An Anniversary Top 10: Recordings That Got Our Love Train Rollin’! (March 21st, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Today’s my wife’s and my 26th anniversary. Music was one of the first things that bonded us, and it continues to; I think we both used it as a litmus test on each other as well. It’s only fitting that we now bend our ears to 10 early signpost platters (and other miscellany) that set us on our increasingly great adventure.

Number One: The first album I taped for Nicole–before we even knew what was in store!

Number Two: A segment tape-recorded directly from a film that was one of many highlights on the first mixtape Nicole made me. I knew after this I’d met a live one!

Number Three: The first album we totally agreed upon (before we really knew we were falling in love), which I then gave to her, which we later framed, and which is now hanging by the front door:

Number Four: The cassette I bought for Nicole on my way to meeting her for a Coctails show at Murphy’s in Springfield, Missouri, that wasn’t a date but during which we decided to go steady, baby!

Number Five (Three-in-One): Three albums I think we played every single day immediately after we started dating.

Number Six: The first album I bought for Nicole that she (and I) didn’t like but then chastised ourselves about years later when its greatness finally penetrated our thick skulls and ears (the movie’s great, too). Note: Nicole is adept at spotting albums with great covers and buying them for that reason alone, which was my method in buying this for her, which backfired. I still remember us sitting on her bed, shaking our heads, and saying, “This is legendary?” A temporary chink in the ol’ armor.

Number Seven: The song (and album) Nicole listened to on the way back from an All concert that I couldn’t go to with her, which she said made her think for me, which kept her awake, which is still one of the nicest things she’s ever said to me.

*Number Eight: A highlight from a cassette (Uncommon Quotes) we played continually until we basically had it memorized. I still like it better than any of his books. The old sod could read aloud–his utterances were like music to us! He was a rather disturbing, but indeed effective, spiritual advisor to us as we sallied forth into love:

*Number Nine: Thank God a video store carried this in Springfield back then. We consider John Waters our cultural uncle (we actually invited him to our wedding), we remain ardent fans, and we watched this film in the early days as much for the awesome soundtrack as for its cinematic thrills and spills!

Number Ten: A track from the first great album and band we discovered together, though Nicole actually discovered them first at their concert in New Orleans during which I was incapacitated in the back seat of our friend Kenny’s car, to my eternal regret:

BONUS TRACK!: The bride’s dance at our wedding reception.

*Beginners, take note: Gay geniuses are a fantastic influence on straight couples! That’s a fact.

 

 

 

 

 

Good to My Earhole: September Songs

It may seem that I have been neglecting my responsibilities here (such as they are), but, though I am retired, I am actually working two part-time jobs and they have been keeping me preoccupied. But, as always, music has provided much-needed fuel. What follow are some highlights of the past month:

John Coltrane: Offering–Live at Temple University (November 11, 1966) (Resonance Records)

As a devoted though sometimes fatigued fan of Trane, I greeted the news of this excavation/restoration with some skepticism. One must admit that a goodly portion of the jazz audience has gotten–and will continue to get–off the bus after A Love Supreme, and, having listened to the man’s entire output after that record, I know they have good reason. I love the churning, searching, two-men-becoming of Interstellar Space, the roiling, blistering, crying record-long prayer of Meditations, the daring transformations of Live at the Village Vanguard Again; on the other hand, I am not sure I will ever put on the hammering, hectoring live records from Japan and Seattle again. I like Ascension better in theory than reality (though it’s a better realized experiment in freedom than Free Jazz, for sure); I’m likely to keep Om shelved. Of course I am leaving a few records out, but, to get to the heart of it, I wasn’t sure I or anyone else needed an imperfectly recorded concert record that might well be more painful than enjoyable. If you have the same misgivings, set them aside. This is a document worthy of your time. Coltrane is in great form, though he was nine months from passing–in fact, some of his most focused and coherent free playing ever is here, in very good fidelity, and the legendary singing and chest-beating he did at this gig are not freakish. It works; it’s even moving. Some Philly locals (on saxes, the very brave Arnold Joyner and Steve Knoblauch) showed up to pitch in, and they prove equal to the ’66 group’s concept. I would go so far as to say that they at least equal Pharoah Sanders, who on first appearance sounds like he’s taking a box cutter to the sheets of the night. Actually, the fidelity issues–you can’t really hear the bass other than one solo (and it’s a shaky one–Jimmy Garrison is not on hand), and the drums, when not in solo mode, are very quiet in the mix–enhanced the listening experience for me, even if they break the democratic contract. Honestly, I like hearing Trane when he’s not fighting for space, and, even if he was at the actual event, he is the show here. Highly recommended.

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Classical ain’t my usual bag, but reading David Toop‘s Ocean of Sound loosened me up for this, which a good friend foisted upon me on a lazy, cool Sunday. Rolling off a throbbing, multiply-manifested minimalist pulse like waves, the voices of more than 100 join to sing John Donne’s “Negative Love” and two Emily Dickinson poems, the well-known “Because I could not stop for Death” and the more obscure (and uncharacteristic) “Wild Nights,” texts that, as passionately interpreted here, seem to trail off the final line of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” The massed voices blur the words, producing a roar that, paradoxically, sounds heard from afar, or in a dream–but which is true to the lines of the poems. Hard to write about this stuff when you’re a sub-neophyte, but I think I am right about this one.

Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (Fat Possum)

One by one, the giants of North Mississippi Hill Country blues have fallen: Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford. Others, like Robert Belfour and Paul Wine Jones, have quieted. All the more welcome, then, is this document of the non-secular side of the tradition that does not sound all that much like Fred McDowell, its aesthetic fountainhead. Raw, hypnotic, crying Holy unto the Lord, and together, Welch’s music is the gem you’re looking for in this blues world of…well, it ain’t even fiberglass anymore, is it? As Digital Underground once advised us: “Heartbeat props/Don’t wait ’til the heartbeat stops/Give the man props while he’s livin’….”

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The Fugs: “Refuse to Be Burnt Out” (from Refuse to Be Burnt Out, New Rose, 1985)

I wish I had the audio track for this song–see: everything isn’t on YouTube, children!–which I have listened at least 50 times through many travails over the last 18 months. You need to hear it, and, like us, print the core of the lyrics out and slap them on your fridge. Here they are:

Refuse to be burnt out:
The answer is–
Not to be laid back
Not to be cynical
Not to be hesitant
Not to be shy
Not to be uninformed
Not to be beaten down
Not to be isolated
Not to be frightened
Not to be threatened
Not to be co-opted
AND
Not to be lied to….”

(Edward Sanders)

If you do get a chance to hear the track, you will enjoy the ageless Mr. Sanders’ razor-sharp delivery of this line: “Bitterly bickering bitter-shitters/Cursing fate when lunch is late….” My wife and I recite that one every time we are frustrated because we can’t find a parking spot.

The Minutemen: Three-Way Tie for Last (SST)

I wish two things:

1) That this album was not still utterly relevant.

2) That I would have seen this band in person before its life was snuffed out by a stupid broken axle.

If you are, say, a young fan who’s just begun to explore this group and headed straight for Double Nickels on the Dime or Buzz or Howl or What Makes a Man Start Fires? (or all three, and good for you!), it is time to catch up. It grows on you–hard–and absorbing it fully only makes their tragedy deeper, because, like all truly great bands, they were growing so quickly, both musically and mentally, and the results don’t sound like growing pains.

Listening Journal, Southern Journey, March 29

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We spent much of the day on the road, heading to Oxford and the premier of the documentary SUB-SIPPI and saying a sorrowful goodbye to the best trip to New Orleans we’d ever taken. Of course, no trip in an Overeem vehicle will be unaccompanied by music, and I must make a fervent pitch to my readers about one rekkid we listened to en route: Beausoleil’s FROM BAMAKO TO CARENCRO. I would argue, and few, I believe, would dispute me, that Beausoleil is and has been the finest Cajun band on the planet for decades. Leader Micheal Doucet is a genius fiddler and a highly underrated and very passionate vocalist…and crafty. Guitarist David Doucet, as I noted a couple of days ago, is such a skilled, ringing, and fluid guitar player he begs comparison to the great Doc Watson. The rest of the band are no slouches. However, with bands this great comes consistency, and haunting consistency is ennui (really, that’s the listener’s fault), and that syndrome may be the reason you don’t hear them talked about much anymore. In the case of FROM BAMAKO TO CARENCRO that is unfortunate. Along with the usual spirited originals and traditional songs one expects from a Beausoleil album, the Doucets engineer several daring and successful experiments: a moving, desert-tinged tribute to their fellow humans in Mali; an audacious and slyly joyful ride through Trane’s “Bessie’s Blues” (jazzers never cover that!); a visit north to Mississippi to convert Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move” to Cajun funeral music; and, perhaps MOST audacious, an assault on that great LIVE AT THE APOLLO opener, “I’ll Go Crazy.” Even P.J. Proby couldn’t pull THAT off–and I can just imagine how the band’s faithful cut a rug to it in concert. I would link tracks, but they aren’t up on everyone’s free platform, YouTube. Just trust me: this is the best Beausoleil album, and thus the best Cajun album, in years (their last, ALLIGATOR PURSE, was also stellar) and you MUST buy it. That’s an order. Here is the Spotify link for the album, at least.

In Oxford, we heard some great soul music while we were dining at Ajax’s on the square (specifically, Ann Peebles’ “99 Pounds”), and, as I had at Coleman’s BBQ in Senatobia last week, I looked around at the older white diners and wondered what they were thinking and feeling in ’63 and ’64. You never know. But James Meredith’s statue at Ole Miss got vandalized about a month ago, and time takes its time making things go away.

Go see SUB-SIPPI. I was under the influence of medicine and not at my best, but it is a thoughtful and hopeful commentary on the many good things about the state. My favorite segment focused on a black elementary student who had turned to gardening to help him manage his behavior. The screening was at The Lyric Theater, and was preceded by a band performance (The Blues Doctors, and that’s how they sounded–it’s a horrible band name, but the duo were likely both actual physicians) and–the bane of concertgoing, in my not-so-humble opinion–a DJ set. I am not sure what place bad ambient rhythm had at such an event, but, as Nicole often says, it always sounds like porno music, say, from some glossy Japanese urban erotic film. I know this would be a stretch, but how about some music from…MISSISSIPPI? It wouldn’t have to be blues, just local. And don’t tell me the DJ’s constructions were original, and therefore regional; the closest he got was a snatch of Gil Scot Heron–and he was from Kentucky.