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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (done).

Tweet: Music Week: 54 albums, 11 A-list, quite a bit for a week where I took a couple days out to cook birthday dinner.

Music: Current count 36534 [36480] rated (+54), 149 [159] unrated (-10).

Took a break from the computer yesterday, playing oldies and cooking dinner to celebrate my 71st birthday. That puts me a year older than my grandfather was -- he believed the Bible promised "three score and ten" years, and died right on schedule. That leaves me five years short of my father. I never knew my mother's parents, neither of whom made it to 70. My father's mother lived into her 90s, but suffered from dementia her last decade or more. My sister died at age 60. She was the last born and the youngest to die among the cohort of 20 cousins on my mother's side. And my younger brother is struggling with more health issues than I am (or than I know about). So I approached the date with a bit of grim foreboding.

We had eight people total, four older than me, three younger, but only one who had to think about work the next day. All were vaccinated. One topic discussed was family members who are becoming ostracized for their refusal: the word "selfish" was used to describe them. I'm pretty sympathetic to laissez faire arguments, but I've lost my patience for them, regardless of their motivations. I'm particularly bothered by the bad faith of people who campaign against other getting vaccinated -- even if you thought there was a risk in being vaccinated (and I don't see that there is one), wouldn't encouraging others to become immunized help protect yourself? It's hard to see their logic as anything short of political, and that's where the malevolence shows through. I'm even more irked by anti-vaxers who claim any form of patriotism or religion or community spirit, as their efforts are aimed at undermining all of those things. But I should also note that while the political right has claimed anti-vaccination, and therefore promoting the spread of pandemic, many of the people we know who have refused to get vaccinated are highly critical of the right: they are cynical about business and politics, and are often committed to what I can only describe as extra-scientific health fads. I find these people even more frustrating to argue with or be critical of.

By the way, Laura and I got Pfizer booster shots recently. I got a flu shot earlier this week, while I was out grocery shopping. And Sadie (Liz Fink's orphaned dog) got her mandated shots today.

The only birthday gift I hope for is that my guests will submit gracefully to letting me cook for them. I started the tradition back in the 1990s, usually using it as the excuse for a fairly deep dive into a foreign cuisine (first was Chinese, second Indian, and I've since done Turkish, Thai, Spanish, French, Greek, Russian, Korean, Mexican, Brazilian, several variations on Middle Eastern). Last year we ate Turkish and Moroccan food in the backyard. This year my exotic food venture was directed at the US South. I always like my mother's coconut cake for birthday, and it occurred to me that I hadn't fried chicken in several years -- last time, I think, was a visit from my brother -- so it felt a bit rarer than last year's yogurtlu kebap and bisteeya. Besides, I had a copy of Edna Lewis's The Gift of Southern Cooking (with Scott Peacock) that I bought in 2016 but still hadn't cooked anything from.

So this seemed like a good time to broaden my mother's backwoods Arkansas background with a deeper survey of (mostly Afro-American) Southern cooking. Once I made that decision, I ordered three more cookbooks to broaden my perspective and cross-reference:

I also referred to several other cookbooks I already owned, most importantly The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book (my primary source for baking except for cakes). I also thumbed through Betty Fussell's I Hear America Cooking (my "go to" for jambalaya). What I ultimately came up with was:

  • Fried chicken, per Lewis: brined, buttermilk, cast iron, lard and butter, dredge in flour and fry, making gravy from the drippings (no recipe, but that's the way we always did it).
  • Biscuits.
  • Mashed potatoes, cooked in chicken stock, whipped up with butter and cream, with shredded white sharp cheddar.
  • Sweet potato casserole, topped with pecans, brown sugar, and a flour-butter combo similar to pie crust.
  • Greens in pork stock: collard, turnip, kale. I couldn't get the "country ham" for the stock, so bought and roasted 4 lb. pork bones, then simmered them and a chunk of salt pork for 10 hours.
  • Maque choux: corn, onion, and green bell pepper, sauteed, then added cream.
  • Eggplant relish: roasted, with onion, tomato, and raisins.
  • Apple chutney.
  • Bacon jam.

I had planned on making green beans, but couldn't find them loose. I bought a bag at Sprouts, but they tasted off when I boiled them, so I threw them out. Also planned on making cornbread, but I got rushed and confused and decided to just do the biscuits. I thought the chutneys would go nice with the cornbread, but they wound up getting left to the side (although they were all very good, as was everything).

For dessert I wanted to make the coconut cake and a pecan pie. Wound up making two pies, both with ATK's all-butter crust. For one I used Lewis's bourbon pecan pie filling, for the other ATK's chocolate pecan. I also made the Fudgy Flourless Brownie Pie from the Black Girl Baking book, with its tahini-maple sauce. I posted a picture of the desserts on Facebook. My caption there: "When I was growing up, I learned that dinner is just a social ritual you have to get through in order to get to dessert."

With dinner plans afoot, I expected a drop in the number of records reviewed this week, but the numbers held up pretty well. I knocked off 7 new jazz promos, another dozen-plus old unheard CDs, and a bunch of unheard Christgau picks. I also picked up a copy of the new Nathan Bell album Christgau reviewed, and was impressed enough to go back to all his other albums on Napster (where the new one isn't). First two were real impressive, but I cooled a bit when he trimmed down to solo albums -- lots of good things in the songs, but not as much fun to listen to.

I've been hearing rhapsodic reports on the new Coltrane vault tape, and I'm a huge fan of A Love Supreme, but I was disappointed when I finally got a chance to hear it. Not inconceivable my opinion could improve, but strikes me as a case of hope getting ahead of reality.

Thanks to the reader who tipped me to the "new" Kid Creole album. Unfortunately, it's not really new, nor really good. Thanks to another reader for catching some typos (one crippling), and for pointing out the recent death of Dutch classical conductor/violinist Bernard Haitink (also see Bernard Haitink, Perhaps the Wisest Conductor of Them All). I grew up despising classical music -- one prejudice I've never felt the slightest desire of working on -- so I don't see myself following up here, but seems like a public service announcement to note that someone who likes most of what I like also holds this guy in highest esteem.

I will note that Mort Sahl died today, age 94 (also see: Mort Sahl, Whose Biting Commentary Redefind Stand-Up, Dies at 94.) I remember him as one of the first comics I heard who was really outspoken on political issues. My favorite line of his goes something like: "Charlton Hesston says he hopes his children will one day live under Fascism. If he were more perceptive, he'd be a happy man today."

This is the last Music Week of October. I've opened a Streamnotes file for November, and started to add new things to it (although I liked A Rhys Chatham Compendium enough to sneak it in this week). I haven't done the indexing for October yet, so will get to it later this week. But as you can see from the link up top, it's been a big month for sampling old music. Easy to keep doing that. A good deal easier than figuring out what's new and interesting. Not sure whether I'll do an EOY compilation this year. Early on I would have said no, but not sure I'll be able to hold myself back.


