Crazy Elephant - "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'." Another bubblegum acquisition, this one rocks way more than most in the genre.
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bayou Country, Green River, Willy and the Poor Boys, Cosmo's Factory, and Pendulum. Hey, is that freedom rock? Here's a cool factoid: the first CCR record, which is the weakest of these, came out in July 1968. Then you have Bayou Country in January 69, Green River in August 69, Willy and the Poor Boys in November 69, Cosmo's Factory in July 70, and Pendulum in December 70. That's five five-star albums in 24 months. Is there anyone else in rock music who's ever come close to that record? It's almost absurd. I became a CCR fan because of the Minutemen. I mean, I'd heard them before (and who hasn't?), but I started taking them seriously when I was a teenager because the Minutemen did. I'm glad I did, because there's something so beautiful in their simplicity and direct approach, and John Fogerty's songs are always at least five times smarter than they sound.
Crooked Fingers - "When U Were Mine." Lovely cover of the Prince song by a former Archer of Loaf.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - So Far. I'm not crazy about the C, S, or N, but the Y is one of my favorites, and this collection has a couple of the best songs he donated to his pals. I guess they do sing really purty.
CSS - Cansei de Ser Sexy. This Brazilian electropop band is unexpectedly quite a lot of fun. Made my day better.
Cul de Sac - Ecim and Abhayamudra (with Damo Suzuki). Experimental music band somewhere between the John Fahey/Robbie Basho acoustic guitar freakout stuff and Can-style krautrock. They're awesome. The Abhayamudra album with Damo Suzuki sounds quite natural, as if they had been playing together for years instead of meeting moments before their first gig together.
The Cult - Love and Electric. From the "music I used to love when I was 16" file. It's not terrible now, but it doesn't do much for me, either.
Culture - Two Sevens Clash. One of the best roots reggae albums, second only to the Congos.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Crazy Elephant - "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'." Another bubblegum acquisition, this one rocks way more than most in the genre.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Cowboy Nation - We Do As We Please. From the punk of the Dils to the alt-country Rank & File to this, a mostly acoustic tribute to the Western side of the Country-Western equation, the Kinman brothers have followed their own muse. This is actually a pretty great album, featuring a fantastic cover of "My Rifle, My Pony, And Me" from Rio Bravo and the original of "Big Train," which Mike Watt achronistically covered on his first album back in 1997.
The Cowsills - "Indian Lake." I downloaded this while accumulating bubblegum music in the wake of having read Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth in the early 00s. It's alright, in the way that a lot of music that copped the sound of the early Beach Boys were alright.
Coyle & Sharpe - "Werewolf" and Audio Visionaries: Street Pranks And Put Ons. The original radio street pranksters, Coyle & Sharpe were able to talk ordinary people on the street in the early 1960s into taking their increasingly bizarre and hilarious questions seriously. Most of these are fun fun fun.
Cracker - Kerosene Hat, Gentleman's Blues, Countrysides, and Greenland. David Lowery's post-Camper Van Beethoven band is a far more commercial affair, and indeed, when I saw them play in 1993, most of the audience consisted of asshole frat-boy types and the opening band was the uber-bland Counting Crows. That said, I'm pretty fond of them. Lowery's obviously having fun when he ties his clever and misanthropic lyrics to big power chords and chant-along choruses.
The Cramps - Gravest Hits EP, Songs The Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, and Bad Music For Bad People. Man! What can I possibly say about the Cramps that hasn't been said a million times already? People who enjoy the kind of music called rock & roll love the The Cramps. Some critics apparently consider Bad Music For Bad People to be a watered-down version of a better best-of that was released in England, but for me, well, that's the Cramps album that I first heard at 15 years old, and that's THE Cramps album for me. Besides all these other ones, I mean.
Crazy Backwards Alphabet - La Grange 7" and Crazy Backwards Alphabet. Conceived by Matt Groening and implemented by Henry Kaiser and John "Drumbo" French, this is the only Russian/avant-jazz/Texas boogie/prog-rock album that I can think of. At least out of the bands on SST.
Music Library: Consonant, Conspiracy A Go-Go, Constantines, controller.controller, Conway Twitty, Count Basie
Consonant - Consonant and Love And Affliction. This is Clint Conley of Mission Of Burma's band with Chris Brokaw, who has been a constant in my posts of late, and they are mighty ass-kicking.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Comets on Fire - Field Recordings From The Sun, Blue Cathedral, and Avatar. Skronky psychedelia! Comets on Fire is one of the best bands going (they are still going, right?). Heavy Sabbath riffs with Blue Oyster Cult-like weirdness, Stooges-style freakouts, and moments of sudden and surprising delicacy. Blue Cathedral is their best, but Avatar is a very close second.
Common - Be. This is a pretty great hip-hop album produced by Kanye West. That's about all I can say about it, not because it makes me speechless, but because I'm sorta dumb about hip-hop.
Condo Fucks - Fuckbook. The Condo Fucks are a side-project of Yo La Tengo that feature all of the members of Yo La Tengo and no other musicians playing raucous covers in a style that one might call Yo La Tengo-ish with this, their only release somehow being a play on the covers-heavy Yo La Tengo album Fakebook. The songs are pretty great, though, and the covers spirited, so y'know, it's maybe even a little more accessible than the album Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics, which culls the best from their annual fundraiser for WFMU in which they play listener requests to the best (or worst) of their abilities.
