Last night Sticky Fingers1 came up on my shuffler2. Within a millisecond of the opening riff of “Brown Sugar”, I instantly knew what I was listening too, and went into a reverie. Here’s an edited version…
I cannot quantify the number of times I’ve heard this album in my lifetime. When I was a child living in Toronto, or Frostpocket, whenever there were parties hosted by the Ragnarokr generation, Sticky Fingers was a frequently spun disc. When I was 8 or 9, Sticky Fingers was one of the albums I would play when I was alone in the house – I distinctly recall sitting on the Frostpocket front porch in a rocking chair listening, loudly, to Sticky Fingers played through the house speakers, reading some book or other, and not reading but just listening.
When our family moved to Austin when I was a teenager, I remember Sticky Fingers playing at dinner parties or other occasions for guests to mingle.
I started attending The University of Texas a few months after my 17th birthday, I also moved out of my parents’ house. My first financial aid check was blown on frivolities/necessities like a stereo for my car, and a receiver, speakers and record player for my apartment. Sticky Fingers was one of the first LPs that was played on that stereo system.
Chios – or Mutiny On The Aegean
For a few years while a student at UT, on Saturday’s, I would go have breakfast with Honoria, strike poses (fully clothed) and she would sketch line drawings while we listened to music and chatted. Sometimes I brought friends, but mostly, just me and a few records made the journey. Sticky Fingers was a frequent companion.
My friend Trey Buck3 would come over and we would spin records, drink wine, shoot the shit. Sticky Fingers was a frequent companion.
I made several dozen mix-tapes4 of music that played while I worked at Magnolia Cafe South, at least until the ASCAP people came by and harassed Kent Cole, the restaurant’s owner. Songs from Sticky Fingers were often in the mix.
I rebuilt my iTunes Library last in 2002, but since then, I’ve played songs from Sticky Fingers 122 times, using this particular library, or on an iPod/iPad/iPhone. This doesn’t take account of the many times the album or songs from it played in a car, either with a mix-CD, or someone else’s iPod on road trips.
Like everyone, my musical tastes have changed over time, but surprisingly, Sticky Fingers has not gotten tiresome to me, despite the constant playing over my entire life. There aren’t many albums I can say the same about.
A slightly different way to play the random music on a Friday game, I started with a song I wanted to hear, and used the Create Genius Playlist on my iPhone to generate a list.
I’ve talked about my deep love for Guy Clark’s version of Desperados Waiting on A Train previously, instead of repeating that, I’ll just add that these songs do fit well together. Vocals and literate lyrics front and center, lots of stringed acoustic instruments, guitar, fiddle sometimes, lots of empty space. If I had been older instead of younger, I’d probably have seen all of these acts multiple times when I lived in Austin, as it is, I don’t remember ever seeing any of these acts live (maybe Joe Ely, but my memory is fuzzy). I really wish I had seen Townes Van Zandt at least once, his music can bring a tear to my eye.
Clark, Guy– Desperados Waiting For A Train Old No. 1
Steve Earle– Mercenary Song Train A Comin’
Townes Van Zandt– Pancho And Lefty Rear View Mirror
Jerry Jeff Walker– Pissin’ In The Wind 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Jerry Jeff Walker
Slaid Cleaves– Broke Down Broke Down
Ray Wylie Hubbard– Conversation With The Devil 107.1 KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 7 (disc 2)
Ely, Joe– Me And Billy The Kid Live At Liberty Lunch
Earle, Steve– The Mountain Just an American Boy
Townes Van Zandt– Tecumseh Valley Live and Obscure
Jerry Jeff Walker– Desperados Waiting For The Train Viva Terlingua
Mary Gauthier– I Drink Bob Dylan – Theme Time 3 Drink
Horrible documentation (like, zero, in fact), but still, 200 jazz and blues tracks on 10 CDs for around $20 US is a pretty good deal if you are into such things (“original masters” btw) . Artists range from Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Artie Shaw, Louis Jordan, Champion Jack Dupree, and all points in between.
Since I own these albums already on CD, this box set, while enticing, seems too expensive for me: $30 per LP. If you are new to the delicious and infectious polyrhythms of Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, et al, these are excellent albums to start with.