New records reviewed this week:

  • JD Allen: Queen City (2020 [2021], Savant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Atmosphere: Word? (2021, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (2021, Need to Know): [cd]: A
  • Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: Tinctures in Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) (2021, Royal Potato Family): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Erin Enderlin: Barroom Mirrors EP (2021, Black Crow Productions, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Forkelid: 1st Movement (2021, Prophone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jazz Daddies: Moontower Nights (2021, self-released): [cd]: B
  • David Leon: Aire De Agua (2020 [2021], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lil Nas X: Montero (2021, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Karen Marguth: Until (2014-21 [2021], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Moulder: Metamorphosis (2019 [2021], Origin): [cd]
  • Randy Napoleon: Rust Belt Roots: Randy Napoleon Plays Wes Montgomery, Grand Green & Kenny Burrell (2018 [2021], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • RaeLynn: Baytown (2021, Round Here): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (1965 [2021], Impulse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Nothin' Left but the Rest (1996 [2021], 2C2C): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lionel Loueke: Close Your Eyes (2018 [2021], Sounderscore): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nadja Noordhuis: Gullfoss (2019 [2021], Little Mystery): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Send I a Lion: A Nighthawk Reggae Joint (1979-84 [2019], Omnivore): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman: Live Down Under (2002 [2021], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Nathan Bell: In Tune, On Time, Not Dead (2007, Zensuit): [r]: A-
  • Nathan Bell: Traitorland (2008, Zensuit): [r]: A-
  • Nathan Bell: Black Crow Blue (An American Album) (2011, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nathan Bell: Blood Like a River (2013, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nathan Bell: I Don't Do This for Love, I Do This for Love (Working and Hanging On in America) (2015, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nathan Bell: Love > Fear (48 Hours in Traitorland) (2017, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nathan Bell: Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth (In Spite of Everyone and Everything) (2017 [2018], Angry Stick): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nathan Bell: Loves Bones and Stars, Love's Bones and Stars (2018, Angry Stick): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chris Berry and the Bayaka of Yandoumbe: Listen . . . OKA! (2011, Oka Productions): [r]: A-
  • Calling Rastafari (1981 [1982], Nighthawk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rhys Chatham: A Rhys Chatham Compendium (1971-89 [2002], Table of the Elements): [cd]: A-
  • The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (2011, EH Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Maria Kalaniemi: Maria Kalaniemi (1992 [1994], Xenophile): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ustad Ali Akbar Khan/Pandit Swapan Chadhuri: Passing on the Tradition (1995 [1996], AMMP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kodo: Ibuki (1997, Tristar): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007 (2007, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
  • Masters of the Boogie Piano [Delmark 50th Anniversary Collection] (1939-2001 [2003], Delmark): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pointer Sisters: Pointer Sisters' Greatest Hits (1978-81 [1982], RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pointer Sisters: Greatest Hits (1978-85 [1989], RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Ramones: Pleasant Dreams (1981, Sire): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rave-Ups: Town and Country (1985, Fun Stuff): [r]: B+(***)
  • R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Replacements: Stink ("Kids Don't Follow Plus Seven) (1982, Twin/Tone, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack Smith: Les Evening Gowns Damnées: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume I (1962-64 [1997], Table of the Elements): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jack Smith: Silent Shadows on Cinemaroc Island: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume II (1962-64 [1997], Table of Elements): [cd]: B
  • The Sound of Kinshasa: Guitar Classics From Zaire (1950s-70s [1982], Original Music): [yt]: A-
  • Streets of Dakar: Generation Boul Falé ([1999], Sterns): [r]: A-
  • The Tanzania Sound (1960s [1987], Original Music): [yt]: A-
  • A Taste of the Indestructible Beat of Soweto ([1993], Earthworks): [r]: A
  • James Blood Ulmer: Black Rock (1982, Columbia): [yt]: A-
  • Neil Young & the Bluenotes: This Note's for You (1988, Reprise): [r]: B-
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Weld (1991, Reprise, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Neil Young: Unplugged (1993, Reprise): [r]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Broken Arrow (1996, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yuri Yunakov Ensemble: New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music (1997, Traditional Crossroads): [r]: B+(***)
  • Z-Man: Dope or Dog Food (2004, Refill): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tapper Zukie: Man Ah Warrior (1973 [1977], MER): [yt]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi) [10-29]

Purchases:

  • Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (Need to Know)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Daily Log

Colin Powell died, and is being mourned much more than he ever deserved. I wrote this on Facebook:

My most indelible memory of Powell comes from his press conferences in 1990-91, where he repeatedly raised his voice to emphasize his oft-repeated "kill the enemy" mantra. He clearly believed that killing was the point of war, and was razor-focused on that. The "Powell Doctrine" was designed to maximize killing, making it as one-sided as possible. Neocons like Max Boot hated it because they wanted the US to stop worrying about possible consequences of US interventions -- the argument in Boot's "Savage Wars of Peace" is that we shouldn't worry about getting into wars, because they always work out ok anyway. (He's not the first prognosticator to go 0-for-forever after staking his claim, nor the only one to remain employable.) You can't counter that Powell's Doctrine was meant to keep us out of quagmire wars, because he personally used it to define US wars in Panama and Kuwait/Iraq. The Doctrine was shelved after 9/11, especially when the CIA war in Afghanistan briefly looked successful. He probably had a role in beefing up the Iraq invasion force beyond Rumsfeld's wishes, but the effect of that was to abandon the real reason the 1990-91 wars looked good: very limited goals. Wasn't Powell the guy behind the "Pottery Barn Rule"? I can't find a redeemable moment in his career -- certainly not covering up war crimes in Vietnam, or launching them in Central America, or in his political moves in 1993 to stop the "Commander in Chief" from rectifying gross civil rights abuses under his command. Maybe you can give him some credit for turning on Trump, but so did his nemesis Boot. Now I read they want to rename some Army base Fort Powell (as we're finally disposing of those bases named for Confederate generals, the token black general looks irresistible). What was it Thurgood Marshall said? "A black snake can bite you as bad as a white snake." Powell may have been the first black to attain various high posts, but he was never a pioneer or a visionary. He rose through the ranks by being one of the boys, committed to his comrades and their self-importance.

Laura also linked to this article from CodePink: Colin Powell: Another War Criminal Cashes In.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 47 albums, 13 (or 14) A-list, mostly old records (again), with some comments on method and madness. And yes, I'm getting plenty mad.

Music: Current count 36480 [36433] rated (+47), 159 [188] unrated (-29).

