Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New Values (1979)

"I'm Bored" With all the throttled energies and pignose squalor, and the bright production slavered on top of that, plus the uneven songwriting, the sounds here enter into an interesting state of tempered mediation, a kind of chamber music. Rocks nicely in a small space, say at a gallery opening. For his first persona, Mr. Osterberg has selected the classic and durable loser w/ low self-esteem, who triumphs via rock 'n' roll, innate integrity, and sundry. He's only five foot one. He's got a pain in his neck. Nothing comes his way. Winning moment: [in front of a guitar solo] "All right doll face come out and bore me."

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lust for Life (1977)

"Success" Whatever changed about the recording strategy between that last one and this got it just right. This feels like songwriters and a band liberated from a heavy burden. Maybe that was The Idiot? Dostoevsky to Irving Stone, metaphorically speaking, with all the attendant loosening corner-cutting and living the good high life. Entirely a blast of fresh energy, even the weirdly dour "Turn Blue." Go directly to the call and response at the end of "Success" if you don't believe me. And never has poetic justice ever been sweeter than when the title song became the theme for Carnival Cruises, and a sports anthem to boot, following its utterly perfect deployment in a trashy Scottish movie about heroin addiction. Trainspotting. Don't miss it if you can.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Idiot (1977)

"Dum Dum Boys" Iggy's country album, recorded in Berlin, and produced once again by David Bowie, who once again evidently can't help making the sound sludgy. Doesn't really matter. As with Rubber Soul/Revolver, Ramones/Leave Home/Rocket to Russia, or King of America/Blood and Chocolate, it comes with a companion album released closely in time over which the faithful disagree. I go with Rubber Soul, Leave Home, Blood and Chocolate, and Lust for Life. That said, there's nary a miscue here on the first (vinyl LP) side -- which includes both "China Girl" and "Funtime," a couple of snowcaps right there. Then comes "Dum Dum Boys." (But go ahead and skip "Mass Production.")

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Raw Power (1973)

"Death Trip" Aficionados will appreciate the decades-overdue remix supervised by the Ig himself over the weird (make that rank amateur) treatment from David Bowie the first time around. Me, I always appreciated the songs themselves more than anything. They remain ferocious even in Bowie's teacup. Of course the remix is going to bring that out bigger and badder than ever, and so it does. It can right pin you to the wall. I'd like to think that if the job had been done properly first time around, the Stooges might have started crowding Led Zeppelin in the arena megaspaces. But then I remember that this was also when the principals became heroin addicts.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Complete Fun House Sessions (1970)

"1970 (Take 5)" For this mammoth and epic undertaking there are many people to thank. First, of course, the Stooges: Iggy Stooge (nee James "Jim" Osterberg, later Iggy Pop), vocals; brothers guitarist Ron and drummer Scott Asheton; Dave Alexander, bass; and Steve Mackay, tenor sax. Thank you. All of you. Then, to Rhino Records, who along about the turn of the century exhumed the tapes and went to work, putting it ALL together. Thank you. And, finally, to misha4music, who made it all possible -- for me to hear, that is (this and a lot more!). Thank you. Enjoy.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Foundations of Funk: A Brand New Bag (1964-1969)

"Mother Popcorn (Live)" When the history of 20th century music is written a hundred years from now, James Brown is going to be on the short list. He worked at a continuing high peak for practically 30 years, innovating, experimenting, discovering. Fresh as a farmer's market, the music he produced is also demanding, for performer and listener alike. They're not kidding when they call him the hardest working man in show business. But the rewards unfold and unfold and unfold. Here is the essential core, as good a starting point as any. As necessary as anything in his canon. Worth it at twice the price. Really, words fail.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tapestry (1971)

"It's Too Late" Carole King never married Brian Wilson and Brian Wilson never committed suicide and I don't think anyone like John Turturro or Bruce Davison was ever involved, but in every other way Allison Anders's movie Grace of My Heart is true to the marrows. This is what comes of a lifetime of cheap mythologizing. What people used to forget (or never knew) about Carole King is the first chapter of her career as one of the finest songwriters to come out of midtown's Brill Building. But, that said, Edna Buxton's Grace of My Heart could not possibly match this, if only for "It's Too Late," the saddest song ever to sell by the millions. "Oh, the water Let it run all over me And it stoned me to my soul." That's a Van Morrison song, but it describes perfectly the experience of hearing "It's Too Late" the first thousand or so times.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Court and Spark (1974)

"Help Me" Joni, as her friends call her, rockets out of folk and briefly goes pop before veering jazz and, ultimately, to points within and beyond. But here is where it gets as good as it ever would, as far as I'm concerned (though Hejira, in yet another vein, is not far behind). This too is pure pop music for now people. For me, like William Carlos Williams and his red wheel barrow, so much has depended upon "Dance with the lady with a hole in her stocking." That moment and the song it comes from, "Help Me," along with "Free Man in Paris," are the tippity-top of the uttermost top for me. But then everything else here (save, perhaps, "Car on a Hill") is nearly as stellar. "People's Parties," "Trouble Child," "Down to You": all plumb the depths of a world with no SSRI antidepressants to shore up the levees. Drugs get you through times of no money and all that. Sometimes it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion, and sometimes like being at a rotting mellow LA party, but all wacked and perfectly goofy and loose and confident in oneself. And always, always bursting with terrific vibes.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blue (1971)

"The Last Time I Saw Richard" Awww, this is the sad album, and you can tell she'd been crying a lot. Either that or she had a terrible head cold, on some of these tracks. Fuck everything is her basic attitude and her most redeeming and exasperating feature. She blazes through the miasma with an iron spine, her songwriting and her singing both at a place where everything she touches turns gorgeous, and the sad stuff stays close to sad. She avoids (or shreds, or kicks ass of, or something) self-pity here in a way that she never quite could again. They're not all hanky moppers either, and it lives now forever pressed into vinyl, digitized, and played frequently at all hours of the day or night.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ladies of the Canyon (1970)

"Woodstock" Synchronicity. Just as Canadians Neil Young and most of the Band began to administer life lessons in their different ways to American boomers, fellow countryman Joni Mitchell comes along to round off some of the points. She settled in Laurel Canyon (Frank Zappa: "where the rock bands all live together"), warbled around, and became an amazing songwriter. Amazing singer too. Before it all went to her head, she was a pretty cool self-involved West Coast kinda chick, frolicking through the fun of "Big Yellow Taxi," laying down fat harmonies on the title song, and trumping all comers when she plays the plaintive card with "The Circle Game." This is solid.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

60 ≤ 90

Low on short songs? Here's a bunch. None longer than 1:30, each a separate track.

1. Alain Goraguer, "Les Hommes -- Le Grande Co-Existence" (1973) This could be the most beautiful thing here. From a nice OST, La Planete Sauvage. (1:15)
2. Alice Cooper, "Titanic Overture (196xx.. (1969) Titanic is right, and way ahead of Lou Reed. (See below.) (1:12)
3. Alice Cooper, "Street Fight" (1972) Wild!! (0:53)
4. Angry Samoans, "Lights Out" (1982) These guys are funny. (0:52)
5. Archie Shepp, "Keep Your Heart Right" (1966) (1:18)
6. Beach Boys, "Don't Talk ... (Vocal Snippet)" (1966) This could be the most beautiful thing here. (0:56)
7. Beatles, "Her Majesty [W- Final Chord]" (1969) Closure. (0:25)
8. Bernard Herrmann, "Finale" (1951) From The Day the Earth Stood Still OST. (0:30)
9. Bessie Jones, "Sometimes" (1961) You know this from Moby. Winning lyric: "I'm going over here." (0:56)
10. Black Flag, "Wasted" (1978) Wow, nice job. (0:53)
11. Bobby Fuller Four, "Eastwood High Dance Radio Spot" (ca. 1965) (0:53)
12. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, "The Sound of Music" (1967) Cracks me up every time. (1:19)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Roman Gods (1981)

"The Dreg (Fleshtones-77)" More overwhelming garage power, albeit necessarily retro due to the circumstances of Keith Streng's and Peter Zaremba's later births. The Fleshtones deliver. From the first track onward this gem rolls in and through like beautiful bad weather. Shambolic, impulsive, unpretentious. Vocals the mumblingest and/or yelpingest, heavy guitar like steamroller peeling you off the pavement pancake-style, or barbed wire sting, and vibrating, shuddering, pulsating fuzz everywhere. Everywhere. Rebels. Rebels. Revolt into style. Turn it up. Turn it UP.