Via Pitchfork’s Evan Minsker
Knitting Factory have released two vinyl box sets reissuing Fela Kuti’s albums—the first was curated by ?uestlove, the second by Ginger Baker. On September 29, they’ll release a third, this one put together by Brian Eno. For Eno’s installment, he picked the albums London Scene (1971), Shakara (1972), Gentleman (1973), Afrodisiac (1973), Zombie (1976), Upside Down (1976), and I.T.T. (1980). It comes with a 12-page booklet with a foreword by Eno, song lyrics, and in-depth commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May.
Also here’s Brian Eno discussing how he discovered Fela1 in a record store in London
This is the first in a series of videos presenting the salutations of celebrities on the occasion of what would have been Fela’s 75th birthday. Also on this day, 15th October, Knitting Factory Records are releasing Red Hot + Fela, a compilation album featuring interpretations of Fela songs by a raft of top drawer artists. All profits from this album go towards combatting AIDS.
Brian Eno, producer, thinker, conceptual artist and lifelong Fela fan has contributed this salutory message, talking about how encountering Fela’s music changed his life.
I hope this is a good film, because James Brown was an amazing performer, and a complicated cat…
“I was sitting right there,” says Mick Jagger, pointing at a row of seats in the famous first balcony at New York’s Apollo Theater. He is remembering how, as a young fan back in England, he had worn out the grooves on his copy of James Brown’s 1963 album, “Live at the Apollo.” Then, he says, he watched from the balcony in 1964 as the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business performed his splits and spins and dropped to his knees begging and screaming “Please Please Please.”
Fifty years later, Mr. Jagger is back at the Apollo, speaking in the historic space where “Get On Up: The James Brown Story”, which he co-produced with Brian Grazer, would have its premiere in a couple of days. It hits theaters Aug. 1.
“It was daunting, of course,” Mr. Jagger says of having to follow the future Godfather of Soul in one of his most amazing performances. Keith Richards has said it was a big mistake to even try. Mr. Jagger’s perspective: “At that age you don’t care. You don’t think. You just do it.”
Mr. Boseman worked with choreographer Aakomon Jones to learn Brown’s signature moves, including the one-legged sideways slide step that “we called the good foot,” the actor says.
It also didn’t hurt that one of the film’s producers happened to be among a handful of people on earth who has had as long and storied a performing career as James Brown.
“I would say that Mick Jagger sort of produced the philosophy behind how to approach the performances,” says Mr. Boseman. “He was adamant about the amount of intensity that James Brown brought to a performance and [Mr. Jagger] always tried to match himself. He drove that point home.”
The two also discussed what Mr. Boseman calls Brown’s “good face,” which his audience saw, and the “bad face” that the famously strict to the point of abusive band leader turned on his backing musicians.
Mr. Jagger says “We talked about how there are two people you’re playing really—James Brown the person and there is James Brown the performer. They’re not the same James Brown.”
and I happened to run across these James Brown Youtuberies yesterday, so I’m sharing them for your edification. The man could dance…
The film took a while to make…
But a primary reason the project “was pushed off year after year,” Mr. Grazer says, was pinpointed by James Brown himself. Though Brown had given his blessings to Mr. Grazer’s film he remained skeptical, telling the producer: “You’ll never find somebody to play me.”
He was right. And though Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy reportedly were considered for the role, the part had not been cast by 2006 when, following Brown’s death that year, rights to his story were returned to the Brown family estate.
For Mr. Grazer, the film was a labor of love. A self-described James Brown fanatic, he grew up in the San Fernando Valley listening to his music. “When I was in high school, I was in a car club and I just played James Brown over and over and over again on my 8-track,” he says.
“`You wanna know how hardworking I am?”” Mr. Grazer remembers Brown saying. “Then he told me a story about how once he was dancing and he stepped on a nail on stage. The nail went right through his foot, bled through his shoe and he kept on going.”
That fired Mr. Grazer’s determination to make his film.
With the film ready to open in theaters, the filmmakers are hoping to repeat the success of Mr. Taylor’s, “The Help,” which grossed close to $170 million domestically on a reported budget of $25 million, slightly less than “Get On Up.”
