Ry Cooder/Note of Hope
Folksingers are pretty mad these days, at times to the point of pushing back at the ravening rich people who are sitting on their heads. Some even refer to class or (can it be?) speak up for unions. But not one has topped a sardonic satire like "No Banker Left Behind" with a murderous ballad about Jesse James and his illicitly retrieved .44 taking every bonus-hogging fat cat in heaven to hell with him, or despoiled a Christmas corrido for GIs on leave with anything as gruesome as "I'd like a mouth so I can kiss my honey on the lips." A few tracks drag and one or two misfire. But from John Lee Hooker's campaign song to the earned nostalgia of a lonely old Chicano who'll forgive you for driving a Japanese car, Cooder has brought his longstanding obsession with the Great Depression into the present, where it unfortunately, tragically, enragingly belongs. Kudos too to drummer Joachim Cooder. This doesn't rock, and it shouldn't. But it rollicks, skanks, and two-steps just fine. A MINUS
Note of Hope (429)
Bragg & Wilco? The folk-rock of dreams. Jonatha Brooke? Singer-songwriter. The Klezmatics? Er, his wife was Jewish. But assigning a Woody Guthrie "celebration" to bassist extraordinaire Rob Wasserman? Trailing the likes of Kurt Elling, Madeleine Peyroux, Tom Morello, Studs Terkel, Ani DiFranco, and Jackson Browne behind him? Reads like a jazzbo recipe for leftwing piety. And proves instead yet another winning realization of an idea I had doubts about from the first Mermaid Avenue rumors. Wasserman is all over a record that's less sung than spoken, providing a musical identity as distinct as any other in this motley series. Once again Guthrie's words are set to music, although sometimes these words were prose and sometimes they're rapped or sprechgesanged. They're sly, sexy, down-and-out, up-and-at-'em. Terkel and DiFranco deliver diary jottings of breathtaking acuity, and the Pete Seeger recitation ends: "There never was a sound that was not music. There's no trick of creating words to set to music once you realize that the word is the music and the people are the song." Then Jackson Browne sings a formally static 15-minute ballad about the night Woody met Marjorie and all the dreams he had. I said Jackson Browne. It's magnificent. A MINUS
My fundamental defense of the band and their borrowing from black culture is that, in high school in the '60s in little-town Montana, I had almost zero exposure to black people and anything about their ways, through any medium. Motown and the Rolling Stones were champs at introducing me (cramped though it was, radio couldn't resist prime hits and media celebs). It presented a seductive, positive side -- free, sexy, defiant of convention because convention was constructed to exclude you. A fine lesson I've never forgot, thank you Stones and company.
Not sure if it's been mentioned and I just missed it but there's a xgau review of Mates of State on NPR. I'm on my third spin and it sounds great.Mates of State could find its way onto the lower edge of the Top Ten for me this year. The oooh-oooh's and la-la's are like honey.
Ah, here it is http://goo.gl/BY420, now you decompress it and there's a text file with the proper links. Idk if this show is better than The Name of This Band is...those versions are definitive to my ears. But such is the fun of bootleg listening!
The Tide Is High is way way way worseHuh! Sorry dude, I love that song. I hear you've been listening to Rush? Can't stand him. Glenn Beck either.
Also, I started at SFSU in 1979. Loved KSAN back then.
EDIT: Just checked Wikipedia and found that Robinson & Baker's exact contribution to "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" is debatable, but I should have mentioned Robinson's pre-Sugarhill label All Platinum and her production of the Moments' "Love on a Two-Way Street for that label.
Not sure if it's been mentioned and I just missed it but there's a xgau review of Mates of State on NPR. I'm on my third spin and it sounds great.
most enduring impulse buy of all time?The Wailers Catch a Fire for the cover.
I know it's terrific, I can hear it, but there has always been a major distance between me and this record. Maybe it's Debbie Harry's voice, which deftly sums up that thin plexiglass artifice every neato little pop triumph Blondie ever recorded is trapped in. I love the Jack Lee songs unequivocally. Everything else I can sing along with, bop convincingly to and have always lent my respects. But after 60-odd plays over nine years my favorite is still "Heart of Glass", and the only moment that gives me an erection that part where she says it soon turned out to be a pain in the ****.
most enduring impulse buy of all time
If "getting my dad to order it for me on Amazon" (I was an unemployed 12-year-old at the time) counts as an "impulse buy", that'd be 69 Love Songs, by a band I (and most others) had never of heard before, with no other records of theirs in my record-abundant household, after reading only Rolling Stone's 3-out-of-5-star pan (probably the worst review it ever racked up). Too cool a concept to ignore, I thought. Years later, here we are -- my very favorite album this side of the Go-Betweens.
What is your favorite, most enduring impulse buy of all time?Well, I was watching late night TV, and Pat Boone came on...
Ballot finished and sent, whew!
I love that you guys brought up Zevon. "Lawyers, Guns & Money" is top 5 songs of 1978. 3 others are almost as good. The rest though is just ok.
All this "Faraway Eyes" talk sent me back to "Evening Gown", the one Mick "country" song that doesn't sound like a parody. Love that one.
I don't see a lot of humor on Some Girls, Pure Pop on the other hand has me cracking up (pun intended).
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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