Expect The Unexpected: My Favorite 100 Records of This Year on 🔥 🔥 🔥.

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Due to the unexpected death of a great friend, I have been in “4M” mode: Medicatin’ Myself Mostly with Miles.” Another Davis, Lockjaw, has been providing more traditional relief (the blues stomping out the blues), but new music hasn’t been able to elbow in and make much impact. 79rs Gang, a team-up by 7th and 9th Ward Mardi Gras Indian chiefs, released their second straight great album, both available on Sinking City. The first, Fire on the Bayou, was as stripped-down as a mess of Indian chants has ever gotten; the new one, Expect the Unexpected, is as impure as one has ever dared. Little Simz and Sunwatchers purt-near knocked me out with punch-packing EPs, the former gaining more confidence and edge with each new song, the latter barely able to contain their joyous in-all-directions energy. Despite seeming to have blown his voice out, Steve Earle delivered his best songs in years, the product of a more ambitious previous project, I believe. Les Amazones d’Afrique and the Saharan cellphone-foisting legions of Sahel Sounds offered two intriguingly varied and effective sets…and that about does it for fresh musical crank-turning in my world. Where are The Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell, you may be asking? I do not like those albums. Lady Gaga? Something tells me I need her pronto, but I’ve yet to get to it. Maybe next month if the whole circus hasn’t imploded.

Below are my Still-Warm 100, followed by 15 issuances of music recorded in earlier years. Bolded items correspond to the above album covers; they are new to the list. Also, someone lost the top slot, but she’s doin’ alright.

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  2. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  3. Run The Jewels: RTJ 4
  4. Kesha: High Road
  5. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  6. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  7. Body Count: Carnivore
  8. Anna Högberg Attack: lena
  9. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  10. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved (it’s late ‘19, actually)
  11. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  12. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  13. Hamell on Trial: The Pandemic Songs
  14. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  15. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  16. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  17. Steve Earle: Ghosts of West Virginia
  18. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  19. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  20. 79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected
  21. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  22. Moses Sumney: grae
  23. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  24. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  25. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  26. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  27. Little Simz: Drop 6 (EP)
  28. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  29. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  30. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  31. Tyler Keith: The Last Drag
  32. Chicago Underground: Good Days
  33. Les Amazones d’Afrique: Amazones Power
  34. K Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  35. Fat Tony and Taydex: Wake Up
  36. Danny Barnes: Man on Fire
  37. Various Artists: Sahel Sounds Sampler 2
  38. The Howling Hex: Knuckleball Express
  39. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG
  40. U. S. Girls: Heavy Light
  41. The Necks: Three
  42. fra fra: Funeral Songs
  43. Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko: Traversees
  44. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
  45. Rod Wave: Pray 4 Love
  46. Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence, Pts. 1 & 2
  47. Sunflowers: Endless Voyage
  48. McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, and Nilssen-Love: Of Things Beyond Thule, Volume 2
  49. X: Alphabetland
  50. Sabir Mateen, et al: Survival Situation
  51. Ndudozo Makhathini: Modes of Communication—Letters from the Underworlds
  52. Mythic Sunshine: Changing Shapes–Live at Roadburn
  53. Joe Ely: Love in the Midst of Mayhem
  54. Sunwatchers: Brave Rats (EP)
  55. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: UNLOCKED
  56. GuiltyBeatz: Different (EP)
  57. El Alfa: El Androide
  58. Alkibar Junior: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 4 (EP)
  59. Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers
  60. Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey: Invisible Ritual
  61. Elysia Crampton: ORCORARA 2010
  62. Sunwatchers: Oh Yeah?
  63. Shopping: All for Nothing
  64. Katie Shorr: Open Book
  65. The Neptune Power Federation: Memoirs of a Rat Queen
  66. Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
  67. MONO: Before The Past
  68. Chubby & The Gang: Speed Kills
  69. Rina Sayawama: SAYAWAMA
  70. STRFKR: Future Past Life
  71. Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation
  72. Darragh Morgan and John Tilbury: For John Cage (composer: Morton Feldman)
  73. Westside Gunn: Pray for Paris
  74. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind
  75. Waxahatchie: Saint Cloud
  76. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Born Deadly (EP)
  77. Evan Parker and Paul Lytton: collective calls (revisited) (jubilee)
  78. Fire! Orchestra: Actions for Free Jazz Orchestra
  79. Majid Bekkas: Magic Spirit Quartet
  80. Jan St. Werner and Mark E. Smith: Molocular Mediation
  81. Lyra Pramuk: Fountain
  82. Shabazz Palaces: The Don of Diamonds
  83. Megan Thee Stallion: Suga
  84. Childish Gambino: 3.15.20
  85. Ohad Talmor Newsreel: Long Forms
  86. Etran de L’Air: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 1 (EP)
  87. Tamikrest: Tamotait
  88. Luís Lopes Humanization 4Tet: Believe, believe
  89. Dramarama: Color TV
  90. Colin Stetson: Color Out of Space (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  91. Tomeka Reid and Alexander Hawkins: Shards and Constellations
  92. Wayne Phoenix: Soaring Wayne Phoenix Story The Earth
  93. Thundercat: It is What it Is
  94. Amaria Hamadahler: Music from Saharan Whats App 5
  95. Oumou Diabate et Kara Show Koumba Frifri: Music from Saharan WhatsApp, Volume 2 (EP)
  96. Pink Siifu & yungmorpheus: Bag Talk
  97. Jays Electronica and -Z: A Written Testimony
  98. Meredith Monk: Memory Game
  99. Luke Combs: What You See Is What You Get
  100. Jeich Ould Badou: Music from Saharan WhatsApp 03
  101. Pink Siifu: NEGRO
  102. Moor Mother: CLEPSYDRA

