Monday, November 14, 2022

Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39065 [39002] rated (+63), 46 [43] unrated (+3: 18 new, 28 old).

PS: As I've been doing most weeks, I started this introduction with a link to the previous day's Speaking of Which column. The political/news posts are a lot of work, and a lot of deadline pressure, so I think they deserve a friendly extra link, especially as I routinely link to Music Week on Facebook, but rarely to my other blog posts. Also, having depressurized after the post, I feel like I can get a bit more personal here -- especially given that the music reviews that make up the bulk of the content are already done and tucked away. But this week I went on at much more than expected length, and a reader -- one who often retweets and/or forwards me -- wrote in to ask if I couldn't break it up into two posts: one politics and one music. That's not unreasonable: I've long had a plan to split it up and maintain separate blogs for politics and music. But practical and personal problems have kept that from happening, and at this point I'm losing interest in both.

So I've done two things: I've moved the political part to the bottom of this post, adding this mini-explanation. And I've also copied the political part to yesterday's post, as a postscript. But while the intro is important to me personally, I doubt that it warrants its own post. It's mostly more drivel on the eternal book question, but if you're curious, by all means scroll down and read. I doubt if this is a satisfactory solution, but it's all I'm prepared to do for now.

I've made a small bit of progress toward organizing the Jazz Critics Poll, but not nearly enough. I was pleased to receive unsolicited mail from one of the voters today, reminding me that people are interested in this happening. I've thus far failed to line up a sponsor, but I want to make my website the focal point, so not lining up sponsorship won't stop it from happening. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to make the presentation more appealing, and/or how to better get the word out when we announce the results.

I'm still planning on sending the voter invites out this week. Basic minimal qualifications for voting are that you need to have heard several hundred new jazz releases this year, and to have written about several dozen of them (broadcast journalists also count -- we have a number of them, although that's not a world I'm very familiar with; thus far I've heard 681 jazz releases, out of 1113 in my tracking file). Here's a list of voters from 2021. If you know someone else who should be voting, let me know.

This week's records started with a long trawl through the late Loretta Lynn's back catalogue. I had looked for her albums a while back and found very little, so it's likely that their addition to streaming services is recent and ongoing (availability starts to get patchy after 1977, and I'm still missing one duet album with Ernest Tubb and several with Conway Twitty -- who, like many country stars of the period, I know almost exclusively from compilations).

A couple of minor notes here: I complained last week about Jerry Lee Lewis albums failing to hit 30 minutes, but threw in the towel here: none of Lynn's 1960s and 1970s albums do (they mostly run 11 tracks). I only did the first (of three, I think) Greatest Hits LPs, partly because I used to own the LP, and partly because she was only beginning to find her unique voice when it came out, so it shows a different side of her compared to the later compilations. One thing I found interesting was that during breaks from this immersion in her work, I found myself recalling other country songs, mostly from George Jones and Merle Haggard. Must be some common bits of melody wafting through all three.

The Mingus record was due to a user question. He asked whether my having skipped the record meant some sort of disapproval. You can rest assured that omissions simply reflect ignorance. Had I been aware of the album (at least during the last 20 years) I would have listed it. Now I am aware, and have listed it.

The new stuff came late in the week, mostly promos that weren't due for release until early November, plus a couple of the August NoBusiness releases I just got this week. I've aded things to my jazz and non-jazz files, but haven't gotten around to rethinking the order (what's currently there is likely to change, possibly a lot). I see that AOTY is reporting the first 2022 Music Year End Lists (Decibel, Uncut). I haven't tracked them yet, but will soon begin to (the current Aggregate File has 80+ ratings (*) and mid-year lists (+), so is somewhat biased toward early-year releases, but the ranking there is: Wet Leg, Big Thief, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Rosalia, Beyoncé, Mitski, Black Country New Road, The Smile, Nilufer Yanya. I weigh the EOY lists more heavily (5 points for top picks, 4 for 2-5, 3 for 6-10, 2 for 11-20, 1 for all other mentions), so the current numbers will soon get swamped.

