I never gave up on the LP (that’s “vinyl” to you young hipsters) and have amassed a pretty sizeable collection as a result of my reputation as the person one could give his/her records to when doing a digital mutiny. While many of these records are classics of various genres, some are just mysteries to me. The worst part is that I’ve never listened to them all. This disconnect between wanting to hold onto something and never using it (aparigraha in sanskrit ;-) seems like a fruitful matrix for artful play. SO, I’m going to listen to and make something in response to each record, one per day (as possible) until I’ve listened to them all. If you’d like to comment on any of this, you can under the blog post linked here.
GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL and the FURIOUS FIVE
This eponymous LP came out of the collection of Wendy’s college friend, obviously from the disco days at Oberlin. Listening to this album reminds me of something I often say about films: It is really hard to make a good one. Even if x, y, or z is really good, putting it all together is a miraculous convergence. I have no history in rap/hip hop, so my opinion on this one is meaningless. But it has that problem of a couple good things with a questionable outcome. The lyrics are a trip that would fit right into an 80’s comedy (I think Grandmaster Melle just said, “my legs are bowed”). The fashion is great and inspired my art-reaction; the musicians’ names are priceless. The music is actually very cool. I wonder who else besides Beth knew these guys…
Elton John, Greatest Hits
mars ain’t the kinda place to raise your kids — in fact, it’s cold as hell…
This album is so full of classics. Sometimes I forget how Elton and Bernie worked on so much dark material, blues, sad themes, social commentary. I was thinking on hearing all these hits from my youth, that unbeknownst to me for a while, at least, these were the first homosexuals I ever encountered. Even this week, Elton is still at the front lines of the fight for the equality that his talent and success provided early on.
For this portrait I thought of what it would be like to be raising one’s kids on mars, a rocket man…
Yo-Yo Ma, Japanese Melodies
These melodies are angular and percussive; but Yo-Yo Ma is so fluid as he moves from project to project to project to project…
The Kinks, Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround-Part 1
This record is such an insider rave on the music biz that it’s weird to listen to as music. Until Side One, track 5 starts…I met her…
I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Lola on a good stereo (this is a record that came to me in a collection). It was a very cool experience. lo lo lo la lola….
For some reason, after listening to this, I painted this abstract based on a photo of an abandoned gas station. Something about money? Or picking up girl/men at service stations? Only my shrink knows for sure.
Kurt Vile and the Violators, Childish Prodigy
Cassandra Ferland is responsible for today’s vinyl selection. She recommended the band her boyfriend’s playing with and so I added vinyl to the mostly vintage collection. The production on this vile-in-a-good-way disk is so straightforward and has so much space, it sounds almost like a live recording at one of the many clubs I gigged at. It made me think of the setting on my midiverb that mimic the sound in those echo-ey rooms.
Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years
Boy, our copy of this record has seen some rough use. The distortion on Paul’s high notes sounds like those singers on old 78’s. But it was still fun to hear the sincerity of these lyrics — and their playfulness. The cover includes a quote of Ted Hughes before the lyrics for “My Little Town”:
To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
Coincidentally, I had already decided to write a couplet in response to this album:
There must be 50 ways to leave your lover;
Would that there were one to make you want to stay.
Simon and Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
The first few bars of “Scarborough Fair” are so beautiful. I don’t remember ever listening to them before. Sure, I’ve heard the song a thousand times, but I can’t say I’ve ever listened to it before. The liner notes on this album are full of defense of the poets of rock and roll against the establishment who thinks the Youth’s music is just noise. This album seems to tap into all the established soundtrack composers of the time combined with the anti-war/anti-establishment sentiments of young men with guitars. It’s quite delightful — and I’m feelin’ groovy.
Jean-Pierre Rampal and René Bartoli, Flute and Guitar: An 18th Century Serenade
A beautiful album of works by composers I don’t know, like Loeillet and de Visée, that conjures images of love poems in Renaissance gardens, it’s the cover that inspired an act today. There’s a posterized image of Rampal on the cover. Here’s mine.
Jimmy Cliff, The Harder They Come
Sky Pape was the honorary selectee of today’s record. We knew we had the right choice when Sky said, how about … — Wendy piped up from the next room, “YEAH!”
Mr. Santa’s Boogie: “Santa’s Secret” (Various Artists)
This uber-cool Christmas album, with Charlie Parker and Gatemouth Moore, among others, walks the line between a scotch on the rocks and egg nog.
Joni Mitchell, Mingus
I’ve been trying to react to this album for almost a month now. It overwhelms me. That Charles Mingus would ask Joni Mitchell to put lyrics to his songs is is big enough to be breathtaking; but the add the performances of Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and Emil Richards and it becomes an amazing work of musical art. After all these years of listening to it (it was released in ’79), I can’t really critique the record. I’ll just flag, “The Drycleaner from DeMoines” because it has that same swing blues that was so much fun in Court and Spark’s “Twisted” (a cover of a tune by Lambert Hendricks and Ross). Or, perhaps I could posit something algebraic, which seems apropos of jazz:
joni/mingus= (daisy+harlem)/(canada+quarter note)*x²
Romeo Void, Never Say Never
sexy sexy sexy sexy
four songs, juliet
slinky pouty tales in e minor
(… there’s something in your eyes that says, ‘maybe’)
never say, ‘never.’
Neil Young, After the Gold Rush
bt nly lv cn brk yr hrt
tr t b sr rght frm th strt
ys nly lv cn brk yr hrt
nd f yr wrld shld fll prt
this album is part of me, like the food I ate as a teenager
Stéphane Grapelli, Homage to Django
Chris picked today’s record, a gorgeous two-record set of swinging and bluesy Reinhardt compositions arranged and performed by a similarly groundbreaking genius.
homage to django by pf
Sade, Diamond Life
My friend Anya picked today’s record, saying it reminded her of a specific part of her history. I think it reminds me of a decade or two. I think it’s ironic that Anya picked this one; she’s the opposite of a smooth operator — she’s another button entirely.
Danny and the Fat Boys, American Music
Danny Gatton was a Washington D.C. guitar legend from the 70’s until his suicide in 1994. Rolling Stone placed him in its 2003 list of greatest guitaritsts of all time. I used to see him at the Psychedeli in Bethesda, Maryland. This album (I’ve got another later one somewhere in the collection) was less like a piece of recording artistry and more like a demo of what Gatton might do once he figured himself out. It’s got jazz, R&B, country and blues. There’s a version of Harlem Nocturne (by E. Hager) that captures the best of what Gatton had. But unfortunately, Gatton was a little bit misplaced in the world. A guitarist I worked with in L.A. who’d spent time in Nashville told me Gatton sounded like all the hot players in Nashville; but evidently Gatton didn’t fancy Nashville, or touring. He was an auto mechanic, a guitar techie (like Les Paul) and, like Jaco Pastorius, not cut out for a long life on earth. This tribute site has some of his music and photos of his hot rods.
Listening to this album coincided with me viewing the new apocalypse film The Road, which matched a hopelessly sad state of affairs with a zombie plot model. It was a movie that demanded an antidote. Two days ago, I had watched Julia Roberts with Billie Crystal, John Cusack, Christopher Walken and more in American Sweethearts and knew something like that would do the trick, so I watched an0ther of Roberts’ apocalypse antidotes, Notting Hill. The movie, sweet and funny, while foregoing most of the directorial absurdities of its genre (Roger Michell directed), paints a sound moment of fantasy where the unexpected makes sense. It caught me as an apt pairing with Side A, song 2: “Hauled Off and Loved Her” (like she wanted me to), by Bill Hancock of the Fat Boys. It also captures a lyric that works in the realm of the absurd, like so many country songs aspire to.
Françoise Hardy, Star
When I told my college French professor I had bought a Françoise Hardy album, the look on his face let me know that I’d bought the equivalent of Englebert Humperdink, but listening to this album has always made me happy. Side B sounds very dated now, but side A sounds dated in a good way — it conjures up images of a melancholy french actress taking a bath before breaking it off with John Paul Belmondo. I was going to take a bath myself while looking for the next album to listen to. I was hoping for something mellow; instead I got some cool nostalgia that inspired my gender bent variant on the theme.
Suzanne Vega, Solitude Standing
In the short run of this project, I have noticed that there’s been a song on each album that I just have to hear over again. With this one, it’s the entire side A.
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, Sviatoslav Richter, Columbia/Oddyssey, 1973
This album is one that I’ve had through lots of eras of my life and it has a lot of memories for me: first piece of music I ever orchestrated (as a high school music theory exercise), first time I thought about orchestration, comparing the piano version on side B to the orchestral version I knew first (side A), a classical album I gave to my stepson, music I used to hear through the hallway ceiling from the pianist who lived upstairs from us for a year around 2003, the new Jason Rhode collaboration that was just written about in the Times.
I love this piece of music.
van morrison, Wavelength
is nostalgia independent of memory?
for knowing nothing of this past
my ears fill with false cognates
and a sensation tentative, tingling
like the response to my name
vibrates in me as a youth
until the pops and clicks snap me back
david bowie, Heroes
we could be heroes, just for one day…