REISSUED AND NEWLY ISSUED OLDER MUSIC

  1. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  2. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  3. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  4. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  5. Various Artists: Stone Crush—Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  6. Observer All Stars & King Tubby: Dubbing with the Observer (reissue)
  7. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  8. Fela Kuti: Perambulator
  9. No Trend: Too Many Humans/Teen Love (reissue)
  10. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  11. Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings
  12. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  13. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  14. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  15. Various Artists: Jamaican All-Stars (Studio One)

 

Exactly What Nobody Wanted: The Best Records of 2019 (so far), With Two Months Left to Survive It

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Observations of October (OOO for short!)

This has been a pretty great year for music tomes. Simply at present, three are battling for my attention and holding it why they get it: John Doe, Tom DeSavia, and friends’ sequel to the LA punk kinda-oral-history Under the Big Black Sun, titled More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy [key subtitular words] of LA Punk; Vivien Goldman’s Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot [oh, those subtitles!], which is passing my first rule of excellent music books by costing me money in buying CDs (yes, I know I could download or stream, but fuck it); and Will Ashon’s inventive and surprising Chamber Music: Wu-Tang and America 9in 36 Pieces, which keeps Jeff Chang’s streak alive of never blurbing a bad book. In the recent past, I’ve devoured Hannah Ewens‘ groundbreaking FANGIRLS, due out in the States next year and possibly landing in my freshman comp/pop music womens’ college class as an assigned text next semester (Ewens’ book passed my second rule of excellent books in that it forced me to read another book, in this case Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck, which in turn led me to the aforementioned Goldman book), and luxuriated in Celeste Bell and Zoe Howe’s Day Glo! The Poly Styrene Story, an oral history of the life, times, vision, and work of Ms. Bell’s influential punk mom. Again, that’s just the last three weeks or so. Get your ass to the library.

 

Speaking of books, Will Friedwald’s The Great Jazz & Pop Vocal Albums is finally letting go its grip on me. However, thinking about the eccentricity of some of his choices, I began to wonder why the distinctive Al Hibbler, a fellow Missouri native (from the metropolis of Tyro!) and maker of terrific albums with the likes of both Ellington and Kirk, didn’t make the cut. Hibbler had a resonant, rich-coffee voice as well as quirky, almost-Cockney articulation on some words (such his pronunciation of “I” as “Oy”). The resulting weird sound matched perfectly with those produced by Rahsaan, as can be sampled on their splendid A Meeting of the Times, on the short list of the best albums ever made by two blind men teaming up:

I’ve played that album many times, but lately I moved on to Hibbler’s two Classics label entries (featuring much of his work with Duke) as well as his romantic, passionately sung, but little-heard mid-Fifties releases (most of them piquantly-titled, such as Torchy & Blue and Al Hibbler Sings the Blues Monday Every Day).

