Thursday, May 31, 2007


Visit blowupdoll
Glamour has never died on this blog, which features best of best from swinging London chicks, mod American girls, flavors of ye ye, and ai yi yi I don't know what all. I scoop it up by the handfuls when I stop by. Don't be jealous. No one else can be him. Single tracks available for a limited time. Pictured above: Chantal Goya.

Music bloggers: Please feel free to add your latest updates in comments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Under the Big Black Sun (1982)

X turned out to be one of those bands where each member had something giant to offer, and the sum of the parts exceeded, etc., etc. A situation where people choose favorites (not forgetting the "fifth X," producer/evangelist Ray Manzarek either). For me, it was always Billy Zoom who mattered most, and this is his shining moment, his real life rock 'n' roll guitar ringing over and ruling all that it surveys, which is simply everything. Of course, it doesn't hurt that D.J. Bonebrake's drumming is on the order of Charlie Watts here -- he's hitting hard and right at an astonishing level all the way through. Nor that Exene Cervenka's and John Doe's songwriting and singing collaboration takes several significant steps deeper (particularly Cervenka taking on the death of her sister) into the collaboration that would ultimately burst apart and spit out a poet and a country singer. You don't want to miss this one.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Syd Barrett

005 Syd Barrett
Ah, the travails of the rock mythologist -- this must be where I make my peace with Pink Floyd, not that any of them ever cared a fig for my torments. I can see now, from the Syd Barrett-centric view of matters (generally before my time, or at least, seen only fleetingly in peripheral vision for years), a story parallel to that of Brian Jones, Jonathan Richman, and/or Brian Wilson. Whether for reasons of mental illness, drug abuse, pathological proclivity to daydream, just plain low levels of motivation, or any combination of the above, all have in common that something of great interest flashed around them and then somehow went suddenly seemingly awry. This, then, must be chapters from "The Story of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn."

Pink Floyd, "Astronomy Domine" (1969) The live LP of the double album Ummagumma has always been my favorite more or less album by Pink Floyd. (The studio LP of the set on the other hand is just bad.) Recently, I was disappointed to hear drummer Nick Mason on the radio pronouncing the title with the dead schwa, as in "um" or "gum," which I suppose does make the most sense. For all those decades I had taken the side of the krautish (or so I thought of it, giving it an umlauted/"ü" kind of twist) and used the vowels sounds of "room" or "zoom." Another illusion shattered the more's the pity. (8:29)
Pink Floyd, "Astronomy Domine" (1967) From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. (4:12)
Pink Floyd, "Julia Dream" (c. 1967) From bootleg All Movement Is Accomplished. (2:21)
Pink Floyd, "Julia Dream" (c. 1967) From bootleg All Movement Is Accomplished. (2:32)
Pink Floyd, "See Emily Play" (c. 1967) From bootleg All Movement Is Accomplished. (2:54)
Syd Barrett, "Dolly Rocker" (c. 1971) From Opel. I like how he sounds offended that he has to explain what the song title means. (3:00)
Syd Barrett, "Effervescing Elephant" (c. 1970) Twee, of course, but the willfully deadpan delivery undercuts that in a weird way. (1:04)
Syd Barrett, "Gigolo Aunt" (c. 1968) Heavy version, my favorite. Bad sound. From Magnesium Proverbs. (4:54)

More information in comments.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Visit Big Rock Candy Mountain
This blog, whose heart resides in versions of 1946 R&B and C&W somewhere in the U.S. southlands, recently concluded a list of Top 100 Drinking Songs, which featured artists both expected and surprising: Amos Milburn, Loretta Lynn, Wynonie Harris, the Pogues, Louis Jordan, Tom Waits, Gil Scott-Heron, the Replacements, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, Snoop Dogg, and lots more. Single tracks available for a limited time.

