An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, May 24, 2021
Music: Current count 35475  rated (+55), 214  unrated (-2).
While I was fretting about yesterday's Israel/Palestine post, I kept powering through the unheard Christgau A-list (Nirvana to Johnny Shines this week), accumulating a substantial Old Music section. In between, I played some new jazz from my demo queue. The most tedious part occurred when I was looking for a compilation that wasn't on Napster. Sometimes I could synthesize one (or at least come damn close) by selecting tracks from other albums. This underscored for me what a mess trying to review compilations is. Several times I punted, when I couldn't find enough, but I decided I was close enough for Del Shannon.
Sometimes I'd find a searched-for album (like Agwaya) elsewhere, which led me to an extended alternative. Some compilations (like the Johnny Paycheck Greatest Hits) had to be reconstructed from later compilations. Some I looked for frustrated me. One on the list I didn't bother trying was the Rolling Stones' Rewind (1971-1984). Undoubtedly an A-, but already had many of those.
I've had less luck with YouTube lately. There must be some method for creating a playlist to sequence of song/videos approximating an album, but I don't know how to do it. I'll also note that I've seen a couple albums now on Spotify that aren't on Napster. My problems with streaming on Napster have largely abated -- I'm not convinced they won't reappear, as nothing's really changed -- so I find myself wondering whether it might be time to pick a different resource. Any expert opinions appreciated.
Starting with Sir Douglas Quintet this week. One more Monday in May, so it might be good to push to the end of the list this week, then take a fresh look at 2021 music in June. Following Christgau's May Consumer Guide, people on Facebook have been praising No-No Boy, so I did finally give his new record a spin, and liked it enough to go back to his debut, which is approximately as good. The concentration camp pieces remind me to recommend Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, a 1998 record by Anthony Brown's Asian American Jazz Orchestra.
Surprise appearance in Facebook's "People You May Know": Mike Pompeo. One "mutual friend," a childhood neighbor I've seen once in 50 years, but thought it would be cool to add him to my limited set of "Facebook friends." By the way, my original intent in joining Facebook was to follow some family members who adopted it as their primary means of communication. Since then, I've only added people I know personally, plus a few I've corresponded with. I regularly get "friend requests" from musicians, and ignore them: nothing personal, but I don't want to see the feed clogged up with music stuff.
I infrequently post on Facebook, and when I do it's mostly what John Chacona called "food porn" (something he's better at it than I am). My posts are usually public, so you can check them out if you're interested. I do announce all of my posts on Twitter, so encourage you to follow. Looks like I have 445 followers, and 2,442 tweets. Not a lot as stats go, but I try to make them worthwhile.
At the author's request, I removed the contents to Joe Yanosik's Consumer Guide to Franco. Joe is reorganized the material as a book and/or CD, and I guess he thinks his sales prospects will improve by scarcity. I have my doubts, but it's his work, and he can do with it what he wants. At some point I may have more information. (I do know he's working on a guide book to Plastic People of the Universe -- here's a Facebook link, I think).
I set up a guests section on my website quite a while back, to publish some of Michael Tatum's writings, and I've used for a couple others, but it's never been a going concern, or even something I've promoted. But I do have that ability, and can even do a bit more. I lease a dedicated server, and can set up web sites if you have something that seems worth doing (or I can set up sub-domains under hullworks.net). I don't come close to breaking even on this, but I'm pleased to help out a few friends, and to have the flexibility for my own projects.