 

Black Sabbath is really good peace-making music. My wife and I were having a mild dispute Saturday evening as she attempted to prepare some pulled pork sandwiches and I tried to convince her I was correct about several non-pork-related points. It had been her turn for stereo control about a half-hour prior to this discussion, and she asked for some Sabbaf. I pulled the two-CD compendium Symptom of the Universe, loaded, and cranked it up, and headed back into the kitchen. Did you know it is fairly impossible to keep a straight face while arguing about anything with a Black Sabbath song as a backdrop? God knows as your dog nose, bog blast all of you / Sabbath, bloody sabbath, nothing more to do / Living just for dying, dying just for you, yeah”?” Well, OK, then! (I can’t resist sharing the below, which is kind of how I feel about this set):

 

I have to put in a strong word for New Orleans’ Sinking City Records and its new release, Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music. This label’s put out precious few records, and it doesn’t knock itself out in getting them distributed, but they are always very interesting and usually really damn good on top of that (try their 79rs Gang or Michot’s Melody Makers or Stooges Brass Band records–or their reissues of Ricky B and Danny Barker singles). Take it from me; I think I’ve bought them all, and I never wait for a review or stream samples to cut my losses. Asher’s only-in-NOLA experiment, which–and this doesn’t capture it–reaches both forwards and backwards through Crescent City music history and features some very bracing ghost appearances, is likely to inch into my Top 10 by the end of next month. Think about giving it a shot. Also, SCR’s pretty much vinyl-only, and I like that.

 

Many of my friends consider me at least somewhat of a music expert, but I regularly demonstrate I couldn’t possibly be. Just f’rinstance: last week, I screened Asif Kapadia’s harrowing documentary Amy for my Stephens College students. They’d been working on writing reviews, we’d Zoomed in some very excellent thinkers and writers to give advice, and they’d sampled several divergent models. For our final piece in the unit, I thought the film (which is more than a little complicated, and that’s a compliment) would make excellent substance for our final Socratic seminar. I’d seen it thrice before, still wasn’t sure it didn’t exploit what it seemed to want to criticize, and–most important to this blather–found myself still pretty resistant to Winehouse’s wiles. Something about her delivery (even after she’d really perfected it) seemed affected to me, without Dap Band bolstering I questioned whether her work would stand up as straight and strong, and I didn’t trust the throwback bouffant, which played to my taste (I love me some girl groups, as well as some bad girls). While watching the film two more times (I have two classes), performance clips of “You Know I’m No Good” and “Love is a Losing Game” finally perforated my shell of ignorance, and I spent a good chunk of the weekend listening to Back to Black. You know what? That sucker is a classic! Eureka–it only took me a decade to figure that out. The thing is, pop music’s so deep and rich that, even if you’re an occasional lunkhead in perceiving it (like me), at least (we hope) you’ll catch up to it later when you need something durable, powerful, and wonderful.

