Just when things were going really well, another major life crisis arrived, and life suddenly sucked again. Luckily for me and everyone else, this time around, when the thrasher came I was able to give what was mine. And, unlike the last time when this happened, I decided that I wouldn't forgo music. Maybe it would help.
But not right away.
When your life sucks, why not retreat into someone else’s? Which is why I read Neil Young’s biography, “Shakey”. This would lead me to filling some holes in my record collection with the second and third Buffalo Springfield albums - "Again" and "Last Time Around", and Neil's own “American Stars and Bars”.
I was tempted big time to get the Buffalo Springfield boxed set, which was put together by Neil Young, until I found out that Neil left off some tracks from “Last Time Around”. Yo, Neil, wtf?! (a phrase, I might add, that could apply to several episodes in this infuriating genius’s life). But it all worked out for the best at the bargain bin of my favorite record store, which is my equivalent of the McDonalds plastic ball pit.
Buffalo Springfield is sometimes called the polar opposite of the Byrds - a band that was great on record and a bit rickety live. Legend has it that the
---------------- Now playing: Neil Young - I Am a Child via FoxyTunes
“American Stars and Bars” is half pretty good country rock with Linda Rondstadt singing backup, the highlight of which is the more rocking “Bite the Bullet”, and half bits of genius from the vault, like “Star of Bethlehem”, “Will to Love” and “Like a Hurricane”.
Before an adult came to tell me it was time to go, I also found “The Best of Love”. They were a
---------------- Now playing: Love - She Comes in Colors via FoxyTunes
"The Sky is Crying: The History of Elmore James" contains the originals of “I Can't Hold Out”, “It Hurts Me Too”, “Madison Blues” and “Done Somebody Wrong” and others, each of which beats the cover by way of raw guitar, pounding piano or stronger vocal.
---------------- Now playing: Elmore James - Done Somebody Wrong via FoxyTunes
Ah, have music and life ever melded together as intimately as they did that summer? Sufjan Stevens' "
Maya Arulpragasam was born in
I file the soundtrack to the film "The Harder they Come" under Jimmy Cliff, but that's not quite right. If one person did all these songs I'd have to rate him above Bob Marley. Jah was smiling the day that BMG offered it as a special two disc edition containing a number of other Jamaican hits, like "The Israelite" and "I Can See Clearly Now". But even if it was just the original single disk, it would be great. "Johnny Too Bad", "Pressure Drop", "Sitting Here in Limbo" - there's not a bad song here, and I enjoy it more now that times are better. But what's that I smell? Oh that’s right, nevermind…
Thelonious Monk Quartet, with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall combines two of my favorite jazz artists, and is one of those records you can play over and over again, and never reach the bottom. The fact that this record even exists is a miracle - someone found a fifty year old tape lying around. Treat yourself to the warm embrace of music that seems almost Easy Listening at moments, but that over time reveals its many layers and dark corners.
I decided that I’d been playing it too safe with Monk – only listening to his late ‘50s recordings, and so went for the circa 1947 “Genius of Modern Music”. This is his first record as a band leader and it immediately grabs you with its odd angles and structures. It must have seemed like a space ship landing at the time. I wouldn’t start here to learn about Monk, but it's well worth the ride.
Sometimes I get over-sated, and feel bad that I've gotten a CD that I didn't absolutely need. It's compounded when it doesn't bowl me over. Such was the fate of Roxy Music's “Avalon” - a perfectly good, if a little slick sounding record. It just didn't have any surprises or brilliantly weird Roxy moments. Great music for company, though.
Who the hell are the Impressions, I wondered? Well, they’re more significant than Wolf Blitzer, I can tell you. I didn't know that Curtis Mayfield didn't spring out of the ether fully formed with "Move on Up" and "Superfly". He had a life and career before I became aware of it. This vocal trio started in the 50s doing light, airy doo wop-like tunes. Their arrangements got more varied during the 60s, and their lyrics became more socially relevant. Then they broke up and Curtis went solo. I never tire of "Superfly", which has some of the tightest drumming, and the best lyrics, ever. "The Anthology" brings all of this together in one place, and while at first I resisted, I find myself coming back to this record more and more.
One morning after working all night, I put on Gogol Bordello's "Gypsy Punks" and The Hold Steady's "Separation Sunday", and I can't think of two records that are worse to put on when someone's trying to get some sleep. Ask my daughter. "Gypsy Punks" is exactly how it sounds - accordions, violins, electric guitars, screams. It's been a while since I've been to the caravan so I don't listen to it often. But the energy is undeniable. "Separation Sunday" is the sound of "Blinded by the Light" Bruce Springsteen, but without the Big Man, and the guitars turned up. And he’s had a few. The characters are low lifes of varying degrees, and I don't always want to spend time with them, but they do make life interesting.
After the next all-nighter, I tried
---------------- Now playing: Mississippi John Hurt - Candy Man via FoxyTunes
James Talley's "Got No Milk, No Bread, No Money, But Sure Got a
Mozart’s Sonata/Fantasy/Rondo and Variations (played by Alfred Brendel), is the abbreviated title. (Jesus Christ, why can’t these guys name their tunes something sensible, like “Louie, Louie”?) Even so, James Talley’s still got them beat. Anyway, this is a fine collection of solo piano music. When it comes to classical music, for me, smaller is always better. Now I’m waiting for the kazoo version.
Good friend Mike had seen Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in
Sam Phillips was married to T-Bone Burnett, and before they broke up, he produced her "Martinis and Bikinis" which is more serious than it sounds. You may have heard “I Need Love” at your local drug store chain, between announcements for specials on toiletries. Sam's voice is less raspy than Kim Carnes’. She obviously loves the Beatles, and even covers John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”. While it doesn’t all cohere into a great record, there are a number of excellent, accessible songs here. Not bad at all.
Joanna Newsom’s “The Milk-Eyed Mender” is my latest "the rest of the family gives me funny looks" CD. It's understandable, really. With her whoops, cackles and regressions into early childhood, she makes Bjork sound like Mary J. Normal. And yet, and yet, some of these songs are incredible. There is a fearless openness here that makes other such attempts pale in comparison. Oh, and she plays a harp. One of the quietest records ever, it slowly fades in from an utter silence. It'd still piss off someone trying to sleep, though.
Liked a Whole
The Harder They Come
John Coltrane/Thelonius Monk at Carnegie Hall
Genius of Modern Music
So, we made it to the end of the year, which is all any of us can ask.
So, we made it to the end of the year, which is all any of us can ask.