Thursday, August 31, 2006
Buy this brilliance.
I want to be Plastilina Mosh's publicist. I'm confident that I could break the Mexican duo in the United States before Christmas. They've issued a new compilation that showcases their immediately accessible sound that's somewhere between Beck's funk and the Scissor Sisters' manic fun. The collection includes this wacky 1998 single. And as the band's publicist, I'd track down and destroy every copy of the awful videos for the ridiculously catchy song, including this one and this even creepier version. So why aren't they stars north of the border? Just wait until I'm on the payroll.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ron Rooks, owner of the Music Exchange record store in Kansas City, died earlier this week. He probably would have wanted me to post a profane song by Frank Zappa or a crazy guitar summit in his memory. But Ron and I never agreed on anything. I think Ron would still be pleased with something from Lee McBee, a man he no doubt knew very well. The bluesman made a name for himself internationally, and he plays here every Sunday night. "Swear To Tell the Truth" is taken from a seemingly out-of-print compilation that's probably available at the Exchange. Alas, it'd be easier to buy it at Amazon. I remember Ron here.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Thanks, Mr. Braxton.
The first sentence in Anthony Braxton's liner notes for Five Compositions (Quartet) begins with these words: "The conceptual and vibrational reality of my quartet music in the 1980's has evolved into a multi-dynamic platform for extended participation that is quite separate (and different) from earlier quartet models..." Near the end of the inscrutable, lengthy treatise Braxton gives his readers a break. As if laughing, he writes, "OK, OK, it doesn't swing!" Braxton has jokes- and I think that most people miss the inherent humor in free jazz. When I listen to this out-of-print 1986 album I hear a set of very sympathetic musicians having a casual conversation. They're telling stories, tossing out asides, and yes, they're guffawing at the punch lines.
Monday, August 28, 2006
The sun has set.
I own a dulcimer. David Schnaufer is partly to blame. The man who helped popularize the stringed instrument died August 23. He was 53. The credits on this out-of-print recording reflect the high regard other musicians held for Schnaufer. Mark O'Connor, Kenny Malone and Chet Atkins are among Schnaufer's guests. Even so, I chose to feature Schnaufer alone with his dulcimer on this charming cover.
My review of Saturday's Marty Stuart and Paul Thorn concert in Kansas City is
Friday, August 25, 2006
Hitting the high notes. That's how Maynard Ferguson will be remembered. The trumpeter died Wednesday. He was 78. In the right context, Ferguson's showmanship was riveting. He's one of three trumpeters on Perez Prado's Havana, 3 a.m. from 1956, but I'm willing to wager that it's his flashy work that's the focus of "Granada." Hearing Prado's grunted exhortations is always a blast. Here, they're the stuff of life itself. Get the essential Bear Family reissue here.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The dues are paid.
Every metropolis has a standout jazz organ player. Kansas City's is Everette DeVan. His good humor and extensive knowledge of all jazz and blues forms, to say nothing of his remarkable talent, keep him busy in local clubs several nights a week. On this 1996 recording, DeVan demonstrates that he can hold his own with the work of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Shirley Scott.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The queen washed away.
I'm looking forward to seeing Irish folk artist Luka Bloom next week on his unlikely three-date tour of the United States. Bloom is in the highest tier of contemporary songwriters. But he's also cursed with a talent for reinterpreting material by other artists. He finds the pathos inside Abba's "Dancing Queen" on Keeper of the Flame, a revelatory album of covers.
Bloom is also soliciting pre-orders for an unfinished project. He offers the mood piece "I Am a River" at his site, and writes:
"If enough of you like the sound of this one track, and are willing to buy your copy in advance - like immediately, this money would help finance the finishing of this record. If say, 1000 people were willing to buy the record for 20 euros; that 1000 people would receive a copy signed by Simon and me; and you would receive a bonus extra track for your gesture of good faith! We expect to have the record ready for release by February 1st 2007. "
That's pretty steep, but I'm in if the "bonus extra track" is his take on Outkast's "Morris Brown."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I wandered over to the fine Song With Orange music blog yesterday and discovered that Moacir Santos died on August 13. A Brazilian-born composer and arranger, Santos relocated to Los Angeles in 1967. Blue Note released two Santos albums in the early '70s, but he'd been largely forgotten until Adventure Music released Ouro Negro, a lavish two-disc set of new recordings, in 2004. It's nothing short of triumphant summation of Santos' life and career.
I read that music industry veteran Dave Nives died recently. He was 52. I did some work with Dave in the early '90s. He was a funny, smart and generous guy.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Joseph Hill, 1949-2006
One of the great voices of reggae music has been silenced. Culture's Joseph Hill died Saturday in Berlin. He was 57. His distinctive burnished voice sung the praises of Rastafarianism on dozens of roots-reggae albums. Two Sevens Clash remains the most highly praised release, but my favorite is the rawer Trod On. Even so, I chose to feature 1997's first-rate Trust Me because of its wonderful photograph of Hill- his sly gaze mirrors his warm, gentle and intelligent music. There's also plenty of great Culture footage at YouTube, including a gorgeous video promoting Trust Me's "Riverside" and solid live concert material.
Friday, August 18, 2006
The lights are off.
Step back, Interpol and She Wants Revenge.
Since you’ve already picked over the bones of Joy Division, Louisville boys Your Black Star are feasting on the carcasses of Echo and the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes and October-era U2.
And the pickings are delicious.
Songs like “Oh Jesus...” sound like they’re pulled directly from their cherished resting spots between Ultravox and Modern English on a Pure Modern Rock of the 80s, Volume 3 compilation.
Your Black Star is consistently dark and brooding on their third release, Sound From the Ground. The band grew out of Revelation Records artist Elliott and traces of that band’s post-punk sensibilities keep the project from lapsing into the pathetic sniveling that entraps other bands traversing this territory.
Sound From the Ground is scheduled for an October 17 release on Wonkavision Records.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Weebie wobbled away.
Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap holds special appeal for me. Like author Nik Cohn, I have experienced the seductive allure of being a small-time music biz impresario with just enough pull to insure that interesting new talent keeps walking through the door. I have also had the profound pleasure of hosting Katrina refugees from New Orleans in my home.
While Cohn's examination of artists including Soulja Slim and Choppa are fascinating, and his distaste for labels like No Limit is boundless, what makes Triksta extraordinary is the insight it offers into the pre-Katrina life of impoverished black New Orleans. Cohn explicates the community's overwhelming sense of hopelessness and the resulting impotent rage that I recognized in my new family.
The first artist mentioned in Triksta is 5th Ward Weebie. The ugly, merciless world Weebie and his cohorts Three 6 Mafia, Mr. Serv-On and Sleepy Eyes Jones describe on "Whatever" is no longer a celebratory cartoon to me. I now hear it for what it actually is- an apocalyptic vision with actual names and faces attached.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The music walked into the sunset.
Jazz pianist Duke Jordan died August 8. He was 84. While the Steeplechase label tirelessly recorded Jordan as a leader, he's most often associated with his work as a sideman for Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker, Gene Ammons and Stan Getz. Jordan's rollicking piano kicks off this 1950 battle between Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Originally called "Gravy," when Miles Davis covered this piece four years later it was retitled "Walkin'."
Monday, August 14, 2006
The sun has set.
Ian Dury never fit in. When he released his two seminal albums in the late '70s, New Boots and Panties and Do It Yourself and , no one was sure what to make of this unattractive man's music. Was it comedy, disco, pub rock, reggae or punk rock? It was all of that, and consequently, it's aged really well. Here's the best song from the aforementioned albums that didn't make the cut for Dury's excellent import-only greatest hits compilation.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Now is then.
I bought the now out-of-print Jackie Wilson box set several years ago so I could finally hear a few songs without the over-the-top production that characterizes his hits. Boy, was I disappointed. Wilson's seminal voice is surrounded by goopy strings, dorky choirs and intrusive percussion on almost all of the collection's 72 songs. It's criminal. Still, there are a few obscurities that are as weird as they are compelling, such as the doo-wop meets country-and-western mash-up of 1958's "Right Now!"
Thursday, August 10, 2006
No more lying.
Here's a good topic for barroom banter at Lawrence's Replay Lounge or at the Record Bar in Kansas City- name every project by members of the late Get Up Kids. It's a very long list. The New Amsterdams may be my favorite. 2006's Story Like A Scar doesn't get much respect in these parts. Yet it's loaded with memorable songs like "Bad Liar" that recall the acerbic heyday of fellow Kansan Freedy Johnston. See you at the Replay Lounge.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
This guy is gone.
Is that really you, Mr. Biggs? The salacious contemporary persona of the Isley Brothers founder is nowhere to be found on this 2003 collaboration with Bert Bacharach. Hearing Isley float delicately over a full orchestra is unfailingly gorgeous and entertaining. Most singers reduce Bacharach's songs to the level of hollow greeting cards, but Isley imbues them with poetic depth. The new Isley Brothers album is titled Baby Makin' Music. The appropriate subititle of Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach might be "Adults Only."
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
No more sound.
Rather than light a candle for the three notorious oddballs that have recently passed, I’m spotlighting a song by a living eccentric that serves as a fitting memorial for three recently departed musicians. It's as if Robyn Hitchcock composed this bit of wistful but menacing psychedelia with Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee and Rufus Harley in mind. "I’ll remember you."
Monday, August 07, 2006
Floyd Dixon, 1929-2006
I admired an advertisement for the Long Beach Blues Festival in OC Weekly as I sat in an Orange County motel room ten days ago. Bettye Lavette! Rickie Lee Jones! Jerry Butler! Floyd Dixon! In a time when very few original blues legends remain, it's rare to see such a savvy and intriguing blend of talent. A few minutes later, I picked up the Los Angeles Times and discovered Dixon's obituary. This is a decent re-record of one of Dixon's best known hits for a 1996 release on Alligator Records.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Only ashes remain.
I stood impassively in a bar last night as people all around me danced ecstatically. Sometimes life as a lifelong music obsessive is a drag. A promising local band, Brothers Green, were laying down ragged funk-drenched blues. The charismatic vocalist had the crowd in an evangelical frenzy. But not me. Instead, I recalled stumbling into St. Louis' Mississippi Nights in the mid-90s and being floored by an unknown act named Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise. I lost my mind then, just as people did for Brothers Green last night. Those lucky folks didn't realize that Brothers Green were using Bradley's sound- intentionally or not- as a blueprint. It's no crime- bands like The Black Keys probably studied this 1996 album, too.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
The pop has popped.
The Pussycat Dolls fulfill many guys' fantasies. They destroyed mine. I used to pontificate on the inevitable comeback of pure pop music. I reasoned that the sounds on albums like Beatles For Sale and Seconds of Pleasure were so irresistible that it was just a matter of time before chiming guitars and ingratiating melodies recaptured radio charts. The Pussycat Dolls juggernaut exposes my assertion as naive and wishful thinking. That's bad news for bands like Volebeats. Most songs on 2005's Like Her sound like variations on "Needles and Pins"- and I intend that as high praise. Not that it matters. You win, girls- keep on shakin'.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
No more dancing.
This is the sound of the jazz life in Kansas City. Gary Sivils has been blowing his trumpet in area clubs for decades, delighting a few dozen aficionados while being pointedly ignored by the rest of the world. World-class talent isn't always rewarded with riches, of course, so a straight job had to pay the bills. That's one reason his reading of "Mr. Bojangles" resonates so deeply. Sivils' emotional, intelligent playing recalls Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. While this is a 1996 date, Sivils remains active today.