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of November 3, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  4. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  5. Rapsody: Eve
  6. Mexstep: Resistir
  7. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  8. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith: Songs from The Bardo
  9. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  10. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  11. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  12. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  13. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  14. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  15. Danny Brown: uknowwhutimsayin
  16. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  17. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  18. Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel
  19. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  20. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  21. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  22. Jeffrey Lewis: Bad Wiring
  23. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  24. Byron Asher: Byron Asher’s Skrontch Music
  25. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  26. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  27. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  28. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  29. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  30. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  31. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  32. Miranda Lambert: Wildcard
  33. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  34. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  35. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  36. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  37. Tyler Childers: Country Squire
  38. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  39. Sote: Parallel Persia
  40. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  41. Quelle Chris: Guns
  42. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  43. DaBaby: KIRK
  44. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  45. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  46. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  47. Senyawa: Sujud*
  48. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  49. Rocket 808: Rocket 808
  50. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  51. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  52. BaianaSystem: O Furturo Nao Demora
  53. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  54. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  55. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  56. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  57. Elza Soares: Planeta Fome
  58. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  59. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
  60. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  61. Young M.A.: Herstory in the Making
  62. Ken Vandermark: Momentum 4—Consequent Duos 2015-2019
  63. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  64. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  65. Alcorn/McPhee/Vandermark: Invitation to a Dream
  66. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  67. Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain
  68. Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from The Sun Ra Cosmos
  69. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  70. GoldLink: Diaspora
  71. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief
  72. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  73. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  74. G & D: Black Love & War
  75. Girl Band: The Talkies
  76. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  77. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  78. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  79. Gilberto Gil: OK OK OK
  80. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
  81. Resavoir: Resavoir
  82. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II—Bird of Paradise
  83. Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2
  84. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  85. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  86. JD Allen: Barracoon
  87. Big Thief: Two Hands
  88. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  89. Mantana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter Four–Memphis
  90. Youssou N’Dour: History
  91. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  92. Tinariwen: Amadjar
  93. Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl
  94. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  95. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  96. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  97. Terry Riley and Kronos Quartet: Sun Rings
  98. Boris: Love & Evol
  99. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  100. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  101. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  102. black midi: Schlagenheim
  103. Nots: 3
  104. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  105. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  106. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  107. Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time
  108. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  109. Santana: Africa Speaks
  110. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  111. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  112. Fennesz: Agora
  113. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  114. Robert Forster: Inferno
  115. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  116. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  117. Blacks’ Myths: Blacks’ Myths II
  118. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  119. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  120. Solange: When I Get Home
  121. James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz
  122. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  123. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  124. Ahmad Jamal: Ballades
  125. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  126. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  127. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  128. Little Brother: May the Lord Watch
  129. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  130. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  131. slowthai: Great About Britain
  132. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  133. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  134. Mekons: Deserted
  135. Que Vola: Que Vola
  136. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  137. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  138. Hama: Houmeissa
  139. Steve Earle: Guy
  140. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  141. Ill Considered: 5
  142. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  143. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  144. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  145. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  146. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  147. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  148. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  149. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  150. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. The Royals: Gish Abbai
  6. Various Artists: Bulawayo Blue Yodel
  7. Various Artists: Put The Whole Armour On—Female Black Gospel 1940s and 1950s
  8. Screaming Females: Singles Too
  9. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  10. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  11. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  12. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  13. Various Artists: Jambu
  14. Erroll Garner: Closeup in Swing
  15. John Coltrane: Blue World
  16. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  17. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  18. Various Artists: World Spirituality Classics 2—The Time for Peace is Now
  19. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  20. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  21. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  22. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  23. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  24. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  25. Various Artists: Fania Goes Psychedelic
  26. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  27. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  28. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  29. Prince: Originals
  30. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  31. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  32. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  33. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  34. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  35. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  36. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  37. The Replacements: Dead Man’s Pop
  38. Scientists: Not for Sale (Live, 1978-1979)
  39. Abdallah Oumbadougou: Anou Malane
  40. George Jones: United Artists Rarities

Lovin’ a 45: I Choose Vinyl Over Soundcloud for No Really Good Reason (November 6th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

VOTE! Intelligently! Doesn’t matter if the weather is bad or the lines are long or you have to interact with other humans–just do it.

OK, now that that’s over with, have you ever dreamed of having your own jukebox? I do, all the time. I am fortunate enough to have everything in life that I really need (as long as music and books keep comin’), and I for damn sure don’t need a jukebox. But I have a small but powerful collection of 45s that are just dyin’ to get inside a machine, and I still buy the little boogers, really, because I think that I am bound to one day own a working model. Guests will be able to play songs gratis (just like they do at Milton’s Cocktails in Fulton, Missouri!), and I’ll set it up right next to my free beer-vending machine!

