June 2012 Notebook


Saturday, June 30, 2012

List of Things to Do

Note: as of date above, this is incomplete; also not so active that it makes sense pushing it ahead another month. Maybe I'll return and refile.

Computer work:

  • Upgrade my main work machine (Duke):
    • Back up everything, taking notes on configuration.
    • Figure out whether to upgrade hardware (CPU, motherboard, memory, video, but probably not drives, power supply, box); if so, order, assemble, install.
    • Install current release of Ubuntu (currently Fedora, hard to maintain).
    • Restore from backup and reconfigure as needed.

Note: Duke is 5 years old, currently running an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ CPU (passmark: 1515), with 4GB RAM, a 256MB video card. A new CPU, cheaper than what the old one cost, would be the 8-core AMD FX-8150 (passmark: 8250); unfortunately, this requires a motherboard upgrade (AM3+), but the new ones support up to 32GB RAM, have faster SATA, etc. Also looks like I'd need a new video card, so this is adding up, but the cheap ones start out around 1GB RAM. Hard discs have also improved, but I'm currently only using 13% of my 320GB.

Basement work:

  • Move free-standing work bench out, to garage.
  • Cement floor work:
    • Patch irregularities with filler.
    • Re-paint (gray epoxy paint).
  • Organization work:
    • Put all the loose tools into tool chests, tool bags, or plastic bins.
    • Organize large tools, paint, etc., on shelves.
    • Throw out a lot of unnecessary stuff.
  • HVAC drainage (replace floor drain with condensate pump):
    • Add 115V outlet somewhere near chimney.
    • Add inlet and drainage plumbing from humidifier, furnace, and condenser to condensate pump, and from condensate pump to drain.
    • Remove old HVAC drainage plumbing.
    • Cover and plug floor drain.
  • Built platform floor in northwest corner, near sink, washer, dryer (approx. 6x8 feet, 7-8 inches above current floor.
  • Rebuilt sink area:
    • Remove old sink.
    • Frame in new countertop to reuse Silverstone sink from old kitchen.
    • Laminate new countertop, install sink, faucet, connect plumbing.
    • Add shelf structure over washer-dryer.
    • Add drawers where appropriate.
  • Select and install some kind of new flooring on remainder of basement floor.
  • Maybe do something to renovate stairs, stairway, understair space?

Garage/shed/backyard work:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Expert Comments

One of the reviewed records is The Rough Guide to Highlife (Second Edition), label World Music Network.

One question I have for anyone who has a release copy of The Rough Guide to Highlife is whether it's possible to figure out a date range for the included songs. That's something I always tried to do from the inception of Recycled Goods, and virtually every record I failed to figure out was from World Music Network. That was one of many things that led me to detest the label -- the publicist was a big one -- and I wound up getting so worked up that they were the main reason I shelved Recycled Goods. Admittedly, a big part of my aggravation was that their compilers actually put together good records, so they were something I wanted to cover. (By contrast, I got terrific service from Putumayo: they have a competing series, and provide discographical details, but their records are relatively lame.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Expert Comments

Christgau posted comments demanding that Amazon workers unionize, and that Amazon customers pay sales tax. Uh, we do.

For whatever it's worth, I've paid sales tax on Amazon purchases for many years -- ever since Amazon set up a distribution center in Coffeyville, KS. When they did so Amazon didn't insist on a sales tax exemption like they recently did in South Carolina. I figure one reason they did the latter was that SC had given Boeing about $1 billion in various incentives to move their 787 assembly operation from the Seattle area, where Amazon is based. Crass move, but SC practically begged for it.

In the meantime (well after Amazon got socked with the sales tax) Wichita's big box bookstore coverage has dropped from four to one, and the remainder has less than 50% of its floor space used for books -- seems well on its way to becoming a toy store. Bookstores have always been my favorite hideouts, and as recently as a few years ago I would visit a couple times a week. Now it's more like once every other month, and a disappointing experience at that. Blame the internet if you like, but those now-closed stores were more often than not plush with customers. I don't know what killed them, but the main interest of investors these days seems to be in looting their businesses.

For several decades now we've let ourselves be seduced and defrauded by the mantra that businesses exist solely to profit their owners -- i.e., that customers, employees, and the public have no stake in their operation. Unions used to provide some form of check on this greed, and their destruction has gone hand-in-hand with the looting. For a counterexample, see Thomas Geoghegan's book on Germany -- at least see my excerpts at http://goo.gl/pHlP8 -- Germany has become the world's largest net exporter because it keeps its jobs at home, and it does that because the unions have a stake in every company. There are some problems with Germany, including that they're too successful -- that's a big part of the Eurozone crisis right now. But one thing that bummed me at the bookstore recently was the latest load of books warning of Obama's sinister plot to turn the US into "a European Socialist State," as if vacations, retirement, education, and health care are such bad things (not to mention as if Obama had the slightest such inkling).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Expert Comments

Someone asked about Christgau B+ grades that you thought more highly of, so I ran some quick awk:

Since all it takes is a simple awk script, records I graded A that Christgau graded B+:

  • Blue Oyster Cult: Agents of Fortune (1976, Columbia)
  • John Cale: Paris 1919 (1973, Reprise)
  • Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1970, A&M)
  • Bootsy's Rubber Band: Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band (1976, Warner Bros)
  • Bootsy's Rubber Band: Ahh . . . The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! (1977, Warner Bros)
  • David Lindley: El Rayo-X (1981, Asylum)
  • Iris Dement: Infamous Angel (1992, Philo)
  • Ducks Deluxe: Ducks Deluxe (1974, RCA)
  • The Flamin' Groovies: Supersnazz (1969, Epic) [A+] [+]
  • Hawkwind: Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977, Sire)
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Kid Creole Redux (1980, Sire)
  • Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Original Sufferhead / I.T.T. (1980-81, MCA)
  • Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin III (1970, Atlantic)
  • Hirth Martinez: Hirth from Earth (1975, Warner Bros)
  • Hirth Martinez: Big Bright Street (1977, Warner Bros)
  • Nelly: Country Grammar (2000, Universal)
  • Parliament: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976, Casablanca)
  • Roxy Music: Stranded (1974, Reprise)
  • Roxy Music: Country Life (1974, Reprise)
  • Leon Russell: Leon Russell (1970, Capitol)
  • Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969, Reprise)
  • Neil Young: Reactor (1981, Reprise)

Same for Christgau ***, **, * records:

  • Mildred Bailey: The Incomparable Mildred Bailey (1933-42, Columbia/Legacy) [+]
  • V.V. Brown: Travelling Like the Light (2010, Capitol) [+]
  • Marshall Chapman: Inside Job (1991, Tall Girl)
  • Chic: The Best of Chic: Dance Dance Dance (1991, Atlantic) [+]
  • Eyuphuro: Mama Mosambiki (1990, Real World)
  • Garbage: Garbage (1995, Almo)
  • Cee-Lo Green: Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections (2002, Arista)
  • Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010, Elektra)
  • Mary McCaslin: Things We Said Today: The Best of Mary McCaslin (1992, Philo)
  • Van Morrison: Down the Road (2002, Universal) [+]
  • David Murray: Creole (1998, Justin Time)
  • David Murray: Gwotet (2004, Justin Time) [+]
  • West Nkosi: Rhythm of Healing (1992, Earthworks)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Behavior (1990, EMI America) [A+]
  • Sam Phillips: Martinis and Bikinis (1994, Virgin)
  • Justin Warfield: My Field Trip to Planet 9 (1993, Warner Bros)

Same for Christgau B records:

  • John Hiatt: Overcoats (1975, Epic)
  • L.L. Cool J: 14 Shots to the Dome (1993, Def Jam)
  • The Miracles: City of Angels (1975, Motown)
  • Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973, Capitol)

Same for Christgau B- records:

  • Blondie: Autoamerican (1980, Chrysalis)
  • Jesus and Mary Chain: Automatic (1989, Warner Bros)

Doesn't seem to be anything below that. Mostly 1970s, for various reasons including that I had the benefit of working off the superior UK version of Ducks Deluxe. Worth noting that Bob sent me the Hiatt and Martinez records for review -- I always took that as meaning he suspected there was more to them.

Could be some more: I didn't have his Bruno Mars grade, so added that by hand. NERD: In Search Of . . . (2002, Virgin) would have made the list until he revised his grade.

Didn't post this part, but ran the same thing for A- records (Christgau B+ or worse); Christgau grades in brackets this time for anything B or lower. Total 278:

