Saturday, March 31, 2018

Quarterly Report: The Top Albums, Songs and Concerts of 2018 (So Far)

The Top Albums of 2018 (So Far)
1. Black Panther the Album
2. Ben Miller Band- Choke Cherry Tree
3. Logan Richardson- Blues People
4. Migos- Culture II
5. Rhye- Blood
6. Hailu Mergia- Lala Belu
7. August Greene- August Greene
8. Meshell Ndegeocello- Ventriloquism
9. David Murray and Saul Williams- Blues for Memo
10. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile

The Top Songs of 2018 (So Far)
1. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
2. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
3. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
4. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
5. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”
6. Soulive- “King’s March”
7. Danielle Nicole- “Cry No More”
8. Courtney Barnett- “Nameless, Faceless”
9. Turnstile- “Generator”
10. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”

The Top Concerts of 2018 (So Far)
1. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
2. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
3. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
4. Pink- Sprint Center
5. Atmosphere- VooDoo
6. Drive-By Truckers- Truman
7. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- KC Folk Fest
8. Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
9. Lola Pistola- Riot Room
10. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Concert Review: Atmosphere and Evidence at VooDoo

Evidence affirmed the hip-hop hierarchy of the evening during the first song he performed at VooDoo on Saturday by noting that “I’m Rhymesayers' number three under Slug and Ali.”  Slug is half of the headlining act Atmosphere.  Brother Ali is his supremely talented stablemate at Rhymesayers, the Minneapolis record label that has issued more than a dozen classic hip-hop albums since its formation in 1995.

Evidence, a member of the California hip-hop group Dilated Peoples that’s best known for the 2004 song “This Way”, was riveting in a 45-minute opening set.  He has enough bars to supply an expansion of the penitentiary in Leavenworth.  An unrecorded list of tips for less polished performers that included drinking room temperature water, not allowing your crew to join you on stage and the proper way to stage dive (a feat he perfectly executed) provided one of the evening’s most memorable moments.  Most of the audience of about 1,000- a crowd that Slug characterized as “a bunch of dirty, stinky, white people”- didn’t know what to make of Evidence and only responded enthusiastically to his weed references.

Slug, Ant and Plain Ole Bill performed songs about suicide, self-loathing, domestic violence and hangovers for 90 minutes.  Slug was his usual outrageous self.  He claimed that “the only thing I like to do more than masturbate is bust rhymes and freestyle” and suggested that there “ain’t nothin’ like a broken bottle to the face to put put a (batterer of women) on the right path.”  I felt “sick and contradictive” as I joined communal rap-alongs to “GodLovesUgly,” “Guarantees” and “Trying To Find a Balance,” harrowing songs that redefined the scope and meaning of Midwestern hip-hop.

Atmosphere’s sound hasn’t changed much since the release of its 1997 debut album Overcast.  Once cutting-edge, Ant’s soul-soaked production and Slug’s confessional lyrics are now part of hip-hop’s rearguard.  XXXTentacion, the rapper who is expected to have the top album in the country this week, is 25 years younger than Slug.  The controversial upstart rejects everything about hip-hop that Atmosphere fans hold dear.

The sudden realization that the once-subversive Atmosphere and Evidence had somehow become old-school traditionalists devastated me.  I'd inadvertently paid $35 to attend an oldies concert.  When Slug asked “who’s your favorite rapper” during a duet with Evidence on “Powder Cocaine” in the encore, I was too rattled to respond.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Album Review: Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love

Bible of Love restores a good portion of the respect I’ve lost for Snoop Dogg in recent years.  The 134-minute gospel album counteracts the embarrassing buffoonery for which he’s become known.  Not surprisingly, Snoop doesn’t appear on the best selections.  The life-affirming “Come as You Are” features the gospel luminaries Mary Mary and Marvin Sapp.  Faith Evans’ lead vocals on “Saved” offer spiritual redemption.  The vibrant contributions of notable vocalists including Kim Burrell, Daz Dillinger (!), Patti LaBelle, Fred Hammond and Charlie Wilson  prevent the lengthy Bible of Love from becoming a slog.  Snoop pops on up songs including Rance Allen’s “Blessing Me Again”, but only on the closing track “Words Are Few” does he get in the way of the rapturous message.

I featured Reggie and the Full Effect in my weekly segment on KCUR.

Hours after railing against nostalgia in the previous There Stands the Glass post, I was floored by Meshell Ndegeocello’s Ventriloquism.  The stunning collection of covers of pop-leaning ‘80s and ‘90s R&B songs was love at first listen.  An ingenious reading of TLC’s “Waterfalls” typifies her incredibly smart but not excessively clever approach.

I’ve been predisposed to dislike Nathaniel Rateliff since his breakout hit- an exploitative gospel goof that bugs the bejeezus out of me- began befouling the airwaves in 2015.  Even so, Rateliff & the Night Sweats won me over the first time I saw the band.  I begrudgingly acknowledge that the ensemble’s soulful new album Tearing at the Seams is a worthy successor to Van Morrison’s classic His Band and the Street Choir and Bruce Springsteen’s epic The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

The members of Cameo would surely approve of the four sweet sticky things on Jeremih’s The Chocolate Box EP.  Here’s “Nympho”.

While I’d prefer that much of Transparent Water didn’t sound like first-take improvisations, the collaboration between Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and the Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita is gorgeous.

The aesthetically pure punk label Dischord has issued an album of ostentatious guitar shredding.  Backed by the Fugazi rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, guitarist Anthony Pirog makes like Joe Satriani on The Messthetics.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Recycled Sounds

Nostalgia is for suckers.  Predilections for the past can be emotionally crippling.  The disorder applies to musical preferences.  I’m inclined to distance myself from people who suggest that the music of today is inferior to the sounds of the past.  Against my nature, I’ve spent recent days begrudgingly appreciating three albums that induce repressed memories.

I cringed when an acquaintance proclaimed the Breeders’ All Nerve as his favorite album of 2018.  The disconcerting confession compelled me to give it a chance.  It’s not bad.  “Wait in the Car” is among the songs that help make All Nerve sound like the eighth-best alternative rock album of 1993.

Progger appeals to my worst musical impulses.  I allowed myself to pine for the mid-’70s days when the big brothers of my pals turned me on to since-forsaken jazz fusion bands like Brand X, Curved Air and Lifetime while listening to “Housewives” on the Austin band’s new album Dystopia.

I documented my single favorite sound in this space last month, so it’s not a surprise that I was eager to sample the expanded edition of the soul revivalists Durand Jones & the Indications’ self-titled album.  The ten live tracks demonstrate that Jones and his band simulate the atmosphere of a 1965 frat party featuring the likes of Joe Tex or Eddie Floyd.

Now excuse me while I go back to obsessing over my presumptive album of the year.

I reviewed Pink’s concert at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Everyday, Forever, the latest album by the Project H, at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Matt Dike, a co-founder of Delicious Vinyl, has died.

Bill Frisell’s solo album Music Is includes pastoral elegies and big city meltdowns.  Even though I haven’t heard all of the guitarist’s three dozen albums, I'm comfortable with the assertion that Music Is is among his ten most essential recordings. Here’s “Rambler”.

The title of the Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa compilation is perfect.  Hearing the sounds of groups like Shalamar, the Gap Band and the Whispers filtered through a South African sensibility is worlds of fun.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Album Review: Brad Mehldau- After Bach

Brad Mehldau is the Keith Jarrett of his generation.  Much as Jarrett hoodwinked admirers into listening to extended freeform piano improvisations in the 1970s, Mehldau’s iconoclastic approach has transformed the perception of jazz piano in the new millennium.  I’m selectively sipping the Kool-Aid.  I loathed the project Mehldau and Chris Thile released last year.  Even though I suspect I’m being duped, the new album After Bach transfixes me.  Here’s “After Bach: Rondo”.

I extolled Joyce DiDonato in my weekly feature for KCUR.

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

Here’s a reminder that I maintain the comprehensive Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Craig Mack has died.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Album Review: Young Fathers- Cocoa Sugar

Cocoa Sugar doesn’t bump in my whip.  It doesn’t do much through my headphones either.  Young Fathers’ new release is among my most highly anticipated albums of 2018.  I don’t like it.  The Scottish group downplays hip-hop elements on its third album in favor of precious indie-rock embellishments.  I once rejected the frequent comparisons to TV On the Radio that hounded the Scottish trio, but the correlation is obvious on Cocoa Sugar.  (Caveat: I reserve the right to change my mind.)

I reviewed a concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Plastic Sax.

Valee’s 14-minute Good Job, You Found Me is pure evil.  The lyrics are reprehensible and the flow is derivative.  So why can’t I stop listening?  It’s the beats, stupid.  Pusha T pops off on “Miami”.

Nubya Garcia’s new single “When We Are” has me on #teamnubya.  RIYL: Courtney Pine, optimism, Eddie Moore & the Outer Circle.

Automata 1, Between the Buried and Me’s latest riff-tastic effort, surpasses the recent work of Mastodon.  Here’s “Millions”.

I’m struggling to hear what the cool kids find so captivating about Soccer Mommy’s Clean.  RIYL: Blake Babies, retreads, Liz Phair.  Here’s “Your Dog”.