I had planned ahead for a musical buffer to arrive for the midterm elections, and just in time the postman delivered. From 12XU Records came a sampling from the newest project from Niangua (MO)-born rock and roller John Schooley, Rocket 808. I’ve been following Schooley’s work for over twenty years, from his time in Columbia, MO’s long-lost and -missed Revelators to his raving One Man Band 45s (on Goner) and albums (on Voodoo Rhythm) to his defiant albums with The Hard Feelings to his exciting team-ups with master harp-blower Walter Daniels on Dead Mall Blues. I’m committed to his records ’cause he’s committed to making good ones, and the new 7″ (album coming soon) is no exception. If I told you he deliberately set out to meld instro guitar-hero twang-‘n’-tremble with nerve-rattling Suicide-inspired mechanical percussion, then realized that idea’s potential straight out of the gate, would you believe me? Yeah, I encourage you to question authority, too, so here:

On the flip, Schooley is the latest to hop on “Mystery Train” for a ride, and while it doesn’t provide as unique a rush as “Digital Billboards,” it does wail–as does the artist, trading Presley’s whoop for a hanging-from-a-railcar scream.

I will keep you posted on that album, folks.

 

Also stuffed in the mailbox was a package of singles straight from the New Orleans streets–specifically, from the mysterious mostly-vinyl-only Sinking City record label. I do not know much about the folks behind Sinking City, and they (rather refreshingly) do not issue releases in torrents. I will say that since my first purchase, a 12″ re-release of Ricky B’s absolutely essential, absolutely addictive, absolutely yellable “Shake For Ya Hood,” I’ve bought almost everything the label’s released with great satisfaction. They’ve marched into my home as if they owned it (and they do)–they are Louisiana-stamped. Stooges Brass Band’s Street Music, maybe the best brass band record of the decade. 79rs Gang’s Fire on the Bayou, a Mardi Gras Indians record stripped down to the basics like Run-DMC did their attack (also, it teams 7th and 9th Ward Indians). A classic 45 RPM-set reissue of the first commercially-recorded Mardi Gras Indian chants, fired by legendary guitarist and NOLA griot Danny Barker. This year’s haunting Blood Moon, by Michot’s Melody Makers, easily a best-of-2018 candidate and too powerful to be called a Lost Bayou Ramblers spin-off.

Their newest gem, released in tandem with Urban Unrest Records, is simply titled “The SCR Hip Hop 45 Series.” Three new, very street, very historically aware, very catchy singles by the likes of Blackbird & Seprock, Paco Troxclair, and and Ze11a, with guest appearances by Anderson Paak and (no surprise) Mannie Fresh–plus (enough of an inducement to buy it right here) the great “Shake For Ya Hood” itself. Subject matter? Customary for (and lovable about) a NOLA hip hop offering, a neighborhood call-out; the ins and out of not being in one’s right mind; duffy-ness; nostalgia for ladies coloring their hair with “all flavors” of Kool-Aid; a boast that one’s “honey will get her nut / like Cheerios”; and observations of the dangerous life. I’ve already played all four of them four times since I opened the package last night at 5:30 pm, so my enthusiasm is not just jerked from my knee. You try ’em:

Only quibble: Sinking City should have thrown in a 5th single, by NOLA MC Charm Taylor, a woman whose handle is both perfectly fitting and subtly ironic. You can buy her newest tracks for a buck (as well as her reissued 2015 album) on Bandcamp, or sample her here:

 

 

My Official 2015 Top 20 Rekkids

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In another post below, I listed 116 discs from 2015 that I thought were plenty good. Should you have cared, just reading it might have seemed daunting balanced against trying to properly live your life. For folks with less time on their hands, here is the Top 20 I’m going to send in to the various polls to which I am asked to contribute, followed by my favorite 15 “archival digs”–collections of old stuff that demands reconsideration, but shouldn’t properly take up space on a REAL EOY Top 20.

