An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, June 5, 2023
Music: Current count 40338  rated (+46), 16  unrated (-22: 16 new, 0 old).
I published a Speaking of Which Sunday evening. I collected a few links early, but didn't touch it for most of Friday and Saturday -- cooked a little dinner -- so it came up short (45 links, 2846 words, the shortest since Dec. 27 last year). Rated count should be down too, but I cheated, massively. It's a one-shot deal, and I'm happy it's done.
Ever since I've been blogging reviews, I've started each post off with a slug line, noting how many records I've rated (week and total), plus how many I had sitting around unrated. In the early days, I bought a lot more than I could listen to quickly, and then I started getting promos, including some I had little interest in, so the number combined those. In March, 2003, I rated 13 albums, bringing me to a total of 8080, but also added 78 unrated albums, which put me at 899. The unrated count continued to grow over the next couple years, hitting an all-time high of 1157 in July, 2004, before I finally started whittling away at it. By the end of 2008 I got it down to 757, but it shot up as high as 886 in 2011 and 882 in 2012, before finally dropping below 600 (Dec. 2012), 500 (Dec. 2014), 400 (Mar. 2015), 300 (Aug. 2018), 200 (Oct. 2021), and 100 (June 2022).
I finally got it down to 27 a couple months ago, and it's been stuck at that level since then. Aside from a couple boxes that I never found time for, the remaining albums were proving very hard to locate. Last week I dug through a neglected shelf of loose, unpackaged promos, and found four of them. On closer inspection, only one of the four was even worth cataloguing (a Campbell Bros. advance that turned out to be pretty good). The other three (two label samplers and a 14-minute live single that was probably never released as a product) I just commented out of the database. After that, and looking in some more desperate places to no avail, I decided to wipe the slate. Henceforth, unrated albums will only be items in the current demo queue (or new purchases).
A few things from the list that I either found or could stream show up in Old Music below. Everything else is noted in the Unrated Closeout section below. In some cases I went ahead and ascribed grades (pretty conservatively, I think): some were based on memories, some from sampling similar material, and a couple were minimal estimates based on general familiarity. In other cases, I was too unsure to bother. If/when I do manage to find and play any of those items, I'll revisit the grades, or add them as ordinary old music discoveries.
Probably meaningless to anyone else, but feels like a weight lifted.
Been having trouble thinking of new things to play. The Music Tracking file has grown to 881 items, of which I've rated (or have unrated) 414. I'm pretty sure that's behind last year's pace -- if you figure four months (forget January, which is catchup for 2022), we're a third of the way through. I won't be surprised if I slack off as the year progresses. Depends on how the non-music writing comes along.
I did manage to wrap up the May, 2023 Streamnotes file. Quite a bit of good music in it.
New records reviewed this week:
Christian Artmann: The Middle of Life (2021-22 , Sunnyside): Flute player from Germany, studied at Berklee, Princeton, and Harvard Law, based near San Francisco, fourth album, backed with piano (Laszlo Gardony), bass, and drums, with vocals (Elena McEntire) on three tracks. B [cd] [06-02]
BC Camplight: The Last Rotation of Earth (2023, Bella Union): Alias for Brian Christinzio, sixth album since 2006. B [sp]
Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: The Gennett Suite (2023, Patois, 2CD): Indiana-based big band, led by Mark Buselli (trumpet) and Brent Wallarab (trombone), with the latter handling most of the composer-arranger duties. Ninth album since 2002, starts with pieces from the Gennett early jazz label, punches them up, and builds some more. Comes with a hardcover booklet, which explains the history, including King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [cd]
André Carvalho: Lost in Translation Vol. II (2022 , Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, with André Matos (guitar) and José Soares (sax). Quiet, bordering on atmospheric. B+(*) [bc]
Clark: Sus Dog (2023, Throttle): British electronica producer Chris Clark, thirteenth album since 2001. B [sp]
