- The Black Lillies, Hard to Please (2015) — Americana mix with a welcome fondness for r & r. Inspired me to check out an earlier release which was meh.
- Hard Working American, We’re All in This Together (2017) Only complaint is that it’s so long my road player wouldn’t read the disc.
- Go Sailor, S/T (originally recorded 1994-95). Look ’em up.
- Jupiter Apple, Uma Tarde Na Fruteira (2007) Droll Italians — lead-off song title: “A Marchinha Psicotica de Dr. Soup”
- Jupiter & Okwess, Kin Sonic (2017). Gotta listen some more but maybe yet another new African style. Tuff. Tight.
- Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, Agrima (2017) Of course improves on all the Indo-Pak borrowings of vintage jazz-rockers.
- Maneige, Ni Vent … Ni Nouvelle (1995 reissue of 1977 LP) A Montreal prog outfit I had never heard of but now play at least once a week. Warning: contains flute, but sort of as a sweet, warm-up-the-introduction routine.
- Alma Micic, That Old Feeling (2017). This is the album of American songbook vocals that beat down my resistance. I wasn’t as charmed by an earlier record, but this has a certain flintiness that cuts through all the retro fog.
- Motorhead, Under Cover (2017). Utterly inspired memorial for Lemmy. Again, the finest metal outfits are also superb outright rock and rollers.
- Various, Listen … OKA! (2911). A fusion album featuring Bayaka pygmies that does mesmerizing other straight recordings of similar styles never do for me.
- Quicksilver Messenger Service, live at the Fillmore, June 7, 1968 (2015). Yeah, yeah, I’m a Cipollina nut. So stone me. Ran across this and hadn’t listened in a long while.
- Oneohtrix Point Never, Rifts (2012). Like I’ve said, somehow this guy was fully formed from the first track: Betrayed in the Octagon has more churning moods, Russian Mind a never-content’s version of ambient. Zones Without People a bit of both.
- Peace Worshipers, S/T (2015) One of the many raga-fusion albums to come out this year, with more consistent mood and momentum and deep calm than others. Sorry I still feel too ignorant to write about it.
- Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, Ladilkan (2017) A triumph at the heart of several trends key to this year. A must.
- UNKLE, The Road, Part 1 (2017). Not your uncle’s UNKLE or even their earlier selves’. Uneven, but I’m captivated by the determination to keep re-inventing.
- Various, Afrobeats Hot Hits (2017) See (and hear) my review.
- Various, Gentle Giants: the Songs of Don Williams (2017). Very peculiar anthology in a way. Williams did not write these songs. Only some of those paying him homage try to replicate his style. More of a tribute to his taste in tunes and kind heart.
- Laura Veirs, The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae (2001). The earliest album (her second) Veirs has kept in circulation. Her career is a fascinating study in the interaction of precise songwriting and subtle but insistent production. The one show I saw was a pallid dud. Maybe it was an off night. Maybe her work needs the massage of the machines. This argues for the former.
Umphrey’s McGee, Live at the Murat (1997)
MOE. Warts and All, Vol. Two (2002)
Hard Working Americans, We’re All in This Together (2017)
Grateful Dead, Three From the Vault (2007)
(Again, does not include losers who got dumped after four tracks.)
- The Bottle Rockets, Lean Forward, 2009 Bloodshot)
- The Budos Band, S/T, (2005, Daptone)
- John Zorn/Bar Kokhba, Lucifer (Plays Masada Book Two) (2008 Tzadik)
- Tomer Yosef, Laughing Underground (JDub, 2008)
- Mumiv Troll, Vladivostok (Strange, bent, Russian band we happened to see at the Middle East in Cambridge. Also very funny in a way that conquers language. I have no advice how to get the discs, but this is the one to start with and I have like five or six now.)
- The Knife, Shaking the Habitual (2013, Rabid)
- Warsaw Project Orchestra, Wendelu (2014, Utility) Catchy early “Afrobeats” album.
- Zongo Junction, Thieves! (2010, Zongo Junction)
- Various, “Yeah But It’s A DRY Heat” (1993, West World) (Highly recommended collection of Arizona punk nutjobs.)
- Rolling Blackouts C.F., The French Press (2016, SubPop)
- Love, Black Beauty (2013, High Moon)
- Lee “Scratch” Perry, Master Piece (2012, Born Free)
- Bloody Panda, Summon (2009, Pronounced Loud)
- Spring Hell Jack, The Sweetness of the Water (Thirsty Ear, 2004) (Yes, free jazzy workout. Fun.)
I think I’m gonna stop this listing (for now, anyway) after the second cassette, because, well, it’s tedious, and because I have to put the series of tapes away and get back to disc listening tomorrow. [One curious footnote that I had completely forgotten — and that marks this project as pre-digital to the max — is that the second side of Tape Five is called TIME STANDS STILL and consists of Number One 45s that I loved but was unable to track down until I ran across this rich selection of them I can’t remember where. (Maybe they bought a big collection at Cheapo’s?) So that whole side fills in gaps in earlier tape programs.]
TAPE TWO: May 22, 1961 — March 13, 1965
- Ernie K-Doe, “Mother in Law”
- Ricky Nelson, “Travelin’ Man”
- Roy Orbison, “Running Scared”
- Gary “U.S.” Bonds, “Quarter To Three”
- Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ and Turnin” (#1 for 7 weeks!)
- Ray Charles, “Hit the Road”
- Dion & the Belmonts, “Runaround Sue”
- The Marvelettes, “Please Mr Postman” (talk about pre-digital)
- Gene Chandler, “Duke of Earl”
- The Shirelles, “Soldier Boy”
- Ray C., “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
- Crystals, “He’s a Rebel”
- Chiffons, “He’s So Lord” (yes I did a parallel goof for Geo. Harrison)
- Jan & Dean, “Surf City”
- Stevie Wonder, “Fingertips”
- The Beatles, “Please Please Me”
- “She Loves You”
- “Can’t Buy Me Love”
- Mary Wells, “My Guy”
- Beatles, “Love Me Do”
- Dixie Cups, “Chapel of Love”
- Beach Boys, “I Get Around”
- Beatles, “Hard Days Night”
- The Supremes, “Where Did Our Love Go”
- The Animals, “House of the Rising Son” [sic]
- Roy Orbison, “Pretty Woman”
- Manfred Man, “Oh Wah Diddey”
- Supremes, “Baby Love”
- Shangri-Las, “Leader of the Crack” [sic — I thought it could be remade as “Smoker of the Crack”]
- Supremes, “See About Me”
- Beatles, “I Feel Fine”
- Righteous Bros., “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
- Temptations, “My Girl”
- Beatles, “8 Days a Week”
A point I would make is that once the British Invasion began competing with Motown and a hundred other flowers bloomed, America entered a golden few years where the best music being made was, almost without exception, the most popular.
About 30 years ago this last summer I did a big piece for the Boston Phoenix that examined the history of popular music from 1957-1987 through Number One hits. I made a series of cassettes that collected what I thought of as the finest examples of #1 in chronological order. Listening to the tapes now, the only regrets I have are, well, the sound quality of cassettes, and that I bought hordes of 45s to make sure the versions were the ones heard on the radio and there are pops and scratches (less than you might think, tho…)
TAPE ONE: July 9, 1955 — April 24, 1961
Bill Haley, “Rock Around the Clock”
Elvis P., “Heartbreak Hotel”
“I Want You, I Need You. I Love You”
The Platters, “My Prayer”
Elvis P., “Don’t Be Cruel”
“Love Me Tender”
“All Shook Up”
“(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”
The Crickets, “That’ll Be the Day”
Everly Bros., “Wake Up, Little Susie”
Elvis P., “Jailhouse Rock”
Sam Cooke, “You Send Me”
Danny & the Juniors, “At the Hop”
Elvis P., “Don’t”
The Champs, “Tequila”
The Platters, “Twilight Time”
Everlys, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”
Ricky Nelson, “Poor Little Fool”
Tommy Edwards, “It’s All in the Game”
The Teddy Bears, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (Not Shoot Him)
The Platters, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”
Lloyd Price, “Stagger Lee”
The Fleetwoods, “Come Softly To Me” (Not On Me)
Wilbert Harrison, “Kansas City”
Elvis P., “A Big Hunk O’ Love”
The Fleetwoods, “Mr. Blue” (Not Deacon)
Marty Robbins, “El Paso”
Mark Dinning, “Teen Angel”
Everlys, “Cathy’s Clown”
Brenda Lee,”I’m Sorry”
Hank Ballard, “The Twist” (I put the correct Hank Ballard version in here –” EEee-yaw!” — and it certainly fit in the flow as well as the bogus version)
The Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me”
Ray Charles, “Georgia”
The Zodiacs, “Stay”
The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
Del Shannon, “Runaway”
(This of course does not include the three items that I had not played in quite a while and that flopped badly. They are already gone.)
Pino Minafra, Sudori (Victo, 1995)
Death Vessel, Island Intervals (Sub Pop, 2014)
Paul Schutze, Third Site (Ryko, 1999)
Milton Nascimento, Maria Maria/Ultimo Trem (Far Out, 2004)
Melvins, Houdini (Atlantic, 1993)
Sly & Robbie, Present Stepper Takes the Taxi (Taxi, 2013)
Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’ (Columbia, 2011)
Peaking Lights, 936 (Weird World, 2011)
Sugar Minott, Hard Time Pressure (VP, 2011)
Gino Stitson, Listen: Vocal Deleria II (Universal, 2013)
Sun City Girls, Funeral Mariachi (?? — Library Copy I bought for pennies out of curiosity — 2011 I believe — and in fact the first album by these willfully weird guys I would plug. Also apparently their final release.)
Archie Bronson Outfit, Coconut (Domino, 2010)
The Shape of Doomjazz To Come, Free Nelson Mandoomjazz/Saxophone Giganticus (Rare Noise, 2013)
Diplo, Random White dude Be Everywhere (Mad Decent, 2013)
(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.
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.]