General Music Thread

I’ve written before that writing or even reading about music isn’t as interesting as writing or reading about books and movies, but I still feel the urge to talk about music I’ve listened to and liked. These efforts, even in optimal circumstances, don’t really lead to interesting discussions. Instead, the value, in ideal situations, is that you find someone else that shares your enthusiasm. (If there is anything more that I find interesting or valuable, nothing really comes to mind right now. I guess, if the other person provides insights that I wasn’t aware of–i.e., I learn new things–that would be valuable as well.) I don’t think there will be a lot of opportunities for that sort of thing for any of us, but the urge is strong enough that this won’t stop me. (Additionally, since this is a general thread, people can write broadly about music, not just the things the music they’re currently enthusiastic about.

32 thoughts on “General Music Thread

  1. Which post-60’s Miles Davis rhythm section was the best? That’s a question at a jazz discussion board. That question came to mind because I’ve been recently listening to At Filmore. This group–Corea, Jarrett, Holland, DeJohnette, and Moreira–would probably be my pick. (Obviously, I’m only going by recordings, not any live performances I’ve been to.) I love this rhythm section, and I actually like Davis’s playing here. While re-listening to this music, I’m struck by the way Davis’s playing seems more like the extra-musical “singing” of James Brown–i.e., shouting, grunting, etc.– more than singing a well-developed melody. For both Brown and Davis, the lead voice almost becomes equal component of the rhythm section. It’s like there’s no front or back to the music, but just one big mass of rhythm or groove. (I should mention that the music often take a more experimental, “free” turn. I don’t mind these episodes generally, but they get frustrating because when this band plays inside, they sound great. They might have produced the best synthesis of rock and jazz.)

  2. Who Does This Guy Sound Like?

    I got to hear Blaine Asing live over the weekend. The guy reminds me of another singer, but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe you guys can help. At first, I thought of James Taylor, and other 70’s singer-songwriter types–e.g., John Denver, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, etc., but I don’t think any of them fit. The singer I’m thinking of might have played later, a singer influenced by these singers. The fact that I can’t think of the singer bugs me. Any ideas?

  3. I’m pretty sure on Hi Session Blaine did a James Taylor song, and ever since then that’s all I can hear when I hear him.

  4. I never even heard of this guy before yesterday. Then I went to Walmart to pick something up and thought I might pick up a Brittni Paiva CD if they had one I don’t already own, and there he was in the rack. No Brittni, so I didn’t get something, but I admit I thought seeing Blaine’s CD staring me in the face might be a sign to pick it up.

  5. I really liked the way K.T. Tunstall sang on Live From Daryl’s House. At times, I thought she sounded a little better than Hall, on his songs. Here’s an example:

    Of their popular hits, “Kiss Is On My List” might be one of my least favorites. The power she brought when she entered the song kinda surprised me–in a pleasant way. Overall, I like the acoustic, stripped down quality of this song.

    Also, Tunstall’s songs that they sang seemed quite good as well. It was enough for me to seek out some of her music. Just by skimming through, most of what I heard seemed more produced versus the stripped down acoustic sound. I like her in the latter setting.

  6. I’ve been deep-diving into the early Aerosmith catalog (pre-Run-DMC), beginning with the band’s first album and working my way up. It’s been good work music, since there are enough familiar tunes per album to keep me perked up, but the stuff in between is similar in quality and style. So far I’ve enjoyed the first three albums, Aerosmith, Get Your Wings, and Toys in the Attic (1973, 1974, and 1975) enough to put them on repeat.

    I haven’t gotten to where I can actually name any of the non-hit songs, but when they come up in the rotation, I do notice and recognize the ones I especially like. It feels good to discover a band I already really like.

  7. I’d say that if there was a definitely line between regular rock and hard rock, and a line between hard rock and whatever would be on the other side (it’s not heavy metal), Aerosmith goes right in the middle. They’re a pretty good standard for a typical hard rock band. They play loud, with mostly blues and a little bit of boogie influence. Every so often they get a little heavy, which I favor, but they mostly stick to blues-type rocking. A tad less hard than most early Van Halen, about the same hardness as later Van Halen.

    I used to say Aerosmith was the third-best active rock band in America (behind Van Halen and REM). But now Aerosmith is all but retired, REM is retired, and VH hasn’t put out new music in ages. Might be time for a new list.

    1. For some reason, I missed this post.

      Your description sounds similar to my impression of them. I feel like I should like them more; for example, when I’m in the mood for harder rock, I should be drawn to their music, but for some reason that’s not the case.

      I’m a little surprised that you mentioned REM in the same category as VH and Aerosmith. Or were you mainly thinking in terms of quality and not the actual sound/style of the music?

  8. New infatuation. Saw this band on several “best of 2018 so far” lists and fell in love almost immediately. It’s so pretty!

    Harakiri for the Sky, “Fire, Walk with Me” from Arson.

    I wish I was kerosene
    just to set myself on fire
    I wish I was kerosene
    I’d burn all we’ve edified
    I wish I was kerosene
    plain (?) to set your world on fire
    I wish I was kerosene
    just to feed the flames

  9. Mitchell,

    I don’t know if you’re up for this, or interested, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and comments about the songs Bruce Cockburn performed the other night. For example, I’m interested in comments about the lyrics/meaning of the songs, and also your assessment of the performance (e.g., how it compared to other performances/recordings).

    (Sometime after dropping you off I realized I didn’t get to ask you about this. Wish I remembered when we were hanging out at Wailana.)

