Thursday, July 16, 2009

Music Library: Dream Syndicate, Drink Me, Drive-By Truckers, Drivin' N' Cryin', Duane Allman, Duke Ellington, Dukes of Stratosphear, Dump, Dungen

The Dream Syndicate - The Dream Syndicate EP (1982), Medicine Show (1984), and It's Too Late To Stop Now (1989). The EP is a great slice of VU-inspired rock, but Medicine Show is so marred by crappy 1980s "this is college rock" production that I could barely listen to it. The last one (sharing its name with a Van Morrison live album) is a collection of demos and live tracks from after the band broke up, and I like it much better than Medicine Show.

Drink Me - "St. Monday." Trumpet-driven melancholia. This was almost certainly off of a mix tape at some point.

The Drive-By Truckers - Gangstabilly (1998), Pizza Deliverance (1999), Southern Rock Opera (2001), and A Blessing And A Curse (2006). I have mixed feelings about the DBT. On one hand, I find myself quite moved by the stories, especially when Patterson Hood sings (and "Let There Be Rock" off of Southern Rock Opera may be one of my favorite songs by anyone), but on the other hand, their attempt to keep the sound very much in the major-key classic rock tradition leads to a lot of similar-sounding music. Some tracks rise above, and some seem stillborn, but most hang out in the middle, hard to distinguish from each other. On A Blessing And A Curse, the DBT honed their edge right off and made a lot of middling music. I don't have any of the other albums with Jason Isbell on them, but I hate his blue-eyed soul voice and the Bon Jovi production on his songs, which by itself would make this album my least-favorite, but even Hood and Mike Cooley sound like they're trying to write music for Clear Channel on this album. Makes me afraid to further investigate the other post-Southern Rock Opera albums. Oh, and I should probably mention that being a product of Alabama does indeed make me more sympathetic to Hood's attempts to get to the bottom of "the duality of the Southern thing," as he puts it. I can see where that album might be ponderous to some, but I don't care.

Drivin' N' Cryin' - Scarred But Smarter (1986). Yeah, the shitty frat-rock band from Atlanta. I like this album, which has a heldover punk feeling among the acoustic-emo ballads. So sue me.

Duane Allman - An Anthology (1972) and An Anthology, Vol. 2 (1974). I once visited Duane Allman's grave in Macon. It's on a lovely hillside overlooking one of those uber-pictoral train tracks that cross the South, and while I was there, a light rain began to fall from the sky and a train passed. It was rather like being in an Allman Brothers song. These collections feature a bunch of Allman's studio work from Muscle Shoals, plus some Derek & the Dominoes and Allman Brothers Band tracks. Most surprising: Boz Scaggs' "Lend Me A Dime," where Duane is given free rein to wail for several minutes. Aretha and Wilson Pickett (especially on a regrettable cover of "Born To Be Wild") are far from their best here, but Duane sounds great, anyway.

Duke Ellington - Take The 'A' Train (1941), Money Jungle (1962), Far East Suite (1966), The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971), and Best of the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition. A genius of modern music whose music bleeds into the compositions of many of my favorites and indeed defines much of the 20th century, so what the hell am I going to say about the guy? The first and last are collections of some of his most notable big-band music from earlier in the 20th century. Money Jungle is a stripped-back affair with Duke, Mingus on bass, and Max Roach on drums, and it - can I say that it rocks? Because it rocks. The Far East Suite was a big-band album from the 60s that Ellington and Billy Strayhorn wrote, inspired by a trip through not just the Far East, but Africa and the Middle East, too. This influence continued, as The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse is as much world music as it is jazz. I'm not sure what other Ellington I need, but I'm planning on picking up his famous Newport album at some point in the near future, too.

The Dukes of Stratosphear - "Brainiac's Daughter." I don't much care for XTC, which is who this really is. This track is an okay Beatles-y thing.

Dump - "1999." This is a great cover of the Prince track from Dump, which is the solo side-project of James McNew, who plays bass in Yo La Tengo for his day job. It's built on an excellent drum loop which reminds me of YLT's cover of KC & The Sunshine Band's "You Can Have It All." I should check out more of his music.

Dungen - Dungen (2001), Ta Det Lugnt (2004), and 4 (2008). Swedish psychedelic music using grandpa's guitars plus flutes und other psych trappingks. Ist gut.
Next time: the rest of the Ds (Dusty Springfield and Dwight Yoakum), then onward to the Es!


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