  • Rabih Abou-Khalil: Morton's Foot (2003, Enja/Justin Time) [+]
  • Aceyalone: Accepted Eclectic (2001, Ground Control)
  • Aceyalone: Love and Hate (2003, Project Blowed) [+]
  • King Sunny Ade: Gems From the Classic Years (1967-1974) (1967-74, Shanachie) [+]
  • King Sunny Ade: Synchro Series (1982-83, IndigeDisc)
  • Mahmoud Ahmed: Éthiopiques, Vol. 19: Alèmyé (1974, Buda Musique)
  • Mahmoud Ahmed: Éthiopiques, Vol. 7: Erè Mèla Mèla (1975, Buda Musique)
  • The Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South (1970, Polydor)
  • Dave Alvin: Blackjack David (1998, Hightone)
  • Phil Alvin: County Fair 2000 (1994, Hightone) [N] [+]
  • John Anderson: Bigger Hands (2009, Country Crossing) [+]
  • Thomas Anderson: Bolide (1998, Red River)
  • Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra: Who Is This America? (2004, Ropeadope)
  • The Apples in Stereo: Travellers in Space and Time (2010, Yep Roc) [+]
  • Automator: A Much Better Tomorrow (1996-2000, 75 Ark)
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Bachman-Turner Overdrive 2 (1973, Mercury)
  • Philip Bailey: Chinese Wall (1984, Columbia)
  • Marcia Ball: Soulful Dress (1984, Rounder)
  • The Band: Stage Fright (1970, Capitol)
  • The Band: Moondog Matinee (1973, Capitol)
  • Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Holon (2007, ECM) [+]
  • Waldemar Bastos: Pretaluz (1998, Luaka Bop)
  • Beats International: Excursion on the Version (1992, Polygram) [S] [+]
  • The Beautiful South: Miaow (1994, Go! Discs)
  • The Beautiful South: Quench (1998, Polygram)
  • The Beautiful South: Painting It Red (2000, Ark 21)
  • Beck: Midnite Vultures (1999, Interscope)
  • Bee Gees: Main Course (1975, Polydor)
  • The B-52's: Wild Planet (1980, Warner Bros)
  • Big Audio Dynamite: This Is Big Audio Dynamite (1985, Columbia) [B-]
  • Big Star: #1 Record (1972, Ardent)
  • Elvin Bishop: Struttin' My Stuff (1976, Capricorn)
  • Blackalicious: Blazing Arrow (2002, MCA)
  • Blondie: Blondie (1976, Chrysalis)
  • Blue Oyster Cult: Tyranny and Mutation (1973, Columbia)
  • Betty Boo: Boomania (1990, Warner Bros)
  • Boogie Down Productions: Criminal Minded (1987, Sugar Hill)
  • David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972, Virgin)
  • David Bowie: Low (1977, Virgin)
  • David Bowie: Heroes (1977, Virgin)
  • Brother Reade: Rap Music (2007, Record Collection)
  • Bobby Brown: Don't Be Cruel (1988, MCA)
  • James Brown: The Payback (1973, Polydor)
  • Toni Brown/Terry Garthwaite: The Joy (1977, Fantasy)
  • Buck 65: Secret House Against the World (2005, Warner Music Canada)
  • Buena Vista Social Club: Buena Vista Social Club (1997, World Circuit)
  • Bullfrog: Bullfrog (2001, Ropeadope)
  • David Byrne: David Byrne (1994, Luaka Bop)
  • C+C Music Factory: Gonna Make You Sweat (1990, Columbia)
  • John Cale: The Academy in Peril (1972, Reprise) [B]
  • Capital D & the Molemen: Writer's Block (The Movie) (2002, All Natural) [+]
  • Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO (and Other American Stories) (2011, Lost Highway) [+]
  • Ralph Carney: Carneyball Johnson (2006, Akron Cracker) [+]
  • Ralph Carney: Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (2009, Akron Cracker) [+]
  • James Carter: At the Crossroads (2011, Emarcy) [+]
  • Johnny Cash: At San Quentin (The Complete 1969 Concert) (1969, Columbia/Legacy) [B-] [+]
  • Rosanne Cash: Rules of Travel (2003, Capitol)
  • Rosanne Cash: Black Cadillac (2006, Capitol)
  • Rosanne Cash: The List (2009, Manhattan) [+]
  • Kasey Chambers: The Captain (2000, Asylum)
  • Blondie Chaplin: Blondie Chaplin (1977, Asylum) [B] [+]
  • Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (1988, Elektra)
  • The Chemical Brothers: Surrender (1999, Astralwerks)
  • Neneh Cherry: Homebrew (1992, Virgin)
  • Eric Clapton: Eric Clapton (1970, Polydor)
  • Eric Clapton: From the Cradle (1994, Reprise)
  • Guy Clark: Old No. 1 (1975, Sugar Hill)
  • The Clash: Combat Rock (1982, Epic)
  • George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic: Mothership Connection (Live from the Summit, Houston, Texas) (1985, Capitol)
  • George Clinton: The Best of George Clinton (1982-86, Capitol)
  • Bootsy Collins: Bootsy? Player of the Year (1978, Warner Bros)
  • Bootsy Collins: Tha Funk Capital of the World (2011, Megaforce) [+]
  • Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Trucker's Favorites (1972, MCA)
  • Ry Cooder: Bop Till You Drop (1979, Reprise)
  • Ry Cooder: Borderline (1981, Reprise) [B-]
  • Elizabeth Cook: Balls (2007, Thirty Tigers)
  • Cornershop: Urban Turban: The Singhles Club (2012, Ample Play)
  • Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (1977, Rykodisc)
  • Elvis Costello: Almost Blue (1981, Rykodisc) [B-]
  • Marshall Crenshaw: Life's Too Short (1991, MCA)
  • Terence Trent D'Arby: Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby (1987, Columbia)
  • Guy Davis: You Don't Know My Mind (1998, Red House)
  • Guy Davis: Butt Naked Free (2000, Red House)
  • Guy Davis: Give in Kind (2002, Red House)
  • Deee-Lite: Infinity Within (1992, Elektra)
  • Del The Funky Homosapien: I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991, Asylum)
  • Deltron 3030: Deltron 3030 (2000, 75 Ark)
  • Iris Dement: Lifeline (2004, Flariella) [+]
  • Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978, Warner Bros)
  • Hazel Dickens: Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People (1980, Rounder)
  • The Dictators: Go Girl Crazy (1975, Epic)
  • Ani DiFranco: Puddle Dive (1993, Righteous Babe)
  • Ani DiFranco: So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (2002, Righteous Babe) [+]
  • Digital Underground: Sex Packets (1990, Tommy Boy)
  • Leonard Dillon: On the Road Again (1991, Heartbeat)
  • The Dirt Drifters: This Is My Blood (2011, Warner Bros)
  • Dr. Feelgood: Malpractice (1975, Columbia) [B]
  • Drive-By Truckers: A Blessing and a Curse (2006, New West)
  • Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (1989-2006, Columbia/Legacy) [+]
  • Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (2009, Columbia)
  • Sheila E.: In the Glamorous Life (1984, Warner Bros)
  • Steve Earle: I Feel Alright (1996, Warner Bros)
  • Dave Edmunds: Get It (1977, Swan Song)
  • Bernard Edwards: Glad to Be Here (1983, Atlantic)
  • Missy Elliott: Miss E . . . So Addictive (2001, Goldmind/Elektra)
  • Joe Ely: Love and Danger (1993, MCA)
  • En Vogue: Funky Divas (1992, EastWest)
  • The English Beat: What Is Beat? (1983, IRS)
  • Brian Eno/David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1979, Nonesuch) [C+] [+]
  • Marianne Faithfull: Dangerous Acquaintances (1981, Island)
  • Fatboy Slim: Better Living Through Chemistry (1997, Astralwerks)
  • Fatboy Slim: You've Come a Long Way, Baby (1998, Astralwerks)
  • Bryan Ferry: Let's Stick Together (1976, Reprise) [B]
  • Bryan Ferry: In Your Mind (1977, Reprise)
  • Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music: Street Life: 20 Greatest Hits (1972-85, EG)
  • The Flamin' Groovies: Teenage Head (1971, Buddah) [B]
  • Aretha Franklin: Get It Right (1983, Arista)
  • Kinky Friedman: Sold American (1973, Vanguard) [B]
  • Robert Fripp/Brian Eno: No Pussyfooting (1973, EG)
  • Robbie Fulks: Country Love Songs (1996, Bloodshot)
  • Funkadelic: Cosmic Slop (1973, Westbound) [B]
  • Funkadelic: Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (1976, Westbound)
  • Warren G: Regulate . . . The G Funk Era (1994, Def Jam)
  • Peter Gabriel: So (1986, Geffen) [B-]
  • Mary Gauthier: Mercy Now (2005, Lost Highway)
  • Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear (1978, Motown)
  • Gettovetts: Missionaries Moving (1988, Island)
  • Gogol Bordello: Trans-Continental Hustle (2010, American) [+]
  • Jean Grae: Attack of the Attacking Things: The Dirty Mixes (2002, Third Earth)
  • Eddy Grant: Walking on Sunshine (1979, Epic) [B-]
  • Macy Gray: On How Life Is (1999, Epic)
  • Cee-Lo Green: Cee-Lo Green . . . Is the Soul Machine (2003, Arista)
  • Nanci Griffith: The Last of the True Believers (1986, Philo) [B-]
  • Nanci Griffith: Lone Star State of Mind (1987, MCA) [B]
  • Merle Haggard: Like Never Before (2003, Hag)
  • Tom T. Hall: Greatest Hits (1967-72, Mercury) [B]
  • Tom T. Hall: Faster Horses (1976, Mercury)
  • Emmylou Harris: Profile: The Best of Emmylou Harris (1975-78, Reprise)
  • Alvin Youngblood Hart: Big Mama's Door (1996, Okeh/550 Music)
  • Fuzzy Haskins: A Whole Nother Thang (1976, Westbound) [B]
  • Jimi Hendrix: Live at Berkeley (1970, Experience Hendrix) [+]
  • The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast (2010, TBD)
  • John Hiatt: Hangin' Around the Observatory (1974, Epic) [B]
  • John Hiatt: Slug Line (1979, MCA)
  • The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me (2004, Frenchkiss)
  • The Hold Steady: Stay Positive (2008, Vagrant)
  • The Hold Steady: Heaven Is Whenever (2010, Vagrant) [+]
  • Holy Modal Rounders: Alleged in Their Own Time (1975, Rounder) [B]
  • Hot Chocolate: Cicero Park (1974, Big Tree)
  • Hot Chocolate: Mystery (1982, Rak) [B]
  • Michael Hurley: Long Journey (1976, Rounder)
  • Alan Jackson: Good Time (2008, Arista) [S] [+]
  • Etta James/Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: Blues in the Night Volume 2: The Late Show (1987, Fantasy)
  • Keith Jarrett: Treasure Island (1974, Impulse) [B] [+]
  • Joan Jett: Up Your Alley (1988, Epic)
  • Freedy Johnston: This Perfect World (1994, Elektra)
  • Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette (1980, Island)
  • Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (1981, Island) [B-]
  • Kanda Bongo Man: Amour Fou/Crazy Love (1987, Hannibal)
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Off the Coast of Me (1980, Rainman) [+]
  • Kid Koala: Some of My Best Friends Are DJ's (2003, Ninja Tune) [+]
  • Konono No. 1: Congotronics (2004, Crammed Discs) [+]
  • Chris Knight: A Pretty Good Guy (2001, Dualtone)
  • Chris Knight: The Jealous Kind (2003, Dualtone)
  • Chris Knight: Enough Rope (2006, Drifter's Church)
  • Kool Moe Dee: The Jive Collection, Volume 2 (1995, Jive)
  • Kraftwerk: The Man-Machine (1978, Capitol)
  • Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Shakara/London Scene (1970-71, MCA)
  • Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Opposite People/Sorrow Tears and Blood (1977, MCA)
  • Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Shuffering and Shmiling/No Agreement (1977-78, MCA)
  • Eddy Lawrence: Whiskers and Scales and Other Tall Tales (1989, Snowplow)
  • LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver (2006, DFA/Capitol)
  • Deke Leonard: Iceberg (1974, United Artists) [B] [+]
  • Mac Lethal: 11:11 (2007, Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  • Jeffrey Lewis: 12 Crass Songs (2007, Rough Trade) [C-]
  • Cheikh Lô: Né La Thiass (1996, World Circuit)
  • Nils Lofgren: Nils Lofgren (1975, Aamp;&M)
  • Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers: Out After Dark (1979, Solid Smoke) [B-]
  • Love Child: Okay? (1991, Positive)
  • Patty Loveless: Up Against My Heart (1991, MCA)
  • Lyle Lovett: I Love Everybody (1994, Curb)
  • Ludacris: Chicken-N-Beer (2003, Def Jam South)
  • Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (2004, Interscope) [+]
  • Madonna: True Blue (1986, Sire) [B]
  • Madonna: Like a Prayer (1989, Sire)
  • Madonna: Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005, Warner Bros) [+]
  • Magnetic Fields: Realism (2010, Nonesuch) [+]
  • Mahlathini: The Lion of Soweto (1987, Earthworks)
  • Mallard: In a Different Climate (1977, Virgin) [B]
  • Man: Slow Motion (1974, United Artists)
  • Manfred Mann: Nightingales and Bombers (1975, Warner Bros)
  • Bob Marley: Exodus (1977, Island)
  • Bob Marley: Survival (1979, Island) [B]
  • Martha and the Muffins: Metro Music (1980, DinDisc) [B-]
  • Masters of Reality: Sunrise on the Sufferbus (1992, Capitol)
  • MC Lyte: Seven and Seven (1998, Eastwest)
  • Meat Purveyors: More Songs About Buildings and Cows (1999, Bloodshot)
  • Maurice El Médioni/Roberto Rodriguez: Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (2005, Piranha) [+]
  • Metric: Fantasies (2009, Metric International)
  • George Michael: Faith (1987, Columbia)
  • Lee Michaels: Tailface (1974, Columbia)
  • Mighty Sparrow: Volume Three (1992, Ice)
  • Mighty Sparrow/Lord Kitchener: 16 Carnival Hits (1992, Ice)
  • Buddy Miller/Julie Miller: Written in Chalk (2009, New West)
  • Mr. Lif: Mo' Mega (2006, Definitive Jux)
  • Mr. Lif: I Heard It Today (2009, Bloodbot Tactical Enterprises)
  • Joni Mitchell: Dog Eat Dog (1985, Geffen)
  • Lawrence Butch Morris/Nublu Orchestra: Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris (2006, Nublu)
  • Van Morrison: Bang Masters (1967, Epic)
  • Van Morrison: Wavelength (1978, Warner Bros)
  • Van Morrison/Lonnie Donegan/Chris Barber: The Skiffle Sessions: Live in Belfast (1998, Point Blank)
  • Pablo Moses: Tension (1985, Alligator) [B]
  • The Motors: Approved by the Motors (1978, Virgin)
  • Mott the Hoople: The Hoople (1974, Columbia) [B]
  • Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree (2004, 4AD)
  • Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride (2008, 4AD)
  • Maria Muldaur: Maria Muldaur (1973, Reprise)
  • Maria Muldaur: 30 Years of Maria Muldaur: I'm a Woman (1973-2001, Shout Factory) [+]
  • Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy: Good Time Music for Hard Times (2009, Stony Plain) [+]
  • Nada Surf: Let Go (2002, Barsuk)
  • Kate Nash: My Best Friend Is You (2010, Geffen) [+]
  • Roy Nathanson/Curtis Fowlkes/Jazz Passengers: Broken Night, Red Light (1987, Disques de Crepuscle)
  • Nelly: Nellyville (2002, Universal) [X] [+]
  • Nelly: Sweat (2004, Universal) [+]
  • Willie Nelson: Yesterday's Wine (1971, RCA)
  • Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger (1975, Columbia) [B-]
  • Willie Nelson: Me and the Drummer (2000, Luck)
  • Northern State: Can I Keep This Pen? (2007, Ipecac)
  • Gary Numan: Replicas (1979, Beggars Banquet)
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: The Best of OMD (1979-88, A&M|)
  • Organic Grooves: Black Cherry (2002, AUM Fidelity)
  • Parliament: Osmium (1970, Invictus) [B]
  • Gram Parsons: G.P. (1972, Reprise)
  • Dolly Parton: My Tennessee Mountain Home (1972, RCA Nashville)
  • Pere Ubu: Story of My Life (1993, Imago)
  • Utah Phillips/Ani DiFranco: The Past Didn't Go Anywhere (1996, Righteous Babe)
  • Pink: Try This (2003, Arista)
  • Pink Floyd: Animals (1977, Capitol)
  • P.M. Dawn: Jesus Wept (1995, Gee Street)
  • The Police: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980, A&M) [B]
  • The Police: Ghost in the Machine (1981, A&M)
  • The Police: Synchronicity (1983, A&M)
  • Prince: The Hits/The B-Sides (1993, Paisley Park)
  • John Prine: Aimless Love (1984, Oh Boy)
  • John Prine: Fair and Square (2005, Oh Boy)
  • Public Enemy: Yo! Bum Rush the Show! (1987, Def Jam)
  • Public Enemy: New Whirl Odor (2005, SlamJamz) [+]
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows (2007, TBD)
  • The Ramones: Animal Boy (1986, Sire)
  • The Ramones: Ramones Mania (1976-87, Sire)
  • Lou Reed: Lou Reed (1972, RCA)
  • Lou Reed: Berlin (1973, RCA) [C]
  • Roberto Juan Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (2009, Tzadik) [+]
  • The Rolling Stones: Emotional Rescue (1980, Virgin)
  • The Roots: Things Fall Apart (1999, MCA)
  • The Roots: Game Theory (2006, Def Jam) [+]
  • Roxy Music: Roxy Music (1972, Reprise)
  • Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure (1973, Reprise) [B]
  • Todd Rundgren: A Wizard/A True Star (1973, Bearsville) [B-]
  • Run-DMC: King of Rock (1985, Arista)
  • Salt-N-Pepa: Very Necessary (1993, Polygram)
  • Silver Convention: Madhouse (1976, Midland International) [B]
  • The Slits: Cut (1979, Antilles)
  • Sly and Robbie: Silent Assassin (1989, Island)
  • Patti Smith: Trampin' (2003, Columbia) [+]
  • Todd Snider: That Was Me 1994-1998 (1994-98, Hip-O) [+]
  • Todd Snider: Peace Queer (2008, Aimless) [+]
  • Todd Snider: The Excitement Plan (2009, Yep Roc) [+]
  • Sonic Youth: Murray Street (2002, Geffen)
  • Soul II Soul: Keep On Movin' (1989, Virgin)
  • Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997, Arista/Dedicated)
  • Steely Dan: Aja (1977, MCA)
  • Stereo MC's: Connected (1993, Polygram) [B-]
  • Gary Stewart: You're Not the Woman You Used to Be (1973, MCA)
  • String Driven Thing: String Driven Thing (1972, Charisma) [B]
  • Donna Summer: She Works Hard for the Money (1983, Mercury)
  • Donna Summer: The Donna Summer Anthology (1975-92, Casablanca) [+]
  • Sun Ra: Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel (1956-73, Evidence)
  • Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (1984, Sire)
  • Talking Heads: Naked (1988, Sire)
  • Koko Taylor: I Got What It Takes (1975, Alligator)
  • Richard and Linda Thompson: Pour Down Like Silver (1975, Hannibal)
  • The Three Johns: Atom Drum Bop (1985, Abstract)
  • The Three Johns: Demonocracy: The Singles 1982-1986 (1982-86, Abstract)
  • Tidiane et Les Dieuf Dieul: Salimita (1999, Justin Time)
  • Timbuk 3: Eden Alley (1988, IRS)
  • Tinariwen: Imidiwan: Companions (2009, World Village) [+]
  • Aaron Tippin: Greatest Hits . . . and Then Some (1997, RCA)
  • Toots and the Maytals: Just Like That (1980, Mango) [B]
  • Peter Tosh: Equal Rights (1977, Columbia)
  • Randy Travis: Storms of Life (1986, Warner Bros)
  • Randy Travis: No Holdin' Back (1989, Warner Bros)
  • A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory (1991, Jive)
  • Tanya Tucker: My Turn (2009, Saguaro Road)
  • Dwight Twilley: Sincerely (1976, Capitol)
  • UB40: The Best of UB40, Vol. 1 (1987, Virgin)
  • Vijana Jazz Band: The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka and Kamata Sukuma (1975-80, Sterns)
  • The Vulgar Boatmen: You and Your Sister (1989, Safe House)
  • The Waco Brothers: To the Last Dead Cowboy (1995, Bloodshot) [N] [+]
  • The Waco Brothers: New Deal (2002, Bloodshot) [+]
  • The Waco Brothers: Freedom and Weep (2005, Bloodshot) [+]
  • Bunny Wailer: Roots Radics Rockers Reggae (1983, Shanachie)
  • Loudon Wainwright III: Last Man on Earth (2001, Red House)
  • The Waitresses: Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful (1982, Polydor)
  • David S. Ware: Flight of I (1991, Columbia/DIW)
  • Wax Tailor: Hope and Sorrow (2007, Decon)
  • Gillian Welch: Revival (1996, Almo) [B-]
  • Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002, Nonesuch)
  • Lucinda Williams: Blessed (2011, Lost Highway) [+]
  • Lee Ann Womack: I Hope You Dance (2000, MCA)
  • Tammy Wynette: Anniversary: Twenty Years of Hits (1987, Epic) [B-]
  • Dwight Yoakam: This Time (1993, Reprise)
  • Neil Young/Stephen Stills: Long May You Run (1976, Reprise) [B]
  • Neil Young: American Stars 'n Bars (1977, Reprise)
  • Neil Young: Harvest Moon (1992, Reprise)
  • Neil Young: Silver and Gold (2000, Warner Bros) [C+]
  • Neil Young: Are You Passionate? (2002, Reprise)
  • African Connection, Vol. 2: West Africa (1988, Celluloid)
  • African Salsa (1999, Stern's/Earthworks)
  • Antone's Women: Bringing You the Best in Blues (1992, Antone's)
  • Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical (1989, Sire)
  • In Griot Time: String Music from Mali (2000, Stern's Africa)
  • Mali Music (2002, Astralwerks)
  • Rai Rebels (1988, Earthworks)
  • Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot (1897-1925, Archeophone)
  • Zulu Jive/Umbaqanga (1983, Hannibal)

Gdash offered this list (my grades in brackets):

  • Artful Dodger, Honor Among Thieves. EWers, if you don't know this record, I urge you to. [B+]
  • Nils Lofgren's debut, absolutely. [A-]
  • [Aerosmith:] Toys in the Attic [?]
  • [Mahavishnu Orchestra:] Between Nothingness and Eternity maybe [?]
  • [The Meters:] Rejuvenation [?]
  • Frankie Miller's Highlife [B+]
  • [Grateful Dead:] Europe '72 [?]
  • [John Cale:] Paris 1919 [A]
  • [VA:] Less Than Zero [?]
  • BTO best-of (Winnipeg reference, re another thread; when you coming, Wussy? You made it to Montana) [?]
  • [New Order:] Power Corruption and Lies? Thoughts, anyone? [B+]
  • Nilsson Sings Newman (I know it was downgraded for time; let's forgive) [?]
  • [NRBQ:] At Yankee Stadium maybe [?]
  • [The Persuasions:] Chirpin' [?]
  • Smokey & Smokey & The Miracles have eight - odds tell us at least one would climb (same for Gil Scott Heron and Three Johns)
  • Boz Scaggs (a fave CG line: "that would appear to mean Boz Scaggs, folks") [?]
  • [Van Morrison:] Veedon Fleece [B+]

Later on, I wrote:

Looking at Joe's list, I see one more I missed: Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969, Reprise). I ran the script for Christgau B+ (or less)/Hull A- and the list is too long to bother with (280 records, adding in two more from Joe's list, so there are certainly more). Also ran Christgau no grade against Hull A* and got 3766 records. Of course, that's mostly jazz, but a cursory glance suggests that there are several hundred records where I missed jotting down Christgau's grades -- so the list I presented should grow further, and the one I didn't even more so.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20091 [20049] rated (+42), 762 [777] unrated (-15). A lot of well-aged Jazz Prospecting records below: played them to unclog the queue, and didn't spend much time -- grades I think are fair, but reviews can be skimpy. Rosenberg was a pleasant surprise among the aged stuff. The Kell and Shelton records are more recent, pulled out of order because they're generally worth it, and indeed they are.

Still another week away from the early July posts, none of which have much going on at the time -- don't have a single new A-list record for Streamnotes. Not much more to say: I have some kind of something or other, running a it of fever, generally feeling shitty, and didn't enjoy the one record I played when I got up -- fled back to bed, in fact. Does help me get more reading done, but the current book is Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars, and I can't say that reading about the so-called Great War -- just finished the chapter on the Somme -- cheers me up.

