An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, August 29, 2022
Music: Current count 38595  rated (+43), 52  unrated (+1).
This is the last Monday in August, so wraps up the August archive (link above). I'll do the indexing later, but for now, the count for the five-week month is +212 rated, -25 unrated. Latter number failed to drop this week because I got a big package of fall releases from Matt Merewitz. All of the pending promos in my queue have September or October release dates. I jumped the gun a couple times below, but generally held myself back.
Two notable, relatively young jazz musicians died last week: Jaimie Branch (39, trumpet/vocals), and Joey DeFrancesco (51, organ). The latter is survived by his father, another organ player, Papa John DeFrancesco. The Branch list will direct you to a couple of A- live albums, but misses the side-credits, which include A- work with James Brandon Lewis, Dave Rempis, Rob Mazurek, and Heroes Are Gang Leaders (Lewis again, but worth noting in their own right).
Also passed last week was producer Creed Taylor (93). He started at Bethlehem Records in the 1950s, headed up ABC's Impulse! label during its 1960s heyday, and ran his own CTI label in the 1970s (results there were mixed, but the 1970s were a tough decade for above-ground jazz).
The Wichita Eagle finally published an obituary for Dotty Billings -- I wrote a bit about her a couple weeks ago. It's a pretty deep survey of a remarkable life. We were fortunate to have known her, and counted her a friend.
Christian Iszchak has published another of his excellent An Acute Case consumer guides. As usual, I'm struggling to keep up. Phil Overeem published a remarkable one-record-per-year list on Facebook. That steered me to the Dead Moon comp, and convinced me to give Tommy Womack some deeper listening. Phil mentions recent reading of a Womack memoir, but as far as I can tell, doesn't specify: Dust Bunnies (2018) seems to be the most recent, but there's also Cheese Chronicles (2008). (I haven't done an album dive on his early Government Cheese group, but I have a 2-CD compilation from 2010 as a high B+.)
Now I'm wondering if I didn't shortchange Loudon Wainwright III's Years in the Making. It's hard to listen to these long multi-CD sets by streaming. Besides, the box violates my album cover formatting standards, but it's more or less at the same level. On the other hand, it's an odds & sods compilation, whereas the Dead Moon and Tommy Womack 2-CD sets are true career summaries.
I wrote another fairly long Speaking of Which last week, posted late last night. It's been suggested that I should break the long paragraphs up, but that runs against my formatting concept. Also the fact that I'm reading it in my text editor instead of on the browser screen, but mostly that I'm exhausted by the first pass and never feel like taking the extra time for an edit. (On the rare occasions when I do, I inevitably wind up changing lots of things. E.g., I just added a line to the Madeleine Ngo item: "Economics has long prided itself on being 'the dismal science,' but its attraction to sadists is less often recognized.")
I should also note that I've changed the website home page to do an automatic redirect to the blog. Another reader request, and a fairly easy one to do. I should probably write a new explainer page.
Only got the new router half-installed: I was gratified to at least get the wired machines working, but still need to work on the wireless and other details. Will resume work on that after this is posted.
Still feeling pretty awful. At east I'm fairly functional, but it's hard to get enthusiastic about anything these days. Summer has gone by in a blur, which is probably a good thing, since (using 100°F days as a standard) this is easily the 4th hottest summer since we moved here in 1999. (Could rank higher if we used 90°F days, or average highs, or average temperature.) Still not done: September usually doesn't cool off much until the last week, and maybe not then. Of course, it's not all weather, and not all pain. At least I have lots to do -- something I have a knack for turning into frustration.
In my article search, I noticed this piece -- Men have fewer friends than ever, and it's harming their health. It doesn't quite describe me, but I've been pretty isolated since the mid-1960s, and most of the time I've gotten by ok, so it's hard to tell. But I can see how isolation has increased -- that was the point of Robert Putnam's 2000 book, Bowling Alone -- and the only mitigating factor I've seen since then has been the rise of virtual friendships through shared interests (probably most of the people I interact with most days).