  1. Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM)
  2. Kendrick Lamar: to pimp a butterfly (Aftermath)
  3. Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts: Manhattan (Rough Trade)
  4. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)
  5. John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life—The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic (Smiling Fez)
  6. Irene Schweizer, and Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt)
  7. 79rs Gang: Fire on the Bayou (Sinking City)
  8. Africa Express: Terry Riley’s “In C”—Mali (Transgressive)
  9. Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day (Legacy)
  10. Allen Lowe with Hamiet Bluiett: We Will Gather When We Gather (self-released)
  11. x_x: Albert Ayler’s Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto (Smog Veil)
  12. Coneheads: P. aka “14 Year Old High School PC–Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $$$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P.” (Erste Theke Tontraeger)
  13. J. D. Allen: Graffiti (Savant)
  14. Nots: We Are Nots (Goner)
  15. Los Lobos: Gates of Gold (429)
  16. Heems: Eat Pray Thug (Megaforce)
  17. Erykah Badu: But You Cain’t Use My Phone (self-released)
  18. Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (Atlantic)
  19. Drive-By Truckers: It’s Great to Be Alive! (ATO)
  20. Wreckless Eric: AMEricA (Fire)

Top 15 Archival Digs or Comps

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  1. Bobby Rush: Chicken Heads—A 50-Year History(Omnivore)
  2. The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes (Polygram)
  3. Continental Drifters: Drifting—In the Beginning and Beyond (Omnivore)
  4. Various Artists: Ork Records–New York, New York (Numero)
  5. Jerry McGill: AKA Jerry McGill (CD) + Very Extremely Dangerous (DVD) (Fat Possum)
  6. Dead Moon: Live at Satyricon (Voodoo Doughnut)
  7. Various Artists: The Year of Jubilo (Old Hat)
  8. Various Artists: Beale Street Saturday Night (Omnivore)
  9. Various Artists: Burn, Rubber City, Burn (Soul Jazz)
  10. Sun Ra: To Those of Earth…and Other Worlds–Gilles Peterson Presents Sun Ra And His Arkestra (Strut)
  11. Bob Marley & The Wailers: Easy Skankin’ in Boston, 1978 (Tuff Gong)
  12. The Falcons: The World’s First Soul Group—The Complete Recordings (History of Soul)
  13. J. B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World For Me (Dust-To-Digital)
  14. Ata Kak: Obaa Sima (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
  15. Reactionaries: 1979 (Water Under the Bridge)

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD TO MY EARHOLE, First Half of June 2014

Marc Ribot: Two Serenity-Wreckin’ Trios

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Ceramic Dog: Your Turn (Northern Spy)

The Marc Ribot Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Pi Recordings)

Best known as an accompanist for The Lounge Lizards and Tom Waits, Ribot’s never put out a boring solo record. He plays guitar as if a jagged tin can and ropes of barbed wire are being employed, but, like Jimi Hendrix, he is able to control and channel his sound to produce frequently quite beautiful works. Also, Ribot’s smart and well-versed enough that he can adapt his sound to Cuban rhythm (check out his Los Cubanos Postizos records), rhythm and blues (he used to play in Solomon Burke’s band), punk (he’s the star on the recent and controversial re-recording of Richard Hell’s Destiny Street, filling the shoes and tracks of the legendary Bob Quine), pop (accompanying Marianne Faithfull), and jazz (his Albert Ayler-dedicated Spiritual Unity Trio). Being someone who believes that inventive electric guitar noise–loud electric guitar noise–is receding into our pop music’s background, I am thrilled to recommend to you two very different recent trio recordings Ribot’s made–that only Ribot could have made. Ceramic Dog is his rock project, and 2013’s Your Turn should have been in many, many critics’ year-end Top 10s. Besides offering the listener a truckload of skronky, intense six-string wailing and riffing (including the raging title cut, which sounds like a tribute to chainsaw jazz inventor Sonny Sharrock), it features the greatest lyric yet recorded about illegal downloading (“Masters of the Internet”) and one of the only songs based on materialist philosophy I have ever heard. As well, it takes Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” five ways from Sunday, and astutely adapts a turn-of-the-twentieth-century poem by James Oppenheim to our modern use. The fact that Ribot can’t sing but only yells matters not a whit. The Vanguard trio has gone under multiple names; because it’s a) largely dedicated to Ayler recordings; and b) lured legendary avant-jazz bassist Henry Grimes (an important Ayler sideman) out of what seemed like permanent retirement, it’s often called Spiritual Unity, after one of Ayler’s greatest albums. Let’s sweep nomenclatural confusion out of the way, though, because the band’s 2012 live performance (Grimes’ first in almost 50 years) is stunning. The set list includes two relatively obscure Coltranes (“Dearly Beloved” and “Sun Ship”), two normally corny standards (“Ol’ Man River” and “I’m Confessin'”) and, of course, two Aylers (“The Wizard” and the ol’ New Thing chestnut “Bells”), and the trio digs into them with great intensity, invention, and interaction. If you haven’t heard Ribot before, but know Trane and Ayler, you might well ask, “How does a guitar deal with the huge noise of those horns?” Well, for the most part, he sidesteps the “bigness” issue and invests in ritual repetition, melody, vocal emulations, and, especially, the questing nature of those great men’s styles. The big triumph, to me, is that Ribot’s audacious decision to mount those corny standards alongside free compositions many jazz experts still wouldn’t think of allowing into the canon pays off in spades: the set sounds unified and the compositions of a piece. If you’ve never thought you’d like free jazz, you might take this one for a spin.

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Haiti Direct! (Strut Records)

I know doodly-squat about Haitian music–other than that its traditions have flowed to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico, and, especially, Africa, and that it’s a country where slave-chains were thrown off in a revolution and the river of freedom drunken from deeply (though in some ways the worst was yet to come). If you happen to be in a music store when this is playing, you might very well mistake it for a Congolese release, if you know your Franco and Rochereau. But, if you buy one international release this year, make it this one. Of course, the rhythms are bewitching and various and compelling–most of them are designed to bring the dancer to the point of frenzy. But the tensile guitars cut through the mix like serrated knives, the horns are played as if to wake the dead (which takes on multiple dimensions in Haiti), and the vocals, though not everpresent, range from demented screaming to–yes–meowing. If you’re a scholar, the record surveys multiple styles and is festooned with thorough notes. But if your heart, mind, ass, and feet like to move, you can save the reading for later and slap this on the turntable Saturday night once the drinks start to kick in.

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Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin (4 Men w/Beards reissue)

A good friend who I loaned this to as he was recovering from a breakup begged me, “Don’t ever give this to anyone who’s heartbroke again! It’s unbearable.” I’d been aware of that possibility before I loaned it; I’d used it myself for the same purpose, but, personally, I like to be taken to the very bottom before I start heading back up to the surface. Parson’s yearning, soulful, precisely imprecise vocals–the bane of multiple producers trying to get great records out of him during his comet-streak of a career–are at their peak here; even if you’re in a blissfully bounteous relationship, if you can listen to him sing, “He may be/Sweet and nice/But that won’t keep you warm at night/’Cause I’m the one/Who let you in/I was right beside you then….” without feeling the knife twist, you ain’t human. And the songs. The heartbreak songs are extraordinarily painful and indelible, mainly by virtue of splendid dabs of specific detail, but the others, especially “Sin City,” “Christine’s Tune,” “Wheels,” and the International Submarine Band chestnut “Do You Know How It Feels,” pull off that near-impossible trick of wedding the personal with the political, with no sign of strain or pretention. Elsewhere, Gram re-genders and tweaks “Do Right Woman,” matching Aretha (did I stutter?), and closes each side (I’m talking about vinyl here, folks) with marvelous comic relief: the draft-dodging “My Uncle,” trailing echoes of Merle Haggard, on Side A, and the droll Staples Singers/Hank Williams send-up “Hippie Boy” on Side B. The band was ace, especially Sneaky Pete Kleinow on steel, who cranks and fuzzes up his notes, the ultimate instrumental collision of city and country. This release corrects a very crappy remix foisted upon consumers by Edsel’s CD version, which quiets down Kleinow’s contribution slightly and bungles the balance–it’s one of the clearest, cleanest, richest sounding vinyl reissues of the current landslide, and that’s especially relevant since the rights to the album seem in questionable territory, and the last vinyl version I owned (A&M’s) sounded half as bright. Safe at Home (International Submarine Band), Sweetheart of the Rodeo (The Byrds), and Grievous Angel (solo) confirm Parsons’ genius. By now, most of us know he picked up country music second-hand, enjoyed trust-fund status, and treated friends, family, fellow musicians, and the ladies with imperfect consideration. But, in classic artist-as-martyr fashion, he died to capture the end of an era and birth an entire genre on this magnificent album, and I’m almost OK with that.

