The Rough Guide to Acoustic Africa/Ethnic Minority Music of Southern China
Acoustic for folkies, acoustic for the folk
The Rough Guide to Acoustic Africa (World Music Network)
Ethnic Minority Music of Southern China (Sublime Frequencies)
I don't have the confidence to give this an A because even though it makes sense on its own terms it's just too weird by American standards. Maybe by Chinese standards too‑-my calculations indicate that the 11 or 12 ethnic groups responsible for 16 tracks (excluding sacred Tibetan finale) add barely 10 million to China's population, well under one percent. Yet because I lack the sophistication of their billion-three fellow citizens, the vocal scales and lute-and-flute sonorities all just sound Chinese to me. Not well-schooled, formally respectable Chinese, however. There's a conversational feel to most of these colloquies and solo turns, with high female voices prevailing but enough men grunting their prerogatives. In my house, which hosted a Netflix festival of Chinese nature docs recently, it's dinner music. And a beardo I know with a small electronica business immediately pegged it as a sample source. B PLUS
Worker 1: Who's is that guy with the bushy red beard sleeping in the office parking lot every time I go for lunch??
Worker 2: Oh, he's a beardo! Take great care around him or you risk getting punched by his beard!
A case could be made for the Jenkins records, but they're less interesting musically/harmonically than the Riddle records: less color, and sloooooower. So they're not for me. Although if you were to go that route, maybe "September of my Years," which is actually a Reprise record.
There's not much wrong with the Billy May Sinatra records on Capitol, "Come Fly With Me," etc., but they're not as deep. Though, hey, fun with Frank is pretty fun.
I've been thinking of brushing up on my Sinatra for years. Maybe this will be the impetus for that.
My favorites among the almost-greats:"Ring-a-Ding Ding" ", "No One Cares", "Come Dance with Me", "September of my Years", the Jobim sessions, "Sinatra at the Sands", "Sinatra and Strings"
A non-top-tier personal fave: "She Shot Me Down" (some pretty kitschy tunes on here, but it's far and away his most inspired later album)
Too low to mention: "Ol' Blue Eyes is Back", "Some Things I've Missed", most of "Trilogy" and "LA is My Lady",
The nadir: "Mama Will Bark, feat. Dagmar" and almost anything else bearing Mitch Miller's imprimatur.
Contrary to what Michael says, I think that the man made plenty of worthwhile music with Stordahl and Jenkins, even if none of it touches the brilliance of his Riddle collaborations. His worst arranger had to be Don Costa, although even he helmed at least one semi-classic album.
I'm semi-obsessed with Joel in a negative way, having first seen him in 1974 as the opener for The Beach Boys, just before *Piano Man* was released. My first wife loved him from that moment on, I hated him equally. By demographic I should be a big fan, but more than anything I worry that he will be seen by history as America's McCartney. Which is an example of how documented history loses the details of real experience and which also represents our generation as having a received, indirect understanding of life at best. As opposed to Wussy, let's say.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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