I just realized that one of the reasons I've been avoiding playing downloads (e.g., the new Thumbscrew album) is that the Klipsch speakers on the machine I collect them on are flaky, with one side turned down to squelch noise. I've just ordered a new pair of (slightly cheaper) Creative Labs speakers, so hopefully that will fix the problem. I had to replace the mouse last week, and I'm delighted with the new one, not least for eliminating the wire.

New records reviewed this week:

The Attic [Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert]: Love Ghosts (2020 [2022], NoBusiness): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, one of the best avant players over two decades, third group album (the first I filed under bassist Almeida's name; this one has a new drummer). A- [cd]

Jakob Bro/Joe Lovano: Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian (2021 [2022], ECM): Danish guitarist, albums since 2013, 6th album on ECM since 2015. Bro played on Motian's Garden of Eden (2006), while Lovano (tenor sax/tarogato) played in a long-running trio with Motian and Bill Frisell. Group here adds Anders Christensen (bass guitar), two double bassists (Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan), and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy). Only one Motian composition here (vs. two for Bro, three for Lovano). B+(***) [sp]

Armani Caesar: The Liz 2 (2022, Griselda): Buffalo rapper, released a mixtape in 2020 called The Liz, gets dark, dense, and obscure. B+(*) [sp]

Coco & Clair Clair: Sexy (2022, self-released): Atlanta-based pop/rap duo, Taylor Nave and Claire Toothill, first album after a 7-track 2017 EP. Hard to gauge sexy, but cute, clever, sometimes nasty, sure. B+(*) [sp]

George Colligan: King's Dream (2022, P.Ice): Pianist, more than two dozen albums since 1995, solo, original compositions. Title reflects on Martin Luther King, promising "a balm for turmoil of recent days." B+(**) [cd]

Olli Hirvonen: Kielo (2022, Ropeadope): Finnish guitarist, fourth album, has a solid rock-fusion vibe. B+(*) [cd]

Homeboy Sandman: Still Champion (2022, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, many albums/EPs -- he seems to prefer 20-30 minute chunks -- since 2007, with this his third album this year (10 tracks, 33:23). Produced sparingly by Deca. Takes a couple tracks before his words start to flow with the mix, but they never melt into oblivion -- just too fascinating. A- [sp]

Dan Israel: Seriously (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Minneapolis, started around 1998, Discogs lists 13 albums plus a compilation (Danthology). Bandcamp page includes a full lyric sheet, but this rocked past me so fast I never wondered about the words. B+(*) [bc]

Song Yi Jeon/Vinicius Gomes: Home (2020 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Voice and guitar. She was born in South Korea; educated in Graz, Basel, and Boston; based in Switzerland; third album, backed by the Brazilian (NY-based) guitarist. Seems like a fairly limited concept, but grows on you. B+(***) [cd] [11-18]

Kirk Knuffke/Michael Bisio: For You I Don't Want to Go (2020 [2022], NoBusiness): Cornet and bass duo. Knuffke has managed to slip easily between mainstream and avant contexts, so singularly it's never clear where this modest, bare bones project fits (not that it matters). A- [cd]

Sarathy Korwar: Kalak (2022, The Leaf Label): Percussionist, born in US, raised in India, based in London. Fourth album. Describes this as "an Indo-futurist manifesto." Opens with a recipe that lost me with the 10 crushed chili peppers, then enters a vocal piece I can only find exotic. After that, the music gets more enticing, especially the drums, so when the vocals return they have something to build on. B+(***) [sp]

Dave Liebman: Trust and Honesty (2022, Newvelle); Leader plays soprano and tenor sax, accompanied by Ben Monder on guitar and John Hébert on bass, with Monder taking most of the leads. Nothing rushed, so you need to let it seep in. B+(**) [sp]