New records reviewed this week:
Alchemy Sound Project: Afrika Love (2018 , ARC): Postbop group, third album, seems to have two tiers where each core member wrote a song -- Sumi Tonooka (piano), Salim Washington (tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet, oboe), Erica Lindsay (tenor sax, clarinet, alto flute), David Arend (bass), and Samantha Boshnack (trumpet) -- rounding out with trombone (Michael Ventoso) and drums (Chad Taylor). B+(**) [cd]
Rossano Baldini: Humanbeing (2020 , RareNoise): Italian pianist, also electronics, couple previous albums, does a lot of soundtrack work. Solo here except for some cello (Carmin Iuvone). Six tight rhythm pieces, short (28:07). B+(**) [cdr] [05-28]
Andre Ferreri Quintetto: Numero Uno (2021, Laser): Guitarist, born in New York, based in North Carolina, claims several albums (but I'm not sure about the 1995 nature sounds that are the only things I find on Discogs). With sax, bass, drums, and piano (three names, one each day of the sessions), plus trumpet (1 track). Nice postbop groove. B+(**) [cd] [05-31]
Nnenna Freelon: Time Traveler (2018-20 , Origin): Jazz singer, started in church, dozen or so albums since 1992, reprises singers like Dionne Warwick and Roberta Flack here. B+(*) [cd]
Greg Germann: Tales of Time (2020 , Origin): Drummer, based in New York, evidently well established for work on Broadway and in films. Not wild about the vocals (Chelsea Forgenie), but he hires two stars -- Luis Perdomo (piano) and Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) -- and gets his money's worth. B+(**) [cd]
Thomas Heberer/Joe Fonda/Joe Hertenstein: Remedy (2020 , Fundacja Sluchaj): German trumpet player, albums since 1988, trio with bass and drums. Engaging free jazz, the bassist a standout. B+(***) [bc]
Brent Jensen: More Sounds of a Dry Martini (2020 , Origin): Alto saxophonist, recorded a Paul Desmond tribute in 2001, and decided to add another volume here. With guitar (Jamie Findlay), bass, and drums, plus piano on two tracks. Three Desmond songs, one Brubeck, several standards, including an especially nice "These Foolish Things." B+(***) [cd]
Shawn Maxwell: Expectation & Experience (2021, Jazzline): Pandemic project, alto/soprano saxophonist, also plays clarinet, wrote these compositions and hit up 30 musicians to record their bits remotely. B+(**) [cd]
No-No Boy: 1975 (2021, Smithsonian Folkways): Julian Saporiti, Vietnamese-American born in Nashville, based in Portland, second album, steeped in Asian-American history, group named for John Okada's 1957 novel ("perceived as disloyal to the US but not fully Japanese"), title for the year Saigon fell. A-
Almog Sharvit: Get Up or Cry (2019 , Unit): Israeli bassist, based in New York, first album, a short one (6 songs, 26:50). Starts off with a kind of mariachi hoedown, with Brandon Seabrook's banjo and Adam O'Farrill's trumpet. The other pieces are less fun, especially the ones with vocals. B+(*) [cd] [05-28]
Vasco Trilla: Unmoved Mover (2020 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Spanish drummer, Discogs credits him with 40 albums since 2013, mostly duos and small groups where everyone is named. Solo here, credited with timpani and gong. B [bc]
Uassyn: Zacharya (2019 , JazzThing): Young Swiss avant-sax trio (Tapiwa Svosve, Silvan Jeger, Vincent Glanzmann), second album, recorded in Zürich. Fairly short (32:01), but intense. B+(***) [cd]
Carlos Vega: Art of the Messenger (2017 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Florida, third album, all his own material, with Victor Garcia (trumpet), piano, bass, and drums -- an original take on Art Blakey (his two previous albums were titled Bird's Ticket and Bird's Up). B+(**) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Alex Chilton: A Man Called Destruction (1995 , Omnivore): New wave Memphis rocker, big hit early with the Box Stops, followed by legendary cult band Big Star, followed by a very checkered solo career, ending with his death in 2010 (at 59). Half originals (counting one based on a Chopin funeral march), half obscure covers, this album (originally on Ardent) was as checkered as any. Reissue adds seven more tracks. B+(**)
Alex Chilton and Hi Rhythm Section: Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street (1999 , Omnivore): Backed by a local band (albeit, as Al Green's rhythm section, a famous one), opening for Rufus and Carla Thomas, so he doesn't bother trying to flog his own catalog. Just ten rock and soul standards that neither is known for but all know. B+(*)
Nirvana: Hormoaning (1992, DGC, EP): Six-songs, 18:47, released in Japan and Australia only. Four covers, two b-sides to Nevermind singles, four back for the 1992 Incesticide compilation (counting the different take of "Aneurism"). I thought they were ridiculously overrated, but liked the trash they collected in Incesticide, and this is of a piece with that. B+(**) [yt]