While test screenings have shown that “Get On Up” currently appeals to “a 40-plus audience,” Mr. Grazer says, “I want kids to see it.” To get them into theaters he has tapped into friends in the hip-hop community whom he met during the production of his 2002 film “8 Mile.”
“Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye, those guys worship James Brown, who really is the progenitor of hip-hop. They were all influenced by him and they all feel that some of their funk has come from James Brown. I want kids to see where the music comes from.”
To help get the word out, Mr. Grazer says he hopes to enlist his friends Jay Z and Justin Timberlake to help promote the movie.
“A lot of my friends, and Brian’s friends as well, said it was impossible to make a film about James Brown,” says Mr. Jagger.
Funny how memory works.1 A song by The Cars came on the iTunes shuffler, and I remembered the first time I heard that band when I was 13 or 14, traveling with my uncle Phil up to Frostpocket. We stopped in Atlanta because there was some Amnesty International exhibit on the death penalty and/or the Cambodian Killing Fields (as far as I can remember). We stayed with my aunt Megan, and her boyfriend at the time, Mark (whose last name I forget)2 for three days, one of those I was alone in their apartment, looking at their records, and found the Cars album, put it on the turntable…
Looking at the cover, I’m pretty sure it was the album, Panorama.
Greg Prato writes:
For their third album, 1980’s Panorama, the Cars decided to challenge their fans with an album unlike its predecessors. Whereas The Cars and Candy-O were both comprised of instantly catchy and distinctly tuneful songs, Panorama was much darker and not as obvious — an attempt at breaking away from the expected winning formula
I have a large enough collection of digitized music that I cannot ever listen to it all without resorting to various tricks, or allowing universal randomization to choose for me, or by choosing themes to build around. Yesterday, I was working in my my (digital) darkroom, and needed to come up with a title for a photograph that revolved around a revolver. My first thought was “Happiness is A Warm Gun”, because that is such a great song, but then my mind wandered, bang bang…
If I had to choose, my favorite “gun” songs would be, in no particular order, Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun; Beatles – Happiness is A Warm Gun; Pogues – A Pistol for Paddy Garcia; Leo Kottke – Vaseline Machine Gun; The Clash – Guns of Brixton; Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns And Money; Junior Walker – Shotgun; The Pixies – There Goes My Gun; and Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun! Of course, this could change by tomorrow.
Certain songs penetrate one deeply, and for me, Big Star’s Thirteen is one such song.
Big Star – #1 Record
Every time, nearly, that I hear the shimmering background vocals to this song, I get goosebumps, feel a shiver down my spine. Why do certain songs do this? Who the fuck knows, but I kept listening to Thirteen over and over tonight, and I will probably pick the needle up one more time soon as I finish typing the sentence. Ahhh…
The lyrics aren’t what do it for me, they border on silly (Take You To The Dance, and so on), but how they are sung is what gets me.
Big Star’s Chris Bell and Alex Chilton wrote some of pop music’s most memorable melodies — memorable for the relatively few listeners who were fortunate to hear them, that is. There are few songs that capture the aching innocence of adolescence as well as the ballad “Thirteen,” and fewer that are as pretty as this song. Often compared to their most immediate influence, the Beatles, Big Star produced some “Here Comes the Sun”-like gems. “Thirteen” is from the Memphis band’s debut, No.1 Record (1972). Over gorgeous folk-pop acoustic guitars, Chilton’s vulnerable-sounding voice shakes with the tentative insecurity of the 13-year-old narrator tenderly trying to gain the affection of his crush:
“Won’t you let me walk you home from school/Won’t you let me meet you at the pool/Maybe Friday I can get tickets to the dance/And I’ll take you, ooh/Won’t you tell your dad ‘Get off my back’/Tell him what we said ’bout “Paint It Black”/Rock & roll is here to stay/Come inside girl, it’s OK/And I’ll shake you/If it’s so, well let me know/If it’s no, well I can go/I won’t make you.”
I guess maybe I need a Leslie speaker before I get a Theremin…
Chilton’s lyrics are so simple and so clear that they seem effortless. The song has a Zen/haiku-like quality in its concise, yet powerfully evocative form. The music is provided by acoustic guitars and vocals alone — backing vocals run through a rotating Leslie speaker.
