An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, September 4, 2023
Music: Current count 40811  rated (+44), 34  unrated (+7).
Huge Speaking of Which last night: 135 links, 8610 words. Started Thursday, and let some things like the baseball memoir, the note on Golda Meir, and the Hobsbawm introduction just flow. Also added the Jimmy Buffett obituary late, after I found the note on his politics. By then I had gone back for a few of his records, below.
Looking back over it, I see a dozen spots where I should (or at least could) write much more. I've made some minor edits, but it certainly needs much more.
The only thing that kept the rated count from cratering was working off a checklist, in this case the unheard records from Brad Luen's 2003 poll results (in the notebook), hence a lot of 2003 releases under Old Music. I've hit everything that got ranked, but very few of the single-vote records. The records rarely got more than one play, so they piled up pretty fast. Aside from the Pet Shop Boys, which a second play would most likely lift to full A, Marcelo D2 made the grade the fastest.
I got another food plate, if you're into that. The diet is going fitfully, but I believe I'm entitled to clean up leftovers and dated pantry items. It was orders of magnitude better than the microwave fish from the night before, or whatever I had last night and have already blotted from memory.
After taking it apart and reassembling it, the upstairs CD player finally decided to start working, but only after I ordered a replacement -- something I found pretty embarrassing. But it is the last such model still available (an Onkyo), and the last unit Amazon had in stock, so I figure I'll keep it as a collector's item. Next day, the downstairs CD player reverted to its bad habit of instantly withdrawing the tray before I could put a new disc in, so if I shoot it, I'll already have a replacement.
After much nagging, I filled out a ballot for the DownBeat Readers Poll. My notes are here. Note that I'm only picking from the ballot choices they offer, which miss a lot of worthy albums (at least 80% of my A-lists: 2022 and 2023) and a great many notable musicians (especially from Europe, but also more avant or more retro than their MOR niche).
The demo queue continues to grow, and I'm probably farther behind than I've been a decade (give or take). One reason I've let it slide is that only 5 (of 35) are out yet, and most won't be released until October. The pending list is sorted by release date, but my basket isn't, so sometimes I slip up and jump the gun (as with Birnbaum, below; future dates noted at the end of the review).
Still no indexing on last month's Streamnotes. Expecting more 100°F weather this week. It's often hot here until the last week of September.
New records reviewed this week:
Adam Birnbaum: Preludes (2023, Chelsea Music Festival): Pianist, several albums since 2006, in a trio with Matt Clohesy (bass) and Keita Ogawa (percussion), playing Bach preludes. B+(**) [cd] [10-10]
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War)) (2022 , International Anthem): Trumpet player, sings some, adds some keyboard and percussion, died at 39 shortly after recording this somewhat unfocused album. Mostly quartet with Lester St. Louis (cello), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) plus extra credits for all, and various guest spots -- Rob Frye plays bass clarinet on three tracks, Nick Broste trombone on two of those. B+(***) [sp]
Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk (2021-22 , Out of Your Head): Drummer, has at least one previous album, composed these pieces with lyric help from vocalist Laura Ann Singh. Strong instrumental stretches, with JC Kuhl (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Bob Miller (trumpet/flugelhorn), Adam Hopkins (bass), and the always excellent Michael McNeill (piano). B+(**) [cd]
Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 , Pyroclastic, 2CD): Canadian pianist, based in New York since 2001, impressed me early, especially with 2008's Rye Eclipse, eventually rising in DownBeat's polls, and winning the Jazz Critics Poll in 2019 for Diatom Ribbons. The latter album, with its fusion elements (various guitars, Val Jeanty's turntables, vocals and spoken word), threw me at the time (or maybe, without a CD, I just didn't give it enough time, but I did recheck it during the poll). But this new one isn't a live take on the original. It's new material -- incorporating pieces by Wayne Shorter, Geri Allen, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Conlon Nancarrow/Eric Dolphy -- played by a slimmed down but fully functional band, with Jeanty, Julian Lage (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), with several vocal samples (Messiaen, Stockhausen, Sun Ra, Paul Bley). It opens up and stretches out (53:42 + 51:09), which among other luxuries gives the pianist more time to claim the spotlight. Which she does. [PS: Back in early JCG days, I noticed that nearly all of my featured Duds had just appeared on the cover of DownBeat. Davis finally made the September 2023 cover, a rare exception to a rule that has proven remarkably robust.] A- [sp]
