“I Need Fuel!” (May 4th, 2018, MO 63, 54, 5, 44)

I road-tripped to my parents’ home in Monett, Missouri, to celebrate my brother’s birthday–he was home from Dickinson, Texas. Unfortunately, my ace-boon pavement podnah Nicole was under the weather, so I was driving solo.

Also, my vehicle is a ’93 Ford Splash with 88,000 miles on it–I don’t entirely trust it, but it does have a nice stereo that masks those worrisome noises. So I selected some special, time-tested records to keep me fully engaged, and to “study” in “The Lab”–my nickname for the truck cab.

Neckbones: Souls on Fire

If the Rolling Stones were from Oxford, Mississippi, fronted by Richard Hell, and drunk on LAMF. Oh yeah: and cut loose with a week’s pay in a casino. But let me pull your coat on lead singer Tyler Keith. I hate to keep making comparisons, but this is true: if you, like me, are a fan of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club, there’s no reason for you to miss Tyler’s work with The Neckbones, The Preacher’s Kids, and The Apostles. It’s got the same fire, the same sense of spiritual hauntedness, the same immersion in the blues-based rock roll verities with a cerrated edge. What it doesn’t have, I think, is Pierce’s doomed aura–and that’s a good thing. Not something you wanna root for, you know?

I’m getting off topic, but proceed thusly through Mr. Keith’s oeuvre:

1) The Neckbones: Souls on Fire

2) Tyler Keith & The Preachers’ Kids: Romeo Hood

3) Tyler Keith & The Preachers ‘ Kids: Wild Emotions

4) The Neckbones: The Lights are Getting Dim

5) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Do It for Johnny

6) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Black Highway

7) The Neckbones: Gentlemen

To prove I’m somewhat objective, I’ve never warmed up to The Preachers’ Kids’ The Devil’s Hitlist or Keith’s kinda-solo Alias Kid Twist, though the cassette-only The Apostle is worth the search. To recap, and I will not have stuttered:  Tyler Keith and his projects equal to, if not better, than Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s.

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls and Tattoo You

A few weeks ago, I was having fun making fun of Mick Jagger’s garb and minstrelsy as modeled in videos from these records. Since then, I’ve come back to the videos, then to the records, to just joy in Charlie’s cracking drumming and Keith’s lewd, thick, buzzing guitar lines–sounds of the gods! Played both albums all the way through, loud, with nothing but a smile–and re-re-replays of “Lies,” “Respectable,” “Hang Fire,” “Start Me Up,” and “Neighbors.”

The Go-Betweens: 1978-1990

Yeah, I only listened to this comp THREE TIMES this week. Simply, the cats from Brisbane are my uncontested favorite romantic pop group–the music can rock or be sensuous and luxurious, with constant surprises: spring rain, pool draining, men o’ sand v. girls o’ sea, white witchery + poetry that’s Irish and so black, getting back up on the pony, period blood, cattle and cane. If this album ended after its first 11 tracks, it’d be an A+; as it is, it’s a solid A. Note: I love Grant, but I’m a Robert guy.

Oh, yes, I did. I needed to feel the breeze blowin’ up me, and be reminded what a moon can do (though I was driving into Monett in broad daylight). I also needed to get in touch with the real me before coming all the way home, and the china pig snuffles? They center me.

Short-shrift Division:

I am strange. I grade research papers at midnight to these sounds.

Dennis Gonzales and his New Dallas Sextet: Namesake–Fabulous, passionate, energetic, long-form jazz, from the genre’s most underrated living composer (and one hell of a trumpeter). Secret weapon: on horns and flute, Douglas Ewart!

Roscoe Mitchell: Discussions–The septuagenarian jazz sensei shows no signs of slowing. Playing puts me in a focused, contemplative, unsentimental mood–perfect for scoring freshman essays.

To the Queens (February 2nd, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Jazz has produced few spousal tributes as delicate, as deep, or as powerful as vibraphonist Walt Dickerson’s To My Queen, recorded on September 21, 1962, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey–Rudy Van Gelder behind the glass, of course.