There are other awesome songs on this album, by the way, Feel, The Ballad of El Goodo, In the Street, Try Again, Watch the Sunrise, and others, so if you see a copy of Big Star’s #1 Record somewhere, you would be well served to pick up a copy…
Does this ever happen to you? You’ve owned a piece of music1 in your library for a while, and you like it, but your relationship to the songs is tenuous, ephemeral, noncommittal. And then for whatever reason, you rediscover that particular artifact, and it grips you, forces you to play it over and over, compels you to swirl the songs in your ears. Is it that certain music takes a few plays before it sinks in? Is it a factor of your changing brain? The music is the same, but your response to it has altered, deepened.
Last week, a song came on my iTunes shuffle while I was photostrolling, a song from Guy Clark’s Old No. 1 LP. I had added this album to my library July 15th, 2008, the same day I added Nigeria 70 Lagos Jump, Ry Cooder’s I, Flathead, Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal, and had played Old No. 1 a few times since then, but I couldn’t say it was a particular favorite of mine. I had played it five or six times, and particular songs shuffled a few more times than that, but nothing more.
However, last week, that particular song smacked me2 and would not relinquish its hold on my imagination. So I was compelled to listen to it a few times, and then enticed to listen to the entire album multiple times. Great tunes through and through. My favorites are L.A. Freeway, She’s Ain’t Going Nowhere, A Nickel for the Fiddler, Desparados Waiting on the Train,Like a Coat From the Cold. Maybe others too. The shaggy-dog story on Texas, 1947, about putting a nickel on the train tracks as a six year-old boy has some great lines, as does That Old Time Feeling. What I’m saying is there are no skippable songs on Guy Clark’s debut album, Old No. 1…
Maybe I’m about to start my mid-life crisis, though only if I concede to not living past the age of 120, maybe it is because so many of my formative years were spent in Austin, or maybe because I’m such a fan of Townes Van Zandt, but for whatever reason, I am adding this album to that best albums of 2014 post that I will probably never get around to writing…
Guy Clark pushes a fading, black and white photograph across the table. In it, a man leans against a 1939 Packard, foot propped up on the bumper in the dusty streets of Monahans, Texas. “Jack Prigg” reads the inscription on the back. He’s smiling and sharply dressed in a black suit, a gleam of success in his grin. The image is striking for its sheer contrast to the portrait of Prigg immortalized in Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” the old, busted oil-driller crying at the kitchen table to broken memories and songs. “Well, that must have been a Sunday,” laughs Clark, looking at the photo as he carefully takes a toke from the last vestiges of a joint and lets loose a rattling cough.
The workshop in the basement of Clark’s west Nashville home collects such memories. His father’s Randall knife sits on the workbench alongside his tools for making guitars. Behind him, shelves of cassettes with handwritten labels display a country songwriters hall of fame. A black and white photo of Townes Van Zandt, his haunted eyes somehow tracking around the room, stares down from the wall. Clark pinches a clump of tobacco and begins rolling a cigarette. The 71-year-old songwriter’s eyes sharpen as he takes in the room, his lips pursed together between the faint stains of yellow on his white mustache and goatee.
“Shit, I’d go back to Texas in a second if I could break even,” he says. “But the music business is here, and if I could just pay back what they’ve given me, or advanced me, I would love to live in Texas. At this point, though, I don’t know. I’m too fucking old to move back, pack all this shit up.”
Clark’s lack of sentimentality is deceiving. What the songwriter submerges in person surfaces in the deeply personal poetry of his songs, from “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” to the elegy for his father in “The Randall Knife,” and the title track of his new album, “My Favorite Picture of You,” an ode to his wife Susanna, who passed away last year after an extended decline from cancer.
Guy and Susanna’s marriage stands as one of the great relationships in music. As strongly devoted as it was tumultuous, their union and the art it produced became the locus for a new community of songwriters that emerged in the Seventies, a wave of scrappy expatriate Texans overtaking Nashville that included Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and most notably, Van Zandt, whose lifelong friendships with both Clarks remain inextricable from the couple’s relationship.
Those days feel impossibly far away in the quiet of Clark’s house as he draws slowly on his cigarette.