Picked up a couple new (and one old) music tips from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: October 2021. I can note that I previously reviewed both Dave albums, Homeboy Sandman's Anjelitu, and Kalie Shorr's I got Here by Accident, all four at A-. Also Baloji at B+(***). While I had missed this particular Howlin' Wolf edition, the same 20 songs are also available in the same order on The Definitive Collection (released 2007), previously graded A+. It's depressing to compare the pitiful one below to the one I wrote back then:

Howlin' Wolf: The Definitive Collection (1951-64 [2007], Geffen/Chess): "Hidden Charms" was just a song, one about his girl. Chester Burnett had nothing to hide except his name. He was a big man, "three hundred pounds of heavenly joy," "built for comfort, not for speed." And he was bold. His voice sounded like gravel, but he could sing with it as well as bark, growl, and howl. He may not have been a great guitarist, but Hubert Sumlin was -- when Buddy Guy joined the band he played bass. Despite his mass, he had a light touch, an uncanny rhythmic cadence that dropped the words gracefully into place. Chess helped, too. Coming up from Memphis he was howlin' at midnight; soon he was sittin' on top of the world. A+

Otherwise, last week was like the week before, except even more depressing. Going through a sad, miserable patch, but at least I do take a little pleasure in crossing previously unplayed CDs off my "unrated" list -- at least as I cross them off my list, especially ones I didn't much enjoy listening to. Still, two of those records made the A-list this time (Ian Dury, Bert Williams). The other "old music" records -- most of the ones not marked [cd] -- continued my scan through the unheard Christgau-graded albums list, starting with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, up to Dwight Yoakam this week. Deep down in the alphabet there, but still only 73% through (lot of various artist compilations to follow). Also, I'm aware of a few records I skipped that I can find on Napster or YouTube (shit I've really been avoiding -- Robert Cray is the name I'm most conscious of, probably because there's like three albums by him).

By the way, I don't seriously believe that anyone needs all three Cleanhead A- albums this week. I think he's terrific, but damn little difference between them, and any one will give you a good sample. (I probably prefer Clean Head's Back in Town.) By the way, he's also on two somewhat more varied records I'm also a fan of: Cleanhead and Cannonball, as in Adderley, and Blues in the Night Volume 2: The Late Show, filed under Etta James, and marginally better than Volume 1: The Early Show.

I wound up showing covers of two albums not reviewed below. The alternate Howlin' Wolf is really the same record, and when I looked up the review (above), I found I already had the cover scan handy. The Double Dee & Steinski EP didn't actually have a cover: it was just a sleeve with the label showing through, not that you'd ever find a copy anyway. The pictured Steinski comp starts off with those three pieces, then adds two more hours of brilliance. It's a desert island disc (well, two).

Reviewing old compilations always presents maddening, perhaps even impossible, trade-off questions between multiple editions. When I pointed out the Howlin' Wolf equivalence, Robert Christgau left his review unchanged, but tweeted:

To spare myself an insane amount of discographical nitpicking, I chose to base this week's Howlin' Wolf pick solely on what was in my shelves. But note that indefatigably punctilious Tom Hull has determined that Chess's 2007 Wolf Definitive Collection is identical to His Best.

Punctilious as I am, I also work mostly from my own shelves, plus a few things that are readily streamable. So sometimes I pull obsolete (out-of-print) compilations off my shelf. Since I've been checking up on old Christgau grades, I look for the releases he reviewed, even if they are long out-of-print, superseded by more recent editions -- even if that requires assembling an approximate playlist. That doesn't seem like ideal consumer guidance, but some kind of compromise is necessary. One odd artifact this week is that I've ignored the 2004 release dates on my Jethro Tull reissues in favor of their original dates, since that seems like a better baseline. I own a copy of A + Slipstream, but since the latter is just a live DVD, I limited the review to A. On the other hand, it's possible that on occasion I devalue an old LP compilation in favor of later CDs. That's likely with Don Williams below, as I at least partly explain in the review.

The Ezz-Thetics reissues continue to bug me. After I reviewed four a couple weeks ago, a reader pointed out that the series is curated with great care, with detailed liner notes from reputable critics. I review two more below, and find them slightly more useful than the original releases. I will get to more later.

I had to make my own scan of the Bert Williams, a release that seems to have escaped notice on the Internet. Archeophone's three volumes are probably the preferred source, not least for sound quality, but my single disc fills the bill nicely. I didn't write it as such, but that final trio of A-list albums (Williams, Betty Wright, Yo Yo) says much about the trajectory of race in America (and you can fill in a few gaps with Wynonie Harris, Howlin' Wolf, Cleanhead Vinson, and Marion Brown. Bought a new HP all-in-one printer in hopes of doing some scanning with it, but hadn't tried it, and it turned out xsane couldn't work with it. Very unhappy about that, and I blame HP -- for business tactics I hitherto mostly associated with Apple.

Started reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future -- the first novel I've tackled in close to 20 years. I've long said that when I finally get so disgusted with the world I give up, I'm going to give up and switch to fiction. I'm not sure if that's what this signals. For one thing, it's been touted as a superb wonk book. I've been writing a bit on annotation for a KSR article in Financial Times (paywalled, but I secured a samizdat copy). I'm despairing of getting it into publishable shape, but we're not so very far apart: he's both more pessimistic (maybe I mean panicky) and more optimistic (a faith in geoengineering I'm not convinced of), but we share common ground in believing that survival depends on fundamental changes in attitudes and beliefs, especially toward each other.

That would be difficult in any case, but the degree of stupidity and vileness exhibited lately on the US right is mind boggling. I haven't written a Speaking of Which in nearly a month in large part because words seem so insufficient. Another problem, by the way, is that my sources have been drying up, increasingly blockaded by paywalls. Latest seems to be Politico. I've never put much stock in them, but occasionally issues are so obvious they break through their studied bipartisanship. I don't see how an informed electorate is possible when everything's pay-to-play.

This week is countdown to my 71st birthday. I usually make a big dinner, and a month ago was looking forward to this one. As of today, I have no fucking idea what I'm going to do. (Well, the minimum is probably cake.) Have some other projects around the house to work on, so might be a good time to take a break from the usual grind.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Thomas Anderson: Ladies and Germs (2021, Out There): [r]: A-
  • Mickey Guyton: Remember My Name (2021, Capitol): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler Quintet: 1966: Berlin, Lorrach, Paris & Stockholm. Revisited (1966 [2021], Ezz-Thetics, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Marion Brown: Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited (1965-66 [2019], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-

Old music:

  • Keola Beamer: Wooden Boat (1994, Dancing Cat): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bingo: Songs for Children in English With Brazilian and Caribbean Rhythms (2005, Soundbrush): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Contemporary Piano Ensemble: The Key Players (1993, DIW/Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Don Dixon: Chi-Town Budget Show (1988, Restless): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Double Dee & Steinski: The Payoff Mix/Lesson Two/Lesson 3 (1985, Tommy Boy, EP): [r]: A
  • Ian Dury & the Blockheads: Live! All the Best, Mate (1990 [2000], Music Club): [cd]: A-
  • Shirley Eikhard: The Last Hurrah (2000, Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Shirley Eikhard: End of the Day (2001, Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Eikhard: Stay Open (2002-03 [2003], Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dan Fogelberg: The Essential Dan Fogelberg (1973-90 [2003], Epic/Legacy): [cd]: C+
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] ([2008], Verve Forecast): [cd]: B
  • Gimme Indie Rock V. 1 (1984-99 [2000], K-Tel, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Golden Gate Quartet: Travelin' Shoes (1937-39 [1992], Bluebird/RCA): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Barry Harris: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall Volume Twelve (1990 [1991], Concord): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Wynonie Harris: Rockin' the Blues (1944-50 [2001], Proper, 4CD): [cd]: A-
  • Tish Hinojosa: Dreaming of the Labyrinth/Soñar del Laberinto (1996, Warner Brothers): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Robin Holcomb: Robin Holcomb (1990, Elektra): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Howlin' Wolf: His Best (1951-64 [1997], MCA/Chess): [r]: A+
  • Ella Jenkins: Little Johnny Brown (1971 [2001], Smithsonian/Folkways): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jethro Tull: Live: Busting Out (1978 [2004], Chrysalis, 2CD): [cd]: B-
  • Jethro Tull: Stormwatch (1979, Chrysalis): [cd]: C+
  • Jethro Tull: A (1980, Chrysalis): [cd]: C+
  • George Jones: The Definitive Collection 1955-1962 (1955-62 [2004], Mercury/Chronicles): [r]: A
  • Kartet: The Bay Window (2006 [2007], Songlines): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alan Morse: Four O'Clock and Hysteria (2007, Inside Out Music): [cd]: B
  • Genesis P-Orridge & Astrid Monroe: When I Was Young (2001 [2004], Important): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Rizzo: Webster Hall's New York Dance CD v.6 (2003, Webster Hall NYC): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Daryl Stuermer: Go (2007, Inside Out Music): [cdr]: B-
  • Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996, Young God/Atavistic, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • UTD [Urban Thermo Dynamics: DCQ/Ces/Mos Def]: Manifest Destiny (2004, Illson Media): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson: Clean Head's Back in Town (1957, Bethlehem): [r]: A-
  • Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson: The Original Cleanhead (1970, BluesTime): [r]: A-
  • Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: Kidney Stew [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1969-78 [1996], Black & Blue): [r]: A-
  • Bert Williams: "It's Getting So You Can't Trust Nobody": The Songs of Bert Williams Volume One (1901-22 [199X], Vaudeville Archive): [cd]: A-
  • Don Williams: The Best of Don Williams, Volume II (1975-78 [1979], MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Womack: Greatest Hits (1972-89 [1999], Capitol): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stevie Wonder: Original Musiquarium I (1971-82 [1982], Motown, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stevie Wonder: In Square Circle (1985, Tamla): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stevie Wonder: Jungle Fever (1991, Motown): [r]: B+(**)
  • Betty Wright: Danger High Voltage (1974, Alston): [r]: A-
  • Betty Wright: Live (1978, Alston): [r]: B+(***)
  • Yo Yo: You Better Ask Somebody (1993, EastWest): [yt]: A-
  • Dwight Yoakam: Just Lookin' for a Hit (1986-89 [1989], Reprise): [r]: B+(***)


Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Poof (2021, Pi): [r]: [2/5]: +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Leon: Aire De Agua (Out of Your Head) [08-27]


Daily Log

Saw this meme on Facebook:

The price of gasoline consists of four factors: taxes, distribution and marketing, the cost of refining, and crude oil prices -- which are not determined by the president.

Joni Bradley added: "Let us quit blaming Biden for all kinds of things." I suppose if I really thought about it, I could find something to fault Biden for, but reading the crap spewed out by Republicans, I simply don't feel like it. Still, the meme failed to understand many basic tenets of business and economics, so I took a stab at correcting the record:

The price of gasoline is determined by demand and supply. When supply is constricted (by OPEC quotas, by wars and sanctions, by hurricanes and other disasters, by depletion of existing fields, by transportation snafus as seems to be the case in the UK recently), prices rise. When demand drops (most dramatically by recessions, but longer-term by the switch to electric cars), prices drop. Your first three cost factors are relatively fixed (although taxes vary a lot by region; Europe has taxed gasoline heavily at least since the 1950s, which is why European cars have always been much more fuel-efficient than American cars), so price volatility gets pushed back to crude oil prices (which is where the real windfall profits reside). Politicians can affect both supply and demand sides, but mostly indirectly. (There are some exceptions, such as filling up and drawing down the US Strategic Reserve. Taxes is another way in theory, but aside from California there have been no significant tax changes in decades.) Bush and Trump drove gasoline prices up through wars and sanctions (Trump less so because under Obama the US became a net exporter for the first time since 1969, and because demand was already slacking), only to see prices collapse when both ended in major recessions. Gasoline prices have been rising under Biden because the economy is recovering. That's actually good news. And while recovery was likely to happen in any case, having a sane and responsible person as president must be counted a plus.

Many more tangents on this I could have wandered off on.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 63 albums, 9 A-list, hardly anything new this week, just lots of old stuff, including CDs I bought 20 years ago and am only now getting to (some are actually pretty good).

Music: Current count 36433 [36370] rated (+63), 188 [203] unrated (-15).

Almost no new jazz (or new anything else) this week. I continued with the Christgau unheard list, moving from B.B. King to Merle Travis, although I couldn't find most of the A-list records in the bottom half of that list. (This is my second pass, and while I skipped a lot of A-N albums in the first pass, I had made a more diligent effort further down.) Note that 4 of this week's A-list items are albums I didn't buy because I had previously heard/rated most of the music from other editions (Fela, Lovin' Spoonful, Roy Orbison, Merle Travis). I've noted some of those other editions below.

The other thing I did last week was to rifle through a shelf unit which (at least originally) had old CDs from my unheard list, and played what looks like a random selection. I had bought a ton of CDs early in the 2000s, especially in "going out of business" sales, and many of them languished. I've been keeping track of "unheard albums" since 2003, when the total was over 900. Eventually I got it down to the low 200s, but as I've streamed more, I've scrounged less, and I was getting frustrated at my inability to drop the unrated number below 200. Well, I made a dent in that list this week. To my surprise, three of those albums made this week's A-list, in very different ways (folksinger Ewan MacColl, Mardi Gras Party, and a hip-hop mix). The remaining unrated albums are listed here. Where they are in the house is anyone's guess, but I figure this is at least in part a housekeeping task.

One excuse I have is that the new promo queue has shrunk to the point where I only have one album past its release date (and that was one I received last week, by a group I had never heard of). That doesn't count downloads, which I don't keep very good track of. Actually got a fair amount of unpacking last week, mostly into November. I'll do them when I get around to it. Things are pretty messy right now.


Wichita suffered a catastrophe last week: the city water system broke down, leading to a "boil water alert." The pumps were shut down by an electrical failure. Then when they started up again, the restored pressure broke a 42-inch main a couple miles east of us, flooding streets and dropping pressure again. We spent a few days working around the various restrictions and warnings, thinking about how critical it is to have a safe, reliable source of water. And contemplating how callous and stupid Republicans (and a couple Democrats) are in their opposition to sorely needed infrastructure investments.

