Tag Archives: Not Recommended

[163] Martin Carthy with Dave Swarbrick – Byker Hill

27 May

Sometimes, no matter how many times you listen to an album, it makes absolutely no impression.

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That’s what has happened to me here, with the pretty period instrumentation and the admittedly accomplished vocals passing me by entirely despite a dozen and more plays.  I start up Spotify, I hear the first notes, and some time later I realize that the album has ended and once again I have failed to notice.

This has happened on occasion with bands I love where, on revisiting an album years later, I discover what it was I had missed – P.H.U.Q. by The Wildhearts was a complete bust for me when it first came out but recently revealed as a minor masterpiece.

Of course there are other albums which were a disappointment on first listen that have not fared any better with age.  I’m looking at you, Subhuman Race by Skid Row, although a better example might be GnR’s Chinese Democracy which left me with this same *shrug* feeling (rather than the disgust which led to Subhuman Race being the first and to date only album I have ever returned to the store for being terrible . . .)

So why am I reaching back twenty-plus years to discus hard rock near hits and clean misses in this post?  Is it possible that I have almost literally (in the original literal sense of the word) nothing to say about Byker Hill?

In the immortal words of the narrator from Hong Kong Phooey, “Could be.”

I would bet on the Chinese Democracy scenario being closer to the likely truth than P.H.U.Q. this time.  Except that I really can’t foresee a future where I even remember the name Martin Carthy long enough to give this record another spin.

What’s next?

Next Week: Cartolo – Cartolo

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 163 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 163 = 13%)
Recommend? No. (136 of 163 = 83%)

[155] Camaron De La Isla – Le Leyenda Del Tiempo

1 Apr

I love the sound of a guitar.  Electric or classical, picked or strummed – even more than vocals, the guitar tends to be the touchstone for my musical appreciation.

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And the technical ability on display here from the very first notes is impressive.  It can be hectic fun in the more familiar, high energy flamenco moments, but these make up less than half of the recording.

It’s amazing that an album quite so short – the run time is just over a half hour- can be quite so scattershot.

Beyond the guitar work, this album is too eclectic even for my newly opened ears, too all over the place, with weird electric piano solos, odd disco riffs, chanting and wailing which appears to veer far from the Spanish roots one might expect,

The vocals are fervent, but quite raw and almost monochromatic.  Just one more facet of the sound that leaves me wanting . . . not more, precisely.  Perhaps the correct idea is wanting something different.

It’s kind of a mess, and not in an interesting or engaging way.

I want more wandering guitar, less experimentation, more melody and less uncomfortable wall of sound rhythm.  It has its moments, but not many of them, and they are not nearly consistent enough.

Is it that the sound is alien to me, or that it is actually less accomplished than most of the recordings to date?  Tough to tell, but I know I’m not enjoying it, and this time there is not enough surprise or suspense to hold my attention once I realize that this isn’t something that I want to be listening to.

Next Week:  Can – Tago Mago

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 155 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 155 = 14%)
Recommend? No.  (129 of 155 = 83%)

[142] Tim Buckley – Dream Letter: Live in London, 1968

25 Dec

At the crossroads of Folk and Rock, Tim Buckley uses his voice more as instrument than lyric delivery system.

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In this long and winding live recording, Buckley whines and wails in unfettered and unapologetic sweeps, showing astounding vocal range and control.  It is quite fascinating to hear the things he makes his voice do.

Unfortunately – despite its unique character, its originality and style – I find that this aspect of the album quickly fades into the background, along with the rest of the music.  As impressive as the tone and talent on display from all on hand may be, I find myself constantly tuning out.

Nothing here holds my attention once the novelty of Buckley’s voice falls to familiarity.

It is a shame, because I really want to enjoy this.  There is certainly nothing wrong, nothing I dislike to be heard.  But it seems odd to recommend a recording as indispensable when I consistently forget all about it even while it is playing.

It is, I fear, perhaps a reflection of the songwriting aesthetic that it is only when a snippet cover of the hugely familiar “You Keep Me Hanging On” reaches my ears that I notice there is music on at all . . .

Maybe the studio albums are tighter, more engaging than Dream Letter.  But it is far more likely that in walking such a tightrope between Folk and Rock, Buckley has watered down both, served neither.

Which makes me sad.

Next Week: Buckwheat Zydeco – Buckwheat’s Zydeco Party

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 142 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 142 = 14%)
Recommend? No. (117 of 142 = 82%)

[129] Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

25 Sep

It is not the fault of Tom Moon or Benjamin Britten than when I saw that I was to listen to an English Opera, my expectations were set way out of tune with reality.

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I grew up listening to English Light Operetta courtesy of my Grandpa’s passion for all things Gilbert and Sullivan.  My first visits to the theater were for amateur dramatics, touring and D’Oyly Carte productions of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and eventually the entire canon.

(I always took perverse pleasure in the fact that our local AmDram troop was called the Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society – acronym, SODS . . .)

Some of the earliest songs I sang, many of the earliest lyrics I memorized were these clever and catchy period pieces – unmistakable English (even when ostensibly set in Japan!) and as entertaining as they are musically well-crafted.  So I was excited to further explore “English Opera.”

