2013 Year End Reviews – Johnny “Guitar” Watson – What The Hell Is This?

Johnny “Guitar” Watson – What The Hell Is This?

Rating: B


One of the albums I got for next to nothing as mentioned here, but it is surprisingly listenable. A couple of dud tracks, some silly songs, but some good funky, R&B-based slinky blues contained herein too. I bet you could find a used copy for next to nothing…

2013 Year End Reviews – Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1969

Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1969

Rating: A-

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.

Window Jazz Band - Ilford HP5
Window Jazz Band – Ilford HP5

More details via:

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.

(click here to continue reading ‘Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2’ Coming January 29th! | Miles Davis.)

2013 Year End Reviews – Mick Ronson – Play Don’t Worry

Mick Ronson – Play Don’t Worry

Rating: B


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.

  1. maybe a B+ []

2013 Year End Music Reviews – Marie Antoinette Soundtrack

Marie Antoinette Soundtrack

Rating: B+

I don’t recall why I bought this soundtrack, as I’ve never seen the film, nor am I much of a soundtrack person. That said, I kinda like this mix of instrumental chamber music and artists like New Order, Gang of Four, The Strokes, Bow Wow Wow and so on. You can probably get a used copy without much effort, which is what I did…

2013 Year End Reviews – Joseph Kabasele – Le Grand Kallé: His Life His Music

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.

(click here to continue reading Amazon.com: Le Grand Kallé: His Life His Music (2-CD + Book): Music.)

The Guardian U.K. is where I heard of this album:

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.

(click here to continue reading Joseph Kabasele: Le Grand Kallé, His Life, His Music – review | Music | The Guardian.)

  1. with a 102 page booklet – 46 in English! []
  2. Heart of Darkness, and inspiration of Apocalypse Now []

2013 Year End Music Reviews – Johnny Marr – The Messenger

Johnny Marr – The Messenger

Rating: C

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.

(click here to continue reading Johnny Marr: The Messenger | Album Reviews | Pitchfork.)

2013 Year End Music Reviews – Califone – Stitches

Califone – Stiches

Rating: A-

Chicago1 based indie rock band, lovely stuff. I really should see them live. Sweeping music-scapes, melancholic desert folk. Pitchfork reviewer Steven Hyden calls Stiches, “a downbeat existential western from the early 70s.”

In a certain mental state, perfect music for contemplation and rumination. 

  1. possibly relocating to Texas, but not relevant []

2013 Year End Music Reviews – David Bowie- The Next Day

David Bowie – The Next Day

Rating: B+

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.

Rob Sheffield:

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?”

(click here to continue reading The Next Day | Album Reviews | Rolling Stone.)

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.”

(click here to continue reading David Bowie is healthy and may even sing in public again, says Tony Visconti – Telegraph.)

2013 Year End Music Reviews – The Seeds – Future

The Seeds – Future

rating C+

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.

(click here to continue reading The Seeds – The Seeds | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic.)

2013 Music Reviews

Tickets Available
Tickets Available

As the year starts coming to a close, I’m going to attempt to write about some albums I encountered this year. I do like to read those End of Year lists that people write, but I find the categorization game difficult, so I’ll not play that way. The only rule I’m giving myself is that I added the song to my library in 2013. There is no way I’ll be able to write about everything, especially because earlier this year I inherited a large stash of CDs at a cut-rate price: music that I probably would not have purchased myself, but the price could not be beat. I now have a larger than expected library of “Album Rock” issued in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the early 90s. Artists like Graham Nash, George Harrison, J. Geils Band, Jay-Z, Joan Baez, The Proclaimers, Joe Walsh, The Scorpions, and so on. Not horrible, but not something I would have probably sought out on my own. The best discovery1  has been Jerry Jeff Walker.

And as I’ve done since a teenager, I usually add a couple albums to my collection every week, on average, through more normal channels.

Thus, I have made a playlist of all the new-to-me music I’ve been listening to this year, and as I get around to it, I’ll try to write at least a few lines about as many albums as time allows. Or not. 

  1. so far – I’m still wading through boxes []