Homeboy Sandman: Rich (2023, Dirty Looks): New York rapper Angel Del Villar III, lots of records since 2007, this another short one (11 tracks, 26:29). Always loose, some of this feels too flip, like when all he can come up with is "I rap real well." Choice cut is "Then We Broke Up," where he even finds some horns. B+(**) [sp]
Superposition: Glaciers (2019-22 , Kettle Hole): Duo of piano/keyboard players Todd A. Carter and Michael Hartman, who also work in some percussion and toys. Second album (or "debut") under this name, but they have worked together for 30 years, including in an ambient/drone band called Liminal. Nice textures, ambient plus something. B+(**) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Sonny Stitt: Boppin' in Baltimore: Live at the Left Bank (1973 , Jazz Detective): Alto saxophonist, a bebopper from his start in the late 1940s, took a lot of grief as a "Bird imitator," but invented as much as he stole, and really who cares? He was always up to play, especially in his early-1960s duo albums with Gene Ammons, but his best albums came in 1972 for Muse, when he slowed down a bit. This previously unreleased tape comes from that period: a quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums). A- [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Meeting (2003, Pi): Down to four -- Malachi Favors (bass), Famoudou Don Moye (drums), Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman (reeds), everyone percussion -- with the recent death of Lester Bowie. He is missed. B+(*) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Sirius Calling (2003 , Pi): Moving on, still a quartet, streaks of brilliance with a lot of ambling along. B+(*) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Chi Congo (1972, Decca): Now-legendary Chicago quintet, they recorded a massive amount in 1967-72, much of it in France, like this album, before they landed on Atlantic for a couple 1972-73 albums, then ECM from 1978 to 2001 (aside for a 1986-90 burst in the Japanese label DIW). B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Paris (1969 , Charly, 2CD): Two long pieces (49:34 and 42:02), each originally split on LP, not sure when BYG originally released them but Part 2 came out in Japan in 1975, they were collected on 2-LP by Affinity in 1980, and later reissued on CD here and by Fuel 2000 in the US. Current digital editions have them split up again, but each part refracts the whole and vice versa. As usual, everyone doubles on percussion, with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman on all manner of flutes and reeds. Singer Fontella Bass is also credited, a nice bit toward the end. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 1 (1969 , BYG): "Oh, Strange," credited to Jarman and Bowie. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 2 (1969 , BYG): "Bon Voyage," credited to Bowie. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Berlin (1979 , West Wind, 2CD): One 80:10 stretch, sensibly split over 2-CD, the set pieces (if indeed that's what they are) flowing into one long medley. B+(*) [sp]
Baba Zula/Mad Professor: Ruhani Oyun Havalan (Psychebelly Dance Music) (2003, Doublemoon): Turkish group, sing and play traditional instruments augmented with electronics for "a unique psychedelic sound," with Mad Professor mixing dub style, and a couple dancers listed among group members. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Blue Bland: Blues at Midnight (2003, Malaco): Blues/soul singer (1930-2013), his 1957-69 Duke Recordings the peak of several essential compilations ranging from 1952-59 (The "3B" Blues Boy) to 1973-84 (The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings). After leaving MCA in 1984, he got picked up by Malaco and cut nine more albums, ending with this one -- touted as "a return to form." I've never followed him album-by-album, but the first thing clear here is that he never lost his voice (despite an occasional disconcerting gargle). This one flows easy. B+(**) [sp]