No-No Boy: 1942 (2018, No-No Boy): First album, title recalls the concentration camps the US built to lock up 130,000 Japanese-Americans for the duration of WWII. That racism seems like he foundation of the American experience, with Vietnam -- both the war and the exile and resettlement built on it. A-
NRBQ: NRBQ (1969, Columbia): Stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quintet (later Quartet), first album, Terry Adams (piano) the constant over a 50+ year run, with Steve Ferguson (guitar) also contributing original songs, mixed with covers ranging from Eddie Cochran and Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee to Sun Ra and Carla Bley. Shows their good taste, not the same thing as genius. B+(**)
NRBQ: NRBQ at Yankee Stadium (1978, Mercury): Sixth album, including one with Carl Perkins -- I'm not yet ready to check them all out, but this has a bit of a rep. Adams and/or bassist Joseph Spampinato wrote the originals, plus two for guitarist Al Anderson. Still, none as good as the covers ("Get Rhythm," "Shake, Rattle and Roll"). B+(*)
NRBQ: Kick Me Hard (1979, Rounder/Red Rooster): Aside from the Quartet, a couple horns help out. More songs about buildings and food, not to mention "Wacky Tobacky." B+(*)
Orchestra Makassy: Agwaya (1982, Virgin): East African group, formed in Kampala in 1975 with Zairean and Ugandan musicians, moved to Tanzania to flee Idi Amin, and later to Kenya, disbanding in 1982, leaving this one album. Soukous influence, gently sweetened. A-
Orchestra Makassy: Legends of East Africa: The Original Recordings (1982 , ARC Music): Reissue of Agwaya, plus three extra songs (two previously unreleased), presumably from the same period. ("Ubaya Wa Nini," "Muungano," "Mume Wangu"). A-
Ray Parker Jr.: The Other Woman (1982, Arista): Soul singer, cut two albums (1978-79) as Raydio, two more as Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio (1980-81), then this solo, followed later the same year by Greatest Hits, which with its catchy "Ghostbusters" bonus seemed like the obvious choice. Light touch, funky bass, leads with a hit, trails off toward the end. B+(***)
Parliament: Gloryhallastoopid (Or Pin the Tale on the Funky) (1979, Casablanca): Suspecting a decline, or maybe just a feeling that their extended funk jams were becoming too mechanical, the only one of George Clinton's marquee group's nine 1970-80 I didn't buy. Should have skipped Trombipulation instead, but no real surprise here, other than that you can still grin your way through a whole heep of stoopid. B+(**)
Parliament: Greatest Hits: P. Funk, Uncut Funk, the Bomb (1974-79 , Casablanca): First-generation best-of, ten songs from a group that lost nothing when their 2-CD Tear the Roof Off came out in 1993 (and still had me complaining about omissions). Title songs from their first two Casablancas, only three songs from their two peak 1976 efforts, four more of their later vamp pieces. With their many spinoffs, they defined the 1970s for me. Not exactly my choice cuts, but a solid grounding for those of you who missed them. A
Parliament: The Best of Parliament [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1974-80 , Mercury): Budget series, limited to 11 cuts, but picking long-ish ones adds up to 67:30. Eight dupes from 1984's Greatest Hits, dropping "Do That Stuff" and "Theme From the Black Hole," adding "Dr. Funkenstein," "Agony of Defeet," and "Testify" (the 1974 album remake of Clinton's 1967 doo-wop hit), while discarding chronological order. I'd rate it a very slight improvement, but "Do That Stuff" is not one I would have sacrificed. A
Party of One: Dead Violet Shannon (2000, Murder of All Music): Minneapolis guitar-bass-drums trio, singer-songwriter named Eric Fifteen, first album. Sketchy, lo-fi, but something here. B+(**) [bc]
Party of One: Caught the Blast (2000-01 , Fat Cat): Second album, new bassist Terrica Kleinknecht sings some, adding an important new dimension to Eric Fifteen's deadpan "oral propaganda." A- [bc]
Party of One: Streetside Surprise (2014, Go Johnny Go): A third album for Eric Fifteen's group, a decade after their second. New band, quartet this time, with bassist Joe Holland returning from the first album. B+(**)
Pavement: Slay Tracks: 1933-1969 (1989, Treble Kicker, EP): Five songs, 14:02, the most important alt/indie band of the 1990s makes its debut, with the nu-punk "You're Killing Me," the psyhedelic folk "Box Elder," and three more less coherent stabs at guitar noise. No idea what the dates signify. Reissued in 1993 as the first 5 (of 23) songs on Westing (by Muskeet and Sextant). A-
