Tag Archives: 1980s

[152] David Byrne and Brian Eno – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

11 Mar

“It’s got a beat, and you can dance to it.”

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Names I know, a sound balanced somewhere between those I tend not to seek out and those I have actively studied, this experimental mix of found sounds and sampled beats is a wild mix of hit and miss, of cerebral and base.

Byrne and Eno had both already shown an ear for a cutting edge tune – separately and in collaboration – before this 1981 release, and it is that understanding of how listeners respond to rhythm and repetition which combines here to meld the weird and unexpected parts of each track into a coherent whole.

Beyond the looped guitar stabs and snippets of talk radio hosts and callers, sermonizers and exorcists, the pair also sample Middle Eastern vocals and African beats.  I don’t think Rock, certainly not Pop, and not even World when I’m listening to this sprawling and complex recording, but I do think long and hard about the sounds that are playing.

I think it is entirely possible that I don’t actually *like* this.  That does not stop me spending an engrossing week exploring and experiencing it, enough so that I have no problem recommending it.  I hear the experimentation, the craft, the artists’ choices.  I also hear the influence it had on the next decade plus of popular music, even if I did not always enjoy the sounds so influenced.

Would I rather hear “Psycho Killer” or “Once In A Lifetime”?  Absolutely.  (And I will, 18 letters down the line.)  In the meantime, I fall back on my longtime answer to the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?”

I listen to anything that took real passion and talent to compose and perform.  Also late-80s, early-90s Rock which I acknowledge at times took neither . . .

Next Week: Cafe Tacvba – Cuatro Caminos

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 152 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 152 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (127 of 152 = 84%)

[145] The Bulgarian Women’s National Radio and Television Chorus – Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

22 Jan

Here is a masterclass in harmony.

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This traditional choir singing modern arrangements of ancient Bulgarian Folk songs provide harmonies as far as the ear can hear – some familiar, some quite unexpected, but all beautiful and unforgettable.

Unlike the Gregorian Chants which were supposed to sooth but ultimately infuriated several months ago, these sounds are meant to entrance and engage and achieve this with a simplicity which is astonishing.

Here is a wall of sound, just a surely as any Phil Spector recording.  It fills a room, fills your head, removes any other distractions, demanding attention.

Rationally, I am aware that there are at least some instruments playing here, accompanying the vocalists.  But in my heart and in my imagination this is an a capella experience, many women holding and wavering notes in fascinating combinations until even the occasional discord is gorgeous.

Once more, Tom Moon has effortlessly and pleasingly expanded my range and scopr of musical knowledge, reminding me how much I di not know, how enjoyable finding out can be.

Next Week: Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 145 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 145 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (120 of 145 = 83%)

[143] Buckwheat Zydeco – Buckwheat’s Zydeco Party

8 Jan

The instrumentation and flavor of the Cajun southwest paired with the structure and musicality of classic blues makes for a fun and fiery ride.

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It is impossible to hear these sounds and not sway and tap, bob and weave.  It’s damn near impossible not to sing along even on first hearing of a song (each with its own “first line of the blues is always sung a second time” adherence).

The second time through the album, and I’m stuck with earworms for weeks!

The crazy whirl of sounds may be the first thing that a listener notices, but it is the melodies – simple, memorable, magical – which star throughout.  They are so immediately familiar that it is utterly disconcerting when the band flies into a genuine cover – a drum driven, high octane rendition of Tutti Frutti.  It is a shock to realize that everything else has been a new discovery, not in fact a long forgotten favorite.

Both band and music are feisty and energetic, party fare for a decidedly offbeat party.  But I have long thrown parties which, thanks to “Weird” Al Yankovic, included people dancing hard to the accordion, so perhaps the leap was not so great for me as it might be for others.

It is a leap I heartily recommend!

Next Week:  Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 143 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 143 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (118 of 143 = 83%)

[131] Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers – Any Other Way To Go?

9 Oct

A little bit of Soul, a splash of Hip Hop, a touch of syncopated Jazz, plus a healthy helping of Rhythm and Blues, this album is a whole lot of good times.

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Here is a weird and wonderful fusion of all kinds of sounds and traditions, constantly in motion (hence the designation Go-Go), hugely inventive and inevitably toe-tapping.  The vocals are decidedly non-traditional, but always engaging with some fun scats and warm sung tones whose melody at times appears heavily improvised.

There is an obvious 80s feel on display throughout this live recording, despite the classic era of many of the compositions.  Much of the drum work was surely soon co opted by those programming drum machines and the production has the slick and polished veneer that is so recognizable.

The multiple percussionists keep up the all-day groove that anchors this collection of diverse covers, allowing the guitars to noodle, the horns to stop by for a cup of coffee, the vocals to rap or croon as the mood strikes.  And mood is very much at the forefront here.

There are unique takes on a number of old chestnuts – from Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing”,  through  Sly’s “Family Affair” all the way to the Woody Woodpecker theme! – but the highlight for me is the hypnotic and unstoppable “Run Joe”.  It is worthy of  spot on the 1,000 all on its own.

I am glad to have been introduced to this fascinating sound – I have never heard anything quite like Go-Go.  It appears to have been well respected, but never quite commercially successful, which is a shame.

Better late than never . . .

Next Week:  Clifford Brown and Max Roach – Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 131 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 131 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (107 of 131 = 82%)

[124] Johannes Brahms – The Four Symphonies

21 Aug

I listened to these pieces for 14 hours yesterday.

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And while I did at times notice moments of elegance and interest, at the end of the day the whole thing just washed over me unlike waves on a beach.

Yes, unlike – the beach is gradually changed by the water.  I was not.

Perhaps, once more, it is timing.  These large, abstract pieces fare poorly in comparison with the stunning and intimate piano and cello pieces just past.

Or perhaps it is just my mood.  Maybe I’m not feeling symphonies today, or at least not ones which I do not recognize.

And this is the final straw – this lack of recognition, the fact that after hearing each piece half a dozen times and more, I do not find myself humming passages, am not anticipating favorite moments as I did throughout the Beethoven Symphonies, both familiar and new to me.

In picking this Recording for the 1,000 Tom Moon praises the subtlety of the composition and performance.  I guess sometimes I don’t want subtlety.

Sometimes I just want to be hit in the head.

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – Violin Sonatas, Opp. 78, 100, 108

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 124 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 124 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (102 of 124 = 82%)

[114] Boogie Down Productions – By All Means Necessary

12 Jun

“When some get together and think of Rap
They tend to think of violence
But when they are challenged on some Rock groups
The result is always silence.”

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I don’t hate Rap, and in hindsight it seems I never did.

But perhaps more Rap music turns me off than not thanks to the perceived subject matter – too much of it glorifies a violence that I cannot relate to, one that is a little too grim, too real.

I understand that this may be a part of the appeal for fans of the genre.

The casual sexism, the profanity, the posing and posturing I could always get past, if I’m honest, when it was done with a wink and a smile.  The Rock that I regarded as my own was guilty of the same often enough.

But I never accepted the culture of gun worship which seemed to underscore so much of the Rap that found my ears.

It is with this background, and the understanding that this recording was inspired by the shooting death of BDP founder member, Scott La Rock, that I come to By All Means Necessary.

Here is the follow up to Criminal Minded, the 1987 album considered to be the herald of the Gangsta Rap wave soon to follow.  There is an irony here since – while both albums portray a grim, gun drenched reality of the South Bronx of the day – the intent was not the glorification of this culture as seen in later artists.

Songs like “Stop The Violence” and “Illegal Business” are frank and uncomfortable discussions of the balance of socio-economic power.

That said, even just a glance at the album covers makes it is easy to see where the less nuanced and responsible messages which followed might have taken their lead.

But what about the music?  That is, after all why I’m here.

It turns out these ten tracks are varied and innovative, full of long and flowing lyrical vocals over sparse yet complex beats and samples.  While I find them uneven, with some engaging me far more than others, each song is fascinating in its own right.

I even get used to intentionally flattened tones when singing rather than rapping.  This is especially noticeably on the repurposed song snippets such as in “Part Time Sucker” (riffing on Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover”), but the phenomenon occurs throughout.

It is as if KRS-One is actively highlighting the importance of the intricate and at times rambling rap verses while undermining the traditional conventions of the sung chorus.

It is strange to spend so much time listening to an album so steeped in a genre which I have actively avoided for decades, but yet again, stepping outside of my comfort zone has proved to be its own reward.

The difficult questions of political and musical revolutions which BDP leave me with are fair exchange for my dismissing this sound out of hand for so long.

Next Week:  Booker T. and the MGs – Melting Pot

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 114 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (17 of 114 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (94 of 114 = 82%)

 

[106] Paul Bley – Fragments

17 Apr

Described by various reviewers as “cold” or even “frigid”, Fragments is a very different Jazz animal to much of what I’ve discovered to date in the 1,000.

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The best moniker I have come accross to explain what it is I’m listening to here is “Chamber Jazz”.  Here is music for an audience, serious music to be examined and appreciated, to be enjoyed intellectually rather than intuitively.

Once I recognize this, there is much to enjoy in these reflective, measured compositions.

Bley apparently ascribes to the truism that the only thing that practice makes you better at is practicing, so these recordings are apparently hugely improvised, although planned and discussed at great length before instruments were ever picked up and tapes set to roll.

The result is an intriguing mix of structure and spontenaity, of unexpected chords being presented, then deconstructed by piano, guitar and sax in fascinating ways.

This is in no way background music, not something that will pleasantly set a mood over food or drinks.  It demands attention and is quite unlike anything I have heard before.

The closest analog would perhaps be the Minimalist works of Reich and Glass that I devoured at University, but Bley and company are somehow more tonal – more musical – than those experimental works.

Fragments at once welcomes you into an embrace while inviting you to keep a respectful distance.

The one exception is the vigorous and almost Rock-like “Line Down”.  Guitar develops some distortion and the drums drive the piece forward, but still without ever being the instrument to kep the beat.  Here, I can all but smell the smoke, taste the bourbon.

Here is the Free Jazz (in every definition of the word “free” you care to choose) which I have been exploring and enjoying – indeed, enjoying exploring.

It just goes to show the huge range of styles and philosophies which begin to make up the four little letters that spell JAZZ.

This may not be my favorite style – I find the Hard Bop of Blakey and the Free Jazz of Threadgill more actively enjoyable – but there is undoubtedly a time and place for listening to these carefully constructed, painstakingly unrehearsed fragments of Paul Bley.

Next Week:  The Blind Boys of Alabama – Spirit of the Century

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 106 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (16 of 106 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (87 of 106 = 82%)

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