The Conet Project. Yankee... Hotel... Foxtrot...
The Congos - Heart of the Congos. This is my favorite reggae/dub album. The bass is heavy, the singing divine. The otherworldliness of the regular reggae tracks is upped into hyper-weirdness on the dub versions. Perfect meld between the trippy Congos and their producer, one Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Eater of Worlds.
The Connells - Darker Days. Yep, that's Southern-fried jangle pop, all right.
The Collins Kids - Hop, Skip and Jump. Teenage brother and sister from the late 50s/early 60s who played killer rockabilly that occasionally slowed down enough to be country. Lorrie Collins sang lead on most tracks, starting from the ripe old age of 13, while her brother, two years younger, played precociously lightning-fast guitar. Sometimes they were joined by the king of lightning-fast guitar of the time, Joe Maphis. This is an amazingly good collection.
The Comas - "Come My Sunshine." A free download from eMusic. This isn't the first Comas track I've heard, but it sounds completely different from the folky tracks of the past. In fact, it sounds like the Dandy Warhols, and I don't care for them or for this track. Deleted.
Combustible Edison & Esquivel! - "Miniskirt." They call it space-age bachelor pad music for a reason.
Come - Eleven: Eleven. Seems like I was just writing about Chris Brokaw last week. This is Brokaw's band with Thalia Zedek and a couple of Athens, GA refugees (including one of the Kilkenny Cats). Their music is a little bluesy (in the same way that Exile On Main Street is a little bluesy), but the guitar interplay and the way the music constantly builds tension without much release (yes, a bit ironic, given their name) is what makes this band.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Cluster - Zuckerzeit. Electronic krautrock similar to the early Kraftwerk albums, with Cluster's spacey electropop over driving motorik drumming. Excellent!
The Coachmen - Failure To Thrive. This is an EP by Thurston Moore's first band (which is the only release they made during their original run, but they have reformed in the last few years with a few new musicians), and it's a great garage-y Velvet-y affair.
Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit - Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Col. Bruce Hampton has been around the avant-music scene since his stint in the Hampton Grease Band in the early 70s. This is from a brief foray into jam-band music, as the name "Aquarium Rescue Unit" should tell you. I really liked them when I saw them back in 1992, but I've grown a considerable aversion to jam-band music since. I should point out that most of the members went on to play in other jam-bands of various quality. The best would be The Allman Brothers Band, which bassist Oteil Burbridge (who pops up as a thuggish youth, incidentally, in Being There) joined in the 90s. There's also Widespread Panic, which guitarist Jimmy Herring joined in the 90s, and a number of Leftover Salmon/Butch Trucks/Phish-offshoot types of projects, too. And Bruce Hampton is still plugging along in weirder and far more interesting bands.
Colin Meloy - Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey, Colin Meloy Sings Shirley Collins, Colin Meloy Sings Live!. Meloy is, of course, the lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists, and these albums feature him playing the songs of his influences and, on the latter, a mix of covers and some of his own tracks done up all acoustic-style. Which I like better than that proggish monstrosity the Decemberists released this year. Because the Decemberists are talented stylists of folk-based music, but they most decidedly do not rock. Anyway, the first two of these are EPs, which I enjoy more than the full-length latter album, just because they're more thematically concise and fun than Meloy's live acoustic show.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Clifford Brown - Brownie: The Complete Emarcy Recordings of Clifford Brown. Clifford Brown was a brilliant bop trumpeter who died too soon in a car accident at age 25. Anyway, this is a fantastic set, with Brown backing or leading such jazz greats as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan. They make a pretty convincing argument that if he had lived, Brown would be as well-known as, say, Dizzy Gillespie. Great stuff.
Clinic - "Walking With Thee" and Do It!. I like this band, although they pretty much have only one trick: mining the organ-dominated tracks from the Nuggets boxes.
The Clique - "I Am Superman." The original of the popular REM cover. The Clique was a Texas garage band, and this is about all I know of The Clique. Great song, though!
Clive Kennedy - "The Late Late Show." An odd glam one-hit wonder, I think. I don't know where I got it, but I suspect David Smay was involved.
cLOUDDEAD - cLOUDDEAD, The Peel Session EP, Dead Dogs Two EP, and Ten. I have this classified under "hip-hop," but it's not really hip-hop, so much as some sort of surreal Brian Eno-meets-El P thing with lyrics by Bunuel. I wish I had better words to describe it, because cLOUDDEAD produced some richly pleasing and heady music and are among my favorite bands. I've read that cLOUDDEAD's Ten is so named for being the tenth and final release of their career. cLOUDDEAD collects the first 6 EPs. The Peel Session EP is #7, and Dead Dogs Two EP is #9, so it appears that there's only one release that I don't have. eMusic doesn't offer it, so I'm curious how it fits into the arc of their music.