Wichita (and most of Kansas) set a record high temperature on Saturday. I've set up a fairly fancy weather station here, so we're keeping a close watch. Got 1.55 inches of rain yesterday. We've generally been pretty lucky this year: hot but not exceptionally so, a bit drier than usual but not quite enough to call it a drought, and the jet stream has been well to the north, so we haven't seen much smoke from the fires out west.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Jü: III (2021, RareNoise): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jo Berger Myhre: Unheimlich Manoeuvre (2021, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets: Walkabout (2013-19 [2020], Yep Roc): [r]: B

Old music:

  • Fela and Afrika 70: Zombie (1976 [1977], M.I.L. Multimedia): [r]: A-
  • Hard Times Come Again No More, Vol. 1: Early American Rural Songs of Hard Times and Hardships (1924-37 [1998], Yazoo): [r]: A-
  • B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King (1969-71 [1973], ABC): [yt]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King (1967-85 [1999], MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: Blues Summit (1993, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: His Definitive Greatest Hits (1963-93 [1999], Polygram): [r]: A-
  • B.B. King: Deuces Wild (1997, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan (1999, Geffen): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ali Hassan Kuban: From Nubia to Cairo (1980 [1989], Piranha): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fela Ransome Kuti and His Koola Lobitos: Highlife Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969) (1963-69 [2016], Knitting Factory, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lady Saw: Passion (1997, VP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1975-85 [1992], Shanachie): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Gift of the Tortoise (1994, Music for Little People): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tony Lakatos/Al Foster/Kirk Lightsey/George Mraz: The News (1994 [1995], Jazzline): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jim Lauderdale: Pretty Close to the Truth (1994, Atlantic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Linx: Intuition (1981, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(**)
  • Living Things: Ahead of the Lions (2004 [2005], Jive/Zomba): [r]: B+(***)
  • Love: Da Capo (1967, Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
  • Love: Four Sail (1969, Elektra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Love: Out There (1969, Blue Thumb): [r]: B-
  • Love: False Start (1970, Blue Thumb): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful: Greatest Hits (1965-68 [2000], Buddha): [r]: A-
  • Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit: The Rose of England (1985, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Lowe: Untouched Takeaway (1995-2000 [2004], Yep Roc): [r]: B
  • Luna: Slide (1993, Elektra, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Nuthin' Fancy (1975, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets (1976, MCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More From the Road (1976, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors (1977, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gold & Platinum (1972-77 [1979], MCA, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Yo-Yo Ma: Classic Yo-Yo (1992-2001 [2001], Sony Classical): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ewan MacColl: Black and White: The Definitive Collection (1972-86 [1990], Green Linnet): [cd]: A-
  • Mardi Gras Party (1971-90 [1991], Rounder): [cd]: A-
  • The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar: Apocalypse Across the Sky (1992, Axiom): [r]: B+(***)
  • Johnny Mathis: The Ultimate Hits Collection (1956-86 [1998], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Moby Grape: Moby Grape (1967, Columbia): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Moby Grape: Wow (1968, Columbia): [yt]: C+
  • Moby Grape: Moby Grape '69 (1969, Columbia): [yt]: B-
  • M.O.P.: Handle Ur Bizness (1997, Relativity): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey: North (1986, Philo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey: Bill Morrissey (1991, Philo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey & Greg Brown: Friend of Mind (1993, Philo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Moses: I Love I Bring (1975 [1978], United Artists): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Motörhead: No Remorse (1979-84 [1984], Bronze): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Walter Norris Quartet: Sunburst (1991, Concord): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Roy Orbison: 16 Biggest Hits (1960-64 [1999], Monument/Legacy): [r]: A
  • Annette Peacock: I Have No Feelings (1986, Ironic): [yt]: B-
  • Annette Peacock: An Acrobat's Heart (2000, ECM): [r]: B
  • Ken Peplowski: The Other Portrait (1996, Concord): [cd]: B
  • Ralph Peterson Quintet: Art (1992 [1994], Blue Note): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions: Volume One (1998 [1999], XL): [cd]: A-
  • Dr. Krishna Raghavendra: RARE Pulse (2001, GEMA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Remember Shakti [John McLaughlin/Zakir Hussain/U. Shrinivas/V. Selvaganesh]: The Believer (1999 [2000], Verve): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Remember Shakti: Saturday Night in Bombay (2000 [2001], Verve): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Rogers: The Complete Chess Recordings (1950-59 [1997], MCA, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nate Ruth: Whatever It Meant (2002, Soundless): [cd]: B
  • Jeremy Steig/Eddie Gomez: Outlaws (1976 [1977], Enja): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Swayzak: Himawari (2000, Medicine): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Swayzak: Dirty Dancing (2002, !K7): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Train Don't Leave Me: Recorded Live at the 1st Annual Sacred Steel Convention (2000 [2001], Arhoolie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Merle Travis: Sweet Temptation: The Best of Merle Travis (1946-1953) (1946-53 [2000], Razor & Tie): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Searching for the Disappeared Hour (Pyroclastic) [10-29]
  • Adam Forkelid: 1st Movement (Prophone) [10-09]
  • Jazz Daddies: Moontower Nights (self-released) [09-06]
  • Karen Marguth: Until (OA2) [10-15]
  • Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh: Local Folklore (Destiny) [10-29]
  • John Moulder: Metamorphosis (Origin) [10-15]
  • Randy Napoleon: Rust Belt Roots: Randy Napoleon Plays Wes Montgomery, Grand Green & Kenny Burrell (OA2) [10-15]
  • Jacob Schulman: Connectedness (Endectomorph Music) [11-14]

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Daily Log

Robert Christgau, in his review of Kim Stanley Robinson's novel, The Ministry for the Future, refers to an essay by KSR published in Financial Times. The piece is behind a severe paywall, but I wangled a copy, and thought I would offer a partial annotation (which should be fair use). It reads more like lecture notes than an essay. I thought I'd pull some quotes (in bold below) out, then add my comments.

What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change? It feels like now.

We've been living in the midst of vast historical change for about 150 years now, so you'd think we'd be getting used to it by now. The main developments are technological. Starting around 1870, accelerating dramatically around 1900, and more sporadically every 20-30 years since, the main innovations were:

  • Oil, a vast and portable store of energy, which made it possible for people to do previously unimagined quantities of work (something we're constantly reminded of as we measure engines in horsepower).
  • Electricity, a form of energy which can be transmitted instantly, and controlled and focused in infinitesimal amounts.
  • Materials, especially metals, which can be extracted, refined, and machined precisely, and plastics, which can also be built to extraordinary precision.
  • Information, which can be collected at a mind-bogglingly vast level, stored indefinitely, and transferred instantly anywhere.

