Good to My Earhole. August 10. Kama Sutra and Bondage. I give! My safe word: trumpets!

Jason-Derulo_Talk-Dirty_Cover

Highlight of my week’s listening–yep, that’s singular–ranked on a scale Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings forced me to use:

Jason Derulo/TALK DIRTY – 9.5 – Okay. First, the sheer dam-bustin’ daily flood of music makes it impossible to hear everything right when it comes out, so get off my ass for just now bringing this up. Second, though I was apprised of the excellence of this should-be-illegal album long ago…well, look, I am a 54-year-old white dude, and it seems of shaky grace for me to be carrying around–or actively and avidly listening to–a record that has a cover like this one (I have a habit of picturing myself in the position of artists, and I collapse in laughter at the thought of me walking in ol’ Jace’s shoes there, or through the songs). Then I found out he’s involved in those…talent shows. HOWEVER–I decided to take the plunge for gits and shiggles. I have been feeling my age and mortality of late, and maybe I was questing after a jolt. Who knows? Too, I’ve always dug black music barely more than white (that distinction is slowly being erased, and bully for that), Al Green’s my man, so, as Sam Peckinpah wrote, “Let’s go–why not?”

I am helplessly in love with this record! Each of the first four songs are augmented with fabolous, tweak-ready, ALIEN noises: Balkan Beat Box-isms, what sounds like a toy flute, synthesized trumpets (?), corny oldsters Snoop and 2 Chainz, thonkin’ bass. Plus, besides singing ok, Mr. Derulo has a sense of humor–bondage and Kama Sutra? The lyrics are mostly dumb, but when I listen to it as pure music, under the guidance of Mr. John Cage, it’s irresistible. Maybe his Haitian heritage helps?

There’s a Black-Eyed Peas moment (still, though, pretty much an up, given our times), and some yawny semi-slow ones, but–returning to a nod above–no one who dug/digs classic era Al Green has a right to scorn this. Jason does NOT have those pipes, but the package is so physically stimulating you can’t afford to miss it. Like I wrote posting the title song to Facebook, “Uncle!” Let me up! I hate strip jointz, but long live bubble gum.

My Top 25 Favorite Rekkids of This Roiling Year

August 7, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s birthday (by the way), is not a neat place at which to break off a list, but I have time, inspiration, and beer at my behest, so here it is. Some opening comments:

*I stared at that #1 for a long time. But I couldn’t do anything about it. Nothing is wrong with me or my judgment. And She knocked Anna Hogberg (who, right?) out of the top spot.

*I acknowledge that much of my Top 10 is the result of my political biases, as well as the fact that I am very much aware that I, more than usual, am in the midst of a terrible and/or wonderful history being made, or making us.

*My tastes are all over the place, but as Duke said, and I paraphrase, there is just good and bad music. I can’t in good conscience separate, say, septuagenarian free-jazzer Joe McPhee from yearling rock and roller Joe Toledo–it wouldn’t be worthy of my United States citizenship. Plus, I’m sorry, it’s just boring to listen to the same genre or whatever all day–not to mention all year.

So I humbly submit my favorite 25 rekkids–in order of the amount of mental, physical, and spiritual stimulation they give me, from most to least–of this roiling year that’s just gonna burble and bubble and boil more furiously until New Year’s Eve. Each item has a little surprise (sometimes not so surprising) linked to it for your enjoyment, edification, or consumeristic/aesthetic impulses.

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  4. J. D. Allen: Americana
  5. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  6. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  7. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  8. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  9. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  10. Wussy: Forever Sounds
  11. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  12. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  13. Bombino: Azel
  14. Pylon: Live
  15. Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke
  16. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  17. Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
  18. Tacocat: Lost Time
  19. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  20. Angry Angles: Angry Angles
  21. Allen Toussaint: American Tunes
  22. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  23. Loretta Lynn: Full Circle
  24. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  25. Mexrissey: No Manchester

Good To My Earhole, July 20 – August 7: “Why Do I Suddenly Appear Every Time I Am Near?”

