Good to My Earhole: The Edge of ’17–Heard You Didn’t Even Miss Me, Now I’m Back Anyway!

Highlights of my last several weeks’ months’ listening (hey—I’ve been rattled), yielding only lazy one- or two-liner commentary and scored on a 10-high scale based absolutely on how much the item has stuck to my ribs:

Betty Harris: THE LOST QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS SOUL – 9 – ’64 – ’67 vintage soul: Meters behind her, Toussaint pennin’ and producin’, sexy power in her delivery…what else ya want? Question: how did she not break big?

Deap Vally: FEMIJISM – 9 – Thought I’d had my fill of two-piece bands for the next century, but these ladies’ bad attitudes and arrogant tempos—like cool, slow-walking juvies making you tardy for class—are just different enough to whet my appetite.

Dr. Lonnie Smith: EVOLUTION – 8.7 – Be-turbaned self-appointed Hammond B-3 physician sweeps romantically and slyly through some grooveful originals and survives “My Favorite Things” intact (check out the young master drummer from NOLA, Joe Dyson).

Gravediggaz: NIGGAMORTIS – 9.5 – Pithily retitled from its original release, this wry horror-rap classic is the only place you’re gonna hear Biz Markie enveloped in RZA productions—but at times you will wonder if any of it is really a joke.

(This track’s fromHarriet Tubman’s 2011 release on Sunnyside, Ascension; no video currentl available for the album below).

Harriet Tubman: ARAMINTA – 10 – If you dig Miles circa ’70-’75 or John McLaughlin’s Devotion, you’ll need this, my favorite album of the year after a trying month: a Black Rock- and free jazz-pedigreed trio (augmented in the seeming flower of his youth by the 76-year-old Wadada Leo Smith, definitely on his magic) that isn’t named that whimsically, as they roll like a leviathan through the fathoms across compositions that suggest turbulence and threat, imagination and resistance, and grace under the pressure of the moment. Can’t keep it to one sentence: guitarist Brandon Ross seems to have absorbed everything from the instrument’s black body electric, from Sharrock to Cosey to Ulmer to Reid, and whipped it into his own unique lightning.

THE INTIMATE KEELY SMITH – 8.0 – The cover art finds Louis Prima’s cool ol’ foil looking desolate (and by virtue of the truly intimate session you can hear hurt in the husk at the end of her phrases), but she stands up to these standards fine without The Lip and often makes them her own—albeit by occasionally distorting her vowels, as in “Time After Time” (or, as she has it—perhaps mischievously?—“Tommmmmm after Tommmmmm”). Note: the blue-eyed label chief gets a nice duet.

Myra Melford: SNOWY EGRET – 9.5 – Melford plays wonderful piano on this, and her compositions are challenging and beautiful, too—but this is one of the greatest opportunities among many to hear the genius drummer Tyshawn Sorey…well, listen and respond: he’s that quick and imaginative.

RUN THE JEWELS 3 – 8.9 – Have always liked this pairing in theory, but drifted when engaging with reality; this time, with a shift in politics seeming to juice their enthusiasm and their (trap?) music, I haven’t fidgeted once in four trips through. You can get it 4 free, too.

Regina Carter: SOUTHERN COMFORT – 9.1 – MacArthur violin Genius, inspired by her father’s roots, heads south out of Detroit to encounter Dock Boggs, Gram Parsons, Dennis McGee, and The Hillbilly Shakespeare, with the influence of field recordings keeping her one step ahead of classiness—in other words, not your typical jazz journey.

SLAVIC SOUL PARTY! PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON’S FAR EAST SUITE – 9.3 – If you know the original, you might look askance at the idea of it as “soul party”—but these Brooklyn Balkanites pull it off, occasionally sounding less Slavic and more like they’re leading a second line.

Tisziji Munoz: WHEN COLTRANE CALLS—SESSION 1: FIERCE COMPASSION – 9.5 – Normally very skeptical of spiritualists, particularly ones as serious (check his website) as Munoz, I approached this exploration of Trane’s “compassionate” compositions with great wariness—only to be immediately gripped by the man’s near-unholy electric guitar torrents, which extends Sonny Sharrock’s promise (broken only by The Reaper) that such heights can be reached via six-string. Docked .5 for Munoz’s choice NOT to play on “Alabama.” I’m in for your other services sessions, Tisziji.

A Tribe Called Red: WE ARE THE HALLUCI NATION – 8.8 – The other hip-hop Tribe nailed their best record last year, too—I didn’t get to it until after I’d submitted my year-end list, or it would have been high up on it. Red means Indian, as Sherman Alexie would have it, and in fact listening to this while reading Alexie produced in me an almost hallucinogenic state, especially with the voice of long-gone hero John Trudell intoning words of wisdom. Also on hand: Yasiin Bey, Saul Williams, and Tanya Tagaq, who, um, make an impression.

Wadada Leo Smith: AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS – 9.0 – As expansive in its form and varied in its sensual brilliance as its subject—with, of course, a storm rising. This Pulitzer Prize-nominee knows what to do with a commission, and every sentient American should know his name and work: arguably, he is the Prince of Light to Miles Davis’ Prince of Darkness (though it must be admitted light could not exist without dark).

Here’s 117 records from late-2015 to December 31st of this complicated year, the high quality of which I can vouch for from multiple lessons, I mean listens. If I’d have to put a grade on ’em, current and former students and fellow teachers, I didn’t give an A+, and there’s nothing below a B+. 15 days remain in December, so we may have some work turned in just under the wire, and some of these may shift up and down in the spotlight as I keep revisiting them (for example, I may be checking myself too much on the new Stones album; the worst of Jinx Lennon’s two excellent records from 2016 may be getting a boost because I love the best one so much; “grading” the estimable Wadada Leo Smith’s sprawling parks tribute is a chore just the first time through; I just got a new Tom Zé, and he’s dangerous and a grower given repeated exposure); Chicago workaholic Serengeti just dropped a new one today. Nonetheless, I’m posting results. Come back and visit in a few days. However, I suspect that Queen Bey, the charms of whom I’ve mostly resisted her whole career, is unlikely to be knocked off her throne–note that she gets the top spot by virtue of the CD + DVD version. Happy holidays, and support these artists with your cash instead of just streaming or stealing! (More links coming soon!)

2016 TOP 10 FULL-LENGTH RELEASES

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade (CD +DVD)
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  5. Rihanna: Anti
  6. Various Artists: Desconstrucão–A Portrait of São Paulo’s Music Scene
  7. Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Sane
  8. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  9. Tanya Tagaq: Retribution
  10. Jamila Woods: HEAVN

THE REST OF THE TOP 40

  1. J. D. Allen: Americana
  2. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  3. Elza Soares: A Mulher do Fim do Mindo
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  9. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  10. Bombino: Azel
  11. Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm in Each Stroke
  12. Alicia Keys: Here
  13. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  14. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
  15. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  16. Wussy:Forever Sounds
  17. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  18. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  19. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  20. Solange: A Seat at The Table
  21. Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  22. Aram Bajakian: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates
  23. Nots: Cosmetic
  24. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  25. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  26. Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables
  27. Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Uplift Grief Magnets
  28. Aram Bajakian: Dolphy Variations
  29. John Prine: For Better, Or Worse
  30. Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 1 & 2: Still Buggin’ (EPs I am considering as a single album–they are free, so hit the hyperlinks)

Best of the Rest (Alphabetical Order)

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock
  2. Beasley, John: MONKestra, Volume 1
  3. Bowie, David: Blackstar
  4. Bradley, Charles: Changes
  5. Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011
  6. Brown, Danny: Atrocity Exhibition
  7. Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)
  8. Cave, Nick: Skeleton Tree
  9. Childbirth: Women’s Rights
  10. Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend
  11. Dalek: Asphalt for Eden
  12. De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody
  13. DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement
  14. Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody
  15. Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels
  16. Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories
  17. Garbage: Strange Little Birds
  18. Gates, Kevin: Islah
  19. Gray, Macy: Stripped
  20. Kondi, Sorie: The Freetown Tapes (2006-2016)
  21. Konono N1 Meets Batida
  22. Kool and Kass: Barter 7
  23. Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered
  24. Lambert, Miranda: The Weight of These Wings
  25. Lewis, Jeffrey, and The Jrams: A Loot-beg Bootleg
  26. Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway
  27. Lopez-Nussa, Harold: El Viaje
  28. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rue Vermilion Revival
  29. Lowe, Allen: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora–Down and Out Down East
  30. Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle
  31. Martinez, Pedrito: Habana Dreams
  32. McPhee, Joe, and Ray Boni: Live from the Magic City
  33. The Men: Devil Music
  34. Mexrissey: No Manchester
  35. M. I. A: Aim
  36. Murray, David: Murray, Allen, and Carrington Power Trio–Perfection
  37. Natural Child: Okey-Dokey
  38. N’Dour, Youssou: #SENEGAL REKK (EP)
  39. Neville, Aaron: Apache
  40. Oblivian, Jack, and The Sheiks: The Lone Ranger of Love
  41. Oddisee: Alwasta (EP)
  42. Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
  43. Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm
  44. Person, Houston, and Ron Carter: Chemistry
  45. Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn
  46. Pussy Riot: xxx
  47. Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome
  48. Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage–Road Shows, Volume Four
  49. Rush, Bobby: Porcupine Meat
  50. Slavic Soul Party!: Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite
  51. Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution
  52. Smith, Wadada Leo: America’s National Parks
  53. Stampfel, Peter, and The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm: Holiday for Strings
  54. Stetson, Colin: Sorrow–A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
  55. Tempest, Kate: Let Them Eat Chaos
  56. Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
  57. Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes
  58. Various Artists: Khmer Rouge Survivors–They Will Kill You, If You Cry
  59. Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live
  60. White Lung: Paradise
  61. Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo
  62. Young Thug: Jeffrey
  63. Zé, Tom: Canções Eróticas de Ninar
  64. Zé, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

New Old Stuff

  1. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  2. Van Morrison: It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Vols. II, II, IV + DVD
  3. Pylon: Live
  4. James Booker: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)
  5. Swanee Quintet: The Complete Nashboro Recordings 1951-1962
  6. Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  7. Angry Angles
  8. Julius Eastman: Femenine
  9. Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius
  10. Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul
  11. Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary
  12. Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago
  13. Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

Good to My Earhole: “Past Pupil Stay Sane…I’m Struggling My Damn Self.”

I have seriously been struggling to write about music. Not that I haven’t been listening; I’ve been applying it like a salve, but the words won’t come in the face of electoral surprise, four different little jobs adding up to one big one, weekend travel, and simply being silenced by the excellence of these artists and a lack of confidence in saying anything useful about them. Listening to TCQ’s new one for the fifth time in my truck cab today–especially to the song “Kids,” written to jolt them out of fantasy fixations–opened portals from my ear to my mind, and to my mind to the three fingers I type with.

Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Lift the Grief Magnets and Past Pupil Stay Sane – 9.0 – I am not sure why Mr. Lennon, punk-poet chronicler of life in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, released these two excellent new records separately, rather than as a pair (the title song of the latter is the final song of the former, so the transition is there), but I am sure that the States need their own version of the man. I recommended him to anyone who misses Joe Strummer (or wishes Ed Hamell hadn’t gone just a little soft); Jinx’s M.O. is to attack the demons that kill working-class folks alive, with his guitar (God’s in it), his beats, his lovable exhortations (he’ll plug in an enthusiastic “Yeah!” or a similar grunt to unhypnotize the sprog), his lyrics (spewed out with demotic eloquence as if they are continuations of a pub gab he’s just walked away from), and his spirit, which appears not easily depressed. Sample lyric, from “Silly Fkers”:  “When the people that you work with treat you like an old worn-out Anorak/And the walls of your house seem to constantly be laughing behind your back/And I look at you and you’re always trying to be the thing you’re always trying to be/It makes no difference at all ‘cos we’re all silly fkers, just a bunch of silly fkers/Point your telephones into deep outer space/We’re a billionth of a zillionth of a trillionth in significance in the whole of interstellar space/And still….” (My italics.) You’ll not find these in U. S. record stores, so hit up his Bandcamp site. You’ll also not find the song videoed above on either of these two releases, but I can testify it serves well as a daily mantra. Inspirational title: “Every Day Above Ground is a Good Day.” Holiday note: Jinx writes great Christmas songs, by the way, one of which is on Magic Bullets. Consumer Tip: If your budget confines you to purchasing just one–and I am hereby obligating you to do that–I’d opt for Past Pupil (really, though, it’s the best double album of 2016, and, yeah, I think Miranda’s is pretty damn good myself).

