Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Here's the full version of my blurb on Aretha's astonishing Amazing Grace, my favorite live album of all time (radio edit here):

Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings (Atlantic/Rhino 1972/1999)
Live at Fillmore West is an astounding album, like Amazing Grace a double-LP that caught the Queen at the peak of her powers – but her return to church the following year is superior. This is gospel so powerful that it can convert heathens; while that VOICE (she’s the finest singer of the past 50 years, hands down) can sing anything, Aretha’s rarely sung as passionately as she does when singing about Jesus. She can make any song gospel, too, as evidenced by her the way she brings the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” to church. And her 16-minute “Amazing Grace” is nothing short of spellbinding. With the Southern California Community Choir backing her up and the Rev. James Cleveland (the Kirk Franklin of his day) at her side, this is one of the Queen’s crowning achievements.

Monday, October 30, 2006

(slight return)

Erik and I go back years, even though we've never actually met. (We even were part of my first collaborative blog.) (We came close to meeting a few years back, since he's a Mainer and I lived for a while in godforsaken New Hampshire, but alas, 'twas not to be.) We've slipped out of touch ("I'm out of time...") for the past few years, though, and he seemed to depart this mortal blog coil for some time, too. But now, thanks to my webstats, I discover that he's back. Hurrah! (Also: Erik, do you realize that as we age, we're looking a lot more alike?) While we agree on precious little music-wise, his writing is a dream, his thinking even moreso.

A little good news

From His site to our eyes:

[...] [Christgau] has contracted to be a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a music critic for NPR's All Things Considered. The Consumer Guide remains in limbo, although there's an excellent chance it will start up again shortly. Sometime in the next month, archival Consumer Guide material will become part of the editorial content at Rhapsody, Real Network's online music service, where he will also contribute a weekly playlist.

It's (a)live!

Over at Stylus this week, we're celebrating the art of the live album by counting down our all-time top 50. My first two blurbs are up today, albeit trimmed down a bit (read: radio edits). (I've got another coming up later in the week.) For those interested, here they are in their original (i.e. album version) form.

#48 Laurie Anderson - United States Live (Warner Bros. 1984)
This was my introduction to the avant garde in American pop culture, or at least pop(ular) music – and what a way to go. Anderson was a semi-known quantity by the release of this four-hour-plus set (5 records, 4 CDs), having famously (okay, semi-famously) hit #2 in the UK charts in 1981 with “O Superman,” which also won the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll that year (tying with the Stones’ “Start Me Up” – talk about new meets old). She’d gotten press from the likes of Rolling Stone for her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak, but nothing prepared anyone – except those who’d seen United States performed live – for this. It misfires almost as often as it hits its mark, but for its mix of comment, art, and music, it still holds the power to astonish. This isn’t exactly a rockin’ good time, but as a document of the American avant garde in the early ‘80s, it’s invaluable (and far more entertaining than, on the surface, it has any right to be).

#44 Erykah Badu - Live (Kedar/Universal 1997)
The queen of ‘90s neo-soul released a live recording as her sophomore effort, and made it work. She didn’t even really have to try, because if there’s one thing Badu feels like live, it’s effortless. Yes, when I saw her on the ’97 Smokin’ Grooves tour, she lit incense onstage and stopped the proceedings for a cup of tea (!), but the music made up for any and all pretentions. This album captures it all, from the expansiveness of her covers of Chaka Khan (the glorious “Stay”) and Roy Ayers (“Searching,” smooth as she does) to the grit and humor of the album’s lone new song, “Tyrone” (“I’m getting’ tired of yo’ shit/You don’t never buy me nothin’” is one of the greatest opening lines ever) and the lithesome, perfect takes on Baduizm favorites such as “Next Lifetime” and “On & On.” Live is compulsively listenable and has yet, nearly a decade on, to get old; it might also be Badu’s definitive musical statement.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bon Jovi - "Bad Medicine"

I've always heard Jon's "Who's bad? Who's bad?" (heading into the final chorus) as a kind of taunt to MJ, a year after Bad's release - akin to "Who's the king of pop now, huh?" 'Cause Jon knew he was running t'ings, like it or not.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

So the NJ Supreme Court did basically the same thing the VT Supremes did some years back - told their state legislature "gay marriage or civil unions, you decide, but it's gotta be one or the other." I'm okay with that. Progress is incremental, especially when it comes to civil rights. As much as I strongly want gay marriage to be legalized in all 50 states - and eventually, it will be - remember that from the time California legalized interracial marriage, in 1948, it was another 21 years until the US Supreme Court did so for the entire nation (in 1969's Loving v Virginia decision). Let's get these state bans on gay marriage (not to mention DoMA, see below) overturned first, shall we? Our day will, in fact, come.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogging old UK charts? Yeah, I'd say that makes me a little moist. (Lovelovelove that the ever-genius Marcello is doing it on his blog [instead of sad ol' troll-ridden ILM] now, too.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Manic Street Preachers - "I Live to Fall Asleep"

Unexpectedly lovely and understated, proving that perhaps there's life yet in the Welsh power trio after a decade-plus post-Rickey.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Well, at the risk of coming off all snarky, learning that Keith Urban just entered rehab certainly offers a new reading to the line "I'm just drunk enough to let go of my pride" (from the gorgeous "Tonight I Wanna Cry"). His suspending promotion for the upcoming Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing shouldn't hurt it too much, except for the small matter of what's slated for the night before his new album's release: the 40th annual CMA Awards. Keith's up for 4 trophies, all big ones (Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year [he's the reigning winner in both categories], along with Single of the Year for "Better Life," and Song of the Year for "Tonight I Wanna Cry"), and was supposed to perform as well. You wouldn't think he'd be out of rehab in less than 3 weeks, which would mean that one of country's current brightest lights will be missing - not to mention wondering if voting is still going on for the CMAs. Could this impact voters' ballots? (I'm also disheartened that in all likelihood this also means Nicole Kidman won't be in attendance, which I was really looking forward to.) These are the questions which plague me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lee Corso - ...for the lover in you

If you're a college football fan - do any of those types still read this blog? - this may, in fact, cause you to wet yourself. It's that funny. Funniest thing you're likely to come across all year, actually, 'cept maybe Borat. (Link via Deadspin.)

Shame, shame, shame

There are times when I'm ashamed by my country, and particularly, its government. This is one of those times.

Under federal law, pensions can be denied only to lawmakers' same-sex partners and people convicted of espionage or treason, Graves said.

If you signed the Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996 - and this includes President Clinton, of whom I'm quite a fan - FUCK YOU.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

After listening to Tortoise's A Lazarus Taxon triple-disc odds-n-ends box (good, almost always interesting, though not as compelling as TNT) and Steve Reich's Phases 5-disc Nonesuch compendium (astonishing in its breadth, and the likes of Kronos Quartet and Bang on a Can have rarely sounded better), I realize that what I really want is for Tortoise to commission and record a work by Steve Reich. (Further recommended listening: Sonic Youth's Goodbye 20th Century, a double [self-released on SYR] on which they tackle 20th-century classical/avant-garde composers to much better effect than you may have been led to believe.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The ruler's back!

Ring the alarm, it's the new Jay-Z! Vid quality sucks, but deal with it - this is nothing but the hotness. "Show Me What You Got" is his best cut in years (I believe it's Just Blaze behind the boards), and the clip is fun as hell: Danica Patrick and Dale, Jr. (with Jay riding shotgun) racing around Monaco, for starters?! CRAZY HOTNESS. (Link courtesy of Crunk + Disorderly.)

Update: better clip quality, and yes, it IS a Just Blaze production. How 'bout those beats-per-minute? SICK!

Morrissey - "(I'm) The End of the Family Line"

From 1991's underrated yet mixed bag Kill Uncle: surprisingly lovely, n'est-ce pas?

Ciara - "Promise"

OMFG this single is BRILLIANT. So Prince-y '80s in both feel and actual production and it's a friggin' ballad! After the major disappointment of "Get Up," this puts Ciara back on track to (possibly, just possibly) be the next babygirl - meaning Aaliyah, meaning supastar.

Friday, October 13, 2006

God save the king

Listening to PiL recently, it occurred to me yet again: John Lydon really is some sort of twisted genius, isn't he? Even if you're not a Sex Pistols fan, deny the career of Public Image Ltd. at your peril. His 2005 comp The Best of British One Pound Notes is pretty effin' stunning, encompassing the best of the Pistols, the PiL highlights, and even great one-offs such as Time Zone's "World Destruction" (Lydon + Afrika Bambaataa + Bill Laswell = brilliance) and the Leftfield/Lydon collab "Open Up" - highly recommended.

The Tower falls

Photo credit: Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times

My first encounter with Tower Records was 11 years ago, in the heart of Manhattan for CMJ Music Marathon. I had an escort of sorts, a gay pal who worked for a promo company (I've regrettably forgotten both his name and the name of the company he worked for), who excitedly took me to Tower - I think it was the Lincoln Center location, since CMJ was taking place right there - and helped me pick my jaw off the floor after walking inside. There was just so much there - certainly more than I'd ever seen in any Indiana record emporium. I was truly and honestly blown away by the catalog offerings, by the sheer size of the store. I remember picking up some import Moby singles (he was going to be on a dance panel I was attending later that day - and, in fact, I got his autograph on at least one of those singles ["Everytime You Touch Me," I believe]) and not much else; I was too overwhelmed.

I didn't walk into another Tower until 2004, when I moved to Los Angeles. (My former states of residence - IN, VA, and NH - have 0 Towers between them.) The BF re-introduced me to the jows of Tower's deep catalog - sure, you can find nearly anything online these days, but that doesn't beat the thrill, the joys of thumbing through the racks, of discovering titles you didn't know had come out already, or that came back into print, or that you'd just forgotten about. We generally went to the Pasadena store (near home) about once a week to pick up new releases and see what else was there, depending on our budget.

And now it's nearly gone. The GOOB sale continues - last night I picked up the new Steve Reich boxed set at 15% off, and Barry White's Ultimate Collection -20% - and we'll keep going as the discounts mount, but with heavy hearts. Yes, in L.A. there's still the indie monlith Amoeba (quite possibly the world's greatest record store), but their new-release prices aren't so great. There's Virgin, too, but I prefer Tower, always have. Tower seems to have a more personal touch; Virgin's more a chain chain, whereas each Tower has a different flavor to me. Record-shopping won't be the same without Tower around, and that's sad. (Oh, and the biggest culprit here? The record labels, who insist on continually raising, not lowering, their prices and being generally hateful to consumers. Thanks a lot, guys.) At least it does look like tower.com will live on.

Tower Records, 1960-2006. R.I.P.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Diana Ross - "Muscles"

One of the worst, weirdest, most Video Toaster-rific videos of all friggin' time. Love MJ's production of the song (which he wrote, as you assuredly know), all spare and arid (really, if anyone cut a pop[ular] track like that today, wouldn't it be Timbo or the Neptunes?), a great track to accompany a frankly-not-very-good set of lyrics. "Muscles," BTW, is on Miss Ross's new Definitive Collection, which for better and worse is a much-needed single-disc retrospective of her solo career. I recommend it, but know that you've gotta separate the chaff from the wheat on your own.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Best. Non-music. Blog. Ever. (This month.)

Brian "answer[s] the phone for a taxi company in Arlington, Virginia," and shares his best calls with the blogsphere. Yay!

Ferry Corsten featuring Simon LeBon - "Fire"

The synths pulse like they were stolen from a Stevie Nicks '80s fire sale ("Stand Back," specifically) while Corsten keeps the tempo up and loops a couple lines from the best song off the best Duran Duran album you don't know (that'd be "Serious," off 1990's Liberty, which you should really check out). Yes, it's that ol' "loop-slash-interpolate a pop hit (usually a bigger one than this) and throw a beat behind it" school of contempo dance music, but this time it works.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Jacksons

Janet Jackson and Alan Jackson released new albums on the same day last week. In sadly unsurprising news, Janet's isn't the better of the two. (No, I didn't review them together; full review of Alan's coming soon, but I can tell you that it's real nice.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Old media" updates

What a fucking joke the LA Times has become. [Their own coverage is here.]

See also: the Voice, where the bloodletting continues.

And you wonder why fewer people are reading print media these days? Really?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?