Ry Cooder Preview That Got Lost in the Storm

This was such an insanely busy week that I managed not to link to this preview.

June 7 at 8 p.m.
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA

Ry Cooder’s new album, The Prodigal Son (Fantasy) is one of those works that tempt you to say it was inevitable because it’s so apt and timely. This is always an illusion – concept and execution have to fuse into a set that’s perfect for the moment and the future. Cooder’s basic insight was that traditional gospel songs often have potent morality, righteousness and even anger. They do mean to lift you higher. The Prodigal Son combines fairly well-remembered numbers like Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” with more-faded tunes like Blind Roosevelt Graves’s “I’ll Be Rested When the Roll Is Called.” Best of all, Cooder modifies Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload” so it chastises the faux-pious wealthy of our time and he enriches the program with acid observations on “Gentrification” (written with his son and the album’s drummer, Joachim). “Jesus and Woody” is even narrated by Christ himself. Can’t deny it – seeing this show will earn you a blessing.

My Altamount Snippet

I see there’s a new book about classic rock’s darkest day, Just a Shot Away. With what seems like a much-needed remedial main thread. (And I must say that the event is the one thing I utterly hate about the Grateful Dead.)

My most vivid encounter with Altamount horrors came when I mentioned the Gimme Shelter documentary to a music photographer (forgive me for not remembering his name) and he said he was at the show, taking photos. But it was such a drug-soaked and violently deranged scene — more like a riot than a concert — that after half an hour he put away the camera and volunteered to work in a First Aid tent.

It was the look on his face as he recounted this that froze me. This was someone who had witnessed an atrocity.

Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Pervert?

As I noted recently, comics after Jonathan Winters are off my screen. [Male ones, anyway, I know, if anything, even less about female stand-ups, but don’t have the same specific objections to them.] Nobody’s ever accused me of being humorless, so I don’t feel bad about this outlook at all. What surprises me is how much reinforcement my attitude has gotten over the years. I thought The Sophisticates was a huge indictment of all the stand-up society. When I first moved to Boston in the late ’70s, comedy clubs were undergoing quite the boom. So I went to a show, I don’t remember who. I found the atmosphere relentlessly icky. Making members of the audience uncomfortable and encouraging those who were yukking it up to look down on them was a clear component of the act. It was a divisive collective experience the opposite of what I enjoyed about music performances. The final conclusion I came to is that far too many comedians are like what I consider the utter worst kind of fiction writer — those who create feuds and disasters in their own life to use as raw material.

Couple Quick Music Points …

… as I struggle to find something I like today.

I am a tough sell for pure voices-and-percussion albums. And I don’t think it’s a “just me” kinda taste quirk. I know voice-and-percussion can be captivating, gripping, on stage, but the format is too hard to follow all the way though a whole album.

Next, it’s hard, lotta work, to redeem corny tunes though improvisation. If you roll out one lame-o, half-gimmick tune after another, I come to suspect you may like corny tunes. Because, I mean, there’s no question there’s an audience for them.