Dickerson’s playing is concentrated and clear, conjuring a warm state of love that is varied, and constant. The 17-and-a-half minute title piece (above) gives the music a compositional framework that will stick to your ear’s (and mind’s) ribs, but allows plenty improvisational space–which with this unit is crucial. Besides Dickerson, the great Andrew Hill is on piano, and the young Andrew Cyrille (just before participating in a very different session with Cecil Taylor) and George Tucker, on drums and bass respectively, nearly steal the show from the leader. Keep your head inclined toward the speakers during the quieter passages, and you’ll be rewarded by Cyrille’s magically startling transitions out of them, and Tucker’s telepathic conversations with the leader during them. Keep this record in mind for Valentine’s Day.

Short-shrift Division:

In case you haven’t got the message already and are in search of albums that, end-to-end, won’t let you down, please trust me on these, each of which I have test-driven several times for y’all:

Nona Hendryx & Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart–You may not think you need to hear Hendryx singing Beefheart but you do: she transforms them. She’s playing his music so all the girls will come meet the monster tonight. And believe it or not, along with Lucas’ knife-point slide scraping aural graffiti onto the songs, you’ll get some stellar r&b/soul/doo-wop-styles ballads. You knew Van Vliet wrote those, right?*

Princess Nokia: 1992–Why rob yourself of the inspiring experience of listening to this young woman of color defiantly stepping to our current national ugliness–which she really never explicitly acknowledges–and backing it up several steps? After two listens, you’ll be chanting along with her, whether she’s repping for the streets of New York, vaunting her unconventional physique, abjuring recipes as she takes to the kitchen, coming right back at ’em after missing a layup, or pointedly taking her place with her fellow brujas.**

*Shrift not-so-short, doncha see?

**Which should tell you something.

 

January Top 10: Best of 2018 So Far

I realize that many of the choices below are actually releases from 2017, but they are fresh enough and so hard to have gotten one’s hands on that I’m-a have to count them. Happy hunting, and enjoy the above playlist of highlight tracks (excluding the Dawkins album, as no video was available.

  1. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart
  2. Princess Nokia: 1992
  3. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  4. CupcaKe: Ephora
  5. Ernest Dawkins: Transient Takes
  6. Rahim Alhaj: Letters from Iraq
  7. Moor Mother: Fetish the Bones
  8. Joey Badass: All-Amerikkkan Badass
  9. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn: Octopus
  10. Ty Segall: Freedom’s Goblin

Strapping On Her Dinosaur Shoes (January 26, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

When I was young and easy in the mercy of life’s means (and my privilege), a friend of mine and I, if we were hanging out with women and having a great time, would occasionally and quite perversely test them by throwing some Captain Beefheart on the turntable, hoping they would stay but doubting it seriously. If memory serves, that test was passed only once, and we were so deliriously happy about it we were in no shape to pass our test when the needle floated out of “Veteran’s Day Poppy” and into the outgroove.

I was moved to recall this after listening to The World of Captain Beefheart Featuring Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas. I’d bought it with some trepidation; more than a few times, producers have forced great singers (usually women) into misbegotten, undignified musical straitjackets, and I was having a hard time imagining Ms. Hendryx, of “Lady Marmalade” fame and more, comfortable with a Van Vlietian setlist. Yes, her partner in crime in this enterprise is one of the most passionate and skilled adherents of the Captain’s Way, but, I thought, why would a black singer even have an interest in wrestling with such wracking rhythms? Well, shame on me for having that thought; I’m just being honest. And, in fact, Nona sounds not only completely at home and familiar with the material (just play the opener, linked above), but like she’s having a blast. As she does live, having the choice and choosing “Tropical Hot Dog Night”!

But, to the point, it finally occurred to me that, perhaps, it was much more accurately surprising that a woman was digging, and digging into, the Beefheartian repertoire. Shame on me, again, for underestimating folks when I’m old enough to know better, but I sure hope there is more of this to come! Especially with Lucas’ guitar propelling her forward, backwards, and side to side (and grabbing this listener by the throat, as he usually does), this woman passes the test!

Short-shrift Division:

The Fall: I am Kurious Orange (Check the guy’s track record!)

The Fleshtones: It’s Super Rock Time! The IRS Years (and it is!)

Jean Grae: The Orchestral Tapes