Sunday, November 25, 2012

My 2012: Mr. Jaybee Goes to the Record Store

While most of you lead normal lives, I do things like go to record stores - a doubly pathetic exercise these days, what with so few young people there to provide some validation. When they do frequent such places, it’s in the ever expanding vinyl section. When I was their age, I watched that section contract to about the size the CD section is now.

Unlike online ordering, where I consult my “To Buy” list, weigh the prices of various websites, factoring in gift cards and shipping and handling costs, and ultimately make the whole exercise comparable to the planning of the D-Day invasion, a trip to the record store is very circumstantial.

First of all, you’re browsing. And you’re limited to what they have in stock at the moment, and increasingly, by what they have on display, since going through the racks methodically like I used to do is the very definition of sad.

I rarely plan a trip anymore. That would be sadder still. But when I’m in the neighborhood, there is that gravitational pull that’s hard to resist. I just make sure not to look up to see the other pathetic people.

And what did J&R have to offer that day, for $4.99 no less?

Amnesiac Radiohead:
Coming off the almost twin “masterpieces” - OK Computer (the great, but kinda bombastic, popular one) and “Kid A” (the weird, and thus controversial, one that I like almost as much) - it’s a relief that this one’s pretty simple.  It emphasizes Thom Yorke’s voice and the song’s melodies. The lyrics aren’t as dumb as usual and the  textures are nice and soothing.  Solid.  B+

"You and Whose Army"

Lodger David Bowie:
Also coming off of what would eventually be regarded as two masterpieces - Low (the weird poppy ambient one) and “Heroes” (the weird rockier ambient one) - Bowie consciously moves away from an obviously Eno (who collaborated on all three of these records) inspired sound. It starts out straightforwardly enough, but as things progress, almost as an act of will, Bowie keeps finding a stranger melodies or arrangements. I think he realized that the songs just aren’t as memorable as the prior records, so he’s trying to keep your attention.  And it works, to a point. He nails it on “Look Back in Anger” and “Boys Keep Swinging”.  But it’s just not as catchy either prior masterpiece.  B+

"Look Back in Anger"

A week later, I somehow found myself in the neighborhood again, where I had a very similar experience in the jazz section. It’s ridiculous for me to grade something I barely understand, so I like to think of the following as my primitive gut reaction to something very sophisticated, something that will take me years to truly get.

Sidney Bechet Ken Burns Jazz:
From 1923 to 1947 he played the hell out of the clarinet and soprano sax, meeting up with Louis Armstrong along the way, and ends up filling in a big gap in my collection. I’m sure there are more comprehensive collections out there, but my time’s running shorter than my money.  Perfect for a dilettante like me. B+

"Wild Cat Blues"

Coleman Hawkins Body and Soul:
My preferred jazz era is the late 1950’s.  And I may never forgive the forties for impressing upon my youthful brain the supposedly vast difference in quality between the big bands of that time, and say, a small one, like the Beatles, from mine.  As such, it takes a long time for music from that era to get past my prejudices. Too soon to tell, but it’s probably me.
"Body and Soul"

So that’s the outcome of an hour or two of my time. I’ll bet you spent yours having a life.

But I’d do it again.

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