Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Music Lust.

Nic Harcourt, whose wonderful KCRW show Morning Becomes Eclectic has become a staple listening experence for me every weekday, has a book coming out in September. Music Lust follows superlibrarian (and action figure heroine) Nancy Pearl's Book Lust and More Book Lust, books that offer reading suggestions for every "mood, moment, and reason." Harcourt's will of course offer listening suggestions, though at first glance his recommendations are decidedly less eclectic than Pearl's. See here, from the book's catalog copy:

Great First Albums
They say that you have your whole life to write the songs on your first album. And up to the point that the work is written and recorded that’s true. The second album is often the tough one and some artists only ever get one album released. But that’s another category. Here are some debut albums that heralded the arrival of important new musicians:

Chuck Berry: After School (Session, 1958)
Little Richard: Here’s Little Richard (Specialty, 1958)
The Who: My Generation (MCA, 1965)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced (MCA, 1967)
The Velvet Underground & Nico (Polygram, 1967)
The Band: Music from Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (Atlantic, 1969)
Funkadelic: Funkadelic (Westbound, 1970)
Steely Dan: Can’t Buy a Thrill (MCA, 1972)
Bob Marley & The Wailers: Catch a Fire (Tuff Gong/Island, 1973)
Patti Smith: Horses (Arista, 1975)
The Clash: The Clash (Epic, 1977)
Talking Heads: Talking Heads 77 (Sire, 1977)
Television: Marquee Moon (Elektra, 1977)
Kate Bush: The Kick Inside (EMI, 1978)
Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (Qwest, 1979)
R.E.M.: Murmur (IRS, 1983)
Run-D.M.C.: Run-D.M.C. (Profile, 1984)
The Smiths: The Smiths (Sire, 1984)
Sinead O’Connor: The Lion & The Cobra (Ensign/Chrysalis, 1987)
The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses (Silvertone, 1989)
Massive Attack: Blue Lines (Virgin, 1991)
Beck: Mellow Gold (Bong Load/Geffen, 1994)
Jeff Buckley: Grace (Columbia, 1994)
AIR: Moon Safari (Astralwerks, 1998)
Coldplay: Parachutes (Capitol, 2001)

Somewhere in the eighties this list goes horribly awry; tough to get perspective, I guess, when you're looking right over your shoulder. Decent fodder for music crit blowing sessions, anyway. And I'll forgive the guy pretty much anything since he played "Crosstown Traffic" a little while ago.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Happy birthday, Bob.

Dylan turns 64 today. Raise a speaker, and check out any of the performances here. If you're feeling sinister, this may be more your cup of meat. Greil Marcus --- did you send a card?

The loneliness of the session guitarist.

By the way, Neil is not supposed to be drinking. Neil is supposed to be doing Bikram Yoga and calling his kids. In that order. And fucking teenage supermodels. So don't help him off the wagon. If he gets fucked up on his own power, then roll with it. Just don't let his drug coach find you. He'll beat you like a rented mule. Pummel the shit out of you. He'll say what's your guitar hand? Then he'll put that hand underneath his Porsche Boxster and run over it. Then you will be at Ralph's bagging groceries with a gimped out hand. If that happens, you might as well throw a hearing aid in with it all, too. Complete the outfit. Ride the city bus like Rosie O'Donnell. So, hell, what I am saying is, if a guy can't order lunch, he has no business taking a guitar solo.

Speaking of soloing, when it's the other guys' turns to solo, don't sit there looking at your shoes, bobbing your head, with your arms tucked at your sides like you're a goddamn muppet. This ain't Sesame Street. Okay Grover?

Monday, May 23, 2005

It becomes great the thousandth time you read it.

Maybe. But this Greg Kot-Bono sitdown [reg. required] is so many kinds of wrong I can't make it through my first read, and stalled out on page two (of three looong pages). ChiTrib critic Kot is unhappy that U2, "the most important mainstream rock band of my generation," has retreated from the experimentation of albums like Zooropa and Pop, and recently criticized the band's hit-heavy concert setlist. Bono couldn't take this sitting down (or is he standing?), and arranged a meet: "Some of what is going around as a result of your article is not just unhelpful to our group and our relationship to our audience, but just really problematic for what in the broad sense you might call rock music. The things you think are wrong with it, and the things that I think are wrong with rock music, are polar opposite. Your vision of rock and mine are 180 degrees apart. And that's why I need to talk to you." O my god. That's why you need to shut up. They talked for ninety self-serving minutes, two titans protecting their own terrain like a couple of stringy kids defending turf on the sticky backseat of mom's Malibu on the way to Burger King. Hard to tell which is worse, Kot's overweening sense of his own importance or Bono's pathological inability to tolerate the notion that his work might not inspire rampant consumer spending in every last citizen.

Thankfully, some critics have their heads on straight, and keep their eyes on the real prize (no, not unfettered access to rock godz):

[ interviewer]: Like what you pointed out, the whole thing about the writer injecting himself into the story. I don't really like that too much, the whole Lou Reed-Lester Bangs thing. I thought that got more personal than it should have been, you know?

Greg: Yeah, there you go. I'm with you, man. You know what gets lost in the equation all the time?

[rc interviewer]: What?

Greg: The reader.

[rc interviewer]: Yeah, that's the frustrating part...

Greg: Some critics forget who they write for. They think they're writing for the other critics, or they think they're writing for the band, and with both approaches you might as well not even bother

Amen, brother.

[via fittedsweats]

Shaky Monday.

You could do worse than start a week off with this duo performance of "Giant Steps" [scroll down a bit], swung beautifully by Don Byron and Jason Moran. There's a second song by these two further down the page; I can't place the tune, but it's equally sublime. These cuts aired on The Next Big Thing back in November, too, so perhaps that's all there is. But if there's more from this session, I'd gladly buy it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Book deal of no apparent value.

We can all look forward to the travel blog:

Rock journalist Amanda Petrusich's IT STILL MOVES, an in-depth look at the new Americana music, following the author as she travels along I-95 interviewing the likes of Sam Beam, Joanna Newsom, Will Oldham and My Morning Jacket, and investigating the wider cultural implications, to Denise Oswald at FSG for Faber & Faber, in a nice deal, by Karen Rudnicki at The Gernert Company.

I-95? It Still Moves?

Who reads yesterday's papers?

A semi-moldy free jazz round-up:

-- Over at All About Jazz, Derek Taylor is in the process of reviewing the Free America reissues from Verve. Parts one and two are up; part three to come next week. Taylor blows way too hard --- "On the album’s title track Lacy and his reed confrere Steve Potts capitulate to the eponymous divide" --- but if you can wade through the rain of $2 words, a decent portrait of the music emerges.

-- Earlier this month the AACM celebrated its 40th birthday with a round of performances in and around Chicago. John Litweiler, author of The Freedom Principle, filed this report for the Sun-Times on the concluding concert, held May 8th.

-- Not sure how we've missed this lo these many months, but Avant Music News is a useful if terse outpost for out-music tidbits, from Boredoms to Braxton. More a bulletin board than blog, just the thing if you're not sure if the latest Downtown Music Gallery broadsheet has been issued.

-- Not, strictly speaking, music related, but as posted at the WFMU blog, British MP George Galloway unspooled some kind of wild solo in the august halls of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Galloway is an unsavory character, possibly a charlatan, but in an appearance before a Senate committee, ostensibly to defend himself against corruption charges related to the oil-for-food program, Galloway unleased a torrent of anti-war invective the likes of which simply haven't been aired outside of talk radio or blogdom. The guy went off:

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

We don't go in for politics much here --- it's handled much better elsewhere --- but that struck a chord. It's unfortunate that Galloway is, er, kind of a comprised figure (check the comments below the 'FMU post), but we've always believed, after Chaucer, that even an evil man can tell a moral tale.

-- ESP-Disk has this year been remastering some of their essential early releases, combining some into 2-fers,
genuflect before the Sun
with bonus material --- often interviews with the lead musician. This 4000 series has so far included Sun Ra's two-volume Heliocentric Worlds in one package; the complete Frank Wright on ESP, plus interviews; Ayler's Bells and Prophecy together; and Pharoah's First with a number of interview clips. ESP has also remastered the signature ESP disk, Spiritual Unity. All disks at the well-stocked ESP store are $12.99. (The remasters and multi-disk sets are more.)