Mama's Broke: Narrow Line (2022, Free Dirt): Canadian folk duo from Nova Scotia, Amy Lou Keeler and Lisa Maria, play string instruments (mainly guitar and violin, plus banjo and a bit of cello). Second album. Rather dank. Perhaps you have to be a lyrics hound to care enough, but I can see the appeal. B+(**) [sp]

Mama's Broke: Count the Wicked (2017, self-released): First album, following a 2014 EP. Music has a bit more snap. Can't speak to the lyrics. B+(***) [sp]

Timothy Norton: Visions of Phaedrus (2021 [2022], Truth Revolution): Bassist, debut album, leads a smart postbop sextet with trumpet (Josh Evans), sax (Jerome Sabbagh), piano (Randy Ingram), guitar, and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Houston Person: Reminiscing at Rudy's (2022, HighNote): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, started in the 1960s at Prestige, where he also did A&R, and has followed Joe Fields (the late, so now producer Barney Fields) from label to label. Easy-going live set, standards he's mostly done before, backed by guitar (Russell Malone), piano (Larry Fuller, bass (Matthew Parrish), and drums (Lewis Nash, also credited with a crooning vocal). Spottier than his best records, but some lovely parts. B+(***) [cd] [11-18]

Smino: Luv 4 Rent (2022, Zero Fatigue/Motown): Rapper Christopher Smith Jr., from St. Louis, third album, pretty sneaky. B+(**) [sp]

Sonido Solar: Eddie Palmieri Presents Sonido Solar (2022, Truth Revolution): Palmieri arranges and plays piano on just two tracks, but his imprimatur means something to the actual band leaders: Jonathan Powell (trumpet), Louis Fouché (alto sax), Luques Curtis (bass), and Zaccai Curtis (piano). They are joined by trombone, tenor sax, and three percussionists, playing Latin jazz classics. B+(**) [cd]

They Might Be Giants: Book (2021, Idlewild): Billed as "two catchy weirdos," I loved their 1986 debut -- "of course you do" was Bob Christgau's reaction when I gushed about how much -- but they wore out their welcome pretty fast, even as Christgau maintained his more moderate level of interest, which turned out not to include six albums since 2013 (his last-reviewed Nanobots, until this one). I only noticed (or bothered with) one of those, Glean, a low B+ from 2015, although this one was in last year's tracking file. This is comparably idiosyncratic. Reportedly comes with a book, which I haven't seen. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Yuji Takahashi/Sabu Toyozumi: The Quietly Clouds and a Wild Crane (1998 [2022], NoBusiness): Japanese piano and drums duo. Takahashi lived in Europe 1963-66, where he studied with Iannis Xenakis, and in the US 1966-72, with most of his early work classical (including Bach, Beethoven, Satie, Messiaen, and Cage; in 1979, he recorded Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated). B+(***) [cd]

Old music:

Homeboy Sandman: Nourishment (Second Helpings) (2007, Boy Sand Industries): New York rapper Angel del Villar II, first album, title recycled from a debut EP, long semi-popular career ahead of him. Fast and freaky. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn Sings (1963, Decca): First album, after a couple singles including a 1960 hit (14) with "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." She went higher with "Success" (6) here, and with the album itself (2). Nothing here that wound up in her canon, but she sure does sing, and her covers are nearly always definitive -- including a superb "Act Naturally," months after Buck Owens and a couple years before Ringo. A- [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Before I'm Over You (1964, Decca): She wrote a song here ("Where Were You"), but it's outshone by the covers, especially the sly "Wine, Women and Song," and how often she makes you forget well-known hits, like "Loose Talk" (Carl Smith) and "The End of the World" (Skeeter Davis). B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Songs From My Heart . . . (1965, Decca): Two original songs, still nothing notable, but she got a hit with "Happy Birthday," and "Oh, Lonesome Me" is as great as ever. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl (1965, Decca): Johnny Mullins wrote the title song for her, not just a hit but a signature song. She wrote four songs, mostly slow spots. "The Race Is On" opens the second side. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Hymns (1965, Decca): Too great a singer to make a really bad album, and this fills a niche that is all but expected in Nashville, but the songs about children praying got under my skin, and the old time religion just fills me with dread. B [sp]

