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.

Michael Jackson: On the Cross or Off the Hook?

In the process of retiring summer wear, now-skinnier me was able to wear the T-shirt I picked up when I covered the first performance of Michael Jackson and the Jacksons’s Victory Tour. Like so much associated with these performers, the shirt itself was a contradiction: beautifully designed and printed, but made of oddly thin, fragile fabric.

MJ

(Mine has red sleeves.)

MJ really was the king of pop then. Ten times more alive than even excellent performers on stage, he turned into an enigma the second he walked off. Now I thought how far he had rumbled down and never quite climbed out of the rubble. How it was impossible to have settled feelings about him.

This is a good examination of the whole story, which, to coin a cliche, should be in the dictionary next to “sordid.”

What saddened me most this time, however, is that Michael Jackson has become a King Donald-type symbol.

OF COURSE he was a wicked, guilty monster who bribed his way out of it.

OF COURSE he was an emotionally stunted superstar who showed disgraceful bad judgement and was attacked by evil extortionists because of it.

But either way, on the cross or off the hook, he ain’t gonna be resurrected into the Victory-era life he knew anytime soon.

Zeshan B: Screen and Stage

Chicagoan Zeshan B’s performance of “Cryin’ in the Streets” on Colbert got quite a ripple going last week. For good reason. I bet the majority of the small crowd at Zeshan’s Boston debut last night at the new venue Sonia in Central Square had seen the TV show.

Let me say right off that the Colbert segment and the live performance I saw does more justice to the man and his backup than the uneven and rather muffled studio album, Vetted. Even with a stripped-down five piece group, Zeshan splashed charm all over the room, confirmed that he had a feel for soul and a resonant voice suited to a beefy Chicago-rhythm-section. On record and on stage, standouts included the non-English original romper “Ki Jana?” and the plaintive devastation of  William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” done with just Zeshan singing and piano by Lester Snell.

You’ll be there the next time this outfit comes around, right?

 

Showmaster Tabu Ley

Listening to vintage Tabu Ley concert recordings makes me want to commemorate the one time we saw him perform. (Think it may have been his only show in Boston and I can’t remember when it was to save my necklace.) Talk about your timeless pros — he had very little English but it didn’t matter a whit: this was a cavalcade of his beautiful voice, inspired improvised dancing and shapely solo shot after shapely solo shot from L’Afrisa International. As thrilling and satisfying with its own flavor and tone as the shows I saw by King Sunny and Fela Kuti. Did this guy know how to get an audience right in his hands? Most dramatic gesture was when — blam! — he silenced the whole band and offered us a simple question:

“Do you love Tabu Ley? Do you love Tabu Ley?”

Everybody in the place had to respond — Oh yeah!

Stuff That Came Out of Speakers Today #62: Allman Memorial

The Allman Brothers Band, One Way Out — Live at the Beacon Theater (2004). Bob Xgau nails this one — except I still miss Duane. This is the one I will pull off the shelf for the rest of my set on earth.

PS: Reminded that a triumph is how Gregg, in a subtle and fascinating rework, changed “Whipping Post” from the pathetic “these bitches are treatin’ me mean” to “my life is full of torment and craziness.” There is no denying that this is a guy who felt the lashes.