just as I thought the country had turned a great corner, I come to realize it’s more fucked than ever. Now I gotta intelligently (a word obsolete in our manner & discourse) disinter what sucked from what didn’t (a line harder & harder to discern as my eyes and interest flee south). Hell man, I’m not Glenn Beck the great anesthesia stooge. I can’t lead you from the darkness.
so I don’t know what the best of the worst was. I’m going on what made an impact. What shielded me and mine from the madness coming too close to my back door. What kept me singing despite the tidal wash of bullshit from all sides. These are the discs I kept close, like prayer & ammunition.
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first, foremost, and predictably The Beatles remasters. The mono sets win hands down. A-B ‘Twist and Shout’ – stereo first then mono and listen to the speaker explode. Then move on to ‘Help’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Pepper’, and the white album, you’ll see what I mean.
the Kinks box was a delirious gold mine of artifact and tunefulness. Neko’s ‘Middle Cyclone’ (“This tornado loves you this tornado loves . . .) was a massive inhale of fresh air. Sure Dylan held his head above the braying fray but does ‘Together Thru Life” really stand alongside ‘Love and Theft’, ‘Modern Times’ and the exquisite ‘Tell Tale Signs’? I liked ‘Christmas In the Heart’ better. While Neil got all righteous and soaked his cult with the Archives set and Bruce ‘n Bono came at you all limp and lustless, Eilen Jewell made heartbreak sound like a desirable state of affairs on the Owen Bradley spooked ‘Sea of Tears’. ‘On A Good Day . . .I Am’ by Chicago’s tripped out folkies Sons of The Never Wrong proves there are still those who will dare to write anything but a sales jingle. And just in case you forgot how passionate rock ‘n roll used to be, ‘Gutter Anthems’ by Toronto’s Enter The Haggis and the retro-billy of the Del Lords remasters will re-assure you that there was a better time before this.
show-wise, Macca, Piti-Field, 7/17/09 was truly one for the ages. The man was present, visceral, and you could feel it emanating from the stage: a powerful give ‘n take between he who has given the people what they want for nearly fifty years (think Hamburg 62 – Shea in ’65 – the war zones now and then) and the artist behind the stunning reworks of ‘Electric Arguments’ wanting to hear his band and his audience react to everything other than the greatest hits.
even if it was a fund raiser for the rather invisible John Hall, Jackson Browne at UPAC was an exultant night, as was kd lang earlier in the year singing ‘Halleluiah’ and the missus all beautiful, beaming, and stopping the show to rap a bit with the lady onstage. The Dave Holland Octet at Birdland was a miracle too. Thanks to XM, Eric Alexander was a good find and from NPR those baroque pranksters, Red Priest. Lucinda at the Paramount in Peekskill was often just as bafflingly brilliant as she was brilliantly bad.
whereas Bruce was just another E Street show (I can’t go anymore, I just can’t ‘. I never want to hear myself say that again) and the two shit-head arrogant fans who refused to sit while the Pretenders were breakin’ up the Palace served as dulling effects on my concert spirit, we had several faith restoring shows at the Howland Cultural Center, including the brilliant Marilyn Crispell, the ebullient Graham Parker, Erin Hobson’s guitar calligraphy, John Hammond’s blues biography, and Chip Taylor’s sincerity. Get yourselves down to Beacon, the music’s fine and getting’ better.
in closing, I would like to announce that despite a world in shambles, Maura Kennedy’s ‘Parade of Echoes’ has shown the first light for 2010. And though most will only mourn Michael, many musical giants went to their rest last year with perhaps Ellie G, Les P, Fathead, Louie Belson, Mike Seeger, and Mary Travis standing the tallest among them.
peace & civility