Loretta Lynn: I Like 'Em Country (1966, Decca): The one original in a sob story "Dear Uncle Sam," which could use more context and anger. Covers of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash don't disappoint. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: You Ain't Woman Enough (1966, Decca): Do you suppose "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (covered here with extra twang) got her thinking? The title cut was her first self-penned masterpiece -- the one that stuck with me last time I played her Definitive Collection. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind) (1967, Decca): Another signature song, her first number one single. Two more Lynn originals add to her anger and frustration: "Get Whatcha Got and Go" and "I Got Caught." B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn's Greatest Hits (1961-67 [1968], Decca): With just 11 songs (26:06), and nine of them 1965 or earlier (including the better-forgotten "Dear Uncle Sam"), you can do much better: I'd rank them: 20 Greatest Hits [1987], Country Music Hall of Fame [1991], then The Definitive Collection (2005), with the 3-CD Honky Tonk Girl (1994) nearly all first rate. A-

Loretta Lynn: Who Says God Is Dead! (1968, Decca): Note punctuation, on one of four originals here, which (aside from "Mama, Why?") aren't as perverse as last time. Bluegrass helps, and standards like "The Old Rugged Cross" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" are reliable. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Fist City (1968, Decca): Title song was her second number one single, just one of five songs she wrote (or co-wrote). While she's willing to fight for her man there, she wastes no time dumping him in "You Didn't Like My Lovin'." A- [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Your Squaw Is on the Warpath Tonight (1969, Decca): Title cut explains that "squaw" is nickname given by an abusive or at least damn annoying husband, but the album cover takes one aback these days, as does the choice of "Kaw-Liga" as a cover (although "Harper Valley P.T.A." isn't much better). Also comes up super short after a song (not one Lynn wrote) was pulled due to a copyright dispute. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Here's Loretta Singing "Wings Upon Your Horns" (1969 [1970], Decca): Single wasn't that big (11) or for that matter that memorable: "loss of innocence" is a more common phrase for those not obsessed with demons and angels, a recurring theme here. Though not really on "Let's Get Back Down to Earth," the best song here. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn Writes 'Em and Sings 'Em (1965-69 [1970], Decca): She started writing songs a couple albums in, and gradually increased, but no more than five songs (including co-writes) to an album. She didn't have enough for a full album when she went into the studio in December 1969, but instead of adding cover filler, they dropped a few of her self-penned hits into the mix: "You Ain't Woman Enough," "Fist City," "Your Squaw Is on the Warpath," "Wings Upon Your Horns." Two great songs there, and two pretty good ones, which is about all I can say for the new ones. This was probably more useful at the time, but I had to assemble it as a playlist, checking out the missing "What Has the Bottle Done to My Baby" on YouTube. B+(***)

Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner's Daughter (1970 [1971], Decca): Title song was an inspired piece of storytelling, another number one hit and her first song to graze the pop charts (83), and went on to serve as the title of her autobiography and of the movie made about it, as well as a 2010 tribute to Lynn. Only two more Lynn credits here. The rest reveal little, but show off her still remarkable voice. B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free (1971, Decca): Title song was a country hit (3), but little remembered. It's one of four Lynn credits here, along with covers she doesn't need but handles as well as you'd expect ("Rose Garden," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night"). B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: You're Lookin' at Country (1971, Decca): The title song is perfectly iconic, but they she throws a cover of the perfectly fake "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Beyond that, the usual batch. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Alone With You (1961-64 [1972], Vocalion): Eleven tracks compiled from her first three albums, avoiding all five charting singles, including just two of her own writing credits. Makes you wonder why, other than to show off Owen Bradley's production skills. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: One's on the Way (1972, Decca): Shel Silverstein wrote the title song, but I can't imagine anyone else singing it. She only co-wrote one song, the trivial "L-O-V-E, Love," but the filler is uniformly solid, "It'll Feel Good When It Quits Hurtin'" fits her nicely, and you have to wonder why it took her so long to do "Blueberry Hill." B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Here I Am Again (1972, Decca): Shel Silverstein wrote the title song again, but not one he will be remembered for. Lynn's sole co-credit is for the so-so "I Miss You More Today." The rest is decent enough, except for a cover of "Delta Dawn" where the star gets submerged in the backup. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Entertainer of the Year (1972, Decca): This breaks her usual habit of naming the album for the top single, but the label didn't care call the album "Rated X." The song wasn't about sex per se, but about the tainted past of divorcées -- a quaint relic of an earlier period which Lynn did as much as anyone to end. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Love Is the Foundation (1973, MCA): Shel Silverstein came to the rescue again with "Hey Loretta" ("I love you more than my Irish setter," "this a-women's liberation, honey, is gonna start right now"). Would have been a good album title, too, but they went with the William Cody Hall title song first, and it sold well enough. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: Country Partners (1974, MCA): Second duet album together, note that the billing order flipped. This opens with a definitive break up song ("As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone"), and the few exceptions are at best nostalgic. B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy (1974, MCA): Jerry Chestnut wrote the title track, another perfect single attached to another beautifully sung but less than remarkable album. Note that this is one of her first albums to inch above 30 minutes. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Back to the Country (1975, MCA): No self-penned songs (again), although the single couldn't have been written for anyone else, and was ultimately a milestone: "The Pill." B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: Feelins' (1975, MCA): First I was confused by that apostrophe, then by the song it was attached to, then it got worse. Some of their best songs are marked by humor, but never this sophomoric. B- [sp]

Loretta Lynn: When the Tingle Becomes a Chill (1976, MCA): Lola Jean Dillon wrote the moving title song. Lynn's only song is "Red, White and Blue," where her Cherokee identity resurfaces. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: United Talent (1976, MCA): Title is kinda creepy, as is the embrace on the cover, and for that matter the talkies "The Letter" and "God Bless America Again." On the other hand, the rest is more upbeat, but maybe because they rushed to get this over with in an exceptionally short 24:42. B [sp]

Loretta Lynn: I Remember Patsy (1977, MCA): Patsy Cline had four top-two hits before her plane crash death in 1963: "Walkin' After Midnight" (1957), and from 1961-62 "I Fall to Pieces," "Crazy," and "She's Got You," plus a couple lesser hits -- a fairly thin discography for such a legend, but her voice elevated lesser fare, and that's all history required. Cline befriended Lynn when the latter arrived in Nashville, but only three years separated them (b. 1932 to 1935; first singles 1955 to 1960). This tribute remakes nine songs from Cline's songbook, and goes straight for the top shelf: the four I listed above, and "Sweet Dreams," "Faded Love," "Why Can't He Be You," "Back in Baby's Arms," "Leavin' on Your Mind," then ends with a 7:11 interview excerpt to establish Lynn's bona fide -- as if her voice wasn't ticket enough. B+(***) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Out of My Head and Back in My Bed (1978, MCA): Another number one single, but neither it nor the follow up stick for me. B [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Making Love From Memory (1982, MCA): I Remember Patsy was her last top-10 country album until 2004's Van Lear Rose, and this was the first one that didn't chart at all. A couple odd things here, like the jazz steps on "When We Get Back Together," but I rather like Lynn's own song, "Then You'll Be Free." B [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Lyin', Cheatin', Woman Chasin', Honky Tonkin', Whiskey Drinkin' You (1983, MCA): Title song injects a badly needed bit of energy, if not quite anger, but it fades, like her career trajectory. B+(*) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Just a Woman (1985, MCA): Three singles stiffed, and the album topped out at 63, but having put Owen Bradley in the rear view mirror, there is much evidence that she's trying harder, including two songs she wrote, and a closer about a wedding ring, called "One Man Band." B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Who Was That Stranger (1988, MCA): Two originals, neither of them singles, but the singles stiffed. All the fun here comes from the fast ones, which are more plentiful than in a long time. B+(**) [sp]

