Aaron Neville/El DeBarge
Falsettos for God
Aaron Neville: I Know I've Been Changed (EMI Gospel/Tell It)
I'm glad Mavis Staples won her Grammy. She's a generous talent with a brave history. But where her civil rights-themed 2007 We'll Never Turn Back is a perfect Grammy-type record, You Are Not Alone is standard-issue Mavis with Jeff Tweedy cachet: soul as grit plus conviction. Even at that, though, I figured it to outshine a devotional album concocted by angelic-in-voice-mostly Aaron Neville and minister of good taste without portfolio Joe Henry, and I was wrong big-time. As a devout backslider, I knew nothing of Neville's previous "spiritual" collections, and found myself impressed by 2000's Devotion until choirs and such butted in. But here Henry's taste prevails, and it's all good: a transcendent groove record in which Neville's high-end shtick is shaped by Allen Toussaint at his subtle best and Chris Bruce doing Pop Staples's holy work. Neville never strains for effect‑-a Roman Catholic who thanks St. Jude in the booklet, he sounds completely at home with every Protestant word he utters. You don't have to believe in Jesus to believe in faith, not with a higher power emanating from your speakers. All that's missing is Pops himself. Anybody ready to mash up a remix? A MINUS
El DeBarge: Second Chance (Geffen)
This minor genius peaked pre-1985 as the reason for being of the family harmony group DeBarge, which also gave the world ex-con lite Chico DeBarge and Janet Jackson annulment survivor James DeBarge. Although he hung on solo for a while, in this century his chief creative outlet has been the police blotter. But a minor genius he remains, and here he conquers the demon cocaine with a little help from the opiate of the people and records his first solo album since 1994 with a little help from the keeper of Geffen Records' flickering flame. It may bore or offend Babyface diehards. But those with a tolerance for prefab promises and schlock choruses won't care that the songs are the same old hyperromantic BS as long as his tenor remains intact. And though he turns 50 in 2011, it's unspoiled. DeBarge's special gift has always been combining the boyish innocence of J5-era Michael Jackson with intimations of physical congress. The quirky murmurs, yelps, and coos of his head voice, a high end of unequalled softness and give, sound responsive where Jackson's sound willed. There's a girl there, or just as likely a grown woman. And whether or not El seems manly to you, he's turning her on and vice versa. A MINUS
Hey GMort -- when I was a lad I owned every Blue Öyster Cult album for some reason. I probably wouldn't consider that a terrific financial decision now that they've been long sold, but it's not like there aren't some hidden treasures (Fire of Unknown Origin!). And I've gotta say, Club Ninja is at least way better than The Revolution By Night.
(It'd be cool if somebody brought it to 200 and then we stopped.)
JapadsAirplane/Starship: You're, always, good for, a, chuckle, or twelve. That's, for sure.
*drowning in baby tears
And a grateful noogie backacha HelloImJapadsCash. If commas were religion, you'd be Pope. Keep 'em coming. Any chance we can get you to start grading records before they are recorded. I'm in with the next Tim McGraw being a Dud, but that's shooting fish in a barrel. You can probably do better without even trying hard.
Ryan: In answer to "Does any of this make sense?", an emphatic Hell Yes!
I've never seen that TV show, probably never will, (after work days trying to improve the incarceration profession from inside the bureaucracy my wife and I both like to watch re-runs of shows we've seen before just for the comfort they provide), don't know the characters you're referring to or many of the references you're making, but still find your lengthy analyses compelling, clearly stated, rich with detail and very understandable. Don't stop, please. You have a real skill and I'm glad to read what you write.
And in honor of George Harrison and our host being the same age, I'm going to play some Blue Oyster Cult just for the Hell of it.
Anyway, part 2: I've stated many times that I feel like the shift toward concept-eps is an example of audience pandering in the worst way -- starved for competitive ratings, they saw an episode that worked but figured it worked for the wrong reasons, which is that it was big and flashy and used a trick a broad spectrum of people could get into. That paintball ep is screwball comedy to rival Hawks; that zombie ep is a mildly amusing compilation of sight gags you can tell they were all hoping would enrich the gimmick they selected even as they left the idea of a personal/emotional arc out of it. In my eyes, they failed; I couldn't pick out three lines as strong as the passing conversation in the 1st season.
Early on I read somewhere that the creators wanted to marginalize Britta, because they had found that the audience was irritated in her arbitrary "girl interest" role. I just don't think they liked being told who to root for. Sure, I can see people finding Brie a funnier character and more adept performer than Gillian Jacobs. But it's only because she has the luxury of going full-throttle. If Britta were to totally go batshit crazy it would shatter the reality of the show. TV audiences aren't used to characters as apt and informative and intricate as J&B, and that's why they like the easy stuff. So if they're not careful it'll end up like season 3 AD, where everybody figures that so long as there are interesting plots and all the usual crowd-pleasing tricks, the absence of across-the-board wit will have no negative effect. And they'll be just as wrong.
