Friday, July 17, 2009

Music Library: Dusty Springfield, Dwight Yoakum, Earth, Earthless, Eddie Hazel

Dusty Springfield - Dusty In Memphis [Deluxe Edition] (1969) and Love Songs (2001 compilation). Dusty In Memphis is a stone-cold R&B classic from the high Atlantic Wexler/Dowd days. This deluxe edition is a wonderful remastering with added tracks, and belongs in the collection of anyone who is serious about R&B music. Love Songs is a Rhino compilation that adds a bunch of worthy, but previously unreleased, songs to a couple of Springfield's best-known work.

Dwight Yoakam - Just Lookin' For A Hit (1989). An early greatest-hits collection from the man before he really had any greatest hits. But the tracks are Bakersfield-via-Blasters rockabilly/country Americana and make a great argument for Yoakam's place among the great country singers.

And that's it for the Ds! Now in a wildly different mood, here's the introduction to the surprisingly guitar-heavy Es in the form of the mind-melting avant-metal sludgefeasters Earth:

Earth - Earth 2 (1993), Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (1995), Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars (1995), Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons (1996), Hex; or Printing In the Infernal Method (2005), Hibernaculum (2007), and The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull (2008). Where ambient music is often taken with the prospect of gentling molding the listener's perceptions, most ambient music is about improvement and relaxation. Earth - taking its name from Black Sabbath's original name - created the particular type of ambient metal known as drone. We've seen the influence in Boris and we'll see it again more directly in Sunn 0))). The Melvins provided some of the background for this music, as did avant-garde minimalists Tony Conrad and Glenn Branca. But here's the deal: Earth makes soundscapes with electric guitars, sometimes bass, and sometimes drums. Earth 2 is the ground zero of drone, with three tracks that stretch over about an hour and fifteen minutes. Phase 3 has far shorter tracks with lots of genuine riffs. Sunn Amps opens with a live 30-minute drone track (which was the entirety of the original release and which, amusingly, quotes liberally from "Free Bird") and is followed by four tracks from a 1990 demo, including one featuring vocals by Earth guitarist Dylan Carlson's old friend and roommate Kurt Cobain. Pentastar, like Phase 3, has a bunch of riffs and shorter songs and, glory be, drums. After Pentastar, Carlson was lost for a number of years to drugs and the irresponsible life. He (and Earth) returned in 2005 with Hex, which made a surprising shift into country-ish instrumentals with a hardcore Morricone feel. And yes, it's still drone-y ambient doom metal at times, but just as often it's utterly beautiful Telecaster-driven Western music, the soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist (let's say it's Sam Peckinpah's masterful take on Blood Meridian). Hibernaculum is more Western music, with three older tracks redone in Earth's new style and one superlong new track. The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull has a number of shorter (for Earth, at least) tracks, but continues the style of Hex. Excellent stuff, as is...

Earthless - Sonic Prayer (2005), Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky (2007), and Live At Roadburn (2008). Despite the apparent opposition of their names, Earth and Earthless have a few things in common. One is the tendency towards veeeeerrrrrrrrry long instrumentals, although Earthless pushes those extremes even further than Earth. The other is an attempt to make druggy music for druggy people, although they have opposite means to achieve this. Where Earth slows everything down into a spacey haze, Earthless has an aggressive psychedelic rock style that recalls not just the heavy sounds of Black Sabbath, but the trippy/funky riffs of Can, the sheer sonic assault of Acid Mothers Temple, and the sonically adventurous guitar histrionics of Jimi Hendrix. And here's the craziest thing about it: it doesn't just work, but it freaking rocks every second. Who in their right mind would think that a three-piece playing 20 minutes songs at a time could be so damn exciting? Actually, their Live At Roadburn set simply runs a couple of these 20-minute opuses (opi?) together on each side, leading to the whole double album being taken up with two 40-minute tracks. Two 40-minute, utterly exhilarating, breathless even, tracks that rock like crazy and leave you wanting more. Man! Who makes music like this?

Eddie Hazel - Game Dames and Guitar Thangs (1977). This is the P-Funk guitar genius' only solo album during his lifetime. Although he'd been mostly replaced in the P-Funk lineup by the time this was released (he had behavior problems related to his daily intake of drugs, drugs, and more drugs), he's backed by the full force of the P-Funk crew on this album. There's a cover of "California Dreamin'," a cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and a whole lotta funk, with vocals primarily by the Brides of Funkenstein and every song featuring Hazel's unique funk/Hendrix/Cosey guitar histrionics. Good lord, yes.


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