Gurf Morlix/Blaze Foley
Gurf Morlix: Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream (Rootball)
Eccentric even for a city that brags about its eccentrics, Austinite Blaze Foley inspired Lucinda Williams's "Drunken Angel" and had the best luck of his star-crossed career when Merle Haggard made "If I Could Only Fly" the title song of an excellent 2000 comeback album that didn't sell much. By then he'd been dead a decade, killed by the gun-toting son of a friend he was standing up for. His legend hasn't been helped by master tapes that kept getting lost, stolen, or seized by federal agents, but on these 15 songs his guitarist friend Gurf gets to cherry-pick and hook up with a drummer. Irresistible as John Prine for an opening section capped by the homelessness ditty "No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki," they sink into a slough of despond that starts feeling right comfy before the record rises up with "Small Town Hero," in which the duct tape abuser gets the last word on the high school sports star. Foley never mistook his dysfunction for a cause or felt sorry for himself about anything but women, and even there not much. He made his bed wherever. A MINUS
Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah (Lost Art)
With Foley's posthumous albums patchier than need be, this documentary soundtrack is where to pay your respects. Before he passed at 39, Foley's resonant voice had been roughed up by alcohol and the crusty life, but his easy flow was always something to hear. Without the five keepers it shares with the Morlix tribute, its slow ones would be hard to take‑-"Our Little Town" makes six minutes feel like a sermon so long the roast gets burnt‑-but Morlix doesn't do "Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac," "Living in the Woods in a Tree," or "Cosmic Doo Doo," and all are candidates for canonization. Too bad both records pass on "WW III," "Oval Room," and the jokingly, shockingly sadistic "Springtime in Uganda." Foley clearly never thought living in a car diminished his citizenship one little bit. B PLUS
SpaceCoast - I definitely remember where I bought the great majority of my albums, and in many cases I could tell you how much I paid and what else I bought at the same time. I wish I'd kept a record of what I bought and when - it would be really interesting to see how that evolved. And as far as record-buying rituals, obsessions and systems... oof, I wouldn't even know where to start. Once I discovered that getting rid of lesser albums tended to improve the collection, I became obsessed with keeping it lean, but I had this rule that if Xgau gave an album an A or A+, then I had to keep it. Eventually I said screw it and ended up unloading 75+ A albums at once, and probably getting way less than I should have for them. If there were other Xgau fans shopping at Primitive, they must have gotten real excited after that.
I recall that 1987 RS list too, though it was Gambacinni's Top 200 Rock Albums book from '77 and Xgau's CG70s which I read in 1982 that formed the basis for my canon.
Of course, I always enjoy these lists and looking at the top 25 of the 1987 RS Top 100 Rock Albums of the last 20 years list now, I'm confirmed in my guess at the
"Top 5 Albums Considered Some of the Best Albums Ever Which Xgau Didn't A-list":
1. Bowie's Ziggy Stardust # 6 on RS list, B+ by Xgau. I always felt this was Aminus.
2. Van's Astral Weeks # 7 on RS list, panned by Xgau. I remember this was # 4 in Gambaccini's book and I always liked it, but definitely agree that Moondance is the one.
3. The Beatles' white album # 9 on RS list, a classic B+ or A-, but I agree not a full "A"
4. Marvin Gaye's Whats Going On - # 10 on RS list, B+ by Xgau. Mentioned along with the white album in the intro to his CG80s book as "dubious milestone". Definitely filler on this one I suppose, but I love Marvin so much, especially Here, My Dear.
5. The Doors 1967 debut. # 25 on the RS list, B- by Xgau in his 1977 CG to 1967.
who's the most overrated band ever?Castrati performances that nobody's ever heard. Buddy Bolden's outfit that nobody's ever heard. I mean, Pan probably wasn't as hot on the pipes as they claimed, either.
Most overrated recorded band? This is a media question, right?
Paul Whiteman? Naw, he got redeemed to a decent degree.
Pat Boone? Yeah, but the hype is so distant it doesn't matter. (See: Mitch Miller.)
Lawrence Welk? Eeh, he's always been in a sort of toilet.
What is the Eagles' legacy, really?
I mean, who's had a pernicious influence, unchallenged, in popular music?
Ok, so Bob doesn't know much about Ellington: the "great period," by the way, was 1940-42 ("the Blanton-Webster band"), just before the recording strike and Jimmy Blanton's death, although like many things that's a categorization myth. There's great Ellington all over the timeline, even in the weirder late 1940s (when he was grappling with bebop and Stravinsky, not to mention press clips about America's greatest living composer), the early 1950s (when Johnny Hodges went AWOL), and the mid-1930s (which Columbia insists on keeping out of print). And while most of the recordings are arranged for big band -- he called it an orchestra, but aside from occasional fiddle solos by Ray Nance he never used strings -- most of them are set up for his soloists, mostly players like Hodges, Webster, Gonsalves, and an amazing series of great trumpet players. Plus there is an awful lot of small group Ellington -- two Columbia sets from 1934-39, the RCAs in the early 1940s (some of the best under Hodges' name), and all sorts of chance encounters from 1958 on. As Monsen mentioned, I've sorted through a lot of these -- I probably have more by Ellington than anyone else, but I'm still missing things (including, sad to say, This One's for Blanton). He's a lot of work to master, and I certainly haven't done it -- so I can see why Bob might rather not. I just don't get the crankiness. Dive in anywhere (well, not the gospel music at the end). How can you not love Ellington?
PS: For Joe, the original 1-CD Ellington at Newport is as dramatic, as thrilling as recorded jazz ever got: Gonsalves gigantic solo, the trombones jumping in, Cat Anderson's high notes. The 2-CD Complete undercuts this drama but adds a lot of very good music and gives you a clearer take on what Gonsalves actually played -- part of the excitement of the original is that with its weaker sound you hear more of the crowd and the stage rocking. Take your pick (and beware of the 1958 Newport, not nearly as good).
I have the equivalent of that box in individual releases. I donno -- it is a relative good deal, probably too much for a first serving, mono-vs.-stereo versions not as revealing as recent ones by Beatles and Dylan. Here's the world's quickest rundown of selected EMI albums (or collections from EMI releases) from the relevant period (some were revamped for Epic in the US):
Stay with the Hollies (1964)
Three-four good tracks. Way too often sounds like a (cheap) toy Beatles (is that "Mr. Moonlight" supposed to be a joke?)
In the Hollies Style (1964)
Half of a strong LP -- basically a tougher, more pressurized version of the debut. Vocals and harmonies start to develop full character.
The Other Side of ... the Hollies, Plus (1963-69)
B sides. Though it's in reverse chronology for some dum reason, a superb overview of the Nash-Clark-Hicks evolution as original songwriters (and a rare early Dylan cover)
For Certain Because ... (1966)
Now we're talking. A fine LP that show the hollies discovering folk-rock and the seeds of CSN. A clear, warming warm-up for the big moment --
Best sort of LSD flashback -- bright, amusing, light-hearted, never heavy or fluffy. Be sure to get the Sundazed version that adds "Jennifer Eccles."
Psyche-nuts get all excited about this, and you want it to be the all-out head-stretcher it was meant to be, but in practice it includes rays of pure sunshine like "Dear Eloise" and incarnations of everything people hate about dippy hippies like "Pegasus." I'm a sucker for classic psyche, but YMMV.
Hollies Sing Dylan (1969)
See Bob's write-up. Get the McGuinnes-Flint equalent first. But you might want to think about this.
The Hollies Sing the Hollies (1969)
Yeah, but it ain't quite the same Hollies. I enjoy this, but the bird has flown, never to return. They would score singing CCR in a bit, but what I would try to track down is --
Various, Sing Hollies in Reverse (1995)
Expertly assembled tribute album features the Posies, Loud Family, Tommy Keene, Mitch Easter, Wondermints, Continental Drifters, Material Issue and, like they say, more.
Also (and I'm stealing this from somebody online today) how great would it have been if they had done something like this for Stevie Wonder's 60th birthday last year?
LP sets made for CD reissue? A subject I've thought about for years as I'm always seeking to replace vinyl with CDs when it makes sense, criteria including:
1) is it complete or did the record company omit a track or two to get the album to fit?
2) bonus tracks included and are they a plus or a minus? meaning not only are they any good but do they fit or do they ruin an organic piece of art requiring use of programming buttons?
3) how does the cd sound compared to the vinyl? I try to avoid replacing albums featuring harmonicas and horns as those instruments in particular can often sound harsh after digital transfer. also-do i need to crank the cd volume higher than normal in order to hear the music i.e. was it a low volume transfer whatever that means?
4) am i missing out on any artwork or bonus stuff inside the original vinyl? if they did transfer the liner notes to the cd booklet, do i need a magnifying glass to read them?
5) any other emotional attachments to having the original vinyl (rare collectable?)
Here are a few fave albums i've considered replacing on CD (or have) and reasons why (or why not). I'd be interested in any feedback on this thread-
The Beach Boys: Endless Summer (Capitol 1974) a fine transfer and great reissue of 2 short LPs onto 1 cd with the add-on of Good Vibrations which fits just fine.
Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (Rolling Stones 1972)
i decided to stick with the orig vinyl just cuz it sounds great and i have the postcards.
The Clash: London Calling (Epic 1980) got this one on cd but the horns on that Montgomery Clift song sound a little harsh - not bad though - bass and drums nice.
Bruce Springsteen: Live/1975-85 (Columbia 1986) decided to keep the LP box just cuz i remember waiting in line at the record store to buy it in 1986
Diana Ross & the Supremes: Anthology (Motown 1973) i have the orig 3LP set and wish there was an equiv 2-CD set "A" listed by Xgau
Stevie Wonder: Looking Back (Motown 1973) I guess the At the Turn of the Century box was too much (4 CDs) but I still wish this 3LP set of 60s music got reissued.
Hillbilly Music Thank God Volume 1 (Bug/Capitol 1989) 2LP set sounds good on 1 CD.
New Order: Substance (Qwest 1987) the CD version sounds low/weak compared to the vinyl
Ornette Coleman: In All Languages (Caravan of Dreams 1987) I like how one LP features the original quartet and one LP features Prime Time and probably never replaced the 2LP set with the 1 CD reissue just because of this reason.
Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (Columbia 1966) harmonica - keep the vinyl
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live Alive (Epic 1986) they lobbed off a track or two when they put 2 LPs (almost) on 1 CD
Memphis Jug Band: Memphis Jug Band (Yazoo 1980) they cut 5 tracks from the 2LP set
Public Image Ltd: Second Edition (Island 1980) I never heard this one on cd and would be interested to hear how it sounds - i know it was reissued in the Metal Box version and also as a 1 CD version domestically.
Prince: Sign 'O' the Times (Paisley Park 1987) they could have squeezed this onto 1 CD instead of the 2CD set released- i know cuz i burned my own version onto 1 CD.
The Kate McGarrigle Tribute show left me with that rare high that
I've only felt in recent years by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Tune-Yards and Gogol Bordello.
Rufus mucked up of "The Walking Song" yet, almost every performance exuded such heart and soul. I enjoyed Antony even though his stage antics looked like a post-shock treatment Joe Cocker. Justin Vivian Bond sounded richer with a full band behind him and it was the first time I ever heard Emmylou Harris sing in French. Anna McGarrigle's lead on "Kitty Come Home" was impassioned and mournful. The highlights were the ensemble pieces where the entire family sang together, particularly on "Prosperpina," which was Kate's final song and which begun with a recording of her demo of the song from her laptop.
They filmed the performances to be included in a documentary, so hopefully everyone will get to see portions of such a terrific night.
A funny moment came during the intermission when the ladies to the right of me were discussing the show and one said of Justin Vivian Bond, "The guy in drag: he was very pretty and had a great voice!" I cleared my throat as to correct them that she was technically transgendered and currently in transition, but backed off.
New avatar pic w/John Prine from two nights ago. Wish I'd taken my silly "Secret Service" microphone off.
Our box office manager took the picture and told me today when I asked John about Iris that "his eyes lit up". Undoubtedly, these guys must get tired of "fans" asking them silly questions and acting foolish, so I'm sure they appreciate it when they encounter someone who acts knowledgably and keeps their enthusiasm in check.
Today's matinee offering is local ballet. Hardly as enjoyable or edifying as John and Kris, but it pays the bills just the same. Lots of graduations to deal with in next few days and they're not much fun either. Jackson Browne next Sunday, but I won't be in attendance for that one. He's acoustic only and last time he did that here it was 2-1/2, 3 hours and got a little boring, frankly.
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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