Monday, December 31, 2018

Concert Review: The Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones at Municipal Auditorium

The woman working at the box office of Municipal Auditorium on Sunday initially refused to sell me a ticket to the the New Year’s Weekend Soul Fest.  “You want to go to this?” she marveled as she pointed at a sign indicating that a concert by the Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones was about to begin.  Moments after convincing the woman to accept $40 in exchange for the least expensive ticket, I was accosted by a security guard who skeptically looked me up and down before asking to inspect my hard-won ticket. “Huh,” she muttered. “Well, have fun.”

Their bewilderment may have been warranted.  I was one of only a handful of white guys in the audience of about 4,000.  The extreme racial disparity blows my mind.  The Isley Brothers are one of the most important bands of the past 60 years.  I grew up on Top 40 hits like “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady,” “Summer Breeze” and “Fight the Power”.  Not only would there be no Rick James, Prince or even Maroon 5 without the Isley Brothers, the Rolling Stones began their losing effort to catch up to the Isley Brothers with the 1976 album Black and Blue.

A twelve-member ensemble backed front man Ronald Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley in a stellar 90-minute headlining set that included rock and roll, doo-wop, pop, R&B, funk, gospel and gangsta rap.  The sound was mediocre, the production was rudimentary and 77-year-old Ronald leaned against a stool for much of the show, but witnessing the man who co-wrote the 1959 hit “Shout” perform the ancient nugget is still thrilling.  A rendition of the absolutely bananas 2011 hit “Contagious” was just as fun.  And yes, Ernie still shreds.

The Whispers’ 40-minute effort was almost as good.  I expected the 10-piece group to play crossover hits such as “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” but the venerable group surprisingly revived a few wildly anachronistic jams like “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)”.  Introduced as “The Ambassador of Love, crooner Glenn Jones excelled in a karaoke-style 30-minute opening set that also delighted me.  The staff working the event may not have felt that I fit in, but I would rather have been nowhere else.

Isley Brothers setlist: Fight the Power, That Lady, Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark/Today Was a Good Day, Smooth Sailing/Sweet Thing, It’s Your Thing, Twist and Shout, Boney Maroney, Groove With You, Hello, Hello It’s Me, Choosey Lover, Joy and Pain, Jesus Loves Me, For the Love of You, Voyage to Atlantis, Summer Breeze, Down Low, Contagious, Shout

Whispers setlist: It’s a Love Thing, Keep On Lovin’ Me, In the Mood, Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong, In the Raw, Lady, Rock Steady, Olivia (Lost and Turned Out), Say Yes, And the Beat Goes On

Glenn Jones setlist: We’ve Only Just Begun, The Very First Time, A Song For You, Love By Design, Show Me Nobody But You

I reviewed Steve Cardenas’ homecoming concert at Black Dolphin for Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

White Noise

In my extremely limited experience with mind-altering substances, I’ve found that the most rewarding intoxicants allow the user to gain fresh perspectives on familiar topics.  Remaining completely in control while entering a slightly divergent dimension is my idea of a good high.  The remixed version of the Beatles’ White Album offers such an experience.  Even though I’ve been as sober as a judge as I’ve scrutinized the project since its release last month, the tweaks made to the 50-year-old classic make me lightheaded.  It’s the same… but wondrously different.  The dozens of alternate takes and demos that follow the remix induce slightly less potent forms of delirium.

I reviewed Harry Connick’s delightful concert at the Midland theater for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mopping Up

As an obsessive-compulsive music consumer, I’m frantically attempting to enter the new year without an imposing backlog of unheard music from 2018.  A cursory survey of the most rewarding components of my recent cramming sessions follows.  And yes, the albums are ranked.

Lionel Loueke- The Journey
One of the most important musicians alive turns down the volume and slows the tempo. 
RIYL: Weather Report, offhanded brilliance, Steps Ahead.

Marianne Faithfull- Negative Capability
Not exactly the feel-good album of the year. 
RIYL: looking death in the eye, Leonard Cohen, the bitter truth.

Cupcakke- Ephorize
The rapper’s extremely raunchy- and undeniably hilarious raps- make me blush.
RIYL: Cardi B, The Joy of Sex, Leikeli47.

F*cked Up- Dose Your Dreams
The investment in the 88-minute concept album pays off.
RIYL: George Orwell, Titus Andronicus, Pete Townshend.

Miguel Zenón- Yo Soy La Tradición
Undiluted genius or indulgent puffery?  It’s probably both. 
RIYL: Anthony Braxton, third stream, Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Phonte- No News Is Good News
Mature and nuanced rap.
RIYL: Black Thought, a man without a market, Oddisee.

Jeff Tweedy- Warm
I have nothing but respect for Tweedy. 
RIYL: Fred Neil, real life, Will Oldham.

Khruangbin- Con Todo El Mundo
Mildly diverting lounge music. 
RIYL: Friends of Dean Martinez, the first rehearsal of a Malo cover band, Calexico.

Dem Atlas- Bad Actress
Often overbearing emo-rap.
RIYL: Atmosphere, rappers who want to rock, Grieves.

Joan Shelley- Rivers and Vessels
Another outstanding young troubadour.
RIYL: Sandy Denny, 1970s folk, I’m With Her.

Meek Mill- Championships
There’s a reason the Philadelphian is more celebrated for his travails than for his rapping.
RIYL: corny guys, French Montana, excellent guest features and production.

I list my favorite jazz albums and performances of 2018 at the Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

The elegant vocalist Nancy Wilson has died. 

Galt MacDermot, the composer of “Hair,” has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Many of my colleagues don’t want to hear it, but Champagne Campaign is one of the most popular rock bands in Kansas City.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Here in BFE

Many of my friends and neighbors are committed to propagating the narrative that our town is an overlooked cosmopolitan utopia.  My social media feeds are regularly clogged with links to clickbait stories hyping Kansas City as a bastion of sophistication.  The desperate boosterism of my peers makes them look like self-conscious hayseeds. 

I don’t attempt to hide the dirt under my fingernails.  I’m just as comfortable in the empty plains of central Kansas as I am in a Kansas City jazz club.  That’s why I regret omitting an earworm that reflects my roots from my year-end list only because it was released in November of 2017.  Not only does Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” hit home, it’s an indelible anthem for flyover country.  (Sadly, the video misses the point.) 

A pair of clips I posted to Instagram this year reflect the cold, hard facts about my town.  I was in the front row for a headlining concert by the Vijay Iyer Sextet at the Open Spaces festival.  Only a few dozen people were in the room.  Open Spaces presentations by Lonnie Holley and Bang On a Can also resembled private salon concerts.  The bacchanal atmosphere I documented amid a massive throng at a Kenny Chesney concert at Arrowhead Stadium demonstrates what actually flies in Kansas City. 

As Waller insists in “Up Down,” “we got what we got, we don't need the rest.”  And that’s good enough for me here in BFE.

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

I reviewed a new album by Greg Carroll and Michael Pagán at Plastic Sax.

Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks has died.  Singles Going Steady turned my world upside down in 1980.  I last saw the band perform at Warped Tour in 2006.

The Memphis saxophonist Ace Cannon has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

The Chicago bluesman Jody Williams has died.

The jazz musician and actor Roger Burton has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 07, 2018

If You Know You Know: The Top Albums, EPs, Songs and Concerts of 2018

The Top 50 Albums of 2018
The 131-minutes of byzantine jazz improvisations that crown my rankings is a reflection of the middling year for long-form recordings.  The real action takes place on the subsequent listing of EPs.

1. Dave Holland- Uncharted Territories
2. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd & SZA- Black Panther: The Album
3. Ambrose Akinmusire- Origami Harvest
4. St. Vincent- MassEducation
5. Rhye- Blood
6. Drake- Scorpion
7. Logan Richardson- Blues People
8. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy
9. Fatoumata Diawara- Fenfo
10. RP Boo- I’ll Tell You What!

11. Migos- Culture II
12. Cécile McLorin Salvant- The Window
13. Eddie Palmieri- Full Circle
14. Brockhampton- Iridescence
15. Bettye LaVette- Things Have Changed
16. Four Fists- 6666
17. Hailu Mergia- Lnala Belu
18. Leikeli47- Acrylic
19. Blood Orange- Negro Swan
20. Ashley Monroe- Sparrow

21. Anderson Paak- Oxnard
22. Ariana Grande- Sweetener
23. Tyshawn Sorey- Pillars
24. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow
25. Vincent Peirani- Night Walker
26. Rosalía- El Mal Querer
27. Bixiga 70- Quebra Cabeça
28. Brad Mehldau- After Bach
29. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
30. Stephonne Singleton- Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

31. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile
32. Halestorm- Vicious
33. Jupiter & Okwess- Kin Sonic
34. Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics
35. Elza Soares- Deus É Mulher
36. Hélène Grimaud- Memory
37. Fantastic Negrito- Please Don’t Be Dead
38. Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud
39. Jorja Smith- Lost & Found
40. Lonnie Holley- Mith

41. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats- Tearing at the Seams
42. Andrew Cyrille- Lebroba
43. Santigold- I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
44. Noname- Room 25
45. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer- Nordub
46. Ben Miller Band- Choke Cherry Tree
47. Rich the Factor- CEO of the Blacktop
48. Matthew Shipp- Zero
49. Anja Lechner and Pablo Márquez- Schubert: Die Nacht
50. Kamasi Washington- Heaven and Earth

The Top 25 EPs of 2018
Kanye West insists that these short-form recordings are albums.  He's wrong.