New records reviewed this week:
Aitch: Close to Home (2022, Capitol): British (Manchester) rapper Harrison James Armstrong, first studio album after several EPs and singles that charted in UK. B+(*)
JD Allen: Americana Vol. 2 (2022, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, refers back to his 2016 album Americana, which was subtitled "Musings on Blues and Jazz." Originals here, aside from "This World Is a Mean Old World" and "You Don't Know Me." With Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), plus Charlie Hunter (guitar on 8 tracks). Allen remains an impressive saxophonist, but this seems a little muddy. B+(**) [cd] [08-26]
Roxana Amed: Unánime (2022, Sony Music Latin): Jazz singer from Argentina, debut 2004, moved to US in 2013, only second album since then. Band includes Martin Bejerano (piano) and Dafnis Prieto (drums), and most songs -- only two co-credit Amed -- have featured guests. B+(***) [cd] [09-16]
Chouk Bwa & the Ångströmers: Ayiti Kongo Dub #1 (2022, Bongo Joe, EP): Haitian group, sometimes Chouk Bwa Libète, teamed up with the Belgian production duo -- they have a previous album together, Vodou Alé (2020). Three tracks, 19:04. B+(*) [bc]
Chronophage: Chronophage (2022, Bruit Direct Disques): Indie band from Austin, debut 2017, moved to New York in 2021, third album (following two self-released cassettes). B [bc]
Stella Donnelly: Flood (2022, Secretly Canadian): Australian singer-songwriter, second album, first showed a knack for cataloguing and skewering "male assholes." Some of that here, but not quite as sharp. B+(**) [sp]
Matthew Fries: Lost Time (2021 , Xcappa): Pianist, fifth album, trio with John Hébert (bass) and Keith Hall (drums), original material, dedicates this album to his late mother. B+(**) [cd] [09-23]
Phoebe Green: Lucky Me (2022, Chess Club): Pop singer/songwriter from Manchester, first album after an EP (aside from a self-released CDR from 2016). B+(**) [sp]
Lauran Hibberd: Garageband Superstar (2022, Virgin): Brit singer-songwriter from Isle of Wight, first album after several singles, title stakes out her pitch and claim, and the best pieces sound like some kind of femme Ramones with a bit of Bowie complex. B+(***) [sp]
Julia Jacklin: Pre Pleasure (2022, Polyvinyl): Australian singer-songwriter, started in the garage band Phantastic Ferniture, third solo album. B+(*)
Calvin Keys: Blue Keys (2022, Wide Hive): Guitarist, originally from Omaha, headed to California in 1969 and cut his debut in 1971 (recently reissued). With Gary Bartz (alto sax), Steve Turre (trombone), Henry Franklin (bass), Babatunde Lea (percussion), plus seven others in smaller print. Ends on a strong groove. B+(**) [sp]
Kyle Kidd: Soothsayer (2022, American Dreams): Singer (songwriter not clear), from Cleveland, started in Mourning [A] BLKstar (four albums 2017-20, heard of but haven't heard), solo debut, intro reads "living as a queer, androgynous person," gets a lot of support, transcending genre as easily as gender. B+(*) [bc]
Kokoroko: Could We Be More (2022, Brownswood): British 8-piece Afrobeat band, led by Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), first album after several singles and EPs. B [sp]
Clemens Kuratle Ydivide: Lumumba (2021 , Intakt): Swiss drummer, first album was called Murmullo, so he called the group on his second Clemens Kuratle Murmullo. Ydivide is a new quintet, with alto sax (Dee Byrne), piano (Elliot Galvin), guitar (Chris Guilfoyle), and bass (Lukas Traxel). I'm most impressed when the sax charges ahead. B+(*) [sp]
Steve Lacy: Gemini Rights (2022, RCA): Guitarist in r&b/hip-hop collective The Internet, second solo album after a Demo EP. Should be funkier or smoother or something. B [sp]
The Mountain Goats: Bleed Out (2022, Merge): Singer-songwriter John Darnielle's band, 21st album since 1994. Not sure of the lyrics, which extoll or maybe just call out revenge, "wage wars get rich die handsome," "make you suffer," an endless supply of oxygen and hostages, and lots of blood -- reportedly written during a "pandemic spent devouring classic action films." That leaves strong images, and the music is as appealing as ever. A- [sp]