Club Wig - Club Wig and The Lost Album. Hometown heroes from Tuscaloosa, AL, Club Wig (named for the Ronnie Dawson song Club Wig Wam, I believe) was like a psychedelic version of the B-52s. Great stuff, with guitar-dance numbers leading into psych rave-outs. They recently made the demo tracks for their unreleased sophomore album (called The Lost Album here) available for fans, and although they don't sound quite finished, they point towards a promising place that Club Wig could have gone with a little more time. Presuming, of course, that someone would have prevailed upon them to eventually drop the rap track.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Clean - Modern Rock, Getaway, and Anthology. The granddaddies of kiwi-rock, the Clean produced amazingly great songs with a Feelies-esque tension between clean guitar lines and post-punk fuzz. A fan started New Zealand's mighty Flying Nun Records to put out Clean albums. Highly influential to Pavement, Superchunk, Yo La Tengo, and, well, everyone who made or listened to indie rock owes them a debt. Modern Rock and Getaway are later releases (1995 for the former, 2001 for the latter) from some of times that the Clean has gotten back together (and they are both great on their own, if a bit more mellow than the Clean in their prime), but Anthology, which collects much of the early Clean and skims through a lot of the later Clean, belongs in every indie rock fan's collection.
I've been remiss about posting Screengrab lists for the last couple of weeks, which is a shame because we've been on fire! This week is Best and Worst Death Scenes in the Movies. Here's the links.
Part 1: Scanners, Alien, The Fury, Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, White Heat.
Part 2: Big Fish, Blade Runner, Night of the Living Dead, Bonnie and Clyde, Citizen Kane.
Part 3: The Sixth Sense, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Shining, Dr. Strangelove.
Part 4: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, American History X, Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou*, Psycho, King Kong.
Part 5: Bambi, Terms of Endearment, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia*, Major Dundee*, Ride The High Country*, Throne of Blood*, Ikiru*.
Part 6: Who'll Stop The Rain?, Stroszek*, The Man Who Would Be King, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Les Diaboliques*, Kind Hearts & Coronets.
Part 7: Synecdoche, New York*, L.A. Confidential, Speed, Gunman, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Night of the Hunter*.
Part 8: Dancer In The Dark, Saving Private Ryan*, Braveheart*, Star Trek: Generations, The Godfather Part III.
Part 9: Return of the Jedi, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Children's Hour, Friday The 13th, Watchmen, Torn Curtain, Scarface.
* written by yours truly.
Two weeks ago at the Screengrab, we posted our worst movies of all time, individual and aggregated. These proved controversial, because someone always loves things that you do not. But here they are, for this thing called posterity.
(10) Breaking The Waves, (9) They're Just My Friends, (8) Wired, (7) Field of Dreams, (6) Cannonball Run II.
(5) Independence Day, (4) Batman And Robin, (3) Battlefield Earth, (2) Showgirls, and (1) Baby Geniuses.
Scott Von Doviak's Worst Movies Ever.
Nick Shager's Worst Movies Ever.
Leonard Pierce's Worst Movies Ever.
My Worst Movies Ever, Part I.
My Worst Movies Ever, Part II.
Phil Nugent's Worst Movies Ever, Part I.
Phil Nugent's Worst Movies Ever, Part II.
Andrew Osborne's Worst Movies Ever.
My list was:
- Forrest Gump
- Moulin Rouge
- Natural Born Killers
- Life Is Beautiful
- In The Company Of Men
- Highlander 2: The Quickening
- The Brothers McMullen
Special Haiku Honorable Mentions to:
- American Beauty
- Dead Poets Society
- You've Got Mail
Here's last week's list: our aggregate and individual picks for top ten best movies.
(10) Days of Heaven/Belle de Jour/Star Wars (tie), (9) The Wild Bunch, (8) Sunset Boulevard.
(7) Once Upon A Time In The West, (6) Citizen Kane, (5) The Godfather Part II, (4) The Rules of the Game/The Grand Illusion (tie).
(3) 2001: A Space Odyssey, (2) The Godfather, (1) McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
Phil Nugent's picks part 1.
Phil Nugent's picks part 2.
Nick Shager's picks.
Leonard Pierce's picks.
Paul Clark's picks.
Scott Von Doviak and Andrew Osborne's picks.
My picks, for the record:
1. The Wild Bunch
2. The Seven Samurai
3. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
4. Badlands/Days of Heaven (tie)
5. Grand Illusion/The Rules of the Game (tie)
6. The Searchers
7. The Godfather Part II
8. Unfaithfully Yours/The Lady Eve (tie)
9. Vertigo/La Jetee (tie)
11. Touch of Evil/Yojimbo (tie)
12. Singin' In The Rain
Ought to be on the list, but ain't:
- Aguirre, Wrath of God
- The Battle of Algiers
- Killer of Sheep
- Miller's Crossing
- Night of the Hunter
- Ride The High Country
- Rio Bravo
- Week End
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Clancy Eccles - Freedom: The Anthology 1967-73. Clancy Eccles was one of the major producers of rocksteady, the Jamaican music style that built on ska and soon developed into reggae. Besides being an accomplished singer and producer, Eccles had deep political beliefs in the healing power of socialism, and he practiced what he preached, lending his voice to the cause, both political and interpersonal. Eccles helped Lee "Scratch" Perry set up his studio and did everything he could to help his fellow Jamaican musicians gain prominence during the 70s. He also apparently coined the term "reggae" from the slang term "streggae," which referred to a lady of easy reputation. This anthology, released by the amazing Trojan label, is uniformly excellent.