The effect of these technological changes is that today, unlike 150 years ago, we live in a wholly synthetic world, a bubble of human design, which has given most of us longer, healthier, more comfortable, and better entertained lives than was imaginable just a few generations before. One simple measure of this change is that the number of human beings the Earth can support has increased in this period sixfold (from 1.276 billion in 1870 to 7.753 billion in 2020).

The only comparable degree of change in human history started about 10,000 years ago with agriculture, as humans managed to domesticate a few plants and animals, dedicating land to their cultivation, building water works to nurture them, markets for trade, and armies to defend from marauders (or do some plundering on their own). But that played out over thousands of years: high estimates for world population 10,000 years ago were 5-10 million, growing to 28 million 6,000 years ago (when the first "cradles of civilization" were evident), 72 million 4,000 years ago (with the growth of small regional empires), 188 million 2,000 years ago (with large empires in China and the Mediterranean), 295 million 1,000 years ago, and 461 million 500 years ago (the start of the European conquest).

So, pace KSR, the "vast historical change" has already happened, quite recently and suddenly. The sense that we are "on the brink" may still be real. Great changes are mixed blessings, and it is reasonable to worry that we have not properly accounted for the risks and potential downfalls of the last 150's years of blinding progress. Climate change is the worry on KSR's mind, but it's not the only one.

The first great change (to agriculture) forced humans to adjust in many ways, which took time and was often painful, but happened so long ago we can hardly imagine what life was like as scattered primitive hunter-gatherers. Many of the adjustments dealt with interpersonal relations, which were largely codified through the development of religions (occurring in parallel in the various "cradles of civilization," mostly in the first millennium BCE), and later through civil codes. But there were also ecological crises, ranging from mass extinctions and loss of biodiversity to irrigation failures, plagues, and climate-related crises.

One thing we should have learned from history is that humans are quick to accept the gifts of progress, reluctant to anticipate downsides and side-effects, blind to catastrophic long-term trends, and stubbornly resistant to change (especially to their privileged sense of social order). While the last 150 years of technological progress has profoundly affected virtually everyone, adjustment has proceeded slowly, fitfully if at all. Indeed, we are often stuck trying to understan new information through ideological concepts from earlier eras.

One thing I will note here is that this 150-year spurt of incredible technological progress was built on top of an intellectual revolution that goes back 500 years, past the Enlightenment to the Renaissance, with the rise of secular thought, science, rationality, free speech, civil law, and an economic system which distributed decision-making, allowing self-motivated entrepreneurs to competitively maximize their commercialization of new technologies. The latter has downsides we've been slow to recognize, like putting short-term profits over long-term concerns, increasing inequality, and capturing political power for the protection of its privileged owners.

Humanity now stands on the brink of not just change, but disaster. And because we can see it coming, just as clear as a black storm on the horizon, our attempts to dodge disaster and create a healthy relationship with our only home will bring huge changes in our habits, laws, institutions and technologies. . . . Unlike the people living in the years before the first world war, we won't be sandbagged by catastrophe. The 2020s will not be filled with surprises -- except perhaps at the speed and intensity of the changes coming down. With its atmosphere of dread foreboding, our time more resembles the years preceding the second world war, when everyone lived with a sensation of helplessly sliding down a slippery slope and over a cliff.

Two big topics here. One is the extent to which we understand the coming crisis. The other is how painful those "huge changes in our habits, laws, institutions and technologies" -- indeed, what pains we're willing to accept, either to change or by resisting change.

It certainly is the case that some people understand the way the world works, including the way humans function on Earth, much better now than ever before -- although in this age of specialization, even very smart people have serious blind spots. Still, I wonder whether alarmists (like KSR) focus on climate change not because it's the biggest issue we're facing but because it's so clear and simple -- hence relatively easy to grasp (which, of course, makes one wonder all the more about the deniers). I don't wish to detract from the importance of climate change as an issue, but it's possible that there are other more/less equally important issues, some of which are being neglected because they don't kick you in the teeth like a hurricane, drought, floods, or massive fires.

I also suspect that one reason a lot of people are so concerned about climate change isn't that they understand the science, but instead have this deep-seated romantic notion that pristine nature is perfect (those so inclined would say: "the way God intended"). Recent (as geologists use the term, which is to say for most of the last 18,000 years) climate is one of many the Earth has supported, with others equally viable. Life adapts, and humans are considerably more adpatable than most. So I hate it when I hear people talk about "saving the Earth": it's a reflection of their own self-importance to think that the Earth needs their help; rather, the dire need is to save our peculiar perch on the Earth, not because we cannot adapt to a radically changed Earth -- indeed, we have already changed its surface extensively to suit our purposes -- but because the costs of adaptation are painfully high. This is basically because the synthetic world we've constructed is much more fragile than the natural world we originally evolved into, and because we've stressed that synthetic world by expanding our population to the limits of its carrying capacity.

The second topic can be illustrated by a model. Let's say, we have to negotiate a turn to get from point A to point B. We need to figure out how sharply we can turn, and how fast. The problem is that we have a lot of inertia to overcome: physical, economic, and psychological. That inertia is why even political figures who are committed to the idea of stopping the rise in carbon dioxide levels so often talk about goals for 2030 or 2050 or further out. When KSR talks about changing technologies, he's hoping scientists and engineers will come up with a painless cure, something that will suck the excess heat out of the air.

It's completely unrealistic to think we can ignore that inertia and just suddenly, arbitrarily solve the greenhouse gas problem. On the other hand, if we try to make the change of direction slow and painless, we'll never get to where we need to be. Political systems try to balance off private and public interest groups, but in the right has long disparaged the very idea of a public interest, and the American political system has long been dominated by money interests, especially business (and especially oil).

But historical analogies will take us only so far in understanding our current situation, since we have never before been able to wreck our own means of existence.

That really started with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but that threat was more tangible because they blow up so spectacularly, and more manageable because the number of people with their fingers on the triggers has always been so small. It would be simple to free us from that threat, and it is stupid that we haven't done so. Climate change is harder to visualize, because it works slowly, methodically, via the accumulation of many small, individually innocuous acts. Even so, many people have learned to reflexively blame global warming for increasingly frequent and disastrous weather effects, so the issue is rapidly gaining immediacy -- even if few currently see it as an existential threat.

Scientists coined the name the Anthropocene to signal that this moment in history is unprecedented. There are so many of us, and our technologies are so powerful, and our social systems so heedless of consequences, that our damage to Earth's biosphere has increased with stunning speed.

Until recently, the term anthropocene had a whiff of hubris to it, the suggestion of man's God-given dominion over the Earth. However, the term has quickly spread, signifying not just humanity's effects on the biosphere, but on geostratigraphy itself. If humans were soon wiped off the face of the earth, intelligent visitors would have no trouble identifying the Anthropocene layer in the rocks ("possible markers include microplastics, heavy metals, or the radioactive nuclei left by tests from thermonuclear weapons" -- distinctions which delineate the last 75 years from the rest of the Holocene, hence KSR's "stunning speed").