Lisa Marie Baratta: Summertime Jazz (2012, self-released): Plays alto sax, soprano sax, flute, alto flute, in front of a piano trio here (her second album), but she's also pictured in something called Black Tie Jazz Orchestra. Eleven famous standards, taken at a genteel pace with few liberties, nor does she get much shine, let alone spit and polish, out of her horn. It has the unobtrusiveness of elevator music, but none of the ick, and the tunes are endlessly listenable. B

Ran Blake/David "Knife" Fabris: Vilnius Noir (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Piano, some solo, some duo with guitar; released LP only, 500 copies, I got a CD-R. As is often the case with Blake, the covers give you something to go on, helping set off what he adds -- "My Cherie Amour" is the best thing here, a knockout. The guitar slips in and out, not leaving much of a trace, probably the idea. B+(**) [advance]

Georg Breinschmid: Fire (2011 [2012], Preiser, 2CD): Bassist, b. 1973 in Austria; has at least four albums since 2008. This is split between two projects: Café Brein, with Roman Janoska on violin and Frantisek Janoska on piano; and Duo Gansch/Breinschmid, with Thomas Gansch on trumpet. Cuts by the two groups alternate on the main CD as well as on the 4-cut bonus. Both groups are given to sing-alongs with a cabaret/folkie air, amusing, I think. B+(*)

Mel Carter: The Other Standards (2011 [2012], CSP): Minor soul man, b. 1943, EMI has a The Best of Mel Carter that covers his 1964-67 heyday. Like most minor soul men, he's never been short of chops, just songs. At this stage, he reaches for standards of his youth, which means r&b from the 1950s -- Buddy Johnson looms large here, as well as singers like Billy Eckstine and Arthur Prysock -- rather than show tunes from further back. He gets a lift from a brassy big band, and "Goody Goody" is a terrific opener. B+(*)

Edmar Castaneda: Double Portion (2012, Arpa y Voz): Harp player from Colombia, third album, has made enough of a splash that he shows up in those "miscellaneous instrument" polls. Third album, the "double" indicating that he plays Colombian harp as well as classical. One cover, "Libertango" from Astor Piazzolla. Mostly solo, but guest spots by Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Miguel Zenón (alto sax), and Hamilton de Hollanda (mandolina) are all big pluses -- especially the sax. B+(**)

Dan Cavanagh Trio: The Heart of the Geyser (2011 [2012], OA2): Pianist, teaches at UT Arlington, has a couple previous albums, including a big band blast called Pulse. This is a trio, with Linda Oh on bass and Joe McCarthy on drums. B+(*)

Roger Chong: Send a Little Love (2012, self-released): Guitarist, b. 1983, Canada I think -- studied at York, teaches grades 6-8 in Toronto. Website says this is his third album, but I can only find one previous. Sweet tone, disarming when he sings, a very minor album, but a charming one. B+(*)

Chris Cortez: Aunt Nasty (2008-12 [2012], Blue Bamboo Music): Guitarist-vocalist; website claims this is his sixth "solo" album, with 20 total. I am familiar with his Houston label, which lists four of his albums, plus others including his horn players here, Woody Witt and Carol Morgan. The horns help, but the guitar trends to a smooth jazz groove with occasional funk effects. About half vocals. B-

Adrian Cunningham: Walkabout (2011 [2012], self-released): Saxophonist, based in New York since 2008, originally from Australia. Has at least four albums since 2004. Postbop, quartet with piano, bass, and drums, plus a string quartet here and there. Also plays clarinet and flute, quite a bit of the latter. B

Candy Dulfer: Crazy (2012, Razor & Tie): Blonde alto saxophonist, sings some, b. 1969 in the Netherlands, called her 1991 debut Saxuality, followed that up with Sax-a-Go-Go, is up to twelve albums now. Most cuts credit Printz Board with "all instruments"; four make the same claim for Ulco Bed -- synths and drums, mostly, but also background vocals. "Good Music" is pure funk, and as long as she keeps upbeat this is pretty pleasureful. B+(*)

The Element Choir & William Parker: At Christ Church Deer Park (2010 [2012], Barnyard): The Element Choir has seventy voices, conduction by Christine Duncan. They don't sing much, but chant and groan and swoon along with an improv group that features trumpet (Jim Lewis), pipe organ (Eric Robertson), two basses (Parker and Andrew Downing), and drums/percussion (Jean Martin). Not quite sure what to make of it all. B+(*)

Amina Figarova: Twelve (2012, In + Out): Pianist, b. 1966 in Baku, the oil capital of Azerbaijan; had a good classical education in the Soviet Union, then picked up jazz in Rotterdam and Boston (Berklee). Ninth album since 1996, a sextet with three horns -- Ernie Hammes (trumpet), Marc Mommaas (tenor/soprano sax), and Bart Platteau (flutes) -- plus bass and drums. Postbop, all sauve and elegant, but the trumpet leads are striking, and Mommaas does his usual fine job. B+(**)

Tianna Hall: Never Let Me Go (2011, Blue Bamboo Music): Vocalist, from Houston, third album, the usual standards including two Jobims. Ends with a nice "Everything Happens to Me," but doesn't have much of a voice, and this sort of limps through the paces. B-

Alexis Parsons (2006-08 [2011], Ellick): Vocalist, website claims two decades of experience, including study with Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan, but this appears to be her first album. Eight standards, backed by nothing more than Frank Kimbrough's piano. Credits "Maryanne Faithful" with one song. B+(*)

Arthur Kell Quartet: Jester (2012, Bju'ecords): Bassist, based in New York but he's been around, including some tramping around Africa. Fourth record since 2001 -- haven't heard the debut, See You in Zanzibar -- but the three quartet albums are superb. Brad Shepik's guitar is essential here, nothing flashy but he brings the gentle bass lines up to conscious level, and Loren Stillman's bright and brittle alto sax builds from there. With Mark Ferber on drums. Live, doesn't grab you and shake you around, but seduces and mermerizes. A-

Lisa Maxwell: Happy (2011, self-released): Standards singer, has a couple previous albums. B. 1963 in England, according to AMG, which may be confusing her with the English actress -- don't see anything else in their bios or photos that matches up. This was recorded in Brooklyn, with English pianist Keith Ingham's Quartet backing -- the fourth member is guitarist Ed Gafa. She doesn't have an especially strong or distinctive voice, but she works slyly around the songs, and the pianist is very much at home. B+(*)

Giovanna Pessi/Susanna Wallumrød: If Grief Could Wait (2010 [2012], ECM): Pessi plays baroque harp, along with Jane Achtman on viola da gamba and Marco Ambrosini on nyckelharpa, on a program mostly from Henry Purcell (1659-1695), salted with two songs from vocalist Wallumrød, two from Leonard Cohen, and one Nick Drake. Slow and stately, gorgeous if you're into that sort of thing. B+(**) [advance]

Dafnis Prieto: Proverb Trio (2012, Dafnison Music): Cuban whiz-kid drummer, came to the US and cut his debut in 2004 -- I didn't care for it much, but no denying his chops. This is something different, built around rapper-singer Kokayi (Carl Walker), who has also worked with Steve Coleman's M-Base outfit and has a stack of his own records over at Bandcamp. Third member is pianist Jason Lindner, who plays electric keybs here, sometimes sounding like a recorder, or a flute, with more than a little camp and/or shlock. Drummer takes a back seat, not that he can't help show off a little. Highly recommended anti-war pedagogy: "In War" -- at least once you get past the long intro. B+(**)

Marlene Rosenberg Quartet: Bassprint (2011 [2012], Origin): Bassist, from Illinois, teaches in Chicago; fourth album since 1994, side credits include a 1990 debut with Ed Thigpen. Two songs by Kenny Barron; the rest originals, with Monkish moves to start and close. Builds off her bass lines, with Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano sax) and Scott Hesse (guitar) elaborating adeptly. B+(***)

Anne Sajdera: Azul (2012, Bijart): Pianist, from San Diego, first album, based in San Francisco since 1985. Mostly trio plus extra percussion, including Airto Moreira on four cuts. Originals, one from Wayne Shorter, one from Sammy Cahn, three from Brazil (Ivan Lins, Egberto Gismonti, Chico Pinheiro). B

Diego Schissi Quinteto: Tongos (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1969 in Argentina, has at least one previous album. This is a classical-sounding tango album, with violin, bandoneon, guitar, and bass; the pieces all called "Tongo," "Liquido," or "Canción." B

Aram Shelton Quartet: Everything for Somebody (2011 [2012], Singlespeed Music): Alto saxophonist, originally from Florida, b. 1976, moved to Chicago in 1999 and built most of his working relationships there before moving on to Oakland. Has a substantial discography since 2001, including projects like Ton Trio, reliably vigorous free jazz. This quartet is Chicago-based, with frequent collaborator Keefe Jackson on tenor sax, Anton Hatwich on bass, and Tim Daisy on drums. Resembles a sax trio with the saxes shadowing each other, but every now and then they spin loose. B+(***)

Mark Sherman: The L.A. Sessions (2011 [2012], Miles High): Vibraphonist, b. 1957, has at least eight records since 1997. This one is basically an organ trio -- Bill Cunliffe on the B3, John Chiodini on guitar, and Charles Ruggiero on drums -- with a layer of vibes, highlighting but also swinging the band like Milt Jackson used to do. B+(**)

Ben Tyree: Thoughtform Variations (2012, Sonic Architectures): Guitarist, from DC area, plays solo acoustic here, has a previous record (a trio, BT3), plus side credits going back to 1995, including several with Burnt Sugar. This has an intricate feel, but the method of marking time does get to be samey over the long haul. B

Henry P. Warner/Earl Freeman/Philip Spigner: Freestyle Band (1984 [2012], NoBusiness): Clarinets, bass guitar (and piano), hand drums; three cuts originally self-released, with two cuts added here. Warner was b. 1940, played around the NY lofts in the 1970s, shows up playing alto sax on early albums by William Parker and Billy Bang. Spigner's hand drums set up a nice homely vibe that Warner's clarinet sometimes flows with and sometimes cuts against; Freeman plays electric bass and piano, most often against the current, just to keep it all interesting. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Joe Alterman: Give Me the Simple Life (Miles High)
  • Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer: Live in Wiesbaden (Not Two)
  • Marco Cappeli's Italian Surf Academy: The American Dream (Mode): advance, July 31
  • Jörg Fischer/Olaf Rupp/Frank Paul Schubert: Phugurit (Gligg)
  • Keith Jarrett/Jan Garbarek/Palle Danielsson/Jon Christensen: Sleeper (1979, ECM, 2CD): advance, August
  • Greg Lewis: Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black (self-released)
  • Maïkotron Unit: Effugit (Jazz From Rant)
  • Erena Terakubo with Legends: New York Attitude (4Q)


  • Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Clean Slate/Epic)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Killing

AMC's two-year run of The Killing, adapted from a Danish series called Forbrydelsen, was interesting to watch but both seasons ended with really egregious missteps -- so bad that I feel like commenting on something normally way out of my domain. For a great deal of detail on the series, see Wikipedia and its various sublinks (list of characters, season overviews, list of episodes, individual episode summaries -- damn near everything but the video is on-line, and AMC's website has at least a taste of that).

The setup is that you have one case -- a teenage girl, Rosie Larsen, was drowned in the trunk of a car that was rolled into a lake -- and one episode per day of the investigation as it drags out. The original Copenhagen was moved to Seattle, but actually shot in Vancouver. Several things stretch the case out compared to the usual concision of crime whodunits. They focus a lot on the grief of the victim's family -- a decision that is touching at first but threatens to become deadly mundane, so they wind up juicing the story up with all sorts of unlikely tangents -- the father used to be a mob killer, the father beats up one suspect and his friend/helper shoots another and kills himself, the father turns out not to be the biological father, the mother runs away from her family, the aunt moonlights as a hooker involved with the father of Rosie's ex-boyfriend, and in a really bizarre twist turns out to be the killer.

The case also stretches out because it gets wrapped up in a mayoral campaign, and both sides throw up multiple obstructions to the investigation. It also doesn't help that the detectives are often incompetent -- the senior, Sarah Linden, is psychologically haunted by a similar past case (although, to be fair, her fiancé and son appear to be bigger problems, so much so that the writers eventually had to pack them away), while her junior, Stephen Holder, is an ex-junkie promoted because he was regarded as corrupt. But they are mostly victims of the writers, who make a difficult case all the worse by throwing out red herrings, which the detectives snap at helplessly, and bureaucratic harassment -- the hapless lieutenant of the first season was replaced by an equally useless one in the second.

Still, Linden and Holder could have solved this case if only they had been a bit smarter and had a bit more help. To get an idea how far wrong this went, consider the two season "finales":

  • Season one ended with Darren Richmond (a Seattle councilman running for mayor) framed for the murder, arrested, then marched out in public where he was shot (like Lee Harvey Oswald) by a Larsen family retainer (Belko Royce, who also kills his mother and winds up killing himself). Richmond returns for season two alive but paralyzed, in a wheelchair, but exonerated the day after he was shot. The key evidence against him turns out to have been forged -- the forged picture is soon traced back from Holder to Gil Sloane (Holder's shadowy rehab sponsor, another police lieutenant) to Benjamin Abani (the mayor's aide) -- but all the other evidence that made Richmond a suspect is soon forgotten. This evidence connects Richmond and Rosie to a mob-run prostitution ring, and suggests that Richmond gets off on near-strangling, and includes phone records that tie back to Richmond's phone and computer. Richmond himself had given a false alibi, which his lover/advisor Gwen Eaton had initially backed but then recanted.
  • Season two reveals a sequence of events: a meeting at the Indian casino between Nicole Jackson (casino manager), Michael Ames (a construction contractor with many angles here), and Jamie Wright (Richmond's campaign manager), which was overheard by Rosie; the others leave, then Wright discovers Rosie, decides to ensure her silence by knocking her unconscious and dragging her off; Rosie comes to, escapes, and is hunted down by Wright, who then locks her in the car trunk; Wright calls Ames, who is driven to the murder site by Aunt Terry; while Wright and Ames argue about what to do next, Aunt Terry puts the car in gear and sends it into the lake, drowning Rosie. Wright winds up confessing much of this to Richmond, then when the detectives interrupt, points a gun and is shot dead by Holder. Linden and Holder suspect Ames, but almost accidentally connect Aunt Terry. Ames and Jackson are arrested, but the lieutenant insists that he doesn't have enough evidence to hold Ames. Next morning, Richmond holds a meeting with Ames and Jackson present -- Jackson thanks him for getting "those ridiculous charges" dropped -- and Eaton excluded.

The decision to make Aunt Terry the unknowing murderer typifies the half-assed anything-is-fair-play approach to the storyline. (I used to think that fiction was constrained by some sense of integrity, but for these people it just means you can make any old shit up.) Still, Richmond's meeting is far more disgusting. I reckon what we're supposed to take away is the Who's "meet the new boss/same as the old boss," but before buddying up to Jackson and Ames, let alone dumping Eaton so callously, he really needs advice of counsel. (In fact, the absence of lawyers around any of the principals here is more than a bit surprising.) We still don't know all the facts in this case, but consider what we do know:

  • Aunt Terry is guilty of murder. Even if she didn't know who was locked in the trunk, she knew someone was. But Jamie Wright is at least as guilty: he assaulted, abducted, and locked Rosie in the trunk, then at the very least called Ames to finish the murder. That Aunt Terry finished it doesn't in any way absolve him.
  • At the very least, Ames was present at the murder, did nothing to prevent it. After the fact, he helped cover it up. He was aware of the crime, didn't report it, in fact lied about it and his role in it. With Aunt Terry in jail, the least he could expect would be to be charged as an accessory to murder and obstruction of justice. Then there was his original conspiracy to commit fraud with Jackson and Wright. He's not the sort of person a savvy politician should be inviting to meetings the day after Wright's role in the murder (and fraud) is exposed.
  • Jackson may not have been party to the murder, but she was part of the fraud, and she committed massive obstruction of justice in the aftermath.
  • Richmond had an alibi for the night of the murder, but there is no evidence that he was not aware of Wright's conspiracy, or indeed of Wright's efforts to cover up the murder. Wright, after all, worked for him, and even if Richmond is legally cleared of Wright's crimes, the whole relationship reflects poorly on his character. For that matter, Richmond still has lots of character vulnerabilities -- we never did clear up all that prostitution linkage from season one. He may expect some sympathy after all he's been through, but his meeting with Ames and Jackson risks drawing a lot of attention to all the crime around him.
  • Richmond should also think twice about the way he's treating Eaton. Not that I don't understand the impulse, but she's still the Senator's daughter, she's an ex-lover, and she at least partly bought all the idealistic hooey of the Richmond campaign, so he's running the risk that she'll be disllusioned as well as pissed. She has a lot of options to hurt him back, and she's threatened to use them along the way.

That's a lot of baggage for one scene, but it's typical of the show. An episode or two back Linden confronted Mayor Adams with her knowledge that he had falsified evidence to get Richmond arrested, then declared she'd let that go for his help in getting the actual murderer (at the time believed to be either Eaton or Wright). But she was wrong in letting Ames go: by then the conspiracy had taken over the murder, and the only way to the truth about the murder was through tearing apart the various conspiracies. That would have been more work, but it would also have been more rewarding than just getting to the end and tossing up your hands, decrying how all politicians are inevitably corrupt.

Also worthwhile to take a look at the piece by Jace Lacob comparing The Killing to the original Forbrydelsen (which I would like to see some day). In partiuclar, here's a short list of changes:

The Killing more than liberally borrows from its Danish forebear in its first season, lifting the musical score wholesale, along with plot points, dialogue, costumes (look, it's Lund's Faroese sweater!), and characters while shifting the action from rainy Copenhagen to rainy Seattle. In essence, the majority of the first season precisely echoes the first 10 episodes of Forbrydelsen, but when Sud does diverge from the original, her choices seem unnecessary and cause things go awry.