Clarence "Tom" Ashley - "House Carpenter." Ashley was a folksinger from the blackface tradition playing songs older than the hills. He recorded some tunes in the 20s (when he was already in his 30s) and gaines some later fame when Harry Smith included some of his tracks on the enormous and enormously influential Anthology of American Folk Music, which, sadly, I don't have. This song, "The House Carpenter," is also older than the hills, old enough to be a Childe Ballad.
The Clash - The Clash (UK), Give 'Em Enough Rope, The Clash (US), London Calling, Sandinista!, Combat Rock, and The Singles. By their third album (fourth, if you count the US version of their debut as a separate album), The Clash were less a punk band than one of the great rock outfits, dabbling in multiple styles with infectious energy and surprising pop hooks. But you know this about the Clash. What I'm calling The Clash (US) is just the 5 tracks that weren't on the UK version, which was released two years prior, plus the superior reworking of "White Riot." What I'm calling The Singles is the one track that doesn't appear on any of the studio albums plus two radio cuts. And I don't really have that much to say about The Clash, because everything one could conceivably say has all been said before - and better.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Music Library: Chrome, The Chrysler, Chuck E. Weiss, Chuck Prophet, The Church, The Church Mice, Ciccone Youth, Circulatory System
Chrome - Red Exposure. The third or fourth album by the seminal industrial band, Red Exposure sounds like early Pere Ubu and Public Image Ltd.'s Second Edition, although these are ahistorical comparisons. Excellently noisy, skronk-krautrock-punk. I hope to pick up a few more albums from this period of Chrome's existence (which has apparently stretched out far beyond the breaking point).
The Chrysler - "First Blood." A free download from eMusic. I like it enough to keep it around, but don't love it enough to stick it on a mix. Has a dreamy, ethereal guitar over folky chords-plus-vocals, and no bass or drums.
Chuck E. Weiss - 23rd & Stout. This is the Chuck E. from Rickie Lee Jones's song "Chuck E.'s In Love." That song was a work of fiction, but Chuck E. is a real guy. This album sounds a lot like some of Tom Waits's 70s beatnik-jazzbo stuff, but it's a bit more middling than Waits's highs.
Chuck Prophet - No Other Love. I loved Prophet's old band Green On Red. His songwriting is in top form on this album, which recalls John Fogerty and Robbie Robertson in the best way.
The Church - Starfish. This one'll take you back. Anchored by the majestic "Under The Milky Way," which was actually a big hit back in 1988, Starfish is actually kinda slick, but mostly great, atmospheric and iconic college rock. And my high school band covered "Reptile!" I still don't know the words.
The Church Mice - Babe, We're Not Part Of Society 7". This is Armand Schaubroeck's pre-solo garage band, and it sounds like it: as if the Velvet Underground were suddenly taken over by the Seeds, who were not just blind-drunk but on acid, too.
Ciccone Youth - The Whitey Album. This is Sonic Youth's Madonna-oriented one-off that also features Mike Watt on one track. Watt's quite the Madonna enthusiast and has even formed a sporadic tribute band called the Madonnabes. I think he talked Sonic Youth into making this album, which is mostly screwing-around-in-the-studio avant-noise built around drum loops with the occasional Madonna deconstruction. It's quite a lot of fun, actually.
Circulatory System - Circulatory System. After the split of Olivia Tremor Control, Will Cullen and most of the other members formed Circulatory System (with Jeff Mangum on drums!). CS has a lot of the psych-pop-fuzz sound of OTC, and that's not a bad thing.
Yesterday was my birthday! My b-day swag included some excellent new albums.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Chris Brokaw - Red Cities and I Was Born, But.... Brokaw's supertalented. He was the drummer for G.G. Allin and Codeine. He played or plays guitar in Come, Consonant, and The New Year. He was a part of the Boredoms 77 Boadrum project, which incorporated 77 drummers into a Boredoms performance. He's done a bunch of solo albums, but these are the only two I have. Red Cities is an instrumental post-rock thing, and it's quite good. I Was Born, But... is a movie soundtrack, so it also has a lot of instrumental tracks, but these are not as coherent or compelling as the ones on Red Cities. The problem with listening to indie-rock soundtracks: they remind you that they were meant to accompany images that are not before your eyes at the moment.
Chris Knox - Meat. Knox is 1/2 of the kiwi lo-fi psych-rock band Tall Dwarfs (I've already reviewed a solo album by Alex Bathgate, the other member). This is a collection of tracks from some earlier albums. And it's great! It does sound a lot like Paul Westerberg's bedroom recording project Grandpaboy. And some songs end with the sound of a screaming kid, which woke me up with a jolt when I fell asleep last night with my earbuds in and iPod playing. I went running into my son's room, and didn't realize until later that he wasn't the screaming kid who woke me up.
Chris Morris - Blue Jam Series 1 Episodes 1 and 2, plus a few random parody tracks (the fake REM and Pixies songs are great!). Lots of great, dark comedy.
