Sunday, October 18, 2009

Decade: 2004 - False Spring

It was around late March or April before I decided that it was okay to listen to music again.

But the Musical Heritage Society wouldn’t wait – they just can’t help but send you a CD now and then, and around February, I got Mozart ’sSinfonia Concertante in E Flat Major/Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in D Major” (I’m too out of breath to tell you who plays on it.) It’s a little more cheery than the classical music that I usually listen to. Party animal Wolfgang Amadeus just isn’t going to let you slit your wrists in the tub, even if you feel like it.

Right around then, one crisis was passing. But instead of feeling relief, I was tired. Another crisis was on its way, and I must have felt it coming. Life can wear you down, and although music can help, you can’t expect it to fix everything. Sometimes all it can do is slow down the process.

Even though, I’d actively searched out the Wrens “The Meadowlands”, after getting it I had a bout of buyer’s remorse, and decided to not expect much from it. When I heard the chiming guitars usually I love, I told myself Oh it’s just those chiming guitars you love. Big deal. The less-than-obvious lyrics promised to reveal more over time. But the print on the cover is just too small to read. Then there was the dynamic sound and overall energy. Well, okay. I guess that’s good, too. To this day, I’ll put this CD on and notice a song I barely listened to before, because it was near the end of the CD, and realize how good it is. The sheer generosity of the thing promised enjoyment for years to come. Ho hum.
---------------- Now playing: The Wrens - This Boy is Exhausted via FoxyTunes

A friend lent me a CD by the Beautiful South – the one with the wonderful “36D” and “Old Blue Eyes Is Back”, but since I tend to go to the source, I bought their first record, Welcome to The Beautiful South. This is another one of those pleasant sounding records with venomous lyrics. These guys love to barb their pretty tunes with lyrics about politics and murder. But you do hum along.
---------------- Now playing: The Beautiful South - Old Red Eyes is Back via FoxyTunes

In the USA, Youssou N’Dour is known as ”that guy who sings real nice at the end of Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’”. (At least that was how I explained who he was, when someone asked me what CDs I got lately. Maybe it’s my fault.) To the rest of the world, he’s merely a superstar, so I figured it was time to try him out. “Nothing’s in Vain” is a pop record that just happened to be recorded in Africa. I normally pass on crossover attempts, but after several years, this still holds up quite well thank you very much. And it’s an ideal introduction to African music. ---------------- Now playing: Youssou N'Dour - Africa Dream Again via FoxyTunes

You bought “Buena Vista Social Club”, so I wouldn’t have to. That freed me up to get a record by the bass player, Orlando Cachaito Lopez. It always surprises to me when bass players make great records. (I obviously know nothing about bass playing.) If you put a gun to my head, I’d guess it’s Cuban music, but I hear jazz and hip hop, too. It also falls into the “great night music” category. Whatever its genre, “Cachaito” is great music period. ---------------- Now playing: Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez - Redencion via FoxyTunes

If I ever hoped to get a clue about African music, I knew I’d have to get something by Fela Kuti, who’s made, oh, about fifty albums. Another superstar virtually unknown in America (although now I see there’s an off-Broadway show about him), he’s made so much music, that it’s hard to figure out where to start. He’s even got a bunch of best-ofs. This one – “The Best Best of Fela Kuti” - solves the problem. This is hard-core African music – outspoken, political and brooding. Fela’s edited tracks run at least ten minutes apiece. This 2 CD set spans several decades. It is definitely not for your tea and crumpets crowd. (Maybe your burn down the house with the tea and crumpets people inside crowd, though.)

If CDs were priced by quality, Fountains of Wayne’s “Welcome Interstate Managers” - (link) one of the great albums of the decade – wouldn’t have been going for $2.99 at BMG. The guitar based pop and rock and roll goes down real easy, because the melodies stick, and the words are consistently smart and funny. It definitely cheered me up, and was one of the high points of that summer. The theme is white-collar working life. I can relate. Maybe you can too. Go ahead, treat yourself. ---------------- Now playing: Fountains of Wayne - All Kinds of Time via FoxyTunes

The election that year did nothing for my mood, so by the holidays, I went back into the past and got Benny Goodman’s “The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert”. It’s been on my lift of must buys for a while, and the scene in Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain where the narrator is listening to this record finally pushed me to the store. It’s obvious why this album is treasured by many, but I also realize that I’m not a big band fan, so I’m still waiting for this one to hit home.

And finally, for Christmas, Brian Wilson’s “Smile”, which was a lot to ask of me, but just what I needed. This is just about the only record I can think of that could pull me out of the funk I was in. It’s got to be one of the most melodic records ever made. Are you a little hesitant to get a record that’s a bit off the Beach Boys-beaten path? Don’t want to be told to eat your vegetables? Think you’ve hear this before? Don’t let that stop you. Jump in. The water’s fine. ---------------- Now playing: Brian Wilson - Wind Chimes via FoxyTunes


Brian Wilson

Fountains of Wayne

The Wrens


Youssou N’Dour

The Beautiful South

Orlando Lopez

I hadn’t remembered 2004 as a great year in music - I practically crawled to the end of the year. Now I can see that I just wasn’t responding to the good music I was hearing.

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