Brooks & Dunn: Red Dirt Road (2003, Arista Nashville): Country duo, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, debut 1991, ninth album (of eleven through 2007, plus Reboot in 2019), most went top-ten country. Wikipedia says "neotraditional" but, nah! I'm not sure who came first, but they were part of a wave that amped country guitars and drums up to fill arenas. They also groomed their songs to appeal to the mass conservative audience, without quite becoming assholes about it. (GW Bush and Barack Obama both used their "Only in America" as campaign songs.) Most striking thing here is how their women are feisty enough to dump them but never do. They count themselves lucky, as well they should. B [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973, ABC): Dead at 78, he recorded 29 (or 51) albums, sold over 20 million, and probably made more money merchandising his lifestyle (per Wikipedia, his net worth was $550 million). Only thing of his I ever checked out was a 2003 best-of, but I always loved this title -- a play on a Marty Robbins title he didn't bother trying to turn into a song. Agreeably loose, maybe even a bit sloppy. B+(***) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974, ABC): As folksy and sloppy as before, but somehow he misplaced . . . songs, I think. B [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Havana Daydreamin' (1976, ABC): Skipping a couple, another pleasant set from the Key West Chamber of Commerce. B+(*) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977, ABC): His country shtick seems to be in decline, but he's been working on his songs, coming up with a signature one in "Margaritaville" -- although note that the chart it topped was called US Adult Contemporary (it hit 8 on Billboard Hot 100, 7 on Cash Box). This was his first album to rise as high as 12 on the pop charts (2 on country). B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978, ABC): Actually, a minor correction to the above: I did own a copy of this, but it never got copied into my database. A second platinum album, peaked at 10 (6 country), heights he didn't return to until the 1990s. His hit single this time was "Cheeseburger in Paradise," which like "Margaritaville" he converted into a chain of restaurants. B+(*) [sp]
John Cale: Hobo Sapiens (2003, EMI): Welsh singer-songwriter, started in avant-classical in the 1960s, played electric viola in Velvet Underground, had various high points in the 1970s, which ultimately established the sound he's still working with here, more engagingly than was his norm (most remarkably "Letter From Abroad"). B+(***) [sp]
Constantines: Shine a Light (2003, Sub Pop): Canadian indie rock band, five albums 2001-08, released a couple reunion singles since. Second album. B+(*) [sp]
Rodney Crowell: Fate's Right Hand (2003, DMZ/Epic): Country singer-songwriter, moved from Houston to Nashville and made a splash with his 1978 debut. This was his eleventh, during a stretch of eight albums with eight different labels, most charting around 30. Choice cut: "Preachin' to the Choir." B+(***) [sp]
The Darkness: Permission to Land (2003, Atlantic): English rock band, first album, leans toward metal but a bit soft and malleable. Broke up after second album (2005), regrouped in 2012, with five albums since. There was a day when I might have cut them more slack (or maybe I did, given how annoying the singer's screech is). B [sp]
DonaZica: Composição (2003, Tratore): Brazilian group, principally singers Anelis Assumpção, Iara Rennó, and Andreia Dias (reportedly the lead), first of two albums (although I've run across Rennó elsewhere). Looking them up, I got confused by a samba dancer known as Dona Zica (actual name Euzébia Silva de Oliveira, who died at 89 the same year this appeared). Catches your ear, in a typically slippery mode. A- [sp]
Kathleen Edwards: Failer (2003, Zoë): Canadian folkie singer-songwriter, father was in the State Department, so she grew up around the world. First album, of five through 2020. B+(*) [sp]
Entropic Advance: Monkey With a Gun (2003, Symbolic Insight): Wesley Davis (bios+a+ic) and Noise Poet Nobody (James Miller?), released ten albums 1998-2014, of dark ambiance, light noise, captured sounds, some vocal. B+(**) [sp]
Barry Guy/Evan Parker: Studio/Live: Birds & Blades (2001 , Intakt, 2CD): Bass and tenor/soprano sax, one set recorded at Radiostudio DRS Zürich, a second a day later at Sphères Bar Buch & Bühne, also in Zürich. Long history, dating back to the late 1960s when they, foremost among a few others (like Derek Bailey and Paul Rutherford) introduced avant-jazz to Britain. This is a generous sample of what what these remarkable musicians have been doing for decades. A- [sp]
Corey Harris: Mississippi to Mali (2003, Rounder): Bluesman, appeared in the mode established by Taj Mahal in the 1970s, cultivating those old delta blues for hip moderns, which garnered him a MacArthur in 2007. This came out about the time Ali Farka Touré was being treated as John Lee Hooker's long-lost cousin. That's the sort of connection Harris could revel in, but the mix here barely connects. B+(*) [sp]
King Geedorah: Take Me to Your Leader (2003, Big Dada): Alias for rapper Daniel Dumile (1971-2020), formerly of KMD, also recorded as Viktor Vaughn but is best remembered as MF Doom. He was born in London, moved to Long Island while young, built his career in US, then was denied re-entry after a tour of Europe in 2010. I never quite got his cosmology, but the slinky beats and sense of surprise were irresistible. B+(***) [sp]