1. Kids See Ghosts- Kids See Ghosts (23 minutes)
2. Pusha T- Daytona (21 minutes)
3. Nas- Nasir (25 minutes)
3. Radiant Children- Tryin’ (17 minutes)
4. Tigran Hamasyan- For Gyumri (29 minutes)
5. Black Thought- Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (17 minutes)
6. Peter Schlamb- Electric Tinks (24 minutes)
7. Nubya Garcia- When We Are (25 minutes)
8. Vince Staples- FM! (22 minutes)
9. Open Mike Eagle- What Happens When I Try To Relax (19 minutes)
10. Kanye West- Ye (23 minutes)

11. Valee- Good Job, You Found Me (14 minutes)
12. The Alchemist- Bread (25 minutes)
13. 2 Chainz- The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It (16 minutes)
14. Miles Davis- Rubberband EP (26 minutes)
15. Gilberto Gil- Pela Internet 2 (24 minutes)
16. Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs (24 minutes)
17. Chanté Moore- 1 of 4 (19 minutes)
18. Teyana Taylor- K.T.S.E. (22 minutes)
19. Soulive- Cinematics Vol. 1 (18 minutes)
20. Amber Mark- Conexão (17 minutes)

21. Diplo- California (19 minutes)
22. AlunaGeorge- Champagne Eyes (18 minutes)
23. Aphex Twin- Collapse (28 minutes)
24. Ezra Collective- Juan Pablo: The Philosopher (23 minutes)
25. Stik Figa, Ron Ron and Greg Enemy- Are The Wiz Kidz (15 minutes)

The Top 10 Reissues, Compilations and Historical Releases of 2018
Caveat: I haven’t made my way through the new version of The White Album.

1. John Coltrane- Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
2. Prince- Piano & a Microphone 1983
3. Stax Singles, Volume 4: Rarities & the Best of the Rest
4. Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa
5. Bob Dylan- More Blood, More Tracks
6. African Scream Contest Vol​.​2 - Benin 1963​-​1980
7. Miles Davis- The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
8. Uncle Walt’s Band- Those Boys From Carolina, They Sure Enough Could Sing…
9. The Dur-Dur Band- Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks
10. Joe Strummer- Joe Strummer 001

The Top 25 Songs of 2018
Spotify playlist

1. Drake- “Nice For What”
2. Kanye West with Partynextdoor- “Ghost Town”
3. Kids See Ghosts- “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”
4. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
5. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
6. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
7. Nas- “Cops Shot the Kid”
8. Rosalía- “Malamente”
9. Maxwell- “We Never Saw It Coming”
10. Tracey Thorn- “Queen”

11. Pusha T- “If You Know You Know”
12. The Breeders- “Wait in the Car”
13. Christina Aguilera- “Maria”
14. Four Fists- “Joe Strummr”
15. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
16. Parquet Courts- “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”
17. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”
18. Jimothy Lacoste- “I Can Speak Spanish”
19. Migos- “Auto Pilot”
20. Ben Miller Band- “Akira Kurosawa”

21. Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla Sign- “Psycho”
22. The Go! Team- “All the Way Live”
23. Cardi B- “I Like It”
24. Marsha Ambrosius- “Luh Ya”
25. Doja Cat- “Mooo!”
26. Ashley McBride- “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”
27. E-40, B-Legit and P-Lo- “Boy”
28. Snoop Dogg featuring Charlie Wilson- “One More Day”
29. Childish Gambino- “This Is America”
30. Mopo- “Tökkö”

31. Ariana Grande- “No Tears Left to Cry”
32. Young Fathers- “Picking You”
33. Jlin- “Carbon 12”
34. Atmosphere- “Virgo”
35. Turnstile- “Generator”
36. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”
37. Flatbush Zombies- “Chunky”
38. Art Brut- “Hospital!”
39. Marianne Faithfull featuring Nick Cave- “The Gypsy Faerie Queen”
40. The Nels Cline 4- “Imperfect 10”

41. Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton- “Say Something”
42. La Luz- “Loose Teeth”
43. Carrie Underwood- “Ghosts on the Stereo”
44. Valee featuring Pusha T- “Miami”
45. Jorja Smith- “Blue Lights”
46. The Bottle Rockets- “Highway 70 Blues”
47. Shame- “Concrete”
48. Germán Montero- “Bumper Choque”
49. The Dirty Nil- “I Don’t Want That Phone Call”
50. Willie Nelson- “Something You Get Through”

The Top 50 Concerts of 2018
All performances are in the Kansas City area unless otherwise noted.

1. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center
2. Vijay Iyer Sextet- Gem Theater (Open Spaces festival)
3. Drake- Sprint Center
4. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
5. Anat Cohen Tentet- Gem Theater
6. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
7. Taylor Swift- Arrowhead Stadium
8. Bang on a Can All-Stars with the Kansas City Chorale- Folly Theater (Open Spaces festival)
9. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
10. Four Fists- Riot Room

11. Pink- Sprint Center
12. Lonnie Holley- Swope Park (Open Spaces festival)
13. Injury Reserve- Encore Room
14. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore- Knuckleheads
15. Bill Frisell, Rudy Royston and Thomas Morgan- 1900 Building
16. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)
17. Maxwell- Midland theater
18. Ghost- Kansas Speedway (Rockfest)
19. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
20. The Breeders- The Rave (Milwaukee)

21. Flatbush Zombies- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (Flyover festival)
22. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
23. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
24. Uriel Herman Quartet- Black Dolphin
25. Julien Baker- Vinyl Renaissance
26. Tech N9ne- West Bottoms (Boulevardia festival)
27. Future- Petco Park (Dia de los Deftones festival in San Diego)
28. Kesha- Sprint Center
29. Michael Hurley- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
30. Atmosphere- VooDoo

31. The Project H- Westport Coffee House
32. Shania Twain- Sprint Center
33. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building
34. Randy Bachman- Ameristar
35. Drive-By Truckers- The Truman
36. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- Westin Crown Center (KC Folk Fest)
37. Keith Urban- Sprint Center
38. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin
39. Spoon- Crossroads KC (Middle of the Map festival)
40. Emancipator- Crystal Ballroom (Portland)

41. Kenny Chesney- Arrowhead Stadium
42. Vine Street Rumble- Californos
43. Courtney Barnett- Truman
44. Hermon Mehari Quintet- Gem Theater
45. Giorgio Moroder- Truman
46. Twenty One Pilots- Sprint Center
47. Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn and Marty Stuart’s “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”- Folly Theater
48. Lucinda Williams- Starlight Theatre
49. Edison Lights- Town Center Plaza
50. Billy Joel- Kauffman Stadium

(Original image of Erykah Badu by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

I Got a Rock

At a moment in which the world’s most lauded rock band can’t be bothered to play rock music, I suppose it’s not surprising that the form will make a poor showing in my year-end rankings.  It’s not as if I’m not trying, but I fail to be moved by most rock recordings.  The most exciting music is being made elsewhere.  A few 2018 rock releases that had yet to receive mention at There Stands the Glass are ranked in order of my preference below.

Shame- Songs of Praise
It’s taken me all year to grasp Shame’s rowdy exceptionalism.  Here’s “One Rizla”.

Art Brut- Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!
Eddie Argos is still the funniest man in rock.  The cautionary “Hospital!” is among the songs that compel me to laugh out loud.

Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
Garage rock done right.  “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” is close to perfect.

Drug Church- Cheer
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve always liked Puddle of Mudd.  Drug Church combine the Kansas City band’s commercial post-grunge with the geeky mania associated with Weezer.  Here’s “Unlicensed Hall Monitor”.

Snail Mail- Lush
Lindsey Jordan is a sad sack.  I ordinarily don’t have much patience for whiners (unless I’m the one doing the fussing), but I can relate to her bad mood.  “Heat Wave” is among the songs that kinda/sorta rock.

Idles- Joy as an Act of Resistance
The breathless praise heaped on this entirely ordinary album is a classic case of embarrassing group-think.  Blood-and-thunder songs like “Colossus” are merely adequate.

Oh, and that new 1975 album?  While it has its moments, I continue to maintain that the British band sounds like One Direction in the midst of a month-long bender.

I yacked about a few of my best-music-of-2018 selections on 90.9 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty last week.

I ponder Pat Metheny’s de facto boycott of Kansas City at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)