Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx/Gorillaz
Tinkering With the Funky Homosapien
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx: We're New Here (XL)
The Richard Russell-produced original of the revolutionary-poet-turned-brokedown-crack-addict's first studio album in 16 years strove respectfully to put a good face on‑-who exactly? The "survivor"? The "outsider"? The "revolutionary"? The hip-hop godfather? The colorful old black guy? Granting that the moving force was Russell, my Honorable Mention stands: "The premise isn't `I'm new here,' it's `I'm not dead,' and he strains mightily to get 28 spare minutes out of it." A year later Scott-Heron was in fact dead, and a year after that came this radical remix, which to my mind respects Scott-Heron more truthfully by chopping him to bits. This Scott-Heron is a drug fiend of considerable perversity and tremendous intelligence who's gonna be dead soon. Jamie xx hears in his last testament an irreversible disintegration that he translates into heavily sampled minimalist electro marked indelibly by Scott-Heron's weariness, arrogance, and wit. In part it's just a young man's bad dream about mortality, and of interest as such. But the snatches of Scott-Heron's voice, cracked for sure but deeper than night nonetheless, delivers it from callow generalization and foregone conclusion. A MINUS
Gorillaz: The Singles Collection 2001-2011 (Virgin)
Their synthbeat-meets-comix concept got over as pop because it found a mildly playful and pleasurable way to enact well-meaning self-effacement, which was how Damon Albarn disarmed the world well before designing a virtual band for the era of electronic interpersonal multi-tasking between unknowable avatars. As far as he's concerned, that isn't humanity sitting up "On Melancholy Hill"‑-it's a manatee, who got there by means only a cartoonist could grasp. Note, however, that he invokes real-life humanity in an all too traditional way: via such living persons of African descent as Bobby Womack, Neneh Cherry, De La Soul, and the affably virtuosic Del the Funky Homosapien. A MINUS
I ask you.Since you ask me, I think you should go with the critics at Classic Rock magazine, or what Jason says.
Thumbs up to Miles below wrt pinning down Xgau, unless it's parsing his extant words. "Ghost Riders" would have been playing when I was in the womb, but probably not in our house. My parents actually sang together, harmonizing, pretty much the songbook, Frank Sinatra mainly -- and they still do, in their eighties. I'm gonna cue up that Ghost Riders right now -- see if it wants to put me in a fetal position.
EDIT: Listening to the whole Classic Years of Vaughan Monroe right now, and sure enough I'm curled up tight.
I hoped it wouldn't happen but indeed when I go to the library to browse through the CDs, it's the "Popular" section I gravitate to more than the "Rock".
No dig at 'haters,' just an expert witness testifying.
Well said (and welcome)!
Hope you get better soon, Michael!
I couldn't list any lps because the 45 rpm disc was only introduced the year I was born.
Since only pre-rock scholars would know what was actually a favorite from calendar year 1950, I had to go to Billboard's Top 100 for clues to Irene's scavenger hunt question. Felt like I got lucky with Joe Liggins and Hank Snow listed as Top R&B and Top Country songs from that year, since both are favorites from a 3-disc Roots of Rock n Roll set that Bob gave an A to some time back.
What was most interesting about the early days of that chart was that of the first 10 Top Pop Albums ('56-'65 in other words. '56 being the first year a top LP was selected), 9 of the 10 were soundtrack albums -- My Fair Lady (twice), Peter Gunn, Sound of Music, Camelot, West Side Story (twice), Hello Dolly and Mary Poppins. The only outlier was the '56 choice, Calypso by Harry Belafonte. Fortunately then came 1966 and the world was changed by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. According to Billboard anyhow.
Hey, Tatum! No Jan. Downloader's Diary?
Jeff, I'm exhausted. Not from the column (although that's part of it, I suppose) but my job has been killing me lately. Cuts mean I've been doing twice, three times the work. I've been sick twice in the last month. I'm seriously thinking about skipping January and February and subbing with a few DD related projects I've been working on for the last few months, resuming my regular duties in March, starting 2012 afresh. Hope that doesn't let too many people down.
1968: Odessey & Oracle. Mostly because I just recently discovered it and think it pretty excellent.
Which reminds me, I need to send rstay that book now that I'm moved and semi-settled....
if the Shoo fits, censor it.Of course, if the Foo ****, that's a different story.
Hi folks, I'm a long-time fan of this forum (and a fan of Mr. Christgau's since the 1980's), but this is my first post.
My take on the Adele/Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver discussion: our host's critical duties required him to persist with these particular albums long after the rest of us whose first reaction to them was negative would have given up. No dig at haters, just an expert witness testifying.
As for how he now feels about said albums, relying solely on the wordcraft (our host is first and foremost an expert crafter of words) leads me to the following conclusions:
Adele - good role model for regular girls, but 'blander and louder' than 19 (itself a *) does not an Honourable Mention make.
Fleet Foxes - I'm guessing a 'convincing Graham Nash impersonation' is not much of an upgrade on 'overblown CSNY echoes'; but a couple of Choice Cuts
Bon Iver - Though sympathetic to fans who seek escape through the music, pretty much agrees with Abebe's skeptical no edges/no contours (= gelatinous?) take, doubts utility of this type of escape.
IMO, not an Honourable Mention among them, but hey I may be proven wrong in the coming weeks.
I have a perfectly fine french press I would love to give away. If anyone wants it, let me know and I'll mail it to you.
Anyone who makes a worst albums list for 2011 and doesn't include Chris Brown in the mix, doesn't go far enough.
I have Chris Brown sandwiched in my list between Bjork and Zebrahead, like them a mere B- (possibly unfair to Biophilia, which is reportedly is intended to be something more than just a music stream). Lots more down below them, and I don't even go looking for bad albums. Seems to me that if you really wanted to write up a "worst albums" list you should do some research. For instance, the 3rd worst album I ran across this year was Thompson Square -- an eponymous country act determined to be lamer and smarmier than Lady Antebellum. Yet I found two records I thought even worse: Mark Moultrip's Relaxin' . . . on the Edge, and People Like Us, Welcome Aboard. Still, those records weren't totally devoid of merit: I rated them D+, but they're challenges to anyone who wants to construct such a list.
As it happens, I was looking at PopMatters' Worst Album list last night, wondering whether I should count them as backhanded compliments. Some, like Lady Gaga (7), seem to be. Some just strike me as pack mentality: Lupe Fiasco (3) seems to have set himself up for a drubbing by publicly fighting with his record company -- some critics take that sort of thing as an excuse to pile on. LMFAO (9) is another one that's fashionable to trash -- the Sorry in the title is the first hint. Then there are things like Owl City (10) that are an affront to literacy, and Goblin (4) which if you take at all seriously is innately detestable. Brown (2) almost gives us a perfect storm of all the reasons that make it easy for people to dump on an album, including that it really is pretty bad. Only Lulu, which has swept virtually all such lists this year, proved more irresistible.
Still, PopMatters bothered to come up with two records I hadn't heard of, which do appear to be truly awful: a death metal record, Ilud Divinum Insanus, by Morbid Angel, and something I can't begin to classify by a group called Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. That's a good deal more digging than most such lists show -- they're more likely to merely expose are the prejudices and limitations of the critic. (Look at the bottom of my list and you'll find some of mine.)
Milo - was that the Vaughn Monroe version?
Yep. He also had hits that year with "Someday" and "Red Roses for a Blue Lady."
You run across all sorts of interesting stuff looking at these old charts. Who the heck is this "Blue Barron" who had a bunch of hits in those years? (Does quick research: smooth and sweet decadent-era big band; file and forget.)
Three Louis Jordan songs released in '49It's funny how the mid-'40s were hepper than the early '50s. Louis Jordan's biggest year was 1944 ("G.I. Jive" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't (Ma' Baby)"), which also spotlighted the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots and Ella Mae Morse'****hoo-Shoo Baby."
(PS: this watchrobot function is completely insane. The first "Shoo" is identical to the second "Shoo." If the Shoo fits, censor it.)
Number one when I was born: Looking Glass's "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" - dorky, but not a bad tune.
Recorded on the day I was born: Jefferson Airplane's Thirty Seconds Over Winterland - never heard it, but it has a real nice cover.
Three Louis Jordan songs released in '49: "Safe, Sane and Single", "Beans and Cornbread", "Saturday Night Fish Fry". Not bad.
I actually prefer coffee made by drip, which gives a cleaner taste than a press
get you a chemex
1949 wasn't so bad -- the big hit was "Ghost Riders in the Sky," certainly the last, loud echo of so-called "old, weird America.
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.