Rhapsody Streamnotes: July 28, 2008

Note: These are scattered pieces picked up from notebook, mostly fodder for Recycled Goods. The several dates are noted.

July 28, 2008 Notebook

Bill Frisell: History, Mystery (2002-07 [2008], Nonesuch, 2CD): A major jazz guitarist with a checkered history, comparable to Dave Douglas not least in how his muse can stray in directions I'm ill prepared to follow, or that he occasionally pulls off a miracle anyway. The bulk of this sprawling set is built around a string section -- Jenny Scheinman violin, Eyvind Kang viola, Hank Robets cello, Tony Scherr bass -- suggesting chamber jazz, something polite and formal, with touches of the postbop classical modernism he sometimes flirts with, much as he fiddles with recreating American folklore. It's a relief when Greg Tardy (tenor sax, clarinet) cuts loose, but it's hardly ever tedious with just the strings. There's much too much going on here to digest in a single sitting -- for some reason Nonesuch never sends me Frisell's records, although they're generous with the rest of their catalog -- so take this grade with a grain of salt. A-

May Recycled Goods

Nick Lowe: Jesus of Cool (1975-78 [2008], Yep Roc): Before punk hit and new wave rolled in, there was a minor movement in Brit rock called "pub rock" which in retrospect looks like the first postmodern revival of old time rock and roll. Brinsley Schwarz, a band named for the future Graham Parker Rumour guitarist, was on the soft country end of the movement until bassist Lowe emerged as a world class pop jester, peaking with the 1974 New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz -- never released in the US, only on CD as a BGO twofer with the sweeter Nervous on the Road. Lowe's debut didn't cross the pond intact either. The UK release was called Jesus of Cool, an unabashed reference back to the Beatles' conceit. Columbia aimed lower, calling its reshuffle Pure Pop for Now People, scrambling the cover, and tacking the lowbrow "Rollers Show" on to mitigate the highbrow tunes about castrating Castro, belittling Hitler, and devouring silent movie actress Marie Provost. Actually, the repackaging sharpened the record up a bit. The reissue is less a restoration than an expansion, picking up not just the album's spare parts but non-album one-shots, like Lowe's Bowi EP (capitalizing on David Bowie's Low album), and "I Love My Label" (generously contributed to a label sampler) -- 21 tracks in all. A

Kid Creole: Going Places: The August Darnell Years (1976-83 [2008], Strut): Darnell appears as Kid Creole on four cuts, the rest ruses like Don Armando's Second Avenue and Geechy Dan's Beachwood No. 9, his debut with Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, and production jobs for ZE Records -- their own competing anthology is called Mutant Disco. A-

May 26, 2008 Notebook

Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Dance Classics 1974-1986 (1974-86 [2008], !K7/Strut): More like mechanistic new wave, with the obscurities outnumbering the classics -- James White's "Contort Yourself," Delta 5's "Mind Your Own Business," Material's "Don't Lose Control" -- and even those remain awkwardly gawky, well shy of the grand gestures of danceable new wave bands like New Order and Cabaret Voltaire. B+(**)

Lou Donaldson: Here 'Tis (1961 [2008], Blue Note): A turning point as the alto saxophonist moves from Bird bebopper to soul jazzer, helped along by organ funkmeister Baby Face Willette and even more so by Grant Green's tasty guitar licks; not quite recognizing the challenge, Donaldson goes with the groove. B+(*)

Mission of Burma: Signals, Calls and Marches (Definitive Edition) (1980-81 [2008], Matador): Boston's answer to the first wave of Anglo postpunk art bands like Wire and the Buzzcocks, but not as good, not least because they were a miserable lot -- "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" was their catchiest rant; first EP, expanded to 8 songs on Rykodisc's 1997 reissue, here up to 10, plus a DVD I didn't bother with. B+(*)

Mission of Burma: The Horrible Truth About Burma (Definitive Edition) (1983 [2008], Matador): Live album of new material plus Stooges and Pere Ubu covers, rushed out when the band broke up and the cupboard was bare; the sound is more mechanical, almost industrial; leader Roger Miller damaged his hearing, and if you crank this up you can too. B

Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6 (1970-76 [2007], Soundway, 2CD): Scattered singles, guitar-driven highlife and/or afrobeat with the occasional funk lick; the only names I recognize are Celestine Ukwu and Sir Victor Uwaifo, second-tier stars that hardly stand out in a crowd where good vibes are consistent enough to flow and varied enough to prick your ears. A-

Charlie Haden: The Best of Quartet West (1986-96 [2007], Verve): A steady-flowing sampler from five albums, catching the legendary bassist at his most sentimental, with Lawrence Marable's light touch on the drums, Alan Broadbent's luxurious piano, and Ernie Watts' crooning tenor sax -- elegantly simple, even when Broadbent's string arrangements or an out-of-place vocal sample complicate things. I would start with the nostalgic Haunted Heart, although some people find the appearance of Billie Holiday in this company unsettling. B+(*)

April 21, 2008 Notebook

Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear (1978, Motown): Thought I'd listen to the new "Deluxe Edition" but Rhapsody didn't have the full package -- didn't even come close. On the other hand, they did have the original album, which I missed at the time, and is a good place to start. Consistently applies Gaye's soft shuffle groove. Lyrics pick and pinch a bit -- a fallen love story wrapped up as a divorce present. A-

March 3, 2008 Notebook

Mike Ladd: Nostalgialator (2004 [2008], Definitive Jux): Reissue of an early album originally on !K7, most likely picked up as part of a mop-up operation. Ladd's an interesting writer, and his spoken word work with Vijay Iyer has been fascinating. This lacks the musical interest: first few pieces crunch on metal riffs, later ones wander elsewhere. Some potential interest; we know more now. B