Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music Library: All Catch-Up with the Aye-Ayes, Dylan, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Byrds

I took a break from listening to The Fall today to catch up on some more recent acquisitions. The 2009 albums from Oneida and Sonic Youth, which I won't review today, are both fantastic. So, then:

The Aye-Ayes - Bravado (2009). Led by my former editor at Nerve.com, the Aye-Ayes are a Brooklyn-based indie rock band with the classic feel of 80s college radio (a little Mission of Burma, a little Jam, a little Connells) and heart-on-their-sleeves lyrics. Definitely fun stuff, and available for free on their website.

Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue (recorded 1975). Dylan's big-band moment! His Rolling Thunder Revue included Mick Ronson from Bowie's glammiest period, T-Bone Burnett, Scarlet Rivera (who played violin on Desire, although she sounds ten times better here), and a whole lot of other people. And it sounds fantastic. I've never much cared for Hard Rain, the other official release from the Rolling Thunder Revue, and this release leaves it in the dust.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Sings Greatest Palace Music (2004). I bought this when it came out and almost immediately returned it. This is the famous album where Will Oldham revisits his Palace songs with a full Nashville session band backing him. I didn't much care for it five years ago, but I figured I could give it another try, and I'm surprised to report that it's actually quite good, once I got over the surprise. Oldham's definitely having fun with the format. He seems to be taking a page from the Bob Dylan playbook of reinterpreting his classics for his own amusement. And while none of these versions touch the greatness of his stark Palace versions, they strike me now as a well-meant and sorta fun tweak to his image as a socially-isolated mountain man (when, in fact, he's the kind of fun-loving guy who pops up in Kanye videos, goofing around with Zach Galifianakis).

The Byrds - Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde (1969). This album follows Sweetheart of the Rodeo, after which everyone left the Byrds but Roger McGuinn. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, and I have no idea why drummer Kevin Kelley left. Anyway, McGuinn brought in Clarence White, the hotshit bluegrass guitarist who had played on Sweetheart of the Rodeo (among many other great albums, including Gene Clark and the Gosdin Brothers), and recruited a new rhythm section, and picked up the pieces. The album art has The Byrds as cowboys on one side and spacemen on the other, and that's an accurate assesment of the bipolar feel to this album, careening from psychedelia to country from song to song without ever really integrating the sounds. It ain't terrible, but it ain't great, neither.


Anonymous 3:10 AM, July 29, 2009  

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