February 2002 Notebook
Index
Latest

2017
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2016
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2015
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2014
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2013
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2012
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2011
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2010
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2009
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2008
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2007
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2006
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2005
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2004
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2003
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2002
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2001
  Dec
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb

Thursday, February 28, 2002

Still reeling from whatever it is that's gotten me down so. Still trying to read Hourani's Arab book. But let's start another record list anyway.

  • Jan Allan: 70 (1968-69, Phono Suecia). Granted a crown rating by the Penguin Guide, damn near impossible to find (got mine mail order from Sweden, and even though that sounds obvious it wasn't that easy), and just plain baffling. Overarranged, I'd say. Lots of little intricate touches -- sharp piano from Bobo Stenson and Nils Lindberg, delicate bass from Palle Danielsson, thoughtful saxophone from Bernt Rosengren and Arne Domnerus, even a little trumpet from Allan -- yet it never totally hangs together. B+
  • Arthur Blythe & David Eyges: Today's Blues (1997, CIMP). Last time around (Synergy, 1996, In+Out) they had a drummer, which helped things move along. These duets are slow, ambling affairs, and Eyges' cello is mixed so low I have trouble hearing it. Sounds like Blythe has the same problem. B-
  • Dance Hits U.K. (1994, Moonshine). Techno, pretty good. B+
  • Frikyiwa Collection 1 (2000, Six Degrees). West African pop, remixed with those nice electrobeats that almost anyone can hack. B
  • Cheikh Lô: Né La Thiass (1996, World Circuit). Laid back west african groove, probably the most pleasant find of my long convalescence. Christgau prefers Bambay Gueej, which is more upfront, and I like it too (B+ like). A-
  • Technosonic Vol. 3: A Journey Into Trance (1993, Sonic). There must be dozens more like this -- easy listening electro with a good beat and nice vibe. But I've played this 6-8 times in the last week, and every time it was just what the doctor ordered. A-
  • Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock: A Closer View (1995, ECM). Despite all the jazz I've worked through, I still think of myself as having rock ears, which among other things means I expect the music to come to me. Of course, these quiet guitar/bass duets don't even try; however, when you do go to them, they really are exquisite -- at least as long as my rock ears can pay attention. B+

Monday, February 25, 2002

Hillary Clinton goes to Israel, meets with Sharon, declares that it's all Arafat's fault. Even if, for the sake of argument, it really is Arafat's fault, what possible good is Clinton doing?

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Movie: The Shipping News. Panned so severely by the critics (i.e., the same blokes who hyped Mulholland Drive and Oceans 11 and most of the other degenerate crap I've seen in the last year), I have to wonder what their grip on reality is. What we have here is a cogent, brilliantly imagined, concisely written story, which hints at deeper truths without slamming you with platitudes. The half-dozen or so plot twists are never fully expected, nor gratuitous. The acting is fine, the setting exotic, the film gorgeous. Don't know how much justice it does to the book, but as a film it works just fine. A-

Friday, February 22, 2002

First dead Americans in Todd Tiahrt's Filipino adventure. The Burnhams get their stock photos in the Eagle for the 600th time or so, looking exceptionally forlorn.

In other news, there seems to be a new wave of Afghan refugees, perhaps because the US keeps finding themselves shooting at ordinary Afghans thinking they might be Taliban or Al Qaida, perhaps because the parties of the warlord alliance are warlords first, allies second (if at all).

In other news, Sharon has a plan to solve his crisis by building bigger barriers between the Israelis and the Palestinians; i.e., to isolate the effect by making the underlying problem worse.

All told, the denial and self-delusion is pretty staggering. Back in November I wrote that those were the "feel good" days of the war. Those days are pretty much over now, but worse days that this seem certain to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Woke up this morning from a dream that was trying to convince me to write a book of haughty, humorous political essays. First insight: that neither the Israelis nor the Arabs had ever managed to figure out how to cook pork. In both cases this seems to be a deliberate rejection of the modern world, an insistence that faith trump fact, which hints at the impossibility of reconciling the two sides.

I may have been thinking about a Benny Morris comment in The Guardian. I had just finished reading Morris's history, Righteous Victims, which seemed (at least up to the Barak period) to be pretty evenhanded and coolheaded. But the comment is little more than a tirade against Arafat, which even if it is well founded is not well explained. This is a position that we've heard repeated ad nauseum, as though repetition is enough to establish it as fact. If Israel were committed to working out peace with Palestine, the opposite should hold: Israel should be trying to build up the public's perception of Arafat's integrity, since Arafat is de facto Israel's partner in the process.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Been sick all week. Thought I'd nip it in the bud, so I complained to doctor and got some medicine which has really kicked my butt.

Saturday, February 16, 2002

Still cleaning up 2001 albums.