-- This is the last post I will ever write; I'm just going to keep adding bullet points. In the Voice earlier this week, Francis Davis reviewed Vijay Iyer's new album, Reimaginings, liking it generally but having some trouble citing influences beyond the jazz canon. I can relate. Davis also notes some grey market, vintage Don Cherry, with the "I got mine" insouciance of a five-year-old who just ate the last cookie. Charming. A Voice squib also reports that NYC's Anthology Film Archives ("We challenge you to find more uncomfortable seating!") has just started a series called Eye and Ear Controlled, featuring avant-musicians' films, with notable concentrations of Tony Conrad's work, several short Terry Riley-Steve Reich collaborations, and a presentation of Michael Snow's New York Eye and Ear Control (soundtrack available from ESP store!), inspired in part by Carla Bley. The series was programmed by Jim O'Rourke and Anthology guy Andrew Lampert. Per the Voice, Snow will be on hand to discuss his work, though the AFI site doesn't make mention of this. For more on Conrad and O'Rourke, have a sitdown with Brooklyn Vegan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Putting the ya-ya in Magyar.

We love Dusty Groove, and poking fun at the proprietors' unalloyed enthusiasm is akin to finding fault with Trump's hair, or greed, but every once in a while a line is crossed. We present:

Funkytown, Budapest -- Hungarian Funk from the 70s
Blek (Hungary), 1970s
Heavy funk from one of the most far-out scenes we've ever covered -- the jazz, funk, fusion heyday of 70s Hungary! This 13 track package is a great introduction to a world we'd really like to hear more of -- and it features a heady brew of guitar riffs, funky drums, and sweet keyboards -- mostly falling towards the rock/fusion end of the spectrum, with loads of tight jamming tunes that really take off into space with the grooves! Titles include "Teach The Children" by Kovacs Kati, "The King With The Shred-Legs" by Skorpio, "Let Me Be" by Locomotiv GT, "Turning Off My Nervous" by Bergendy, "Pull Out A Disc" by General, "Blackmachine" by Mini, "Breathe Fresh Air" by Demjen Ferenc, and "In The Shadows Of Lightning Pyramid" by Piramis.

A heady brew of "guitar, drums, and keyboards?" Lordy, what won't those Dusty Groove scribes present for our listening pleasure? Apparently, this is not new, despite being on the DG front page right now.

Something that is new, and no doubt more widely available, is the latest Soul Jazz comp, The Sexual Life of the Savages: Post-Punk from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Can't comment on the sound, as we've only heard the two 30-second snippets at the Soul Jazz site, but the timing is impeccable. Now we can find out who ripped off Gang of Four first, south of the equator.

Ex recommends.

The indefatigable 'FMU blog yesterday linked to a video by 25-yr-old Congolese band and The Ex label-mates Konono No. 1.
give the drummer some more
This group takes The Ex's propulsiveness and strips out the guitars, leaving room for all kinds of percussion, standard and homemade, and replacing the guitar sound with a droney marimba (or likembe) buzz --- for an almost purely in-the-red rhythmic experience. It's a large file, but worth the download time. And once you watch it, you'll want to buy the two albums for sale here [scroll down]. Hard to resist something called Congotronics. It's such a good name, the Crammed Disc people are using it to cover the series inaugurated by this album, which will feature amplified traditional Congolese music. Crammed has a blog, and runs down all of the recent Konono action in blogville.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Teaching the indie kids how to jazz.

In case you missed it, Fluxblog last week posted another of the tracks from the Cyrus Chestnut/James Carter Pavement cover project, "Platform Blues," from Terror Twilight. Forced me back to that album, as I didn't recognize the song until about three minutes in. Carter really leans into this one. Perpetua couples it with a tune from Soul Jazz's compliation of free and funky jazz, New Sounds --- Eddie Gale's "Black Rhythm Happening." Which we hope isn't representative of the whole thing, as it sounds something like the chatter at the start of "What's Going On" stretched out for multiple minutes, with a bit more cohesion on the vocals. I kept waiting for the Happening to begin. Fun in the studio; not as fun in the headphones.

And, while we're looking at covers at Fluxblog, for another day or so you can hear a string quartet take on Sonic Youth's Dirty-era track, "Wish Fulfillment," along with a rehearsal tape version of the song by SY.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Take that, Sgt. Pepper.

The sound salvation.

NPR's been posting some sweet music-related interviews and stories of late:

--Terry Gross had pianist Dave Burrell on earlier this week; listen here. He plays some mean ragtime, and Gross clearly did her homework. Last year Burrell released a trio album, Expansion; it's his first recorded work as bandleader, for a US label, since 1965. High Two, a new label distributed by the glorious Aum Fidelity, released the thing. Burrell has called the disk his greatest recorded work, and he doesn't come across as someone filled with empty enthusiasm, nor a born shiller.

--Violinist and Vietnam vet Billy Bang was interviewed a couple of weeks ago on the occasion of the release of Vietman: Reflections, just out from Justin Time. This album follows his '01 disk Vietnam: The Aftermath; both reflect Bang's effort to come to terms with the war, and his experience in it. Four other veterans appear --- trumpeter Ted Daniel, drummer Michael Carvin, percussionist Ron Brown, and conductor Butch Morris --- along with two Vietnamese musicians. The level of sensitivity on display is rare, but typical of Bang.

--On Monday, Oliver Wang reviewed MIA's Arular. His own post re the review also points to this scene-setting piece by Jon Caramanica that ran a while ago at Slate.

Our Man in Song

John Darnielle, aka The Mountain Goats, is getting too good to ignore. Witness the rave in this week's New Yorker as well as the sold-out show at the Knitting Factory last Thursday. SFJ dubbed him the "best lyricist outside of hip hop," but I'll go one further. The guy is simply the best songwriter around. Period.

In the last three years, the Mountain Goats have released three uniformly outstanding albums that miraculously manage to make the tired singer-songwriter genre seem fresh and relevant again. 2004's We Shall All Be Healed (title better in context) is probably my favorite album of the past five years and Darnielle's high water mark, so far. Like the best of Bob Dylan, these elliptical, dark, and often violent songs signify five different ways simulataneously. Exact meanings are hard to pin down and new details sprout with every listening. The subtexts are political, religious, chemical, and personal -- detailing self-destructive binges, betrayals, paranoia, small victories, and defiance in the face of really fucked up shit. It's a notes from underground for the Bush era.

Just released, The Sunset Tree is less dense and quieter. It's apparently Darnielle's most baldly autobiographical work, spinning out a cycle of songs about his troubled youth and physically abusive step-father. In the best Steely Dan fashion, the music is polished and tranquil while the lyrics seethe and roil beneath the surface - including the best Romulus and Remus reference in any popular song. Highlights: the inspirational "This Year" ("I am going to make it! Through this year! If it kills me!") , downright funky "Dance Music," and the trio of somber tunes that close out the disc. "Love, Love, Love" manages to make a case for both murder and suicide as acts of love while "Song For Dennis Brown" contains the immortal couplet: "It took all the coke in town/ to bring down Dennis Brown."

Thursday's sold-out show at the Knitting Factory felt like a victory lap and the rotating band (acoustic guitar and bass, augmented by occasional cello, electric guitar, violin, and drums) seemed to be at the top of their game. They switched fluidly from devastatingly quiet tunes to raved-up and rocking versions of "See America Right" and "International Small Arm Traffic Blues" off 2003's Tallhassee. The show ended with the so-caustic-it's-catharatic "No Children." Darnielle - "Everybody now: `I hope you die! I hope we all die!'" - sporting a wicked grin. Bassist Peter Hughes declared this show as "their best ever" in his engaging tour diary. Hell, my friend Dave who had never previously heard a note of Darnielle's music left the show with several albums.

I'd never seen the Mountain Goats live, but Melissa warned me that Darnielle is "kinda crazy." Not something you get from reading the funny and articulate interviews with him, but seeing him on stage I knew exactly what she meant. For a musician he's incredibly buttoned-down and studious looking but acts somewhat unhinged - an unnerving combination. He throws himself into his songs with such heedless abandon that you begin to worry for him or get a little frightened. "If people aren't afraid of me, I'm not doing my job," he told The Believer last year. Mission accomplished, although Melissa maintains he was "way crazier the last time I saw him."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Looking ahead.

Chris Felver's 2004 film on Cecil Taylor,
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor: All the Notes, will be screening at New York's Walter Reade Theater on Wednesday, May 25th, at 6:30 and 8:45. Wire reviewed the movie last November. Surely it will build on Felver's Timing Is Everything:

A triple screen juxtaposition of "planted cameras" contrasts Tiger Wood's zen like balance and remarkable concentration with Cecil Taylor's elliptical jazz expressionism, mediated by Violet, a border collie who saw neither but seemingly reacts to both.

In preparation, there's a great and compact interview with Taylor from January 2001, from Perfect Sound Forever:

There's nothing "free" about any of this; it's the construction of cantilevers and inclined pylons. I'm a great fan of Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish structural engineer.

My football's sittin' on a barbed wire fence.

Great moments in presidential history, volume 79 in the LBJ files:
Ordering the Presidential Pants.

LBJ: So leave me at least two and a half, three inches in the back where I can let them out or take them up. And make these a half an inch bigger in the waist. And make the pockets at least an inch longer, my money, my knife, everything falls out -- wait just a minute.

Operator: Would you hold on a minute please?

[conversation on hold for two minutes]

LBJ: Now the pockets, when you sit down, everything falls out, your money, your knife, everything, so I need at least another inch in the pockets. And another thing -- the crotch, down where your nuts hang -- is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch that I can let out there, uh because they cut me, it's just like riding a wire fence. These are almost, these are the best I've had anywhere in the United States.

JH: Fine

LBJ: But, uh when I gain a little weight they cut me under there. So, leave me , you never do have much of margin there. See if you can't leave me an inch from where the zipper (burps) ends, round, under my, back to my bunghole, so I can let it out there if I need to.

Just because there are a million LBJ anecdotes floating around doesn't mean we have to stop celebrating them. Man, I don't know what I like best about this conversation: that LBJ feels obliged to further articulate that the crotch is "where your nuts hang"; that there is an audio record of a sitting US president saying "bunghole"; or that LBJ walked around with a knife in his pocket. This is via Maud Newton's place, and the full conversation, with audio, can be found at American Radio Works.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bob the Bob.

David Yaffe reviewed three resasonably recent books on Dylan, in believable fashion, for The Nation last month. The books are Marcus's Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads; Ricks's Dylan's Visions of Sin; and Marqusee's Chimes of Freedom: The Politics of Bob Dylan's Art; he also takes a glancing stab at Chronicles, Vol. 1. It'd be nice to read a Dylan review one day that doesn't tell me that something's going on, only [ ] doesn't know what it is, but that might be asking too much, so I'll just say good luck.

Marcus's book was also recently reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Project C-90.

While we're waxing nostalgic (and that's all we're waxing. Really. It just grows like that.), if C-90
LN? I don't think so.
or Low Noise or XLII-S or Position High or SA-X 90 or Normal Bias or Super Avilyn send you into a misty mixtape haze, you might enjoy the cassette museum on display at Project C-90. We remember debating whether to get the XLII or XLII-S as though the decision would affect world events for decades to come. That extra "S" really came in handy as we taped the theme song from America's Greatest Hero off of the radio. Note that the Maxell collection is listed under Hitachi. [via FMU blog]

Nu? Jah swing.

So I'm watching my favorite new TV program, New York Noise (channel 25 for any Time Warner NYC cable subscribers out there), and this video starts rolling --- I missed the artist/song info at the very front. Sounds at first like some bad indie soul, white-guy-with-beard edition. Then the shiny reggae begins and --- oy --- it's Jammy time. But there's something vaguely compelling going on. The song continues to shift, the lyrics come fast and furious, the pace ebbs and flows, the band gets tight and the singer is really that a talis?....and he's an Orthodox Jew. And he's really good at what sounds like Jamaican patois. Or is it Hebrew? Yiddish? It's all going by kind of fast. After his second stage dive --- the video is of a live performance --- he adjusts the yarmulke and brings it on home, with authority.