Loretta Lynn: Still Country (2000, Audium): First studio album since 1988. Not much more to say about it. B+(*) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Tonight at Noon (1957-61 [1964], Atlantic): Outtakes from The Clown (1957) and Oh Yeah (1961), compiled into a 38:08 LP in 1964 after the bassist had moved on to Impulse!, then basically forgotten about until digital reissues became trivial. In the meantime, the cuts were added as bonuses to CD reissues, and compiled into Rhino's 6-CD Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings. Of course, parts -- especially those with Booker Ervin and Roland Kirk -- sound brilliant. Pianist Wade Legge, who died at 29 after an impressive list of side-credits, may also be worth a deeper look. B+(***) [sp]

Dolly Parton/Loretta Lynn/Tammy Wynette: Honky Tonk Angels (1993, Columbia): Credit per spine, which makes sense given that it had been several years since Lynn and Wynette had recorded (1988 and 1990). Starts with the Kitty Wells hit, which has never before been encased in such vocal splendor. Wells is credited as a special guest, as is Patsy Cline ("Lovesick Blues" 30 years after her death). Lynn and Wynette write their own showcases, and Parton amends the roster of "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven." B+(**) [sp]

Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn: Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be (1965, Decca): Duets, the first of three albums together. Tubb was 51 and declining, Lynn 30 and on the rise, their voices an odd mix, and they spend more time breaking up than anything else. B [sp]

Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn: Singin' Again (1967, Decca): Country music's odd couple, back for a second engagement. The voices still don't mix, but through mutual respect they mesh much better. And Loretta's getting better at faking romance, but "Beautiful Friendship" is more to the point. B+(**) [sp]

Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn: Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (1973, MCA): A better duet partner for Lynn than Ernest Tubb, whose flat Texas tone never quite meshed with Lynn. Twitty, two years older with a 1959 start in rockabilly, was a comparable star in Nashville: 10 number 1 singles through 1973, vs. 7 for Lynn, though Lynn was arguably more famous beyond country music. The obvious competition was George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who released during their 1969-75 marriage, and has real chemistry before they started developing their breakup material. Twitty and Lynn was just an act, which helps explain why they were doing covers of "Bye Bye Love" and "Release Me" on their first album. But the intercourse of their voices was something to marvel at. B+(***) [sp]

Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn: Two's a Party (1981, MCA): Their tenth (and last) duet album, laid on thick. B [sp]

Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn: The Best of Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1971-88 [2000], MCA Nashville): They knocked out an album every year for a decade, then one more after a seven year break. This 12-track max series should be ideal for hit-and-miss artists, but picking one song per album overrepresents the bad ones, and misses their one stroke of genius: "You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." Pick any of several alternative comps that have it, even the 24-track The Definitive Collection, which picks up everything here and still improves on it. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Attic [Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert]: Love Ghosts (NoBusiness) [08-30]
  • Hal Galper: Ivory Forest Redux (1979, Origin) [11-18]
  • Kirk Knuffke/Michael Bisio: For You I Don't Want to Go (NoBusiness) [08-30]
  • Zach Phillips: Goddaughters (self-released) [08-12]
  • Scenes: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival (Origin) [11-18]
  • Cory Smythe: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Pyroclastic) [12-02]
  • Wil Swindler's Elevenet: Space Bugs: Live in Denver (OA2) [11-18]
  • Yuji Takahashi/Sabu Toyozumi: The Quietly Clousd and a Wild Crane (1998, NoBusiness) [08-30]
  • Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Hilliard Greene/Barry Altschul: We're Playing in Here? (2007, NoBusiness) [08-30]
  • Dan Weiss Trio: Dedication (Cygnus) [11-11]
  • Rodney Whitaker: Oasis (Origin) [11-18]