Chris Stamey with Yo La Tengo - V.O.T.E. A limited-release album from 2004 meant to help get out the vote for John Kerry, V.O.T.E. features Stamey, a power-pop guru from North Carolina, reworking some of his own songs and a bunch of covers (including a killer version of Television's "Venus"!) with YLT bringing the rock as his backing band.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Music Library: Che Arthur, Cheap Trick, Chemical Brothers, Chet Baker, Chi-Lites, Chic, Chills, Chocolate Genius, Chris Bell
Che Arthur - The Me Generation EP, All Of Your Tomorrows Were Decided Today, and Iron. I've known Che since we were both about 10. He's a hell of a great guy, one of the few people I've ever known who befriends everyone he meets and knows how to maintain those friendships long into time (plus he even has a wikipedia page). And he's a hell of a musician, too. His songs definitely have a kinship with the music of Husker Du, but there's all kinds of other highly intellectual elements in there: prog-metal, math rock, punk, even avant-jazz. The first of these was a tour-only EP, all acoustic. The second and third are full-blown albums. Great, great stuff! There's a new album due to drop next week, so I'll be sure to review it as soon as I have a copy.
Cheap Trick - "Violins (Live)". Yes, I have only one Cheap Trick song. And I sorta like Cheap Trick. But this isn't a very good song.
The Chemical Brothers - Surrender and Come With Us. Why do I have these? They were part of a gift from a friend. I like the Michel Gondry videos for songs contained herein, but GOD do I hate these albums. I think I'm going to pare these down to the songs from the Gondry videos, and delete the rest.
Chet Baker - My Funny Valentine. Somewhere between cool jazz and Sinatra swinging melancholy. And excellent.
The Chi-Lites - There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table)." That's some lovely harmony and soul. I wish I had more of their stuff.
Chic - "Open Up." From Real People. I like Chic, don't know why I don't have more.
The Chills - Kaleidoscope World, Brave Words, Submarine Bells, and Heavenly Pop Hits. Some of the best kiwi-pop out there outside The Clean and The Bats, the Chills have a pop aesthetic that beams through their darkness, which is how the best power-pop works.
Chocolate Genius - Black Music. Great rock album with a firm commitment to not sounding like most other African-American rock songwriters. The standout track is "My Mom," a song about an elderly parent struggling with senility or Alzheimer's. Wrenching.
Chris Bell - I Am The Cosmos. The collection of songs and demos by the former leader of Big Star who passed away far too young. The title song and "You And Your Sister" are the standouts, but there's a lot of beauty here, giving listeners a sense of the tragedy of his loss. Maybe his need to proselytize comes on a little thick at times.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Music Library: Charley Patton, Charley Pride, Charlie Christian, Charlie Haden, Charlie Hurtin, Charlie Louvin, Charlie Parker, Charlie Rich
Whether "Charley" or "Charlie," the diminutive of Charles is the name to use when tearing down musical barriers.
Charley Pride - The Essential Charley Pride. The very fact of Charley Pride is amazing. An African-American singer from Mississippi who broke the color barrier in mainstream Nashville country in the late 60s, Pride's hits are mostly in the countrypolitan (that's country-with-strings) vein. As with many established country singers from the 60s, Charley Pride's best work was his earliest.
Charlie Christian - The Genius of the Electric Guitar. Christian was the guitarist for Benny Goodman's combo for only two years, but during those two years he promoted the idea (which was then-unheard of) that the electric guitar could provide solos as meaningful as any horn. There's not much in the way of pyrotechnics here, but the sound of history being made is often surprisingly mild.
Charlie Haden - "Taney County," Steal Away [with Hank Jones], and Beyond The Missouri Sky [with Pat Metheny]. Y'know, Shaft may have been a bad motherf- (you watch your mouth, Hayden), but he had nothing on Charlie Haden. Haden started out as a child singing folk songs on the radio with his family. Then a bout of polio in his teens prevented him from singing any longers, so he took up the double bass. He played bass professionally in his late teens for an early precursor to Hee Haw. At 20, he moved to LA and started gigging as a jazz bassist. Within two years he was in the most groundbreaking combo in the world as a part of Ornette Coleman's quartet. He played with Ornette Coleman for a decade or so, and then spent the next couple of decades playing experimental music in the Liberation Music Orchestra and lending himself to experimental rock, such as the Yoko Ono version of Plastic Ono Band. He jammed with the Minutemen in the early 80s, and his family has a strong connection with Mike Watt. His son Josh was in an SST band and later was the leader of the band Spain. He has triplet daughters Petra, Rachel, and Tanya, all of whom are involved in making interesting music. Rachel and Petra were in that dog, a post-punk band in the 90s. Rachel, a bassist, was one of the founders of the band The Rentals. Petra, who sings and plays the violin, has made some fascinating solo and collaboration albums, at least one of which was due to Mike Watt's prodding, and has also been in the Decemberists, as well as jamming with everyone in the music industry, including Sunn 0))). Tanya is a cellist who was in Let's Go Sailing and who is married to Jack Black, which means that legendary bassist Charlie Haden is Jack Black's father-in-law. Damn! Ok, the music. "Taney County," from the excellent Quartet West (which I have on vinyl), is a bass solo jazz piece that incorporates the folk song "John Hardy." Steal Away is a collaboration with the great jazz pianist Hank Jones which features the duo playing a number of old folk and gospel standards, as well as a cover of Josh Haden's "Spiritual." "Spiritual" also turns up on Haden's collaboration with jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, Beyond The Missouri Sky. Unfortunately, that album is as leaden as Steal Away is lofty.
Charlie Hurtin - Lock, Stock, and Teardrops. Rockabilly guy who does a cover of Richard Thompson's "Tear Stained Letter." I heard him play at SXSW this year. Pretty good! I like the theramin that pops up on one track, too.
Charlie Louvin - Charlie Louvin. The surviving Louvin Brother duets with a bunch of musicians doing classic Louvin Brothers tracks and one original: "Ira," a song about his late brother and musical partner. Guests include George Jones, Jeff Tweedy, Bobby Bare, Eef Barzelay, Elvis Costello, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, and Will Oldham. Great stuff.
Charlie Parker - Confirmation: The Best of the Verve Years, Bird of Paradise, and Jazz Masters. The first collection, Confirmation, was recorded between 1946 and 1954, and stands as a testament to Parker's willingness to experiment with the boundaries of jazz. Besides the formative bebop, the included tracks touch of Parker's Afro-Cuban sessions, his strings sessions, his attempted album with Gil Evans, and several other ways that Parker pushed jazz into wild new directions. Bird of Paradise is an overview that touches on several of Parker's best-known recordings. A bargain release, the disc had no liner notes, but the allmusic review points out that Dizzy Gillespie is obviously present on many of the tracks. I wouldn't know. The last collection, Jazz Masters, is another cheapo disc on the Delta label that mainly comes from Parker's mid-40s period when he recorded for the Dial label. The songs are uniformly excellent.
Charlie Rich - The Best of Charlie Rich [Epic], Midnight Demos, Charlie Rich Sings The Songs of Hank Williams Plus The R&B Sessions, The Complete Smash Sessions, and Feels Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich. I think Charlie Rich may be my all-time favorite singer. A graduate of the venerable Sun Studios, Rich is usually considered a country singer, but for the life of me, I don't know why. Like Elvis at his best, Rich transcended the limitations of race in his time. Unlike Elvis, he wasn't a particularly flashy personality. In fact, unlike most everyone who recorded with him at Sun Studios, Rich didn't seem particularly interested in the showmanship and self-mythologizing that made Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash into legends. But Christ Almighty, as Tom Waits says on Nighthawks At The Diner, that he sure could sing, that SOB. Rich's voice is all about the dynamics, surging from tremulous vulnerability into, well, something not just celebratory but triumphant, all at the drop of a hat. Let's take one of my all-time favorites of his, "Life's Little Ups and Downs." The song is sung from the viewpoint of a husband who works hard and loves his wife, but has to disappoint her time and again because he just can't get ahead in his job. The music is pure Memphis soul: muted tones, piano and organ, guitar that invokes Pops Staples commenting around the margins, a quiet chorus humming: "I don't know how to tell her, but I didn't get that raise today/And I know how much she wanted the dress in Baker's window and it breaks my heart to see her have to wait/Cancel all the plans she made to celebrate/But I can count on her to take it with a smile and not a frown." The chorus singing with him here, the drums finally taking the beat: "She knows that life has its little ups and downs/like ponies on a merry-go-round." Then Charlie, solo, defiant: "And no one grabs the brass ring every time/She don't mind." Now Charlie's voice soars: "She wears a gold riiiing on her fiiiiinger" and then brings it back with an almost-growl, "And it's mine." DAMN, that's a level of detail and reality and hope and pride over real-life disappointment that other singers could rarely touch, let alone reach right through the words and emotion and touch you. Elvis at his best could lean into a song like this, but it's closer to Otis Redding than anyone. I'll tell you this: "Life's Little Ups And Downs" is the working title of my next work of fiction, but I may have to change it because the song is so much more than anything I could write. So, the music. The Best Of Charlie Rich includes some breathtakingly great material. The Midnight Demos is the second part of a collection called Original Hits and Midnight Demos. They are, as advertised, demos of Charlie Rich creating that Memphis stew of rockabilly, R&B, soul, gospel, and country that has no name. Charlie Rich Sings The Songs of Hank Williams Plus The R&B Sessions is a collection from Memphis's Hi Records, the home of Al Green. The Hank Williams covers first appeared as Charlie Rich Sings Country And Western, and, to be honest, they rarely hit the mark. The R&B Sessions, though, is Rich messing around with the Hi session musicians, and holy moley, it's righteous. The Complete Smash Sessions collects all the material from Rich's brief association with the Smash label, which produced two albums: The Many New Sides Of Charlie Rich and The Best Years. This collection includes those albums plus a couple of unreleased tracks, and man oh man, is Rich having fun, the singer at the top of his game. Feels Like Going Home was the first Charlie Rich collection I ever picked up, a choice from the bargain bin made even better by inclusion of two discs rather than one. I remembered Rich from his 70s countrypolitan records and figured I might like some of his collection, but most would be dreck. Then I put it on and heard the first few songs, which were good-to-great Sun Records rockabilly stuff, and thought: hey, score! This is okay! Then I hit "Who Will The Next Fool Be?" (Rich's biggest hit for Sun, although I didn't know the song at the time), and I was fucking floored. What the hell was this? Blues? Soul? R&B? If I didn't know Rich was white and recording for Sun, I would have assumed that it was the work of a black blues singer (Bobby "Blue" Bland, maybe) recording for Chess. And the greatness just kept coming: the classic country of "Sittin' and Thinkin'," which Elvis the C covered on Almost Blue, the swing of "There's Another Place I Can't Go," the plaintive "There Won't Be Anymore," the exuberance of "Mohair Sam." Heck, I should just mention all the titles; they're all genius. Even the countrypolitan stuff like "Behind Closed Doors."