Mario Costa/Cuong Vu/Benoît Delbecq/Bruno Chevillon: Chromosome (2022 , Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, leads a quartet with trumpet, piano, and bass. B+(*) [bc]
Depeche Mode: Memento Mori (2023, Columbia/Mute): Big UK synthpop band in the 1980s, have released a new album every 3-4 years since (up to 2017, so this one comes after a six year break), all 15 albums charting top-ten in UK (as did 8 in US) -- although this is the first I've bothered with since 1993. This one got exceptional reviews, but it's hard to discern what the fuss is about, or to imagine what my inattention missed. B- [sp]
Dropkick Murphys: Okemah Rising (2023, Dummy Luck Music): "Celtic punk" band from Boston, dozen albums since 1998, recorded this one in Tulsa. B+(*) [sp]
Bob Dylan: Shadow Kingdom (2021 , Legacy): Soundtrack to a film of Dylan and a coterie of masked musicians in a studio, playing mostly 1960s-vintage songs, few hits but most recognizable enough, ending in a sly instrumental. I was struck by the furious way Dylan ripped into his songs on the solo side of Before the Flood. Well, this is the opposite of that: fond, light-hearted, scarcely nostalgic. B+(***) [sp]
Kari Faux: Real B*tches Don't Die! (2023, Drink Sum Wtr): Rapper Kari Rose Johnson, third studio album plus several mixtapes. B+(*) [sp]
Debby Friday: Good Luck (2023, Sub Pop): From Nigeria, raised in Montreal, moved on to Vancouver, then Toronto. First album, no agreement on genre (electronic, hip-hop, industrial). Only one this reminds me of is Patti Smith, but digging for music roots, substitute Cabaret Voltaire for MC5. A- [sp]
Ladytron: Time's Arrow (2023, Cooking Vinyl): English electropop group, seventh album since 2001. Helen Marnie the lead singer, backed by synthesizers and some guitar. B+(*) [sp]
SG Lewis: AudioLust & HigherLove (2023, PMR/EMI): Initials for Samuel George, British electropop/disco producer, second album, with singles going back to 2015. Structured as two LPs, fits onto a single 62-minute CD. Not a lot of vocal presence, but I'm just as happy with the vamps. B+(***) [sp]
The Mark Lomax Trio: Tapestry (2022 , CFG Multimedia): Drummer, should be esteemed as one of the world's best but remains little known, offers "a four-movement tone poem inspired by four pieces in Johnson's Tapestry series." (Johnson?) The Trio includes the even more unjustly unknown Edwin Bayard (tenor sax) and an unidentified bassist (Tim Hullett?). A- [os]
M83: Fantasy (2023, Mute/Virgin): French synthpop band, principally Anthony Gonzalez, ninth album since 2001. B [sp]
Brian McCarthy Nonet: After|Life (2022 , Truth Revolution): Alto/soprano saxophonist, has a couple previous albums. Group includes trumpet, trombone, three more saxophones, with piano, bass, drums. Some fine solo work, less distinctive ensemble. B+(**) [cd]
Noshir Mody: A Love Song (2023, self-released): Indian guitarist, based in New York, half-dozen albums since 2000. Short album (32:42), nice flow, flugelhorn solo (Benjamin Hankle), ends with a vocal (Kate Victor). B+(*) [cd]
Nourished by Time: Erotic Probiotic 2 (2023, Scenic Route): Marcus Brown, from Baltimore, debut album (after a 7-inch called Erotic Probiotic). Mixed bag of soul moves. B [sp]
Orbital: Optical Delusion (2023, London): Electronic music duo, from England, brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, tenth album since 1991. B+(*) [sp]
Overmono: Good Lies (2023, XL): British electronica duo, brothers Ed and Tom Russell (aka Tessela and Truss/MPIA3). First album, after a dozen or more EPs and DJ mixes since 2017, although each has work back to 2011 under their aliases. B+(*) [sp]
Pere Ubu: Trouble on Big Beat Street (2023, Cherry Red): Punk progenitor from Cleveland, group named for Alfred Jarry's definitively pompous and callous pataphysician, first EP in 1975, David Thomas (now 70) the distinctive singer and weirdo. Sound and wit still sharp, but could be more tuneful. B+(**) [sp]
Rozi Plain: Prize (2023, Memphis Industries): Actual surname Leyden, English singer-songwriter, half-dozen albums since 2008. B+(*) [sp]
The Selva: Camarão-Girafa (2021 , Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: Ricard Jacinto (cello, electronics, harmonium); Gonçalo Almeida (bass, electronics), and Nuno Morão (drums). Third album. B+(**) [bc]
MF Tomlinson: We Are Still Wild Horses (2023, Prah): Initials for Michael Francis, singer-songwriter, second album, title track runs long (21:01, after a three-track, 19:47 first side). Vocals seem slight, but develops some muscle tone toward the end. B+(*) [sp]
