Charge It To The Game: May 20-26

‘Twas a week of even less structure than last, as my wife Nicole, also a teacher, was loosed upon the summer months. I continued to find it difficult to get focused on writing (I clearly need my back to the wall once a day), but plenty of music flowed within the walls of our home. To wit:

The weekly “Living to Listen Awards” for high-impact records!

Plucked from History’s Dustbin (best recent purchase of an old record): Jewels and Binoculars, Floater (multi-reed master Michael Moore’s project designed specifically to interpret Dylan on a jazz tip–and does it work!). This ain’t that album, but if you’re skeptical?

Grower, Not a Shower (old record I already owned that’s risen in my esteem): see immediately below–a double-winner this week.

Encore, Encore! (album I played at least twice this week): Grant Green’s The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark. Lots of rockers don’t dig jazz guitar, but Green’s bluesy intensity might cut through that prejudice. Plus: ya got Clark on the 88s.

Through the Cracks (sweet record I forgot to write about): Pusha T’s Daytona. No MC alive is better. As they say, he could recite the phone book. An unfortunate man is allied with him on this project–I will continue to debate with myself as I hope you will whether it’s acceptable to encourage such a project. Also, Grupo Mono Blanco’s ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz, from Smithsonian Folkways but don’t let that stop you from swaying to it.

Sunday’s Children / Today’s Sounds: The Del McCoury Band’s Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass.

Through The Ceiling (April 28th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

A busy day: grocery shopping, a six-mile walk, and late lunch/early dinner at Murry’s, then some well-earned lazing about with some drinks. I needed to knock out my update of best albums of 2018, which required a trip to the basement desktop and some iTunes and YouTube clicking around to test my musical judgement. However, while I was down in the inner sanctum, Nicole took over the house stereo, and her selections, bleeding down through the ceiling, gave me more pleasure than anything I was examining. (She has a knack for this; not many spouses in the world will crank up a Lee Dorsey jam in the bathroom while in deep pedicure mode!)

DJ Nicole’s Platters That Mattered:

Few things are more insane and addictive and wonderful in American music than Fred and Rose Maddox whoopin’ and hollerin’ through a country and western tune! And the band (often with future Stranger Roy Nichols on guitar) flat moves! Both Arhoolie volumes of “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band” are the cat’s ass and will break up any excessive solemnity in your abode.

This isn’t the actual slab she spun (that was the first volume of Rhino’s stingy two [separate] disk Owens comp), but it contains most of its great tracks. Sharp band (guitar and drummer leaning toward rock), instantly recognizable singer and writer (“Under Your Spell Again” a great example: spare, focused, catchy, soulful), lean sound.

The McCoury fam’s waxed many great songs but few undeniable albums. This one’s close. Usually it’s about the tunes, and here they range from Frank Sinatra to Richard Thompson, whose greatest composition they outright take from him (the way Aretha did Otis with “Respect”). The playing and singing are always on point with this bunch.

A man and his idol. George bawled like a baby on his military bunk when he heard Hank had died–through a New Year’s Eve hangover, surely–so you can rest assured he handles these Hillbilly Shakespeare classics with TLC. I wish I had a full album link, but both of the Possum’s Hank discs are stellar.

OH YEAH! She also played R. L. Burnside all morning in the jalopy!

Short-shrift Division:

Neil Young: Roxy–Tonight’s the Night Live. Yes, you do too need it.

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.