Wednesday, January 21, 2015

stack o' tracks

I'm listening my way through a stack of CDs on one of those black plastic spindles (left with me by Kyli when she went abroad for a while and seized the moment to abandon old technologies).

None have their own sleeves and most have only a few hand-scrawled details.

To contextualize these comments, you should understand that I stepped off the pop carousel in about 1990 so like a Dantean soul have very little awareness of the recent past.


1. aardvarch.

Electronic music, probably European, and pretty good.


2. masters at work.

This must be the NY mixing duo who were pals of Todd Terry. Not sure when this CD dates from, but the general joyousness of it reminds me of what made Todd's music so great.  Lots of great extended dance tracks, mostly jazzy instrumentals, plus one or two with singers. Great piece of salsa to finish.


3. jimi hendrix.

One of the bad things that happened back in the day if a big artist died young was that it triggered a mountainous shit-pile of terrible recordings flooding the budget market.   A budget Marvin Gaye album is almost certainly going to be live concert tracks, badly played, badly sung, hammily performed and badly recorded. Hearing soul masterpieces like Inner City Blues and Let's Get It On in this context is weirdly fascinating. It makes you realize how much the icon of greatness has to be sculpted out of the murk of reality. In Hendrix's case, the hundreds of indistinguishable budget records consisted mainly of sludgy blues jams. Occasionally they're lit up by some brilliant flash of guitar lightning; then, half a second later, it's back to the sludge. I suppose these were the scrapings of that period in every pop musician's career that is usually covered off in one forgettable sentence of the biog ("after playing in local bands such as Butterfudge, Luke Bumble's Strangers, and the Featherlites, he came to the attention of ..."). This pre-dawm in a musician's career ought to be nearly forgotten, cloaked in mystery, the lure of a few diehard collectors. But Jimi's pre-dawn wasn't forgotten. In most of these recordings the musicians are just messing about; they have no discernible audience in view so they aren't really trying to communicate anything.


4. Putumayo Presents Africa 1999. This is fun. Zimbabwean Jit, Congolese soukous, S. African township plus Togo and a few other places - no Nigerian or N. African. In the 1980s I eagerly collected African LPs from Sterns. 30 years later, my astonishment at the rhythms and guitar-playing has only grown stronger.


5. Coral. This turns out to be The Coral's splendid first album (2002), except that some of the tracks skip rather badly. The question of which one was better, this or its companion "Magic and Medicine", continues to resonate around the campfires of this land. Whatever, it was an amazing double-opening-gambit. What WAS it about The Coral that made them compulsive when so many of their musical ingredients suggested just another lightweight derivative good-time band? In the end I think it might come down to James Skelly's voice. Not only that, but especially that. Whatever ridiculous thing he's singing, he connects with us. It was the misfortune of the Coral that they were basically retro and late-arrivals to a music form (rock) that was already dead. hence they never received the kind of critical attention that, say, "Crocodiles" did; instead, the critical commentary amounts to little more than "Merseyside Mayhem Ahoy"! And that's harmful to the artists.




6. Iain Archer, To The Pine Roots.

This 2009 album was recorded in a cottage in the Black Forest, I've read. Which reminds me a bit of The Triffid's In the Pines, though there are probably more direct predecessors. Archer was apparently something to do with Snow Patrol (tho the wikipedia entry about Snow Patrol only names him when he leaves).
"You're the wayward ribbon on the long strong diamond of a kite"
Some decent lyrics and acoustic guitar playing. Sort of an infantile quality to a lot of the material, though. Always a temptation when you go pastoral.


7. Dubnology

This is the first part of Dubnology: Journeys Into Outer Bass (1995). Handy details and artist biogs here: http://www.discogs.com/Various-Dubnology-Journeys-Into-Outer-Bass/release/45911 . Zion Train and Asian Dub Foundation are outstanding (that's tracks 3 and 4) but there's a lot else to like too.

8. Alison Krauss

This is the second half of her exceptional 2002 live album with Union Station; exceptional among her recordings, and exceptional among live albums in general. My CD starts off with a solo spot for "the best dobro player in the world", Jerry Douglas, and at this stage the atmosphere is already boiling up nicely.  Great songs follow fast:  Maybe, New Favourite, Oh Atalanta...






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