Juanma Trujillo: Contour (2021 , Clean Feed): Guitarist from Venezuela, based in New York, fourth album, has some juice, backed here by Kenneth Jimenez (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Dara Starr Tucker: Dara Starr Tucker (2023, Green Hill Productions): Jazz singer-songwriter, originally from Tulsa, fifth album since 2009. Covers are most striking ("September Song," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"). B+(**) [cd]
Tanya Tucker: Sweet Western Sound (2023, Fantasy): Country singer, seems like she's been around forever but she started very young, so she's barely 65. Western airs, ending with a song called "When the Rodeo Is Over (Where Does the Cowboy Go?)" -- not one of the three she co-wrote. B+(**) [sp]
Yves Tumor: Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (2023, Warp): Sean Lee Bowie, originally from Knoxville, moved to California at 20, fifth album (at least under this alias). I filed him under electronic, but that's not (or no longer) right. B+(**) [sp]
Water From Your Eyes: Everyone's Crushed (2023, Matador): New York duo, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown, specify pronouns but not instruments, several albums since 2017. B+(**) [sp]
Young Nudy: Gumbo (2023, RCA): Atlanta rapper Quantavious Tavario Thomas, fourth studio album after a mess of Slimeball mixtapes. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Campbell Brothers: Can You Feel It? (2005, Ropeadope): Steel guitar-playing gospel group, early records titles on Arhoolie were often plays on Sacred Steel (1997-2001). Jazz-funk-fusion label Ropeadope picked them up for this one album, where they deliver not just what you'd hope for but a good deal more: instrumental covers of classics with a steel guitar twist, plus some raise-the-rafters vocals for timely breaks. A- [cdr]
The Campbell Brothers Featuring Katie Jackson: Pass Me Not [Sacred Steel Guitars - Vol. 2] (1997, Arhoolie): First album for brothers Charles (pedal steel guitar; also primary arranger, and for that matter pastor of Rochester's House of God, Keith Dominion), Darick (lap steel guitar), Phillip (electric guitar/bass), and Carlton (drums), with Jackson singing, perhaps a bit much. B+(**) [sp]
Cesaria Evora: Distino Di Belita (1990, Lusafrica): Cape Verde's most famous pop singer (1941-2011), nicknamed Barefoot Diva, also Cise and Queen of Morna. Early album, draws on fado and I'd add a light touch of Weill, with a more lilting rhythm. B+(**) [r]
Cesaria Evora: Miss Perfumado (1992, Lusafrica): One of the Cape Verdean star's more famous albums, strikes me as steady, which is not an improvement. B+(*) [r]
Forever, for Always, for Luther: Volume II (2006, Rendezvous): Sequel to a 2004 subtitled A Tribute to Luther Vandross (GRP), leads off again with Kirk Whalum, followed by a comparable (but different) roster of smooth jazz luminaries (e.g., Norman Brown for Paul Jackson Jr., Najee for Mindi Abair), including vocals from Maysa, Patti Austin, and Will Downing. [Have promo cdr.] B [sp]
The Swimmers: Fighting Trees (2007, Mad Dragon): Indie rock group from Philadelphia, first of two albums, leans toward jangle pop, has some appeal. B [sp]
Back when I bought lots of CDs, I added them to the database with grade 'U' -- unrated, waiting my attention. At one point the Unrated list topped 1100 albums. I've gradually whittled it down over the years to less than 30, which roughly speaking divide into two categories: records I can't find, and records I can locate but don't feel like listening to (some of these are big box sets that would take up major time). For my own sanity, I've decided to clean out the category here. Some I found and reviewed above. Some I've gone ahead and assigned grades to (based on my memory, not especially trustworthy here, but sometimes supplemented by sampling). Some of these I may find later and review as makes sense. Unless noted otherwise, I just commented out my 'U' grade and added a note-to-myself. ("Dropped from database" means I decided I shouldn't even track it as an album.)
Absolut Null Punkt: Absolut Null Punkt (2003 , Important): Japanese band (1984-87), reformed in 2003. Album (almost certainly a CDR) not listed in Discogs, could possibly be Live in Japan. Dropped from database.
Derek Bailey/Pat Metheny/Gregg Bendian/Paul Wertico: The Sign of 4 (1996 , Knitting Factory, 3CD): Improv clash of two guitarists and two drummers. Had CD, and remember having trouble with it. Penguin Guide 4-star, but others hated it. Fair grade: B
Berkeley Guitar 2006 (2006, Tompkins Square): Effectively a sampler; found CDR but dropped from database.
