Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Music Library: Michelle Shocked, Michio Kurihara, Mickey Baker, Midlake, Midori, Mike Doughty

Michelle Shocked - Arkansas Traveler (1992).  She's not my favorite songwriter, but Shocked's collaborators on this album are some of the best musicians of the last 40 years, and her approach to the material is surprisingly light and fun.  Among the people who play on this album are Pops Staples, members of The Band, Uncle Tupelo, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

Michio Kurihara - Sunset Notes (2005). Kurihara is a legendary Japanese psychedelic guitarist who plays in Ghost and often sits in as a fourth member of the mighty Boris.  This solo album covers a wide range of styles and will please any fan of, well, psych rock.

Mickey Baker - The Wildest Guitar (1959). Mostly known for "Love Is Strange" (a song that always brings Sissy Spacek in Badlands to mind), Baker played on many of the seminal hits of the rock and roll era.  On this instrumental album, he demonstrates a style that is so advanced for the time that it is practically the blueprint for the blues-less blues of the Velvet Underground and all that followed.  Robert Quine usually made a point of mentioning Baker's influence. You can hear it here.

Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006).  This is a next big thing band from 2006 that unfortunately bores me to tears. They sound like Gerry Rafferty and Bread and cocaine, and I guess I can appreciate that 70's Laurel Canyon soft rock sound a little bit sometimes, but usually it's despite the production, not because of it.  This album is hard to hear because it seems that the production is all that it is. I remember 70s radio; I don't want to relive it.

Midori - Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto In D Major, Op 35: Allegro Moderato (with The Berlin Philharmonic, 1998) and Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, Concert For Violin, Piano and Orchestra in D Major (with Nobuko Imai and Christoph Eschenbach, 2001). I'm way too much the dilettante to tell you anything about Midori's style or skill.  She plays this lovely compositional music very well.  Per my modus operandi for classical music, I will now reclassify these albums under the composer's name.

Mike Doughty - "Sunkeneyed Girl." Not being a fan of Soul Coughing, I'm not much a fan of Doughty.  This song, it's okay.  Off a comp from some time in the past, I believe.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music Library: Michael Hedges, Michael Hurley, Michael Jackson, Mike Nix

Michael Hedges - Breakfast In The Field (1981), Aerial Boundaries (1984), and Best of Michael Hedges (2000). Hedges was an amazing stylist on the guitar, but he considered himself a composer above all.  What you call him isn't important, though, because the first two of these albums are utterly amazing. He was great when he was writing music that employed elements of 20th century composition, and these albums are that. Hedges released a number of later albums before his premature death in 1997, but although he was passionate about singing on his albums, I find his vocal tracks painful. I saw the guy in concert a number of times - in fact, his cover of "I Misunderstood" in a 1992-ish show is what led my friends and me to Richard Thompson's music - but I found his originals in the more traditional folk/rock sense to be not so good.  I don't know if there's an compilation that focuses on the compositional work on later albums and leaves off the singing and the goddamn flute, but that's an album I would consider a worthwhile investment.

Michael Hurley - Blueberry Wine - The 1st Songs (1965), Armchair Boogie (1971), Hi Fi Snock Uptown (1972), Have Moicy! (with Unholy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Frederick and The Clamtones, 1976), Long Journey (1977), and Snockgrass (1980).  Hurley is a delightfully loopy folk songwriter who is one of the best alive at creating timeless songs with one foot in the past and one in the present.  The best of these is, of course, Have Moicy!, which is as much the work of Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Frederick as it is of Hurley. I stuck it under Hurley's name more or less randomly.  The Hurley albums are all worth a listen or thirteen and are jam-packed with catchy melodies and clever little chunks of wisdom.

Michael Jackson - "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." Not much of a fan of Jackson, am I?  I actually like all of Off The Wall (which I used to have on vinyl, but must have lost along the way) and listened to Thriller enough as a child to remember every single falsetto "whee-hoo!" And that's all I need.

Mike Nix - three demos.  My buddy and former bandmate Mike writes good songs.  He's in a band in Nashville, but I forgot their name and can't find it on his Facebook page.  Dammit, Mike, what's the name of your band?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Music Library: Meters, MF Doom, MGMT, Mice Parade

The Meters - A Message From The Meters (recorded 1969-71).  Although this may cause irreparable damage to your view of not just me but perhaps your entire relationship with music, I cannot fail to inform you that the Meters are quite funky.

