Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love Never Felt So Good: Music Midway in 2014

Top Shows of 2014
When I look at the list of my favorite live performances of the first six months of 2014, I'm certain that I'm one of the most fortunate people on the planet.

1. Bettye LaVette- Knuckleheads
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Midland theater
3. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Topeka Performing Arts Center
4. Marijuana Deathsquads- RecordBar
5. Kraftwerk- Sony Centre (Toronto)
6. Tony Bennett- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
7. Pharaoh Sanders- Blues Alley (Washington D.C.)
8. Nicola Benedetti- Folly Theater
9. Wolf Eyes- Riot Room patio
10. Pusha T- Midland theater

11. Suicidal Tendencies- Uptown Theater
12. Thy Art Is Murder- Aftershock
13. Regina Carter- Helzberg Hall
14. John Cale- Lawrence Arts Center
15. St. Vincent- Liberty Hall
16. Ladysmith Black Mambazo- Liberty Hall
17. Fitz & the Tantrums- KC Live
18. Allen Toussaint- Folly Theater
19. Black Label Society- Penn Valley Park
20. Bahia Orchestra Project- Helzberg Hall

21. Maze- Municipal Auditorium
22. Brad Mehldau Trio- Folly Theater
23. Jaleel Shaw with the Jeff Harshbarger Trio- Take Five Coffee + Bar
24. Brendan Kinsella- Grant Recital Hall
25. John Scofield- Folly Theater 

Top 50 Albums
Few things provide me with a bigger thrill than listening to an album for the first time.  Digital streaming, consequently, has been a godsend.  I've already listened to 234 new releases in their entirety in 2014.  My 50 favorites are listed below.  Here's a corresponding Spotify playlist.

1. St. Vincent- St. Vincent
2. Kris Bowers- Heroes + Misfits
3. Da Cruz- Disco e Progresso
4. Toni Braxton and Babyface- Love, Marriage & Divorce
5. Kelis- Food
6. Young Fathers- Dead
7. Danilo Pérez- Panama 500
8. Down- Down IV: Part II
9. Ambrose Akinmusire- The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint
10. Joyce Yang- Wild Dreams

11. Rick Ross- Mastermind
12. Drive-By Truckers- English Oceans
13. F*cked Up- Glass Boys
14. Takuya Kuroda- Rising Son
15. Skating Polly- Steilacoom
16. Ledisi- The Truth
17. Guided By Voices- Motivational Jumpsuit
18. Vampire- Vampire
19. Souljazz Orchestra- Inner Fire
20. Bohren & Der Club of Gore- Piano Nights

21. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues
22. José James- While You Were Sleeping
23. Coltsblood- Into the Unfathomable Abyss
24. Jason Eady- Daylight & Dark
25. Juilliard String Quartet- Elliott Carter: The Five String Quartets
26. Angelique Kidjo- Eve
27. Regina Carter- Southern Comforts
28. The Pretty Reckless- Going To Hell
29. Perfect Pussy- Say Yes To Love
30. Leon Russell- Life Journey

31. De La Tierra- De La Tierra
32. Simone Dinnerstein- Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias
33. Pharoahe Monch- Post Tramatic Stress Disorder
34. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Kin
35. Future- Honest
36. Jack White- Lazaretto
37. Joshua Redman- Trios Live
38. Stephen Malkmus- Wig Out at Jagbags
39. Tech N9ne- Strangeulation
40. The War On Drugs- Lost In the Dream

41. Ume- Monuments
42. Bixiga 70- Ocupai
43. Diverse- Our Journey
44. Mike Dillon- Band of Outsiders
45. Lord Mantis- Death Mask
46. Michael Jackson- Xscape
47. Beck- Morning Phase
48. My Brothers & Sisters- Violet Music, Vol. 1
49. Zara McFarlane- If You Knew Her
50. Pharrell Williams- Girl

Reissues, Compilations and Soundtracks
1. Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978
2. The Sound of Siam, Volume 2- Molam & Luk Thung Isan from North-East Thailand 1970-1982
3. Miles Davis- Miles at The Fillmore: Miles Davis: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3
4. Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75
5. Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (soundtrack)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Opry Lament

The Grand Ole Opry took a lot of my money in the 1990s.  I felt like a doofus every time I joined the throngs of tourists for the Opry's cheesy skits in the soulless environs of the Opryland Hotel complex.  Yet those were the only times I saw legends including Roy Acuff, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jack Greene, Jimmy C. Newman, Johnny Russell, Hank Snow and Porter Wagoner perform.  Newman died on June 21.  Here's scratchy old footage of "Alligator Man."

I reviewed Monday's concert by Peter Murphy, Ringo Deathstarr and Cinemaphonic.

