Odds and Ends 001
Ruth Gerson: Deceived (Wrong)
Nine dead women, a stillborn baby girl, a male suicide, and whatever got thrown off the Tallahatchee Bridge ("Knoxville Girl," "Little Sadie") ***
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs: No Help Coming (Transdreamer)
Down-and-out from inside out, quasi-Appalachian style ("No Help Coming," "Lord Knows We're Drinking") ***
Jonny Corndawg: Down on the Bikini Line (Nasty Memories)
Filthy and whimsical, a strange combo anywhere, is even stranger in a Brooklyn weirdo who pretends to sing country music‑-and does, pretty much ("Life of a Bear," "Shaved [Like a Razor]") ***
Amy LaVere: Stranger Me (Archer)
She has a small voice for a roots-targeted gal with too much pride to boop up songs that miss the bull's-eye ("Damn Love Song," "Stranger Me") ***
Rod Picott: Welding Burns (no label)
Hard labor and its grimy fruits ("Sheetrock Hanger," "Welding Burns") **
Blake Shelton: Red River Blue (Warner Bros.)
Although his big voice bogs down making his songwriters' big emotions sound deep, their jokes he's got the attitude for ("Hey," "Get Some") **
Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside: Dirty Radio (Partisan)
Appalled by robot radio, 10,000 cellphone conversations, and the premature death of Polaroid photography, she hooks up with a stand-up bassist and sings the way she imagines witchy mountain women do‑-or rather, did ("Thirteen Years Old," "Write Me a Letter") **
Martina McBride: Eleven (Republic Nashville)
Megacorny about the right things, including breast cancer, 17-year-old daughters, and connubial love ("I'm Gonna Love You Through It," "Marry Me") *
Being a jazz fan and not liking "Kind of Blue" is like being a
baseball fan and not liking Willie Mays.
Tigster - I have Xgau's 1968 Jazz & Pop ballot in my files. I'll be home later tonight and will post is sometime this weekend. I recall the Sweet Inspirations made the list and that one was news to me.
I had never seen Xgau's 1969 Jazz & Pop ballot so thanks for posting that one. I knew he once loved Tommy but didn't realize how much. I'll need to check my Definitive Wilson Pickett comp to see how much of Hey Jude is included. If the answer is not much, then Hey Jude goes on the want list. And I assume that the Beatles 1969 entry is Abbey Road, not the white album.
Bradley - I'm really hoping you get a slew of ballots before tomorrow night. I'm a bit dismayed at the low number (14) of ballots you've received to date. Are Xgau fans in general not jazz fans? I thought we were all music fanatics - all kinds of good music, jazz included. ??
Megacorny about the right things, including breast cancer, 17-year-old daughters, and connubial love*This!
Major surprise to me is that Ornette isn't getting anywhere near my top ten, whereas he'd finish high on my '50s, '70s, '80s, and '00s lists. Also not close for me: Dolphy, Hancock as leader, various Evanses - all of whom I like.Agreed. I can't wait to see your ballot! I just turned mine in today. To myself.
I've been listening to '60s jazz constantly for a couple weeks or more now, and the experience was full of surprises. Bob's job is hard. HARD! I enjoyed this, and I found dozens of albums that are new to me for my (virtual) A shelves, and yet making an honest top ten was hard work. I feel like I've listened deeper to these albums these last weeks than I ever had before. And that's coming from someone with an M.A. in jazz history (if that means anything to you; it doesn't have to mean anything). Thank you everyone for taking the time to contribute. One more day! Results on Tuesday! Hooray!
Musicians are not trained to play music; they're taught to perform notes from a page with absolute precision. And they are precise! But why would a piece of paper transmit music better than a thinking musician with an instrument? Does that make sense to anyone?
My ship is sinking and I have to quickly grab one jazz cd for my desert island listening. Do I grab Kind of Blue or the first Monk I can find? Tough question.
To specify beyond the cheap comment:
I'm not fond of Mozart or Beethoven (classical music in general although there are exceptions) for many reasons.
With M & B, I have visceral reaction against their musics when I listen to them. I tense up inside and feel as if I've swallowed something sour.
I'm don't like the hierarchical, controlled feel of much classical music. It sounds too beholden to the composer or the conductor, whereas great jazz and rock sound loose and communal. It's the sound of a better politics than what I hear in much classical music. (Again, exceptions. Prince's music sounds very controlled with everyone reduced to a tool for his self-expression, but I like it nonetheless.)
Similarly, it sounds to me as if there is too much a focus on perfection and control. One of the reasons why I don't think Sketches of Spain really works is the musicians are too tight and the music sounds a bit leaden as a result. I'm not naive enough to think that rock doesn't focus on technique (jazz is more complicated, and I can't help but think race and cultural context--US cultural democracy vs European monarchy--make a difference here), but when it gets it right, it leavens the mastery with a populist generosity that does not look down on the untrained listener. (Metal and indie purism are significant exceptions here, and I'm not fond of either in general.)
Basically, classical music emerges from--and shares the convictions of--a cultural context that does not appeal to me. I don't care for much of the culture of the 18th & 19th centuries: painting, literature, poetry, music, etc. The politics of the era are moving in the right direction, but the culture hasn't caught up yet.
I do love a 2 cd Bach violin sonatas collection I own as well as a collection of Schoenberg piano pieces (and I've had a weird hard-on for Stravinsky for as long as I can remember), but generally I'm happy to avoid classical and in some cases, almost all the M & B I've heard (and I've tried a lot, convinced there must be something wrong with me for not liking this stuff), I actively dislike it.
So, yeah, I'm probably full of it. But hey, my original post sparked sharpsm's reply, and we're all a little better off with those laughs in our lives.
However. Looking for records worthy of full EW reviews sometimes requires dedicated listening that comes down on the wrong side of the quality divide. Usually I know the answer by track seven or eight, say, sometimes not till the very end. And sometimes as I listen phrases just pop into my head, or an analysis makes itself clear. And fairly often I know what tracks have me listening. So if I figure I'm 15 minutes or less from an HM-style squib, I invest that time. And sometimes I'll do it even if the time remaining is half an hour, especially if it's a big record I really want to get my mind around. Watching a ballgame with my friend Christian Hoard, the reviews editor at RS, we started talking about a band I happened to have covered in one of these reviews--nothing above. He was astonished to learn that I had any HM style review in the can at all, and told me I should publish them. So I did. This batch has the virtue of flagging some rather obscure records--or in the case of the Gerson, which has been slightly overpraised in that "interesting record" way that gets so many striking concepts some ink, saying yeah it's good but it also has its limitations.
Anyway, there'll be more eventually. But I want to diminish expectations right here. No Turkeys unless I really get on a hobbyhorse about something--they're no fun at all. Unifying concepts not guaranteed. Probably won't happen often 'cause there ain't that many. Comments about layout welcome. Oughta be three pics, but maybe they should all be on top. I like the implied order, though--which you will note is different from quality-proper order, though as is appropriate only a little.
As promised a couple of days ago (to Tigster who posted the same for 1969), here's Xgau's ballot for the 1968 Jazz & Pop poll which appeared in February 1969 issue.
1. Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (Columbia)
2. The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia)
3. Big Brother & the Holding Co.: Cheap Thrills (Columbia)
4. The Who: The Who Sell Out (Decca)
5. The Grateful Dead: Anthem of the Sun (Warner Bros.)
6. The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia)
7. The Sweet Inspirations: The Sweet Inspirations (Atlantic)
8. The Rolling Stones: Their Satanic Majesty's Request (London)
9. Randy Newman: Randy Newman (Reprise)
10. Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco)
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.