Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Consumer Guide appeared in the Village Voice. The way I do this is
that I start out collecting notes -- players, songs, etc. -- in a file
in a HTML comments section, then when I make my mind up write up a
rough draft paragraph review. In some cases this gets transcribed into
the column draft; in others the column draft just gets a one-liner,
or for Duds the record just gets listed. Then I take the review/notes
block and move it to a "done" file, where it's out of the way but not
lost. I may subsequently rewrite parts or all of the rough review;
in any case they get edited by Robert Christgau, usually resulting
in a much sharper, tighter review. What follows are the rough review
blocks from my "done" file -- now that the column is published, I
don't need them in the "done" file anymore, so I thought I'd dump
them out here (where most of the other junk reviews are). (Notes:
a lot more details are in the comments, which you can see using the
"page source" option on your browser, not that you'll want to; some
of the these have been brought forward from previous notebooks,
where they had been dumped before I came up with this system.)
- Arild Andersen With Vassilis Tsabropoulos and John Marshall:
The Triangle (2004, ECM).
The problem with a piano trio led by a bassist is that the pianist is
the guy you naturally focus on. To some extent the billing here is a
marketing decision, given that the same three players previously appeared
on an album called Achirana, where the pianist got top billing.
Andersen is by far the better known figure, at least in Europe where
he has appeared on numerous ECM releases as well as in the group
Masqualero. He writes three songs here, compared to Tsabropoulos' four
(plus an arrangement of Ravel; the other track has all three members'
names on it). Focusing on the bassist reminds you how good he is, but
his role is still mostly supportive; the pianist is thoughtful, the
music full of subtle delights.
- Fred Anderson: Back at the Velvet Lounge (2002 ,
Delmark). Five longish pieces, including one conventional enough to be
called "Job Market Blues." Anderson must be feeling comfortable back
at home, with some of the younger generation of Chicago jazzers. The
standout here is guitarist Jeff Parker. But Anderson sounds clear and
robust, and the whole thing kicks ass.
- Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Back Together Again
(2003 , Thrill Jockey).
Anderson worked with the AACM in the '70s, recorded a bit, but soon
settled into life as a club owner. Sometimes he would played his
tenor sax in the club, and when he hit 65 he resumed recording --
just in time for a renaissance in Chicago jazz. This duo album came
out close to his 75th birthday, and it feels like he's finally
finding whatever it was that he used to search for. Drake is key:
he keeps the rhythms bubbling, getting a robust but subdued sound
from his frame drums that keeps Anderson on an even keel without
panicking him. And when Drake sings the African chant at the end,
he snuggles up.
Comes with a "bonus" CDROM, with some videos. Haven't seen those,
because Apple's Quicktime doesn't run on decent computers.
- George Benson: Irreplaceable (2004, GRP).
The three instrumentals are minor groove pieces for uninspired guitar and
synth beats, but at least they don't have to carry the exceptionally lame
lyrics of the other seven songs. The songs come with neatly groomed layered
voices. We tend to classify this sort of soul fluff as easy listening, but
easy playing is more like it. It's not like anyone can actually listen.
- Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman: Saxophone Summit:
Gathering of Spirits (2004, Telarc).
Three great saxophonists (more or less), in front of a pretty solid
rhythm section. If I felt like sorting this out I'd probably come
up with a Dud of the Month. The first turn-off is their tendency to
play the heads in unison (more or less) before passing the solos
around. They wind up playing together quite a lot, especially on
"India" (where they all pull out their flutes for some pointless
warbling) and on the title track (layered like a sax choir). This
is a problem because they don't actually sound very good together.
It's also a problem because they wander a lot. And while I suppose
the avant tics that dominate the second half may be reassuring to
those who figure them for sell-outs, I find them depressing. FWIW,
Brecker plays on the right channel, Lovano on the left, and Liebman
(mostly on soprano) somewhere in between.
- James Brown: Soul on Top (1969 , Verve).
This clones Ray Charles' great concept, with Brown reinventing
standards -- e.g., "That's My Desire," "September Song," "Every Day
I Have the Blues," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" -- in front of Louie
Bellson's big band. Oliver Nelson arranges and conducts, but barely
manages to discipline a band caught up in the singer's excitement.
Compare "Your Cheatin' Heart": proof positive of Charles' genius,
proof here as to who was really the hardest working man in show
- Bill Bruford's Earthworks Featuring Tim Garland: Random Acts
of Happiness (Summerfold).
Tim Garland, with 4-5 albums under his own name, has gotten big enough
to get his name on the cover. He plays tenor and soprano sax, flute,
and bass clarinet here, and is the voice you hear most: he has a clear,
sharp tone on both saxes and enough dynamics to keep you on edge. The
flute piece works nicely too, but the key there is Bruford, who shows
special fondness for latin rhythms here. Pianist Steve Hamilton is also
conspicuous, his specialty being lush filler. Enjoyable, enough edge
to keep you from dozing off, but unthreatening -- a taste of the good
- Dave Burrell Full-Blown Trio: Expansion (2003 ,
Burrell's seems to be rooted not just in Jelly Roll Morton and ragtime,
but even more in the mechanics of the player pianos that captured much
of their work. Even when he shifts time signatures radically, as on the
first cut here, or just dabbles in free time, as on the second cut,
he tends to stab and poke at the piano as much as to play it. As is
often the case with the avant-garde, his methods are clearest when
applied to a standard: he treats us to Irving Berlin's "They Say It's
Wonderful" and comes up with an interpretation that is skeletal yet
lets us peer deep into Berlin's roots. No two pieces here follow the
same musical game plan, again leaving us with mechanics. The help
helps too: only idea I have why he calls the trio "Full Blown" is
that he was blown away by working with William Parker and Andrew
Cyrille. Both do their usual superb job, with Parker's kora on "In
the Balance" a special treat.
- Marilyn Crispell Trio: Storyteller (2003 , ECM)
After two decades of comparisons to Cecil Taylor, her third ECM record
is deliberate, cautious, pretty even. Credit for taming the shrew may
go to Paul Motian, who evidently brings out the Bill Evans in her, but
Motian's drumming is subtly free and almost orthogonal to Crispell's
piano -- it's hard to see him determining anything, even though he's
credited with most of the songs. Rather, at such slack paces she has
an astonishing knack for sequencing one right note after another.
- Kris Davis: Lifespan (2003 (2004), Fresh Sound).
She's a young pianist, came from Canada, studied under Jim McNeely.
The group here works as a piano trio for two of eight cuts. For the
other six cuts they are joined by three horns -- Tony Malaby and
Jason Rigby on saxophones, Russ Johnson on trumpet and flugelhorn.
The horns predominate, of course, but they do her bidding carefully
and efficiently: there's no clutter here, no showboating, the horn
lines make sense in terms of the music coming out of the piano --
all Davis originals.
- Marty Ehrlich: Line on Love (2002-03 , Palmetto).
As accessible as avant-garde gets, partly because Ehrlich's
originals rarely shift out of ballad gear, but also because
he has mastered the musical space the avant-garde opened up
nearly half a century ago so thoroughly that he finds fresh,
unpredictable music everywhere he looks.
- El-P/The Blue Series Continuum: High Water (2004,
This is the third album in less than a year for the Blue Series
Continuum, each with a different guest producer. The band is named
for Thirsty Ear's avant-jazz series, which has wandered deep into
DJ territory, and it's staffed by the series' Artistic Director,
Matthew Shipp, and his usual crew. *The Good and Evil Sessions*
was more of an upbeat groove album. The more abstract *Sorcerer
Sessions* tried to exploit Shipp's avant-classical tendencies.
But this one has more meat visible, perhaps because El-P frames
what the band gives him rather than smoothering it in sauce.
- Wayne Escoffery: Intuition (2003 , Nagel Heyer).
Escoffery is a young fashion plate who plays tenor sax when he isn't
modelling or acting. He's joined here by Downbeat's "Rising Star"
trumpeter Jeremy Pelt for a bout of searing, splashy hard bop. While
it's impossible to fault either for technical command, the sound of
the two horns together gets under my skin and irritates as long as
they're on. Both consistently play over the top, and drummer Ralph
Peterson often tries to top them. Not the sort of thing I'm inclined
to pick on, but then I've rarely been so annoyed by such a skillful
album. Possible Dud of the Month.
- Fourplay: Journey (2004, Bluebird).
The old white guys (pianist Bob James, guitarist Larry Coryell) here
haven't stretched out in decades, but toss off better licks than your
average smooth jazz setup; the not-so-old black guys in the so-called
rhythm section have some explaining to do.
- Lafayette Gilchrist: The Music According to Lafayette
Gilchrist (2004, Hyena).
Gilchrist frames his piano improvisations with clomping drumbeats and
galloping bass lines, touched up by horns that owe more to Stax than
to Parker. That may seem to hem him in, but freedom is relative to
where you start from, and Gilchrist starts from a huge pillar of
energy. That means he has to play fast, which is fine with me. I've
seen this classified as acid jazz, but the beats aren't meant for
dance. The beats are there because funk is its own reward. And while
the horns mostly riff, they do break out on occasion, making this a
good deal more adventurous than any acid jazz I can think of. This
may have been cobbled together from two previous releases I've seen
on CDBaby -- all of the songs come from Asphalt Revolt (1999)
and Collagic Dreams (2000), and the musicians mostly line up
with the roll call of Gilchrist's New Volcanoes band.
- Antonio Hart: All We Need (2004, Downtown
Bracketed by two "X Is All We Need" vocals that almost sing themselves,
Hart tries to sell out but mostly flops. He gets half way into the
synth groove sound of crossover, then falls back on his Coltrane licks.
He does the latter reasonably well, although it can be strange to hear
it with free drums over an organ grinder, as in "Auditory Illusion."
Two tracks with Jimmy Heath explore sax harmony, one of which winds
up sounding like big band section work. Something simple like "Crystal"
still works, but overall this is a mess.
- Roy Haynes: Fountain of Youth (2002 , Dreyfus).
Haynes stays young (76 when this was recorded) by playing with much
younger musicians -- the key player here is multireedist Marcus
Strickland (two albums under his own name, in Fresh Sound's New
Talent series), who learned "Greensleeves" from his Coltrane
records, and tackles three Monk compositions like they're easy.
Also notable is pianist Martin Bejerano. Solid, swinging, luminous
hard bop, but then it was only 45 years ago when Haynes played
much the same thing with the original Monk and Coltrane.
- Percy Heath: A Love Song (2002 , Daddy Jazz).
He's the ultimate team player: played on 300-some albums, but never
before cut one under his own name. But at 79 the sole survivor of
the Modern Jazz Quartet is entitled. He's got some compositions.
He's got some ideas on arranging them -- in particular, he brought
in the redoubtable Peter Washington on second bass, which beefs up
the sound and lets him switch off to cello for a blues lead. And
he's got a young piano player he wants to show off: a Sir Roland
Hanna protege named Jeb Patton. The whole thing works beautifully.
- Ian Hendrickson-Smith: Up in Smoke (2003, Sharp Nine).
This was cut live, but has the feel of a late '50s blowing session:
a mainstream sax player tackling swinging standards ("The Best Things
in Life Are Free"), ballads ("Chelsea Bridge"), bebop ("Segment"),
something latin ("Curaçao"), some blues (title cut, an original).
From the liner notes: "Hendrickson-Smith just wanted to show how
he played jazz: straight-ahead with a blues feeling, showcasing
tunes that are easy to get with." Rarely has so little ambition
been accomplished so gracefully.
- Hiromi: Brain (2004, Telarc).
Hiromi Uehara came from Japan to Berklee, where she picked up good
habits from the likes of Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, and Ahmad Jamal.
Her skills are undeniable, and they lift what would otherwise be an
exercise in eclectic postmodernism, a brief for fashion over style.
She tries on lots of fashions here -- the most promising being an
interest in electronics that seems stereotypically rooted in manga.
The brightest such song is the opener, "Kung-Fu World Champion,"
which she dedicates to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan for all their
inspiration. I take that as a joke, although she probably doesn't.
- Henry Kaiser & Wadada Leo Smith: Yo Miles! Sky Garden
(2004, Cuneiform, 2CD).
One curious thing is that nobody else ever really managed to follow through
on the electric jazz fusion that Miles Davis pioneered in the early '70s.
Sure, lots of people (including most of his bands) diddled with fusion,
but none of them came close enough to Miles' sound to do anything with it.
That's because Miles' music left a lot of space open, whereas other fusion
just gets filled up with jam. With so much space, each note of the trumpet
rings clear. Which suggests that if one does want to go back to the Davis
legacy, one ought to be a trumpeter. Enter Wadada Leo Smith. Once you get
past the sonic similarities, the differences in the trumpeters are subtle
but worth pondering. Would be better, of course, if Henry Kaiser were a
guitarist worthy of following John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock.
- Joe Locke & 4 Walls of Freedom: Dear Life (2003
Looking back over his career, it seems that Locke's mastery of the
vibes comes out most clearly in his smallest groups. Give him a
saxophone player and he slips into the background -- even when he
is as sharp as ever you have to go fishing for him. Give him Tommy
Smith and he's really outshone, which is the case for the first
two-thirds of this album. The latter third wanes a bit, as Smith
tries to make nice. The group is very solid, and the combination
of Smith and Locke potent.
- David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters Featuring Pharoah Sanders:
Gwotet (2003 , Justin Time).
David Murray's third Guadeloupe album -- the cast continues to rotate,
with Klod Kiavue and François Ladrezeau (the gwo-ka drummers) the only
constants on the Guadeloupean side, and Murray the sole constant on
the American side. Murray brought Jaribu Shahid (bass), Hamid Drake
(drums), and Pharoah Sanders along from the US, plus a smattering of
his Latin Big Band guys.
- Michel Portal, Stephen Kent, Mino Cinelu: Burundi
(2000 , PAO).
Kent's didgeridoo provides the varying hums that place this record
in the outer reaches of exotica. Cinelu's percussion and occasional
yelp or bark drive it rhythmically. Portal improvises on soprano sax
and bass clarinet -- instruments that add to the otherworldly sound.
- Keith Rowe/Axel Dörner/Franz Hautzinger: A View From the
Without doubt the quietest album ever recorded with two trumpet
players. Or one. Or maybe zero, excepting Kim Fowley's notorious
blank LP. Two cuts: first is 36:25 and consists of a few clicks
of static; second is a mere 21:09 and mostly just buzzes. Fowley's
concept was "fuck you." Presumably these guys answer to a higher
calling. Hence I'm cutting them some slack on the grade.
- Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Breeding Resistance (2003
Sirota wears his politics on his sleeve, but like Mingus there's more to
his music than his titles. By all means read the booklet to explain the
titles: remember Fred Hampton? Ken Saro-Wiwa? Don Cherry? Still, when
you get to the music it doesn't matter that the stately "For Martyrs" is
generic while the lovely "Elegy" is personal. Sure, oppression breeds
resistance, but neither make music. Thoughtful, passionate musicians
- Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (2004, High Two).
Like David Murray's gwo-ka, Kevin Diehl finds his inspiration in the
relict rhythms that kept Africa alive in the Caribbean. But Diehl,
a drummer who studied with Sunny Murray, does more than build postbop
jazz around Cuban bata drums: he messes with the rhythms, at times
losing the pulse and wandering free. Same for the tenor sax -- like
Ayler, Terry Lawson starts with simple folk melodies and pushes them
into frenzy. But three vocals tie the free jazz down to the Lukumi
roots -- the most striking also the simplest, with Chuckie Joseph
singing over nothing but his own strummed guitar. This finally pays
dividends on the '60s avant-garde's fascination with pan-Africana.
- Spyro Gyra: The Deep End (2004, Heads Up).
Spry funk, thick layers of guitar-keyb-sax that never let up, occasional
tidbits of exotica, they don't aim for pablum, but they don't take risks
either, so in the end they're as predictable as formula.
- Ignasi Terraza Trio: IT's Coming (2004, TCB).
One thing that makes this mainstream piano trio better than most is that
the bassist, Pierre Boussaguet, is always in the middle of the mix, so
it sounds like a trio. More originals than covers, both arranged to fit
- Ken Vandermark / Brian Dibblee: Duets (2002-03 ,
Bassist Dibblee composed these pieces, and he keeps them quiet and
thoughtful. Vandermark plays bass clarinet, which both provides a
nice contrast to the bass and throttles his own instincts toward
burning the house down. In fact, he puts on a comprehensive clinic
in the instrument, not just working with its characteristic bass
toots but showing remarkable prowess up the scales.
- The Vandermark Five: Elements of Style . . . Exercises in
Surprise (2003 , Atavistic).
Most of Ken Vandermark's groups are forums where musicians get
together and kick shit around, but his flagship group exists just
for him. With Jeb Bishop on trombone and Dave Rempis adding a
second saxophone -- often the lead with Vandermark switching off
to big or small clarinet -- the Five has has one of the most
potent horn sections in jazz. Indeed, the most striking thing
here is how smoothly they play in unison, how smartly they play
in contrast, and how sharply they can stop and spin on a dime.
The first six pieces each pursue distinct ideas, and the other --
the 20:10 "Six of One" -- marshalls at least as many. For once,
the risks and daring of free jazz are arranged as perfectly as
in a crack big band.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Music: Initial count 9689 rated (+33), 1064 unrated (-13). Jazz
Consumer Guide will appear in the Village Voice this Tuesday. Static
is rebuilding (moving to Zope) and redesigning, which has left my
Recycled Goods column in limbo for nearly a month now -- one delay
that wasn't my fault. Just trying to keep my head above water, so
figure I'll be writing up a bit of everything this week.
- Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown, Marisa Monte: Tribalistas
(2002, Metro Blue). Brazilian pop of a relatively high order -- how high
is hard to say given that Brazilian pop rarely bites hard enough to make
itself felt across the language barrier. Monte produces, and seems to be
the leader, but Antunes sings as much. Brown is the instrument man, the
groove master. B+
- Borah Bergman/Oliver Lake: A New Organization (1997
, Soul Note). Duo, recorded live at the Knitting Factory, most
likely improvved on the spot. It's tempting to just concentrate on
Bergman's piano, especially since Lake can't be tuned out anyway.
Bergman is a formidable pianist, and he's very much in the thick
of this. B+
- Break Bread (Gruf, McEnroe, Pipi Skid, Yy, John Smith, Hunnicutt):
Break Break EP (2004, Peanuts & Corn). I hear that this
is a supergroup ("collectively these six individuals are responsible for
over 25 albums and EPs in the last ten years"; I guess that's more than
Crosby Stills & Nash could have counted when they got together, but
the only ones I had heard of were Pipi Skid and the undercapitalized
ringleader "mcenroe"). "Each MC was responsible for a concept on one
song, and the others were to stick to that concept." Which doesn't
quite add up either, what with six MCs and only five songs, one of
which features a seventh MC, someone billed as Birdapres. Without a
map I can't tell you which is which: just a bunch of white guys in
baseball hats, but then they're Canadian so at least they have an
excuse. Those five songs make up a manifesto for underground old
style. The beats are endlessly listenable -- in fact, they threw
in five "Bonus Instrumentals" so you can check for yourself. The
concepts aren't much (e.g., "No Other MC"), but they trade rhymes
fine. Wish I had a transcript of who said what, but then I'd just
wind up quoting something.
- Michael Brecker Quindectet: Wide Angles (2003,
Verve). Brecker is widely regarded as one of the most important and
influential tenor saxophonists of the last twenty years. Beats me
why, but I've read that over and over again, often enough that at
some point one has to concede that there must be some truth in it
somewhere. Beats me where, but one thing this record does convince
me of is that Brecker can blow so fast and furious that the other
fourteen musicians he rounded up here are no match for him. But
then the other fourteen are merely here for background. Brecker
plays 80% or more of the time, and no other front line instruments
emerge. He also wrote nine of the ten pieces, so this should be a
good opportunity to take his measure. What it shows, I think, is
an impressive technician who offers us very little to care about.
I started warming to this in the latin-tinged "Timbuktu," then
remembered Gato Barbieri's Latino America, a similar case
of a rambunctious tenor sax overwhelming a roiling orchestra.
Except that Barbieri had an emotional edge to his playing, and
that his band had a much stronger lock on the latin beat. This
is one of those records that makes a strong first impression
yet will never lure you back to listen further.
- Café Tacuba: Cuatro Caminos (2003, MCA). Rock en
español group, widely regarded as a major one. My first taste of
them, and I'm finding myself indifferent. Reminds me that rock is
a fairly basic musical framework for words. Replace the words with
something you don't understand and it's hard to say that this is
any better or worse than anything else. The music is pretty straight
rock, the sort of thing we get from singer-songwriters working under
the cover of bands. Makes me suspect that there's an auteur here
too, but I'm just too dense to figure it out. Or too busy to care.
- Cowboy Jack Clement: Guess Things Happen That Way
(2004, Dualtone). Born 1931. Recorded his first album 25 years ago,
and his second now. Has a history working as a producer first for
Sam Phillips in Memphis then for Chet Atkins in Nashville. Belongs
to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and indeed the songs
you'll recognize here bear his John Henry, including the wonderful
title track and "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" -- if you need any help
placing that one note that the backup vocalist is Johnny Cash. So
I guess you can chalk this up as belonging to the Otis Blackwell
tradition, but it's better than anything Blackwell ever recorded.
Not a great record, but an oddly wonderful one. B+
- Fennesz: Venice (2004, Touch). Electronic music,
not much beat, more like industrial-ambient. Interesting mix of
sounds, not much like anything I've wandered into. Which leaves
me confused and ambivalent. B
- Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (1979 , Warner Bros.,
2CD). The follow-up to two huge albums, the prospects of topping
themselves a third time seeming ever grimmer, they released an
album not of hits but filler, masqueraded by aggressive drums.
The single "Tusk" is exhibit A; "Sisters of the Moon" is exhibit
B. The best stuff here is weirder than you'd expect from a band
that mainstreamed so effectively; the rest sounds like trivia.
The extra disc of "demos, roughs and outtakes" is, of course,
even more trivial. B Album proper: B+
- Serge Gainsbourg: Du Jazz Dans le Ravin (1958-64
, Philips/Mercury). Relatively early, relatively jazzy, plus
a touch of Weill. As jazz goes this is pretty lightweight stuff,
but one might give it more credit as hip Parisian chanson. Might.
- David Hazeltine: The Classic Trio (1996, Sharp Nine).
Very straight, very conventional, but in all respects just about the
perfect mainstream piano trio session. Hazeltine is bright, sharp,
always inventive. And Louis Hayes and especially Peter Washington
are the perfect supporting cast -- indeed, it's hard to overpraise
Washington: he's the Oscar Pettiford of our times, except better.
The minus is less because of slight flaws than because perfect is
terminal; progress comes from imperfections, but craftsmanship is
worth celebrating too.
- K.D. Lang: Hymns of the 49th Parallel (2004,
Nonesuch). Her tribute to her native Canada, with two songs each
by fellow Canadians Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and
Jane Siberry, and one each by Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, and
K.D. Lang. The decision to file Lang as Country came from her
Owen Bradley obsession. If it wasn't clear before (and it should
have been), this album finally tips us to what she saw in Bradley:
a producer who could turn even genuine hillbillies into schmaltz.
That's basically what Lang does for her fellow Canadians. She has
a voice as clear as the frosty Canadian air, and when paired with
Teddy Borowiecki's piano she makes a fine nightclub act. What
works for her best is simple, but she rarely leaves well enough
alone. In particular, she loves them strings, and piles them on
thick for much of this. Even that works for Mitchel's "Jericho,"
but Mitchell has gone there before. The first conclusion we have
to draw is that when it comes to nightclub schmaltz, the songs
make all the difference in the world. Lang's on solid ground with
Mitchell and Young and Cohen's "Bird on a Wire," but the others
aren't up to that level, and even there (especially with Mitchell)
she just points you back to the original. The second conclusion
is that this is just one of those things she can do because she
is who she is: a celebrity, a Canadian, a nightclub singer. None
of those are compelling reasons to follow her anywhere.
- Phil Ranelin: The Time Is Now! (1973-74 ,
Hefty). The avant-garde didn't actually disappear in the early '70s,
although it effectively went underground. Ayler, Coltrane and Dolphy
died. Coleman got into a snit with his record companies and kept to
himself. Taylor tried his hand at teaching. Russell went into exile.
Labels like Blue Note and Impulse basically imploded. Later on new
labels like Soul Note/Black Saint, Enja, and DIW picked up the slack,
but those were almost all based in Europe and Japan; expensive, with
little distribution here. Homegrown labels were even more obscure,
like Detroit's Tribe Records. Ranelin recorded two early '70s albums
for Tribe, so obscure that when I received a new record by "the
legendary Phil Ranelin" I had never heard of him. Turns out that
the two were reissued by another tiny label in 2001. This is the
first one, and it feels like the missing link between the '60s
avants and the loft scene that emerged in the late '70s: they are
very much products of the time, but so unheard that we never had
a true picture of that time. Ranelin plays trombone, prominent
here, but the front line is shared with other horns -- Wendell
Harrison (tenor sax), Marcus Belgrave (flugelhorn), Charles
Moore (trumpet), Haroun El Nil (alto sax) -- plus piano, bass
drums, and extra percussion -- everyone is credited with some
of that. The rhythm is usually built around simple repetitive
figures, mostly from bass or piano with the drums swinging free.
The horns weave in and out, making up occasional layers when
they meet. The effect is deep, serious, complex.
- Phil Ranelin: Vibes From the Tribe (1976 ,
Hefty). Two great groove pieces to start, and an 18-minute avant
powerhouse to close, but they bracket two pieces where Ranelin
sings -- one a marriage proposal, the other a paean to future
children. I suppose we can cut him slack for sentiment, but his
singing is pretty awful, and the music deforms to accommodate
him. CD adds bonus takes of the first two groove pieces.
- Sentimental Journey: Pop Vocal Classics, Vol. 1 (1942-1946)
(1942-46 , Rhino). This series of four discs, bracketed by years
up to 1959, is documented by Will Friedwald. It provides a useful survey
of American pop music in the uncertain period between jazz and rock.
Pop singers came to dominate the big jazz bands of the late '30s, to
the point that they increasingly displaced the bandleaders as stars.
This first volume has the unenviable task of sorting out the new pop
style from its jazz matrix, but its operating principle seems to be
separation: nothing here is likely to ever be called jazz. This also
pays a price in segregation: even though four of the singers (counting
the Mills Brothers as one) are black, they are mostly colorless and
relatively undistinguished. A better period comp is possible, as is
a more interesting conceptual comp.
- Percy Sledge: Shining Through the Rain (2004, Varèse
Sarabande). With one towering hit you might figure Sledge to have been
as marginal a '60s soul singer as Gene Chandler (you know, the "Duke
of Earl"). But if you go back to any good collection of his '60s work
you'll be surprised by how consistently great he was. (The one I have
is The Ultimate Collection, released by Atlantic in 1990, but
Rhino released another in 1992, and The Very Best of Percy Sledge
in 1998, and they should do just as well.) He's only recorded rarely
since 1969 -- one in 1974, another in 1994, this one in 2004. Now that
Solomon Burke's made a comeback, and Howard Tate's been rediscovered,
why not Sledge? First thing you notice is the voice, still one of the
most recognizable in the history of soul music, although as deeply
country as soul. The arrangements are conventionally old-fashioned.
The songs are other peoples', and not all of them hit. "My Old Friend
the Blues" is typically comfy. "Big Blue Diamond" has some genuine
lustre. And "Change My Mind" belongs on his next Greatest Hits
- Patti Smith: Land (1975-2002) (1974-2002, Arista, 2CD).
The first disc quickly dispenses with the obvious highlights of her
career: "Gloria" and "Free Money" from Horses, "People Have the
Power" and "Paths That Cross" from Dream of Life, "Pissing in a
River" from Radio Ethiopia, "Because the Night" from Easter,
and adds a new "When Doves Cry" that spotlights everything that is right
about her latterday straight-as-an-arrow rock 'n' roll period. The second
disc wanders more, with early demos (including the aboriginal "Piss
Factory"), outtakes, and mostly recent live cuts. Both discs form an
unified matrix, the early/late split unified by the gravity of her
voice, the hits/misses split nullified because she's always taken risks.
- Patti Smith: Trampin' (2003 , Columbia).
"Boots that tramped from track to track worn down to the sole one
road was paved with gold and one road was just a road." Not a lyric
(although I may have missed it), just some words in the inner circle
around the hub that holds the disc. Slightly uneven, but part of that
is because "Radio Baghdad" is one of her all-time great pieces --
"they're robbing the cradle of civilization," shouted, chanted,
revealed, the music pumps up, spreads out, contemplates itself.
Then finishes with the title cut, a simple gospel lament over bare
- Brian Wilson: Presents Smile (2004, Nonesuch).
Thirty-seven years in the waiting, rebuilt from scratch because,
well, why the hell not? The key pieces are well known -- not just
"Heroes and Villains" and "Good Vibrations" but "Cabin Essence"
and "Surf's Up" and "Vega-Tables" and even "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"
and "Wind Chimes." What's new is that they're stitched together
into a coherent flow, even if some of the stitching comes off
awfully corny. What's better is that this '60s prog fantasy is
now so inescapably retro that the future it beholds is one that
we've already survived. And that's something to smile about.
It's almost like getting your youth back once you're old enough
to appreciate it. A
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Finished reading Laura Flanders, Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical
Species (Verso). Has useful background chapters on Condoleezza Rice,
Karen Hughes, Ann Veneman, Elaine Chao, Gale Norton, and Christine Todd
Whitman, plus a chapter called "Sisters" which touches on Lynne Cheney
and Laura Bush. Aside from Whitman and Cheney, I can't say as I had
noticed any of these names before the Bush II regime took power, so
the first thing I'm struck by is how they had all (except Laura Bush)
worked their way through the Reagan/Bush I power structure. Given Bush
II's intentions, one cannot argue that any of these women haven't
earned their posts, nor that they have failed their appointed tasks.
Flanders argues that much of their effectiveness has come from the
fact that they are women -- that the media wants to glorify them as
progressive icons even though they've bought into Bush II whole hog
and done equivalent damage to Bush-Cheney's good old boy network.
This is all true, and just goes to show that anyone can cast their
lot with the rich and powerful -- compiling similar lists among
other groups ill served by Bush-Cheney isn't hard either. While
most of these woman are little more than willing servants of power
(smart, dedicated and hard-working as they certainly are), Karen
Hughes seems to be in a class all her own. I found her chapter to
be downright shocking: part because I recognized the crime scenes
but had never identified her as the perp, but also because I believe
that the single worst thing that George W. Bush has been responsible
for is the corruption and destruction of civil political discourse
in America. Much of the dirty work there was done by Hughes.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Put together the website for
Fifth Column Films, the
video/filmmaking company that my nephew, Mike Hull, and Axel Foley
have formed in Jersey City, NJ. I got some money invested in them
(and they owe me more than that), but I'm impressed with the work
I've seen them do. Their film, Smokers, is a textbook case
of how to work cheap and produce something that doesn't just look
cheap. Mike learned those ropes working with Wichita's own Jason
Bailey, whose Films on
Consignment has put out half-a-dozen feature length films for
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Music: Initial count 9656 rated (+38), 1077 unrated (-17). Jazz
Consumer Guide should be published Sept. 28. Stil waiting for Static
to post Recycled Goods, and have another one done except for an
introduction. I need a better place to publish that column; the
current one is nearly useless. Meanwhile, moving a lot of product
through the sieve.
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: That Depends on What You Know:
The Sirens Return/Keep It Real 'Till It Flatlines (2002, Trugroid).
The second of three CDs from these sessions. Title cut most impressive,
built around a lot of adventurous guitar leading into a rap, "if you
have problems, just say fuck it." Again, the guitars and rhythm take
over the final piece. There's a great album buried in these sessions,
but I guess Greg Tate decided he'd rather have three good ones. B+
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: That Depends on What You Know:
The Crepescularium (2002, Trugroid). More of the same, this time
with more vocals than usual, which doesn't necessarily help. B
- Jacques Gauthé & the Creole Rice Jazz Band: Echoes of
Sidney Bechet (1997, Good Time Jazz). Straight out of Bechet's
book, beautifully realized, but nothing new. B+
- P.J. Harvey: Uh Huh Her (2004, Island). Her fans
are generally bummed about this one -- evidently she is too -- but
it sounds like her sound, toned down and muddied a bit, which is
ok with this nonfan. As for her love life, well, who cares? B+
- Chris Jonas' the Sun Spits Cherries: The Vermilion
(2000, Hopscotch). Jonas plays soprano sax, somewhat reminiscent of
Steve Lacy, although often more fragmentary and dissociated. The
group matches him against two trombones and percussion, and Myra
Melford joins on piano. While the juxtapositions, especially with
the trombones, are interesting, the overall effect is slow and
fractured, the lack of rhythm just short of falling apart.
- Michele Rosewoman Quartet: The Source (1983 ,
Soul Note). Quartet with Baikida Carroll (trumpet, flugelhorn), Roberto
Miranda (bass, Pheeroan AkLaff (drums), from early in the pianist's
- Renee Rosnes: With a Little Help From My Friends
(1988-99 , Blue Note). A retrospective, with four previously
unreleased tracks, mostly alternates or live versions. The title
comes from the Lennon-McCartney song, a tough nut to jazz, and the
long list of friends on the cover are sparsely represented in a
series of mostly small groups. Especially impressive are the sax
players: Joe Henderson, Walt Weiskopf, Branford Marsalis, Wayne
Shorter, Chris Potter. Moreover, she does a fine job of holding
them together. Enough of these pieces stand out to make this
- Sizzla: Rise to the Occasion (2003, Greensleeves).
AMG lists 24 main albums for this Jamaican star, starting in 1995,
including 8 on VP and 5 on Greensleeves. That seems like too much.
This is the only one I've heard, and lack of context makes me a
bit leery in evaluating it. I hear a mix of ragga and roots; a
thin and somewhat arch voice reminiscent of Eek-a-Mouse and that
generation of motormouthed toasters. B
- Bill Stewart: Telepathy (1996 , Blue Note).
This is a drummer's record, and as usual it pays to concentrate
there, but with piano (Bill Carrothers), bass (Larry Grenadier),
and two saxophones (Steve Wilson and Seamus Blake) there's much
more going on. Maybe too much. There's no doubt that Stewart knows
his craft -- I recall a "blindfold test" where he nailed every
drummer thrown out at him. I'm impressed by the details. All of
the players are first rate, and they have plenty to do. But I'm
less clear on where it's all meant to go. Maybe nowhere. B+
- String Trio of New York: First String (1979,
Black Saint). First recording by long-time group, at this point
consisting of Billy Bang (violin), James Emery (guitar), John
Lindberg (bass). Three pieces timed for LP: "The East Side Suite"
(Lindberg, 19:55) for the first side; "Subway Ride With Giuseppi
Logan" (Bang, 8:00) and "Catharsis in Real Time" (Emery, 9:03)
for the second. This strikes me as still exploratory: lots of
little interactions more interesting in their details than in
some big picture. B+
- Henri Texier: Colonel Skopje (1988 , Evidence).
Presumably this is the same record Penguin Guide lists as Label Bleu
LBLC 6523. It reads that way: "a ragbag, too various to hang together
convincingly, although Abercrombie's presence guarantees some
interesting moments, as always." There is some interesting guitar
here. Harder to figure out is just what Steve Swallow (electric bass
to Texier's acoustic) and Joe Lovano (on flute as well as saxophones,
the latter unspecified but only the tenor notable) are doing. Last
piece is quite nice. B
- Keith Tippett: The Dartington Concert (1990 ,
E.G.). Solo piano, one piece, 47:49 long, called "One for You, Dudu."
A lot of intricate rocking back and forth, some interesting moves.
Pretty good. B+
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Movie: Hero. Noun, a word I hope I never hear again,
as long as I live. Presumably the subject here is something about the
mechanization and institutionalization of violence in the forming of
national states, and how even the learned and independent submit to
some idea of national good that seems rarely justified by the national
rulers. Something like that. Or maybe it's just that the only good
hero is a dead hero. C
I finished reading Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty: Aristocracy,
Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. I should
take some time and write up something more substantial about this book.
Phillips has dug deep enough into the family history to start to make
sense out of things that just seemed weird before, like the Bush family
association with the CIA and the decision to transform from Connecticut
yankees to West Texas cowboys. Phillips' discussions of the Stuarts and
Bourbons don't add much here: their restorations were done under force,
whereas the Bushes were knowingly (more or less) re-elected (more or
less). I suspect that the real story of the Bush political machine is
even tawdrier than Phillips draws it. The one thing that Phillips seems
to have missed is the Rockefeller dynastic legacy, in particular the
connection between the Rockefellers and evangelical protestantism
(including the ubiquitous Billy Graham, who does appear here) as
traced out in Thy Will Be Done. The Bushes were more directly
connected to the Harrimans, but the Harrimans were tied up with the
Rockefellers as well, and the interconnections of both with the spy
agencies, the military-industrial complex, and oil are significant.
Monday, September 13, 2004
Three years after the terrible attacks of 11 September 2001 I find
myself wondering whether anyone ever is so shocked by an unexpected
event that they reconsider and change course. The horror that we felt
that morning watching the World Trade Center burn and collapse was
not just for the victims. Every bit as horrifying was the expectation
of what would come: not what further attacks might come, but what the
U.S. would do in reaction. To call what happened afterwards revenge
would be to give it more purpose and sense than history demonstrates.
All Osama bin Laden actually did on that day was to poke a giant and
stir it into fitful action. He soon went into hiding and has been
irrelevant ever since, but the U.S. reaction has continued to rail
blindly against the world. In the three years since, the U.S. has
laid waste to two countries, killing at least ten times as many people
as died on that fateful day, perhaps twenty times, sacrificing another
thousand Americans in the process. The U.S. burned up over $200 billion
prosecuting those wars, now just hopeless sinkholes, festering pools
of hate. And three years out we're nowhere near closure.
That no good would come of America's reaction was clear from the
first day. The problem was no doubt made worse because the President
was a deceitful cynic who saw a ready chance to cover himself with
the glory of war, and because his administration was chock full of
liars and crooks and ideological megalomaniacs. But the U.S. had
long been cocked for this sort of reaction, much as, say, the world
of 1914 plunged into World War following the assassination of Archduke
Ferdinand. Consider these reasons:
Americans have been able to maintain a perfect sense of their
own innocence and beneficence despite much reason to think otherwise.
The land was after all taken from its aboriginal inhabitants by force
and/or plague, reducing the few surviving Native Americans to abject
poverty. Much of that land was tilled by slaves kidnapped from Africa;
when the U.S. finally abolished slavery, following the most deadly war
fought to that time, those freed were segregated by law and terrorized
by lynching. The nation expanded through imperialist wars against Mexico
and Spain, and attacked Latin American countries dozens of times to
install or protect favorable regimes. During WWII the U.S. developed
and used nuclear weapons -- the only country ever to do so -- and
killed even more by indiscriminately firebombing Japanese cities.
Following WWII the U.S. fought a desperate and unscrupulous worldwide
"cold war" against communism, including limited but vicious wars in
Korea and Vietnam. During this time the U.S. backed murderous regimes
it thought to be allies, fomented rebellions and overthrew governments
(some democratic) that it disliked, and tried to strangle economically
countries it couldn't defeat politically or economically.
Especially during and after WWII the U.S. developed a huge and
self-sustaining complex of military, industrial and security interests,
dovetailing with the global interests of multinational corporations.
This growth was politically autonomous, fed both by fear of the other
(first communism, now terrorism) and by fear of apparent weakness,
ultimately expanding to straddle the entire world without peer or
challenge -- or purpose other than its self-perpetuation.
For most Americans the defining events of the 20th century
were WWII and Vietnam. WWII came to be seen as the "good war" --
as the triumph of freedom, democracy, all things American over the
evils of fascism and nationalistic imperialism, which conveniently
left the U.S. (isolated from the destruction of the war itself) by
far the richest and most glorious country in the world. Vietnam,
on the other hand, left the U.S. humiliated by a backwater third
world conspiracy. Ever since the American people have been in
denial, facilitated by a lurch to the political right which puts
a high value both on toughness and righteousness.
Convinced of their own righteousness and innocence, conditioned
by the cold war to villify as an enemy anyone who thinks otherwise,
Americans had no way to question themselves on 9/11. The only reaction
they considered was to lash out, and this was overwhelmingly bipartisan,
almost universal -- I know a number of good people who were swept up
in just this reaction, even people who know just what America's war
machine has done over the last half century. So the reaction was not
a conspiracy, not a peccadillo of the illegitimate Bush cult. It was
the conditioned response of America.
Still, three years out the reaction has taken the shape given to
it by Bush. It is easy to second guess the tactics, and even John
Kerry has done some of that. Many, perhaps most, Americans don't
buy the strategy of tossing Iraq on top of the still hot embers of
Afghanistan, and even some who did have given up on the costs. But
the fundamental problem is still the very idea of a War on Terrorism.
For one thing it mixes together many distinct political movements
targeting distinct real (or imagined) injustices. For another it
makes the U.S. the unwitting ally in repressing each case, as we
join and legitimize India in Kashmir, Russia in Chechnya, Israel in
Palestine, and anti-Islamist rulers from the Philippines to Morocco
-- an international sweep that makes Al Qaeda seem prescient. But
the real problem is that it posits that the solution to terrorism
is war -- convenient given that we have the world's premier war
But three years of fitful reactions later the U.S. war machine has
failed utterly. What this should do is to trigger something deep in
the dark recesses of our memory: that the mighty U.S. war machine,
backed by all that American benificence and righteousness, has failed
before -- in Vietnam. We've never faced up to why the U.S. failed in
Vietnam, for much the same reasons we've never faced up to much of
anything: because we were in the wrong. And the core reason why we
were in the wrong wasn't that what we think of as right isn't really
right for us; it's that it isn't necessarily right for others. Until
we learn to respect other people and do right by them -- to help when
we can but never to impose -- we will continue to hurt ourselves by
waging unconscionable, ineffective wars. We will continue to delude
ourselves, to inflict misery, to make enemies, to show the world
that we are unworthy of respect.
Three years ago, even after the 9/11 attacks, we were still better
off than we are today. What has happened since then has been our
fault -- pretty much our fault alone -- and we have no one to blame
for that other than ourselves. If you want to blame George W. Bush
for that, well, that's a good place to start. But the real causes
go much deeper than Bush, deeper than the Republicans, deeper than
the Reagan reaction. Nothing really changes until we take a good
look at ourselves, admit what we have done, and resolve, one day at
a time, to do right.
As we know now, when the airplanes crashed on 11 September 2001
George W. Bush was dumbfounded. He did nothing, then was packed
away to hide. Dick Cheney also went into hiding. Yet before the
day was out the media had declared war, proclaiming that America
was under attack -- a message that inevitably mutated to America
strikes back. The propaganda offensive began almost spontaneously,
the first pre-emptive attacks of the War on Terror. The first to
be attacked were pacifists, anyone with the instinct not to shoot
first and ask questions later. Then came the "Blame America First"
crowd: anyone who suspected that maybe the U.S. had actually done
something that might have motivated people to be willing to die just
to punish us. Even Pat Robertson got caught up in that snare: his
assertion that God had punished America for coddling homosexuals
was more finger-pointing than America was willing to endure. Then
came out the flags, and it was nothing but stupid season. With no
idea why we had been attacked, with nothing permitted to moderate
our response, with the world's largest military straddling the
globe, George W. Bush had no alternative but to plunge the nation
into war -- not that he had the guts or the brains to make any
effort to stem the tide.
Rather, the problem with Bush is that he fell in love with war,
and especially with being Commander in Chief. His polls soared.
His sponsors grinned. When the Taliban had been flushed from the
major cities in Afghanistan he was ginned up for the next war --
perhaps the one he had wanted in the first place, Iraq. One of
the most interesting things about the Iraq war was that it wasn't
automatic: it took considerable will from the Bush administration
to make it happen. They rolled out a massive propaganda campaign,
they went to Congress and the U.N., they tried to round up allies,
and when nobody much supported them they just went ahead and did
it anyway. Maybe Iraq had the smell of Vietnam from the start.
Maybe there's something subtler about the American tribal code
of revenge than Bush recognized. Maybe it's just that the moment
for insanity had passed.
The attacks of 11 September 2001 should have been a moment for
sober reflection, but it wasn't. The collapse of the Soviet Union
should have been a time for healing, but it wasn't. Throughout
history there have been few cases where victors have been gracious,
and fewer still where nations have changed their ways without
having been forced to by catastrophe. That anyone believes that
Bush has a clue how to proceed from here tells us both that we're
not very smart about ourselves and the world and that, disastrous
as the War on Terror has been, we still haven't fallen hard enough
yet. Kerry's nomination and campaign are scarcely more encouraging:
he has a bad record for rushing into wars, but at least has some
capacity for learning from his mistakes. Bush's supporters are
blind to those mistakes, otherwise they'd recognize that he is
the necessary sacrifice in order to start to set things right.
I've written very little above about the terrorists -- about the
so-called enemies of America, who invariably turn out to be muslims.
This is mostly because the War on Terror isn't really about them. It's
about us, how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we don't
give a shit how they see us. Perhaps the hardest aspect of the War on
Terror for Americans to understand is that the focus of groups like
Al Qaeda isn't really on us. What Islamists like Osama bin Laden want
more than anything else is to militarize the faithful, to overthrow the
corrupt (often but not always secular) rulers of the Islamic world --
especially the House of Saud in the Arabian peninsula. The U.S. is a
useful foil in their struggle -- a global boogeyman that lurks behind
and ties together all of their real targets -- but all they actually
need from us is to behave badly. And in behaving badly Bush has obliged
them to an absurd degree.
War does several things. It targets coarsely, making it impossible
to isolate real enemies from neighbors, and this ultimately binds the
enemies and neighbors together. It creates atrocities, which alienate
people of good will and reinforce the beliefs of anyone inclined against
us. It also makes us more callous, more distant, less human. And often
it blows back against us. Because of its fitful reaction three years
ago, the U.S. has now moved well down the path of making enemies of
all muslims and of making most of the rest of the world and many of
our own people wary and distrustful of U.S. power and intentions. It
should be obvious by now that the end of this path is disaster, but
still that realization eludes most of us.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Panel discussion: What Is the Political Status of African
Americans? (Saint Mark United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS)
Panel: Don Betts Jr. (KS State Senator, District 29), Gretchen Eick
(Professor of History, Friends University), Kevin Myles (Wichita
NAACP), Junius Dotson (Senior Pastor, Saint Mark UMC). Just a few
Is it really still true that African Americans have political
interests that are (a) monolithic and (b) distinct from non-African
Americans? In the pre-Civil Rights era that was very much the case --
matter of fact, it was strictly enforced by law. In a hypothetically
integrated future it should be false. The present is somewhere in
between: one can argue over where, but the long-term trend is for
African Americans to wither as a monolithic political block.
Such withering is clear when you look at the black leadership
that one panelist presented. Colin Powell came in #2, and Condeleza
Rice registered a ways back: neither identify with issues that are
popular let alone definitive for African Americans. They are leaders
who happen to be African Americans, not African American leaders --
at least not in the sense of Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin
Luther King, Malcolm X. When you think about it, Al Sharpton is less
an inferior African American leader than a leader with less challenge
and resonance because his issues are less clear-cut.
Nonetheless, African Americans still vote overwhelmingly to
one side -- the figured cited was 90% for Gore -- which makes them look
like a monolithic block, and therefore makes it look like nothing much
has changed. I believe that the change is real, but there are three
reasons why the numbers haven't changed: (a) many African Americans
still have significant common causes with white Democrats, mostly on
issues rooted in class; (b) the Republican alternative has little if
anything to offer most African Americans, economically or otherwise,
and many Republican issues are indifferent or hurtful; (c) it is
still remembered how the Republicans built their current political
ascendancy by recoding past racism; even if the Republicans were
to change their tune they would by now have a lot of inertia to
Several speakers argued that African Americans should leverage
their block voting power by not automatically siding with the Democrats.
This assumes a couple of things that probably aren't true: (a) that
African Americans are truly a distinct block with distinct interests
and indifference to other issues that separate the parties; and (b)
that satisfying those interests is acceptable to the Republicans and
not acceptable to the Democrats. If not (a) there isn't anything to
leverage. If not (b) there's no option, especially since the Democrats
merely have to be no worse than the Republicans in order to keep their
The Republicans give lip service to the potential leverage of
bipartisanship by African Americans, but there's no evidence that
they will compromise their agenda to satisfy African Americans. There
is nothing to distinguish the African Americans who have joined the
Republicans from white Republicans other than their skin color. That
this has happened at all is evidence that old racist barriers have
eroded, but not that the Republicans have anything beyond war and
hard times to offer to the not-so-rich -- white as well as people
of color, although religious whites have proven to be much more
There are, of course, factors other than racism and economics
that bind African Americans together: shared history and culture. As
a music critic, I'm more impressed by the effects of empowerment in
post-'60s African American music and how that has continued to drive
innovation than the integrationist tendencies (which actually go back
so far that virtually no popular music in America can deny African
American roots), but I can also point to arenas where race has become
meaningless (e.g., avant jazz).
One should recognize that to a large degree the debilitating
effects of racism are much the same as the debilitating effects of
class, and that the latter is what remains as racism fades away.
Kevin Myles' story about the elite student who aspires to work in
a day care center is commonplace among poor whites, and I can cite
similar stories from my own family. (E.g., my own: I made it into
Washington University, awash with the filthy rich, and posted an
outstanding academic record which should have led to a Ph.D. and
a professorship, but I got flustered and dropped out; had I the
means and advisors the sensible thing would have been to take a
year off and bum around Europe, then return refreshed and finish
up. Instead I got a dead-end job typesetting.)
The claim that the African American political block has the
power to elect the President is bogus. The Republicans have elected
several Presidents with virtually no African American support, and
those Democrats who won with a minority of the white vote have been
more beholden to their marginal white supporters than to the African
Americans who form their base. Democracy in the U.S. is majoritarian,
which makes it possible for form a viable whites-only coalition, and
impossible for African Americans to expand beyond a few concentrated
areas without gaining significant white support.
When I was a teenager I used to make political maps similar to
those Kevin Phillips made for The Emerging Republican Majority.
Among the most revelatory was a precinct-by-precinct map of Wichita,
which showed that the Democratic vote in my own all-white section of
Wichita was only exceeded by the Democratic votes in African American
neighborhoods, while the Republican votes correlated precisely with
my estimation of house values. Before that I hadn't considered myself
as poor (my parents grew up on farms and my father worked in a factory),
much less that I had common cause with African Americans, but the map
was vivid and the conclusion inescapable.
Affirmative action failed not because it wasn't needed or did
no good but because it was conceived falsely -- on the idea that one
could fix racial discrimination while leaving class discrimination
intact. As it was reduced to a system of quotas, affirmative action
unjustly excluded whites who were handicapped by the same problem
that handicapped so many African Americans: poverty. There is a real
need for an affirmative action based on the real problem, poverty
and its attendant class discrimination, which seeks to build real,
durable skills in an economy of expanding opportunity. This is an
issue of much importance to African Americans, but it is also an
issue which bridges to poor whites, an issue on which a broader
coalition can be formed. We are living in a time when Republicans
are seeking to ossify the class system -- to disempower workers
in favor of business owners, to concentrate wealth in hereditary
estates, to limit access to education and opportunity -- and
those programs work against the interests of a large majority
I believe that we are entering an era where African American
political leaders can gain unprecedented levels of support among
whites, provided that they can make the leap from narrow block
interest group issues to issues that can build broad coalitions.
Barack Obama appears to be one politician who can do that. A big
opportunity exists here in Wichita to get behind Michael Kinard
and defeat Todd Tiahrt. I don't know whether either Kinard or
Wichita is up to this, but nobody deserves defeat more than Tiahrt.
(Well, Bush of course, but only because he's in a position to do
damage Tiahrt only fantasizes about.)
Re Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas?,
the discussion there of how the radical right has attempted to
usurp Kansas' legacy of abolitionism is fascinating in its own
right, but is relatively peculiar to Kansas. Had Frank done a
parallel analysis of Missouri -- and he grew up on the border,
so that's not a far-fetched request -- he would have found a
different, more blatantly racist Republican takeover model, one
much more typical of the country as a whole. But one thing this
discussion shows is that the legacy of the civil rights movement,
the advocacy of freedom and equality in opposition to hatred and
atrocity, even when the latter are sheathed in the cloak of law
and order, is still an immensely powerful idea and rhetoric. It
is something that African American leaders taught America, and
something that African American leaders can run with like no one
Much of the discussion predictably centered on electoral
politics, where the goal is to influence government to intervene
in ways that improve the lot of African Americans. That is tough
to do because government is majoritarian, bureaucratic, corrupt,
and often downright stupid. The Republicans work hard to make
government even more dysfunctional: both by defunding it and by
hampering it from working for anyone other than their sponsors.
But there is another important front for political activity, which
is to build up private sector organizations to provide immediate
help to the community, and this has the advantage of being something
that can be done without having to wait for an election. One of the
most successful private efforts at community development over the
last twenty years has been the free software movement, which has
managed to free some of us from ever having to pay Microsoft a
dime, giving us better, more reliable, more useful software.
African Americans have a substantial history of developing private
self-help organizations, going back at least as far as Booker T.
Finally, I want to point out that a considerable number of
people who attended this panel came from local peace and justice
groups: those people are both very sympathetic to the interests of
African Americans and are constantly engaged in broader struggles
for peace and justice. Those people are good prospects for allies,
and their work is worthy in its own right.
Anyhow, that's what was running through my mind, back in the
Movie: Collateral. More overtime for killers in
America, but at least this time it makes for a fast paced, sharply
worded, suspenseful and often surprising ride. Plus, the cops come
out dumb, and the FBI dumber. Too bad the hero has to kill, too,
not so much to survive as to gain some higher level of redemption
(which may or may not include getting the girl). Too bad about all
the dead people, too, but we're used to that. A-
Music: Initial count 9618 rated (+32), 1094 unrated (-6). Mostly
been trying to work through the jazz reissues, but starting to get
into some new jazz as well.
- Ab & Terrie: Hef (2002, Atavistic). Two Dutchmen,
saxophonist Ab Baars and guitarist Terrie Ex (of the eponymous group,
the Ex). Scratchy avant-garde guitar and skronky avant-garde sax,
raw patches of sound in conflict. That may sound horrible -- what
the hell, it does -- but I find myself enjoying every minute of it.
I get more out of Terrie than I do Derek Bailey, perhaps because
he's still a rocker at heart. And I'd say that Ab is a lot more
fun than, oh, Peter Brötzmann, let alone Evan Parker. Your mileage
may vary. B+
- Lynne Arriale Trio: Inspiration (2000, TCB). With
Jay Anderson and Steve Davis, a fine piano trio. Working with a
broad-based songbook, I'm impressed that she gets as much out of
"Blackbird" as she does with "Bemsha Swing." B+
- Erykah Badu: World Wide Underground (2003, Motown).
Achieves a dense groovefulness that is hard to fathom, hard to shake,
hard to embrace. B+
- Biosphere: Autour de la Lune (2004, Touch). Electronic
music from Norwegian Geir Jenssen. Not much more than a series of slightly
differentiated electronic drones, barely audible, so slight that ambient
hardly begins to characterize it. When Eno started to explore this sort
of territory it was interesting at first, but soon the novelty wore off.
Not totally devoid of interest, but there are long stretches that are
so quiet I start thinking I should put a record on. C+
- Cabaret Voltaire: The Original Sound of Sheffield '83/'87:
The Best of the Virgin/EMI Years (1983-87 , Superfecta).
Their early albums laid the foundation for the genre that came to be
called industrial, which meant that they were long, dull, and full of
random noises. As such, never thought of them as a singles group, or
even as transitional post-disco, but here it is. "Just Fascination"
and "Crackdown" are endless grooves built around few more words than
the titles. "I Want You" cranks this up yet another notch, with two
grooves competing for attention, both undeniable: even if you slipped
it into a New Order best-of you'd think, wow! A
- Future Soundtrack for America (2004, Barsuk). Profits
go to Move On, who are doing good work with them. We got this copy free
after buying a box of antiwar stickers, which trail us like bread crumbs.
More alt than I like, and not as political as I hoped -- good pieces by
R.E.M., Fountains of Wayne, Ben Kweller, maybe a few more, but the best
moves were Laura Cantrell's take on John Prine's "Sam Stone" and Mike
Doughty's "Move On" theme song. Most of the sequences work nicely. Wish
someone had remembered the "don't want to die by Bush command" song on
Sly & Robbie's Silent Assassin.
- Jan Garbarek/Anouar Brahem/Shaukat Hussain: Madar
(1992 , ECM). Braham plays oud, Hussain tabla, providing a
background texture for Garbarek's tenor and soprano saxophones.
Actually, Garbarek lays out for much of the record, letting the
rhythm and texture build up before he adds his touch. B+
- The Very Best of the Grateful Dead (1967-87 ,
Warner Bros./Rhino). Mostly studio work; just one live cut from
Europe '72. Not surprisingly, 6 of the other 16 cuts come from
their two 1970 albums, American Beauty and Workingman's
Dead. After that their albums got progressively wimpier, with
only 1987's In the Dark contributing songs here (two) after
1978. I've never been much of a fan, but then I never saw them
live, nor have I seen their concert films. Their live albums do
show that they could stretch out more creatively than most rock
bands. I dont' think that they're important enough -- at least not
as music -- to need much more than a primer, but it seems like the
more you try to cover the weaker they get.
- Hip Hop 101 (2000, Tommy Boy). De La Soul started
soft but got hard as they progressed -- their AOI albums hardly
seem to be the same group that started Three Feet High and Rising.
They get Executive Producer credit here, and nobody else here except
Talib Kweli even registers on my radar, but this is the distilled
essence of their hard beat, everything on the one. Despite the title,
this isn't a primer, just a reduction to fundamentals. A-
- The Hives: Tyrannosaurus Hives (2004, Interscope).
Short, fast, hard. Nothing wrong with that. Not a helluva lot to show
for it either. B+
- Antonio Carlos Jobim: Finest Hour (1963-86 ,
Verve). An important songwriter, a fairly decent pianist, not a very
distinctive performer, although the latter is hard to tell for sure.
This starts with three cuts from Getz/Gilberto, for which see
the whole albums (for that matter, don't flinch from Getz' The
Bossa Nova Years, where more just keeps growing grander). The
other Jobim recordings have been hit-and-miss, and I don't have a
good handle on them. This seems like an OK introduction.
- Steve Lacy/Michael Smith: Sidelines (1976 ,
Improvising Artists). Piano and soprano sax duets. Even at its
simplest, with Smith hacking a chord and Lacy working scales, it
can be ingenious. But it does fall apart somewhat on the last
track, something called "Worms": atonal, arhythmic, contrasting
blocks of sound, clashing even. B
- Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers
(2003, Universal). Another tribute, featuring the usual suspects and
also rans, tackling relatively ordinary songs -- nothing weird like
"The Great Atomic Power" and nothing evil like "Satan Is Real." At
several points they sneak in vocal patter from the Brothers. As you'd
expect, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Del McCoury
fare OK, while Glen Campbell and Vince Gill don't amount to much.
Listenable, but nothing much worthwhile here.
- Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Warming By the Devil's
Fire (1924-2002 , Columbia/Legacy). Charles Burnett
directed this video, meant to dig deep back in his childhood, in
reality deeper than that. Only one cut more recent than 1966, an
old-sounding gospel piece, but even the '60s cuts were throwbacks:
Son House from 1965 and Mississippi John Hurt from 1928 could have
been swapped without changing a thing. He picks a particularly
gnarly 1958 Billie Holiday to go with his 1924 Ma Rainey, and lets
W.C. Handy sing his own song from 30 years earlier. Stars are
rarely exhibited at peak brightness -- Elmore James on "Dust My
Broom" is about as close to an exception as we have here -- and
minor players often outshine them (e.g., Tommy McClennan). The
usual problems with soundtracks apply here: just because something
works with video doesn't make it sound good alone; connection to
the story line makes the soundtrack broader than a comp should be.
Still, this is tightly argued and interesting, making it better
than most of this series.
- Tommy McCook: Blazing Horns/Tenor in Roots (1978-80
, Blood & Fire). The most famous of all Jamaican saxophonists,
McCook was a mainstay of the Skatalites and a studio workhorse. These
cuts come from sessions produced by Yabby You, Glenmore Brown, and (one
cut) Striker Lee, and have been mixed by King Tubby. The first batch
(for Yabby You) include Sly and Robbie, Albert Griffiths and Ansel
Collins; don't know about the others. All instrumentals, most with
that distinctive dub sound. The titles leave something to be desired:
nothing blazing here, just insouciant grooves; not roots either, just
state-of-the-art dub. B+
- Wayne McGhie and the Sounds of Joy (1969 ,
Light in the Attic). This is funk archaeology, a young Jamaican in
Toronto covers country songs and writes his own soul ballads and funk
toons, a little bit of everything, but nothing distinct enough to make
his name; it went nowhere, and McGhie never cut another, but Kevin
Howes loved it enough to track him down, perhaps because history still
- Morrissey: You Are the Quarry (2004, Attack). An
ambitious album: first he tackles America ("America/your head's too
big/because America/your belly's too big"), then Britain ("I've been
dreaming ofa time when/the English are sick to death of Labour and
Tories/and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell/and denounce the royal
line that still salute him/and will salute him forever"), then Jesus
(one where the music finally rises to the words). Finally he works
his way up to himself ("I'm Not Sorry," "The World Is Full of Crashing
Bores," "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?"). He even has
something to say about you ("I Like You," although the reason is
"you're not right in the head"). Some of the music is overpumped
for my taste, and he's, well, a bit peculiar. B+
- Willie Nelson: The Troublemaker (1973-74 ,
Columbia/Legacy). His oft-lost gospel album, cut for Arif Mardin at
Atlantic in 1973, repeatedly postponed until he wound up taking it
with him when he moved to Columbia, which finally released it in
1976. "Uncloudy Day" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" became
staples of his live show, the former deservedly. He was a great
singer by then, but not yet a great interpretive singer -- that
milestone was reached by Stardust. Of course, he has no
real trouble with the genre, and scores with a touching "In the
Garden" and a sprightly "Where the Soul Never Dies." Four live
cuts tacked on, three from the album plus a straggling "Amazing
- Non-Prophets: Hope (2003, Lex). Like the beats. Not
enough time for the words, but those that come through deliver. Doubt
that this is major, but good minor's good too. B+
- Northern State: All City (2004, Columbia). Not having
worked through the lyrics here -- booklet at least has them, albeit
small print -- and I have to admit that not much stands out in that
department. Still, seems to be a minor point, and possibly not even
a minus. The beats are denser and more deft than before -- can't peg
them so easily as the Beastie Girls, which is fine with me. Another
one to sort out further later on. A-
- Michel Petrucciani: 100 Hearts (1983 , Blue
Note). To appreciate solo piano you have to be in some sort of zone.
I rarely am, and rarely do, but then again it's possible that most
solo piano comes up short regardless of how intently you listen.
Petrucciani was a freak: tiny legs, puffy body, long arms. He was
built like an airplane, and if you closed you eyes you could imagine
him strafing the keyboard, darting in and out of dogfights. But there
wasn't anything freakish about his playing. He was methodical, laying
out rhythmic lines, building counterpoints and harmonies on top. This
was early in his short career, long out of print and only belatedly
recovered (along with his wonderful trio album, Live at the Village
- The Essential Redbone (1969-74 , Epic/Legacy).
They dress up as Indians, which I guess is their prerogative. But they
sound like Procul Harum -- not better, but not much worse either. Sort
of a neat trick, just not good for much. Last cut is a stereotypical
Indian chant, which needs something more. B-
- Sidestepper: 3am (In Beats We Trust) (2003, Palm).
English DJ, Colombian salsa, Jamaican dub. But it does soften up a
bit toward the end. B+
- Wadada Leo Smith: Tao-Njia (1993, Tzadik). Smith's
trumpet cuts like a bright beacon through the stillness of the night,
but these long ambling pieces are long on night, and little is ever
illuminated. The drums are of interest: frame drums, timpani, others.
The strings less so, the poetry less than that.
- Chris Smither: Honeysuckle Dog (2004, Okra-Tone).
He's usually reckoned as a folk singer, but his roots are more in
old country blues, but not so resolutely that he gets filed there.
Here he does a nice Mississippi John Hurt imitation, as he's done
before, and closes with one from Bessie Smith, but he also works
Randy Newman's "Guilty" into the mix. Through what is now a lengthy
career he's usually recorded with just his guitar. This time half
of the songs are done with groups, including for one song each
Robin Kenyatta on flute and Perry Robinson on clarinet. However,
the other half is more arresting, and the transitions don't help
much. I've heard a couple of his earlier albums and never fell
for him, so while I find him likable here I doubt that this is
the place to start.
- The Very Best of the Spaniels, Volume 1: Goodnight Sweetheart
Goodnight (1953-60 , Collectables). One of the greatest
vocal groups of the '50s, but this decision to spread the singles from
their Vee Jay heyday out onto two CDs doesn't lose a thing. More is more.
- The Very Best of the Spaniels, Volume 2: Stormy Weather
(1953-60 , Collectables). OK, the leftovers thin out a bit, but
"A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" sure is. B+
- The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983
(1979-83 , Stones Throw). Hot on the heels of the Bronx
breakout, too early to find much of a market beyond Mr. Magic's New
Haven disco, this is old style from the crucible, spry beats, deft
samples, lots of first person, fun and fresh.
- Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Finest in Funk & Soul
1965-1975 (1965-2003 , Light in the Attic). Two
recent ringers explain the date discrepancies: both are primitive
funk instrumentals, old sounding but more disciplined than the
matrix. The booklet is superb, devoted and dilligent. Like the
folks at Now Again/Stones Throw they're on a mission, and an
honorable one. Presumably they picked wisely, and this is a bit
better than a random taste. (One band shows up three times, a few
others twice.) But by all evidence the scene was marginal, and the
acts get more mileage out of their enthusiasm than their chops.
Organs/keyboards are almost ubiquitous. Vocals often enter the
overkill range. Songs as obvious as "Louie Louie," "Hey Jude,"
and "Auld Lang Syne" are plumbed.
- Bobby Womack: Anthology (1967-76 , Capitol/The
Right Stuff, 2CD). Womack was a second-tier r&b star, best known
for that song the Rolling Stones covered ("It's All Over Now"). He
came up in Sam Cooke's wake, recorded for Minit after their golden
period, co-wrote "I'm a Midnight Mover" with Wilson Pickett. After
the period covered here he had several comebacks. He could preach,
woo, raise the rafters, get down on the dancefloor, but he couldn't
make you forget Wilson Pickett. But then who could? B+
- Lee Ann Womack: Greatest Hits (1997-2004, MCA
Nashville). Four albums (not counting an Xmas one, which doesn't
appear here), dating back to 1997, plus two apparently new ones,
plus a Willie Nelson duet from the latter's album. I've only
heard one of her four, I Hope You Dance, which merits
four here, including the two ballads that make you think maybe
she's got something more than neotrad spunk. But she doesn't
write much (just one of the new ones, and not the better one),
and the follow-up "Something Worth Leaving Behind" fails both on
sentiment and on facts: Elvis actually was pretty famous before
he died -- she may have been too young to have known that, but
it shouldn't have been hard to look up. The early cuts show some
promise, but the closers mark this as a holding pattern. B
Thursday, September 09, 2004
The U.S. death roll in Iraq has officially passed the 1000 mark. The
rate at which Americans die in Iraq has spiked again, prompting renewed
assertions from Donald Rumsfeld that this just proves how desperate the
Iraqi insurgents are. The raw count of anti-U.S. attacks has shot way
up, as have attacks against oil pipelines. Major cities in the Sunni
Triangle are now "no go zones" for U.S. forces, and other area, like
Baghdad's Sadr City, are fiercely contested. The U.S. has, in turn,
escalated air bombardment, and is threatening renewed ground offensives
to recapture lost cities. Nobody knows how many Iraqis have died as a
result of the U.S. invasion and occupation, the consequent resistance,
and the general chaos that has ensued. The
has counted between 11800-13800 deaths, but their methodology depends
on multiple press reports, and there is very little press coverage in
much of Iraq these days. The U.S. regularly reports that its operations
have killed 40, 60, 100, even 400 Iraqis.
Despite the rosy picture painted by Rumsfeld and Bush in his campaign
speeches, most reports out of Iraq are astonishingly bleak. Two military
consultants on Lehrer last night, clearly connected to the war and in
daily contact with military people in Iraq, viewed the U.S. position as
hopeless. One went so far as to report that his military contacts in
Baghdad were telling him that the U.S. presence was only making things
worse. Later Charlie Rose interviewed Dexter Filkins, who as we know
has rarely failed to fall for U.S. propaganda, but Filkins reported
that U.S. acts only have the effect of driving Iraqis into the arms
of the resistance. He cited an interview with a Sunni Sheikh to show
how leaders of the resistance have become completely cynical about
anything the U.S. says, including the promise of elections.
It has never been clearer that the U.S. has utterly lost the hearts
and minds of the people of Iraq, and as such has failed in the neocon
campaign to turn Iraq into a showcase of U.S. cronyism. As such, the
U.S. has lost the war, and final withdrawal is only a matter of time.
Given this, the real question is why is the U.S. launching offensives
at this time, which only serve to increase casualties on both sides,
to intensify Iraqi hatred for the U.S., and to put the war back onto
the front pages of U.S. media. Most likely the reason is the election,
the only battle for hearts and minds that ever really mattered. Of all
the lousy issues that Bush has to run on, he may figure that igniting
Iraq is his best bet. He's gambling that voters will rally behind the
Commander in Chief in the heat of war. He's also exploiting Kerry's
sloppiness on the issue, figuring to gain either if Kerry falls in
line or flip-flops to criticize, i.e. to give aid and comfort to the
enemy. Bush may also figure that a strong military offense now will
postpone the inevitable political collapse until after the election.
Moreover, he's expecting that no one in the media will recognize how
cynical and vicious his political strategy is.
It's important to understand that while the U.S. can't shut the
resistance down, it can downplay Iraq by holding its troops back and
quietly conceding the inevitable. The resistance is winning a patient
war of attrition. The real flare-ups, on the other hand, are always
the consequences of U.S. offensives. So in a loose sense the U.S.
can control the level of visible violence in Iraq, and we've seen
that several times this year. Thus far the U.S. has usually dialed
back its offensives when the political cost gets too high. But what
happens when there's no political cost to pay? (When you've finally
lost all the goodwill you ever had?) Sensible people would pack up
and leave. Bush can't afford that politically, especially now. The
only thing that holds the U.S. back from the sort of scorched earth
repression that, e.g., Russia tried and failed in Afghanistan and
Chechnya is the moral sensitivities of the American voters -- which
thus far hasn't amounted to much, especially when Bush's main
concern is to pump up his base.
One of the talking heads last night dismissed the 1000 U.S. deaths
figure by quoting Stalin, that one death in a car accident is a tragedy,
but 1000 is just a statistic. That's the first time I've heard Stalin
being cited to defend U.S. policy, but it may be a trend. In the past
few days we've heard Russians grumble that no terrorism like Beslan
occurred on Stalin's watch. It makes you wonder when the U.S. will be
desperate enough for victory to play that Ace of Spades in the hole.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Movie: Vanity Fair. Never having read William Makepeace
Thackeray's novel, I'm no doubt easily impressed by how much storyline
there is here, and even more ignorant of how much got left out. The
latter is likely quite a bit: there is a lot of room for development
between the brief appearance of heroine Becky Sharp as a girl and her
emergence from adolescent servitude, and again for various stretches
of time later. I also gather that the story has been tidied up a bit,
mostly to make Sharp less dislikable. The great subject, of course,
is the English class system: how the poor yearn to ascend, how the
rich fear falling, and how the latter have created a vast wasteland
for both. Director Mira Nair introduces the backdrop of Anglo-ruled
India, but doesn't do much with it. Reese Witherspoon is hardly ideal
as Sharp, but her typical grin suggests the appropriate mischief.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Music: Initial count 9586 rated (+31), 1100 unrated (-9). Jazz CG
is mostly edited; not sure when it will appear. Recycled Goods is
edited and handed in; not sure when it will appear. Been working on
a little bit of everything, with some emphasis on jazz reissues.
Recent reissues from Blue Note and Verve haven't been very good,
as they scrape the barrell ever deeper.
- Bobby Bare Jr's Young Criminals' Starvation League: From the End
of Your Leash (2004, Bloodshot). Some good stuff here, but I'm
having trouble sussing it out. Record ends memorably, although not
necessarily sensibly. B+
- Roger Creager: Live Across Texas (2004, Dualtone).
Good old fashioned West Texas rock 'n' roll, with some fiddle, accordion,
appropriate nods to Tex-Mex. Long at over 72 minutes, larded with lavish
audience applause, hot as a 4th of July barbecue. None of which matters
much, although I'm glad I've heard "Mother's a Redneck, Too" and have to
note that he made Guy Clark's "L.A. Freeway" sound like something out of
the Bruce Springsteen songbook. B
- Marianne Faithfull: Kissin Time (2002, Virgin).
The beats are more electro, but "Sex With Strangers" sounds like a
return to Broken English, although not as clear, not as loud,
not as brazen. Aside from "Sliding Through Life on Charm" ("everyone
wants to kiss my snatch"), one can say the same of the other songs.
But "Song for Nico" is touching and appropriate, and "I'm Into
Something Good" is transcendent. B+
- Hazard, Fennesz, Biosphere: Light (2001 , Touch).
Four short tracks by three artists (whole thing is EP-length at 23:26,
although there's no indication of that on the package):
1. Hazard, "Meteosat": dense electronic fog, opens up a bit.
2. Fennesz, "C-Street": equally dense, less foggy; a ringing sound,
reportedly from guitar.
3. Biosphere, "When I Leave (Finely Tuned Version)": starts with
voices, indecipherable; picks up a three beat pattern, not fast,
emphasis on the third; doesn't really go anywhere.
4. Biosphere, "Algae & Fungi (Candelaria Version)": another
three beat figure, on guitar, percussion (maraccas?), synth;
again doesn't really go anywhere.
The Hazard and Fennesz pieces are short, minor exercises in ambient sound
not meant for easy listening. Given how short they are, they work as a
prelude for the more beatwise Biosphere. This is one of those odd little
things that are pleasant and interesting for the brief time they appear,
then leave you wondering why. B
- Lisa Marie Presley: To Whom It May Concern (2003,
Capitol). Sorry, I don't normally cover heavy metal albums, but I
didn't know. Oh well. She has co-writing credits on all of the songs,
mostly with Glen Ballard and/or Clif Magness, sometimes others; some
specify that she wrote the lyrics. And it's not really heavy metal,
like osmium or rhenium or something similarly toxic. More like iron,
with the ordinary ferrous oxide coating you expect of something
that's been left out in the weather too long. B-
- Man of Constant Sorrow and Other Timeless Mountain Ballads
(, Yazoo). A quickie meant to cash in on the O Brother
soundtrack smash, but Yazoo has such a lock on this material that
putting together a fine representative sampler was a no-brainer. Too
bad they didn't put more effort into the history -- the only such
note here is that Emry Arthur's 1929 recording of "Man of Constant
Sorrow" was the first ever. B+
- Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News
(2004, Epic). "Horn Intro" isn't the intro I expect, but this quickly
reverts to arch herky-jerk, an alt-rock that still feels at home in
the underground. Later on they raise important theological questions.
Not everything works, and it seems to drag a bit toward the end.
- The Reputation: To Force a Fate (2004, Lookout).
Slower than the previous album, perhaps more lyrical. Hard to say
since I've found nothing to concentrate on. B
- Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous (2004, Brute/Beaute).
I figure that in order for something to qualify for a straight A
rating a record has to hold up superbly over many playings and some
time. Due to my own listening load, I haven't managed to put enough
time into anything this year other than a few jazz releases, and it
shows in this year's list in the
clusters of jazz-only above the A/A- line and non-jazz just below
the line. Any of those records could still move up: Pipi Skid, Jon
Langford, Drive-By Truckers, Todd Snider, Mountain Goats, Youssou
N'Dour, Beastie Boys. Some have minor caveats, but most I just
haven't spent the time with. I'm four plays into this one, and
it's clearly at that level. The songs are clicking in: "Portions
for Foxes" even before I read the lyric sheet to "It's a Hit";
and now the sequence "I Never," "The Absence of God," "Accidental
Deth," and when "More Adventurous" at first seems less there comes
a bit of harmonica to throw it over the top. Come year end I'll
have to go back and sort out the rest of the list, see what makes
it and what just misses. For now I'll take the plunge here. This
reminds me most of the two great Chills albums, but that's just
color and shape. Singer Jenny Lewis adds a bit more. A
- Shrimp Boat: Something Grand (1985-93 ,
Aum Fidelity, 3CD).
Just as flowers yearn for sunlight, rock groups seek popularity.
The aesthetics of rock has always been grounded in giving the people
what they want. Even bands that never had the slightest commercial
success sounded like they were trying. But eventually some bands,
like this one from Chicago, figured the odds against superstardom
and kept to obscurity with all eyes open. The effect is even more
exaggerated because superfan Stephen Joerg didn't do the obvious
thing and re-release Shrimp Boat's actual albums or cherry pick
them to make an appealing best-of. No, he filled up three CDs with
marginalia. The early band favored post-Velvets alt-country grooves,
sometimes adding banjo. The later band picked up a couple of sax
players and dabbled in free jazz over fixed beats. In between they
dabble, sometimes wonderfully: "Ollie's Song" is built around a
sample of Oliver North's Iran-Contra perjury; "Limerick Dub" just
flows and flows amidst little blips of horns and guitar and
electronics; "Rocks Are Oil" and "Honeyside" have grooves that
can bear comparison to the Feelies (or, for newbies, the Strokes).
But they also thrash and squeal and fart around -- as appealing
to fans as mischievous children to grandparents.
- Todd Snider: East Nashville Skyline (2004, Oh Boy).
This has a booklet with enough words in it you'd think they'd be the
lyrics to the songs, especially when you go looking for the one that
starts "too old now to die young." But Snider likes writing so much
he wrote shit he didn't even get around to singing, like this one
explaining the title: "i live in east nashville./ east nashville is
the part of town people leave/ so their kids won't have to go to
shitty schools./ it's where some parents smoke joints in front of
their kids . . . / we're not proud of it, we just do it. / where all
the musicians who make our living on the circuit live / the part of
town where we like and support queers . . . / we like about everybody /
we fist fight a little but that ain't about disliking each other. /
we've kinda given up on the vice president position over at work /
we just pray for work . . . / we love each other and look after each
other / and we all cried at skip's funeral. / east nashville is the
little chunk of world i live in / probably a little like your chunk. /
unless you're rich." He didn't write "Enjoy Yourself," but it works
just fine as his big philosophical statement. "Conservative, Christian,
Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males" works as well
for politics. A-
- Peter Stampfel & the Bottlecaps: The Jig Is Up
(1984-99 , Blue Navigator). Old songs and weird songs, but
you'll need the booklet for hints about which is which, and you'll
probably wind up second guessing anyway. For instance, "New White
House Blues" and "New Riley the Furniture Man" will be recognized
by folks who know of Charlie Poole and the Georgia Crackers, but
they've been refashioned. There are two Irish jigs, one dating
back to Shay's Rebellion, the other an original called "Song of
Man." The one about jigging squid came from Hank Snow, but turns
into something else when sung with Stampfel's voice. Stephen
Foster's "Old Dog Tray" returns in more sentimental original.
Evidently these were outtakes from the Bottlecaps' heyday, which
somehow missed appearing on their two albums -- probably because
the Bottlecaps were something of a rock move. This is closer in
spirit to Stampfel's You Must Remember This, except when
it turns into the Holy Modal Rounders. A-
- John Surman: Coruscating (1999 , ECM).
In effect, all this does vs. most of Surman's other ECM recordings
is to use a bass + string quartet as the sonic backdrop for his
reeds -- soprano and baritone sax, bass and contrabass clarinet.
The strings are quietly pretty but mostly just there as the
backdrop for his improvs, which are tasteful as usual. Lovely
album. Of course, he does it all the time. B+
- John Surman: Road to Saint Ives (1990, ECM).
This one was done with Surman overdubbing his own synth tracks.
The latter tend to be string-like backdrops, minimalist sheets
of sound rather than beats, and he moves cautiously over them,
creating a thoughtful, almost meditative tableau. B+
- Ralph Towner: Old Friends, New Friends (1979,
ECM 1153). With Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn), David Darling
(cello), Eddie Gomez (bass), and Michael DiPasqua (drums), the
tendency is to be thick with strings, with tasteful decoration
from Wheeler. Towner's preference for 12-string guitar reinforces
that, although he also switches off to piano and French horn.
This runs a bit too loose and too soft for my taste, although
that's still where the more interesting pieces lie. B
- Ralph Towner: Diary (1973 , ECM 1032).
Solo, 12-string and classical guitar, piano, gongs. This was
playing along innocuously enough when the fourth cut ("Icarus")
caught my ear. Finally paying attention, I quickly surmised
that the reason was that he didn't merely find another twelve
strings for his guitar: he picked up 88 on the piano, dubbing
over the overstringed guitar. It's a gorgeous, striking piece,
but the extra instrumentation really helps. The real solo guitar
is often eloquent, but is inevitably less, even with the gongs.
- Ralph Towner: Solo Concert (1979 , ECM).
Without the added support of his multitracked piano, this may be
the best example of his naked guitar. B+
Friday, September 03, 2004
Two days ago desperate and/or foolish Chechens took over a school
in Beslan, a town in North Ossetia, a province (or whatever they're
called these days; they used to be ASSRs) of Russia in the Caucusus
near Chechnya. Today more than 300 people died in that school,
mostly children who are rightly regarded as innocent of whatever issues
occasioned the tragedy. Immediate responsibility, of course, belongs
to the Chechens who took the school and the children hostage. This
particular tragedy would not have happened had they not acted, and
no possible rationale or justification can lessen that blame. If you
don't see that much, you might wind up thinking nonsense like that
it was Saddam Hussein's fault that the U.S. invaded Iraq, killing
thousands of Iraqis -- most of whom hated Hussein before they died
for his sins.
However, this tiny group of Chechens didn't act without cognizance
of history. Nor did the Russians, whose tactical handling of the crisis
may well have made the outcome worse. (The way Russia handled a similar
hostage event in a Moscow theatre must have made the Chechens more
nervous and more suicidal. The Russians flooded the theatre with a
debilitating gas, which itself killed quite a few hostages, then
summarily shot the Chechens. At the time that was viewed as a lesson
for the terrorists, as it no doubt was.) The relationship between the
Chechens and Russians goes back to the very early 1800's when the
tsar's imperial forces displaced the Ottomans.
Since then the Chechens have been in almost continual revolt against
first the Tsar, then the Soviets, then the post-Communist Russians --
all of which have treated the Chechens much the same. Karl E. Meyer
wrote a bit about Russia and Chechnya in his book The Dust of
Empire. Some relevant quotes: the first sums up Russia's attitude
under the Tsars (p. 148):
In a circular letter to his embassies in 1864, [Prince Alexander]
Gorchakov explained Russia's forward policy in cadences that reflected
the spirit of an expansionist age. Russia's position, he said, was the
same as that of all civilized societies "brought into contact with
half-savage, nomad populations." In such cases, he maintained, "it
always happens that the more civilised State is forced, in the
interest of the security of its frontiers and its commercial relations
to exercise a certain ascendancy" over neighbors of a turbulent and
unsettled character. "First there are raids and acts of pillage to put
down," he went on. "To put a stop to them, the tribes on the frontier
have to be reduced to a state of more or less perfect
submission. . . . It is a peculiarity of Asiatics to respect nothing
but visible and palpable force. . . . Such has been the fate of every
country which has found itself in a similar situation. The United
States in America, France in Algeria, Holland in her colonies, England
in India -- all have been irresistibly forced, less by ambition than
by imperious necessity, into this onward movement, where it is
difficult to know where to stop." . . .
Conspicuously unaddressed in this circular was Russia's reliance on
Cossacks, a separate estate of warrior-farmers serving as colonizers
of Russia's borderlands. "Moderation" was not a term that would
normally apply to Cossack hosts. Moreover, in contrast with the other
countries he listed, Gorchakov's government was answerable only to the
tsar under an absolutist system sans constitution, parliament,
elections, free press or independent judiciary -- how else to explain
popular passivity during fifty years of bloodletting in the
Moving on to Stalin, well into the 20th century, Meyer writes
This strategic deportation anticipated the massive and brutal
ethnic surgery perpetrated by Stalin during World War II. Confirming
Communism's distrust of Islamic peoples, the Soviet dictator ordered
the wholesale deportation from November 1943 to June 1944 of four
Caucasian nationalities -- Chechens, Ingush, Karachai and Balkars --
together with Crimean Tatars, on the claim they had "collaborated
massively with the Nazi occupier." In December 1944, Stalin followed
up by expelling other nationalities whose loyalty was doubted: the
Greeks, Bulgars and Armenians from the Crimea, the Meskhetian Turks,
Kurds and Khemshins from the Caucasus. One can hardly overstate the
suffering and bitterness resulting from these deportations, mostly to
Central Asia and carried out with heavy casualties on suffocating
freight trains or cattle trucks. . . .
Most obdurate of all were the Chechens, who rebelled repeatedly
against tsarist and Soviet authority. As early as 1828, General Alexei
Yermolov tried to teach the Chechens a lesson once and for all. He
dispatched six companies from his best regiment together with seven
hundred Cossacks to wipe out a thriving and populous aul or
village above the banks of the Terek, the river forming Caucasia's
recognized boundary. As artillery and muskets poured shells
point-blank into the village, the Chechens fought with a stubbornness
the Russians had not experienced before. When it ended, only 14 men
and 140 women and children of the aul still lived. The village
was then totally demolished. "Such were Yermóloff's methods," relates
[John F.] Baddeley [in 1908], "and it cannot be denied that, as in the
present case, they were immediately effective. The remaining villages
of the clan were deserted, the inhabitants seeking refuge in
Tchetchnia proper. But they took a bloody revenge during the next
thirty years, and it is strange that Russian writers, so far, fail to
see any connection between the vaunted 'Yermóloff system' and the
Murid war [an uprising by Imam Shamil of Daghestan from the 1820s to
More than a century later, on February 24-28, 1944, 194 convoys of
64 trucks each deported 521,247 Chechens and Ingush, an operation
carried out by 119,000 agents of the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB
[later run by Vladimir Putin]. A detailed NKVD report noted with
satisfaction (and with a precision Eichmann might have admired), "We
now put 45 people into each cattle truck as opposed to the previous
40. By placing the people together with their possessions, we also cut
down on the number of trucks required, thus saving 37,548 meters of
planks, 11,834 buckets, and 3,400 stoves."
Many Chechens wound up in labor camps in Kazakhstan, where they
especially impressed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. "I would say that of all
the special settlers," he writes in the third volume of The Gulag
Archipelago (1976), "the Chechens never sought to please, to
ingratiate themselves with the bosses; their attitude was always
haughty and openly hostile. . . . As far as they were concerned, the
local inhabitants and those exiles who submitted so readily, belonged
more or less to the same breed as the bosses. They respected only
rebels. And here is the extraordinary thing -- everyone was afraid of
them. No one could stop them from living as they did. The regime which
had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect
And this is what Meyer has to say about more recent events
Those who know this history find it easier to understand the
implacability of Russia's recent wars with Chechnya (in 1994-1996 and
from 1999 on). With hindsight, one can appreciate the pragmatic wisdom
of imperial Britain's self-restraint after provoking two bad wars with
Afghanistan, a comparable Islamic borderland inhabited by no less
warlike mountaineers. Twice the British sought to impose their
candidate as emir in Kabul (1839-1842; 1878-1881), and twice they were
compelled to recognize a ruler acceptable to the Afghans. After the
second Afghan War, its acclaimed British hero, Major General Sir
Frederick Roberts, supplied its best epitaph in a letter to a friend:
"It may not be very flattering to our amour propre, but I feel
sure I am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us, the
less they will dislike us. Should Russia in future years attempt to
conquer Afghanistan, or invade India through it, we should have a
better chance of attaching the Afghans to our interests if we avoid
all interference with them in the meantime." . . . In retrospect,
Russia would have been far wiser to treat the Caucasus as a neutral
buffer between its territories and those of the Turks and
Persia. Militating against this self-denying strategy, however, was
the existence of two Christian communities in the South Caucasus,
whose leaders viewed Russia as an Orthodox ally, albeit not always
trustworthy or easy to live with.
When the Soviet Union broke up, it was only a bad accident of
geography that Chechnya didn't achieve independence. The Soviet
Union was built out of fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics, which
mostly owed their separate existence to stages in the Civil War
with the Whites from 1919-21 and from the restoration of the
pre-1914 western border when the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic
states and Moldavia. While fourteen of the SSRs correspond (not
especially well) to major ethnic groups, the Russian Federation
was home to well over a hundred ethnic groups, many organized
into ASSRs or Oblasts. As Mikhail Gorbachev started to lose his
grip on the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin's used his position as
head of the Russian Federation to force a break-up along SSR
lines -- which aligned him with secessionist-minded SSRs in
the Baltic, Georgia and Armenia. But when Chechnya, too, tried
to break away, Yeltsin drew the line and waged war to crush any
further losses from the Russian Federation. Had Chechnya merely
been a SSR it would have gained independence and the terrorism
that has dogged Russia, including today's tragedy, would never
But while Yeltsin could afford to lose the SSRs that he never
really had anyway, he knew that doing so exacted a toll in Russia's
prestige and self-esteem. Russia had its origins c. 1300 in a patch
of land that barely extended beyond Muscovy's city limits. From
there the Russian Empire expanded to cover the eastern third of
Europe and the northern third of Asia. Then the Soviet Union took
charge of the world communist movement, rivalling the U.S. among
world superpowers. The break-up of the Soviet Union chopped off
big chunks of the country, and little Chechnya threatened to
unravel even more. Yeltsin faced right-wing baiting if he failed
to put down the Chechens -- isn't that always the case? -- and
Putin built a big chunk of his credentials as a strong Russian
leader on Chechen blood.
But that's only the Russian viewpoint. As far as the Chechens
were concerned, Yeltsin and Putin only reinforced what they already
knew about the Russians -- what they had learned from Stalin, from
Gorchakov, from Potemkin. I don't mean to try to defend the Chechens
here, but I do think that it's important first to understand where
they're coming from, why they've taken their struggle toward such
horrifying acts, and perhaps most important why we have so much
trouble understanding those things.
I see three main reasons why Americans have so much trouble
understanding what is going on in Russia:
- America did manage to utterly defeat its indigenous tribes, and
did so well over a hundred years ago, so we've forgotten what that
struggle was like. We live in a nice multicultural society where what
little is left of Native America has packed off to museums while the
people have been assimilated into a mostly complacent underclass. We
have whitewashed the genocide that our country was built on, so much
so that we don't understand why other civilized countries (like Russia
and Israel) haven't been able to duplicate our success, let alone why
their natives continue to be so foolish as to resist.
- We not only can't see disputes through other people's eyes, we
habitually redefine them in terms of our own preoccupations. At the
moment, this means that we see the Chechens as an extension of
al-Qaeda and therefore the Russians as being in the same boat as
us. This despite the fact that the Chechen revolt against Russia
predates al-Qaeda by almost 200 years. (On the other hand, had the
Soviet Union not fallen, we would most likely be hailing them as
freedom fighters and showering them with arms.)
- We have learned to reflexively see any form of misbehavior as
requiring punishment to restore order, and we have learned to deny
that any such misbehavior is symptomatic of any other problem. This
has been the law-and-order mantra going back in the U.S. at least
to Nixon, and it has been an effective political platform for the
ascendency of the political right. One effect of this is to disallow
any connection between poverty and crime; therefore, crime prevention
is not considered a valid reason to try to reduce poverty. Another is
that we succumb to an ever escalating logic of punishment: persistence
of misbehavior leads to harsher punishments. Terrorism is misbehavior
so egregious that we soon shuck our inhibitions against punishing it:
we readily inflict indiscriminate collective punishments, and even
sacrifice our own civil rights. And right-wing politicos, so expert
in denying their own responsibility for the roots of terrorism, rush
to do the dirty work.
The recent surge of Chechen terrorism -- trains blown up, planes
blown up, Russia's crony "Chechen President" assassinated, now this
despicable school hostage tragedy -- may be seen as a strengthening
of Chechen resistance or as utter desperation, but in either case
the events should signal a wake-up call. Same for the latest wave
of bus bombings in Israel. Few countries have worked so hard and so
harshly to stamp out terrorism as Russia and Israel, yet it persists.
Terrorism isn't a normal thing. There are many instances of gross
injustices that don't produce terrorism, but once a people starts
on a path of armed resistance and that resistance becomes deeply
embedded in the culture harsher repression rarely (if ever) works.
Moreover, the repression itself changes the people who do it. That
may work to elect every more right-wing politicos -- Israel is no
doubt the clearest example of this -- but the right-wingers who
promise security while projecting vengeance do little more than
increase everyone's misery.
On the long list of people to blame not for the Chechens taking
and destroying the school but for the Russians being such implacable
opponents of normal Chechen aspirations is our own George W. Bush.
He took a series of terrorist incidents directed at the U.S. and
made them the excuse for a global War on Terror, and his broad
definition encouraged right-wingers in countries from Israel to
India, from Russia to the Philippines, to align their own quite
specific problems with minority Muslim political movements along
U.S. lines. The unleashing of the U.S. War on Terror immediately
led to escalation of every one of these conflicts, making them
each a theatre in a global struggle between superpower U.S. and
Islamists all over the world.
Bush was recently quoted as saying that the War on Terror cannot
be won -- a piece of candor that he soon recanted. But consider
what winning such a war, in the absence of any real effort to
redress grievances and right injustices, really means. It is much
like Gorchakov said above, where all of the enemies of civilization
must be "reduced to a state of more or less perfect submission."
Even if that were possible it wouldn't make for a very attractive
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Concert: Willie Nelson/Bob Dylan: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium,
Wichita, KS. Wasn't looking forward to this: I've never been
to a stadium-sized open-air concert, and hadn't been to Lawrence
Stadium since Dumont butted in. But I'd also never seen Nelson live,
so didn't resist very hard. We had seen Dylan in 2001 at Century II,
an ok place for tractor brawls but terrible accoustically for music:
too distant to see, too cluttered to hear. When we got to New York
a month later friends were raving about his new record, which we
had probably heard most of without really hearing it at all. The
ballpark was set up with the stage on second base. We sat 2/3 of
the way up directly behind home plate, peering over the control
tent at the distant stage. The sightlines were interrupted by the
foul ball screen, but the good thing was that hardly anyone was
near us: for once it was nice to have some elbow room. However,
the acoustics were dreadful: anything spoken from the stage was
hopelessly garbled. The opening act was the Hot Club of Cowtown:
a trio with violin, guitar and acoustic bass, with violinist Elana
Fremerman doing most of the singing. I thought I heard her say
that she originally came from Wichita, which reminded me that I
had made various references to Cowtown while I was growing up
here -- most notably in my manifesto for the Cowtown Liberation
Front. (Website says she's from Prairie Village, KS, which is a
suburb of Kansas City -- not the same thing at all.) Mostly played
standards over slap bass, including a surprisingly slow and discreet
"'Deed I Do." Willie joined for the set-closer, a nice touch. Great
way to start the evening. Nelson started his set with "Promised
Land," backdropped with a huge American flag, which was then
quickly covered up (or blown up) with an equally huge Texas flag
(Texas being so big that there's only room for one star and one
pair of stripes -- Ernest Tubb would have approved). He had nine
people huddled on stage, hard to see drummer Paul English, harder
still to see sister Bobbie tucked behind the grand piano. Couldn't
make out the guitarist to the left of Nelson who sang Merle
Haggard's part on "Pancho and Lefty" then drove the point home
by singing another Haggard standard, but Laura claims it was
Dylan. Low point was a dreadful medley of early hits, or maybe
just a version of "Nite Life" with other songs interpolated.
I had no problem recognizing every song in his set, even though
I couldn't make out a word he said. Dylan's set was stripped
down and pumped up. He played keyb the whole time, except when
he wandered around the stage somewhat dancing, like he thought
he was Thelonious Monk. Two or three guitarists (one wandered
in from the corners in mid-set; one switched off to pedal steel
and something that looked like a big lute), bass (sometimes
acoustic), and drums; they played almost everything fast and
hard, and with the words hopelessly garbled I only recognized
two songs: one Nelson came out for, from one of Nelson's records,
and something about Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. Two song encore:
a roughhouse "Like a Rolling Stone" and an extremely loud "All
Along the Watchtower." Maybe this is a sign that Dylan has a
new record in the works, and maybe it'll be great, but I couldn't
tell anything from the not-so-cheap seats. I kept thinking that
I could have stayed home and actually listened to some music.
But the weather was pretty nice -- this has been the fairest
August in Wichita that I can remember -- and the crowd had some
interesting sights. And now I can say that I've seen Nelson,
after I've listened to 50-60 of his albums.