Big Stick: Drag Racing Underground (1989, Albertine): As best I recall, a noise rock band with a drag racing fetish. Discogs doesn't list, but AMG has this as a 23-track CD. Later compilation Some of the Best of Big Stick has some overlap. I have it at B+(**), so this is probably some kind of: B+
Boston Horns: Shibuya Gumbo (2008, Boston Horns): Funk-jazz group, seven albums 2001-11. No recall.
Brazil Today! Volume 2 (, Polygram): Classic selection (16 tracks) of MPB, dates not provided. Label should be Philips. Not sure whether this or another album (not in database) was my introduction to Brazilian music.
Césaria Evora: Nova Sintra (1990 , West Wind Latina): Cape Verdean singer, have four other albums rated (two at A-). This appears to be a reissue of Distino Di Belita, reviewed above, making this redundant (but since I have a copy somewhere under the other title, I'll count it twice). Grade: B+(**)
Funkatronic: Live at Discover Festival Burlington, VT (2002, self-released, EP): Three-song promo (length 14:28), found CDR, not in Discogs, band doesn't appear to have released anything else, so no harm dropping from database.
Rory Gallagher: Big Guns: The Very Best of Rory Gallagher (1970-90 , Capo, 2CD): Irish rocker (1948-95), probably deserves a best-of, but I've never played any of his 14 records.
Iscathamiya: Zulu Worker Choirs in South Africa (1986, Heritage): Compilation recommended by Christgau, related to the mbube made famous by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, but tougher (or so I hear). Fairly safe guess: B+
Flaco Jimenez: El Sonido de San Antonio (1980, Arhoolie): Tex-Mex legend, tons of stuff in print but not this. Probably ex-LP: B+
JSL Records 20th Anniversary Sampler (1988-2006 , JSL): Label sampler, found CDR but dropped from database.
Hazard/Fennesz/Biosphere: Light (2001 , Touch, EP): Turns out I had this listed twice, once under various artists (each has his own section) and once as listed. The latter was graded: B
Mind Over Matter Music Over Mind: Matador (2004, Soundz Impossible): Not in Discogs, but aka MOM2, with Bobby Hill and Thomas Stanley. Probably got this because Stanley is a friend of a friend, and could kick myself for losing it. Bassist Luke Stewart played in a later iteration of group (Chris Downing was on this record). No idea.
Astor Piazzolla: Themes Originaux (1982, Jonathan): Probably ex-LP. Some early albums sound uncomfortably classical. I think this is one, but cannot be sure, and I'm reluctant to guess.
Astor Piazzolla: Tristezas de un Doble A (1987, Rounder): Could be LP or CD. Again, hard to guess. I have nine Piazzolla albums graded in database.
Leslie Pintchik: Live in Concert (2010, Pintch Hard, DVD+CD): Jazz pianist, probably got waylaid (and for that matter ignored) due to DVD packaging. Six other albums in database are various levels of B+, so most likely this is also some kind of: B+
Richard Pryor: . . . And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (1968-92 , Rhino, 9CD): Christgau graded this A+. I don't doubt that he was a genius, but I rarely listen to comedy albums, and don't feel like spending 9-10 hours -- even if I could bag extra credit by breaking out the original albums. But I do know where it is, and figure this is a lazy, minimal grade: B+
Elba Ramalho: Personalidade (, Verve): Brazilian star, many records, this a sampler, only one in my database.
Hank Snow: The Singing Ranger, Vol. 4 (1969-84 , Bear Family, 9CD): Country star from Canada. I was a big fan, and grabbed this big box when I could, but never got through it all. Maybe some day. The five Bear Family boxes (the first is called The Yodelling Ranger) total 39 CDs. This is the only one I have.
Spire: Live in Geneva Cathedral/Saint Pierre (2004 , Touch, 2CD): Ambient/minimalist concert, pieces by seven artists, the most famous being Henryk Górecki and Fennesz, the first disc heavy on the organ.
Alan Stivell: Zoom 70/95 (1970-95, , Dreyfus, 2CD): Legendary Celtic harpist from Breton in France. One other item in my database at B+. Almost certainly have CD somewhere. I don't have a lot of patience for this music, but minimal grade is: B
Mel Tormé: The Mel Torme Collection (1944-85 , Rhino, 4CD): Career-spanning box set of one of the more important jazz singers of the 1950s. I feel negligent for not getting to this. Little chance that this is not some kind of: B+
Neil Young: Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972) (1963-72 , Reprise, 10CD): Another big box I never made it through. (Bought it when Borders was going out of business, and not sure I even tried.) Safe guess: B+
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: