Rocking the Vaults
Karantamba: Ndigal (Teranga Beat)
Gambian guitarist Bai Janha is best known as the leader of Guelewar, whose murky 2011-reissued Halleli N'Dakarou is slotted "psych" because some striver scored himself an organ. Much better this previously unreleased testament of Janha's last band, recorded in 1984 by the Malian-Danish bassist Moussa Diallo during Karantamba's residence at his club in Thiès, 35 miles east of Dakar. The personnel are unidentified young proteges of Janha who I surmise are mostly Senegalese, because no matter what Janha does or doesn't call it, these kids are playing some kind of mbalax‑-Islamic singing over sabar drums rattling away, horns adding sour decoration and commentary, Janha wailing. There was only one Étoile de Dakar. But this is a find, well-rehearsed yet bold and untamed. A MINUS
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls: Deluxe Edition (Universal Republic)
A major album, you knew that. But my grade is for the bonus disc, which‑-as I'd never have guessed after those drab Exile extras‑- has dibs on major as well. It outstrips not just It's Only Rock 'n Roll and Goats Head Soup but Tattoo You and probably Emotional Rescue (which several advisors insist I revisit). Where the regular album is musically quirky and lyrically either risky ("Some Girls," "Far Away Eyes") or generalized ("Respectable," "Beast of Burden," damn right "When the Whip Comes Down"), the bonus disc is musically classic-Stones and lyrically small-scale, including NYC specifics that warm my heart. Beginning with the Stu-does-Jerry-Lee bootleg fave "Claudine" and ending with the atypically near-political "Petrol Blues," its star player is a horny guy who just got divorced‑-a familiar character the classic Stones were made for. Mick's Hank Williams cover trumps Keith's Waylon Jennings cover. His Freddy Cannon cover trumps them both. A MINUS
As a huge Rolling Stones fan I have to say I am disappointed in this remaster. It is one of my favorite Stones albums but this version on UMG is highly compressed with a major loss in any dynamic range it had.
Yes, the guitars are louder and even clearer in some cases and because of this, many of the songs seem to lose their swing. Oh, it rocks, alright, but the swing that was present in the Virgin issue of 'Respectable' is gone. The break in 'Miss You' (OOooohh ooohh, Everybody waits so loooong) loses it's impact as well as the vocals and Charlie's drums in 'Before They Make Me Run.' In the latter song, the drums used to kick and the chorus used to stand out from the rest of the recording, which it no longer does. The break at about 1:35 in 'Shattered' where the bass drum kicks in is a plodding mess and much clearer and listenable on the Virgin '94 issue. The record, as a whole, loses much of it's depth and warmness as a result.
Perhaps the biggest travesty, and I don't recall any other reviews mentioning this, but at the beginning of 'Beast Of Burden', Keith's guitar is in the right channel and in the left you hear an echoing or 'bleeding' effect of the guitar lines. It is plainly obvious on the Virgin issue and all previous issues of the recording. On the UMG this is all but GONE! Even when I isolated the left channel and turned it up it was close to inaudible. I put on the Virgin and it's very audible, even without much volume or isolation of the left channel.
If you want the issue that sounds better and sticks closer to the integrity of the original recording, seek out the '94 Virgin remaster and not this. If these sort of nuances are not an issue for you and just prefer loud guitars at the loss of any dynamic range, then by all means, fire away and pick up this UMG remaster. Those of you not familiar with the original recording will not notice a thing. Those of you who are familiar with it do not feel that an upgrade is necessary.
Michael Tatum: Funny. Funeral Dress was actually the album that made me decide I wanted to be a rock critic.
The fact that the best band in the world hasn't sold 15,000 copies blows my mind. Then again who cares. I love them, my friends love them, and I'll see them live twice in June.
Well, I think the members of Wussy care, if just a little. Personally, I would like to see them make a modest living from their music just so that Chuck doesn't break his back.
Carola is my secret weapon on voices, just as I've always said.
I knew Carola was your secret weapon in general, but I didn't know especially for voices. Well, please deliver a high five in her direction for me, because I love when you (and she) write about voices.
Great Wussy article. Then again how could it not be right? The fact that the best band in the world hasn't sold 15,000 copies blows my mind. Then again who cares. I love them, my friends love them, and I'll see them live twice in June.
RE: Wussy....Has there ever been a band to make this much excellent music and sell less?
I love Far Away Eyes and agree that the version preserved on Shine a Light is pretty great too.
As a teenager in the late 70s, early 80s in Long Island, NY, the local radio station played Zeppelin-Stones-Beatles-Who constantly, and they were considered the holy grail of classic rock. Maybe that's why I love all four of those bands and heard their entire ouevres while in high school. I classified Zep as heavy metal but noted they did branch out into other styles (blues, folk, art-rock, etc.). The Beatles were Gods, and still are. The Who were special - Quadrophenia and the debut were always my favorites -teen rebellion I guess. Later The Who Sell Out became my fave. The Stones? They were Rock & Roll. I got off on them musically - the riffs, the propulsion, the bluesy singing, and most of all the drums. I remember reading Xgau in the RS Illustrated History of R&R stating something like if you don't like hearing the guitar and drums of this band you don't like rock at all - and that still defines the Stones for me. Listened to Emotional Rescue 4 times over the last 2 days as a result of Xgau's mention of it in the above review, and it sounded fantastic Especially Charlie.
Agreed on the Wussy piece. Great job. Lots of details encompassing everything from meanings of songs as discussed on this blog to bits of conversation made at the Cake Shop show. Cool to realize that when I was talking to Bob in the basement, he was mentally taking room measurements.
I brought a couple of friends from Boston that were visiting to the Caked Shop show, they hadn't heard anything from Wussy and only agreed to come because it wasn't expensive (they had just paid more than a hundred bucks for a forthcoming Justice show...). They had a good time but the first band made the best impression and one of them commented on Wussy: "nice but a bit of a sonic blur".
Well English is not his mother tongue so lyrics may be harder to understand but the fact is that Wussy don't have a great hook yet and that hurts them.
PS: I thought that "Pulverized" was a bit weaker compared to Wussy's standard but hearing it live, well, it does exactly what it's called !
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.