Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Music Library: T-Bone Burnett, T. Rex, Talking Heads, Tall Dwarfs, Tamás Vásáry, Tammy Wynette, Tapes 'n Tapes, Tarnation

Talking Heads, fool.

T-Bone Burnett & Richard Thompson - "Welcome Home, Mr. Lewis." I don't have a whole lot of tracks where RT plays on other people's songs, but this one, a tasteful instrumental, is just peachy.

T. Rex - My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows (as Tyrannosaurus Rex, 1968), Prophets, Seers & Sages - The Angels of the Ages (as Tyrannosaurus Rex, 1968), Unicorn (as Tyrannosaurus Rex, 1969), Electric Warrior (1971), The Slider (1972), Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974). Man, the 70s did something weird to Marc Bolan's head where he abruptly shifted from hippie acid-folk of Tyrannosaurus Rex to the glam-fuzz-chamber-pop genius of T. Rex. Tyrannosaurus Rex was a folk duo that makes Devendra Banhart sound like the cover artist he secretly is while T. Rex was a guitar-and-drums duo (at its core, at least) that added layers and layers of fuzz and strings with Bowie's producer Tony Visconti as the conduit. Every single one of these albums is brilliant in its own way, although Zinc Alloy is starting to sound a little tired. Electric Warrior and The Slider are both utterly perfect, though. And geez, check out these videos. Marc Bolan basically invented Paul Stanley of Kiss's schtick, strutting around as if he doesn't notice that he has a damn congo player on stage. And he's wearing a t-shirt with his own face on it in the second video.

Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77 (1977), More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978), Fear Of Music (1979), Remain In Light (1980), The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads (live album, 1977-81), Speaking In Tongues (1983), Stop Making Sense: Special New Edition (live album, 1984), Little Creatures (1985), True Stories (1986), Naked (1988), Bonus Rarities And Outtakes (compilation, 1977-1991), Popular Favorites 1976-1992: Sand In The Vaseline. Unlike everyone else who loves rock, I love the Talking Heads. They legendarily started out calling themselves either The Artistics or the Autistics depending on how they felt that evening. Their first single was the sublime "Love -> Building On Fire," which is sometimes my favorite song. Then they added Jerry Harrison, formerly of the venerable Modern Lovers, on keyboards and second guitar. Then they made a great album (77), followed by a brilliant album that more or less provided a blueprint for nerdy indie-rock funk (More Songs). Then they brought in Brian Eno to help develop Byrne's obsession with Fela Kuti and afrobeat in general into something completely new (Fear Of Music and Remain In Light). Then there's The Name Of This Band, which provides a different dimension on all of this creativity by showcasing their live persona, an impossible blend of aloof and impassioned music with Byrne's "I just landed here from Mars" stage presence. It is also perfect. Then there's their embrace of domestic funk with Speaking In Tongues and Stop Making Sense, still the greatest concert-film of all time. Little Creatures gets a bad rap for being lesser, but it is not really any lesser than Tongues, just obsessed with gospel and Southern jangle-pop. Even True Stories, the music to a weird, not-entirely-successful film attempts to connect with country music and is pretty phenomenal, all things considered. Naked, though, flounders on the second side, with Byrne sounding bored, despite the tropicalia tribute music blooming all about him. Bonus Rarities, for the most part, demonstrates why these tracks were outtakes or alternate takes left on the cutting room floor. Sand In The Vaseline has a few more nonalbum tracks, but none are that interesting. And now some videos! Here's a stunning live version of "Love -> Building On Fire" from The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.

Here's the brilliant opening of Stop Making Sense. "Hi. I have a tape I want to play."

"I Zimbra" on Letterman.

Here's Pops Staples singing "Papa Legba" in True Stories, somehow made better by David Byrne and John Goodman's overdubbed German.

Tall Dwarfs - Hello Cruel World (compilation, 1981-84), The Short And Sick Of It (compilation, 1985-86), Dogma EP (1987), Fork Songs (1991), 3 EPs (1994). The mighty Tall Dwarfs were a New Zealand-based duo consisting of Alex Bathgate and Chris Knox who made bathtub psychedelia by home recording all manner of instrumentation over their simple-but-effective punk-based songs. It is impossible to overstate their influence on, say, Beck or Neutral Milk Hotel. Of these, Hello Cruel World and Fork Songs are my favorites, but all Tall Dwarfs albums are great.

Tamás Vásáry - Chopin: Piano Works [Nocturnes . Waltzes . Ballades . Scherzi] (recorded 1966). Is pretty piano music. I feel unqualified to say anything further about it.

Tammy Wynette - Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad (1967) and D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968). I admit that I sometimes get Tammy Wynette's songs confused with Loretta Lynn's. I mean, both are feminist country songwriters who burst out of the late 60s in a fury of rural women finding their voice. Tammy Wynette is the one where all her songs of this era are about dealing with the assholish chauvinism of rural men, whereas Loretta Lynn is more about kicking someone's ass for messing with her stability. Subtle but important difference! Man, dig this lady's wit.

Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon (2005) and Walk It Off (2008). Pretty straightforward indie-rock beholden to Pavement without their wit and creativity. Not bad for what it is, but what it is is just okay.

Tarnation - Gentle Creatures (1995). This is alt-country through the lens of Patsy Cline's weepier music and David Lynch's goth-pop-rockabilly sensibility. It is quite, quite good.


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