Thursday, May 07, 2009
- Passions Of A Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1956-1961). This is a box set that includes tracks that originally appeared on six different Mingus albums - Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), The Clown (1957), Blues and Roots (1959), Mingus At Antibes (1960), Tonight At Noon (1961), and Oh Yeah (1962) - plus a few others that have popped up as bonus tracks. The only problem is that the songs have been put in order of recording, rather than sequenced to the albums, which throws off the flow a bit. Or, at least, it reinterprets the relationship of the tracks to each other, which may be the point. Although Mingus had been a bandleader for decade before these recordings, this is the period where critics generally agree that he came into his own. The music on this box set is profound and wonderful, full of ambition and playfulness. If you care about music, you should hear it. It's that simple.
- Mingus Three (1957). A more bop-oriented album with a piano-bass-drums trio.
- Blues and Roots (1959). Although all of these tracks are on Passions Of A Man, I like them better in this sequence.
- Mingus Ah Um (1959). Everything about this album is stunningly great. A number of these tracks are about Mingus paying tribute to his favorite musicians, but while he flavors the tracks with stylistic similarities to particular musicians, everything sounds like Charles Mingus. And it swings!
- Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife (compilation, 1959-1971). It's not really right to call this a compilation, as it's pretty much an inexplicable album. I bought it before I knew much about Mingus, or I wouldn't have bought it. It consists of 6 of the 10 tracks on the 1959 Mingus Dynasty album, plus one track, the title track, which is from the 1972 album Let My Children Hear Music. I don't know why anyone in their right mind thought this was a good idea. This is to say nothing about the music, which is freakin' awesome, all the way through. Just a weird, weird idea that Columbia had when they made this album.
- Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (1960). Mingus compositions with more free-jazz improv than usual. The band on this is a four-piece with bass, drums, trumpet, and Eric Dolphy on alto sax and bass clarinet. Dolphy is at his best. In fact, I think he's better on this than on Out To Lunch. This has another version of "Fables of Faubus" called "Original Faubus Fables" with lyrics sung by Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond.
- Tijuana Moods (1962). Although it came out in 1962, this album was recorded in 1957 and sounds like the more bop-oriented Mingus of that time. Great stuff, though! Mingus has a nine-piece combo to work with here, and he used them to great effect. This version has alternate takes of 4 of the 5 album tracks as a bonus.
- The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963). This is a masterpiece. It's a ballet, composed and titled for dancers, but it's also a portrait of the artist's soul.
- Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963). Some jazz composers record the same tracks over and over again, using the sidemen to change the flavor each time. When you dip into Thelonious Monk, for instance, you notice the same tracks coming up again and again. This one is like that in spirit, if not name. Almost all of the tracks recorded here appear elsewhere in the Mingus catalog, although almost all of them are usually better known by the other name. "II B.S." is "Haitian Fight Song" from 1957's The Clown. "I X Love" is part of "Duke's Choice" from 1957's A Modern Symposium of Music and Poetry. "Celia" is new. "Mood Indigo" is an Ellington composition that he's previously recorded for the 1959 Mingus Dynasty. "Better Get Hit In Yo' Soul" and "Theme For Lester Young" both first appeared on the 1956 album Mingus Ah Um under slightly different names (ok, "Theme for Lester Young" was "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," which is vastly different). "Hora Decubitus" was "E's Flat, Ah's Flat Too" from Blues and Roots. And "Freedom" was a section from the as-yet uncompleted Epitaph, a major Mingus composition that would not be performed in its final version until after his death. But Mingus was at the top of his powers here, with an 11-piece band that could tear the roof off of any joint, and this disc swings like crazy.
- Mingus Plays Piano: Spontaneous Compositions And Improvisations (1963). Sort of the flip-side to Black Saint, this album is nothing but Mingus solo playing the piano. It's gorgeous and as honest as Black Saint ("Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues" actually pulls themes from Black Saint). Where that album was capital-A Art, this one is lowercase-a art. And it's just beautiful. It's also, if I'm not mistaken, his last studio album for nine years.
- Cornell 1964 (1964). This is a latter-day treasure find, a recording of Mingus's sextet in 1964, about to embark on the European tour that would ultimately take Eric Dolphy's life. The line-up is Mingus on bass, his regular Dannie Richmond on drums, Johnny Coles on trumpet, Jaki Byard on piano, and Dolphy and Clifford Jordan on various other horns. And hot damn!, do they ever cook. And they sound like they're having a hell of a great time, throwing quotes from folk songs and pop music and classical music in, pulling off these start-stop-switch-on-a-dime rhythmic changes as if they're nothing - it's enough to make one reconsider the popular image of Mingus as the tormented, barbaric, and mostly humorless bandleader.
- Town Hall Concert (1964). Same band as on Cornell 1964, but there's a lot less material here.
- Changes One (1974). Lovely album from late in Mingus's life.