By the way, what I've been referring to as inertia KSR describes as "immense biological and geophysical momentum." He notes that: "We can't just gather our diplomats and call it off, declare peace with the biosphere." (But we could do that with nuclear weapons. The stumbling block is that key political leaders don't even have that modicum of vision and will.)

Supply chains that we rely on for life itself can be disrupted by hoarding, which is to say by loss of trust in our systems. In the US, it was toilet paper and cleaning supplies -- but if it had been food, then boom: panic, breakdown, famine, the war of all against all. That's how fragile civilisation is; that's how much individuals are forced to trust each other to survive. A prisoner's dilemma indeed, all of us locked together on this one planet. We either hang together or we hang separately: Franklin's law.

Few people had given any thought to supply chains before the pandemic, but the economy crashed on the front edge of the pandemic in 2020 not because lots of people were getting sick, but because early lockdowns broke supply chains, a failure that propagated throughout the world economy faster than the virus did. I'm not especially prescient on these things, but I remember a few years ago an earthquake in Taiwan closed down an industrial park which housed all three of the companies worldwide that made a critical electrical component. Supply chain risk has gotten markedly worse in recent years, as factories have squeezed out extra profits from "just-in-time" parts delivery, and also because the search for bargains has driven less efficient suppliers out of markets, leading to further concentration.

That's only a part of what KSR is getting at, but it's a particularly vivid example of how the relentless search for efficiency, which is driven by demand for higher returns to capital, increases risk and fragility. While I agree that loss of trust is a paramount issue of our times, the problem with supply chains is that we don't distrust suppliers as much as we should (because we're not good at evaluating risk, especially when myopia promises profits).

Another lesson from the pandemic, one we should have known already: science is powerful. We need to learn to put it to better use than we do, but if we were to do that, lots of good things would follow. Aiming science is the work of the humanities and arts, politics and law. We have to decide as a civilisation what tasks are most important for us to take on now.

It's tempting to say: "science got us into this mess, so how can we look to more science to find a way out?" Wouldn't backing up be more prudent? But in simple terms, that would mean forcing 8 billion people to revert to a world that was hard-pressed feeding 1 billion. And food is just one of many blessings of 150 years of staggering technological progress we'd be unwilling to give up -- that we'd be willing to fight and kill each other to protect. So, sure, we have to plow on through, but we can't do it the same ways we've done it in the past. We need to understand that letting the profit motive dictate what gets done, what is available, and to whom, has warped everything with its perverse incentives. And where we can't directly limit the bad side-effects, we need to rig incentives differently.

Most of the rest of KSR's essay is dedicated to tinkering with incentives, but he remains locked in certain conventional ways of thinking.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 47 albums, 10 A-list, 4/18 new music, 1/4 new compilation, 5/25 old albums (3/7 by Jimi Hendrix), an active week of diving deep into divers artists and niches, plus some thoughts on singles lists, science fiction, the approaching apocalypse.

Music: Current count 36370 [36323] rated (+47), 203 [207] unrated (-4).

Spent much of the week whittling down the unheard Christgau list, this week starting at Grateful Dead and working my way to Jaojoby (B.B. King next, playing now). Took a couple side trips along the way. I was excited to hear that Hat Hut's Ezz-Thetics reissue label has a Bandcamp page, then chagrined to find that many of their "Revisited" sets were purloined from other labels (probably aided by Europe's 50-year copyright limit). Hat was an important label for new jazz from the early 1970s on, so they have a lot of important music in their vaults, but they've always had certain business quirks. Another diversion was Michaelangelo Matos publishing a 2021 top-ten ballot on Facebook, so I checked out the half I hadn't heard (or for that matter heard of). The Matos list also led me to find a couple Burnt Sugar albums I had missed.

My other big diversion (a/k/a waste of time) this week was to play around with singles lists. What I have so far is tucked away in the notebook, but I'll probably move it into a standalone file if I ever get it close to presentable. (Temporary link here, but this is very short of ready, and also the numbers are for counting, not rank -- each list is alphabetical by artist.) My methodology was to start by looking at the Rolling Stone list (via Rock NYC and the ballots by Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell and Chuck Eddy, and pick out what seemed most indubitable. Then I started looking through my database to find various artists compilations I liked. I would then pull them up on Discogs or Wikipedia for song lists, and pick a few more titles from them. Once I decided I wanted something from an artists, I would go on to Wikipedia to look at artist discographies (especially singles, which are usually presented with chart numbers).

Two insights occurred after I got started: (1) I decided to break up the list by decades, otherwise comparisons became difficult (too many apples-to-oranges) and would ultimately just prove my period prejudice: as someone born in 1950, the 1960s and 1970s were my peak exploration period, where everything was new and much of it exciting. I've continued to follow (and enjoy) new music since then, but after I stopped writing rockcrit in 1980 (and listening to radio a few years earlier, and stopped buying singles) I thought about it differently. If I tried to balance out a life-spanning singles list, it would wind up being about 80% pre-1980 (and 60% pre-1970), which says something about singles vs. albums -- the latter really came into their own around 1967-70 -- but mostly that I'm just an old fart. (2) is that after starting to pick one song per artist (per decade), I decided it would be worthwhile to add a few alternatives -- in case I wanted to refine my choices later on, or simply because some songs were too good to omit, and I started to get greedy.

I initially decided to leave jazz out completely -- no disrespect, but they became different things, with different aims, about the time LPs split off from singles in the 1950s. I may revise this to make vocals the dividing line. That would leave some rock instrumentals out, but not many were ever likely to be considered ("Rebel Rouser"? "Pipeline"? "Honky Tonk"?) And post-1970 I've picked the occasional album-only track (I think the first one I jotted down was Mott the Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother"). I'm doing this almost exclusively from a memory that since the late 1970s has almost exclusively been formed from listening to albums, so it's no surprise that many of the songs that stuck in my cerebellum like singles used to were never marketed as such. (Note that not every critic has experienced this the way I have: in the late 1970s 12-inch singles became favored by DJs; in the 1980s MTV started the flood of video singles; and from the late 1990s the Internet has done much more to break singles than radio, which for all I know is nothing but senseless blather these days. Younger critics started with these media, much as I started with AM radio.)

So far I mostly have records from 1955-70, not just because that's my prime period, but also because that's where I've looked most intensively. I'm starting to think the 1960s and 1970s need to be broken into two halves, both due to quantity but also due to the rapid rate of change in those two decades, with 1964 and 1976 especially pivotal dates. As I recall, the first halves of both decades were much disparaged, although looking back I find them to be especially fertile (albeit as extensions of the previous half-decade).

One side effect was noticing one of Capitol's 2002 "Crescent City Soul" compilations that I had missed. I had to construct a playlist to review it, but it was worth it. (Still, not as good as the Minit-based Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet.) Tried to do the same with David Toop's Sugar and Poison, but couldn't find all the songs.

I also depleted enough of my promo queue that I inadvertently reviewed records as far out as November 12. (I've been sitting on the Fiedler and Balto albums for longer than I could stand.) Haven't done anything yet with the latest Phil Overeem list, but nice to see William Parker's Painter's Winter high on the list (higher than Mayan Space Station, which got first notice).


I finally bought a copy of a novel: Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future, based on Robert Christgau's review, although I had previously linked to the New Yorker essay Christgau cites. (Has it really been that far back? First piece linked to there is titled, "As death toll passes 60,000, Trump's team searches for an exit strategy." As you probably know, the US death toll passed 700,000 last week.) I quoted Robinson there:

Margaret Thatcher said that "there is no such thing as society," and Ronald Reagan said that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years. . . .

Economics is a system for optimizing resources, and, if it were trying to calculate ways to optimize a sustainable civilization in balance with the biosphere, it could be a helpful tool. When it's used to optimize profit, however, it encourages us to live within a system of destructive falsehoods.

I'm beginning to wonder whether the only forum for serious discussions of viable solutions to ongoing crises isn't science fiction. I've long wanted to collect my more harebrained ideas under a recycling of Paul Goodman's 1962 title, Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, but it's getting hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Indeed, in the minds of certain "centrist" Dems all variants are equally impossible, precisely because they are held to be inconceivable.

I also ordered William T. Vollman's Carbon Strategies for reference. I've thumbed through the two volumes at the library, and can't imagine reading them through, but thought they might be useful as references (although I have to wonder whether the deep discounts at Amazon don't imply that they're already obsolete).


I've added a link at the bottom of every blog post to "Ask a question, or send a comment." This links to my old Ask a Question form, which I've hacked a bit on. You can now choose "Question" or "Comment." The former gives me input for my Questions & Answers page. The latter sends me a comment without expectation of answer. I'm not going to be a stickler on that point. There's also a new form field for "URL Context." Eventually I'll figure out how to set this form from the referer context, but I don't have that working yet. In the future, I could add this link to many more pages, and could even develop some kind of comment system. But for now, these changes haven't been given much of a test. I appreciate your feedback, and would like to see more. Thanks.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Angels Over Oakanda (2018-21 [2021], Avantgroidd): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Whit Dickey/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Village Mothership (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): [cd]: A- [10-15]
  • DMX Krew: Loose Gears (2021, Hypercolour): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hernâni Faustino: Twelve Bass Tunes (2020 [2021], Phonogram Unit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Fehlmann: Böser Herbst (2021, Kompakt): [r]: A-
  • Joe Fiedler's "Open Sesame": Fuzzy and Blue (2021, Multiphonics): [cd]: B+(***) [11-12]
  • Kazemde George: I Insist (2019 [2021], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***) [10-22]
  • Julia Govor: Winter Mute (2021, Jujuka, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eunhye Jeong: Nolda (2021, ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(**) [09-24]
  • Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes (2021, Young Art): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kuzu: All Your Ghosts in One Corner (2020 [2021], Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(***) [10-05]
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet + Pedro Carneiro: Thoughts Are Things (2021, Phonogram Unit): [cd]: A-
  • Bryan Murray & Jon Lundbom: Beats by Balto! Vol. 2 (2021, Chant): [cd]: B+(***) [11-07]
  • Q'd Up: Going Places (2021, Tantara): [cd]: B [10-08]
  • Rebellum: The Darknuss (2021, Avantgroidd): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Matthew Stevens: Pittsburgh (2021, Whirlwind): [cd]: B
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx: Live (2018 [2020], MNJ): [r]: B+(**)
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave (2020 [2021], Odin, 2CD): [bc]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited (1964 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(*)
  • John Coltrane Quartet: Newport, New York, Alabama 1963 Revisited (1963 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(***)
  • John Coltrane: Chasin' the Trane Revisited (1961 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • Mike Taylor: Trio, Quartet & Composer Revisited (1965-68 [2021], Ezz-thetics): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Live From Minnegiggle Falls (2004 [2007], Avant Groidd): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All Ya Needs That Negrocity (2008-11 [2011], Avant Groidd): [bc]: A-
  • Thomas Fehlmann: 1929: Das Jahr Babylon (2018, Kompakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Grateful Dead: Dozin' at the Knick (1990 [1996], Grateful Dead, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grateful Dead: Crimson White & Indigo (1989 [2010], Grateful Dead/Rhino, 3CD): [r]: B
  • The Guess Who: The Greatest of the Guess Who (1969-75 [1977], RCA Victor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Radio One (1967 [1988], Rykodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock (1969 [1994], MCA): [r]: A-
  • Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West (1968-70 [2011], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune (1969-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (1970 [2002], Experience Hendrix/MCA, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2001], Experience Hendrix/Universal, 2CD): [r]: A
  • Jimi Hendrix: Fire: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: A
  • His Name Is Alive: Stars on E.S.P. (1996, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Hollies: In the Hollies Style (1964, Parlophone): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Hollies: The Hollies' Greatest Hits (1965-72 [1973], Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hüsker Dü: Everything Falls Apart (1982 [1983], Reflex): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irakere: Irakere (1978 [1979], Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson: Pulse (1984, Celluloid): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society: Decode Yourself (1984, Island): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson: Red Warrior (1990, Axiom): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Jacksons: The Jacksons (1976, Epic): [r]: B
  • The Jacksons: Destiny (1978, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Jacksons: Triumph (1980, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Jacksons: Victory (1984, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jaojoby: Aza Arianao (2001, Label Bleu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Let the Good Times Roll: 20 of New Orleans' Finest R&B Classics 1946-1966 (1949-1966 [2002], Capitol): [r]: A-
  • Shirley and Lee: Let the Good Times Roll (1952-59 [2000], Ace): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hernâni Faustino: Twelve Bass Tunes (Phonogram Unit)
  • Jü: III (RareNoise) * [09-24]
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet + Pedro Carneiro: Thoughts Are Things (Phonogram Unit)
  • Jo Berger Myhre: Unheimlich Manoeuvre (RareNoise) * [09-24]
  • Mareike Wiening: Future Memories (Greenleaf Music) [11-12]

Daily Log

Here's the Michaelanelo Matos 2021 EOY list (scraped from his FB post, my grades in brackets):

  1. Rochelle Jordan, Play with the Changes [***]
  2. Julia Govor, Winter Mute [**]
  3. Madlib, Sound Ancestors [*]
  4. Mdou Moctar, Afrique Victime [A-]
  5. LSDXOXO, Dedicated 2 Disrespect [**]
  6. Burnt Sugar, Angels Over Oakanda [***]
  7. Thomas Fehlmann, Böser Herbst [A-]
  8. Sault, Untitled/9 [***]
  9. The Hold Steady, Open Door Policy [**]
  10. DMX Krew, Loose Gears [**]

Friday, October 01, 2021

Daily Log

Started a singles list here. On October 12, 2020, Moved it somewhere else.


Sep 2021