Albums Bought in Missoula and the Stores That Nourished Them

(In rough order of preference.)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unity, The Nashville Sound (Thirty Tigers)

Isbell and his group deliver their strongest outing with songwriting and ensemble work riding the same wire from start to finish. Particularly potent, never-falter trio of songs in the middle: “White Man’s World” (highlights the state of a cluster of incredibly difficult issues), “If We were Vampires” (death like they don’t hardly ever write about it no more), “Anxiety” (ordinary confessional numbers can just get off the psyche couch and go home).

Neil Young, Bottom Line 1974 (Coffee Tea or Me)

I bought this as a good gamble (see comments on Rockin’ Rudy’s below) but then read online that it was a huge fan favorite and about four tracks in you have to hear and agree. First, Young is in as relaxed and ebullient a mood as i can recall and slips from fun to scorching passion without a blink. Ten of the 11 songs from the show were unreleased at the time of the performance (the bonus tracks are a meh demo of “For the Turnstiles” and a superb “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” from another show). Young’s explanation for how to cook pot and honey and why he gets tired of doing the same numbers night after night are stone classics.

Blondie, Pollinator (BMG)

A virtuoso display of making the old new and interweaving change and continuity. Harry and Stein are as smart, resourceful and literate as anyone to work in rock and roll and their funhouse-mirror eroticism is a treat and a tingle. Also, Harry don’t sound like any 72-year-old I’ve ever heard.

Old 97’s, Graveyard Whistling (ATO)

Timely reminder that “veteran act” is a neutral term unless you earn its implied honors. Push your established sounds and words, show frequent flashes of casual mastery. “Bad Luck Charm,” “She Hates Everybody,” “Turns Out I’m Trouble.”

Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory, Song for My Sister (Pi, 2002)

Another vet making the most of extended experience and wisdom. There were some noises back in the day that the lack of all-out free jazzing on this was some sort of surrender. Piffle. Just (“just”) proves Mitchell can write in more styles and with more emotions than you knew before.

Arcade Fire, Everything Now (in partnership with …)

Yeah, yeah — the complaints stick to some degree. You have fun until you look deeper and there’s no there there. But at least two cheers are deserved and that title track is an instant best-of number.

Extra Golden, Hera Ma Nono (Thrill Jockey, 2007)

Unusual band I enjoy a lot whenever I get around to them. Know how to do laid-back and alert and sturdy threads of percussion in pop-song structures. Worth getting to know if you don’t.

Yothu Yindi, Tribal Voice (New Management, 1992)

I sought this out because I knew it was the first outlet for Geoffrey Yunupingu , who recently passed and was noted as the best-selling Aboriginal musician of all time. I was underwhelmed because he seemed to belong to a bland trans-cultural category: mild and MOR with some touches of exotic spice. This is more uptempo and funky and how I will remember the performers. Still doesn’t belong in the same boundary-skipping paragraph as Tanya Tagaq and Hun Huur-Tuu.

THE STORES:

Even if you are not a music fan, you have to check out Rockin’ Rudy’s when you are in town. (I did not visit the related vinyl store because I am firmly in the business of not acquiring any more LPs.) For a number of years, my visits to RR were bring-downs because the music department kept shrinking as the other goodies took up more and more space. It was all but an announcement that physical recorded music was on its way out. Much to the store’s credit, RR has now taken a stance that physical music is here to stay — expanding both the vinyl and CD floor space.

My favorite section is simply marked “Imports” (code for “Bootlegs”). I know that founder Bruce Micklus is a firm Neil Young booster — Rockin’ Rudy’s is the only place I ran across a copy of Young’s Rock’n’Roll Cowboy, one of the most incredible bootlegs ever made — so I felt very confident picking up Bottom Line 1974. Also, I was wowed that Isabell’s The Nashville Sound was a freakin’ Best Seller. Place attracts a good-taste clientele.

I had been gone from Missoula for 20 years when Ear Candy was started, but lemme tell ya, if it had been around in my campus days I would have been in three or four times every week. And now, a trip to town is not complete without a visit. I won’t call the decor a throwback, but rather, timeless — heaps and piles and hyper-full rows and shelves and … every music nut visits such a place in dreams. And you realize how much it takes sharp ears and taste to keep proper exotic stocks (they ain’t big on Top 40 at Ear Candy). I had forgotten about the Roscoe Mitchell — there it was to correct my mistake. Thrill Jockey had sent me Extra Golden back in the day, but had somehow missed Hera Ma Nono and I could not imagine a better place to run across it. Often I take a shot on inviting comp or single-artist ambient/dub because they have such ace selections. But this time I lacked the guts.