  • The Best of Eric B. & Rakim (20th Century Masters) (1987-92, Hip-O). A-
  • Carlinhos Brown: Omelette Man (1999, Blue Note). I liked his earlier Alfagamabetizado, but never got a grip on this one -- very wishy washy. C+
  • The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday (1966-67, Columbia). C+
  • Coldcut: Let Us Play! (1997, Ninja Tune). Pastiche, some quite good, some not so good. Jello Biafra's "Every Home a Prison" is probably smarter than it sounds; the problem with its sound is that the irony tends to be misplaced, like trying to speak hiply in a poorly understood foreign language. I rather like the closing orgasm piece. Don't know what to do about the non-musical 2nd CD. B
  • Deltron 3030 (2000, 75 Ark). More/less what I like about underground rap: sharp beats, def samples, minimal horseshit. A-
  • The Very Best of the Doors (1967-71, Rhino). Pretty much all you'd ever want. A
  • Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera (2001, SDR). The rap on "The Three Great Icons of Alabama" is basic history; I wish there was more of that, because I recognize the roots impulse in myself. But while at the time I thought Skynyrd's first two were pretty good, their roots-significance to me was never apparent. But even just as a MOR rock trip, this may well be the year's best, which should make it good for something. A-
  • Von Freeman: Live at the Dakota (1996, Premonition). Runs long and slow; while Von sounds grand, the band just sounds tired. B
  • Von Freeman: 75th Birthday Celebration (1998, Half Note). Von is one of the most distinctive sounding tenors around, and his playing is the best thing about this rather haphazard disc. B
  • The Very Best of Marvin Gaye (1962-82, Motown 2CD). My favorite Gaye package, Anthology, is still the preferred one. It has more material, leaning heavier on Gay's '60s prime. This one cuts the song count back from 47 to 34, and tosses in one cut from Gaye's 1982 Midnight Love (worth having in toto). The two previously unreleased cuts add little, but the live "Distant Lover" is welcome, and the full 11:48 "Got to Give It Up" (vs. the 45-version on Anthology) is a great thing to have. A
  • Nanci Griffith: Clock Without Hands (2001, Elektra). A folkie with enough twang to pass for country, she writes delicate little songs of surprising grit and highmindedness. This one is about mines and cripples and Vietnam, but I haven't figured out where it gets its wistfulness -- perhaps that's just the irony of her slight voice and demeanor tackling subjects beyond our grasp. B+
  • Hakim: The Lion Roars: Live in America (2001, Mondo Melodia 2CD). Groove exotica. B+
  • Michael Jackson: Invincible (2001, Epic). The fast ones sound like chips off Dangerous or Bad -- a clipped funk not unlike assembly-line Prince, but not much like anyone else. But the slow ones have a stately beauty that is even rarer these days. Still, I don't find myself much caring: he's not much of a thinker, doesn't have a sense of humor that I can discern; he's never meant a thing to me, and at 77 minutes this does get long. B+
  • The Best of Michael Jackson (1972-75, Motown). I guess he always had a way with a ballad -- even if he didn't always have a listenable band/orchestra to support him. But it wasn't until he passed puberty that he finally learned how to "Beat It." C+
  • The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies (1971, Konk/Velvel). Semi-precious phase. B
  • The Kinks: Everybody's in Showbiz (1972, Konk/Velvel). Semi-precious phase, rehashed live. B
  • Lyricist Lounge Presents Underground Airplay Version 1.0 (2001, Mic). Underground here seems to guys you've never heard of, and probably never will. So it's spotty, but it never really flags, either. B+
  • Millennium '60s Rock Party (1959-68, Rhino). Stuff everyone ought to have somewhere, many from artists you don't need anything else from. A-
  • Greg Osby: The Invisible Hand (2000, Blue Note). Long on ballads. Slow on ballads, too. B-
  • Jimmy Reed (1966-71, Paula). Past his prime, but holds up about as well as any random sampling from his Vee-Jay prime. A-
  • Select Cuts from Blood & Fire Chapter 2 (2001, Select Cuts). Better, I think, than the first volume. A-
  • Shakira: Laundry Service (2001, Epic). Her English is pretty good -- at least as good as Britney Spears, say. So's her bod. But the tango thing in Spanish is the one I like best of all. A-
  • Frank Sinatra: Where Are You (1957, Capitol). One of the real slow ones, which means you have to listen real hard to realize just how perfect it is. Real hard. B
  • Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits (1947-53, Mercury 2CD). The one I recommend is The Original Singles Collection, which spans 3 CDs, enough so that the stuff you don't know by heart gives you a break from the intensity of the stuff you do. A

Thursday, February 14, 2002

The main headline in yesterday's paper anounced that Bush has decided to go to war against Iraq: that the US would commit 200,000 ground troops, and that Cheney was out of his foxhole and touring the Middle East to tell whoever needs to know what the US is going to do. Today there was not a single mention of it, no follow-up, no comments. Of course, part of the reason has to be that the farm bill passed, which is obviously much more important out here in Kansas, not to mention the sports page dedicated to the American who came in 2nd in some skiing event (gee, wonder who won?). I don't know which is more striking: the casualness with which one nation decides to destroy another, or the indifference of the people presumably represented by the first party.

Friday, February 08, 2002

I kept adding records to the Jan. 29 post-OKC entry, but didn't really get to most of the records I picked up in OKC -- mostly because things like Ryan Adams and Buddy & Julie Miller have been tough to figure out. The main benefit of doing these little review/comments is that I have some text I can add to the music database when I finally get around to transplanting it into MySQL. The idea here is to generalize the Christgau website/database into something that other writers can use, with myself as the first guinea pig. So, let's start a new list, try to cut the unrated list (700 as I write this) down a notch or two, deal with some late 2001 releases (bagged Timeless last time, took about 10 plays, but I/it finally came around; however, if/when Buddy & Julie take 10 plays, I'm gonna punish them with a B).

  • The Best of ABC (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1982-87, Mercury). Brit-pop, artier and (a lot) archer than I had (barely) remembered it. B-
  • Ryan Adams: Gold (2001, Lost Highway). The advance here is supposed to be the songs, but I can't confirm that. What I do know here is that he mostly manages to avoid the comatose slow stuff that bagged Heartbreaker, and that the organ backing up the harmonica makes this sound more like successful Elliot Murphy than failed Neil Young. B
  • The Avalanches: Since I Left You (2000, Sire/Modular). It may be premature to rate it, but I bet this is where it lands. The one called "Frontier Psychiatrist" is a standout, but the rest is pastiche. B+
  • Babyface: A Collection of His Greatest Hits (1989-2000, Epic). Sometime before Babyface first appeared people stopped referring to black pop as "soul" -- possibly because it's hard to identify any amidst all the intricate layering and polyrhythms and whatever, which have the net effect of making the music inscrutably indirect. Maybe there's a historical need at work; or maybe it's just that the producers control all the nobs. B+
  • Babyface: Face 2 Face (2001, Arista). The best thing here is the closer, "Lover and Friend," which has a compelling beat and vocals that beg unfavorable comparison to Parliament. The rest of the album is nearly that good, but just how good is that? I don't really know: immensely listenable, rarely inspired. B+
  • Floyd Dixon: His Complete Aladdin Recordings (1949-52, Capitol 2CD). Possibly the best of the jump blues piano players, but the completism saddles this set with quite a bit of substandard material (mostly on the 2nd CD). Would make a real fine single, but we'll cut it a bit of slack for historical interest. B+
  • The Best of Joe Ely (1977-98, MCA). The great stuff come from Honky Tonk Masquerade, which is still the most highly recommended. But this frames the great stuff in a whole career of real good stuff, and ends as strong as it starts. A
  • Kékélé: Rumba Congo (2001, Stern's Africa). Yet another pretty good soukous album. B+
  • The Best of the Memphis Jug Band (1927-34, Yazoo). Jug band reminds me a bit of kwela, homey but without the lilt. A-
  • Buddy and Julie Miller (2001, Hightone). A weird one. If at first they sound too much like Richard & Linda Thompson, that's because they start off with a Richard Thompson song. The next one is basically the same, which I guess establishes them as America's own Richard & Linda; lucky us. But where Richard's songs had a callous if not quite sadistic streak, Julie's the writer here, and her songs lean more than a little to masochism. Or at least that's my take, both on the love songs and the God songs. Still, this rocks harder than you'd expect, and as long as you don't try to figure it out, it sounds pretty good. But weird. B+
  • Augustus Pablo: The Great Pablo (1971-75, Music Club). Mostly instrumental. While the vocal cuts are major, the dub riddims rarely call out for anything more. A-
  • Augustus Pablo: Rockers Meet King Tubbys in a Fire House (1980, Shanachie). All instrumental, perfectly perfunctory. B+

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums. This reminds me a bit of a wonderful movie called Where the Heart Is -- a house full of idiosyncratic budding geniuses, except this one is darker and weirder, much of the delta springing from Gene Hackman's Royal Tenenbaum. I love the choppy, bookish narration (Alec Baldwin), and I like the transpositions from precocious childhood to bewildered adulthood, a sort of dysfunctionality that seems whole even where it's a bit arbitrary and not quite as nice as it could be. A-

Friday, February 01, 2002

Movie: In the Bedroom. Ultimately, just another revenge fantasy, only more subdued, not just because the wronged party isn't Charles Bronson or Harrison Ford, nor even because the movie is set in Maine. But the revenge feels tacked on, the sort of artificial resolution that is fiction's stock and trade. Too bad, really: up to that twist this had a nice slice-of-life feel, and had plenty of pent-up frustration to sort out. B+


Jan 2002 Mar 2002