Music Library: The Jam, James Blackshaw, James Blood Ulmer, James Booker, James Brown, James Burton, James Hand, James Joyce, James Talley
The Jam - The Very Best of the Jam (recorded 1977 - 1982). I don't care at all about the Jam's are-they-or-aren't-they punk thing. They love the Kinks, and that's ok by me. Paul Weller is a decent songwriter, but while I like his hits, I'm not really interested in pursuing the Jam's album cuts. So I'm saying that this is enough Jam for me.
James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes (2008). This guy, however, makes music I would like to explore further. This is some heavy John Fahey-influenced (or Robbie Basho or Leo Kottke, considering the use of a 12-string) transcendental acoustic guitar music with a large emphasis on the trance part. This album consists of four guitar pieces, three of them topping ten minutes, bookended by two minimalist pieces a la Terry Riley or Steve Reich. Awesome stuff.
James "Blood" Ulmer - Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (2001). Ulmer's an avant-jazz and blues guitarist who did a stint in Ornette Coleman's band in the 70s. He's on two albums I like quite a bit: The Rashied Ali Quintet's self-titled album from 1973 and Arthur Blythe's Lenox Avenue Breakdown from 1979. This is a straight blues album, though, and it's not bad at that, with Vernon "Living Colour" Reid trading licks with Ulmer and Charles Burnham playing a distorted violin.
James Booker - Spider on the Keys (1993). First-rate New Orleans r&b/jazz/boogie-stew solo piano. Booker passed away in 1983, and these are live recordings from the late 70s/early 80s. The man had some incredible talent, and it's thrilling to hear him toss off brilliant lines almost casually. I'm not an expert on New Orleans music by any means, but it's definitely fun to hear things like this.
James Brown - Star Time (box set covering 1956 - 1984), Live At The Apollo (1963), Funky Christmas (1970), and Love Power Peace: Live At The Olympia, Paris 1971. Good god, y'all. The Star Time box is a heavy load of fantastic single after fantastic single, and almost as much JB as I need. Except that I love the two live albums, the first a stone classic that took JB's career into superstar level, the latter an underappreciated gem from Brown's funkiest band, the 1970-1971 version with Bootsy and Catfish Collins in the bass and guitar roles. And I gotta have the Funky Christmas album, 'cause I love my Xmas mixed with funk and socially responsible lyrics.
James Burton - The Guitar Sounds of James Burton (1971). One of the greats of country guitar doing instrumental versions of a number of popular songs. Nice to hear for fans of Burton's style (which you can hear playing sideman in Elvis's late 60s/early 70s band and on Ricky Nelson's albums, Gram Parsons' solo albums, and many other places). The arrangements are kinda weird, but nothing here really stands out other than Burton's guitar.
James Hand - Shadows Where The Magic Was (1997). Hand is an Austin-based honky-tonk Hank Williams-alike with some great songs about drinking and loss. I used to go down to hear him every now and then at the Saxon Pub. I know that he's a lot more popular now than he used to be, has a contract with Rounder Records and all, but I've never picked up his later, Lloyd Maines and Ray Benson-produced albums. And I should, I should.
James Joyce - "Anna Livia Plurabelle." The man himself reading one of the prettiest passages of Finnegans Wake and somehow making it sound like a story that anyone could sit down and read.
James Talley - "W. Lee O'Daniel and the Light Crust Doughboys." This is a great song by a Nashville songwriter that was later recorded by Johnny Cash. The title refers to a popular Western Swing band from the 30s, and the lyrics have a story within a story. The singer is reminded about hearing his father tell him a story when he was young about his father and mother, before they were married, going dancing to the titular band. Simple and direct stuff, but quite touching.