Henry Cow lives!  The kids in the British jazz group Dinosaur made a wacky music video that evokes the forgotten experimental rock ensemble.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 09, 2018

Concert Review: The Lyric Opera’s “Rigoletto”

Eager to savor the invigorating night at the opera I’d enjoyed the previous evening, I watched a 2008 production of “Rigoletto” filmed at Semperoper in Dresden via Amazon Prime on Thursday.  I didn’t know what I’d been missing. 

Exposed flesh!  Surrealistic stage sets!  And best of all, Juan Diego Flórez’s glorious mullet!

The Lyric Opera’s interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s work enthralled me, but the Dresden production makes it seem stodgy.  I considered buying another $35.50 ticket to see the three-hour production again as I exited Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Wednesday.  Now that I know the way it went down in Germany ten years ago, that prospect is much less appealing. 

As Rigoletto would shout, “la maledizione!”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Album Review: August Greene

I love everything about August Greene’s self-titled debut album.  Well, almost everything.  Common’s lyrics are occasionally too corny even by my sentimental standards.  And a background vocalist’s pitch seems slightly off.  My instantaneous embrace of the project is hardly a surprise.  I’ve long adored the veteran rapper, the genre-busting keyboardist Robert Glasper and the imaginative drummer Karriem Riggins.  Working as August Greene, they create a sublime blend of jazz, soul and hip-hop that’s situated at the exact center of my wheelhouse.  The group’s Tiny Desk Concert is divine.

My recent weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

I named Brewer & Shipley the KCUR Band of the Week.

Russ Solomon has died.  I reported directly to the retail titan during a particularly perilous segment of my career in the music distribution industry.  Solomon’s fearlessness was inspiring, his guile was masterful and his frequent displays of kindness never failed to motivate me.

Tracey Thorn’s Record is wonderful.  RIYL: Everything But the Girl, Brit-pop circa 1986, Pet Shop Boys.  Here’s “Sister”.

Lucy Dacus’ breathlessly hyped Historian merits much of the acclaim.  RIYL: Eliza Carthy, the flavor of the week, Fairport Convention.  Here’s “Addictions”.

A bygone Moroccan band’s deranged interpretation of “Für Elise” makes me proud to be an Earthling.

Dayramir González attempts to condense the entire history of Cuban jazz into the 72-minute The Grand Concourse.  The manic release is recommended if you like Cachao, Benny Moré and Irakere.

Alfredo Rodríguez’s The Little Dream is completely over the top.  RIYL: Lionel Loueke, Cuba, Pat Metheny at his most excessive.

Seun Kuti does right by his father on Black Times.  Femi Kuti’s One People One World is slightly less formidable.

The Andy Sheppard Quartet’s wispy Romaria is elegant sonic wallpaper.  RIYL: music for hangovers, John Surman, clouds.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Van McLain, R.I.P.

Van McLain, the primary artistic force of Shooting Star, has died.  The most successful rock band to emerge from Kansas City in the 1980s, Shooting Star was also exceedingly unfashionable.

A stylistic holdover from the classic rock era dominated by Midwestern bands like Styx, Kansas, Head East and REO Speedwagon, Shooting Star played outmoded pomp-prog in the age of Talking Heads, the Clash and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Even so, Shooting Star songs including “Last Chance,” “Bring It On” and “Hang On For Your Life” were championed by radio stations like KSHE in St. Louis and KY102 in Kansas City.

I had a complicated professional relationship with McLain.  He and I rarely saw eye-to-eye, but he always behaved honorably.  He sings lead on the uncharacteristically poppy “You’ve Got What I Need”, my favorite Shooting Star song.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 02, 2018

Concert Review: Protomartyr at Zanzabar

Joe Casey was in a wistful mood at Zanzabar on Thursday.  The front man of Protomartyr recalled that “we were paid in quarters to play pinball” the first time his Detroit band appeared at the Louisville arcade, beer hall and music venue.  Protomartyr’s riveting performance last night merited far more than chump change.

Several college professor-types and old-school crust-punks mixed with the usual indie-rock scenesters in the audience of about 125.  The cover charge was $15.  Casey toted three cans of PBR to the stage.  The beer presumably helped him sustain his strident bark.  He’s often compared to the late Mark E. Smith of the Fall, but last night Casey resembled an agitator giving a rousing speech at a union rally.

The pontificating made me realize that Protomartyr’s post-punk attack is almost incidental.  Casey would be no less effective working in a dub-reggae format or with an avant-garde jazz ensemble.  That’s not to suggest that guitarist Greg Ahee, bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard aren’t satisfactory rock musicians.  They’re excellent.  Even so, it’s telling that Casey is the only member of Protomartyr armed with a microphone.

Deflecting applause at the start of the encore, Casey suggested “we’re not that good.”  On a night filled with clever feints and willful deceptions, the statement was the only outright lie.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)