The Knife: Deep Cuts (2003, V2): Swedish electronic duo, Olof and Karin Dreijer (brother and sister) -- she later broke off as Fever Ray, while he recorded, less successfully, as Oni Ayhun. Second album. B+(**) [sp]
Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory (2000, Warner Bros.): Rap-metal group, first album, huge hit with 30 million copies sold worldwide, albeit with very little love from critics I follow. I cheated here by leaving the room while this played, the distance dimming the volume and dulling the words (if not dull enough already), but leaving basic impressions: palpable anger, and enough melodic sense to provide hooks. Clearly not my thing, but better than expected. B+(*) [r]
Linkin Park: Meteora (2003, Warner Bros.): Second album, worldwide sales dropped off to 27 million. Listened to this one in the same room, which made it louder and a bit clearer, and only marginally more tedious. B+(*) [r]
Patty Loveless: On Your Way Home (2003, Epic): Country singer-songwriter, original name Ramey but had just divorced a husband named Terry Lovelace when she recorded her debut in 1987. Has a pure country voice for a very traditional sound, later moving even further into bluegrass, recording steadily up to 2009, nothing since. B+(**) [sp]
Marcelo D2: Looking for the Perfect Beat [A Procura Da Batida Perfeita ] (2003, Mr. Bongo): Brazilian rapper Marcelo Maldonado Peixoto, previously had a group called Planet Hemp. Second album, title originally in Portuguese, translated for reissue by Mr. Bongo (2003). I can't speak to the words, but the beats really jump. A- [sp]
Metric: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003, Last Gang): Canadian electropop band, first album (of nine through 2023), Emily Haines the singer-keyboardist, with James Shaw on guitar. B+(**) [sp]
My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves (2003, ATO): Indie rock group from Louisville, Jim James the singer, nine albums 1999-2021, this their third. Long album, sometimes plaintive with faint echoes of Neil Young. B [sp]
The New Pornographers: Electric Version (2003, Matador): Canadian indie band, second album, three members also have notable side projects (Neko Case, Carl Newman, Dan Bejar). Came in 18 in Brad Luen's 2003 poll, highest of any album I missed, the likely explanation being that I thought their debut sucked, this one wasn't as well-regarded, and I've never cared much for their later albums, or for those side projects. But sure, it is very snappy, with hooks and, well, what else? B [sp]
Pernice Brothers: Yours, Mine & Ours (2003, Ashmont): Indie rock band led by Joe Pernice, formerly of Scud Mountain Boys, and brother Bob among others. Third album. Sounds pretty, but feels trivial. B+(*) [sp]
Pet Shop Boys: Pop Art: The Hits (1985-2003 , Parlophone, 2CD): A 35-song best-of, focusing on 7-inch versions, so nothing very long (5:10 max). Most songs I instantly recognize and totally love, including five songs from Very, but the few I don't recognize are pretty amazing, too. Good chance more plays would raise this grade. A- [sp]
Steely Dan: Everything Must Go (2003, Warner Bros.): Four outstanding albums 1972-75 when they were still a band, fell off a bit in 1976 as Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, and some studio support, found a new niche -- longer songs, jazzier -- with Aja and Gaucho 1977-80. Not much to show for solo careers, other than Fagen's brilliant The Nightfly (1982), so they reunited in 2000 for a pretty good record (Two Against Nature), then ended with this (Becker died in 2017). Still, not much here beyond trademark sound. B+(*) [sp]
T.I.: Trap Muzik (2003, Atlantic/Grand Hustle): Atlanta rapper Clifford Harris, second album (has eleven through 2020, has had a pretty checkered career beyond the music). Trap has something to do with selling drugs, but you can just go with the flow here, and occasionally catch the odd beats. B+(**) [sp]
TV on the Radio: Young Liars (2003, Touch & Go, EP): Indie/art rock band from Brooklyn, self-released a demo album in 2002, this EP (5 songs, 25:13), then went on to release five albums 2004-14, most critically acclaimed -- I'm even on record as liking Dear Science and Nine Types of Light, but don't remember any more than that. This hints at something more, but hard to tell what. B [sp]
Ying Yang Twins: Me & My Brother (2003, TVT): Crunk duo from Atlanta, Kaine (Eric Jackson) and D-Roc (D'Angelo Holmes), debut 2000, third album. Relentless, cartoonish bangers, can be sampled on the Crunk Hits volumes. Christgau gets the spirit: "Way more fun than most bitch-ass motherfuckers." High point: "Naggin' Part II (The Answer)." Then the down of "Armageddon." B+(***) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: