A Full-Time Professional Since 1956
Dr. John: The Very Best of Dr. John (Rhino '95)
Mac Rebennack was a studio musician for a full decade before launching his Night Tripper hustle, and that doesn't count the two years he spent in stir. Then and later, monkey perched perpetually on his back, he wrote a whole lot of songs, and too many of them are hackwork. Even on the two-CD Mos' Scocious the writing becomes a problem. But with one or two exceptions, this CD never lets up, epitomizing his biz-wise mastery of rhumba boogie and the second line. The two pop hits lead. The gris-gris tracks are songs not shtick. The three selections from Gumbo don't come near to exhausting it‑-couldn't expect him to pass up the wickedest "Junko Partner" ever recorded or the touchstone "Tipitina," which re-emerges in his whiskey-piano dash through Joe Liggins's "Honeydripper." And if you consider it suspicious that he chooses to climax with the same song that climaxed a dubious concept album three years before, see below. A
Dr. John: Goin' Back to New Orleans (Warner Bros. '92)
Seems dead in the water, a foregone conclusion waiting to happen. A cleaned-up Dr. consorts with Warner jazz guys and a numerically big band to erect "a tribute to the music of my hometown"‑-not his first, and hardly his last. Yet once again it seldom stumbles, not even when a femme quartet led by the distaff half of Shirley & Lee warbles the chorus of "Good Night Irene"‑-which, the Dr.'s expansive notes notwithstanding, wasn't written by Leadbelly at Angola Penitentiary or anywhere else (he adapted it much earlier from an 1880s minstrel tune by a biracial NYC duo, and that's what I love about the South). Rarely has the Dr. sung with more gusto, especially on the four comic songs about murder, infidelity, or both, and his cockamamy notion of hitching a gris-gris chant to a Louis Moreau Gottschalk composition sets a properly improbable mood. "Fess Up" is one of his trickiest Roy Byrd rips ever. Two Jelly Roll Mortons is about right. Even "Since I Fell for You" kind of fits. A MINUS
And will there be a consumer guide book for 2000-2010? Who do I lobby?
-- helps me understand and appreciate the significance and it's what I'll point to if asked about the issue in the future.
For anyone who’s interested, I saw Tricky perform Maxinquaye about a week ago in Bristol (I’m from over there) reunited on stage with Martina Topley-Bird. ‘Retromania’ Reynolds would proclaim but tickets were pretty cheap, so ‘what the heck’ my buddy and me thought.
It was OK. For one thing he didn’t actually perform all of Maxinquaye, nor in running order and Martina was on/off stage throughout (as was Tricky) – Martina I think was quite fuched, she mumbled a kind of embarrassed apology at the end – but interesting thing was seeing the live setup tackle performing Maxinquaye with just guitar, bass, and drums (drums with a sort of electric pad that cued backing tracks). It was interesting hearing the very complex Maxinquaye beats reduced to their sort of core components dished out across these 3 instruments.
The gig was kind of marketed as this homecoming Bristol thing and so Tricky kept playing the “I’m from Bristol and I’m back in Bristol” card to get audience on his side. Also everyone at the gig was kind of mid-thirties so it didn’t feel very cool to be there (I’m 22). Among other things Tricky got lots of crowd on stage with him (always a bit of a cop out I think – relational aesthetics etc) and spent ages pissing about in the crowd whilst his band embarrassedly plodded on with instrumental support to the point that security guards were dispatched with torches to retrieve him from the swell of the crowd. Hilariously he sort of also sadistically forced his guitarist to perform this rubbish weepy guitar singer-songwriter thing on his own for about 10 minutes, whilst Tricky stood there and watched, and the crowd was clearly all getting really bored.
The best bit was when he got these 3 young up-and-coming Bristol rappers to perform their own shtick to the ‘music’ of Brand New You’re Retro, it was sensational and lasted ages although I really wanted to hear Martina do her bit in this one.
It was all pretty weird to be honest, which is what to expect of Tricky really. I think he intends to disappoint/surprise/unsettle/enrage/confuse/seduce/intimidate people and his audience. That’s his kind of live act I think. And if that’s what it is then he does it really well. Either way, experience is certain not to mar my eternal love of the album.
This assumes that your earlier audience matures along with you. It can happen but to use it as a measuring stick for your professional success is probably a forlorn errand.
Tell me about it. And I think many aging musicians would agree. I think you do understand. Your post got what I was driving at exactly right.
John D. Rockefeller
Is this or is this not an example of having it both ways and should anybody care?I'm more guessing than not here, but according to the Mike D quote >>>>>
"He really served as a great example for myself and so many of what determination, faith, focus, and humility coupled with a sense of humor can accomplish."
Seems to me that a sense of humor can come early in life -- jokes come easy if you've got the wit -- but that focus and humility come late. The Beasties sense of humor was present from the gate but without much of the humility and empathy that they became known for. Once a person combines those more mature qualities with that natural wit, the world can open up pretty dramatically. Clever with humble, funny with kind, punchlines with respect -- those are pretty cool ways to live. And maybe one thing they provide is the perspective that growth and maturity mean that you weren't all that perfect to begin with, but then who is. Todd Snider is doing something similar, although not identical.
I haven't read it yet, but chances are Abebe said all that, and better too.
EDIT: Guess I didn't understand Milo's question.
draw everybody captivated by the earlier material into the later, mature phaseThis assumes that your earlier audience matures along with you. It can happen but to use it as a measuring stick for your professional success is probably a forlorn errand. (I probably still don't understand Milo's question quite right.)
And how about Tina Turner in the 80's, plus Lou Reed and George Clinton. It's also one reason we ponder where Jimi and Janis would have ended up.
In the end, I think the Beasties did more or less the right thing.
Yes, they did not lie about any phase or any attitude.
They've never done a "Licensed to Ill 20xx" tour where they play the whole album from start to finish.
Yes, they did not exploit. Rigorously.
The band is notorious for their contributions to social issues that run counter to many of the implicit or explicit messages in their early work.
Uh, not so good. This applies to a lot of creeps. John D. Rockefeller's sidekicks thought of this originally. And if his core thought of it, it's no question evil. Or at best a kind of lame contrition.
So here's what I think, tentatively -- I love the Beastie Boys, have all the albums, think they are indeed as good a symbol of an era in New York as any performers (hey, always kind of a big deal), but do think they fell short in one area (maybe not the most important area) by a very high standard: that your later work as an artist has to not necessarily refute your youthful output, but draw everybody captivated by the earlier material into the later, mature phase. Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Neil Young, the McGarrigles, Duke Ellington. B.B. King, Richard Thompson, Joni Mitchell, Lee Perry, Etta James, Kayne West. Off the top of my (more-tired) head.
With the Beasties, it felt more like "hey we we're playing at badanus and now we're talkin' straight" and less like "this all has grown out of what we understand."
MSN won't let me post a hyperlink
I mean, disowning your badanus early self by fiat has never worked
I do admire artists who refuse to burn/disown their earlier work, even if said earlier work winds up being anathema to their ultimate artistic philosophy.
I do too, except I would put it as "admire the pragmatism" of the artists. I mean, disowning your badanus early self by fiat has never worked. Shut up, you bag of wimpy wrinkles. Reformed-hood books like Down These Mean Streets had the advantage of being told from the wised-up person's perspective. Not possible with a recorded career.
Let's think a minute here ... who in hip-hop has turned the thug beat around? (Ice Cube, sure, but I hate the way he's done it.) Ice-T made some moves. Must be more ...
type Abebe Yauch into your browser to see his piece on MCA growing up. Good piece.
Is this or is this not an example of having it both ways and should anybody care?
Is this or is this not an example of having it both ways and should anybody care?
the Beasties' "Sure Shot" video
the snottiest, brattiest, most hilariously obnoxious ne'er-do-wells can blossom into the kind of decent world citizens we need more of
Okay I got a little more poop tonight, so I'll pose this question one more time (and I still don't know exactly what I think). Is this or is this not an example of having it both ways and should anybody care? (Us psychopaths can buy the early sides, get off on them, and skip the rest -- they started good but went soft. Us moral people can buy the whole career and admire the development of perspective and compassion. The Beasties make money both ways.)
I remember being excited for the premiere of the Beasties' "Sure Shot" video in 1992. Hearing MCA rap "I Want To Say a Little Something That's Long Overdue, The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through, To All The Mothers And Sisters And The Wives And Friends, I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The End" sounded cool then. Now it sounds like a great moment in music history.
Cam, do I take this to mean you haven't seen The Wire??
I'm actually interested in listening to the Cher album
Paul Weller. Which I haven't heard.
Cam, do I take this to mean you haven't seen The Wire?? I think Ebert put it in his Sight and Sound top ten. No but seriously, it's only the greatest show eva.
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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