Pavement: Demolition Plot J-7 (1989 , Drag City, EP): Second EP, six tracks, 11:52, also in Westing. B/W cover, monochromatic noise, doubt there's anything brilliant buried here, but hard to tell. B+(*)
Pavement: Perfect Sound Forever (1989 , Drag City, EP): Seven songs, 11:52, originally on 10-inch vinyl. B+(**)
Pavement: Terror Twilight (1999, Matador): Fifth (and final) album, after two EPs I haven't heard (Pacific Trim and Shady Lane), closing out their decade before Stephen Malkmus launched his now-longer solo career. Malkmus is such an odd vocalist that good Pavement albums seem like uncanny miracles. Took me three plays to concede that this is another of them. A-
Johnny Paycheck: Johnny Paycheck's Greatest Hits (1972-74 , Epic): Country singer Donald Eugene Lytle (1938-2003), recorded for Little Darlin' in the late 1960s -- I liked CMF's 1996 The Real Mr. Heartache: The Little Darlin' Years -- before signing with Billy Sherrill at Epic in 1972. This seems a little premature, as his only number one hit didn't come until 1977, but this reduces five albums, adding two non-album singles (one a duet with Jody Miller). "She's All I Got" was the closest thing to a hit here. It's pretty good, but not the only song here George Jones sang better. B-
Johnny Paycheck: Greatest Hits, Volume 2 (1975-78 , Epic): His breakthrough came in 1978 with his David Allen Coe-penned hit, "Take This Job and Shove It." He moves into his "outlaw" phase here, which puts some swagger into his voice, and must have been fun until he got busted in the 1980s. B+(**)
Johnny Paycheck: 16 Biggest Hits (1971-79 , Epic): Doesn't quite go to the end (1982) of his Epic period, but a good, solid selection of his 1970s singles, slanted toward his "outlaw" years, since that's where the better songs lie. B+(***)
Johnny Paycheck: Mr. Hag Told My Story (1981, Epic): In 1980, Paycheck recorded Double Trouble with George Jones, mostly playing old rock songs for yucks: "Roll Over Beethoven," "Tutti Frutti," especially "Along Came Jones") and the single, "When You're Ugly Like Us (You Just Naturally Got to Be Cool)." The introductions here are just short of brown-nosing, but the songs aren't predictable, and the band is Merle & the Strangers. B+(**)
Pearl Jam: Ten (1991, Epic): In the early 1990s I found myself turning to jazz, to old blues and country, to anything but rock and rap, which fell under the spell of grunge and gangsta. The former was dominated by a rash of Seattle bands, of which this one was ostensibly number two (after Nirvana and, maybe, Soundgarden). First album. I still don't get the grunge concept here, or much of anything else. B
Pearl Jam: Yield (1998, Epic): Fifth studio album, the second (after Vitalogy -- the only one I got suckered into buying) Christgau A-listed. This is a bit better, or at least less monotonous. That leaves three more Christgau * or ** albums I won't trouble myself with, as well as scores of live albums he didn't touch. B+(*)
Teddy Pendergrass: TP (1980, Philadelphia International): Former lead singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1970-75), went solo in 1977 and reeled off five platinum albums before a 1982 car crash left him paralyzed from the chest down. This was the fourth, long on ballads and schmaltz. B+(**)
Teddy Pendergrass: Greatest Hits (1977-80 , Philadelphia International): Nine cuts from the five platinum albums, for my money superseded by the 15-song 1998 Greatest Hits on The Right Stuff (8 repeats). I tend to favor his upbeat songs, but they he slips in some sheer seduction like "Close the Door." A-
Teddy Pendergrass: The Essential Teddy Pendergrass (1972-84 , Philadelphia International/Legacy, 2CD): Picks up some early cuts with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and touches his first Asylum album. Lots of good material, but I find fatigue setting in. B+(***)
Esther Phillips: Esther Phillips Sings (1966, Atlantic): R&B singer Esther Mae Jones, joined Johnny Otis' Rhythm and Blues Caravan at age 14, scoring several hits early on. Second of five 1965-70 albums for Atlantic, with Oliver Nelson, Ray Ellis & Jimmy Wisner arranging the big band and strings. Fine singer, not much else to recommend. B
Esther Phillips: Burnin': Live at Freddie Jett's Pied Piper, L.A. (1970, Atlantic): Large (10 piece) band, arranged and produced by saxophonist King Curtis. B+(**)
Esther Phillips: Conessin' the Blues (1966-70 , Atlantic): Good selection of blues material from the late 1960s, first side with big bands stocked with jazz musicians like Sonny Criss, Teddy Edwards, and Herb Ellis. Second side small groups, but in all cases her voice is gripping. A-
