mots (“…a brief liquor–I mean inter–mission” and an apology for “another sad ballard”), and lets his band have a few. Even if we don’t have a DVD to go with it, the ambiance is enough to make you wish you could have been there.

Wussy/Forever Sounds – 8.0 – Yeah yeah, they’re critics’ darlings, but I love them because they sing, write, and play like, for and about grown human beings in the midst of relatively normal middle age. Problem here is that the sonics (dubbed “shoe-gaze” by several folks, but I dunno), which do unify the album, have a tendency to overwhelm their humanity. I get off on the opening trio, “Dropping Houses,” “She’s Killed Hundreds,” and “Donny’s Death Scene,” but a later fave, “Hello, I’m a Ghost,” gets at my quibble–the vocals, especially Lisa Walker’s (who more and more reminds me of a rock version of Lucinda Williams when she was light of spirit), sound disembodied, sometimes even (literally) phoned in from a remote locale. I like embodied voices.