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The Sweet Inspirations (Collectors’ Classics/Atlantic)

Familiar with this go-to group of backup singers from their subtle work on Dusty in Memphis, I stumbled across a reference to their 1967 debut album while plumbing the darkened corners a famous critic’s archives. I hadn’t known they’d recorded albums of their own, and generally backup groups’ records are a little plain. Not so this one. Led by Cissy “Whitney’s Mama” Houston, the ladies deliver a very, very effective and emotionally powerful performance in the heat of the spotlight. The tersely pain-filled opener, Darryl Carter’s “Oh! What A Fool I’ve Been,” should be a Northern Soul classic if it isn’t already; the ace cover of Pop Staples’ “Why Am I Treated So Bad?” opens them out into the real world of the Civil Rights Movement and lends the record gravitas. In between, they’re professionals-plus, especially on the already oft-recorded “Let It Be Me,” the title tune, and the knockout hillbilly-boogie cover “Blues Stay Away from Me” (you’ll never need to listen to the Delmore Brothers’ original again). They can’t quite chase the memory of Eddie Floyd on “Knock On Wood,” and they are too put-together to handle the Ikettes’ lettin’-it-loose “I’m Blue,” but with the studio aces of Memphis’ American Sound Studio shoring them up (especially Reggie Young on guitar) when they (only) occasionally flag, the Sweet Inspirations turn in what I’ll confidently call a minor masterpiece.

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Serge Chaloff: Blue Serge (Capitol)

A flat-out beautiful record, one that should be among Kind of Blue, Time Out, and A Love Supreme as “starter” records offered to neophytes wanting to test the unpredictable and varied waters of jazz. The ill-starred Chaloff, a veteran of the great Woody Herman “Thundering Herd” band that also featured Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, plays his baritone with seductive lightness and ease (and a hint of bebop), the tunes, standards and newly-minted soon-to-be classics are unbeatable, and the combo is stunning, especially the fleet, inventive and equally ill-starred Sonny Clark on piano and the unflappable and star-defying Philly Joe Jones and drums. Seductive, engaging, and well-nigh perfect.

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Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?)

Almost every review of I’ve read of this band’s music leans very heavily on comparisons (no surprise there–it’s easier than thinking), but, if you’ll excuse me for being guilty of the same vice, I have been pleasantly surprised that I’ve mostly been reminded of none of the bands referenced therein. What Sunbathing Animals puts me in mind of most is The Libertines’ Up the Bracket: unpredictable explosions, careening forward momentum, drunken shifts, a healthy helping of ‘I don’t give a fuck”–all in all, a great rock and roll rush. I also appreciate that the lyrics don’t seem assembled from a magnetic poetry kit. Only things I haven’t liked is the grating outro of Side A–I love shitty noise, normally–and the ground-out of Side B. Good show, kids, and please stay in love with your guitars.

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Stooges Brass Band: Street Music (Sinking City)

I like this tiny New Orleans-based vinyl-only label: its first release was the charming and historic compilation of Ricky “Shake Fa Ya Hood” B. singles, B is for Bounce, and though the Stooges’ record is only its third offering in a year in business, it’s a step in the right direction. The Crescent City is full of excellent brass bands, but The Stooges are my favorite because they seem most comfortable stepping out of the tradition. On this six-song record, they play with great exuberance, but they also deliver two powerful lyrics, the opening “Why They Had to Kill Him” and the closing “I Gotta Eat,” that deal unflinchingly and unsentimentally with the problems of 21st century poverty in the USA–a topic few musical acts in the USA go within a ten-foot pole of. Did I mention that they play with great exuberance?