“If you want good friends, they’re gonna cost you,” he notes as he exhales a thin line of smoke.
from Thom Jurek’s review at Allmusic, where I learned that Steve Earle played on this album…3
If only every country songwriter could release a debut album as auspicious and fine as this one. Houston’s Guy Clark, well known to the outlaw movement for his poetic, stripped-to-the-truth songs about ramblers, history, the aged and infirm, the drunken, the lost, and the simple dignity of working people who confront the darkness and joy of life quietly, issued Old #1 when his compadres had already been making waves with his songs. Jerry Jeff Walker had already cut “L.A. Freeway” and other tunes by Clark, as had Gary Stewart, Billy Joe Shaver, and others. But the definitive versions come from Clark himself. On this disc with help from Emmylou Harris, fellow Houstoners (a young) Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, guitar wizards Chip and Reggie Young, Mickey Raphael on harp, pianist David Briggs, fiddle boss Johnny Gimble, and the angel-voiced Sammi Smith, Clark executed a song cycle that is as intimate and immediate as it is quietly devastating with its vision of brokenness and melancholy, loose wild times, and unforgettable characters.…Old #1 was unequaled in 1975 for the depth of its vision and the largeness of its artistic and empathetic heart; only Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run came close to it in terms of aesthetic merit.
Steve’s first known professional recording was with Guy Clark on Guy’s 1975 album Old No. 1. Steve sang back-up vocals (along with Rodney Crowell, Sammy Smith, and Emmylou Harris [“The first time I met Emmylou, she came in to sing on Guy Clark’s first album. She gave me half of her cheeseburger. I wasn’t the same for weeks.”]) on the song Desperados Waiting For A Train. Steve toured with Guy from early ’75 until late ’76. Steve also may have appeared in Robert Altman’s 1975 film, Nashville (he was part of a large crowd scene in Centennial Park, but it’s not clear whether he actually shows up in the film via [↩]
Warning; not for fans of smooth jazz. If your taste runs more towards the Kenny G. side of the fence, you’ll hate this Jazz Rock Fusion; full of squawks, skronks, flats, sharps, and beautiful dissonance by Miles Davis and company, from a tour that occurred right before the recording of Bitches Brew. Not that there aren’t quiet moments here too, only that there are many crescendos of intensity which cannot be ignored. In certain states of mind, I love this album’s complexity and energy.
LIVE IN EUROPE 1969 lives up to the Miles Davis Bootleg Series mission of presenting live performances that are previously unreleased, have previously only been bootlegged, or are very rare. This new set is the first collection of Miles’s Third Great Quintet, the “Lost” Band of 1968-1970 with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette at their peak (they were never recorded in the studio). The album captures the short-lived quintet in three separate concert settings, starting with two full-length (one hour-plus) sets at the Antibes Jazz Festival in France, in Stockholm as part of “The Newport Jazz Festival In Europe,” and completed with a stunning 46-minute performance at the Berlin Philharmonie, filmed in color.
and from the liner notes:
“After we finished In a Silent Way,” Miles told his biographer Quincy Troupe (in the definitive Miles The Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, 1990), “I took the band out on the road; Wayne, Dave, Chick, and Jack DeJohnette were now my working band. Man, I wish this band had been recorded live because it was really a bad motherfucker. I think Chick Corea and a few other people recorded some of our performances live, but Columbia missed out on the whole fucking thing.”
LIVE IN EUROPE 1969 lives up to the Miles Davis Bootleg Series mission of presenting live performances that are previously unreleased, have previously only been bootlegged, or are very rare. The new box represents the first major collection to be devoted exclusively to the short-lived ‘third great quintet,’ sometimes referred to as Miles’ ‘lost band’ of 1969-70: Shorter on soprano and tenor saxophones, Corea on electric piano (and occasionally acoustic piano), Holland on acoustic bass, and DeJohnette on drums.
The Miles-Shorter-Corea-Holland-DeJohnette lineup (in tandem with other players) began to solidify during the 1968-‘69 recording dates that became the Filles De Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way albums. And they were at the core of the dozen or so musicians joined together by Miles in August 1969, for the principal sessions that became the landmark turning point of his Grammy Award®-winning Bitches Brew.
Mick Ronson, guitarist and arranger extraordinaire, was famously screwed out songwriting credits by David Bowie, rocked out on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour (Hard Rain), recorded with Mott the Hoople and/or Ian Hunter, arranged John Mellencamp’s hit Jack & Diane, played in Morrisey’s band, etc., before dying of pancreatic cancer in 1993.
Mick Ronson and Hard Rain
So how is this, Mick Ronson’s second album? Not quite as tasty as his first solo album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, but still well worth hearing, especially if you like melodic hard rock with moments of wah-wah guitar. There is a pretty rocking cover of White Light / White Heat that was an outtake to David Bowie’s Pinups album.
Joseph Kabasele – La Grand Kallé: His Life His Music
Rating – A
I’ll admit to knowing next to nothing about Congolese master, Joseph Kabasele, prior to purchasing this 2 CD set1, but I’m so happy I picked this diamond up. CD 1 is comprised of songs recorded from 1951-1962; CD 2 tracks were recorded from 1964-1970. If you are familiar with Brazilian samba, Haitian kompa, Dominican merengue, or Cuban rumba / mambo you are familiar with Congolese music. New Orleans? Funk? Jazz? Likewise. Infectious, joyous, polyrhythmic bliss.
I’m not sure if King Léopold II of Belgium2 has a direct effect on the life of Joseph Kabasele, though it is plausible. An essay for another time perhaps, including discussion of Zaire, Mobutu, and colonialism.
From the Amazon listing:
In the turbulent and euphoric times that surrounded Congo’s independence in 1960, Kallé and his rumba band, Orchestre African Jazz (which included such luminaries as Manu Dibango, Dr. Nico and Tabu Ley Rochereau) was the most influential in Africa. Their sound has rung around the world ever since.
Le Grand Kallé is the latest in Stern’s Africa’s acclaimed series of boxed sets devoted to the greatest Congolese stars. (Previous titles include Francophonic, The Voice of Lightness and Bel Canto.) Graced by recordings that have been out of print for decades as well as Kabasele’s most famous and enduring works, this double album features a keenly researched and illustrated 104-page book that reveals the man, his music and its context as never before.
If Franco was the finest musician in the Congo, and indeed Africa, then his rival Joseph Kabasele was the most influential band leader. Known as Le Grand Kallé, he was a singer, songwriter and businessman whose band African Jazz were the best-known exponents of Congolese rumba, and included such celebrities as guitarist Dr Nico, singer Tabu Ley Rochereau and saxophonist Manu Dibango. They all feature on this 38-track set that includes intriguing sleeve notes detailing Kallé’s sometimes controversial life, friendship with Lumumba and uneasy dealings with Mobutu. It starts with a charming track from 1951, previously available only on a shellac 78, and ends with his final recordings with Dibango in 1970, including the funky Africa Boogaloo. And it of course includes Indépendance Cha Cha, the delightful soundtrack to Congo’s bloody and chaotic independence in 1960, and the glorious dance song Tika Ndeko Na Yo Te. An African classic.
I wanted to like this, because, come on, it’s new music by Johnny Marr! Instead, screechy guitars, mixed too loudly. Maybe if there were better vocals, or interesting lyrics, or less bombastic production? But there isn’t, and this is fairly generic Brit-Pop, disposable, forgettable.
Steve Hyden on the legend aspect…
Declaring a man to be a “god-like genius” several months shy of his 5oth birthday implies he has no more worlds left to conquer. It’s been like this for Johnny Marr since before his 25th birthday, when he co-wrote a couple dozen perfect pop songs with Morrissey and then departed for a series of celebrity rocker odd jobs in other people’s bands (including Modest Mouse, the Pretenders, Talking Heads, and Pet Shop Boys). To say Marr ran up the score on his legacy with the Smiths, and has been treading water ever since, would be reductive. But Marr has been playing with house money for as long as many of today’s indie-poppers chasing “Hand in Glove” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” have been alive. Johnny Marr is an institution now.
Anytime an artist of David Bowie’s stature releases a new album, there is discussion of it. Endless discussion. All the rock snobs want to trip over their tongues praising the new release whether or not the new work even deserves it.
Unfortunately, for me, The Next Day doesn’t come up to the standards of David Bowie’s string of near-perfect albums, and thus suffers in comparison. It’s pretty good, though when I want to hear a Bowie album, I still queue up Low, or Heroes, or Station to Station, or Ziggy Stardust, or you get the idea. That said, if you are familiar with those other, better albums, The Next Day is quite listenable. There are no obvious duds here. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, it will have burrowed deeper in my brain. Sometimes music takes a while to get embedded.
The Next Day has a strong connection to the late-1970s period when Bowie and producer Tony Visconti made their Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger. It also has the low-register guitar attack of Scary Monsters. The songs are in the reflective mode of his excellent (if crazily underrated) midlife LPs: Earthling and Hours in the late 1990s, Heathen and Reality in the early 2000s. The sharp-edged guitars suit the tunes – wry, soulful, adult, resistant to maudlin hysterics or overwrought sentiment.
“The Next Day” sets the tone right from the opening moments, rocking out as Bowie snarls, “Here I am, not quite died/My body left to rot in a hollow tree.” Even though he sings, “I can’t get enough of that doomsday song,” Bowie has never sounded further from doomsday. Instead, he ranges from a furious anti-war rant (“I’d Rather Be High”) to compassion for doomed youth (“Love Is Lost”) to marital love (“Dancing Out in Space”). The album ends with the spaced-out electronic drone of “Heat,” as he repeats the words “I tell myself/I don’t know who I am.”
Though he sings most of The Next Day in his staccato rock voice, Bowie holds back his torch-song theatrics for two big ballads, the goth doo-wop of “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and the majestic New Romantic love song “Where Are We Now?”
Cole Morton recounts how producer Tony Visconti wandered around Manhattan listening to the rough mixes on his headphones:
Still, Tony Visconti thought his friend had given up writing songs, so was “totally surprised” to receive an email from Bowie in November 2010, while he was producing the Kaiser Chiefs’ album in London. “He said, ‘When you get back, do you fancy doing some demos with me?’ This was the first time since Reality [in 2003] that it was even suggested that we do anything in any studio, so I was quite taken aback. There was no preamble, no warning. It was really weird.”
A few days later, Visconti found himself in “a small, grimy room” at 6/8 Studios in Manhattan, close to Bowie’s home. “Sterling Campbell was on drums, I was on bass, David was on keyboards, Gerry Leonard was on guitar. By the end of five days we had demoed up a dozen songs. Just structures. No lyrics, no melodies and all working titles. This is how everything begins with him. Then he took them home and we didn’t hear another thing from him for four months.” Why was that? “He wanted to listen and be certain he was on the right track.” They returned at last to a more upmarket studio called the Magic Shop, also within walking distance of the Bowie home. Now the drummer Zachary Alford and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey were involved. The guitarist Earl Slick joined in later.
“We only recorded for two-week periods and then we would take months off again while David analysed it all,” says Visconti. “I was walking around New York with my headphones on, looking at all the people with Bowie T-shirts on – they are ubiquitous here – thinking, ‘Boy, if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment.’ ” Everyone involved in the project had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. “For the older members of his tribe, we didn’t really need to do that.”
The Seeds, L.A. garage rockers from the 1960s, included on the Nuggets series, with the great song, “Pushing Too Hard“, and the even better song, “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine“. Both of those are worth seeking out…
but this album does not do much for me. More than a couple of songs sound nearly identical to each other, or to “Pushing Too Hard“. I think they just ran out of ideas by this, their third album. If you want to get a Seeds album, their self-titled is better. Much better.
or as Mark Deming puts it:
The Seeds had long hair, a gloriously lamentable fashion sense, an attitude that was at once petulant and lackadaisical, and music that sounded aimless, horny, agitated, and stoned all at once. Is it any wonder America’s delinquent youth loved them? The Seeds’ aural signature was as distinctive as any band of their era, and they got a bit fancier with their formula as they went along, but they never captured their essential seediness with more impressive concision than they did on their self-titled debut album from 1966.…there are few albums of the era that mirror the delicious arrogance of a beer-sodden teenage misfit with the effortless simplicity of the Seeds, and it’s justly celebrated as a classic of first-wave garage punk.