My first mistake was at J&R, where I hedged my bets, and got two CDs that were not likely to offer any surprises:
Graham Nash: Songs for Beginners
In my never ending quest to replace my 8 track tapes (yeah, I set the bar pretty low) I came across this lovely little gem at a decent enough price. If CSNY never toured or made another record again I could care less. But just as my interest in them was beginning to wane, Joni Mitchell dumped Graham Nash, which inspired a better than average level of songwriting. Bad for Graham, good for us. It’s not as good as your average Neil Young album, but it sure beats most of Stephen Stills solo work. But since I’d heard it before, it could only give me so much of a charge. B+
After the pleasant surprise of Anthem of the Sun, comes (in the Jaybee universe, anyway) the slight disappointment of GDs first record. I love the Dead’s focus on revamping traditional music, but the production is pretty thin, the vocals aren’t there yet, and Jerry Garcia plays the same freaking solo on every song. Either he had the studio jitters, or he just wasn’t great yet. (Although the live version of “Viola Lee Blues” would suggest otherwise.) But again, my familiarity with most of it dampened the overall effect. B+
Then I was off to Other Music (a preface that is becoming less and less necessary) trying to pare a pile of eight CDs down to two. One that didn’t make the cut was a Go Betweens record - a victim of my tendency to err on the side of an unfamiliar artist. I probably overrate the GBs, but they’ve given me two of the best holiday records I have, so in retrospect I should have picked them.
The Baseball Project, Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
A makeshift rock n’ roll “band” (with Peter Buck of R.E.M. on guitar) that does songs about baseball can only have limited appeal to a lukewarm sports fan like me. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, exactly. It just ain’t the Go Betweens. B+
So that left a fairly conservative pick:
Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What
Like Andrew Bird in our last episode, this one’s a grower, but it just takes too damn long. A-
And so, by being super safe, I missed the boat altogether, and my Thanksgiving music for 2012, as good as it was, did nothing to make the holiday season magical. Which is what I need it to be.
Here’s looking forward to a meh-ry Christmas.