Fiona Apple/Regina Spektor
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic)
A funny thing will happen once you've figured out that the title is the stupidest thing about an album that's damn catchy after all. It'll sound like a piano record‑-a defiantly primitivist, raucously avant-garde lounge singer's piano record, with a really nutty drummer: he'll-bang-on-anything (and-get-her-to-pitch-in) producer Charley Drayton. There are few arpeggios, and not much tone color and such. She just executes simple figures and hammers thick chords, including a few boogie-woogies just to make a point. She also sings‑-words, yes, but more decisively, sounds. Not background music. But you could sure call it mood music. A MINUS
Regina Spektor: What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (Sire)
Outside of country music (and I don't know who compares there), pop music is home to few friendlier artists than Regina Spektor. So well-meaning you want to kiss the tip of her nose, she uses her classical chops to craft tunes that will help any normal listener smile. But although a practical humanist is a rare thing, this one often needs more spice or even grit, and here her whimsy is front and center. I love "All the Rowboats," about a museum‑-"Masterpieces serving maximum sentences/It's their own fault/For being timeless"‑-and "Firewood," about a piano. "Ballad of a Politician" plays off "Shake it, shake it baby" (hands, get it?) and "Open" comes with a gurgling groan. But many of these songs are merely bemused, and when she revises "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good," all she achieves is a different singalong from the one you expected. B PLUS
Funniest thing today-glancing on the right under "music news" and seeing-
"Katherine Jackson Breaks Her Silence"- hey ,is this a great country or what?
Must start paying more attention to "music news". Scotch , please.
In my music listening world, the peaks that become classic come from the accumulated individual moments that make me stop and focus (seems obvious but I won’t speak for anyone else on how classic comes to be for you.) When the Fabs lean into the mic together for the “Yeah, yeah, yeahs”, when Jimi plays that four part solo in “All Along The Watchtower”, when Jon and Sally and Tom sing “Lose, (lose), lose, (lose), lose, (loooose), lose your head“ in unison in “Euridyce”, when the “oooh, ooh, ooh”s" come in after the guitar figure that opens “Kabassele In Memoriam”, when Rochereau overlays his harmonies on the same song, the first two bars of “My Girl”, the first time I heard the rhythm to “Billie Jean”, all those Al Jackson, Jr. off beats. When I am forced to do nothing but stop and listen. The more of those an artist can conjure, the higher they climb for me.
George Jones singing seems like one peak moment after the other. Every note of the verse in the barely two minutes of “We Can Make It” that goes “Now’ll say goodbye to storuhrmee (3 syllables) weather/Safe weth-inn each (whatanote!) others arms/We can spend our life (whatanote!) togeh-ether”; the way “thewordsand” is one word in “Don’t Send Me No Angels”; each time he sings either “ever” or “every” in “What My Woman Can’t Do”; the “any more”, “di-id” and “so much” in the first verse of “I’ll Just Take It Out In Love”; “war/more” both extended, in “The Door” plus the forced enunciation of “tear-stained eyes I watched her” in the same song; the swing in the chorus of “Loving You Could Never Be Better”; the meticulous, precise note choices in “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight”. Heck, every single note in “I’m All She’s Got” from Alone Again. Double heck, virtually every held consonant/vowel/consonant word that ends a line or verse or chorus.
I know many of you know this all already. And I know you know that a list like this is pretty much inexhaustible. I’ll stop here out of a combination of embarrassment at being so late to the party and fear of saying more than I actually know. I’m only four albums into a multi-decade career. I think I have probably listed only the most obvious, potent vocalizations. There seem to be tons of gentle, nuanced vocal choices that I haven’t fully caught the power of yet. So once iToons re-establishes itself, I’ll dive in deeper. Work, work, work.
My thanks to all of you who provided hints and recommendations a while back that led to all of this over the last two days.
Yeah, I’m a Brucie, but having had internet linkage problems lately I haven’t yet read the article under discussion, so instead I’ll do what I do best, change the subject. I now present for your reading, or skipping (you choose) –
A VETERAN SEMI-POP MUSIC LISTENER’S REACTION TO FINALLY DIVING INTO GEORGE JONES, CHAPTER 1 or “[T]he man widely considered country music's greatest singer has been recorded and repackaged so endlessly you couldn't blame a newcomer for never beginning“ UNTIL NOW
I’m not really a newcomer of course, so the forgiveness is only partially appropriate. Back in our “Out Of Hand” days, my best local music buddy loaned me his vinyl of Alone Again, the top five of which ended up on my Gary Stewart, HWJr, Patsy Cline cassette I called Stoned at the Jukebox. I’d hate to tell you how many times “You want to sit in the car and listen to country music?” worked for me. Well, only twice, but I still hate to tell you.
And there was that unforgettable Fred and Elvis song, which I must have heard once on Austin City Limits or the like, and promptly downloaded into my permanent hard drive, even if it was the 80’s.
And nobody gets by without knowing “The Race Is On” or “He Stopped Loving Her”, and that he sang with Tammy and had a little drinking problem. But “The Battle”, “The Door”, “There’s The Door”, “Walls Can Fall“, “A Picture of Me (Without You)”, “These Days (I Barely Get By)”, the Hank Williams album, and so on were nothing more than telling and intriguing titles until yesterday. No excuses, other than the convenient forgiveness in the introductory Bobquote, and of course, the more common, There’s just too much music out there. (Please note, this is only Chapter 1. I’m only a few hours into this quest. Please also note that if a similar posting happens in the future on the subject of Tabu Ley Rochereau, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Punchline: I don’t think I’ll end up ranking him on my favorite artists list as high as Miles Davis, though the similarity in quality, longevity, iconicity, and prolific-icity makes Miles the artist he most reminds me of, but The Mekons, beloved as they are, may slip a notch. There just isn't very much that's this good, this easy.
Taking my clues from Bob, who, as above, frequently calls him country music’s greatest singer, I have focused mostly so far on the voice. (The lyrical material, as referenced by the titles above, is so archetypal as to need little comment other than to note that the archetype has to be real in order for it to be meaningful. Where it does inspire comment is when the songs are more than country music archetype and leave even the best of confessional singer-songwriters in the truly lived dust of a messy life. Which is also why I’m more naturally attracted to Bobby Pinson than to Brad Paisley, btw.)
to be continued . . .
That's what she said! (How could I resist?)
Boy, I'd hate to read your comments on somebody you disliked -- they would be some crispy critters. I get that you like James Brown. But when I count 10 negative reactions to four positive ones (and the negs are about far larger and more individual aspects), I conclude that basically, at bottom, in essence, however you wanna frame it, you don't like a performer. And I can't see how this --
"I can't make myself fascinated with his subject matter or much of his music"
doesn't conform with my conclusion.
"The other stuff is silly."
That's the idea.
"Only the poor and powerless can crusade credibly for the poor and powerless."
"Only those who wear leaves and live in mud puddles can crusade credibly for ecology activism."
I avoid reading articles about performers I don't like fundamentally. It's a waste of time.
On another front, my computer overhaul is coming along nicely. New hardware worked like a charm. Ubuntu install was painless, until I logged in and was confronted with the world's stupidest window manager (something called Unity). Took me some time to figure out how to work in it (although the eventual plan is to replace it, probably with xfce), and how to get a lot of necessary non-default software installed. Got three websites running last night, and got the Christgau master site working tonight. Would be moving faster, but picked up a fever, which saps the will as well as the wits.
Re the spelling, Nora and Cam used "Auld Triangle" but the Dubliners used "Old" on the LP I have. I always think "Auld" sounds Scottish rather than Irish (as in "Auld Lang Syne") - the traditional Irish phonetic spelling was "Ould" or "Oul' " (pronounced owld or owl). The Pogues used "Auld" but most of them were born in England. I checked the text of The Quare Fellow in a bookshop today, and while the title wasn't quoted anywhere I could see, Behan used "old" in the text.
Sadly, in the same bookshop I saw a copy of The Hostage where the ending was given away on the back. I know the texts of plays are usually bought by people who perform them rather than read them for pleasure, but still..
Old Potrero Straight Rye
Old Potrero 18th c style rye
Leopold Bros Boubon
Charbay Distillery distilled IPA (Racer 5)
Charbay Distillery distilled stout (Big Bear Stout)
McCarthy's single malt second batch
and further research later in the evening:
Leopold Bros Rye
Pearse Lyons Malt whiskey (from Kentucky)
Leopold Bros Bourbon (different barrel to earlier sample)
Town Branch bourbon
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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