Frank Ocean/Greenberger Greenberg Cebar
Words Before Music Done Right
Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Def Jam)
One, Nostalgia, Ultra wasn't perfect. Two, neither is this, but in a different way. There's no song here as astonishing as "Strawberry Swing," "Novacane," or "American Wedding"‑-two of which, you will note, exploit Other People's Music (not to mention the Other Man's Music), and all of which inhabit a narrative world simultaneously richer and more ordinary than the haut-monde demimonde of most of these songs. But the musical craft on this almost sampleless album is so even-keeled that there's no song here as forgettable as "There Will Be Tears" or "Dust" either. You could speculate that when he's the sole composer Ocean resists making a show of himself‑-resists the dope hook, the smart tempo, the transcendent falsetto itself. And just as his music is about control, he never promotes a subject matter I believe fascinates him in a cautionary way, as the assigned fate of the r&b elite. Definitely his official debut is about the demimonde, not of it. And definitely the verbal content rules. For a musical prodigy to be a writer first is a mitzvah. But that doesn't mean we have to share his fascinations. A MINUS
Greenberger Greenberg Cebar: Tell Me That Before (Pel Pel)
David Greenberger and his Duplex Planet project are old news, and there've been other recordings. But I'm not sure how many a music person would want, and can't imagine any of them improving on the new one I've fallen for: 17 subtly intonated dramatizations of words Americans in elder facilities have spoken to Greenberger followed by a multivocal 19-minute finale. No one's altogether bitter, but many are weary, and gradually the selections become not so much sadder as deeper, their bygone vernacular a bearer of authority and idiosyncrasy, reason and regret. Wise, deluded, confused, loving, placid, wacky, they reminisce and philosophize as they wait for the end, and Greenberger respects them all. Mark Greenberg provides each reflection with dedicated homespun accompaniment‑-bass and/or drums and/or keyboard, ukulele and/or accordion and/or vibraphone‑-that accents the musicality of their speech. The words would appear to be all. Yet every time your mind wanders, your ear tells you they're not. A MINUS
And sports comment of the day -- Ichiro to the Yankees?? That's the single most ambivalent idea I can remember having since ever. I'm not mad it happened but I am shaken that it had to.
Never Take the Place of Your Man." Beyond that, I'm not hearing it.
Patrick, I'm liking Caravanserai so far - thank you. JY, I've been considering that box, too, but wanted to get some other opinions first.
I remember liking Morrissey's 10-minute "Moon River" wooze-a-thon when I first heard it, but it's been years.
Checking Tom Hull's Xgau site for Santana, I was surprised to realize that:
1) Moonflower seems to be Xgau's fave Santana album.
2) Carlos was included in "Subjects for Further Research" not only in the 80s but in the 90s as well.
3) Xgau said nice things about Santana's "smart" 3-disc box set.
So perhaps the box is the way to go, as opposed to the 2-disc Essential Santana.
I've always thought it was funny how some renowned bands earn only a single "A" grade from Xgau (King Crimson, Radiohead), and others just never make the grade. Some only make the grade with a best-of (Alice Cooper, the Cars), and sometimes even the best-of's don't cut it (Britney).
Shadyshack, I like that Van Winkle 13 year old Rye too, goes down very well. I think Richard was talking about Pappy Van Winkle which is a higher end version, which I haven't tried though I have seen. Tastings are useful for letting you see what more expensive stuff is like, or whether something is worth your money, since whisk(e)y isn't cheap.
Greg T, Glenmorangie's a very good malt and I like nearly every version I've tried, especially the 18 year old and the Port finish. I wouldn't put ice in it myself but when it's in your glass you do what you like. Dewar's is a good blend too.
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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