Esther Phillips: Black-Eyed Blues (1973, Kudu): She left Atlantic in 1970 for Kudu, which was Creed Taylor's soul division (although their roster included a lot of soul-oriented jazz musicians, like Grant Green, Lonnie Smith, and Grover Washington). Third Kudu album. Six songs (33:53), title from Chris Stainton and Joe Cocker, others range from Ellington to Withers. Pee Wee Ellis arranged the horns, and Bob James the strings. A-
Esther Phillips: The Essential Esther Phillips: The Kudu Years (1971-77 , Legacy, 2CD): Note the qualifier, as this skips the first 20 years of her career, as well as the last 7, before she died in 1984 (at 48). This picks 33 songs from 7 albums -- by reputation uneven ones, but she's such a consistently powerful singer they flow like one, and the bands are well stocked with jazz talent. A-
Esther Phillips: Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song): 1984/New York City (1984 , Jazzwerkstatt): Studio album, recorded March 6, five months before her death on August 7. Originally released by Muse in 1986 as A Way to Say Goodbye, reissued 1999 in Germany by ITM under the new title, which this label expands on. B+(*)
Charlie Rich: The Legendary Sun Classics (1958-62 , Charly): Country singer, became a big star in the 1970s, by which time his early stint with Sam Phillips at least looked good on the résumé. Like most of the label's output, these tracks have been reissued many times, most completely in Bear Family's 3-CD box, The Sun Years, 1958-62. This 14-cut sampler looked like as good a place as any to start. B+(*)
Charlie Rich: The Fabulous Charlie Rich (1970, Epic): After Sun, RCA, and Smash, Rich signed with Epic in 1968 and settled into a pleasant countrypolitan groove. Sporting silver hair at 37, he's smooth and steady, picking good songs that hold up even to Billy Sherrill's strings and chorus. B+(***)
Charlie Rich: The Best of Charlie Rich (1968-72 , Epic): Seems premature after only three Epic albums, only one charting (peak 44). Indeed, I have to hedge here, given that I could only find 8 (of 10) songs on subsequent Epic compilations I consulted: Greatest Hits (1976), American Originals (1989), Super Hits (1995), Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich (1997, 2CD), 16 Biggest Hits (1999), Love Songs (2000), The Essential Charlie Rich (2007, 2CD) -- the latter, going back to 1959 and forward to 1991, is the one I recommend. B+(***)
Charlie Rich: Pictures and Paintings (1992, Sire): Rich died in 1995 (at 62), leaving this final album, produced by Peter Guralnick, nicely playing up Rich's jazzy side. B+(***)
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth: All Souled Out (1991, Elektra, EP): I like this genre: "Golden age hip hop." Producer and rapper, six tracks (including two mixes of "Good Life"), 29:09. Nice bounce to this. B+(***)
Max Romeo: Open the Iron Gate (1975 , United Artists): Evidently a reordered, retitled reissue of his 1975 Jamaican album Revelation Time, which means it predates his Island-released 1976 album War Ina Babylon. B+(**)
Diana Ross: Diana (1980, Motown): I love the Supremes as much as anyone, but haven't followed her solo career (just one short best-of in my database, a high B+). So I'm gobsmacked that she recorded this closet Chic album -- all eight songs written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. A-
Del Shannon: Greatest Hits (1961-70 , Rhino): Rock/pop star from the unjustly ignored early 1960s, hit number one with his debut single ("Runaway"), went top 20 3 more times (7 in UK), up through 1964 ("Keep Searchin'"). There are dozens of best-ofs with the same dozen-plus songs, plus varying hard-to-find filler. Christgau likes Music Club's 16-cut This Is . . . Del Shannon, but I gave up 3 songs short. I liked him enough at the time I'm surprised I didn't pick this up, from Rhino's pre-Warners golden age, but again I'm 3 short of 20 cuts (only 1 shy of 14 on on the cassette). B+(***)
Del Shannon: This Is . . . Del Shannon (1961-66 , Music Club): Sixteen cuts, different picks toward the end, doesn't make much difference, not even the slightly better hits/also-rans/filler ratio. [13/16] B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
Johnny Shines: Johnny Shines (1970 , Hightone): Christgau: "the most vigorous surviving practitioner of acoustic Delta blues." He was reviewing an eponymous album recorded 1968 and given a US release on Blue Horizon in 1972. Seemed like this might be the one, but per Discogs this was recorded in 1970 and released by Advent in 1974. Christgau's album seems to be more properly titled Blues Masters Vol. 7, with a "The Complete Series" sticker on the cover (Vol. 1 was by Magic Sam). Also turns out I had this one, slightly misfiled, in the database already, so this is a regrade. [was: B] B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: