Good to My Earhole, September 2016: TYLER KEITH AND THE APOSTLES–DO IT FOR JOHNNY! If ya got any guts!

THE highlight–THE HIGHLIGHT–of my last week’s listening (and that’s including Rosetta Tharpe, The Kinks, and The Electric Eels), based on a 10-point scale coordinated with my inability to quit playing the record:

Tyler Keith and The Apostles: DO IT FOR JOHNNY – 9.5 – You know what I think about a lot? Rock and roll (it used to roll) sprang from the other side of the tracks, sounded really dangerous, and skipped a lot of school, so to speak. That’s why it has meant so much to me, from the age of 13 to now, people. These days, it’s predominantly ‘burby or downtowny, makes nice (boasting credentials from the James Taylor 2.0 I’m-Sensitive-So-Lay-Me School), and studies its vinyl collection until 2 a.m. Which is why my eyebrows touch my scalp when I hear about a new Tyler Keith release. A church-raised, working-class Mississippian, Keith forged his previous bands, the Neckbones and the Preachers Kids (their records well worth your quest), into units that had too much Watts-Richards rhythmic spring to be stuck in the garage, and too much post-punk disrespect and dissonance (epitomized by Tyler’s snotty but passionate Richard Hell-goes-to-Popeye’s vocals and always-unruly guitar) to ever break college-rock. Those categories are pulverized now; it’s all a crapshoot, a REAL crapshoot, which is why you should just trust me and check out this release. Do It for Johnny is keyed to the title song, the greatest anyone will ever write about The Outsiders (and it ain’t just fandom–you might have noticed some socs vs. greasers cultural ruckus lately, or maybe not, and Tyler’s consciously tapped in), and kicks off with the class-conscious “Criminal Gene”–what current young white band of note do you know would admit to, describe fighting against, and just fuck it and give in to, such a characteristic? Like Mick, only with less care and delicacy–that’s a compliment to Tyler–he has no fear of a tough ballad to change the pace (“Dangling on a Wire”). He impressively shows off his Spanish on the narco-rocker “Vaya Con Dios” (the idea of a God’s never far from this man’s mind). He exposes imagination for the terror it really is on a sneaky, wildly rocking green-eyed monster song. He essays a less romantic, poor man’s versions of Springsteen’s “Backstreets” (the deceptively titled “Bright Side of the Road”). And he and his crack, sleazily loose band go out on a crime-beat Leiber-Stoller tribute that supports the old adage, “Tell the truth, then run.” Final temptation on the sticker? It features those time-honored tensions of–really, again, battles between–sin and salvation, youthful adrenaline and mature sedation, and class and, um, no class. It’s fully loaded, the best rock AND ROLL record of the year, available right here:

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.

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….