I was very quickly disappointed.

The melodies and flat and dense, likely very appropriate to the dour subject matter but far from enjoyable.  And the plummy, hammy performances which so enhance the absurdity of a G&S show is grating when the subject matter is played straight.

I tried and tried, but wanted to stop listening halfway through every single time I hit “play”.

Would this engage me in a theater?  There appears to be enough of a plot here to hold interest, and I’ve never been put off by dark stories and the absence of a happy ending.  But as a purely audial experience I was left unengaged and frustrated.

Again, the fault here is as likely mine as the composer’s, the performers’, or Tom Moon’s.  I was just expecting something else, hoping for something to build upon a genre with which I have fond and intimate familiarity.  Instead I am left longing for the oxymoron of sophisticated slapstick, for patter songs and pretty tunes.

I’m off to listen to Trial By Jury . . .

Next Week – Big Bill Broonzy – The Young Big Bill Broonzy, 1928-1935

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 129 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 129 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (105 of 129 = 81%)

[128] Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

18 Sep

I have been watching a loving bands like Bright Eyes in small venues with even smaller crowds for years.

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

So I want to like this, I really do.  The small budget sound, the faux-acoustic indie rock is intimately familiar in a way that takes a while for me to recognize – I may never have seen Bright Eyes in person, but I saw many truly similar acts who never received the attention and acclaim of this new millennium sensation.

Bright Eyes seems to have been selected almost arbitrarily as a placeholder for a genre, for a generation.

And this in the end is one reason I can’t bring myself to recommend . . . Wide Awake – how can I when I could be using this platform to highlight any number of others bands I followed devotedly for short periods of time?  (Usually he time it took for them to move away from New York, or break up, or both.)

There are so many more worthies I am sure Tom Moon has never heard of, with names like David Kirby, Todd Deatherage, Amplify,  More.

I am unsurprised that my most recent guest blogger has a powerful connection to these songs, this album – his own band (the aforementioned David Kirby) had a strikingly similar sound several years before . . . Wide Awake was released?

But Avi had something that Bright Eyes does not – an actual singing voice.

As I spend time with . . . Wide Awake I am put off by the weak wavering vocals and weird breathing placements, seemingly affected but more likely covering up a genuine lack of talent.  Unlike with other affected artists, rather than growing on me, I find myself growing more and more irritated.

. . . Wide Awake has that folk-rocking Americana sound that critics – including Moon (see Ryan Adams) – seem to love so much and which tends to leave me cold (see Ryan Adams . . .)

And then take the deeply meaningful, obviously important lyrics

We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul

or

My ashtray’s overflowing and I’m staring at a clean white page

The too simple naivete of youth is surely just too twee to be real, but I never catch the nod or the wink which would confirm this, so I am left with the depressing thought that every word is meant in the original, literal sense.

And it makes me want to throw something.

Not in a rock revolution, burn it all down, ACT UP kind of way.  More just general despair for humanity and the state of the world today.

Lawn.

Next Week: Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 128 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 128 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (105 of 128 = 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%)

[115] Booker T. and the MGs – Melting Pot

19 Jun

Blame all my many days and nights spent in the Bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

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Or blame my deeply ingrained preference for vocals and lyrics. Whatever you blame it on, despite the pedigree and the obvious talent, despite falling squarely in a genre I love, the sad fact of the matter is that I just don’t seem to be enjoying Melting Pot.

I’m interested enough on the rare occasions when the guitar is soloing away in clean, deliberate struts.  But when the Hammond Organ kicks in, taking the lead as it does for most of the 40 minutes of this album, something Pavlovian seems to happen.

You see, it’s the same sound that is played over the PA system at the ballpark in the Bronx, and after 30 or 40 seconds I’m ready for the action to begin again, for someone to throw or hit or catch something.

I’m ready for a hot dog.

I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it genuinely makes listening to these tracks a chore.

I want to be sitting in the sun, or under the lights, or even in the rain watching the minutiae of details that make baseball one of my favorite sports (I’ve probably only watch more soccer in my lifetime).

When explaining my love of the game, I always describe the feeling I have – whether at a game, watching on TV or listening to the radio – that it is entirely likely that I will see / hear something I have never encountered before.

What is rare in any other sport is an almost daily occurrence on the diamond.

Maybe that is a part of my problem with Booker T – I have heard all of this before, and often with some of the greatest vocalists on the planet (or even John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd) wailing over the top.

When the vocals do kick in here, they are the very definition of backing – wordless, wandering harmonies in search of a melody to enhance.

And once again I’m left wanting more.

In the end, for all of these reason, I find that the album feels incomplete.  It needs a song sung over the top, not to mention some peanuts and Crackerjacks, a beer and a view.  If you’re not a baseball fan – if you’ve never spent much time in the stands with an organist filling in the quiet moments between the brief but beautiful bursts of action – maybe you will be able to relate to what has been captured here.

But for me it’s time to switch off Spotify, turn on the radio feed of today’s opposition, check out the lineups and Play Ball . . .

Next Week:  James Booker – New Orleans Jazz Wizard Live!

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 115 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (17 of 115 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (94 of 115 = 82%)

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