Lucas Niggli/Matthias Loibner: Still Storm (2022, Intakt): Swiss drummer, albums since 1993, most share headline credits with others and vary accordingly -- I especially like his albums with Aly Keita and Jan Galega Brönnimann. Loibner is from Austria, records since 2001, plays hurdy gurdy and adds some electronics. Starts ambient, grows from there. B+(**) [sp]
Panda Bear & Sonic Boom: Reset (2022, Domino): Singer-songwriter Noah Lennox, co-founder of Animal Collective in 1999 and still involved with them, while maintaining a solo career since, well, 1999. Working here with English producer Peter Kember, who he's collaborated with off and on since 2011. I haven't cared for what I've heard in the past -- 3 of 8 albums; 7 more from Animal Collective, never topping B+(*) -- but this is often clever, with some sonic depth and intricacy. Still, I've heard many of the hooks elsewhere (most obviously from the Drifters). B+(**) [sp]
Silvan Schmid: Augmented Space (2019-20 , Ezz-Thetics): Swiss trumpet player, first album, solo, credit also for amplifier on the title piece, which he manages to get some rhythm out of. B [bc]
Scorpion Kings X Tresor: Rumble in the Jungle (2020 , Blaqboy): Credit per cover, where Scorpion Kings are South African amapiano producers DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small, and Tresor is Mukengerwa Tresor Riziki, a singer originally from Congo, credited as writer of these 14 pieces (99:00). B+(***) [sp]
Superorganism: World Wide Pop (2022, Domino): Indie pop band, based in London but with international members from the Far East (Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand). Second album, sets out to unify the world, but not without a little fragmentation. B+(***) [sp]
Tank and the Bangas: Red Balloon (2022, Verve Forecast): New Orleans-based funk group, half-dozen mostly live albums since 2014, second on this label following 2019's Green Balloon, Tank is singer/rapper Tarronia Ball. B+(***) [sp]
WA Records: If You Fart Make It Sound Good: Ciclo De Improvisacion: Liberada (2018 , WA): From Barcelona, a label and/or collective or perhaps just an ad hoc set of electroacoustic experiments, with most pieces apparently named for their artists, or unnamed by the artists. Not many farts, unless trombones count. Gets better toward the end. B [bc]
Loudon Wainwright III: Lifetime Achievement (2022, StorySound): Folk singer-songwriter, debut 1970, crossed 75 with his 25th studio album. He has been counting the years at least since 2012's Older Than My Old Man Now. He reminds us here that his father died at 62, and he's enough of an ironist to know he's living on borrowed time, turning it into a game where he can do what he wants "for fun and free." Doesn't seem he sweated the music much, even when on the odd occasion he cranked up his band. But he still has things to say, and is finding more all the time. A- [sp]
Miguel Zenón: Música De Las Américas (2022, Miel Music): Alto saxophonist, from Puerto Rico, debut 2022, has won a MacArthur fellowship. Quartet with Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), and Henry Cole (drums), playing the leader's original compositions. Several guest spots, including one vocal, but most dazzling of all is the sax. A- [cd] [08-26]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Brasil Novo (, Música Macondo): Curated by DJ Tahira (from Sao Paulo) and Tim Garcia (London), eight tracks -- "contemporary," other sources say "over the last fifteen years," and talk about hard-to-find 20th century roots -- something called samba de coco, from the more African-influenced nordeste. B+(**) [bc]
