The Roots of Songless Soul
Al Green: Al Green Is Love (Hi/The Right Stuff '75)
I never got with this album, which in the wake of the late-'74 grits-and-suicide incident kicked off Green's quick commercial decline with its only pop hit, the catchy, slight "L-O-V-E (Love)." That one sounds like it was waiting in the can for just such a disaster, and though eventually the post-paranoid "Rhymes" and the Afro-percussive "Love Ritual" caught my ear on compilations, the two other conventional songs here did not. Then I spun David Toop's midnight-soul concoction Sugar and Poison late this Valentine's Day and finally registered a genius piece I'd played 20 times before: the fluttering, vocalese "I Didn't Know," which makes eight minutes of impossible poetry from lines like "I didn't know that you feel like you do/Feel like you feel when you feel like you feel." Along with Sly's "Just Like a Baby," "I Didn't Know" is the linchpin of Sugar and Poison, and also the Rosetta stone of this album, which explores four or five other versions of the same idea. "Love Ritual." "The Love Sermon." It's all L-O-V-E. You got a problem with that? A
D'Angelo: Brown Sugar (EMI '95)
After getting religion about a precursor of songless r&b, I thought I'd revisit its modern wellspring, and wasn't surprised to have warmed to it‑-D'Angelo's concentration is formidable, his groove complex yet primal. But because it's bass-driven rather than voice-led, Brown Sugar is less subtle than Al Green Is Love, and less sociable too: D'Angelo, who was leading a great band through these songs by 2000, laid down all the instruments on four tracks and on two others brought in only co-producer Bob Power's guitar, which loosens things up nicely, though not like the string section on "Cruisin'"--a tune that originated with a pretty darn good songwriter named Smokey. A MINUS
Yeah, controlling who I interact with and how much personal information gets out there has become increasingly important to me (and, really, everyone, like it or not). Over time, the Facebook thing seems to inveigle you into giving away more scoop than you want.
Sorry Milo, I didn't realize you have to sign up for Facebook to read content there. My FB experience is: I'm gradually getting a feel for how it works, as I'm sucked further and further in. I originally just signed up to put my info there so anybody seeking me could find me. The idea of posting statuses and sharing things with virtual "friends" didn't seem like much of a likelihood for me. But FB doesn't like that attitude, evidently.
Friend requests did trickle in from people I've done business with or known in the past -- always very pleasing to receive. But we never really much kept in touch, my resurrected friendships. Then one day Facebook let me know that I was I.D.'d in a picture of something I published long ago. It was from someone in Norway, who mentioned me as "the late Chris Drumm." So I had to post a comment about that about that probably only partly incorrect notion. This brought an onslaught of maybe a half dozen Friend requests from past acquaintances in various Scandinavian countries. So my Facebook News Feed consisted pretty much totally of posts in foreign languages. I would go months and months never visiting FB. But gradually I got sucked in. A few people who really used FB a lot to interact, mainly with fans much like the Xgau constituency, asked me to be their Friend. Writers and publishers surely use it as a marketing tool, to get word out about their work. As a somewhat bookseller, I was a target. It got to be fun/interesting sometimes to check in on FB to see what maybe Lucius Shepard, say, might be going on about (and generating lengthy comment strings). Then, to make a long story even longer, the EW crowd has added a whole new constituency to my Friend list -- people like Joey and Jason posting interesting things all the time, not to mention Hairy Irene's fingernails. It's really quite an engine of diversion now. Most of my "posts" are really inadvertent basically adverts from connected sites. I go there as an audience, not an author, but go there I do now.So Xgau and Milo, I think you are very correct to not jump into that pit. You do get sucked in. Maybe you could be there as "public figures" if you wanted, where people just say they "like" you and you don't have to reciprocate. But I'm not sure how that works. Just don't try to just have a "token" presence. That doesn't work.
I suppose if I want to continue to participate, I'll have to do so without an intermediary. ****, ****, ****. But thank you anyway to Jason.
Hey, don't thumbs-down Nicky. I was joking.
My thoughts are with David, his family, and his friends.
Reading his greatest hits through Jason was a moving, touching experience. Thank you.
Facebook is social climbing, nothing else.
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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