Within the Danish version, there is no Indian casino, no mob plot, no prostitution ring, no Ogi Jun anime tattoo, no one in the shadows snapping photos of the lead investigator. Unlike Michelle Forbes's Mitch, Pernille (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), the grief-stricken mother of Nanna, does not go on a road trip and abandon her family so that she can have slumber parties with a teen prostitute runaway. The politician at the center of the murder investigation isn't shot or paralyzed in Forbrydelsen. Unlike in The Killing, the parentage of Nanna is never in doubt (she is the daughter of Bjarne Henriksen's brooding Theis) and she is not believed to be an underage prostitute, a convention that owes more to Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer than to Forbrydelsen. [ . . . ]

In Forbrydelsen, however, the Holder character -- Søren Malling's Jan Meyer -- isn't an ex-junkie but a family man with whom Lund has a hugely adversarial relationship at first, and -- unlike Enos' Linden -- Gabrol's Lund begins the series with a buoyant spirit; it's by the end that she becomes paranoid and brittle. She is a divorcée, raising her teen son on her own, but she is neither an orphan nor a foster kid nor as emotional fragile as Linden. Both become increasingly neglectful with their families as they obsessively pursue the case, but Lund has a support system -- a dressmaker mother (Anne Marie Helger), an intelligent and supportive fiancé (Johan Gry's Bengt), and even a sympathetic ex-husband -- even as she contemplates leaving behind her job and life in Copenhagen to start over in Sweden with Bengt. (Bengt, meanwhile, isn't a stock angry fiancé character; he surprisingly becomes an integral part of the investigation, even as he fears losing Lund forever.)

I'm not a fan of all the psychological troubles detectives go through, even if that seems like a realistic occupational hazard. (We just saw another example, Thorne; nor is going nuts limited to detectives, as Homeland showed.) And I see a lot of merit in the Indian casino angle -- indeed, Chief Jackson is the most plausible villain in the series (give or take a mob boss).

By the way, at AV Club Meredith Blake compiled a list of things that didn't make any sense at the end of season one. I won't quote them here because there are 20 of them (only one I recognize as resolved in the second episode), and then adds another 10 "stray observations (or 'other things that don't add up')." Also at AV Club, Todd VanDerWerf picks up the same thread for season two. Note that for both seasons, the lowest-rated episode was the finale (D+ and C–).

Will have to write about something non-fiction next time. In the meantime, I'm reminded of the Valerie Plame affair, where the only one charged was Scooter Libby, not because he was the only one guilty but because by perjury he made it practically impossible to prosecute the crime. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald explained: "The truth is the engine of our judicial system. If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost . . . if we were to walk away from this, we might as well hand in our jobs." Libby was convicted, but escaped doing jail time thanks to George W. Bush, the benefactor of Libby's lying -- along with Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc. You'd think that such utter contempt for the law would have destroyed any semblance of respect for the Bush administration, but the whole affair has been quietly forgotten -- as if the ending of The Killing has become a cultural norm.

AV Club episode index:

  1. S1/E1-2: "Pilot"/"The Cage" [A-]
  2. S1/E3: "El Diablo" [B]
  3. S1/E4: "A Soundless Echo" [B+]
  4. S1/E5: "Super 8" [B-]
  5. S1/E6: "What You Have Left" [B+]
  6. S1/E7: "Vengeance" [B-]
  7. S1/E8: "Stonewalled" [B]
  8. S1/E9: "Undertow" [C]
  9. S1/E10 "I'll Let You Know When I Get There" [C+]
  10. S1/E11: "Missing" [B+]
  11. S1/E12: "Beau Soleil" [C+]
  12. S1/E13: "Orpheus Descending" [D+]

  13. S2/E1-2: "Reflections/My Lucky Day" [C]
  14. S2/E3: "Numb" [C-]
  15. S2/E4: "Ogi Jun" [C]
  16. S2/E5: "Ghosts of the Past" [C-]
  17. S2/E6: "Openings" [C]
  18. S2/E7: "Keylela" [C]
  19. S2/E8: "Off the Reservation" [B+]
  20. S2/E9: "Sayonara, Hiawatha" [B]
  21. S2/E10: "72 Hours" [B-]
  22. S2/E11: "Bulldog" [B-]
  23. S2/E12: "Donnie or Marie" [B]
  24. S2/E13: "What I Know" [C-]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fiddling While the Depression Burns

The New York Times Sunday Book Review once again went out of its way to reestablish its centrist (conservative) credentials by recruiting Matthew Bishop to pan Paul Krugman's book, End This Depression Now! The key paragraph with his laundry list of objections:

To this Moderately Serious Reviewer, Krugman's habit of bashing anyone who does not share his conclusions is not merely stylistically irritating; it is flawed in substance. The rise in unemployment may be largely the result of inadequate demand, but that does not mean there has been no contribution from structural changes like the substitution of cheap foreign workers and innovative technology for some jobs in rich countries. The austerians may be excessively fearful of so-called "bond vigilantes," but that does not mean there is no need to worry about what investors think about the health of a government's finances. Sure, ridicule those fundamentalists who believe it is theoretically impossible for an economy ever to suffer a shortage of demand, but does Krugman really need to take passing shots at Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the chairmen of the widely respected bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission on deficit reduction appointed by President Obama? Maybe his case for stimulating the economy in the short run would be taken more seriously by those in power if it were offered along with a Bowles-Simpson-style plan for improving America's finances in the medium or long term. Instead, Krugman suggests cavalierly that any extra government borrowing probably "won't have to be paid off quickly, or indeed at all."

Bowles-Simpson is "widely respected"? They were rejected out of hand by virtually all Republicans for even suggesting the need to raise taxes, and they fared little better among Democrats for their insistence on gutting what's left of the safety net. They're toxic enough that even the president who appointed them had had virtually nothing to do with them, although there's little reason to think that he wouldn't relish a "grand bargain" of the sort they imagine if indeed they enjoyed any respect at all.

The important thing to understand about any such "grand bargain" is that the context precludes any real compromise. If left and right were in some sort of equilibrium, some sort of tit-for-tat exchange could be negotiated and might prove advantageous. However, since the mid-70s we have been subjected to a systematic onslaught by moneyed interests which has materially damaged the working class, permitted the rentier class to greatly aggrandize its wealth, and undermined democracy here and abroad, and every time you compromise with this onslaught you give up ground, and hope.

At some level Krugman understands this. He does, after all, recall a time -- he calls it the Great Compression -- when income and wealth was much more equable in the U.S., and becoming more so, and he notes that even such conventional economic indicators as GDP growth were much stronger then than they've become under conservative hegemony. And he also understands, and cares, that high unemployment rates entail real human costs as well as economic ones. But Bishop's idea that Krugman "the gifted economist" gives way to Krugman "the populist polemicist" in this book is precisely wrong. Krugman focuses almost exclusively on basic macroeconomics here. The irritating stylistics is all Bishop's, as should be clear from the weasel-wording.

For instance, "the rise in unemployment may be largely the result of inadequate demand": not "largely," but as Krugman shows, plainly. The drop in demand is due to deleveraging, which is what happens when an asset bubble bursts and everyone invested in it suddenly has to retrench to recover solvency. Also, "the austerians may be excessively fearful of so-called 'bond vigilantes'": Krugman shows that during a liquidity trap -- the technical term for the desperate deleveraging we are still in -- there can be no "bond vigilantes" because during such times only government bonds are safe havens for investible cash. Nor is this just theory: Krugman repeatedly points to actual interest rates to show that there is no "bond vigilante" effect. (The Eurozone is somewhat different in this respect, which Krugman also explains at length.)

Krugman's assertion "that any extra government borrowing probably 'won't have to be paid off quickly, or indeed at all'" also isn't cavalier: he points to historical examples where even greater debt had little or no consequence. On the other hand, Bishop's insistence that present unemployment has a "structural" component is nothing but a hapless red herring. On the one hand, it's impossible to see how a structural flaw would have manifested itself so suddenly as the economy collapsed. On the other, such a problem could easily be remedied by public investment to provide the missing skills, but no one who talks about "structural" unemployment seems to want to fix that particular problem.

Indeed, that's true of a lot of the things that Krugman's "Very Serious People" say. Mike Konczal has done useful work in mapping out the various things all sides have to say about the current depression. He maps them out into two clusters, one called "demand-based solutions" -- the sorts of things Krugman favors doing -- and "supply-based explanations," which aren't solutions at all, just rationalizations for letting the depression run its course. Krugman, of course, points out the falsity of each of those arguments, but striking them down is a futile task, because the right is committed to repeating them endlessly -- whatever it takes to prevent politicians from trying to solve the crisis by shifting wealth and power from those who have too much to those who don't have nearly enough. And if that means perpetuating the depression indefinitely, that's a price the rich are fully prepared to let the poor pay.

Expert Comments

Robert Christgau, on David Lowery's Letter to Emily White at NPR's All Songs Considered, which has a lot of detail on how musicians get shafted, and not just by people who thoughtlessly copy their work (one example was Vic Chesnutt, who "saw [his] total income fall in the last decade" and shot himself -- although hospital debts and foreclosure on his house suggest to me remedies other than tightening copyright law enforcement):

Loved the Lowery piece, despite a few quibbles. (I actually believe college radio DJs deserve some free music, though how much is hard to figure out. Ditto for critics, of course. I could tell some stories about how record companies used to suborn critics back when they were flush. Now they mostly ignore all but the biggest.) For those who missed the link back on the first page, a search on trichordist emily white will get you there nicely.

Joe Lunday:

I would have liked Lowery's piece if he had actually been responding to an argument made in favor of massive, guilt-free illegal downloading, arguing the points he rebutted. But White was simply admitting her behavior, not justifying it. I don't think guilt and scolding are the ways in which you change massive shifts in consumer behavior, even if they can have some marginal effect. (I.e, my family buying local produce, hybrid cars, etc.) This is similar to the arguments about the decline of independent bookstores - most of us don't make consumer decisions based on pity, and some of these arguments devolve to that.

Also, in a vein somewhat similar to The Coup's "I Love Boosters," check out Travis Morrison's response piece on The Huffington Post.

The Morrison piece is here: Hey Dude From Cracker, I'm Sorry, I Stole Music Like These Damned Kids When I Was a Kid.

Interesting that Morrison (ex-Dismemberment Plan) is now listed as "Director of Commercial Production, The Huffington Post," while Lowery (ex-Camper Van Beethoven as well as Cracker) now teaches economics at University of Georgia.

Christgau again:

Liked the Travis Morrison HuffPo piece too, although a) I'd like to know how he gets by these days (not from HuffPo, guaranteed) and b) he fails to address the order-of-difficulty question at the heart of Lowery's analysis. It's one thing for obsessives like the young Travis to steal music any way he can. But it's become much more casual now, and that's bad in all kinds of ways.

Kenny Mostern:

  1. Lowery's piece is better than Morrison's because Lowery knows that the mass consumer, not the individual aesthete, is the relevant category of analysis when discussing economics and economic history.

sharpsm, getting sarcastic:

I sure agree -- home taping was not killing music.

The record industry sure said it was at the time. But that's a bit off-point. The important thing is that it's Emily White's fault that Vic Chestnutt killed himself and David Lowery had to take a day job. Wasn't chiding or guilt-tripping, eh? Right.

At any rate, I think I'll wait until Steinski weighs in before I get too exercised about this. My blood pressure's high enough as it is.

Jeff Melnick:

Also unremarked upon so far, unless I just missed it, is the key fact that Emily White is an intern. I'm midway through reading Ross Perlin's chilling book Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. It is a good reminder of who is benefitting most from not paying young (and not so young) people for what used to be called "work."

50 Country Songs That Don't Suck

According to Chuck Eddy. Done one per page, so a pain to work through, but there's enough writing it might be worth one's while, especially if you listen along. Wouldn't be hard to create another list that doesn't have any of these songs.

  1. Toby Keith, "Beers Ago" (Clancy's Tavern, 2012, Show Dog/Universal)
  2. Them Bird Things, "Georgia Mountain" (Wildlike Wonder, 2011, Playground Music Finland)
  3. Flynnville Train, "Sandman" (Redemption, 2010, Next Evolution)
  4. Lee Brice, "Sumter County Friday Night" (Love Like Crazy, 2010, Curb)
  5. Sarah Buxton, "Space" (Almost My Record, 2008, Lyric Street, EP)
  6. Jace Everett, "Bad Things" (Jace Everett, 2005, Epic)
  7. Gene Watson, "Flowers" (. . .Sings, 2003, Compendia)
  8. Rebecca Lynn Howard, "I Need a Vacation" (N/A, 2003, MCA Nashville)
  9. LeAnn Rimes, "Life Goes On" (Twisted Angel, 2002, Curb)
  10. Ty Herndon, "Heather's Wall" (N/A, 2001, Epic)
  11. Trace Adkins, "I'm Tryin'" (Chrome, 2001, Capitol Nashville)
  12. Alecia Elliott, "I'm Diggin' It" (Alecia Elliott, 1999, MCA Nashville)
  13. The Tractors, "Fallin' Apart" (The Tractors, 1994, Arista)
  14. Cactus Brothers, "Sixteen Tons" (The Cactus Brothers, 1993, Liberty)
  15. John Anderson, "Seminole Wind" (Seminole Wind, 1992, BNA)
  16. Sweethearts of the Rodeo, "Midnight Girl in a Sunset Town" (Sweethearts of the Rodeo, 1986, Columbia)
  17. T.G. Sheppard, "War Is Hell (on the Homefront)" (Perfect Strangers, 1982, Warner Bros./Curb)
  18. Sylvia, "The Matador" (Drifter, 1981, RCA)
  19. Terri Gibbs, "Somebody's Knockin'" (Somebody's Knockin', 1980, MCA)
  20. Don Williams, "Good Old Boys Like Me" (Portrait, 1980, MCA)
  21. Eddie Rabbit, "Suspicions" (Loveline, 1979, Elektra)
  22. Ronnie Milsap, "Get It Up" (Images, 1979, RCA)
  23. The Kendalls, "Old Fashioned Love" (Old Fashioned Love, 1978, Ovation)
  24. Stella Parton, "Standard Lie Number One" (Country Sweet, 1977, Elektra)
  25. Charlie Rich, "Rollin' With the Flow" (Rollin' With the Flow, 1977, Epic)
  26. Stoney Edwards, "Blackbird (Hold Your Head High)" (Blackbird, 1975, Capitol)
  27. Narvel Felts, "I Remember You" (Narvel Felts, 1975, ABC Dot)
  28. Loretta Lynn, "The Pill" (Back to the Country, 1975, MCA)
  29. Statler Brothers, "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott" (The Best of the Statler Brothers, 1974, Mercury)
  30. Barbara Mandrell, "The Midnight Oil" (The Midnight Oil, 1973, Columbia)
  31. Anne Murray, "Snowbird" (This Way Is My Way, 1970, Capitol)
  32. Tom T. Hall, "The Homecoming" (Homecoming, 1969, Mercury)
  33. John Wesley Ryles, "Kay" (Kay, 1968, Columbia)
  34. O.C. Smith, "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp" (Hickory Holler Revisited, 1968, Columbia)
  35. Merle Haggard, "I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am" (Pride in What I Am, 1968, Capitol)
  36. Hank Thompson, "Smokey the Bar" (Smoky the Bar, 1968, Dot)
  37. Dick Curless, "A Tombstone Every Mile" (A Tombstone Every Mile, 1965, Tower)
  38. Cowboy Copas, "Alabam" (N/A, 1960, Starday)
  39. Harmonica Frank Floyd, "Rockin' Chair Daddy" (N/A, 1954, Sun)
  40. Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, "Who Shot Willie" (N/A, 1951, Jasmine)
  41. Delmore Brothers, "Freight Train Boogie" (N/A, 1946, King)
  42. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy" (N/A, 1946, N/A)
  43. Moon Mullican, "Pipeline Blues" (N/A, 1940, N/A)
  44. Smokey Wood and the Modern Mountaineers, "Everybody's Truckin'" (N/A, 1937, N/A)
  45. Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, "Texas Hambone Blues" (N/A, 1936, N/A)
  46. Roy Newman and His Boys, "Sadie Green (Vamp of New Orleans)" (N/A 1935, N/A)
  47. Jimmie Rodgers, "Blue Yodel #9" (Blue Yodels, 1930, N/A)
  48. Allen Brothers, "Maybe Next Week Sometime" (N/A, 1929, Victor)
  49. Emmett Miller and His Georgia Crackers, "Lovesick Blues" (N/A, 1928, N/A)
  50. Charlie Poole & the North Carolian Ramblers, "White House Blues" (N/A, 1926, Columbia)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20049 [20024] rated (+25), 777 [775] unrated (+2). Hit a point midweek and just gave up. Spent the better part of three days cooking up a fancy dinner for my sister's birthday, and mostly spent that time playing things I had already rated/written about, like MDNA and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, and occasional older things I pulled randomly off the shelves. My wife retires in two weeks, and that promises to change things. I'm not sure whether that means I can give up my make-believe music reviewer work, or do I need to get serious about my own work?

Was figuring I'd punt on Jazz Prospecting this week, but I might as well dump out what I have. Should make a project some time out of Raoul Björkenheim, given that all of the few things I've heard by him have "A-" written next to him in my database. My favorite is still one called Shadowglow he did with Lukas Ligeti on TUM in 2003, but I've missed all those Scorch Trio records -- the first is the only complete one on Ingebrigt Håker Flaten's bandcamp page, and it's another winner.

Started playing ECM's advances when I noticed that I wasn't always getting final copies, and jumped the gun on Sclavis. Have held that review back a few weeks now, but as short as this week is, I figured I might as well share it.

Raoul Björkenheim/Anders Nilsson/Gerald Cleaver: Kalabalik (2012, DMG/ARC): Two guitarists from Scandinavia, perhaps not natural allies back home but they fit together remarkably well in New York, plus a drummer -- always a good idea. Cut live at Bruce Lee Galanter's downtown record store. First four cuts are hard fusion thrash with a lot of intricacy between the lines. Then they cut the volume for a duo that spreads their lines out. A-

Budman/Levy Orchestra: From There to Here (2010 [2012], OA2): Alex Budman plays tenor sax, soprano sax, and bass clarinet. He has a previous record (nice title: Instruments of Mass Pleasure), a couple dozen side credits. Jeremy Levy composes, arranges, and plays trombone. Looks like his first album (side-credits include Brian Setzer and Susan Tedeschi). Everything you'd expect in a big band, including both piano and guitar, plus extra percussion for that Latin tinge, and a string quartet on one track. B

Orrin Evans: Flip the Script (2012, Posi-Tone): Pianist, from Philadelphia, in a trio with Ben Wolf (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums). Played it four times and it keeps slipping away from me. B+(*)

Jazz Soul Seven: Impressions of Curtis Mayfield (2012, BFM Jazz): Ad hoc group, in the order given on the jacket: Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Russ Ferante (piano), Master Henry Gibson (percussion), Bob Hurst (bass), Wallace Roney (trumpet), Phil Upchurch (guitar), Ernie Watts (sax). No idea why just that pecking order, but Ferrante appears to be the main arranger. The songs, of course, come from Curtis Mayfield, the melodic themes are glorious, and everything else is typical mainstream jazz. B+(*)

Guillermo Klein/Los Gauchos: Carrera (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Argentine pianist, studied at Berklee, stuck around New York, frequently composing and arranging for a near-big band he calls Los Gauchos. This plays like a song cycle, and while I have no idea what the vocals signify, nor do I much care for them, the flow is intriguing, and the solos -- including saxophonists Chris Cheek, Miguel Zenon, and Bill McHenry -- are proper highlights. B+(*)

Hailey Niswanger: The Keeper (2012, Calmit Productions): Alto saxophonist, b. 1990, studied at Berklee, second album, plus a side-credit on Terri Lyne Carrington's The Mosaic Project. Don't know the quartet, although there's a drummer named Mark Whitfield Jr., and they're joined by trumpeter Darren Barrett on three cuts. She can swing and wail through the straight postbop set, and switch to soprano for a charming "Night and Day." B+(**)

Ben Powell: New Street (2011 [2012], self-released): Violinist, don't have any bio readily available, but looks to be his second album. Seven cuts with is piano-bass-drums quartet -- one each with guitarist Adrien Moignard and vocalist Linda Calise guesting -- plus three cuts by his Stéphane Grappelli Tribute Trio, with Julian Lage (guitar) and Gary Burton (vibes). Does like to swing. "La Vie en Rose" with Calise is especially delicious -- I've rarely felt more Francophile. B+(**)

Louis Sclavis Atlas Trio: Sources (2011 [2012], ECM): French clarinet player, twenty-some albums since 1981. Trio adds keyboards (Benjamin Moussay) and electric guitar (Gilles Coronado). The guitar has a charged rough edge the other instruments flesh out, and everyone is so keyed to the flow they avoid thoughts of chamber music without bass or drums. A- [advance: June 26]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Helio Alves/Nilson Matta/Duduka Da Fonseca: Brazilian Trio: Constelação (Motéma)
  • Steve Davis: Gettin' It Done (Posi-Tone)
  • Joey DeFrancesco/Larry Coryell/Jimmy Cobb: Wonderful! Wonderful! (High Note)
  • Doug Ferony: You Will Be My Music (self-released)
  • Amit Friedman Sextet: Sunrise (Origin)
  • Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest: Live (Concord Jazz)
  • Jacám Manricks: Cloud Nine (Posi-Tone)
  • Sandra Marlowe: True Blue (LoveDog!)
  • Kat Parra: ¡Las Aventuras de Pasión! (JazzMa): August 14
  • Irene Reid: The Queen of the Party (1997-2003, Savant)
  • Carol Saboya: Belezas (AAM)
  • Woody Shaw: Woody Plays Woody (1977-81, Savant)
  • Allison Wedding: This Dance (GroundUp Music)
  • Denny Zeitlin: Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano (Sunnyside): July 3

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Expert Comments

A two-parter from Cam Patterson:

I'm going completely off topic but wanted to bring over here something that came up in a recent conversation: Trouser Press, which I don't recall that we've really discussed much here in EW. Although all are derived from the same source, I'm not talking about the Trouser Press Record Guides or the highly useful if inconsistent Trouser Press web site. I mean the largely forgotten Trouser Press magazine. Founded as a fanzine in 1974, it got enough national distribution that I remember buying my first issue in 1977 (June/July, with newly solo Peter Gabriel on the cover).

Trouser Press (I can't bring myself to call it TP) had its own peculiar niche. Because of its fanboy focus, it never had the bite of Creem or Crawdaddy, nor did the staff develop writers the way the Voice did. (Other than founder and major writer Ira Robbins, I'm not aware of any important rock writer who could claim Trouser Press as a foundational gig, although I could be wrong. And Robbins, bless his focus, really only ever did the Trouser Press franchise.)

Trouser Press went early for punk and new wave, but the unique threads it brought to the rock mag world were collectorama and anglophilia. There were always ads in the back encouraging you to buy such ephemera as the blue DJ 45 of "I Saw the Light" ("Cash only!") that denoted the former, but Trouser Press never had the aridness or underachiever-mongering of trad collector magazines like Goldmine. The fetish for the Queen's kingdom though was a badge worn proudly. The covers (which you can see at the Trouser Press web site) emphatically proclaim the 'zine big champions of British pre-punk (Roxy, Eno, Mott), some prog, pub rock, and then most British punk that you could hear in the US at the time.

One has to wonder if Trouser Press is slightly responsible for the idea that punk started in the UK and spread Westward (although to their credit, the CBGB's scene, along with powerpop of every origin, received serious coverage). And yes, if there are major omissions that are obvious in retrospect, I haven't mentioned the words "disco" or "soul" or "funk." We are talking Paul Nelson-caliber lily-white. But no Elvis and not much Beatles or the Rolling Stones either. (The Who and the Kinks get points with this crew for their peculiar Englishness.)

So Trouser Press was in some ways an NME mirror when you couldn't buy the Brit music bible in the US, and once you could the utility of Trouser Press dissipated. Yet for a time the mag had a unique place in the rock publication scene, for me and my ilk at least. That's not why I bring this up though. The conversation that I referenced earlier led me to recall (dimly at first) a specific issue of Trouser Press that contained a list of the top records for each year in the 70s. Our friend Ryan took the initiative to track down those lists, which a Canadian analytical mathematician added to his university website (academic freedom!), and for which we should all bow down in gracious thanks.

The clue via Ryan that I was thinking about the January 1980 issue led me to track it down and buy another copy on Ebay for a few bucks. Scads of memories. Half of the issue is focused on a review of the 70s and the other half on predictions for the 80s. (They picked 22 acts that were poised to be big in the 80s. The only way I could say that they got three out of the 22 correct would be if one of them is Elvis Costello, which I could see an argument for. The other 19, not so much, or really not at all.)

But none of this is why I think this post is relevant to EW. The date is important, January 1980. At that time, I'm willing to bet you couldn't buy a copy of Village Voice in Mobile Alabama at all, and I'd definitely never heard of it. Rolling Stone was there, and the maddening red Rolling Stone Record Guide came out in 1979. It was: canonical in the worst way, not edgy, infuriating when it wasn't boring. I was 16 and even I knew that adults were going to come to a consensus about the best Van Morrison album (those adults might even be right) but I wanted more.

This one January 1980 issue of Trouser Press gave me that "more" in crazy ways. I wasn't bothered that it ignored genres I'd already explored: funk, Southern rock, and soul (and of course country, but that was a given). I definitely got into punk and what was then New Wave at the same time I discovered Trouser Press in the first place, so I'm sure that I got influence from what they wrote. But these 70s best-ofs in this one issue were something else. It wasn't a secret history or coded language (they graciously ceded those domains in anticipation of Lipstick Traces) but it was obscure for the time and of a singular voice and definitive in its own way. In other words, and here is the big point: Until the 70's Consumer Guide came out in 1981 (I probably brought my copy in early 1982) THIS WAS ALL I HAD.

Not entirely. There was the 10th year anniversary of Rolling Stone from 1977 (1978?) that had 10-best lists by Marcus and Willis and others that had depth lacking in the Rolling Stone Record Guide. But this Trouser Press view of the 70s had depth too, even if its breadth was narrow. This edition is where I discovered Big Star and Roxy Music and Hunky Dory, none of which were appreciated within the Rolling Stone universe. Also The Move, Mott the Hoople, and the Ramones, who if I recall correctly didn't fare so well in the Red Book.

So these lists were personal milestones for a brief but important time in my life until the first Consumer Guide book gave me a deeper and more rigorous critical foundation. But now that I have it in my hands, this January 1980 Trouser Press has so much more to offer from a 2010's perspective. I told you about the 1980's predictions (Andy Frances, whoever he is and who evidently worked for RCA: "More synthesizers." Well, yeah, too bad about that. But also Ian Lloyd: "Complete merging of audio and video." Both replies are right but only one is prophetic.) There's also a section on albums from the 70s that "you might have missed." Some are now classics (the Dolls first, Here Come the Warm Jets) and others I'm a solid fan (Cardiff Rose, Brain Capers). But there are records that I still wonder about. Did I not get Sparks right? The Pink Fairies' Kings of Oblivion, what about that?

There's even a letters section (of course, called "Hello It's Me"), and the only thing that would totally tie this magazine together would be if Milo Miles had weighed in with either gusto or disgust about a particular article or the entire Trouser Press concept. Although there is this one letter from "Kevin Gross from Boston MA" that begins "I am one of those people who (monthly) regret your very real sellout." Could it be? Nah.

Anyway, I hope I haven't bored you. I see no reason why I shouldn't try to scan the entire issue and make it available. To me, it's an important and somewhat lost view of the 70s. If I can pull this off, I'll let y'all know.

Patrick adds some links:

those Trouser Press lists that Cam is referring to:

also, a list of Ira Robbins' all-time top 50 albums circa 2004:

Joe Lunday:

I came to rock criticism too late to read the magazine, but the two Trouser Press guides from '88 and '91 were my introduction to deep discography info and also expanded my proto-punk and post-punk knowledge considerably. Then imagine just a few months later picking up Xgau's '80s guide and seeing a great many of these bands, often recipients of many laudatory adjectives in the Trouser Press guide, relegated to a single list as "New Wave" and suggested as not worth much more thought than that! (Reviewing the list today, I can't speak for the album, but everyone should hear the Godfathers Birth, School, Work, Death at least once.)

A couple of magazines that shaped my tastes early on were the '90 - '92 issues of Spin, with a review section that I believe was edited primarily by Jim Greer and Mark Kemp. (I learned the other day that Greer has, among many other things on his post rock-crit resume, co-written the screenplay for a Lindsay Lohan rom-com.) Also Option, which probably published more reviews than any other music magazine of the period, and was more resolutely indie-rock focused, for better or worse. Ritchie Unterburger was the editor at the time, and I remember his editorial when he left, explaining that he was glad he would never have to hear another Steelpole Bathtub or Uncle Green record again.


Trouser Press and Creem were the magazines we read - the former for the English stuff, the latter for the laffs and great writing. The second Rolling Stone guide, the blue one, corrected a lot of the shortsightedness of the first - Pere Ubu, par example - but the "only-records-in-print" policy wiped out dozens of the first edition's cool obscurities.


I got into Creem after the fact. It was around when I was a kid, and I remember reading it some, but I didn't realize how insanely great it was until I got to college and started rummaging around that used record and comics store in Nashville, the Great Escape. After a while, the owner would just stick old Creems behind the counter when they came in and give them to me for a quarter each. I wish I'd saved them!

Nate (sharpsm, who seems to have missed the English Beat on those lists):

Sorry, guys, but really. "Lily-white" doesn't begin to describe those IR/TP lists. I mean, Prince and Arthur Alexander are the only black guys who've ever made a great album in the rock era? And not a single black act put out a great album in the '70s? That's not just ignorant, it's offensive. And before you chalk it up to the times, let me assure you that I and a lot of other people would have been offended by such a list in January of 1980 if we'd seen it (thank God for miniscule distribution). I ask you, would Rolling Stone have coughed up a list of great albums of the '70s without mentioning What's Going On or There's a Riot Going On or, you know, ANYTHING by Stevie Wonder?

Cam, specifically responding to Nate:

Nate, I hear you. And the points you raise about Robbins could equally be said about Paul Nelson, whose biography/anthology I found surprisingly lackluster. I can see being offended by a list like that, but I think it is an overstatement to say that those 70's top 10s stand out in their time. I'm looking over the top 10 lists from the Rolling Stone issue that I mentioned, which I believe appeared in late 1977 and covered the preceding decade. Of the lists from nine different critics, three had no black artists at all (two more had a reggae act among their ten to break the monotony). Of the artists on the cover of that issue, over 90% were white. And What's Going On, There's a Riot Goin' On, and Stevie Wonder got a collective vote total of zero, fewer than Ry Cooder, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Hicks, the J. Geils Band, and Leo Sayer. Sad, but true.

For what it's worth, I'm not offended by this. It could be ignorance or it could be a matter of one's taste. (I doubt we'd be having a similar discussion about a best-of country list or hip-hop list that was weighted predominantly in one ethnic direction.) I recall how much grief Gregg Allman got for saying "Rap is crap" and specific allegations that that made him racist. Of course, 80+% of the music he listens to is by African Americans, as is his lifelong best friend. So I try to look deeper before I get my hackles up.

I finally wrote something:

I won't try to rehash my early rock crit years here (already done here: goo.gl/wJxOb), but Trouser Press was regular reading material during the 1970s, and something when we put Terminal Zone together we tried to define ourselves against -- that had less to do with Robbins' indifference to black music than with his extreme hostility to disco. Shortly after I moved to New York I made the trip uptown to meet him, but we didn't bridge any differences. Years later I recall him writing a review of a Spinners collection where he recanted his opposition to disco, but his top 50 list doesn't go very far in that direction. He's always been valuable because he's always been so obsessive about what he likes, regardless of how narrow-minded or ignorant he's been about his dislikes.

Aside from Creem and Crawdaddy, the other key magazine of the mid-1970s was Greg Shaw's Who Put the Bomp? It was even narrower than Trouser Press, but had none of the meanness, was lovingly assembled and detailed, and pushed a retro-surf aesthetic that included a few contemporary bands (especially the Flamin' Groovies). Shaw, by the way, was at his finest compiling and annotating Sire's 2-lp The Roots of British Rock, lamentably never reissued on CD.


At what point did yer average white rock dude start perceiving music by black people as something distinct/Other? Late 60s, maybe? Who's to blame? Early FM radio? Is it something that was eventually bound to happen no matter what? How could it have been avoided?

I (finally) responded (better formatted here):

To go back to Patrick's question:

At what point did yer average white rock dude start perceiving music by black people as something distinct/Other? Late 60s, maybe? Who's to blame? Early FM radio?"

Goes back to the beginning, as there have always been whites eager to whitewash rock and roll -- wasn't that the point of Elvis? (or, even more so, Pat Boone?) I recall one who told me that she liked Blood Sweat & Tears once she found out they were white. It got easier with the folk movement, with the British invasion, with singer-songwriters, with metal, with prog, with country-rock -- with diffusion came a narrowing of interest which could easily forget its history. But also the politics changed, from the upbeat integrationist civil rights movement of the 1960s to the charade of equality that followed, increasingly reinforced by a police state (Michelle Alexander's book on this is called The New Jim Crow). The music has followed those political changes in various ways, and virtually every change has managed to throw off at least some sympathetic whites. (And, as always, getting older doesn't help make one more adaptable.)


I've spent my life writing about black and white in music gatekeeping and don't want to do too much more here. But three factual notes.

  1. I once called Ira Robbins a white supremacist in print. For some reason he was offended by this statistically verifiable statement of fact. He was also very surprised when I reviewed the first Trouser Press Guide kindly, although not without some mocking of his racial myopia-at-best. He can be a good critic about some things, and once when I noticed him taking notes on a concert he wasn't reviewing at the Beacon I asked him why and he told me he took notes on everything he saw. Soon thereafter I started keeping a "giglog" in my computer--sometimes thoroughly, often not, and definitely not for unedited publication. Thanks for the idea, Ira.
  2. Creem was in Detroit and as long as Detroiter Dave Marsh was there Motown was king. Then he left. Within a few years people were voting for the Rolling Stones as best r&b group in their reader polls. As I recall they did always keep some kind of faith about reviewing black music, though.
  3. At the dawn of FM radio, the always incredibly stupid must to avoid was "commercial." "Progressive rock"'s excuse for not programming Al Green and Gladys Knight was that they were "commercial." Unlike Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin, who never made a dime off their music in their lives.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kathy's Birthday Dinner Postmortem

Wrote the following in a braindump letter:

Well, that's done. My post-dinner reaction was just utter exhaustion. Cassoulet may be one of those dishes that always sounds better in theory than it is in fact. It is, after all, just a pot of beans with some meat mixed in. Technically, I suspect the duck confit wasn't up to par. I didn't have enough duck fat, so topped it off with olive oil, and when I fished the legs out of the fat this afternoon it was mostly olive oil, and the meat was hard where I expected it to be soft. I always have problems getting the beans cooked right: they were way too hard at the prescribed time, so I turned the fire up and kept cooking them, until ultimately they were too mushy. Cooked the lamb-onions-tomatoes a long, long time too, which probably did no harm. Misread the final assembly instructions several ways: was supposed to heat the oven to 375 then drop it to 350 after I put the pot in, but I didn't do that, then tried to compensate. Instructions said to layer the beans and stewmeat using a slotted spoon to limit the liquid carried over, but also to add duck stock if/when it gets dry. Probably would have been better to add a couple cups of stock when I put it all together (especially if the beans were a bit under-, as opposed to over-done). Used panko bread crumbs, and they never browned (even with the convection blower on). Just a few minutes before the end, you sautee the duck breasts to "medium rare"; I decided my first take was too rare, so I went back and did that again -- second time got the skin nice and brown and had just a little pink in the center. The duck breast was by far the best part of the meal. Everything else was kind of undistinguished.

Forgot to put the garlic into the ratatouille, not that it made much difference. Kind of wished at the end that I had seasoned it for caponata instead (which the recipe gives as a variation -- basically just add sugar and red wine vinegar for a sweet-and-sour taste). Screwed up the wine for the soup: didn't buy any, figuring I could back it up somehow. I had, after all, a bottle of fino sherry stashed away, but it turned out to only have a half cup in it. Then I saw a bottle left over from a previous dinner, so I poured some of it into the measuring cup, and it turned out to be red. Topped it off with sake. The red threw the color off although it turned out not that bad, just one of those greenish-gray shades that were never dignified with a name. Recipe didn't call for any cream, but I had a bit left in the refrigerator and figured it wouldn't do any harm -- indeed, should lighten the color a bit. Garnished it with blue cheese crumbles and bacon, which helped. Was actually pretty tasty. Salmon pate came out a bit grainy. Probably the eggs overcooked.

Kathy didn't like the hazelnut cake -- wound up picking the icing off it and leaving the cake, and Laura left hers as well. Used a "gluten free" flour in it, which may have caused the cake to be less moist than regular flour would have. It was a very dense batter, with no leavening, just whipped egg whites but it was so dry without them that folding them in must have collapsed much of the air they held. Recipe didn't call for vanilla, but I added some anyway, figuring anything with that much chocolate deserves some vanilla. Personally, I thought dessert was awesome: the cake may have been a bit dry but the chocolate was so intense it lifts you to a different level (4 oz. unsweetened in the cake, plus 4 oz. semisweet in the icing, with the hazelnut buttercream -- basically ground hazelnuts, corn syrup, brandy, and powdered sugar -- in between. Burnt orange ice cream complemented it very nicely, cutting back on both the chocolate- and sugar-shock.

Dropped the shrimp and gougeres from the menu. Turns out I would have had plenty of time to finish them, but I was too tired to do the prep. Two people expected didn't show up. Don't know when, or even if, I'll try something like this again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Rhapsody Streamnotes (June 2012)

Pick up text here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20024 [19991] rated (+33), 775 [772] unrated (+3). Rated count topped 20,000. Don't know that that's a big deal. Robert Christgau has rated a bit more than 15,400 records, but he's listened to and not rated many more -- in total a lot more records than I have. Same is true for dozens of other critics who haven't bothered to build databases, and for the most part don't feel compelled to weigh in on everything they hear. On the other hand, I use grades like a hash, an index. I started doing this back in the 1990s, mostly as a way to keep track of what I've heard, and to quickly look up what I like. Probably started in the nick of time, as my memory was crystal clear then -- the marks would be all the nudge I needed to bring back the experience. Much less so now, so more useful personally.

The other reason I do it is that it's a cheap way to communicate, which I assume is a public service. It takes very little extra effort on my part to come up with a letter grade, and at least some people find it useful. Hopefully, they understand that these are often one-shot, knee-jerk reactions. Most are based on a single play -- better records often get more, but not much. I don't play records very loud, and I don't listen especially closely -- in particular, I almost never catch lyrics. I'm often doing something else while I listen. I get a lot of jazz in the mail, but not much else, but have managed to make up that deficit by streaming stuff (and much more rarely downloading) through the computer. The latter has doubled how much I rate (183 of 348 in the y2012 file, 52.5%), and kept me from becoming too much of a jazz specialist -- also kept me current, which isn't all that easy to do at my age.

Three weeks went into this Jazz Prospecting, but only one week into unpacking (and Monday isn't in yet, so less than that). The ESPs, of course, are recycled from Recycled Goods. Counter to what I said above, my first take on the Threadgill was higher, but only after many plays (more than 5, less than 10) did I decide it wasn't all there. That may be the case for Kalabalik as well -- playing that as I write (third time, I think). Jason Gubbels, who's always worth reading, mentioned Black Music Disaster the other day. Shipp's farfisa isn't quite as bad as Anthony Braxton playing bagpipes, but it is (barely) a joke, and the guitar duo of J. Spaceman and J. Coxon is lightyears behind Raoul Björkenheim and Anders Nilsson. Held back the still-unreleased Louis Sclavis -- probably the best thing I've heard from ECM this year.

Rhapsody Streamnotes should post tomorrow. Looks like I'm the only one who doesn't like the new Neil Young, and maybe the only one who does like the new Patti Smith. Am I losing it?

Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants: The Lost Sessions 1974 (1974 [2012], Linus): Vibraphonist, b. 1928 in England, had an album in 1958 (The Vibe Sound of Peter Appleyard), another in 1977, two more for Concord in 1990-91 (Barbados Heat and Barbados Cool). These previously unreleased sessions pivot around the group, jazz giants indeed: Hank Jones (piano), Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Bobby Hackett (cornet), Urbie Green (trombone), Slam Stewart (bass), Mel Lewis (drums) -- the first three have especially fine spots, and the vibes add some twinkle to the pianist's sparkle. Includes short bits of studio dialogue before each cut, and concludes with 25:13 of out takes, generous on the one hand but too much start-stop to listen to. B+(**)

Todd Bishop Group: Little Played Little Bird: The Music of Ornette Coleman (2011 [2012], Origin): Drummer, based in Portland, OR; second album under his own name (both tributes, the other to Serge Gainsbourg), a couple more as Lower Monumental, Flatland, Iron John. Ornette Coleman doesn't record enough these days, so it's nice to hear his music here, in a quintet with two saxes (Richard Cole, Tim Willcox), piano, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Black Music Disaster (2012, Thirsty Ear): Matthew Shipp on farfisa organ, Steve Noble on drums, two electric guitarists -- J. Spaceman and (Jason Pierce, Spiritualized) and John Coxon (Spring Heel Jack). One 38:18 piece, starts with an organ solo that doesn't portend well. Turns into some interesting fusion midway through, but the concept is rather limited, and the farfisa always sounds cheezy. B+(*) [advance]

Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One (2011 [2012], Red Piano): Veteran pianist, active since the early 1960s, has a ton of solo albums, but also has a great fondness for duos with singers, Jeanne Lee a case in point. Correa is another, and she makes a rather convincing Abbey Lincoln here, although the confluence is tightly held, for believers only. B+(**)

Ralph Bowen: Total Eclipse (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Canada, studied at Indiana and Rutgers, teaching at the latter since 1990; ten albums since 1992. Mainstream player, working here with an organ quartet: Jared Gold on the organ, Mike Moreno on guitar, and Rudy Royston on drums. B+(*)

Fly: Year of the Snake (2011 [2012], ECM): Sax trio: Mark Turner (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Ballard (drums). All three contribute songs, Turner a bit more, the 5-part "The Western Lands" credited to all. Has an inner flow to it that keeps everything tight and coherent, the sax a bit on the sweet side. B+(***)

Narada Burton Greene: Live at Kerrytown House (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Pianist, b. 1937, cut an exceptionally explosive Quartet album for ESP-Disk in 1964 then faded into obscurity, popping up with a couple widely scattered albums in the 1970s and 1980s, then moving into klezmer in the 1990s -- sample titles: Klezmokum, Jew-azzic Park, ReJew-Venation -- and he's done some solo piano since, returning to his avant roots. This solo set was cut live in Ann Arbor, sharp and full of brittle edges, several pieces titled "Freebop." B+(**)

Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond (2011 [2012], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon; I've been a big fan of his work since Mountains and Plains in 2005, and this is every bit as satisfying as long as the sax is front and center. Less so when he plays wood flute, or when he mixes it up with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, even though the latter has an appealing rough-and-readiness of his own. B+(***)

Tom Harrell: Number Five (2011 [2012], High Note): Plays trumpet and flugelhorn (quite a bit of the latter), b. 1946, has a sizable discography, adding to it every year. Quintet, right down the middle of the mainstream, with Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax, Danny Grissett on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ugonna Okegwo and Jonathan Blake. Escoffery's solos are typically fluid but a bit subdued. Harrell's are eloquent, and even more subdued. B+(*)

Frank Lowe: The Loweski (1973 [2012], ESP-Disk): Previously unreleased outtakes from around the time of the tenor saxophonist's first album, Black Beeings. Crude and scratchy, with Joseph Jarman's soprano and alto grating against Lowe's tenor, with a very young William Parker on bass, and Rashid Sinan on drums. I've never been a fan of Lowe's debut, but this goes down easier, in large part because Raymond Lee Cheng's violin provides notable contrast. Cheng was advertised as The Wizard here, and he makes that conceit work. B+(*)

Aaron Novik: Secret of Secrets (2012, Tzadik): Clarinet player, based in San Francisco; third album since 2008, "a darkly epic exploration into the roots of Jewish mysticism through the writings of Eleazar of Worms" [Eleazar Rokeach, a late 12th century rabbi who lived in Worms, in Germany]. Each book of Eleazar's Secret of Secrets is given an 11-17 minute piece, "based on an Ashkenazi dance rhythm wedded to heavy metal beats," but no words. The metal pours out of Fred Frith's guitar and Carla Kihlstedt's electric violin, with drums, percussion, programming, a string quartet, a brass quartet (Jazz Mafia Horns), and Ben Goldberg joining Novik on clarinet. B+(**) [advance]

John Samorian: Out on a Limb (2010 [2011], self-released): Pianist, UNT graduate, based in NJ; first album. Also sings, splitting the album with wife Kim Shriver, who gets some "featuring" small print on the cover. All originals by Samorian (one song co-credited to Dan Haerle). B

Kayla Taylor Jazz: You'd Be Surprised (2011, Smartykat): Standards singer, from Atlanta, fourth album since 2005, all identified as "Jazz" -- maybe her idea of a group, since guitarist Steve Moore shares the cover. With Will Scruggs on tenor and soprano sax, plus bass and drums/percussion. No effort at picking obscure gems: I've heard nearly all of these songs dozens of times, and they rarely disappoint -- sure don't here. B+(***)

Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (2011 [2012], Pi): Alto saxophonist, also has a not undeserved rep for flute (and bass flute), started with Air in the 1970s, ranks as one of the most important figures in avant jazz. Third Zooid album, group expanded to a sextet with the addition of Christopher Hoffman on cello, fleshing out the mishmash of sounds -- Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar), Jose Davila (trombone and tuba), and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). At its best, the rhythm is remarkably ragged, the sax staggered, a jumble that should crash but doesn't -- clip out this stuff and expand on it a bit and you get the album of the year. No real problem with the flute, but there are spots where they lose focus and ramble, losing the edge. B+(***)

Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express (2011 [2012], Mavo): Cuban-born pianist, been in US since 1994, studied at New School, has a handful of albums since 2004. This one reflects his first visit to the island in 17 years, the Cuban rhythms juiced up by Mauricio Herrera, the whole affair dressed elegantly with Yosvany Terry's saxophones. B+(**)

Elio Villafranca/Arturo Stable: Dos Y Mas (2010-11 [2012], Motéma): Piano and percussion, respectively, both born in Cuba, now based in US; duets plus a guest vocalist, Igor Arias, on the closer. B+(**)

Marzette Watts: Marzette Watts & Company (1966 [2012], ESP-Disk): Saxophonist (here tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), b. 1938 in Alabama, d. 1998. Looks like he only cut two records, this and The Marzette Watts Ensemble for Savoy in 1968. Free jazz, somewhat underdefined considering he has Byard Lancaster (alto sax), Clifford Thornton (trombone, cornet), and Sonny Sharrock (guitar) to contend with -- the sound you take away is more likely to be Karl Berger's vibes. B+(*)

Frank Wright Quartet: Blues for Albert Ayler (1974 [2012], ESP-Disk): Tenor saxophonist, cut a couple of avant-garde albums for ESP-Disk in 1965-67, not a lot more before his death in 1990 but the label fished out an unreleased winner from 1974 called Unity, and now found another. One of the first things you'll notice here is the guitar -- James "Blood" Ulmer some years before he recorded under his own name. Also with Benny Wilson on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Wright plays some ugly flute, but his tenor sax is remarkably cogent even while keeping the edges rough. A-

John Yao Quintet: In the Now (2011 [2012], Innova): Trombonist, from Chicago, based in New York, don't have any more bio than that. First album, quintet with Jon Irabagon (alto/soprano sax), Randy Ingram (piano, keyboards), Leon Boykins (bass), and Will Clark (drums). Postbop, Irabagon tends to slink around the leader rather than butting heads. B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cynthia Felton: Freedom Jazz Dance (Felton Entertainment)
  • Bruce Kaphan: Quartet (Wiggling Air)
  • Michael McNeill Trio: Passageways (self-released)
  • Ray Parker: Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody (Pythagoras)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matt Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Foreign Legion (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/The Sirius Quartet: The Passion According to G.H. (Leo)
  • Carol Robbins: Moraga (Jazzcats)
  • Story City: Time and Materials (self-released)
  • Milton Suggs: Lyrical: Volume 1 (Skiptone Music)
  • Richard Sussman Quintet: Continuum (Origin)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Occupy This Album (2012, Razor & Tie, 4CD): A- [rhapsody]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week (or two):

  • Tim Dickinson: Right-Wing Billionaires Behind Mitt Romney: Profiles of: William Koch, Harold Simmons, Bob Perry, Jim Davis, Richard Marriott and Bill Marriott Jr., Edward Conard, Frank VanderSloot, Steven Lund, Julian Robertson Jr., John Paulson, Paul Singer, Robert Mercer, Kenneth Griffin, L. Francis Rooney III, Steven Webster.

    The undisputed master of Super PAC money is Mitt Romney. In the primary season alone, Romney's rich friends invested $52 million in his Super PAC, Restore Our Future -- a number that's expected to more than double in the coming months. This unprecedented infusion of money from America's monied elites underscores the radical transformation of the Republican Party, which has made defending the interests of 0.0001 percent the basis of its entire platform. "Money buys power," the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman observed recently, "and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties." In short, the political polarization and gridlock in Washington are a direct result of the GOP's capitulation to Big Money.

    That capitulation is evident in Romney's campaign. Most of the megadonors backing his candidacy are elderly billionaires: Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. Each is looking for a payoff that will benefit his business interests, and they will all profit from Romney's pledge to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy -- and then slash the top tax rate by another 20 percent. Romney has firmly joined the ranks of the economic nutcases who spout the lie of trickle-down economics. "Support from billionaires has always been the main thing keeping those charlatans and cranks in business," Krugman noted. "And now the same people effectively own a whole political party."

    Steve Coll's Private Empire has various numbers on how much and to whom ExxonMobil's PAC and managers have contributed. Looking at those numbers, my reaction was, "how quaint." The oil giant has never had problems getting access and getting people to do their bidding, and in the past that's come awfully cheap. In some ways the campaign finance limits worked for them: they could make token contributions, and their size would do all the rest. Now, the bidding to buy politicians is turning into an arms race, where the price of recognition -- and true insider status -- is going up and up.

  • Ed Kilgore: The Big Dog Whistle:

    It's worth remembering in this connection that much as conservatives want to blame Obama and "socialism" for economic problems, they haven't displayed very convincing empathy for the actual sufferers. You may recall that in 2008, when complaining about unemployment wasn't a weapon that could be used against Democrats, Mike Huckabee became persona non grata among many on the Right for daring suggest the economy wasn't absolutely ideal. Even after Obama took office, many conservatives had trouble suppressing their grim satisfaction that the housing and financial collapse had punished all those irresponsible homebuyers, and many spoke of the recession as being one of those healthy "corrections" that would wring excessive borrowing out of the system. Even now, when Republicans aren't justifying austerity measures as necessary to economic growth, they're lauding them as a moral tonic for the poor. It's obvious they'd support exactly the same policies no matter what was happening to the economy; after all, they always have.

    Fortunately for Romney, a lot of non-economic itches can be scratched by incessantly claiming that Big Government caused the recession or is impeding the recovery. Maybe you support "entitlement reform" because you are furious at the looters who are living at the expense of the hard-earned tax dollars of the virtuously well-off. Mitt won't often "go there," but he's for "entitlement reform" on ostensibly economic grounds, so you're on his team. Maybe you hate "ObamaCare" because you think it's encouraging the Second Holocaust of legalized abortion, or enabling young women to have sex, or robbing seniors of the Medicare benefits they earned to give health care coverage to shiftless minorities. Mitt won't talk about that, but he's promised to kill ObamaCare as fast as he can, so that's enough. Maybe you are upset about environmentalism because you view it as a front for neo-pagan assaults on the God-given dominion over the earth you are supposed to enjoy. Mitt wouldn't put it that way. But he will argue for scrapping environmental regulations tout court to free up the Great American Job-Creating Machine and bring down gas prices. And maybe you hate public education because you view "government schools" as satanic indoctrination centers for secularism, and colleges as places where elitist professors mock traditional values and let young women have sex. Mitt won't come right out and talk about any of that, either, but he frowns on federal education programs because we just can't afford them. [ . . . ]

    But in a certain sense, the entire Romney campaign is one big dog whistle aimed at appealing to persuadable voters on the single issue of the economy, while letting the restive "base" hear all sorts of other things involving cultural resentments and the desire to return to the good old days before the New Deal and the 60s began to ruin the Founders' design and defy the Creator's moral code.

  • Ed Kilgore: The New Mouth of the South: Herman Cain to replace Neal Boortz on the latter's long-running radio show:

    You'd probably have to be from the Atlanta area to understand the long reign of snarky error Boortz has conducted for 42 years on the local, regional and national air waves. He was doing political talk when Rush Limbaugh was still a music DJ and sportscaster, the very prototype of someone who read Ayn Rand as a teenager and never recovered. For decades, I tried to convince my father that listening to Boortz -- who invariably enraged him -- was bad for his health.

  • Mike Konczal: A Visual Guide to the Confliting Theories About How to Fix the Economy: one quick comment (I'll probably return to this sometime), is that all three "demand-based solutions" are featured in Paul Krugman's End This Depression Now!, although Krugman favors fiscal policy because it's more direct and less encumbered (as monetary policy is by that pesky zero lower bound); he also all debunks all three "supply-based explanations" -- to put it mildly (they are all pretty ridiculous). Also note that the latter aren't called "solutions": they don't actually propose fixing anything, not that they would work anyway.

    Demand vs. Supply focus is roughly the same as left vs. right. Demand is about whether consumers have enough money (and confidence, which is to say money) to buy things. The most straightforward way to get more demand is to give people more money. Supply is about whether business have enough capacity, or lacking that access to capital to create more capacity. It should be pretty obvious that lack of capacity isn't the current problem, and isn't likely to be a problem for a long, long time. But the right likes supply-side support because it lavishes attention on the rich, and the right hates demand-side stimulus it helps the poor (i.e., the unemployed and everyone working for less than a living wage).

  • Paul Krugman: Wisconsin:

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity. Obviously I'm not happy with the result; not just out of political sympathies, but because all the recent political trends have been rewarding the side that caused the very crisis from which it is now benefiting, not to mention politicians who have been wrong about everything since the crisis hit.

    I'm even more unhappy with how it happened, with national Democrats basically sitting on their hands while conservatives poured resources into the race.

  • Paul Krugman: The Urge to Punish:

    What does make sense, maybe, is a two-part explanation. First, the ECB is unwilling to admit that its past policy, especially its past rate hikes, were a mistake. Second -- and this goes deeper -- I suspect that we're seeing the old Schumpeter "work of depressions" mentality, the notion that all the suffering going on somehow serves a necessary purpose and that it would be wrong to mitigate that suffering even slightly.

    This doctrine has an undeniable emotional appeal to people who are themselves comfortable. It's also completely crazy given everything we've learned about economics these past 80 years. But these are times of madness, dressed in good suits.

  • Andrew Leonard: GOP to Modernity: Stop:

    The most recent evidence that the current incarnation of the Republican Party just can't handle the truth arrived this month when House Republicans voted to get rid of the American Community Survey. The ACS is an annual information-gathering effort that's part of the U.S. Census. Every year, a randomized sample of 3 million Americans is surveyed for data on "demographic, housing, social and economic characteristics." In one form or another, the U.S. government has been carrying out similar surveys since 1850 -- the current version is the fourth major iteration.

    Most sensible people consider the ACS to be extremely useful, the kind of thing that government is really well equipped to carry out. That is not, or at least did not used to be, a partisan statement. [ . . . ]

    Even the Wall Street Journal is appalled -- although the lead sentence of its editorial criticizing the funding cuts required some remarkable calisthenics before reaching the point of disapproval.

    With the contempt of the Washington establishment raining down on House Republicans for voting on principle, every now and then the GOP does something that feeds the otherwise false narrative of political extremism.

    Marvelous! In one sentence, the Journal's editorial writer manages to deny, not once, but twice, the self-evident fact that the current crop of House Republicans occupies the nethermost regions of right-wing extremism, while at the same time admitting that, yeah, well, in this one case they are indeed bonkers. [ . . . ]

    The sponsor of the House measure, the freshman Florida Republican Daniel Webster, claims that ACS questions are too "intrusive" and "the very picture of what's wrong in D.C." He seems to be projecting. The very picture of what's wrong with D.C. is exquisitely captured by daily demonstration that one of our leading political parties is dedicated to the proposition that the less we know about what is going on in our economy or on our planet, the better. If science tells us that one of the consequences of human activity is an overheated planet, then the answer is to defund climate research. If data gathered by the ACS gives us a better understanding of where poverty may be growing as a result of economic policies put into place over the past few decades, best to just to close our eyes and ignore it.

  • Bill McKibben: How You Subsidize the Energy Giants to Wreck the Planet: From Tom Engelhardt's introduction (since I've been talking about this sort of thing):

    Just in case you're running for national office, here are a few basic stats to orient you when you hit Washington (thanks to the invaluable Open Secrets website of the Center for Responsive Politics). In 2011, the oil and gas industries ponied up more than $148 million to lobby Congress and federal agencies of various sorts. The top four lobbying firms in the business were ConocoPhillips ($20.5 million), Royal Dutch Shell ($14.7 million), Exxon Mobil ($12.7 million), and Chevron ($9.5 million).

    And note that those figures don't include campaign contributions, although I can't imagine why corporate money flowing to candidates or their PACs isn't considered "lobbying." When it comes to such donations, the industry has given a total of $238.7 million to candidates and parties since 1990, 75% of it to Republicans. In 2011-2012, Exxon ($992,573) and -- I'm sure this won't shock you -- Koch Industries ($872,912) led the oil and gas list.

    This certainly understates what the Kochs do in their role as self-appointed concerned private citizens: through their various front groups, they reportedly spent over a million dollars just in Wisconsin's recall election.

  • MJ Rosenberg: Israel's Worst Enemy:

    Minister of Defense Ehud Barak is now calling for unilateral withdrawal from those parts of the West Bank he doesn't feel like occupying forever and is making clear that he opposes negotiating with Iran in favor of unilateral Israeli action.

    By now it should be clear to the entire world: the Netanyahu-Barak government has no interest in what the United Nations rules, what international law says, what its only ally (and the source of billions of dollars of aid each year) wants. The Netanyahu-Barak government behaves like outlaws in the most literal sense of the word.

    It will keep the land it wants and bomb whoever it wants and to hell with everyone else.

    As David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister liked to say, "It doesn't matter what the goyim think. What matters is what the Jews do." It was a dangerous worldview in Ben Gurion's day and it is infinitely more dangerous now.

    The Israeli government's contempt for international opinion, for its only ally and for half of its own population is a recipe for suicide. Even the United States, the world's only superpower, does not live by the law of the jungle (well, not all the time). But for a country of six or seven million surrounded by tens of millions of people who are infuriatedby its behavior to begin with, it's insane.

    Barak tried his "unilateral withdrawal" scheme once before, in 2000, from Lebanon. It was a recipe for another war, which happened in 2006, to everyone's chagrin (although Hezbollah tried their best to put on a happy face). Sharon, who may have been the architect behind Barak, tried it again in Gaza, where the results (so far) have been two more wars, plus near-continual skirmishes.

    Also, you have to wonder why when Israel withdraws from an area, they remain opposed to allow people in that area to get on with their lives. Israel has no settlements in Gaza. Israel is never going to annex Gaza and give its residents Israeli citizenship. So why not allow the UN to organize an independent Palestinian state in Gaza? The usual excuse is that Gaza is one part of a bigger problem that should be negotiated definitively, but there are other parts Israel is nowhere near facing, especially Jerusalem. So why not do Gaza first, and let that start to normalize? At least that would allow Gazans to travel and trade with the rest of the world, to start to build a real economy. It would give them something to do besides blaming Israel for their inability to do anything. And why not do the same for the parts of the West Bank Barak is willing to write off? We should be skeptical that Israel would only let go of tiny isolated parcels that would not be viable economically, but why not take what you can get and try to make that work? Start working like this and even if the conflict is never be properly resolved, it may just fade into insignificance.

  • Thomas Schaller: Can Liberals Cure Stupidity? Read the piece for examples of such stupidity, but you can probably think of all those and more yourself.

    Even if misinformation does not uniformly advantage the right, ignorance has a clear ideological tilt. As the American Prospect's Paul Waldman has argued, conservatives not only have a vested interest in creating or at least perpetuating falsehoods about government, but they doubly benefit from the fact that many Americans who at some point in their lives relied upon government programs believe they never did.

    Given that the public believes they are less dependent on a government that is actually less wasteful than they believe it to be, and that what the public doesn't know may or may not hurt them, this much is clear: Their ignorance surely makes political life much harder for liberals.

    Although liberals have lately taken to flattering themselves as being "reality-based," as appreciating science and reason, they have their own blind spots. They also don't communicate well, often on purpose: Obama in particular seems fascinated with the Thaler-Sunstein "nudge" theories, like the one where you lower people's taxes but don't tell them about it, so they'll think they're doing better and spend more money. They don't seem capable of taking credit when they make things work normally, but also they don't get screaming mad when they don't. You get the sense that Obama would like to get reelected, because he rather likes the job, but if he loses he has no sense that it will mean the end of the republic, even though everything the Republicans have proposed, not to mention their actual track records under Reagan and the Bushes, promise just that.

    Maybe the answer has less to do with figuring out how to make Americans smarter, and more to do with dramatically demonstrating who are the enemies of the people are, who their friends are, and how tenaciously the latter intend to fight off the former. Those who do want to understand the wonkish details, of course, should be welcomed. But you don't have to understand macroeconomics to get that the current depression was caused by greedy bankers and their bought political allies, and that at least part of a proper response to what they did is to take back the money they stole and help restore the people they screwed. How hard does this have to be?

Further study: some interesting links I'll just note for future reference:

One thing you will note in the above is that I've started looking at Salon again. That had been impossible since their redesign, which meant nearly instant death for my browser. I've started running a Firefox add-on called NoScript, which grabs each website's Javascript by the throat and keeps it from running, until I say so. Salon, in particular, is much more civil without any at all. Other websites are unusable without Javascript enabled, and I'm slowly going through the adjustments of whitelisting some of them -- only real problem so far has been with Facebook, which got out of hand once I let it run. (So I'm both less likely to post there, and less likely to see other posts.) Haven't tried MSN yet -- been tempted to comment on occasion, but can't and have thus far let that go.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Downloader's Diary (21): June 2012

Insert text from here.

This is the 21st installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010, totalling 541 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Expert Comments

Laura Tillem (on facebook), on the Wisconsin recall:

What if people spent all that money and time on something less of a trap than electoral politics, or at least this kind of electoral politics where we go against the Kochs et al with losers that hardly anyone likes? Like building on the momentum from the mass actions last year instead of dissipating it this way. I don't have answers but organizing the unorganized - there's an idea.

Laura also added this:

It feels like they set a trap and we walked right into it. As opposed to Ohio where people were voting on an issue, not a politician. That was more a trap the other side walked into.

Robert Christgau:

Milo: Having examined PJ ballots for 35 years, I was shocked by how many voters clearly engaged in representative voting--gotta have a black artist, gotta have a woman--or left me with the subjective certainty that they made sure their ballots looked respectable. Ten percent? Twenty percent? I have no proof. But that was always my feeling.

Then, of course, there are the few guys who pride themselves on picking records no one else knows exist, or vote for some personal fave or even pal just to get them a mention.

Then there's Greil, who deliberately gave different lists to different publications. Of course, it was also Greil who responded to my greatest-rock-and-roller-of-all-time query with Jan and Dean.

I've always said that had Marcus invited me to contribute an essay to Stranded, my pick would have been Jan and Dean's Gotta Take That One Last Ride -- a 2-LP best-of including both takes of "Shlock Rod" wrapped up in Dean's finest graphic design. Lots of reasons, including that desert islands have to have beaches. I've groused about him ever since the slight, and keep finding more and more reasons.

Of course, when you put together a top-ten list you look at balance and coverage and try to make the list-as-a-whole look like something interesting, not to mention something that represents you. And if you don't have a black artist, or for that matter a white artist, on your first draft, maybe you should think about that a bit more. Back in the 1970s, I used to always come up with one mainstream rock group to stick in the top ten. There was no big point behind that -- just seemed to work out that way. In the 2000s my top-tens wind up about half jazz, which is the way I'd like it, but also the way it works out. I'd also like to nab a country album to mix up against the hip-hop, but they're not quite that plentiful -- sometimes I do, often I don't. There are times the list I construct doesn't exactly match the rank order I started with: I may want to promote one thing, or may not care so much about some other. But these lists are never exact anyway, so what's the problem with fiddling with them. Bob seems to assume that there is an absolute ordering, and we're not being honest with him. It's true that we may not be honest with him, but that's not because there is a true answer that we're hiding. More like one step on the way there.

I've long felt that Pazz & Jop-like polls shouldn't limit ballots to 10 records. If you can get critics to write down everything they like in a given year, you'll learn much more about them, and you'll weed out whatever tokenism shows up in top-ten ballots.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Might Makes Right at ExxonMobil

Pick up intro from here.

For more "quotes and notes" see the book page.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19991 [19959] rated (+32), 772 [741] unrated (+31). Rated more records than I expected, mostly because the Aretha Franklin lode proved so deep and rich. Added a few items to the Rhapsody Streamnotes file too, although it's still short at 24 items. I'll probably focus more on that this coming week than on Jazz Prospecting, but I'm falling behind there faster than I expected -- the incoming mail kicked up quite a bit when I left for Arkansas, and I just unwrapped five more discs that came in today's mail.

A Downloader's Diary should appear by the end of the week. Rhapsody Streamnotes will trail it by a day or two. No Jazz Prospecting this week, but there should be one next Monday -- I haven't avoided it as scrupulously as I had hoped, partly because it's already way too hot to do much work outside. I will, however, run unpacking below, just to get it out of the way.

Unpacking: Found in the mail last two (or three) weeks:

  • Susie Arioli: All the Way (Jazzheads)
  • Arts & Sciences: New You (Singlespeed Music)
  • Brooklyn Jazz Underground: A Portrait of Brooklyn (Bju'ecords)
  • David Caceres (Sunnyside)
  • Tim Carey: Room 114 (self-released)
  • Bill Carrothers: Family Life (Pirouet)
  • Roger Chong: Send a Little Love (self-released)
  • Charles Compo: Foolish Pleasure (Chaos Music)
  • Marc Copland: Some More Love Songs (Pirouet)
  • The Dan DeChellis Trio: . . . My Age of Anxiety (self-relased)
  • Ecco La Musica: Morning Moon (Big Round)
  • The Element Choir & William Parker: At Christ Church Deer Park (Barnyard)
  • Duke Ellington Legacy: Single Petal of a Rose (Renma)
  • Eric Erhardt: A Better Fate (Tapestry)
  • Cynthia Felton: Freedom Jazz Dance (Felton Entertainment)
  • FFEAR (Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research): Mirage (Jazzheads)
  • Amina Figarova: Twelve (In + Out)
  • Fly Trio: Year of the Snake (ECM)
  • Curtis Fuller: Down Home (Capri)
  • Jacob Garchik: The Heavens: The Athetist Trombone Album (Yestereve)
  • Chris Greene Quartet: A Group Effort (Single Malt)
  • Sylvia Herold and the Rhythm Bugs: The Spider and the Fly (Tuxedo)
  • Jessica Jones/Mark Taylor: Live at the Freight (New Artists)
  • Arthur Kell Quartet: Jester (Bju'ecords)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)
  • Martin, Haynes and Driver: Freedman at Western Front (Barnyard)
  • Virginia Mayhew Quartet: Mary Lou Williams - The Next 100 Years (Renma)
  • Bob Mintzer Big Band: For the Moment (MCG Jazz)
  • Stephanie Nakasian: Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World (Capri)
  • Dafnis Prieto: Proverb Trio (Dafnison Music)
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Clean on the Corner (482 Music)
  • The Reveries: Matchmakers Volume 2: The Music of Sade (Barnyard)
  • Rusk (The Loyal Label)
  • Saint Dirt Elementary School: Abandoned Ballroom (Barnyard)
  • Aram Shelton Quartet: Everything for Somebody (Singlespeed Music)
  • Bobby Streng's House Big Band: Getting Housed (self-released)
  • Melvin Taylor: Beyond the Burning Guitar (Eleven East, 2CD)
  • THOMAS: Janela (Barnyard)
  • Sumi Tonooka: Now (ARC, 2CD)
  • Ryan Truesdell: Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (ArtistShare)
  • David Ullmann Quintet: Falling (Wet Cash)
  • Kenny Wheeler Big Band: The Long Waiting (CAM Jazz)
  • Cory Wong: Quartet/Quintet (self-released)

Changed previous grades:

  • Aretha Franklin: Who's Zoomin' Who? (1985, Arista): [was: A-] A
  • Aretha Franklin: A Rose Is Still a Rose (1998, Arista): [was: B+] A-

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Vulture vs. Venture Capitalists

Note: updated below.

Jonathan Alter is one of those names that blurs in my mind with clusters of others (most obviously Eric Alterman), so when he got one of his op-eds reprinted in the Wichita Eagle, I didn't automatically peg his Romney vs. Obama spiel as particularly partisan. I read a bit:

We can already see the next six months in American politics: Tit for tat. Blow for blow. "You're Richie Rich." "You're Jimmy Carter."

But discerning voters need to understand the deep philosophical distinctions between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, even if they don't lend themselves to campaign slogans or barbs.

Labels such as "conservative" and "liberal" are worn out. "Right-wing" doesn't fit Romney, who describes himself as "severely conservative" but isn't a wing nut. "Left-wing" is an inaccurate description of the president, whose most "leftist" initiative -- Obamacare -- is modeled on plans proposed by those noted Bolsheviks Bob Dole and Howard Baker.

A more useful distinction may be between venture capitalists and [ . . . ]

Mostly stupid, but my mind seized on the last line and spelled out a clear distinction between "venture capitalists and vulture capitalists." Never mind that the etymology of "vulture capitalist" was as a twist to venture capitalist, meant to disparage those who got too greedy. Indeed, that's all too common among venture capital firms, but for the most part venture capitalists have a positive reputation: their greed puts money up to build new companies based on developing new technologies, and their greed is at least tempered by the recognition that they need to offer equity positions to at least some key technical employees and often to the whole team. And I can see an argument for aligning Obama with the venture capital folk, what with his "green jobs" projects and his general stance that growth solves all economic problems.

But the real vulture capitalists are the private-equity firms, where greed is untempered with any desire to build anything. They work out deals where the target company borrows a lot of money to pay off the old owners; the vultures, having put up a small share of their own money, then swoop in, recouping their investment by paying themselves huge management fees (usually by borrowing even more money), stripping off assets, and squeezing out costs, mostly from the workers. The resulting company may be crushed under its debt load, or may fail more slowly by neglecting r&d and other longer-term investment, or it may limp along and be repackaged for another round of profit-taking, fed to other vultures, or dumped onto the market through an IPO.

Mitt Romney's connection to vulture capitalism is direct -- that's exactly how he made his fortune -- whereas Obama has little more than an affinity for venture capital, but the contrast is straightforward: Obama's approach promises growth and technological progress (and maybe a slightly broader distribution of profits), whereas all Romney is interested in is extracting advantage for himself and his ilk. This contrast may flatter Obama excessively, for it could hardly be more accurate in characterizing Romney.

Problem is, Alter didn't write it like that. He conceded the totally unearned moral high ground of venture capitalism to Romney, while muddying the waters with his supposed alternative, Obama's contrasting position: "human capitalists." Now what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I could speculate, but quite frankly I have no problem seeing Romney et al. as human -- just a little warped by their narrow-minded misanthropic greed, but that's a pretty common human trait. But Alter, clearly, has no idea what he means. The closest he comes to a contrast is here, discussing tax policy:

The venture-capital answer is to just cut taxes further. The human-capital answer is to use the tax code to incentivize investment not just in plant and equipment, but in research and development and workforce training (where companies in the United States are investing about half as much as a share of gross domestic product as they did a decade ago). [ . . . ]

The human capitalists have the better argument -- one based on investing in basic research, education and health care, the kind of things that spur long-term growth and competitiveness.

In other words, both intend to lavish tax breaks on businesses, one across-the-board, the other slightly more targeted to keep the vultures from becoming too self-destructive, but Alter doesn't offer any reasoning why the latter should be better. He accepts blindly that both candidates' blind faith in capitalism -- indeed, he seems so pleased to have rescued Obama from the vile charge of socialism that it never occurs to him that there may be a problem with either being "capitalist tools."

I need to interject a disclaimer here: in what follows I'm not saying that we should in any way abandon capitalism (although I could make that argument elsewhere, and certainly think that some reforms and restructuring is in order). Capitalism is a reasonably productive and efficient way to run much of the economy. (Health care is a glaring exception, and there are a few others.) But that doesn't mean that politics should be in thrall to business. Indeed, one thing we should have learned from two-hundred years of American history is that when capitalists have too much power they will soon abuse and wreck the economy -- not just their own, but everyone's, and we've seen that happen time and again.

In the midst of the previous great depression, the New Dealers came up with a useful principle they called "countervailing power." The idea was to create a system of checks and balances that would keep any segment from getting too powerful. One example of this was how the New Deal encouraged workers to join unions. Another was the progressive income tax, and its use to provide popular services (like education and transportation), limiting inequality and opening up broader opportunities. Another was the regulation of banks, which ensured stability for many years until it was dismantled by Reagan and Clinton (resulting directly in the S&L debacle of the late 1980s, and the panic of 2008).

What's happened in the past thirty years is that capitalism has become so hegemonic in American politics that it's become almost impossible even for Democratic Party hacks like Alter to conceive of any form of countervailing power. So, when faced with the threat of a ravaging vulture capitalist like Romney, all Alter can do is propose a hypothetically "human capitalist" alternative, no more distant from Romney than the elder Bush's "kinder, gentler conservatism" was from Reagan's orthodoxy.

Sadly, Obama doesn't seem to have any more understanding, or imagination, than Alter. The closest he came to having a concept of countervailing power was when he threw the 2010 elections to the Republicans so he could act more bipartisan -- the result, of course, was that he has been ineffectual ever since, arguably blameless (although it remains to be seen how well he can sell that).

Alter is, of course, right in his intuition that Obama is every bit as committed to preserving the current order as Romney -- maybe even more so, as Romney is more likely to fall back on the pet MBA rationalization of "creative destruction," and Romney's party is set on destroying every part of the public sphere except those dedicated to war and security -- the part most useful for wrecking the rest of the world. So one could argue that Obama is the only true conservative in the race, but I don't take any comfort in that. For one thing it is a stance that leaves him in the wrong on nearly everything. Maybe not as wrong as Romney, but if we have to make such distinctions, make them by showing how wrong Romney is, because that at least is something one can learn from. On the other hand, touting Obama as the "human capitalist" just makes us dumber.

Bonus link:

My fondest hope for Obama's election was that it would lead to Bush and Cheney being tried in the Hague. Now, clearly, Obama belongs in the docket alongside them.

Update: For a reminder that the distinction I made above between venture and vulture capitalists isn't so clear cut, see Andrew Leonard: Private Equity's Evil Twin:

Facebook's botched IPO adds a new wrinkle. In contrast to Bain-style private equity wheeling-and-dealing, the Silicon Valley venture capital model for new firm creation has always enjoyed a much more positive public relations profile. Maybe it's a West Coast vs. East Coast thing, but conjuring up the likes of Intel or Apple or Google from thin air is a lot more sexy than swooping down on a troubled firm, brutally slashing costs and stripping assets, and then reselling for a huge profit a few years down the line.

But the Facebook mess, with all the questions it raises about insider trading, and the clear abuse of small investors in favor of the big boys, reminds us that everybody's got their warts and nobody should get a free pass. Facebook's early venture capitalist investors and the big investment bank clients that got preferential access to new, and negative, information about Facebook's future profits, were able to cash out while the little guy was left holding the bag. Sifting through the aftermath, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of people got ripped off. And coming right in the middle of all the back and forth about the merits of private equity, Facebook's IPO raises a provocative question: Just how is it that capitalism, East Coast or West Coast style, currently serves the interests of the American people?

Of course, IPO time is when the avarice underlying venture capital comes to the top, often abetted by the big sharks always cruising for a killing. The moral case for venture vs. vulture capitalists that the former plays a non-zero-sum game where, in principle at least, everyone who gets in on the ground floor can come out ahead. In contrast, the big bank trading desks, the hedge funds, etc., mostly play a zero-sum game where their gains are at the expense of other traders. Sometimes these bets fail spectacularly, as recently happened at JPMorgan Chase, but the fact that the banks and hedge funds usually come out ahead suggests that they are taking their clients for a ride. It's worth noting that the prevalence of zero-sum profiteering tends to create a norm where larceny is the rule, and that's where we're at now.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Recycled Goods (98): June 2012

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3287 (2889 + 398).

Friday, June 01, 2012

Reading Obits

I've had several people older than myself tell me that they always read the obits because that's where people they know are most likely to show up. The unspoken corollary is that if you don't people you know are likely to slip on by unnoticed. Sometimes someone will tell you when someone you know dies, but often that's not the case. For instance, I only found out about my uncle Bob's death (July 20, 2004) a year or two later, when I dropped by his son's business and asked how his dad was doing. I knew Bob had some health problems (and that he was 79), but had no idea how grave they were, nor was I aware that he had moved back to Wichita from Las Vegas a few months before. He called me in January, 2004, and told me that his second wife, Nellie, had recently passed away. My wife had seen both of them in Las Vegas a few months before, and the year before that we had driven to Las Vegas to get married -- Bob and Nellie were our witnesses, as well as guides and hosts. That was my fourth trip to Las Vegas, and each time I sought them out. They, in turn, flew to Wichita for my father's funeral in 2000.

Actually, worse than not hearing when he died was not knowing he came back to Kansas. Having driven half way across the country to see him, I certainly would have trekked to his son's house in El Dorado, or to the Veterans Hospital in Wichita, where he spent his last days. He was two years younger than my father: in many ways his mirror image, in some his mirror opposite. I had known him every day of my life. When I had my worst problems as a teenager at home, I ran away and sought shelter at his house. He always meant a lot to me, and never more so than the last few times we talked. I should have paid more attention, but that's true of so many people -- even of my parents, who demanded (and got) vastly more attention.

I've generally avoided going to funerals, and doubt that I've been to more than a dozen, including my first wife in 1987 and my parents in 2000. The first I can remember was a great-uncle, Dal Cotter, in 1960 -- a miserably hot day in Arkansas, with what seemed like several hundred people unable to cram into the church. The second was my grandfather, another hot day in 1964. I managed to miss the next two important ones in my family: Lola Stiner (my mother's oldest sister) in 1968, and George Hull (my father's older brother) in 1969. A few years later I left Wichita, putting more distance between myself and my family. I barely noticed as my mother's siblings passed on: Clagge (1974), Ted (1981), Murph (1990), Ruby (1992). My grandmother died in 1987, but I hadn't seen her since about 1974, so that seemed more like a data point. I returned to Wichita in 1999, and my parents died in early 2000, as the passing of the older generation took on for me a greater poignancy, perhaps even nostalgia.

Since 2000 I've been to three family funerals: Bob Burns (2003) and Zula Mae Reed (2007) were cousins close enough I made a point of seeing when I could. And Yona Julian (2007) was the 36-year-old daughter of a very close cousin, and granddaughter of an aunt I visited often. I felt like I should have attended the funeral of Edith Hixon (my mother's last surviving sister), but the family played it down and the distance (San Jose) was impractical. Edith wasn't able to attend my mother's funeral, so we drove to see her in Arizona -- a better option than the funeral.

Still, the main reason for reading obits is information. One name I saw recently was Billie Appelhans. She lived two doors from us until I was about thirteen, then moved to the west edge of town. Her oldest son, Terry, was two months younger than me, my closest friend all that time. I only saw her a couple times after that -- most recently at my mother's funeral, where she came up and challenged me to identify her. (I couldn't.)

All this is a prelude to noting the obituary I recognized yesterday:

Allen, Glenn Edward, 95, retired Plant II Manager for Beech Aircraft passed away on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Preceded by his wives Dolores (Harrison) and Lucille (Hull), brother Lawrence Allen and sister Genevieve McNabb. Survived by sons Bob (Marsha) Allen of Derby, David (Sandy) Allen of Wichita, Don (Karen) Hull of El Dorado, daughter Glenda (Dennis) Ebert of Colwich; sister-in-law Dorothy Allen of San Antonio, TX; [ . . . ]

Last time I saw Glenn was when he came over for dinner, along with his wife Lucille, her son Don, and his wife Karen. (Don't have it in my notebook, but judging from mail seems to have been June or July 2005.) I made something Chinese, and dinner seemed to go nicely. I had only seen Glenn a couple times before, but I've known Lucille and Don all my life. She was married to Uncle Bob, and Don was their only child, a year older than me. Theirs was my second home for a few weeks in the mid-1960s, but I rarely saw them after they broke up (sometime late-1960s) and Bob married Nellie. Lucille had been a stay-at-home housewife, but on her own got a job at Beech Aircraft. There she met Glenn. She also befriended my mother's sister Ruby, who had worked there at least since the 1940s, and who was also divorced. For some time after that, most of what I heard about Lucille was from my mother griping that she was driving a wedge between her and Ruby. But at one point I asked my mother about Lucille, and we drove over to their old house, where she was living with Glenn. She recognized me immediately, and made a big fuss over how happy she was to see me.

The big surprise in the obit wasn't that Glenn had died. It was that Lucille had "preceded" him. I had missed that in the obits (December 20, 2010; she was 83), and no one told me. I had been thinking about her a lot recently. One time while driving around I tried to find the house, but didn't know the number and nothing looked familiar enough. Last week I took two DVDs of home movies that my father made, mostly 1956-67, with me to Arkansas and showed them three times. They jump around a lot, but there are 10-12 sequences with Lucille in them, half that many with Bob, a few with Don, and lots more with other Hulls -- even if you don't count my nuclear family -- that Lucille would recognize. I've never shown them to any of the Hull relatives. Would have been fun to show those and talk about those times.

There have been other people recently I've thought about and looked for, only to come up with an obituary or death notice (FamilySearch turns out to be useful for nailing down dates, but little else). Johnny and Hildegard Kreutzer were my parents' closest friends when they got married. We went to their house on the far west edge of town at least once a week into the early 1960s. There are several pictures of them in the DVDs, as well as pictures of the rabbits and the dog they gave us. I spoke to Johnny briefly at mother's funeral, but never followed up (other than driving around and not recognizing their house). Turns out that Johnny died in 2007, age 91, followed by Hildegard in 2008, also 91.

Another person I talked to at my father's funeral was Sister Rose Agnes Gehrer. I'm not sure exactly how we're related, but I recall going to visit some distant cousins named Gehrer in Wichita. My grandfather had a sister named Agnes Hull (1903-47), and she married Otho Wade (1891-1972), and I believe they lived on the same farm that great-great-grandfather Abraham Hull homesteaded in the late 1860s. We went there a few times when I was young: looked like somewhere the Dalton Gang would hide out in, with a broken-down house on one side of a gulch and a dozen small cubby holes on the other -- I think they were dug out to shelter sheep, but they always looked to me like they'd be perfect for rattlesnakes. Zula Mae took us to the homestead last time I saw her. We drove through a field carpeted with grasshoppers, and the roof had caved into the house, but other than that it was quite recognizable. Anyhow, I think the Gehrers are somehow related to Otho, but at any rate Rose Agnes was close to Zula Mae, so I figured it would be good to follow up and keep track of her. However, I lost the contact and never did. And when Zula Mae died, I found out Rose Agnes was already dead (turns out, a couple months earlier in 2007).

All this got me to wondering who else had passed away that I didn't know about. My cousins on my mother's side are all older than me, ranging from Ken Brown at 68 to Orbrey Burns at 87. I just saw three in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and heard of several more. There are some more I'm in more or less regular contact with, and others I'm not, so I tried searching out the latter. Some I couldn't verify one way or another -- not many significant computer profiles in that age group (I seem to be the only one with a blog, for instance). But I did verify that two of Edith's four had passed: Joe Ben Hixon (in 2009) and Verdell Hixon (in 2011; obituary here). I only remember meeting them once, circa 1960, when they brought Edith back from California for a visit. (I may have seen them in 1956, when we drove to California, and/or before 1952, when they still lived in Oklahoma, but I don't recall anything that far back.) I had heard that Joe Ben and Verdell were estranged from their mother, and at one point talked to their sister about it, but don't recall the details. The obit suggests that Verdell was gay, something I never had a clue to.

I didn't appreciate this for the longest time, but I come from a very interesting family.

Postscript: Laura tells me that she didn't actually see Bob and Nellie that trip to Las Vegas. She spoke to Bob, and Nellie was in the hospital. That sounds right.

Expert Comments

Cam Patterson mentioned my Obits post (obliquely):

Anyone grabbed by the first sentence of the Soul Stirrers review needs to click over to Tom Hull's site right now and read his 6/1 entry. That part of the Basement Tapes that depended on Levon Helms for its broken stories and its frank honesty is right there.

On Facebook, Cam also wrote:

Something everyone who is alive needs to read:


Also noticed Michael Tatum's earlier entry on Facebook:

Tom Hull on reading the obits column, and catching up with friends and family after it's too late. He doesn't do personal pieces very often, but this one is especially nice.

Miscellaneous links worth saving:

May 2012