R.I.P.: D. A. Pennebaker

Nobody can argue he was less than a landmark master of documentary. My two faves are, no surprise, “Don’t Look Back” and “Monterey Pop.” Except there’s been a very sad change in my emotional response while watching the films. The first time I was beyond thrilled that the events had been recorded so artfully. The most recent viewings, I felt crushed by how much freedom and optimism has drained away from the world.

Fats Is Back! (And Bigger) (Which Is Better)

Thought my three double-LP Fats Waller anthologies on RCA from the mid-’70s were lovely, graphically vigorous packages. So it was a disaster when I found them destroyed by water (all but irreplaceable). The one good note, the water did not harm the vinyl and it plays just fine.

But it made me look around and realize that six LPs was a damn skimpy selection from such a prolific and consistent total musical personality. So I am picking up the exhaustive collections on JSP and from what I’ve heard so far, Fats Walrus (remember that animation?) is an ideal companion for this summer. Loads of tracks I had never heard, natch, but also early group-vocal treatments (topped off by scat from Fats, who is one of the funniest humans to sit in front of the 88s).

This is a feast that will last for months. The single snag is that I can only take a couple numbers in a row of him doing organ (though I love his organ playing — he understands it should be more churchy than a mere echo of his piano). So I have to skip occasional tracks. I mean, bit much to expect him to do a single 78 RPM in a session.

The Air Is Still And The Light Is Cool #32

(Spontaneous confirmation this morning but, I admit, also a pitch for those record views.)

Andy Fairweather Low, Wide Eyed and Legless: The A&M Recordings (Edsel, 2004). Original LPs came out in 1974-1977. Hard to classify but easy to love. Pub-rock, kinda, but with precious little party-time and lots more existential-crisis. The debut, Spider Jiving, is a classic in how to make torment catchy. If things mellow out a bit too much on the finale, Be Bop ‘n’ Holla, you still get the title track and the clever-insight cover of  “Rocky Raccoon.”

Music Business Trends That Bring Me Down

(Yes, I’m kinda going with the flow and wallowing in depression today.)

Singles and EPs are gradually drowning out albums. I like albums — fuller portraits and more complete statements. Remember about singles: a terrible outfit can have one terrific song; a terrific outfit can make a terrible choice of material.

My understanding is that, in the days before albums, every label had their own release schedule, so records would show up at the shoe/furniture store (which was indeed where they were sold) higgledy-piggledy scattershot city. With everything a download, we’re almost back to that system. I liked the everything-on-Friday routine — think it made it easier not to miss something crucial.

The new way of pushing a record is to underscore that the songs are based on events that happened to the songwriter IRL. Who cares? The artistry is what matters, not its source. This a similar problem to promoting a record because it has such a fascinating back story. You listen to the music, not the back story.