MF Doom - Operation: Doomsday (1999), MF (with MF Grimm, 2000), Mmm...Food (2004), and Live From Planet X (2005).  So there's Danger Doom, DOOM, King Geedorah, KMD, Madvillain, and later Viktor Vaughn, but here's MF Doom himself.  Should I file these all together under any particular name (say, DOOM or MF Doom) or keep Daniel Dumile spread out through my library?  I don't know, but if you have an opinion, please share it.  It seems a little confusing to hit Doom at so many different stages of his career in so many different places in the library, but, then again, maybe that's by design.  So these albums spread from Doom's relatively rough first solo album under this identity to an EP collaboration with MF Grimm that's fairly contemporaneous with the first album to Mmm...Food and Live From Planet X, both of which feature Doom at the height of his powers.  Well, the former is significantly better than the latter.

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (2007). Pretty good rock album that managed to fall upwards on its release into some now-embarrassing (or so I hope) hyperbolic prose from the critics on the strength of being fairly inoffensive.  Unfortunately, while I find it likable enough, I can't remember anything about it some five minutes after it ends.

Mice Parade - Mice Parade (2007). Now this is more memorable.  Mice Parade is a post-rock band that's been around for a while, and their output is quite varied, apparently.  This album reminds me of Gastr del Sol's last album Camoufleur, which has a similar mix of folk, jazz, noise, and big rock.  I suspect that Mice Parade, like Gastr del Sol, cannot be judged based on any single album.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music Library: Mermen, Merzbow, Meshuggah, Metallica

The Mermen - Live At The Haunted House (1994).  The best damn psychedelic surf band ever.  Saw them back in 2003 or so and they rocked my world.

Merzbow - Electric Salad (1996). MMMmmmmmMMMWHRRRSKKKK-kkk-KKK-kkk.  ShhhhK-IIIIIIII-iiiiwiwiwiwwwwk-IIIIII! tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Grrrrrmmmmmmkkkkkkklllklklklk.

Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve (1995). Math thrash hardcore prog.  By all rights I oughta like them more than I do, but they've never mattered to me as much as their reputation says that they would.

Metallica - Kill 'Em All (1983), Ride The Lightning (1984), Master Of Puppets (1986), ...And Justice For All (1988), and Death Magnetic (2008).  Ah, the original Metallica albums, back before their music was, in the words of Skwisgaar Skwigelf, "dildos." That'll take you back to being 16, if you're my age.  Death Magnetic is a supposed return to form after a lot of jerking around, but while it's the best thing they've done since they became rock stars, it's not so good, either.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music Library: Merle Haggard and Merle Travis

Merle Haggard - Down Every Road (compilation, 1962-1994), Strangers (1965), Swinging Doors And The Bottle Let Me Down (1966), I'm A Lonesome Fugitive (1967), Branded Man (1967), Sing Me Back Home (1968), The Legend Of Bonnie And Clyde (1968), Mama Tried (1968), Same Train, Different Time: Merle Haggard Sings The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers (1969), Vintage Collections Series (compiled 1996), and If I Could Only Fly (2000). I started to break these out, but then I realized that Merle in the 60s is good, no matter what.  So these include the first seven studio albums plus his Jimmie Rodgers cover album plus two compilations (one long, one short, both excellent) plus a quite touching recent album, If I Could Only Fly.  All worth a listen or fifty.

Merle Travis - Folk Songs Of The Hills/Back Home/Songs Of The Coal Mines (1947/1957/1963) and The Merle Travis Story: 24 Greatest Hits (released 1989).  A triple release of a few of Merle Travis's early albums plus a best-of that sounds re-recorded to these ears.  Still good, though.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Petardcast No. 9, No. 9, No. 9

Another item of self-promotion to mention: I was the guest on Leonard Pierce's Petardcast about a month back.  Leonard's a good guy and a great friend, and we chatted it up on a rather dreary day here in NC.

Here's the link to his blog and the relevant post.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oxford American 2010 Music Issue

Among the many items I have been remiss in posting is a plug for the 2010 Oxford American music issue.  I have an article in this issue on Vern Gosdin and the Gosdin Brothers that's halfway to decent.  But my contributions are lifted by the stellar quality of the writing throughout.  Buy it!

In the meantime, here's a link to an interview with OA editor (and all-around helluva guy) Marc Smirnoff.

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