Sirone-Bang Ensemble: Configuration – 7.8 – The personnel: Billy Bang, my favorite jazz violinist behind Stuff Smith, a Viet Nam vet able to play inside or go out; Sirone, a bass player capable of distracting one from Cecil Taylor, which he proved on The Spring of Two Blue Js; Charles Gayle, a formerly homeless saxophonist who picks up where post-’65 Trane left off, at his best (for me, an exciting prospect); and a kid (at the time of release) named Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Bought it for the first three players; love it for the last, who holds everyone’s shit together and plays with amazing inventiveness, shifts effortless in and out of styles, and is quite obviously listening carefully (an essential in such sessions as these). He’s a known and feared master now; it’s fun to go back in time and hear him cutting heads, even though that is something he’d never deliberately have done.

Ann Peebles: Straight from the Heart – 10 – I strongly advise readers who are not familiar with this St. Louis, Missouri, native to change that by checking into Fat Possum’s LP reissues of her ’70s Hi recordings. Out of her “99 Pounds” comes a voice with serious bite and intensity: she adds a menace that contributes to her stealing “I Pity the Fool” from Bobby “Blue” Bland, and when she threatens to break up somebody’s home because she so tired of being alone, she’ll pull you up short as you suspect she means it. Stellar end-to-end, with that rhythm section you probably know so well from Al Green’s cuts from the same era, Willie Mitchell behind the board, and a line-up of classic soul songwriters (George Jackson, Denise LaSalle, Teenie Hodges, and, hey, Ms. Peebles herself) designing tunes to order.

Bobby Rush: Porcupine Meat – 8.0 – The randiest octogenarian in Southern music–he calls his brand “folkfunk,” and that nails it–answers the bells that supposedly toll for him with the best record he’s put out in years, with folks like Dave Alvin and Keb’ Mo’ leaning in with some solid help. I’ve read several reviewers complain that it’s too polished, but it is not: it’s just produced professionally–Rush is nothing if not professional–and that certainly doesn’t intrude on the vibe and fonk of songs like the title track, “Catfish Stew,” “It’s Your Move,” and “I Think Your Dress is Too Short.” What a Rush fan should be worried about is remakes, of which there are none here, though as per usual he lassos a few floating verses from the blues and soul canon. By the way, play it back to back with the Stones’ blues album (see below) or Meet Your Death and tell me which old dog blows the best harp, because all three players are on form.

Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – 9.5 – Yes, it’s really that good. A comeback album by old heads that is truly unprecedented in rap, the bulk of which was written a year ago, it sounds as if it were directly inspired by–in fact, written right after–November 8’s shattering event. Within the first six songs, the fact that there’s no space program for n****s is mourned, Mexicans, blacks, Muslims, the poor, and the bad “must go,” the old heads make a case for their generation–without letting it off the hook–to the current generation, and the latter “Kids,” shook by their lapels, are encouraged to abandon the “fantasy” of Mainstream Rap circa 2016 (if not USA circa 2016). I’ll leave the rest to you, but all the MCs (including the deceased one, who sounds tragically alive) have lost no flow, and the music throbs and boom-baps: really, the record is a plea (powered by beats and rhymes) that isn’t sure whether it should be aimed skyward or downwards. Outro: “The Donald.”

The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome – 8.6 – They’ve resisted the “back to the roots” move for half a century, so they’ve earned the right to do it now. I think the production serves as a kind of sonic Viagra at times, but at the very least, this rekkid is a) a terrific blues harmonica showcase, just like Keith always dreamed Mick would unleash, b) a display of deep and loving mastery, and c) a parade of deep cuts that, other than perhaps Wolf’s “Commit a Crime,” only enthusiasts would know. Jolly good show, boys.

Jack Oblivian and The Sheiks: The Lone Ranger of Love – 8.7 – Third in a series of great garage-punk records issued this year; I’d rank it behind Tyler Keith‘s Do It For Johnny and Meet Your Death‘s eponymously titled debut (which is more garage-punk-blues). The one former Oblivian who’s relentlessly pursued the dirty noise ethic while out in soloville is also the one you need to watch your daughter around. He’s got quite a few moves (including a touch of honky-tonk), and a groove on Side Two.

Joe McPhee and Ray Boni: Live from The Magic City (Birmingham, Alabama) – 9.0 – The ageless, prolific jazz multi-instrumentalist McPhee (his late ’15 Candy is also going to make my year-end best-of list) teams with electric guitarist Boni for some of his most lyrical–and occasionally straight-ahead–playing in years. And dammit: if they can book him in Birmingham, they can book him in Columbia, Missouri.

Alicia Keys: Here – 8.8 – This is the year the queens of modern r&b knocked down my door, backed me into a corner, and forced me to submit. I have to admit: concepts, consciousness, commitment, and coherence are weapons against which I have little armor, and Keys, who I have appreciated but never much loved, uses them all with skill here. It’s not just about the lack of make-up; the vocal expression is the most unadorned and understated–yet, or thus, the most soulful of her career. Played it twice in a row with pleasure after listening to Hi-era Ann Peebles (see above), if you don’t believe me: that’s one tough juxtaposition to survive.

Aram Bajakian: Dolphy Formations – 9 – Bajakian has replaced one of his main influences, Marc Ribot, as the most stimulating guitarist in my listening life. From the storming, angular, and twisted post-blues attack of 2014’s there were flowers also in hell to late 2015’s Music Inspired by The Color of Pomegranates, in which he spontaneously created a spellbinding soundtrack to the film, recording himself while he watched it in his home, to this set, in which combines some theorizing by the titular titan with Bajakian’s absorption of chaos-era Sonic Youth with Morton Feldman with his experience gigging with Lou Reed and cooks up something Franz Mesmer could seriously appreciate, he’s setting fires all over the aural map. Oh, and they are under just enough control. Check out his output on Bandcamp.

My Favorite Rekkids of 2016, 75% of the Way Through Their (not really totally) Loathsome Year (BECAUSE of these rekkids, in part)

These are the recent records (most minted in this calendar year, some not quite) that I most whole-heartedly recommend to the musical adventurer. I’m starting to hate lists, but it’s a habit, and when one is dealing with annual ones, one must stay on top of them. If you peer back at my last list-post, you’ll probably see little change, so as a bonus, I am throwing in some additional offerings that I don’t quite so strongly recommend, but that may delight you and eventually grow on me. As for purchasing them, I assume you know how to use the Internet, but in a few case where the source (sometimes the artist himself) needs a boost, I may direct you. As much as it’s possible for me to deduce it, they are in order of, um, power.

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. J. D. Allen: Americana
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  9. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  10. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  11. Rihanna: Anti
  12. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  13. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  14. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  15. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  16. Bombino: Azel
  17. Pylon: Live
  18. The Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  19. Nots: Cosmetic
  20. M. I. A: Aim
  21. Wussy: Forever Sounds
  22. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  23. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  24. Pedrito Martinez: Habana Dreams
  25. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  26. Various Artists: Desconstrucao–A Portrait of Sao Paulo’s Music Scene
  27. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  28. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  29. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  30. Mexrissey: No Manchester

THE BEST OF THE REST

[If the record’s bolded, it almost made or was previously in the Top 25; if it’s preceded by an asterisk (*), it barely made this list.]

Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 2 (EP)

Angry Angles

*Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates

Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)

Bowie, David: Blackstar

*Bradley, Charles: Changes

*Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011

Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)

Childbirth: Women’s Rights

Dalek: Asphalt for Eden

De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody

DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement

Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody

Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels

Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories

*Garbage: Strange Little Birds

Konono N1 Meets Batida

Kool and Kass: Barter 7

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

Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered

Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway

Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle

*Natural Child: Okey-Dokey

Neville, Aaron: Apache

Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival

Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm

*Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago

Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn

Reed, Blind Alfred: Appalachian Visionary

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

Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution

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

Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes

Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius

Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live

White Lung: Paradise

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

*Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo

*Young Thug: Jeffrey

Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

Good to My Earhole, August 11 – September 6: Through Many Dangers, I Finally Posted Again

Highlights of last few weeks’ listening, rated on a 10-point scale calibrated to how close I was to falling out:

THOSE WERE DIFFERENT TIMES: CLEVELAND 1972-1976 – 8.8 – Cleveland: the secret capitol of punk rock. The Mirrors, Electric Eels (especially–trigger alert!), and Styrenes don’t go down as easily as, say, the Dolls, or EVEN Rocket from The Tombs/Pere Ubu. They care less for tunes than for abrasion and unmediated expression. But I wonder if it that wasn’t the point. And John Morton and Craig Bell still have tricks remaining up their sleeves, or sticking out of their back pockets, lit.

Marion Williams/THROUGH MANY DANGERS–CLASSIC PERFORMANCES 1965-1993 – 10 – As a member of the Clara Ward Singers, her pure power and emotional range pushed the gospel group format to new heights. Little Richard caught her “wooooooo” and put it to, shall we say, a less pure use. And she just got better, as this #AnthonyHeilbut-curated collection demonstrates. The final track, simply a moan, may put every gospel cut you’ve ever heard to shame.

The Greenhornes/SEWED SOLES – 8.8 – To my ear, they’re the Dwight Yoakam/Robert Cray/Tom Petty of the American garage. They have the form and the style mastered. They put feeling and care into their work. They are smart enough to work in changes of pace (here with an assist from Holly Golightly) among the many riffs. And while they seldom set off a fire ripping through the range, their commitment makes for tough, soulful listening. A great compilation that got lost in the shuffle during garage-punk-gunk’s cometic moment.

James Carter/CHASIN’ THE GYPSY – 10 – If you want to check out a relatively recent swinging jazz record that ain’t museum-musty-dusty, and if you want to witness maybe our most contemporary mainstream master at his apex, before he went on cruise control, go no further than this. It’s mostly Django Reinhardt tunes, with originals that tip their hats to his legacy, but rather than try to recapture that fleet guitarist’s breezy flourishes, chunk-a-chunks, and exciting shifts, Carter just sets off multi-reed fireworks–some of them M80s, others spinners, still others with colors and noises you’ve not heard and seen before. Come to think of it, flourishes abound–but they’re more like hurricanes. And while, according to a vaunted expert, all tribute albums suck, they don’t when there’s the right balance of love, deep knowledge, and irreverence. With cousin Regina Carter on furious violin and Jay “Astral Weeks/The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady” Berliner on guitar. Try to resist the zany, headlong, near-impossible momentum of the title cut, and try not to be seduced by exotic “Oriental Shuffle.” Double-effin’ dare ya.

Michael Kiwanuka/LOVE AND HATE – 8.3 – This young man projects a serious Marvin vibe.His pipes aren’t quite THERE, but he can project, he can write, the production is sensitive, moody, if a tad nostalgic, and it’s certainly of the moment, if you get my drift. I put it on for what I thought would just be background to grading, expecting it to merely whelm me–and he kept catching me up short with understated lines and choruses. I don’t want to get fooled like I feel did with Aloe Blacc, but this kid seems to be coming from a deeper place; I am not sure Blacc would risk something as direct as “Black Man in a White World.” What do you think?

Black Flag/WHO’S GOT THE 10 1/2? – 9.5 – The Who of the hardcore world (tough guy up front delivering sly-guy guitarist’s heartfelt, angry, antagonistic, ridiculous, audience-aware words) deliver their LIVE AT LEEDS. Funny how often when I NEED this band I turn to this. Great song selection, unchained six-string, maybe Henry’s last great sustained (recorded) moment on stage.

Apologies to White Lung, Dorothy Love Coates, Delaney & Bonnie, Ruth Davis, and White Lung–I ran out of time and energy. I hope to catch y’all on the rebound.

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.