So it was Manisyahu, hasidic reggae superstar. His album broke in April. Brooklyn Vegan, as ever, was way out in front last month, at the record release performance at Irving. This has novelty act written all over it, but there was something extremely compelling about the perfomance, as Manisyahu found natural links between the overt religiosity of reggae and his own faith, and the keening sing-song of Hebrew prayer and the bounce of Jamaican dancehall. Early in 05 Amazon tapped Manisyahu to select his "music you should hear" list.

Anyway [cue violins], it reminded me of a time, pre-120 Mintues even, when one was never quite sure what video would come on next, and the joy of discovering something new. V66, anyone?

Dead boys.

Perhaps you are interested in voting for the most rock and roll death of all time. The current leader is Yardbird Keith Relf, electrocuted by his guitar. Where are the Exploding Hearts?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

What she said.

Logging blogville:

  • Carl Wilson recently penned a great consideration of Diamanda Galas' latest work, with a nod toward Buffy Sainte-Marie, which is almost certainly the first time these two have been linked. Wilson writes, "when a woman's timbre spills outside set boundaries (soothing earth mommy, breathy seductress, ballad belter), she's bound to face mockery and caricature.
    Consider Yoko Ono, Nina Simone, Bjork, or even native Canadian folk-rock icon Buffy Sainte-Marie, whose warble only got wobblier after she shed the 1960s image she has witheringly called 'Pocahontas with a guitar.' Such a wavering vibrato is enough to make many people say a female singer 'drives them crazy,' as if they still feared witches or the ancient Greek sirens." I'd add Corin Tucker to the list, having had a similar early response to Heavens to Betsy and early Sleater-Kinney. These voices are forces to be reckoned with, and the mockery and caricature Wilson notes are almost always acting as cover for fear and anxiety --- we do still fear witches, don't we? Shouldn't we? Courtney, cast that spell.
  • The New York Times last week noted the passing of alternative rock radio as a viable format. "We didn't even get to play 'It's the End of the World as We Know It,'" said one program director. Reasons cited are the dearth of identifiable indie stars, removing "women from the equation," the rise of satellite stations --- oddly, everything but programmers' astonishing lack of creativity.
  • Carrie McLaren at Stay Free! has an excellent, thoughtful post about Steven Johnson's forthcoming (May 5th) book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, which flips the joke from Sleeper into warm comfort for TV jockeys everywhere. The comments are also rich fodder. Johnson's work, like Malcolm Gladwell's recent Blink (NYRB review here), seems tailor-made for the quick pull quote or oversimplified puff piece, not to mention for helping the stressed, over-extended reader feel that much closer to full actualization --- "one more 24 DVD and my plot for world domination will be complete."
  • That metal T-shirt paper we noted earlier in a EMP conference round-up gets a thorough beat-down over at Bagatellen. Schadenfreude, in effect. We are small.
  • SFJ went and saw Dylan and reported back.
  • Happy birthday, James Brown, who turns 72 today. His heart turns 87. His autobio came out back in January.

Radio Free David.

D. Byrne has updated his streaming "radio" playlist, skipping the alpha order this time, though he still likes the jarring contrast [David Bowie ---> Kirk Franklin ---> Tony Bennett ---> Geggy Tah], and has deigned to include his own work, sorta (his restraint in this regard is nothing short of remarkable):

Slip Inside This House / 13th Floor Elevators
Astronomy Domine / Pink Floyd
Hurdy Gurdy Man / Donovan
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk / Rufus Wainwright
The World Isn't Fair / Randy Newman
Us / Regina Spektor
Sunshowers (Diplo Mix) / M.I.A.
Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key / Wilco & Billy Bragg
The Lifting / R.E.M.
I've Been High / R.E.M.
Dormi e sogna / Piccola Orchestra
La Cura / Franco Battiato
Bird's Lament / Moondog & The London Saxophonic
Because I Got It Like That (Ultimate Mix) / Jungle Brothers
Fronting / Pharell Ft. Jay-Z-
Sur o No Sur / Kevin Johansen & The Nada
A Çimma (La Cima) / Fabrizio De André
Puerto Madero / Kevin Johansen & The Nada
Static On The Radio / Jim White
Jesus Drove A Motorhome / Jim White
Late Night Shopping / David Sylvian
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Charles Mingus
Criss-Cross / Thelonious Monk
Well, You Needn't / Thelonious Monk
Ta douleur / Camille
Love Is Everything (Harmony Version) / Jane Siberry
Temple / Jane Siberry
*** (Regina And Bear Spektor Whispers) / Regina Spektor
Ode To Divorce / Regina Spektor
I Have Not Been to Oxford Town / David Bowie
Revolution / Kirk Franklin
How Long Has This Been Going On / Tony Bennett
Love Is In Love / Geggy Tah
Pancho & Lefty / Willie Nelson
San Antone / Doug Sahm
Tennesee's Not the state I'm In / Joe Ely
Machi / ACO + Mùm
O Sole Mio / Pietra Montecorvino
Peanut Vendor / Chet Atkins
Zumbi / Caetano Veloso
Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Louis Vega remix) / Thievery Corporation + DB
The Way You Move (featuring Sleepy Brown) / Outkast & Sleepy Brown
Vampires / Paul Simon
Morning Bell + Amnesiac / Radiohead
God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind) / Randy Newman
Cirano / Piccolo Orchestra

I dig the Regina Spektor, but has anyone seen her and Cat Power in the same room at the same time? (And if so, did they keep their clothes on?)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Original Sufferheads

Antibalas? Forget about it. Femi Kuti? Not even close. Tony Allen? Don't think so. Improbable as it sounds, the best afrobeat band on the planet right now is The Baltimore Afrobeat Society. I know it seems crazy, but I also know what I heard.

Last Friday night, the 21-person ensemble played one of their semi-annual gigs at a loft space on the fifth floor of the H&H Building in downtown Baltimore. The show wasn't advertised or listed in the paper and my friend Megan had to call several friends just to find out what time it started. And yet when the band trickled onstage just before midnight, the place was packed with over 500 people. It was a youngish crowd - mostly under 40 - but evenly mixed both racially and gender-wise. People started dancing during the first tune and most stayed for the entire non-stop, three-hour set.

The Baltimore Afrobeat Society is an unlikely amalgam of folks to play the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. And that's putting it mildly. The instrumentalists are a largely lily white bunch, looking both scruffy and studious. The female back-up singers wear bikini-tops and bicycle shorts. Weirdest of all is the lead singer - a pasty fellow with a bushy black beard, glasses, and porkpie hat. So these are the people bringing to life the music of the "Black President," Nigeria's outspoken and militant pan-africanist?

Authenticity took a beating from the very first notes of the show. The B.A.S. has a tight, loud, and powerfully raw sound. They've done their homework and got Fela's grooves and arrangements down pat. The songs built, ebbed, and built up again as effortlessly as the records. The back-up singers were pitch-perfect - chanting, sassing, and ululating in unison - maybe even better than their counterparts in Afrika 70. Amazingly, the bearded lead singer seemed to be channeling Fela - his inflections, his pidgin English, his growling bass voice.

But this wasn't some slavish imitation, either. The achievement of the B.A.S. far outpaces any typical cover band. Their tempos were occassionally more frenetic, the solos stretched in different directions, and the saxophonists and trumpeters weren't afraid to inject some skronk into their playing. Amazingly, people didn't blink or stop dancing during some of the abrasive soloing - often it incited a more frenzied response from the crowd. The set was laced with Fela classics - "Kalakuta Show," "Go Slow," "Open and Close," "Zombie" - but also avoided too many obvious choices. Already operating on only a few hours sleep, I was expecting to last just a few songs but the blazing three hour set passed before I knew it. I left the show sweaty and blissfully worn out, wondering what Fela would've made of a bunch of bohemian white kids from Baltimore inhabiting his songs so fully. But then you can't pick your disciples - they pick you. And the Baltimore Afrobeat Society proved themselves worthy of their master's mantle by any measuring stick.