- Changes Two (1974). The companion album.
- This Is Jazz, Vol. 6 (1996). A compilation with material from Mingus Ah Um, Mingus Dynasty, "The Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife," and a part of "Epitaph." Completely unnecessary.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I don't know that this is a good idea, but I am involved: http://twitter.com/NothingButDick.
Music Library: Cesária Évora, Champale, Charioteers, Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf, Charlatans, Charles "Wigg" Walker, Charles Brown
Cesária Évora - Best Of and The Very Best of Cesária Évora. Singer from Cape Verde (where the national language is Portuguese) who exemplifies the native Cape Verdean style of music called morna, which sounds much like Caribbean swing.
Champale - Simple Days. Wry chamber-pop band from the midwest (I think) that was on Camper Van Beethoven's Pitch-A-Tent Records. Somewhere between Belle & Sebastian and Clem Snide. The first track, "Hard To Be Easy," is the standout.
The Charioteers - Keep On The Sunny Side of the Street. Vocal group active between 1930 and 1957. Dabbles in swing, gospel, and pop. I believe the doo wop groups took a lot from them. Like a lot of early 20th-century pop music, I like this for historical reasons, but too much makes me feel like an aficionado of megaphone crooners.
Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf - Big Shots. Semi-old school rap (circa 1991-1993). Peanut Butter Wolf is the DJ and producer behind Stone's Throw Records. Charizma was his childhood friend and MC in the early 90s, and this is the album they recorded together, supposed to be the first of a long collaboration. Tragically, Charizma was shot in a mugging at the end of 1993, and this album wasn't released until 2003, after Peanut Butter Wolf found some fame. This is excellent stuff.
The Charlatans - You Cross My Path. British indie-pop band. Unoffensive, but they don't do much for me.
Charles "Wigg" Walker - "Come On In." Heavy, heavy Southern-fried funk.
Charles Brown - Driftin' Blues: The Best of Charles Brown. Hey, that's bluesy! Texas-bluesy, apparently! A big influence on a certain Mr. Ray Charles, according to Wikipedia.
NEXT: Charles Mingus! A lot of Charlie Effin' Mingus!
Friday, May 01, 2009
Also at the Screengrab: the final curtain is nigh.
Screengrab Death Watch: Day One
That was published Wednesday. We've got until June 1 and then we're on the cutting room floor.
The Screengrab list o' the week is about the best opening sequences in film.
Part I: Touch Of Evil (which I wrote), Once Upon A Time In The West, Raising Arizona, and The Player.
Part II: Mulholland Drive, Boogie Nights, Manhattan, and 8 1/2 plus Wild Strawberries (which I wrote).
Part III: Cliffhanger, Werckmeister Harmonies, Dawn of the Dead, and No Country For Old Men (which I wrote).
Part IV: Do The Right Thing, Apocalypse Now, Barbarella, La Dolce Vita, and The Searchers (which I wrote).
Part V: The Wild Bunch (which I wrote), Blow Out, Goodfellas, Dead Man (which I wrote), Jackie Brown, and Jaws plus Star Wars.
Check 'em out!
Music Library - The Casting Couch, Cat Power, Catherine Marchese/Emile Naoumoff/Erik Satie, Cave Singers, Cecil Taylor, Centro-Matic
Blah, been sick all week. Anyway, here's some music reviews for your pleasure.
The Casting Couch - Row Your Boat and Live Tracks from the Flaming Lips Hoot Night. Much-lamented (from me, at least) local band that played alt-country with Elephant Six-ish psychedelic flourishes. Great stuff!
Cat Power - Moon Pix, You Are Free, The Greatest. Three vastly different albums from Chan Marshall that all sound like each other without sounding alike at all. On Moon Pix, she's backed by 2/3 of The Dirty Three, and the album is suitably abstract. You Are Free is a more rocking affair, and The Greatest has Memphis soul slathered across it. I was rather indifferent to Ms. Marhall the first few times I heard her, but she has grown on me over time.
Catherine Marchese / Emile Naoumoff - "La Balançoire" (Erik Satie, Composer). This is "The See-Saw," the short track that Richard Thompson plays at the end of "The Great Valerio." I have more Satie, but I think it's filed under his own name.
The Cave Singers - "Seeds Of Night." Pleasant alt-country track that eMusic offered for free a while back. I usually delete those, but not this one. It's pretty good.
Cecil Taylor - Looking Ahead, Air, Student Studies, Unit Structures, Indent, and "In Florescence." Taylor is one of the parents of free-jazz, and it's interesting to hear how his ideas progressed from the 1958 Looking Ahead through the 1961 Air to the wild sounds of the late 60s (Student Studies, Unit Structures), early 70s (Indent), and into the 80s ("In Florescence").
Centro-Matic - The Static vs. The Strings Vol. 1, All The Falsest Hearts Can Try, South San Gabriel Songs/Music, Love You Just the Same, Flashes and Cables EP. The first albums are like the Flaming Lips with a more pronounced folk bent. At South San Gabriel Songs/Music, the band peels off the folk into the side project South San Gabriel, which, like Califone, mixes Americana with electronics. The latter albums are more rocking, but I've never managed the enthusiasm to pick up any further Centro-Matic (I think there's only two later albums and two earlier ones).