Does any of this make enough sense? I’ve found it somewhat difficult to try and put the physical revulsion I feel in response to what I characterize as bad art into a universal language. Maybe next time I'll try Unamunda.
Stephen77: It's not that I dislike Alison Brie; I like her a lot. But the show is structured very simply: two realistic (albeit funny) leads and five cartoons with realistic functions (plus everybody else, who's a cartoon). The more they try to put Jeff and Annie on the same plane, the more they have to unbelievably adjust one of the characters, because the dynamic is Jeff (and sometimes Britta) vs. the weird community college folks he will either learn something from or teach something to.
The show stumbled upon some of the greatest dating-game writing in sitcom history on the backs of J&B, two of the most complex and inventive straight men on television. Seriously, the sheer quality of the observational / incidental stuff in these early episodes is so sharp it would make a tastechaser like James L. Brooks' head explode. Pull out the episode where Jeff first comes on to Slater and try not to come in your pants at the wordplay. It's like watching a virtuoso artist paint with relatable modern American ideas about emotions everybody feels when they reach the trickiest ages, the same trick Seinfeld pulled off except without the passing bits of dated 90s staginess. What more could you ask for?
Then they threw Annie plus Jeff at us for the sake of a brilliant episode (the debate club thing), and it worked because they played around with how hot it was but how little sense it made ("just pat my head and walk away"). Then they brought it back for a cheap twist (the finale capper), which was titillating no matter how little sense it made. Don't get me wrong -- Brie is not only funny as hell, she gives my boner an erection. But now they're emphasizing the cartoons and marginalizing the funny real folks, and the problem is that the cartoons have no frame with which to stay grounded, and you get elaborate, pointless messes like the Abed-as-filmmaking Jesus thing -- obscure, complicated plots only work if they work, which that one didn't.
Donald Glover and Chevy Chase and Brie and Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown (and Ken Jeong) are talents with a context. Take away the context and you run the risk of muggy overkill, and when they make Brie contort a la Lucy or Gypsy Rose Lee, I'm not watching character development, I'm watching an audition tape. That's what annoys me -- I'm all for watching the writers throw B&J together if they do it as adroitly as has been typical, but not for watching them sell me Alison Brie as a lady I'd watch as an awards host or the star of a Parks & Rec-style Office ripoff. I know she's got mad skills. I'm not tuning in for her, I'm tuning in for Annie.
Joey: Congratulations on the successful reception you received last night. Hearing you guys talk about actual public performances is pretty darn fascinating. After the first three words of "Can't Help Falling In Love" salt shakers come flying my way.
"Gary's Got A Boner" was an obvious joke but when I did start thinking seriously about other songs to recommend, I realized that early Replacements came out before you were born. Meaning they stand in chronological relativity to you as my parents' Benny Goodman albums do to me. At that point I got a headache and went to bed.
But seriously, one of the joys of this site is hearing you youngsters talk about what's important to you. A detailed review of the ups and downs of TV shows I'll never watch, stories of flights missed, the "How I Fell In Love With TV On The Radio" story, japadsCougarMellencamp's wistful "as if I have anything else to live for" asides, GF's lost, found, re-lost. And oh-so-detailed descriptions of the music you love and why you love it. Tremendous insights and experiences.
Not to make anybody self-conscious or anything, but since today is down time (EDIT: oops, spoke to soon), and influenced by being home alone except for El DeBarge in the background, thought I'd throw out a High Five to those who will carry an appreciation for all this cultural artistry farther into the future than some of us.
If there's one show right now that has the potential to reach Arrested Development quality, it's Parks and Recreation. I was very hesitant about that show, especially after the very mediocre first season, but season two was a huge improvement and season three has been absolutely brilliant thus far, especially with the additions of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe. As an entire series, I still prefer Community, but right now P&R is on a better run and if it maintains this quality, it will certainly surpass Community for me.
And Ryan, don't be dissing Ms. Brie. I actually agree that it was more fun having Britta as the female lead, given deep down she's really very flawed and similar to Jeff. Plus, it's very obvious Annie and Jeff aren't gonna get together, I think. But I'm very happy having plenty of Alison Brie on my t.v. screen. The lady's a beauty and she's done a wonderful job in the role (there's not a weak link in the entire cast, except maybe Ken Jeong, for some people). Annie is a less interesting pairing with Jeff than Britta was, but I'm curious as to why you find her irritating in that role.
Currently listening to: A Ukraine band - called, Друга Ріка - the production is good, and the song-writing is better than expected! The vocals, on the other hand, are cringe-worthy! Anyway, I found one of their songs, on Youtube! http://goo.gl/IhdZO
Ryan - I liked, the third season of, Arrested Development! 'For British Eyes Only' (and, not because I'm British! :p), 'please, tell your friends about this show', the Asian band (at the mock trial), the sister-prostitute, the Andy Richter composite shot and 'pull out all the stops': put 3-D glasses on, now - are all great!
I still haven't gotten round to Community - it, just, didn't grab me?! I will try, though - what, else, have I got to do?! *looks, unhappily, out the window
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.