Saturday, November 23, 2013

Music Library: Stanley Brothers, Stanton Moore, Staple Singers, Mavis Staples, Stars, Steely Dan, Stéphane Grappelli, Stephen, Stephen Malkmus

The Stanley Brothers - Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s (1947-52). These are the first recordings of Carter and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. To distinguish it from mainstream bluegrass, Ralph Stanley called it old-timey music. This is not just historically significant music, but also excellent. This compilation is on Revenant Records, the imprint co-founded by John Fahey.

Stanton Moore - Flyin' The Koop (2002). This is a jammy album by Galactic's drummer along with two sax guys, bass, and drums. It is okay, but not my favorite. It never really ends up anywhere.

The Staple Singers - Uncloudy Day (1959), Will The Circle Be Unbroken? (1960), Freedom Highway (1965), Soul Folk In Action (1968), The Best Of The Staple Singers (Stax) (1968-74), "Slippery People" (1984). It's hard to overstate how cool the Staple Singers were. The band consisted of Pops Staples, who managed to be laid-back and passionate at once,  his son Pervis and his three daughters Cleotha, Yvonne, and the baby Mavis, who usually sang lead. Pops Staples played heavily vibratoed Fenders with a cool, minimalist style that influenced people like, y'know, Steve Cropper and Robbie Robertson, who, in turn, influenced just about everybody. And the Staples leapt from strict gospel into pop music fired by uplift and civil disobedience, which brought them to the March on Washington. In the tumult of the late 60s, they signed with Stax and brought Southern funk built on positive messages with Booker T and the MGs as their airtight back-up band. Uncloudy Day and Circle are phenomenal gospel albums and Freedom Highway and Soul Folk are phenomenal protest-in-the-guise-of-R&B albums. The Stax best-of has some killer funk and "Slippery People" is a Talking Heads cover that is the highlight of a Pointer-Sisters-ish 80s keyboard-junk album that is bad enough that I let all the other tracks go. But this must have something to do with Pops Staples appearing in True Stories, but I don't know the background. Anyway, dig these videos.

Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone (2010) and One True Vine (2013). In her 70s and still going strong, Mavis made her most recent two solo albums with Jeff Tweedy, and they are fan-freaking-tastic. "One True Vine" is the better of the two, but not by much.

Stars - Heart (2003). This is a Canadian indie-pop band. And they're ok.

Steely Dan - Countdown To Ecstasy (1973) and Pretzel Logic (1974). You know how there's these bands loved by people you respect and you cannot for the life of you understand why? Here's one. Steely Dan sounds to me like the baby laxative people use to cut their coke. And yet they are beloved. I mean, I don't hate either of these albums, really, because they're just too freaking weird to be truly forgettable, but too slick to embrace their own weirdness. It's just studio talent fucking around. It seems passionless.

Stéphane Grappelli - Jazz In Paris (1962). This is a sweet album by Django Reinhardt's main sideman, made many years after Reinhardt's death. There are several albums by Grappelli with this same name. This one does not have Oscar Peterson, but it does have someone playing some lovely Django-esque guitar.

Stephen - Radar of Small Dogs (compilation, 1988-93). This is a messy and fun New Zealand band led by the Clean's David Kilgour. This compilation collects the Dumb EP and some demos and live tracks.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Stephen Malkmus (2001), Pig Lib (2003), Face The Truth (2005), Real Emotional Trash (2008), and Ege Bamyasi (Malkmus and Friends, 2013). Malkmus's post-Pavement music is good but rarely great. I have loved each of his albums for a little while and then more or less forgotten about it. The cover of Can's Ege Bamyasi is fun, although it is basically as disposable as Beck's Record Club albums.


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