Why isn't Charlie Hunter a star?  Hunter and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey performed at the Brick last Thursday.  Here's my review.

"Hometown", a collabo between Kansas City's Skiem Hiem and Oakland's the Jacka, may be the definitive Kansas City music video of 2014.

Stik Figa represents Topeka in the video for "Knowhere."

Take me to the river.  Mabon "Teenie" Hodges has died.

I comment on the late Horace Silver's connection to Kansas City here

Gerry Goffin has died.

I adore songs about God, Satan and Elvis.  Nick Cave's performance at the Midland on Wednesday, consequently, made me deliriously happy.  Tim Finn reviewed the show.

I would pay good money to watch a comment reconstruction depicting the moronic chatter attached to a video of T.I. and Iggy Azalea's "No Mediocre".

A lot of critics are hailing Willie Nelson's Band of Brothers as a comeback album.  Longtime readers of There Stands the Glass know that I'm quite fond of many of his recent releases.  Band of Brothers is merely adequate.  Here's the video for the title track.

The Roots' …and then you shoot your cousin is a strange album. RIYL: N.E.R.D, middle age, De La Soul.

"Release your wiggle!"  Big Freedia's Just Be Free is RIYL: 5th Ward Weebie, New Orleans, Sissy Nobby.

José James' No Beginning, No End was my #5 album in 2013.  I have yet to make up my mind about his new While You Were Sleeping.  RIYL: Roy Ayers, risk takers, War.

Because I've long admired Ian McLagan, I'm predisposed to love everything about his (average) new album. United States is RIYL: pubs, the Faces, taverns.

Joshua Redman's Trios Live is fire.  RIYL: Sonny Rollins, live albums, James Carter.

Raise your hand if you've been waiting decades for Jonathan Richman to quit goofing around and finally make another album in the vein of the Modern Lovers.  The members of Parquet Courts have taken matters into their own hands.  Sunbathing Animal is RIYL: Lou Reed, wondering what happened to Jonathan Richman, Pavement.

Die Antwoord's transgressive Donker Mag is surely a sign of end times.  RIYL: Rob Zombie, drone strikes, 2 Live Crew.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Event Review: PorchFest KC

I attended two ambitious new festivals in Kansas City last weekend.

Boulevardia resembled a Plaza Art Fair for millennials. While I had a good time hanging out with my friends, I wasn't drinking or eating, disallowing me three-quarters of the pleasures noted in the large-scale event's description as "a nation rich in beer, food, music and beer." Most of the bands from elsewhere didn't appeal to me either. Maybe next year I'll be able to quench my thirst while listening to headliners I enjoy.

PorchFest KC, however, was right up my alley. Dozens of porches in the neighborhood southeast of the intersection of State Line and Westport Road served as stages for an eclectic mix of performances by amateur and professional musicians.

Kids, dogs and friendly adults wandered from yard to yard taking in the sounds. A psychobilly trio had a loud PA that attracted a correspondingly large crowd. I heard the dudes in the top photo play groovy versions of "Friend of the Devil" and "I Know You Rider." Timbers, an Americana band, pleased an enthusiastic audience. The tango/classical duo in the photo below played the best music I heard Saturday.

Lots of people were drinking beer at PorchFest.  But unlike my experience at Boulevardia, I didn't feel like I needed to down a few alcoholic beverages in order to relax.

Bettye LaVette's outing at Knuckleheads on Monday is my new favorite show of the year. Here's my review.

I reviewed the Knuckleheads debuts of Judy Collins and Don McLean.

I saw Pharaoh Sanders at Blues Alley in Washington D.C. last week. My notes are at Plastic Sax.

Casey Kasem has died.

The Rainmakers shred. (Via BGO.)

Wussy's Attica! is RIYL: Vic Chesnutt, small towns, Drive-By Truckers.

Jack White is the Led Zeppelin of the new millennium. Lazaretto is RIYL: Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III.

Willie Watson's stark Folk Singer, Vol. 1 is RIYL: Doc Watson, the Smithsonian-Folkways label, Furry Lewis.

If I'm ever forced to listen to a Conor Oberst project on repeat, I'd like it to be his new Upside Down Mountain. RIYL: Fred Neill, Omaha, Tim Buckley.

Our Year, the latest from Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, is delightful. RIYL: Conway & Loretta, the old Austin, George & Tammy.

The Everymen's Givin' Up On Free Jazz is RIYL: The Hold Steady, New Jersey, Meatloaf. Here's the ridiculous video for "Spain."

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jimmy Scott, 1925-2014

As with a lot of people I knew at the time, I was floored by Jimmy Scott's so-called comeback albums released by Sire Records in the early '90s.  The idea that a living, breathing double of Billie Holiday existed seemed extraordinary.  In 2000, I had the privilege of escorting Scott around the fairgrounds of the New Orleans Jazz Fest & Heritage Festival in my capacity as a sales rep for Milestone Records, his label at the time.  In spite of the oppressive heat, suffocating dust and my insistence that he get to autograph-signing events on schedule, Scott was unflaggingly gracious.  He died yesterday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"You Won't Find Onassis in Mullinville, Kansas"

I don't get starstruck by musicians.  The power held by politicians, however, puts me in awe of elected officials.

That's why I was intent on exploring much of the world they inhabit during a recent trip to Washington D.C.  I spent hours in the galleries of the House and Senate and roamed the halls of Congressional office buildings like a teenage groupie in search of her favorite teen idols. 

My first trek to the Kennedy Center was an integral part of that experience.  I witnessed guest artists Nicola Benedetti (a violinist I reviewed at the Folly Theater in February) and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich perform Brahms and Tchaikovsky with the National Symphony Orchestra. 

The performance was more than fine, but I was just as interested in gazing at the Watergate building from the riverside patio and wondering how often the honorary trustees Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and Rosalynn Carter visit the Kennedy Center as I was in analyzing the music.

For the record, the sprawling complex may be much larger than Kansas City's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, but it's not nearly as nice.  And while I sat directly behind a famous actress, I was disappointed that I didn't spot a single politician. 

I featured 77 Jefferson in last week's segment of KCUR's Local Listen.

Mills Record Company made a nice video of a performance by the Ray-Tones at the record store.

Various Blonde made a video for "Downtown Frown".

The KC Cypher Series ends its second season on a low note.

Here a trailer for The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a documentary about Nat Hentoff.

The Neil Cowley Trio's Touch and Flee is RIYL: the Brad Mehldau Trio, European jazz, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio.  Here's an album trailer.

Bixiga 70's Ocupai is RIYL: Fela, Brazilians playing African music, Antibalas.

The lo-fi production and plaintive keening of Tim Cohen's voice on the Fresh & Only's House of Spirits put me in mind of Mekons.  RIYL: 1985, Fear and Whiskey, American Music Club.

Lee Fields repeats a successful formula on Emma Jean.  Solomon Burke, don't fix it if it ain't broke, Wilson Pickett.

File under uneasy listening. Say Anything's Hebrews is RIYL: the Get Up Kids, diaries, Brand New.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Album Review: F*cked Up- Glass Boys

I've seen at least three variations of the same exchange on my social media feeds.  After a fan raves about the new Bob Mould album, one of his pals dismisses the positivity by suggesting that Hüsker Dü was superior.  Who has time for nostalgia when F*cked Up just released Glass Boys?  Without ever sounding like it's aping its predecessors, F*cked Up combines the melodic rage of Hüsker Dü with Pete Townshend's rebellious theorizing. I'll blow the dust off my collection of Hüsker Dü vinyl on the SST label once I've had my fill of Glass Boys, but I don't anticipate that happening anytime soon.

I reviewed Rockfest on Saturday.  And for the record, my report noted the Aaron Lewis incident that subsequently became a meme. 

My notes on Sunday's performance by Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey are at Plastic Sax.

Here's a new video for a track on the Gee Watts album I reviewed at There Stands the Glass on April 12.

A cameo by Music Millennium's Terry Currier makes Bob Mould's "I Don't Know You Anymore" my favorite music video of 2014.

Not surprisingly, the new compilation Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75 is excellent.

Just when I begin to think that I'm completely over mainstream jazz, Theo Croker's AfroPhysicist saves the day for swing.  RIYL: Dee Dee Bridgewater, your father's jazz, Roy Hargrove.

Blu's Good to Be Home may be a good album, but I just can't deal with the knob-twisting production.  RIYL: 9th Wonder, annoying modulation, Digable Planets.

The release of Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse is testing the limits of my love/hate relationship with Mariah Carey.

Black Stone Cherry's blend of Southern rock and metal has long appealed to me, but the new album Magic Mountain isn't very good.

A few tantalizing moments on Meshell Ndegeocello's Comet, Come To Me cause me to marvel that she's not more popular than Prince.  The worst moments remind me of why she remains a cult artist.  RIYL: Janelle Monáe, arty dance music, Daft Punk.

The guys in Parquet Courts put great records in their bags.

Owen Pallett's In Conflict is an accessible entry point for anyone looking to investigate the avant/pop/classical composer's work.  RIYL: Ned Rorem, art galleries, Arcade Fire.

It's nice that Dave and Phil Alvin put their differences aside to perform the songs of Big Bill Broonzy on Common Ground.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)