Music bloggers: Please feel free to add comments to get the word out about your weekend updates.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gasoline Alley (1970)

OK all right no getting around it we're going to have to caveat Rod Stewart to death here. First, on the general critical storm and his supposed fall from Olympian heights of the awthentic: I don't get it. I happen to like "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" (and not just for the spelling of "do") more than knights of the realm Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, et al. At the same time, Rod Stewart is closer to the end than the front of a very long line of standard-bearers I intend to get to one fine day, well behind Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine, Ray Charles, James Brown, yeah yeah Sinatra, etc., etc., and as a matter of fact even behind Linda Ronstadt. (Ahead of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Eddie Fisher, however.) Long story short: I haven't got to that yet and may never. And then the Faces -- or is it just "Faces" (and what is up with that?)? They remain among the enduring mysteries of the genre for me. The knights of the realm seem to rank most of their releases as indispensable/essential but to date practically all of it has escaped me, with or without Rod Stewart. Except for "Itchycoo Park" -- which for that matter the knights don't seem to like much either. And finally, as good as I find just about everything about the follow-up Every Picture Tells a Story, I have to say that it appears to have unfortunately lost its appeal to me permanently, particularly the flagship "Maggie May," thanks to the weapon of classic rock radio bludgeon. As with "Stairway to Heaven" and Led Zeppelin IV I may never hear any of it with pleasure again. My loss, I know. And so, all that said and my apologies for going on about it, this here is a really great album. Everything about it, everything, is just right.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nikki Sudden

004 Nikki Sudden
Jacobites is how I knew and loved Nikki Sudden first and most. But I found there was a good deal more that's at least equally worthy, going all the way back to his punky sonic experiments in Swell Maps with brother Epic Soundtracks, who died in 1997. The Godfreys (Adrian Nicholas and Kevin Paul, respectively) may have lived and died here, but in spirit they -- or certainly Nikki -- hailed from an alternative universe where Marc Bolan lived long, Bob Dylan and Keith Richard died young, and Donovan won the standing that Leonard Cohen has here.

How does did he(do/they?) do that, create that universe and make it so real and still so achingly beautiful and fantastic?

Thanks to dorfdisco braunsfeld for all the great Swell Maps and a lot more of Nikki Sudden than just Jacobites.

Jacobites, "Big Store" (1984) This is the bruiser that introduced me to the world. (8:01)
Jacobites, "Heart of Hearts" (1984) (3:35)
Jacobites, "It'll All End Up in Tears" (1985) ---only because this song manages to not leave a dry eye in the house. (3:03)
Nikki Sudden, "Black Tar" (2006) From The Truth Doesn't Matter, a basically sound outing and the more's the pity that it was his last. (2:54)
Nikki Sudden, "Crossroads" (year) Better than the version with Howard. (8:00)
Nikki Sudden, "Draggin' Me Down" (2006) Grinds along like a bike with a loose chain and then out of nowhere ends beautifully. (3:50)
Nikki Sudden, "Green Shield Stamps" (2006) (6:09)
Nikki Sudden, "San Francisco Poet" (year) Funny and also puts relations between punks and beats in perspective. (2:12)

More information in comments.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Benn loxo du taccu

Benn loxo du taccu
Jauntily announcing that the name translates to "one hand can't help" in Wolof, this blog offers a nice, ongoing smorgasbord of musics African, from various classic periods to the latest releases, culturally anchoring it with a keen eye. Single tracks are available only for a limited time. Great links to information are available all the time.

Music bloggers: Please feel free to add comments to get the word out about your weekend updates.

Blow by Blow (1975)

A big, big favorite with me and much of my crowd at the time, all prog-safe and jazzy and as an instrumental with nobody likely to make a fool of themselves shrieking and hoarsing out the blooz. If you wanted to posit the Yardbirds as the big bang of "Rock," itself the natural progression of "rock 'n' roll" -- this probably made more sense then, so don't worry if you're not following along -- your choice of galaxies basically came down to the earnest heroin-addicted awthentic noblesse oblige of Eric Clapton, the satan worship of Jimmy Page (who at least spared his throat), and Jeff Beck, who was the one of these things not like the others. Satan worship evidently not to his taste, he turned here and on the follow-up Wired to the pleasantries of electric guitar sonics in the proggy context of post-Bitches Brew jazz. And makes your head spin when he steps out and gets on top of his game, which here is like always.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962)

The nitpicker in me wishes it was "Today's" sounds rather than "Modern," which has too much baggage and evident knowingness. But end of complaints right there. Everything else about this album is as amazing as it is unexpected as it is spectacularly, cheekily right. Working off the bat with the black + white component that so intensely fueled rock 'n' roll from its origins, call it Ray Charles's shot at Rock 'n' Roll 2.0, Rock 'n' Roll 62, switching in gospel for blues (and how far apart are they anyway?), a full-grown Negro for a humble young white boy, and the best of C&W from the vaults. Ready set go. Nothing this self-conscious should work, but this one breaks all the rules. It's as fresh today as it was the day they put it down. The arrangements, with horns and Raelettes liberally deployed, are pinpoint perfect, song to song. Is it country? Yeah, it's country. In a way that stubbornly remains a whole new bag, its own thing, like no country you ever heard before or since. But it's definitely country.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Birth of Soul (1952-1959)

Along with Sam Cooke and (I insist) James Brown, Ray Charles stands as one of the great inventors of soul music, that unearthly combination of sacred gospel and secular (or "profane," though the critical term is overshadowed here by racist anxiety, so I prefer the more neutral "secular") rhythm 'n' blues. Ray Charles was first, barely, and if he had neither the gospel training or vocal chops of Cooke or the work ethic and sheer creative brilliance of Brown, he managed a level of exuberant joy not often touched by either. He also had the most purely natural sense for how to put together and work the material, and by the sound of things he had the most fun, driving a rollicking, often surprisingly rich, dense keyboard, his head audibly bobbing in motion into and away from a stationary microphone. Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like what Ray Charles put across in the '50s. All the Atlantic work of the time is documented here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

EVOL (1986)

This first came into my life as vinyl and at least one side had a lock groove. I always wondered how they were going to replicate that on CD. Well, of course they couldn't. I suppose there's a way you might manage it with digital but it would probably just be annoying. It was kind of annoying anyway, but also cool. This is about where that started with Sonic Youth, operating on pure instinct and making it work. Noise is deployed liberally throughout, of course, and say hello to the tunings, but what counted for me was that overnight they had given in to an unsuspected knack for melody. In general, the proceedings here, however discordant, are far closer to gentle and allusive than thundering. I'm still trying to figure out the Hitchcock reference, wherein the plot to one Alfred Hitchcock movie (Strangers on a Train) is recounted under the title of another (Shadow of a Doubt), kind of. Those are two of Hitchcock's best, by the way, from his overlooked late '40/early '50s period. It's like they knew.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000)

Built for comfort not for speed, 15 years along in the career of Yo La Tengo, this what? 10th album? first strikes as wispy, placid, ephemeral music, floating gentle and easy like paddling a canoe through the swirling steams of a heat cloying morning swamp. (See also: the cover.) On closer inspection, of course, each and every song, including the one that lasts more than 17 minutes, reveals its many charms and then ultimately its many depths. This is a good one to keep close to hand and play frequently. And furthermore, with one notable exception, they manage all of it without a shred of feedback and/or howling, roaring sheets of guitar noise.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Electr-O-Pura (1995)

If I had to pick a favorite by Yo La Tengo this is it. It's not just that it's such a great album, which it is, instantly and continually, compulsively infectious, but it was also a huge and happy surprise at the time, an exciting moment when everything about them coalesced and came into a very bright and clear focus. I mean, I'm talking everything: the hushed folky ballads, Georgia's vocals, the pure pop confections, the way the laid out and opened up spaces, the blasts of textured noise. They had been around some ten years when this came out and nothing they had done, all those affecting and nimble and even breathtaking essays of the various continents and territories, had made a whole lot of sense, and suddenly everything about it made sense. Maybe it's like when you see your kid doing something and in a flash you realize that he or she has got something special going for themselves. Can the love really run this deep? Yes, in this case. Yes, I think so.

More information in comments.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Painful (1993)

This may or may not be the Yo La Tengo album to start with. There seems to be no shortage of fans who will put this on the short list, but to me it's distinctly different from anything else they've done -- somber, slow-tempo'd, almost depressed, yet with all the subtleties of songwriting, arrangement, production, and performance for which we've come to appreciate them. It gets noisy like most of their albums do -- and in surprisingly tasteful ways, also like most of their albums -- but in memory it lives in a still, quiet place that is equal parts serenity and anxiety. Good late night fare.