Captivating and charismatic as they come, but with a welcoming communal soul. Onstage, the English Beat were a magic spell that always lifted you to a superior reality that earned a permanent place in your heart.
Then we have a new studio album from Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet, WhenUFindItUWillKnow (self-released). He’s been a captivator since I heard his debut way back in the day and I know I’ve done at least one piece about him, but cannot track it down online. Perhaps lost in the vanished mysts of Rock.com.
A latter-day release I did not have until recently: The Source (Le Son Du Marquis, “Recorded in 2010”). I pick up whatever I run across by this, uh, “outfit,” because, as much as any performers I know, their works all sound the same but the more you listen the more each has its own language. Obvious this was worked on and worked on, until leader Bachir Attar says, “Let’s go — this is a set.” (And who can resist titles like “Hadra of Sidi Amed Sheik (music for healing sick people on Friday at the tomb of the Saint)”?)
Nearly every time I listen to the Master Jajoukas, I think of the late pioneering music critic and musician Robert Palmer, because the one time I met him, he was sitting next to us at a Jajouka concert in Harvard’s Saunders Theater (incredible acoustics, what a treat). After the show, I introduced myself and tried to ask him about not just Jajouka but his recent Rock & Roll: An Unruly History and even Deep Blues, one of the most profound and enlightening books about the South and that more-defiant-than-sad music from there. He was pretty grunt-and-nod in a sadly too-short exchange, but I now understand he was quite ill by then (did not last all that long after) and wanted to get backstage to talk to the musicians. Sorry, Bob Palmer, that I did not get to tell you how much Insect Trust and Hoboken Saturday Night changed my life.
A two-way MBTA train runs about 50 yards behind my office. I was sick with worry when we first moved in that the noise would prevent me from being able to concentrate on writing.
I plowed into the first serious project and a glorious feeling poured over me when I finished it and realized the train racket absolutely vanished when I was draining my brain onto the screen. I never hear it while writing.
When having trouble falling asleep, on the other hand …
I said that this blog is a place to throw out issues great and small that I haven’t sorted out as an arts critic. So here’s another.
I notice that as I’ve gotten older I’m less drawn to performers who do not seem to have any clear path to growing up in their youthful work. I recently went back over some ’80s Memphis Garage Rockers anthologies and those seem delightful rampages — but frozen in time, which is fine. Into the ’90s releases I have more and more hunger for songwriters and players that are not stuck on a road to playing what they were at 18 when they’re 36, and that’s all they got.
I’m at the same time reacting heavily to the glorification of oldies (both as releases and performances). Is this merely giving in to the idea of pop music as a career process rather than a cosmic spasm of the soul? Is this because an increasing chunk of what I find contemporary sounds have no age references? Is this because anger and assimilation are no longer landmarks on a tidy age line?
I got a malware pitch this week that tried to ask me “If I had any advice to blog writers.”
Sorry, evil machine, no direct response to you. But not the worst question. Because a quite simple answer came to me, which was of course an intention of the twisted bot pitch.
For me, blogs are:
Basically, the oldest message I’ve sent out on the Interwebs — don’t write/post/whatever you would not say on the open street where anyone could hear you. But try to hold an active, varied, funny conversation that entertains and provokes ideas and new interests.
I can do quick, informal reviews of whatever I want here, old or new. And I’m very gratified that these are now considered real journalism of very informal sort. That’s fun, and the fun is what I want to preserve.