Odds and Ends 011
Been Through a Lot, These Guys
Otis Taylor: Otis Taylor's Contraband (Telarc)
Colorado bluesman finally figures out how to split the difference between gravity and taking yourself too seriously ("Yell Your Name," "Blind Piano Teacher") ***
Ahmad Zahir: Hip 70's Afghan Beats! (Guerssen)
Assassinated by the Russians in 1979, Afghan rocker was too gifted vocally and melodically to sink into schlock ("Dar Kunj Dilam Eshqi Kasi," "Uoba Darta Rawarem") ***
Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (Rounder)
The reason the only one he wrote is called "Just Another Rider" is that he's finally content to let better songs than his own carry him home ("Floating Bridge," "Devil Got My Woman") **
William Michael Dillon: Black Robes and Lawyers (Flying Free)
Learned a skill while doing 28 goddamn years for a murder he didn't commit ("Black Robes and Lawyers," "Chasing a Dream") **
Stephen David Austin: A Bakersfield Dozen (StephenDavidAustin.com)
The kind of writer who remembers the day Buck Owens died, the kind of singer who hopes someone covers his song about it ("Best Ex I Ever Had," "The Cage") **
Waco Brothers & Paul Burch: Great Chicago Fire (Bloodshot)
Ever collegial and craving new blood, Jon L. and the gang take in a fortysomething alt-Nashville lifer ("Great Chicago Fire," "Someone That You Know") *
Jimmie Vaughan: Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites (Shout! Factory)
He knows the tradition & also the difference between a traditionalist and a remaker ("The Pleasure's All Mine," "Wheel of Fortune") *
Jerry Lee Lewis: Mean Old Man (Verve)
The Killer's many wives etc. (those who are alive, anyway) will tell you he's not really mean‑-that's just Kristofferson kidding around ("Mean Old Man," "Sweet Virginia") *
I remember seeing the Rolling Stone book and the UK version of our host's 70s book in Dublin in the early 80s but I was still in school and couldn't afford to get them till later. I didn't see any Xgau reviews between the summer I was in New York, 1986, when I got the 70s book, and when I got the 1980s book in 1990 or 1991. Living in Ireland we had no access to the Voice or Creem. I then didn't see any more Xgau reviews till Tower Records opened in Dublin and started selling the Voice, a week or two late. I'd flick through to see if it had a Consumer Guide. More regular access didn't start till the Internet era.
There were remarkably few histories or critical overviews available. There were occasional "top album" polls in magazines. I remember an early 80s "Top 200 albums" book from the UK but can't remember what it was called. Album 200 (chronologically speaking) was Pelican West by Haircut One Hundred (I kid you not).
I got the Trouser Press book in the late 80s, before Xgau's 80s book came out. It helped fill in a lot of gaps, and was an interesting contrast/complement to Xgau's 80s book when it came out. The Trouser Press Guide was definitely a bit pale, as sharpsm says below, but that was the genre they had decided to concentrate on.
I never saw the Trouser Press magazine. There is a line (I think from Mark P's Sniffing Glue fanzine, quoted in Caroline Coon's book about punk, 1988) exhorting readers to do an extra large gob into it. That seems to have been pretty unfair, and was probably at least in part reflex anti-Americanism
The weird thing is, as r&b/funk got more militant, early 70s top 40 radio - often portrayed these days as featherweight inane smiley-face nonsense - basically stayed on board (songs like "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin" and "War" and "Smiling Faces Sometimes" were all huge pop hits), while FM/AOR seemingly ran in the opposite direction as fast as it possibly could.
Ira Robbins being an active disco-hater is baffling considering how many performers in the Trouser Press guide are hugely, directly influenced by disco. I guess it's okay when white British people do it.
There's an outstanding documentary called "Butte, America" that seems more relevant every minute --
How the mighty have fallen. (Eeehgrumph.)
I won't try to rehash my early rock crit years here (already done here: goo.gl/wJxOb), but Trouser Press was regular reading material during the 1970s, and something we tried to define ourselves against when we put Terminal Zone -- that had less to do with Robbins' indifference to black music than with his extreme hostility to disco. Shortly after I moved to New York I made the trip uptown to meet him, but we didn't bridge any differences. Years later I recall him writing a review of a Spinners collection where he recanted his opposition to disco, but his top 50 list doesn't go very far in that direction. He's always been valuable because he's always been so obsessive about what he likes, regardless of how narrow-minded or ignorant he's been about his dislikes.
Aside from Creem and Crawdaddy, the other key magazine of the mid-1970s was Greg Shaw's Who Put the Bomp? It was even narrower than Trouser Press, but had none of the meanness, was lovingly assembled and detailed, and pushed a retro-surf aesthetic that included a few contemporary bands (especially the Flamin' Groovies). Shaw, by the way, was at his finest compiling and annotating Sire's 2-lp The Roots of British Rock, lamentably never reissued on CD.
Had a nice combined Mother's Day and Father's Day here. Whole family came over. Fresh flowers. Ham steak and whole chicken on the grill, corn-off-the-cob and red peppers, wild Maine blueberry frozen yogurt. No raised voices. Wildest music was Stan Getz. Yep, yep.
Walter, that's a great great song (at least in its Tom Moulton mix). What a beautiful, cool, calm lead vocal. Took me several listens to figure out the singer's gender, and I'm still not 100% sure.
Here it is, on YouTube: goo.gl/VeAs6
A tip of the cap to Mick Farren, instrumental in the Pink Fairies story.
Trouser Press and Creem were the magazines we read - the former for the English stuff, the latter for the laffs and great writing. The second Rolling Stone guide, the blue one, corrected a lot of the shortsightedness of the first - Pere Ubu, par example - but the "only-records-in-print" policy wiped out dozens of the first edition's cool obscurities. kevinjohn, thanks for the reminder.
Those lists of 70s albums made me chuckle for another reason. For the good and bad of it, it pretty much forms the core of the Go-Betweens chatboard gang's early listening. Good in that there's s**tloads of great stuff there, bad because, as you say Cam it's lily white. Pretty much the only off-white music that gets mentioned on the board is a bit of old ska, reggae and blues. I'm not trying to be mean - nearly everybody on the board over there's a great fella (even the diehard punk who despises the Beatles while loving hundreds of bands who loved and were inspired by the Beatles). It's just that I feel very grateful for this community, too.
A fan was talking to Chuck Cleaver while he was packing up after the show. Chuck said, "Yeah, we played Butte. We went to the Mining Museum while we were there. It was pretty interesting really." Loved that.
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.