Tommy Womack: 30 Years Shot to Hell: An Anthology (1987-2017 , Schoolkids, 2CD): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, more alt-rocker than country but his songs can fit and teach them a thing or two. Started with the band Government Cheese, which provides four songs here, plus three more for two bands he played in with Will Kimbrough (The Bis-Quits, Daddy), which leaves 35 from his solo work. More than half is remarkable, rest has a chance. May be too much, but he's entitled to include it all. A- [sp]
Dead Moon: Echoes of the Past (1988-2004 , Sub Pop, 2CD): Garage rock band from Oregon, founded 1988, led by Fred Cole (singer/guitarist), with Toody Cole (bass, his wife) and Andrew Loomis (drums). Recorded studio 10 albums through 2004, 4 more live, plus a couple early compilations picking up singles and stuff. I'm not finding any dates here, but Cole saw this as a final summing up: they toured Europe in support of the album, then broke up. Nothing here is great enough to be deemed essential, but none of it is disappointing either. I don't see myself wanting to explore further, but as a chunk of history, this is a pretty fair memento. A- [r]
Esquire's All American Hot Jazz Sessions (1946-47 , RCA): Esquire was (still is, despite numerous ups and downs) a magazine, founded in 1933. It ran a jazz poll piece in 1943, which to organizing concerts. I'm not sure when they stopped, but Playboy, which eclipsed them in the 1960s, ran its own jazz poll for many years. This rounds up their mostly swing-oriented picks for 1946-47, with extra cuts from related artists (Jack Teagarden, Lucky Thompson). I wish it was easier to decipher the credits -- Discogs is no help -- but the first All Stars lead off with Louis Armstrong singing and Duke Ellington on piano, with Johnny Hodges on alto and Don Byas on tenor; the second group only repeats Charlie Shavers, but picks up Buck Clayton, Coleman Hawkins, and Teddy Wilson (among others). Leonard Feather is MC, and claims 8 writing credits. CD adds 5 extra cuts, by Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, and Mildred Bailey. B+(**) [cd]
Michael Jon Fink: A Temperament for Angels (2004, Cold Blue Music, EP): Electronic music composer. Discogs credits him with 7 recordings (4 albums, 2 singles/EPs, 1 miscellaneous), most 2001-04 with outliers (1982, 2014, 2019); also played in the Negative Band on a Stockhausen album I remember from 1975. This is considered a single, but as a single 28:24 piece should at least count as an EP. Ambient electronics, occasional strings and cymbal. B+(*) [cd]
Jim Fox: The City the Wind Swept Away (2004, Cold Blue Music, EP): Electronic music composer, has a handful of records 1998-2013, this one a 22:25 single, performed on piano, strings (a quartet), and trombones (3). Still ambient. B+(*) [cd]
T.D. Jakes: Praise & Worship (1978-98 , Verity/Legacy): Kind of a big deal among the holy rollers, styles himself as the bishop of an unaffiliated Dallas megachurch, The Potter's House, broadcasting his sermons as The Potter's Touch. He's hobnobbed with Bush and Obama, appeared on Dr. Phil and in a handful of films, some based on his novels (a subset of the 30+ books he's published). He works his choir hard, having them solo at the start and for breaks, but they're also foils for his own spiels, which I find amusing but are no doubt as meant as sincere and even profound -- at least as much as this consummate showman can muster. B+(**) [cd]
Draco Rosa: Vino (2008, Phantom Vox): Singer/songwriter from Puerto Rico, started out in boy band Menudo (with Ricky Martin, whose breakout album Rosa produced), went solo in 1988 as Robby. This one is in Spanish, including covers of Cohen and Dylan. Mainstream rock feel, although that may be misleading. B [sp]
Swing-Groups: 1931 to 1936 [Robert Parker's The Golden Years in Digital Stereo] (1931-36 , ABC): Parker (1936-2004) was an Australian audio engineer who developed a process for converting old 78 rpm records to digital stereo. He used this to release several dozen CDs of public domain material, some single-artist sets (Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, Gracie Fields, Al Bowly), but most were topical compilations, ranging from Opera 1904 to 1935 to Saucy Songs 1928 to 1938. This grabs 16 songs from as many big bands, most but not all as white as the cover pic. Sound seems good, but I'm not one to be picky. B+(**) [cd]
The Three Johns: Eat Your Sons (1990, Tupelo): Side project for Mekon guitarist Jon Langford, with John Hyatt (vocals), Philip "John" Brennan (bass), and a drum machine. Ran from 1981-98, producing several great records, especially 1986's The World by Storm, then regrouped for this swan song in 1990. Postpunk, has the urgency but less clear on the mission. B+(**) [lp]
Loudon Wainwright III: Surviving Twin (2017, StorySound): A live performance, recorded as a documentary by Christopher Guest for Netflix, so this counts as a soundtrack. Solo, alternates new songs about his namesakes -- figuring himself as a "surviving twin" to his late father -- with spoken word pieces written by his father. I don't have a lot of patience for the latter, and doubt I'd ever play them again, but they kept me interested, even as I felt they ran too long. B+(*) [sp]
Loudon Wainwright III: Years in the Making (1973-2018 , StorySound, 2CD): Back cover continues with "Forty-five years of offbeaten tracks, and hitherto unheard Loudoniana: A comprehensive 2-CD audiobiography, orphaned album cuts, live recordings, radio appearances, home demos, and much more. Fun by and for the whole family (PG13) with an accompanying booklet filled with dozens of documents, drawings, doodles, and drafts, historical, ephemeral, and otherwise in between." [Caps reduced, punctuation added.] Possible that the booklet provides some dates, but the last song is refers to the occasion of his 71st birthday (he was born in 1947), so I took that and subtracted 45, which goes back to his 4th album (the first one he wrote a title to, Attempted Moustache). Could go earlier, but not much. Some covers, some songs I recognized, some I didn't, like the one that goes "I woke up and I felt so bad/ . . . /Feels like we're right on the brink/ But it ain't Gaza/ No, it ain't Gaza/ It's not as bad as Gaza/ or the Ukraine." That was probably written 5-8 years ago, but feels prety timely right now. B+(***) [sp]
Vickie Winans: Praise & Worship (2003-06 , Verity/Legacy): Gospel singer, birth name Bowman, from Michigan, sang with International Sounds of Deliverance as a teenager, married Marvin Winans (of the gospel group Winans), solo debut in 1985. This draws on her two albums for Verity (plus a live track), long on chorus and bombast. B-
Tommy Womack: Stubborn (2000, Sideburn): Thought I'd check out some of his earlier albums I had missed. This was the oldest I found on Spotify, second in his list. Opens rockabilly, has some interesting songs. B+(**) [sp]
Tommy Womack: Circus Town (2002, Sideburn): Most songs are memorable, the hot ones like "You Can't Get There From Here" instant hits, the ballads take a little longer, unless the jokes are especially obvious. One highlight is everything you need to know about "The Replacements." A- [sp]
The Tommy Womack Band: Washington D.C. (2002 , self-released): Radio shot, title reflects where it was recorded, nothing much you'd consider political. Band credit emphasizes loud and fast, which suits them fine. Not sure whether these songs are original here, but I recognize a number of them from the 30 Years compilation. B+(***) [sp]
Tommy Womack: Namaste (2016, self-released): Title a greeting used in yoga. One song cites the Dalai Lama to become a better Christian, but after surveying ancient Rome and Jerusalem, he concludes ("God Part III"): "I believe in Beatles, I believe in love." Ten more songs, some trivial, some funny, a closer that is plainly lovely, all worth hearing again. A- [sp]
Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: