Friday, April 04, 2008

Music Library: Allman Brothers, Alvin "Shine" Robinson, Alvin Cash, Amadou & Mariam, Amalgamated Sons of Rest, John Cage,American Cosmic

Say, it's been a month since I wrote about my music library. We left off with The Allman Brothers Band's Eat A Peach. But, realizing that I had a hole in my collection the same size as the ABB's first two albums, I bought them, so I'll retroactively add them back in.

The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band. The first outing of the brothers Allman with the classic ABB (they'd previously made a Brit Invasion-style album as The Hourglass, which I know because my dad had a copy from his college days). It's a pretty great jammy Southern-rock blues guitar & organ. You can hear from the outset that Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are insanely creative interpreters attuned to each other to a rare degree. I'm not much of a fan of the blues, especially when rock bands appropriate it, because it usually sounds like unearned thievery of someone else's suffering from a place of privilege mainly designed to showcase yourself (see "Clapton, Eric"). The ABB somehow convey how important these songs are to them by crawling inside and living them like rock songs. The only song on the 7-song album that isn't blues-rock is "Dreams," which isn't much of a departure from the rest of the album, but incorporates more psychedelic flourishes and, just incidentally, kicks the Grateful Dead (and just about all the other jammy psych bands of the 60s) right in the keister.

The Allman Brothers Band - Idlewild South. Pretty much everything I said about the last one goes for this one. It's a little more garage-y and the psych-hippie standout track is the beautiful instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," but yeah, it all still holds.

The Allman Brothers Band - The Fillmore Concerts. This is the expanded version of the classic album Live At Fillmore East. Excuse my nerdy analogy, but this is the rare exception where the extended version is better than more heavily edited version, also known as the Lord Of The Rings Conundrum (coming soon from Robert Ludlum!). Usually artists benefit from editing and tighter scope, but rarely - and this is one of those cases - an artist comes across even better with a larger palatte. The length gives them more room to showcase their virtues, and even seem, counterintuitive though this may sound, more intimate. At the end of all this music, crazy-long solos and polyrhythmic drums and all, I feel like I know these guys' music better than I ever thought I would.

Alvin "Shine" Robinson - Shine On. Enjoyable New Orleans-style R&B. Not essential, by any means, unless you're a New Orleans-style R&B completist. Reminds me a lot of Bobby "Blue" Bland, but he's not quite as expressive.

Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - "Twine Time" - Rock Instrumental Classics. This is a single track from a massive Rhino collection of singles. It's a groovy instrumental dance track from the 50s or early 60s that sounds like a John Waters movie in the making.

Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako. I don't love what we Westerners condescendingly call "world music," but I like the music of this duo, a blind couple from Mali, quite a bit. Francophone afro-pop! What's not to like?

Amadou & Mariam - Je Pense a Toi: The Best of Amadou et Mariam. A best-of collection that precedes the above album. There is a discernable production contrast between the two, as if this is the more rootsy music and Dimanche a Bamako was an attempt to reach a more Western audience.

Amalgamated Sons of Rest - s/t. An indie-folk supergroup of sorts, ASoR consists of Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia, Bonnie "Prince" Billy/Will Oldham, and the even-more-obscure Alasdair Roberts. The album is a six-song EP with each songwriter taking lead twice. It's pretty good, but certainly inessential.

American Composers Orchestra - Cage: The Seasons. This is a performance of some of John Cage's minimalist compositional works, a somewhat discordant ballet, and a piece of music for toy piano, performed solo and with orchestra. I dig it, but I can't say I understand it. I'll bet Steve Hicken and/or Alex Ross could explain it to me, but I'm not sure I could retain their ideas.

American Cosmic - Band In Decline. I'm one of maybe six people who own this album, but that's about right: I'm one of four people who played on it. It's all nostalgic for me, because we were so young and hopeful when we made it. Every note I sing is a little out of tune. I remember Robert Huffman, who recorded it, compared my voice to Chuck Prophet in Green On Red. I think that's a little kind in retrospect, because I wasn't anywhere close to even his standard. A few of these songs have turned up on Dexateens albums, which is fitting, because about half were written by Dexateens guitarist John Smith. Mike and Jeff were a killer rhythm section, and even now, I feel like this band should have been a bigger deal than it was. The story of my life as a creative person: nobody gave much of a shit. Ah, well. That's life.

Edit - deleted dead link 12/13

5 comments:

Ben 10:41 AM, May 08, 2008  

Trawling through the internet I came across the dexateens site and saw "Neil Armstrong" on one of their albums, which sent me searching for American Cosmic, and I found this page. I just thought you'd like to hear that AC at least had one fan in its glory days. I was in high school in tuscaloosa. I remember seeing American Cosmic at some coffee shop on the strip (the name of which I forget). I remember that I had an American Cosmic tape (i think it was a tape) and I even took it to my guitar teacher to get him to teach me neil armstrong. So, thanks for posting the songs on Myspace, they bring back memories for me too.

Hayden Childs 12:27 PM, May 08, 2008  

Wow, Ben. Thanks a lot. That's great to hear.

Steve Hicken 2:23 PM, July 18, 2008  

Hayden--

What is it you don't understand about the Cage? Why you dig it? (I expect that that's due to the combination of familiarity and strangeness that marks Cage's early mature work.) How it's made? (I can get into that, but I suspect that's not what you mean.)

Hayden Childs 4:55 PM, July 18, 2008  

The combination of familiarity and strangeness sounds about right. Why I don't have words for it comes from my lack of familiarity with the musical tropes Cage was working with and against.

Steve Hicken 8:52 PM, July 18, 2008  

If you like what you've heard from Cage, Hayden, I'd give Morton Feldman a shot.

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