Former Introduction

I wrote some on the 2022 election last week in yesterday's Speaking of Which. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time studying elections. I could name you every Senator since 1900, and most of the then-current members of the House. I poured through almanacs and colored in county maps to plot the spatial division of party splits, going back in many cases to Reconstruction after the Civil War. I went to the library a couple times each week, and regularly noted votes as tracked by Congressional Weekly. I did a lot of the same things Kevin Phillips did while writing The Emerging Republican Majority: effectively the Bible of Nixon's Southern Strategy and cult of the Silent Majority. In that book I glimpsed the future: the rise of reaction, and the end of the liberal America I had grown up in (and found deficient, although one can be nostalgic comparing it to the changes wrought by Nixon, Reagan, and their descendants down through Trump and beyond).

I gave up on electoral politics after McGovern's tragic loss in 1972, only to return in 1996 when presented with an opportunity to vote against the villainous Bob Dole (who had eked out a win in 1972 against Bill Roy in the dirtiest, most despicable campaign of my experience). But whenever I did pay attention to an election, I found my peculiar experience gave me considerable insight. You can find analyses of various elections as far back as 2000 in my notebooks. This year's seems rather paltry by comparison, as if I'm struggling not just with the data but with my motivation. One question I need to answer in the next month or two[*] is whether make a serious attempt at writing the political book I've been turning over in my head since the mid-1990s. The latest iteration of the outline envisions three sections:

  1. The evolution of the Republican Party from Nixon to the present, seen mostly as the pursuit of power regardless of the costs, including to their basic competency.
  2. A survey of several prominent problems that Republicans have proved themselves incompetent to address, much less to ameliorate.
  3. A prescription for the Democrats to forge a political stance that is capable of both winning elections and addressing problems.

As I noted in a tweet I quoted in the post, the first part is the easy one: books like David Corn's recent American Psychosis and Dana Milbank's The Destructionists, or older ones like Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew (2008), offer a surfeit of examples that go to the heart of the GOP (and not just the MAGA fringe). One can also draw on a rich literature on problems and solutions, most formulated on the left because that's where critical thinking survives. The tough problem is figuring out how to package both the critique of Republicanism and a practical range of solutions in a way that wins over a viable political majority. I have some ideas there, or at least some personal reactions, but putting them together won't be easy, and may be resisted as much by the left as by the center and the right.

The idea here is to provide a framework to help Democrats better understand what needs to be done, and what they're up against. It won't try to argue with Republicans or unaligned refuseniks -- not that I won't offer some suggestions for Democrats to win them over. It won't offer a left critique of mainstream Democrats, liberalism, and/or capitalism (although I suppose that's where I'm coming from, so it's liable to seep through, but only where I think it might be helpful for winning elections and setting policy). It won't engage in the sort of utopian thinking I've long been partial to. It won't be based on polling, or for that matter on the sort of political science Thomas Edsall and Ezra Klein base their analyses on. I'm not going to tell Democrats they should tell people what they want to hear.

I recognize that Republicans have a long-term credibility problem because nothing they say about problems and nothing they try to do about them actually works. Everything they've touched in the last 40-50 years has turned to crap, and it's getting increasingly hard to ignore that fundamental flaw in their thinking (though they try, by shouting louder and more desperately). Democrats have sometimes won elections by appropriating Republican rhetoric, but that's only saddled them with their own long-term credibility problem. The only way to reverse this is to promise and deliver on things that actually work. That's a tough sell, because we're so used to stupid posturing, and because the media practically polices pubic discourse to make sure nothing sensible survives. (That's a big part of why they love and/or hate Trump so much.)

[*] Let's make this specific: to make decision by the end of the year, either to write the book or to never think about it again. The alternative would be to work on the memoir, which could spin other things off eventually. In the meantime, I have the Jazz Critics Poll to run (and/or to ruin).

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