Highlights of my last two weeks’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale depending on how the landing was stuck:

The Paranoid Style/ROLLING DISCLOSURE – 9.5 – I haven’t read Richard Hofstadter (yet), I don’t need convincing that, in this life, so and so is fucked, and it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. But I am happy to report none of the above impacts my enjoyment of this boisterous, tuneful, sardonic, allusive rock and roll album (yeah–you remember rock and roll?). In fact, one of the main pleasures of this record is how much helpless joy Elizabeth Bracy and her bandmates exude while taking it all apart. Another is listening for how Bracy retools other pop folks’ catchy lines to make her points (my favorite is extracted from a Carpenters sugar cube). Easily one of the best rockin’ records of 2016 (check the band’s track record), and I advise you quickly do the work to find and buy it, as it is an accurate marker of these times. Aren’t you gonna want to recall them?

THE EARL BOSTIC STORY – 8 – Bostic has always been one of my favorite saxophonists. After counseling such future titans as John Coltrane, he crossed over from jazz into r&b and pop, largely on the power of the unruly, RAW way he’d tear into a chorus or riff. Though some folks consider his musical context a little too moldy, I treasure the gash he rips in them (just listen to “Flamingo,” one of his big hits)–and he’s remarkably reliable across a box set. Fans of James Carter who are in the dark might wanna check where some of that cat’s irreverence comes from.

Aaron Neville/APACHE – 7.8 – New Orleans’ toughest-looking pussycat hasn’t had this much musical muscle behind him in years, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs. No star producers or players in the band, either. Not all the lyrics are winners, and I suppose the sound looks back too sentimentally on ’70s styles. But–there’s that voice, the 75-year-old grain of which cuts some of its youthful sweetness, and several of the tunes are real convincers. Picks to click: “All of the Above,” “Ain’t Gonna Judge You,” and–especially–“Make Your Momma Cry.”

James Moody (with Kenny Barron)/FLY ME TO THE MOON – 8.3 – Moody’d never quite struck deep with me ’til I heard this two-fer-one CD. My problem was listening for flash, excitement, and aggression–whether on tenor, alto, or flute (an instrument I give very little room in jazz), the man just plays with quietly intense smarts, skill, and soul. From ’62 and ’64 sessions for Argo, with excellent runs at “Sonnymoon for Two” and (Dizzy’s) “Ole” and some sharp arrangements.

HONKY TONK AMNESIA–THE HARD COUNTRY SOUND OF MOE BANDY – 8.5 – “You wroooote/’Your Cheeeeeeatin’ Heart’ about/A gal like my/FIRST [my caps] ex-wife,” Moe sang on Paul Craft’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” and there were many more such wry laments on his three albums for GRC–which would all probably fit on a single disc. This ain’t it–the folks at Razor & Tie always did a great job, but Bandy’s usually tame or pat later stuff crowds out the likes of “This Time I Won’t Cheat on Her Again” and “It’s Better Than Going Home Alone.” However, honky-tonk cravers will get a buzz on from a mere perusal of the writing credits (Sanger Shafer, Curley Putman, Dallas Frazier, Wayne Carson, and Sonny Throckmorton), and Bandy, droller than he was hard, was just the mind and voice to put their songs across.

Leonard Cohen/LIVE IN LONDON – 10 – Cohen’s mos def recorded too many live albums, but if you have to have one, this be it. Perhaps I am influenced by having been hypnotized and charmed in person by a show from this 2008-2009 tour, but the selections, arrangements, and players are simply unerring, and the main attraction is blissfully at peace with the sands left in his hourglass. Whether he’s telling a story about his then-96-year-old-teacher apologizing for not being dead, thanking us for keeping his songs alive on “Tower of Song” (in which he still hasn’t moved up a floor on ol’ Hank), or intoning knowingly on the eternal “Who By Fire” (in a magnificent new setting), his eyes smile as he awaits his maker. We can all use that model–he’s still waiting, by the way. This review is for my friend Deke, whose eyes smiled, too.

Good to My Earhole, July 9-20: What Might a Freetown Sound Like?

Hogberg

Anna Hogberg and mates attack!

Highlights of my last couple o’ weeks’ listening, ranked on a 10-point scale corresponding to chill bumps each rekkid raised:

MEET YOUR DEATH – 9.7 – Is this album a) the best rock and roll album of the year? b) the best North Mississippi blues album Jim Dickinson never made? c) the wild product of an orgy featuring The Stooges, The Scientists, and Jerry McCain? d) an r&b blowout so drunk on cheap wine it forgot its tenor sax and just blew harder through a handy harp? e) All of the above. If you know the answer–or need the answer–order the record right here from 12XU.

ANNA HOGBERG ATTACK – 10 – Probably reviewed this already (too lazy to check), but it is easily one of my favorite records of the year. Free jazz with form, variation, dynamics, humor, respect for the verities (I hear Ayler in there)–and ENERGY, played by a roving band of Swedish women. Consult Discogs for your best chance at buying.

Blood Orange/FREETOWN SOUND – 8.6 – Maybe it was just what was going on on our turf when I first heard it, but I consider Devonte Hynes’ newest creation an honest, intelligent, hopeful soul-salve delivered from what I hope is our future. It is OK to apply a salve in moderation, folks.

Barbara Lynn/HOT NIGHT TONIGHT 8.7 – 37 years after knocking us dead (well, I’d just been born, to tell you the truth) with “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” the husky-voiced lefty guitar-slinger from Beaumont, Texas, delivered this terrific album that few bought–their loss. Producer Don Smith created a Hi-like atmosphere for Ms. Lynn, keeping her vocals and axe up in the mix and lining up Charley Drayton and apparently unofficial Rolling Stone Daryl Jones as musical bedrock. The songs are very strong as well, Barbara’s own cautionary “Hear from My Daddy,” Eddie Floyd’s “Never Found a Man,” and (especially) former Cowboy Charles Scott Boyer’s “Don’t Hit Me No More” creating a powerful motif. I snapped it up in Louisville for $5; you can get it for less.

Horace Tapscott with the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra/LIVE AT IMMANUEL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (Los Angeles) – 9 – The great community organizer, educator, composer, pianist, and bandleader left precious few recordings behind (he had higher priorities). All I’ve heard are mighty fine, including this two-disc set from ’79. Though he only composed one of the songs here, his arrangements carefully anchor liberated wailing (Sabir Mateen in particular distinguishing himself on tenor) with dark, roiling rhythms that will sound familiar to fans of Sonny Criss’ Sonny’s Dream, which was arranged and written by Tapscott. The venue was most appropriate for the performance, and if the closing “Lift Every Voice” doesn’t moisten your eye, you might check yourself for calcification.

Dobie Gray/FROM WHERE I STAND – 8 – The “In Crowd”/“Drift Away” guy quietly and humbly covered a lot of ground in his career. This ’86 release found him making very mainstream country noises that often take on deeper resonances once you realize he’s black, which some don’t. Examples: the title tune (also the title tune of Warner Brothers’ criminally out-of-print three-disc set covering “The Black Experience in Country Music”), “The Dark Side of Town,” and “A Night in the Life of a Country Boy,” which but for a corny chorus could be Springsteen.

Good To My Earhole, June 17-July 3: “Masque of the Red Def”

Highlights of my last weeks’ listening, scored on a 10-point scale based on how hard it was for me to read while each record was playing (the harder the higher).

I’VE ALWAYS KEPT A UNICORN–THE ACOUSTIC SANDY DENNY – 8.5 – That title, plus the prospect of a folkie (albiet a rowdy one) knocking out mostly demos unadulterated by musical support that often enhanced, rather than limited, her performance, would seem a red flag. Not so. Across two discs, the too-soon-departed Ms. Denny demonstrates that her just-impure-enough timbre (gentle whiskey smoke), her way of thinking through phrasing based on a line’s meaning, and her attraction to the theme of mortality are enough to keep one’s attention rapt. A great complement to her performances with Fairport Convention and an insightful look into her development as a singer and writer–I eagerly await the book this accompanies.

Diamanda Galas/MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH TRILOGY – 8.4 – Based on one observation of her live performance (on NBC’s much-missed Night Music) and a few listens to a comp prepared by a friend, I, at 25 or so, judged Ms. Galas hilariously and unbearably pretentious–but I was so much older then. My ear has since become less guarded; my musical desires more extreme in this time of relative artistic timidity. A Kyle Gann review piqued my curiosity about this haunted, spell-casting, spirit-calling item, and damned if it didn’t kick my ass this morning (as they say). The frightening intensity I was prepared for; the dynamics and wit and conceptual skill, not so much. I even laughed when (I think) she was wanting me to. If you’re familiar with the wicked Poe story and love it madly (as you should, students), you’re going to want to hear it. I am saving my second exploration of it for ballast against an appropriate time I’d prefer does not come. A voice for the ages, if not all ages.

JD Allen/AMERICANA–MUSINGS ON JAZZ AND BLUES – 9.3 – Imagine a classic Rollins trio crossed with the dark, earthy intensity of a deep pre-Meditations Coltrane session, and you’ve got this. Yep, it’s that good. Detroit native Allen has honed this group (Gregg August on bass, Rudy Royston on drums) across several excellent albums, resulting in one I’d definitely recommend to anyone missing the days when those two forebears ruled the tenor world. That’s not to say it’s a throwback. Hard to believe, but, as Allen argues, there’s a need for those musings in 2016. A nice musical way to, say, treat that reeling feeling you may have had after watching the Roots remake or the O. J. 30 for 30.

**JOHNNY BURNETTE’S ROCK AND ROLL TRIO AND THEIR ROCKIN’ FRIENDS FROM MEMPHIS – 8.8 – Well, since both Burnettes had gone to meet Elvis by the time of this 1980 release on Rock-A-Billy Records, the billing’s confusing: the rhythm section is the one which backed the original slashing unit on its best recordings, the guitarist is indeed fellow original Paul Burlison, who still strikes lightning, but the vocalists are the deceased brothers’ pals, most notably the unflappable Charlie Feathers. Against the odds (have you heard of Robert Geisley, Glenn Honeycutt, or Marcus Van Story, three of the other lead vocalists?), the project works. There’s something about Memphis, about rockabilly, and about locals who don’t stop believing. Secret weapon: Jim Dickinson on piano and vocals.

EARL HINES PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON – 9.5 – Hines recorded these between his 68th and 72nd birthday, and that fact plus a peek at the man’s toup and glasses on the cover might warn you away. But one of jazz’s first pianistic avant-gardists–maybe the first instrumental match for Armstrong, as he proved in their recordings together–still had plenty tricks up his sleeve. My favorites are sly runs where he takes off with the rhythm and/or melody like a cat burglar clambering up a roof or rappelling down a wall; even recording in the wake of Cecil Taylor, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell (who’d all have been lesser without his influence), he’s flat-out exciting. The Ellington selections mix time-honored classics with forgotten gems. Note: look for Hines’ equally dazzling tributes to Louis and W. C. Handy, from the same period.

**JOHNNY GIMBLE’S TEXAS DANCE PARTY – 9.0 – “PRODUCED IN TEXAS BY TEXANS,” the credits boast; master fiddler Gimble’s bandmates–The Bosque Bandits!– are listed by their Texas homes (Waco, Dallas, Austin–and Gimble’s been everywhere, man). And the music, recorded live on August 29, 1975 at Austin’s Chaparral Club, is indeed pure, lively Texas dance hall swing–but don’t think you’ll be treated by old warhorse tunes. When’s the last time you heard “La Zinda Waltz,” “Under the ‘X’ in Texas,” “Bosque Bandit,” or “Blues for Joe Tee”? An irresistibly warm and surprising half-hour, and like I said but don’t trust me, Gimble is a flat-out master.

**I recently scored both of these from European sellers, and, as a result, I have no more musical grails to seek. I guess that means I can sit back and just wait for new stuff….

I Strongly Recommend You Listen to These Records, 50% of the Way Through 2016

 

RECOMMENDED LISTENING EXPERIENCES, 50% of the Way Through 2016

*Heavy leaning on ya.

BOLDED: What are you waitin for? This is the shit.

#Not really 2016, but late-breaking, maybe.

 *Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid

*Allen, J.D.: Americana

*Angry Angles: Angry Angles

*Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by the film “The Color of Pomegranates”

*Beyonce: Lemonade

*Bombino: Azel

*Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (film)

Bowie, David: Blackstar

Bradley, Charles: Changes

Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011

*Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book

Childbirth: Women’s Rights

Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend

Cook, Elizabeth: Exodus of Venus

Dalek: Asphalt for Eden

DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement

Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody

Denny, Sandy: I’ve Always Had a Unicorn–The Acoustic Sandy Denny

*Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels

Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories

Garbage: Strange Little Birds

*Hogberg, Anna: Anna Hogberg Attack

Konono N°1 and Batida: Konono N°1 meets Batida

*Kool and Kass: Barter 7

*Iyer, Vijay, and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke

Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered

Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway

Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle

*#McPhee, Joe, and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy

*Mexrissey: No Manchester

*Moondoc, Jemeel, and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon

*Morrison, Van: It’s Too Late to Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV

Oddissee: Alwasta

*Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival

*Parquet Courts: Human Performance

The Pedrito Martinez Group: Habana Dreams

Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago

Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn

Reed, Blind Alfred: Blind Alfred Reed–Appalachian Visionary

Rihanna: Anti

Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage—Road Shows, Volume Four

Stetson, Colin: Sorrow—A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony

Tacocat: Lost Time

Threadgill, Henry: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

*Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes

*Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959

*#Various Artists: Original Cast Recording of Hamilton

*Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius

*Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música–Multishow Live

White Lung: Paradise

*Williams, Saul: Martyr Loser King

Wills, Bob, and the Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’Personal Transcriptions

Wussy: Forever Sounds

Yoni & Geti: Testarossa

#Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

 

 

Good to My Earhole, June 1-16: Headfirst into the (Summer) Flames

Highlights of my June listening so far, ranked on a 10-point scale determined by a drunken game of darts:

Van Morrison/IT’S TOO LATE TO START NOW, VOLS. II, II, IV and DVD – 9.0 – Volume 1 was so good I spoiled a great date during my wayward youth just to concentrate on it. This ain’t quite that, but if you want to hear how an orchestra can be fitted effectively to a rock/r&b/folk/you-name-it singer’s attack, dig in. And The Man himself is in great form saving Hard Nose the Highway from its studio wreckage, taking Kermit the Frog to Belfast (thanks, Ken!), and proving he’s no sobersides by doing Louis Prima justice. Plus: many early ’70s classics from his own pen, and a too-short video that burns. Docked 0.5 for too many versions.

Morton Feldman/ROTHKO CHAPEL + WHY PATTERNS? – 9 – A classical-expert friend told me,” Debussy did all this years ago and he only needed six minutes to make his point.” Well, he also hadn’t been to the meditative sanctuary of the title, which is decorated only with Rothko paintings, and not only did Feldman capture Rothko’s simple but resonant approach, but he also got the peace and beauty you can experience therein.

Chance the Rapper/COLORING BOOK – 10 – I often have former students who are now old rap heads asking me rhetorically, “What new can compare to the old?” I also have friends who ask the same question about music in general. After giving this mixtape (wait, is it?) four progressively more enjoyable plays, I’d offer it as an answer to both parties. How’s this for a review: it makes me happy. And it ain’t sappy. Dude’s smart, funny, and versatile, with a bouquet-like imagination. He’s also bemused, but determined. And does he have help, from Jay Electronica to, um, The Biebs.

Elizabeth Cook/EXODUS OF VENUS – 8 – On first contact, I reported that she had one foot in the mountains and one foot in Florida, which, by the latter, I meant (metaphorically) in a dark, dangerous, crazy swamp–her home swamp, hiding the demons of excess, heartbreak, and, well, the habits of Venus. For those who love her spunk, unfortunately, she’s also a bit ankle-deep in swampy production. I implore you to be patient with this unregenerate honky tonk wonder as she looses her inner Stevie Nicks (who of a certain age doesn’t have one of those within?), and you’ll get paid with some perky-catchy from the likes of “Straight Jacket Love,” “Broke Down in London on the M25,” and the pick-to-click “Methadone Blues.” She goes out on a meditation which remembers Tabitha Tuders (could have been me, I can hear her thinking), and reaches out to Tuders’ grieving mama.

Allen Toussaint/AMERICAN TUNES – 8.8 – He didn’t know he’d be shuffling off this mortal coil after playing a European show shortly after he recorded these–but it’s a valediction nonetheless. Professor Longhair‘s all over the record–including hidden within Toussaint’s last original, the opening “Delores’ Boyfriend”–but he’s woven into the quiet, seductive eloquence that’s AT’s trademark. He also pays lovely tribute to his fellow groundbreaking Creole Louis Gottschalk and his fellow bon vivant Fats Waller, makes two stops at Ellington’s station (with controlled aid from Rhiannen Giddens), and applies his own vocals only to Paul Simon’s appropriate title closer. He didn’t assemble it–but he might as well have.

Last Exit/HEADFIRST INTO THE FLAMES – 9 – The record isn’t called that for nuthin’, folks! When drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, (electric) bassist Bill Laswell, saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, and (electric!!!) guitarist Sonny Sharrock collectively improvised, there was no foreground or background. As such, under the live conditions in which they always recorded, you might expect a dialogue of the deaf. Fact is, through the caterwaul, you can hear them listening to each other, and creating structures. This is their best album; I have ’em all. Decider: it features some of Sharrock’s greatest chainsaw jazz creations. Try it if you can stand the wailing heat, or if you need to clear the room.