Besting the Rarely Parlayed Perils of Juvenilia and Entrepreneurship
Robyn: Robyn Is Here (RCA '97)
So front-loaded it could almost be a vinyl album with a hot side and a cool side, only since the singer is 17 call them perky and caring. Positioned at four and six, the Max Martin-aided "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)" are key, but without Robyn and her boys' "Bumpy Ride," "You've Got That Somethin'," and "The Last Time" at one, three, and five you wouldn't listen twice. Then, a few spins in, you notice a hint of velvet in her timbre‑-more like suede, really‑-that suggests not sensuality but emotional depth. Which in turn makes the orchestrated popsongs about romantic responsibility sound thoughtful rather than mawkish. Too bad she'll turn 21 like every other teen idol. B PLUS
Robyn: Robyn (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope '08)
Initially I was disoriented by the hype for "With Every Heartbeat," the nearest thing to processed gouda electro Robyn has put on the table, although "Eclipse" is pretty goopy too. But without that add-on, which does grow on you the way pop breakthroughs will sometimes, this 2005 EU release might never have materialized here to prepare the way for Robyn 2010, and it's not like I thought "Konichiwa Bitches" was a sell track even before I deciphered my favorite couplet a dozen plays in: "Come in with the postman like I'm a mail bomb/Comin' in your mouth make you say yum-yum." Also before I realized that the slow one tucked away at the end is also the most political song she's recorded, and it's got competition. It posits Clubland as a safe haven for life's unfortunates be they good, bad, or ugly. Yum yum. A MINUS
\m/ ^_^ \m/
that Slipcue web site is also a real good source of information on Brazilian music.I like Slipcue quite a bit, too, but you have to be aware of some of his quirks -- such as the fact that anything disco is the ice-cold, poison spunk of Satan!!!
And, I think I can say this for everyone, a big thanks to Tom Hull for updating the site!
As far as blues go, I tend to have a hard time truly getting into the stuff, but I enjoy just about every song on the 5-CD box Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues.
- Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa: Nordeste Plaza (Luaka Bop)
- No Age: Everything in Between (Sub Pop)
- The Rough Guide to Desert Blues (World Music Network)
- El DeBarge: Second Chance (Geffen)
- Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn (Columbia)
- Les Savy Fav: Root for Ruin (Frenchkiss)
- Konono No 1: Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs)
- The Extra Lens: Undercard (Merge)
- Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner (Ghostly International)
- Jazmine Sullivan: Love Me Back (J)
Morthland's The Best of Country Music, as many have testified, is brilliant and (perhaps even better) useful. I bought a pile of them when they were first remaindered and gave them out as gifts. I saw him a few years back and proposed putting together a website of his work like the one I built for Christgau. I would still like to work on something like that. While he has no interest in updating let alone maintaining the book, I imagine it might make for a valuable community project.
I've always heard good things about Bill Malone's book(s), but never picked it up. I did find that the way to get a good handle on blues is to start with Francis Davis's The History of the Blues then work your way through the Smithsonian's 4-CD The Blues. I wouldn't say you have to get to the roots to understand things, but ignorance leads to a lot of misconceptions about blues.
Curious whether anyone sympathetic to metal has read and gotten much out of Mark Levine's Heavy Metal Islam -- the book the north African revolutions remind me more of than Gilles Kepel's Jihad (the one book to read if you want to know something about all that).
Two movie-related agreements --
I too love Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man". Almost beyond describing and certainly beyond describing in a few words.
And the "Making of the Grizzly Man Soundtrack" film is especially great for getting to see Richard Thompson up close as he thinks, composes and plays. Quite fascinating.
Just finished (on Netflix instant stream) "Still Bill" , the Bill Withers documentary.
It's not his ENTIRE life story (no mention of wife and "Room 222" star Denise Nicholas, The Ali Rumble in the Jungle, or revelations about his battles with the record companies) - but it's mighty good.
Like his music, Bill has a simple yet profound way of getting across. If you are familiar with his stage patter ("Bill Withers at Carnegie Hall" - an absolute killer), he's the same dude nearly forty years later! It's cool seeing him go back home - and hanging out with an old friend in Slab Fork, West Virginia. It's genuinely moving seeing him tear up as he is saluted by a group of stutterers honoring him (a former stutterer) with a song. It's also difficult not to choke up with him as his daughter performs a new song in his studio for the first time. "Still Bill" is a great reminder that even some of our most famous people's best accomplishments aren't always shared with the world.
Here's his summary of country texts, which even includes the (broken) link to that updated Morthland cd list: http://goo.gl/pnZYp
I don't know if it's a hang up - I must not know what you mean by "less use." Robert Johnson makes me hear Muddy Waters differently. But Muddy Waters makes me here Johnson differently. I don't think there's a logical order to hearing them - I'm returning here to your original advice. Whatever works - different paths are going to move people into a genre, help them "get it". I would advise people to listen to great records and hope for the best - I think we agree on that.
Love that Morthland book too. Absolutely essential tool for learning about country music, its history and its essential recordings. Just as Robert Palmer's Deep Blues is to blues music.
OK..how about...Top 10 Essential Blues Records
1. Howlin' Wolf - The Chess Box (Chess/MCA 3CD 1991)
(his 1994 outtakes collection almost as essential)
2. Muddy Waters - The Chess Box (Chess/MCA 3CD 1989)
(not sure if Disc 3 holds up so maybe I'd go with The Anthology 2CD 2001, opinions?)
3. Sonny Boy Williamson - The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (Chess/MCA 2CD 1993)
4. Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers (Columbia 1961)
5. Elmore James: The History of Elmore James: The Sky Is Crying (Rhino 1993)
6. Hound Dog Taylor: Deluxe Edition (Alligator 1998)
7. B.B. King: King of the Blues (MCA 4CD Box 1992)
8. John Lee Hooker: Hooker (Shout Factory 4CD)
9. Jimmy Reed: The Best of (Rhino)
10. Jimi Hendrix: Blues (MCA 1994)
Western Swing was also one of my main entryways in country, along with John Anderson. There's a great 4 cd Wills collection on Proper for about $25. It's the early, prime stuff. Proper also has a western Swing collection that is good, but I still love the Hillbilly Fever! comp that Rhino put out. Out of print, but worth getting.
but I'll take Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elmore James over Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton. I definitely have less use for the originators.I think the hang-up is "less use" itself. I've cited Muddy Waters as somebody who would be in the last 10 records I would have on a desert island. But when I hear Muddy and I hear Robert Johnson and then Charlie Patton it's indisputable -- Johnson wouldn't sound like he does without the foundation established by Patton (and others) and Muddy wouldn't be who he is without the influence of Johnson.
So it's an odd thing. Play somebody more often and feel they're talking to me more directly? Yeah. But it feels glib and ahistorical to deny the primeval clout of the Delta originators. Thing is, venerating the oldest stuff mindlessly is also a problem.
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.