Blind Lemon Jefferson/Rokia Traore/Robert Sarazin Blake With Jefferson Hamer and the Powderkegs
That's all he wrote
Blind Lemon Jefferson: The Rough Guide to Blues Legends: Blind Lemon Jefferson: Reborn and Remastered (World Music Network)
Early blues' biggest male hitmaker‑-which means at the very least that Paramount recorded him a lot‑-has long been uncopyrighted, and this selection comes tagging behind the Yazoo CD that shortened the Yazoo double-LP and more European completism than any nonspecialist need explore. A solid singer and facile guitarist, Jefferson was also a mortal songwriter whose dynamic range can weary subconnoisseurs pretty quick‑-for most of us, one CD is enough. That said, the sound here is fuller and clearer than what competition I've been able to A-B, and why Yazoo omitted "Black Snake Moan" is the kind of mystery only aging blues boys understand. Most of the time Jefferson plays the rounder's role, but since what he really was was a pro, he rose or sunk occasionally to Christian grace, as in the ineffable "I Want to Be Like Jesus in My Heart." Moreover, Jefferson is only half this package. The bonus disc is one I missed, Rough Guide to Country Blues Pioneers, a refreshingly nonconnoisseur selection that leads with Big Bill Broonzy's sophisticated "Long Tall Mama" and ends with Sam Collins's lilting "My Road Is Rough and Rocky." Even rarer in acoustic-blues-legend collections, presumably because they're harder to license, are Leadbelly, Memphis Minnie, and Robert Johnson. So welcome them aboard. A
Rokia Traore: Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)
Traore has been walking a tightrope since her 2000 debut, and it's not getting easier. There's limited outreach in any tongue to songs about your right to pursue a musical career albeit‑-translation from the Bamanan provided‑-"Brought up by the rules of the nobility/Forbidden to sing or speak in public." Escaped from the Malian troubles in Paris, she recorded her fourth album with Polly Jean Harvey adjutant John Parish, and musically they get results‑-from the opener on out, Scottish drummer Seb Rochford and Italian guitarist Stefano Pilia make Mali rock in ways unknown to Oumou Sangare or Bassekou Kouyate, and Traore is less pretty in turn. But non-Bamanan speakers may well find that her supple vocals are no more engaging should they follow her unremarkable spiritual tribulations in English or French. And non-Bamanan speakers who only start paying attention with the rote English-language populism of the continental and womanist praisesongs at the end may never go back and read along. B PLUS
Robert Sarazin Blake With Jefferson Hamer and the Powderkegs: Put It All Down in a Letter (Same Room '11)
This poetry-with-rock as poetry-with-jazz leads with the associative 17-minute narrative "I Didn't Call You From Philadelphia," over a quarter of the CD's full length, and if you shrug and decide Blake's tour of West Philadelphia eating and music spots w/ Luddite assessment of telephonemetry could just be worth the price of admission by itself, you may well be making a rational economic decision. Inexhaustibly, it cuts everything else here, including the unmailed 16-minute love letter "Magic Hour on Baltimore Ave." But not by as much as everything else here cuts the doleful recorded-in-Belfast (apparently in the same year, 2011) A Long Series of Memorable Nights Forgotten. Partly it's the band, and partly too Anaïs Mitchell's Child ballad helpmeet Hamer, because they groove, inducing Blake to bop like Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the funk rather than moan like Bob Geldof with catarrh. But mostly it's the songs. If the weary realism of "Planned Parenthood Waiting Room," "The Little Disappointments We Swallow," and the sexually explicit "We Can Roll Down Tonite" don't live up to the lead track, that's just more evidence of what a stroke that shaggy dog song is. A MINUS
I also have a file collecting nearly all of the download links posted in the last week or so, so if you want that, again, write me.
I was planning on writing something more substantial here or elsewhere, but between my trip and all the catching up I haven't had time. If not here, then elsewhere.
Speak to me, speak to me shadow
I spin from the wheel, nothing at all
Save the need, the need to weave
A silk of souls that whisper, whisper
A silk of souls that whispers to me
Speak to me heart
All things renew
Hearts will mend
'Round the bend
Paths that cross
Paths that cross
Will cross again
I've not been around long enough to know if this has been done before but I'm sure it has, however I'm really keen to see what everyone says.
My lists are completely dominated by Christgau favourites. No surprise there, then.
I'll start it off with my favourite albums...
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
The Clash – The Clash (UK)
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
Kanye West - Late Registration
The Beatles' Second Album
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
Derek and the Dominoes – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
The Rolling Stones – Aftermath
Kanye West – The College Dropout
Sonny Rollins – G-Man
Otis Redding – The Immortal Otis Redding
M.I.A. - Kala
The Beatles – Rubber Soul
Sonic Youth – A Thousand Leaves
Bob Dylan – “Love and Theft”
Randy Newman – 12 Songs
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Al Green – Call Me
Ornette Coleman – Change of the Century
Latin Playboys – Latin Playboys
Tom Ze – Brazil Classics Volume 4
Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This
Michael Hurley, The Holy Modal Rounders, Jeffrey Fredericks and the Clamtones – Have Moicy!
Nirvana – Nevermind
Wussy – Funeral Dress
Van Morrison – Moondance
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Bob Dylan & The Band – The Basement Tapes
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA
The Replacements – Let It Be
Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps
The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
Thanks y'all for such an amazing community.
So basically everyone here came in as an already full-fledged Xgau nut. Out in the real world, my knowledge of all things Xgau is almost rainman-esque. On this board, it's about average. You can say things here like "Speak for yourself, Ferdinand" or "Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home" (or, as someone mentioned earlier, "the one with the orange cover"), or discuss the joys of Have Moicy! or Spoek Mathambo or Pylon's "Cool", and everyone knows what you're referring to. You can share your delight in discovering an almost not negative review of Uriah Heep that never made it to the first CG book. You get to read thoughtful, real-time reactions to Xgau's picks, and animated tangents on politics and literature and baseball and whatever else.
I wonder what my place in the community was, besides being the poll guy in the early days. I hope my posts contained the occasional insight among my many dull and obvious statements. I hope I made you guys laugh once in a while. Sometimes the thumbs-ups made my day. Tom, Michael, Jason, anyone else here who tries to make sense of some of the hundreds of releases that come out each week and who share their thoughts in writing, we need you bad. I'm counting on you to find the next Low Cut Connie. Like many, I suspect this is not the last we'll see of Xgau's reviews. Plus the Barnes & Noble column will still be around, hopefully including the yearly Dean's List. But if this is truly the final incarnation of the Xgau Consumer Guide, I think collectively we can do a damn good job of finding what good music is out there and keeping the conversation going.
Someone earlier on this thread wondered what they were going to do this Tuesday morning, and I think it didn't really hit me until reading that comment how much I'm losing something big, something exciting that I know I can count on twice a week - plus non-stop in between through the comments section.
At age 11, I went from having next to zero interest in music to being a massive pop geek within a few weeks, and from then on, read everything about it that I could get my hands on. I became aware fairly early on that there was this guy named Robert Christgau who wrote a Consumer Guide and was a big deal in rock criticism. I'd see the occasional review or quote here and there, plus Cheap Thrills in Montreal usually had the most recent CG stapled to their wall. Getting ahold of the Village Voice Pazz and Jop issue for 1989 was thrilling, but I was baffled by the Dean's List (to this day, the 80s is the decade where I most dissent from Xgau's picks - album picks, that is, as his early 80s singles lists were phenomenal). I jumped on the 80s book the minute that I saw it, but was frequently confused by the writing style. But there was something there, and I still read everything I could find by the man. I became a disciple only very gradually, and I'm still learning. I'm probably getting more now out of Xgau's writing than I did 5 years ago.
I jumped in the EW comments section as soon as discussions started happening, and to my astonishment, the man himself gave his enthusiastic approval to one of my very first posts. I had been involved in other music boards before, and to be truthful, some of my hopes for EW never took place. I wished that prog dudes (or indie specialists or Radiohead fanatics or whoever) who are always bitching about Xgau on other boards would show up and argue their point of view and maybe some of them would stick around and become part of the community and bring some of their prog/indie/Radiohead sensibility to EW. I wished that reviews of high-profile mainstream performers like Nicki Minaj or Brad Paisley would bring in music lovers who have never heard of Christgau but find that they enjoy thinking about music, and exposing themselves to previously unfamiliar genres, and schooling us on the parts of country and hip hop and r&b and top 40 and metal and latin and gospel that Xgau doesn't write about.
Over and over, including in this thread, people told us that they were too intimidated to contribute to this board, as the regulars' knowledge seemed so fearsome. I wonder if we could have done something differently to avoid that. Maybe from the inside it's hard to notice such things, but I never had the impression that Witnesses wielded their knowledge as a weapon. What few arguments and snark attacks occurred usually had nothing to do with differences in taste or knowledge (and were almost never directed at newbies). I sincerely think if someone had marched in saying "hey, I keep hearing good things about this Bob Dylan fella, what do you all think?", everyone would have piled in with advice and recommendations.
Hey Xgau: Do you have access to the following, and are you willing to provide (with article and date, and then date and time within the article)
- post with the most thumbs up?
- post with the most thumbs down?
- post with the most thumbs up without a thumbs down?
- post with the most thumbs down without a thumbs up?
- article with the most posts?
- any other interesting facts about the blog?
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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