PS: I had the urge to buy the new Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, not least since latter-day Fleetwood Mac was one of MB’s all-time faves. But then I couldn’t deal with the fact that this would be the first album with these players that she would never hear.

[This post is finished.  My gout is better.]

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #21

New York Art Quartet, S/T, (ESP 2009 reissue of 1965 LP)

Maybe more obvious than other “Air Is Still” selections, but I love this record more every time I play it and it wrapped me up the first time I played it (on vinyl) when I was beginning to understand free jazz after moving to Cambridge in 1977.

Here’s the basic scoop.

Rudd (and Tchicai) dominate, not only because they wrote all the material — except Amiri Baraka’s precise, lacerating addition of his own “Black Dada Nihilismus” (feels utterly up-to-this-moment) — but because the trombonist and the alto sax player share an approach/understanding of free jazz that makes it no enemy of the lyrical, the playful, the song-like. But unbounded as any improvisations. This really is a prime choice to play for those who say they don’t like/understand “free jazz.”

Trick Magic Moment

I used to have at least one every summer. Maybe two or three if I was lucky.

Hot, sun-flooded day driving the car on some not-too-serious errand or trip, listening to terrific tunes that are hitting me like never before. I would be filled with the feeling that, just for this one long moment, the whole world was happy, every human being was at peace. I would enjoy the magic even more if I shared with with someone sitting next to me.

Last summer was the first one I can remember when I did not have any such moment. A lot of things had gone wrong already in 2016, in particular I was mired in the aftereffects of the car collision. And by the end of the year, we had all passed into an unprecedented shadow.

One passage on Anderson’s Heart of a Dog that grabbed me with its wisdom yesterday was her recounting of the Buddhist teaching that one must learn “how to feel sad without being sad.” Know the negativity without being conquered by it. I knew this morning I was having a real snap of depression because while I experienced the circumstances that trigger a magic moment, all I felt was downbeat. My attempt at redeeming the time is to describe what happened.

The heat, the sun, the driving, all in place. The music was Chet Baker singing “Grey December”. I had already thought, Geeze, “Let’s Get Lost,” with lines like “Let’s defrost/In a haze” was weirder than I remembered. But I suddenly realized “Grey December” was way weirder than that, outright spooky, with memories of love like ominous ghosts. It was written by one Frank Campo, who also arranged the strings with Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. And that’s all I know about Campo, other than the brilliant judge of tunes Ran Blake did a solo-piano version in 1995. (we’re going to go see Blake perform with singer Dominique Eade on Saturday — maybe I’ll shoot out a request.)

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #62: Catching Up with Yesterday, Anticipating Tomorrow, All Sounds Kickass Right Now

Thievery Corporation, The Temple of I & I (ESL) (released Feb. 10)

Living Colour, Shade (MRI) (coming out Sept. 8)

Thievery Corporation only stumbled when they seemed to be hurrying.This had lots of time to get rich and righteous skanking/funking/swirling/whatever. One of their best. Will go to the local show.

Living Colour’s timing is perfect (except I think it should be released tomorrow) — the tone, texture, fury and defiance we need this minute.

R.I.P.: Kelan Philip Cohran

Yes, he does belong in the same pantheon as Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble. 

After you recover from his procreative prowess (23 kids!), you should run out and score a copy of On the Beach  The reissue on Aestuarium Records has the consensus more nuanced and clear sound, but damned if I don’t have both that and the reissue on Katalyst because I think the compare/contrast quality of the reissued sound is fascinating. I emphasize that if you dig Ra and the Art Ensemble, you have to have some of this guy.

First-Half Soundtrack 2017

  1. Magnetic Fields, “Wonder Where I’m From”
  2. The Creation, “Biff Bang Pow” (stereo version)
  3. Gorillaz (feat. Peven Everett). “Strobelite”
  4. Lowell Davidson Trio, “Strong Tears”
  5. Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, “Light on the Path”
  6. Alice Coltrane, “Rama Rama”
  7. Kendrick Lamar, “Blood”
  8. On Fillmore, “Master Moon”
  9. Tom Ze, “Sexo”
  10. Jens Lekman, “To Know Your Mission”
  11. The XX, “Test Me”
  12. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”
  13. Matthew Stevens, “Sparkle and Fade”
  14. Carl Craig, “Sandstorms” (from Versus)

 

Include all my faves? No.

All tracks considered standouts? Yes.

Fussed-over sequence? Nope — instinct and memory plus a few dabs of re-listening for the right track.

Everything released 2017? No, but pretty close.

Everything encountered first in 2017? No, but damn close.