  10. Listening to the album below. DeJohnette is one of my favorite drummers, and when this album first came out, the additions of Goldings on organ and Scofield on guitar appealed to, as I like this instrumentation (and I also like Scofield’s jazz-rock approach). But I recall a tepid reaction when I first hear this. Now, for whatever reason, the album sounds great.

    The way jazz musicians interact with each other, often described as having a conversation, appealed to me when I first got into jazz, and it still does. I especially liked drummers who would converse in way that would prod and even ignite a soloist. If I had a pick a drummer to demonstrate this, DeJohnette would probably be exhibit A, and he demonstrates that ability on this album.

    I want to say one other thing about Scofield. I think he’s one of the more original jazz musicians to come of the 70s and 80s. In a few notes, he’s instantly recognizable. I like that, but for a variety of reasons, he wasn’t always my favorite guitarists. Having said that, based on the few cuts I’ve heard so far, he sounds great.

    1. I forgot to mention that this makes me think of a Frank Zappa cover of this. If I recall that Cash was supposed to sing the song live with Zappa’s group, but he didn’t show up. I don’t know if Zappa was annoyed, but in the rendition, he interjects snarky comments (e.g., “Here’s a repeat of the first verse. It’s one way to learn English.) Part of the reason I don’t know if Zappa was annoyed is that this part of his schtick. Sting sang a version of “Murder By Numbers” with them, and Zappa introduced him as “Mr. Sting.” It kinda sounded snarky, but I’m not sure. Oh, in this particular cover of “Ring of Fire,” Zappa’s band has a sound clip of Sam Kinson’s screaming–and they’d play that at various points. If I’m not mistaken they used that clip throughout that performance. It may have even been the “secret word of the day.” Anyway, that was pretty funny.

  11. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been enjoying The Whispers. They really have a knack for creating infectious R&B/pop. I really like their grooves and singing. (I’m not sure if they have a regular bass player, but I the bass parts in their songs. Edit: Jamie Brewer. I really like his playing.)

  12. I recently watched a documentary on Steely Dan’s Aja, and it reminded me that I really don’t have many albums that I really like listening from start to finish. I think Aja and one or two more albums may qualify, but after that, I would struggle to come up with examples. And even among these albums, I don’t find myself listening to albums in its entirety very much these days. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I do think it’s largely a function of technology, not just recording technology, but technology that provides other options to music listening.

    In any event, here are some of the albums that I like:

    1. Aja (Steely Dan)
    2. Milestones (Miles Davis)
    3. Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)
    4. Miles Ahead (Miles Davis)
    5. Extrapolation (John McLaughlin)
    6. Trance Fusion (Frank Zappa)

  13. Although I love playlists and shuffle mode, I’d guess that 75% of my listening is to albums. It’s still my favorite way to listen to an artist’s work.

    1. Do you listen to the entire album, in the proper song order? I often don’t have the time, or at least I don’t think I do when I listen to music in this way. I think this is one of the reasons I don’t listen to albums.

      Would you say listening to an album in the proper order is fairly important for most good albums? I don’t get the sense this is critical for a lot of jazz albums, but I could the minority in this.

  14. Almost always in order and almost always the whole album. If I don’t have time for the whole album, I listen in order from the beginning to whatever I can.

    Listening to the whole album is important to me; I can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences. But most musicians I like consider the album one thing made of other things, you know? The first track is selected for first for a reason, and the second also for a reason. The album is as long as it is for another reason. You could listen to the different parts of (for example) Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in whatever order, and in fact we usually hear just “Spring” by itself, and it works fine. But I think Vivaldi had something in mind when he wrote it in the order he wrote it, you know?

    I can’t even comprehend wanting to listening to a Pink Floyd album out of order, but that’s an extreme example. For less dramatic examples, though, I think understanding an album as a whole adds to the understanding of the musicians and the music. Even for more poppish albums (REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity comes to mind because I think Side 1 is almost a perfect album side), even if there doesn’t seem to be an artistic progression, I find the order gives the album a character, something more than a collection of songs.

    But I do remember the first time I listened to my music in shuffle mode, and it really does give you new ears to songs you are used to hearing in context. It felt (still feels sometimes) like a whole new record collection.

    When we were kids, the difference between AM and FM radio stations was that AM was for singles-based radio while FM stations were album-oriented. A whole format for FM was named for the concept: Album-oriented rock. On AM (and I listened to AM radio nonstop all through my early childhood), it was “here’s the new single from Hall and Oates.” On FM, when I finally made the switch, it was “here’s another track from the new album by Loverboy.” They didn’t even wait for singles to be released. I heard half the new Styx album in 8th grade before it was even available at DJ’s Sound City, where I bought it on cassette the day it was released.

    So yeah. The whole album is still my preferred way of listening, but I also have a lot of playlists. 🙂 A lot.

    1. Almost always in order and almost always the whole album. If I don’t have time for the whole album, I listen in order from the beginning to whatever I can.

      Until recently, I don’t think I had the time or desire to listen to sit for 40 minutes or more to listen to music. And if I just listened to whatever song before stopping, that doesn’t seem like really listening to the album. (shrugs).

      But most musicians I like consider the album one thing made of other things, you know? The first track is selected for first for a reason, and the second also for a reason. The album is as long as it is for another reason.

      I think I understand.

      But I think Vivaldi had something in mind when he wrote it in the order he wrote it, you know?

      Right, but this might be an even more extreme example than a Pink Floyd album. Not all musicians are constructing an album as if it were a suite. With jazz, and maybe some pop/rock, musicians may choose a song order that provides variation in mood and tempo, to avoid monotony.

      …even if there doesn’t seem to be an artistic progression, I find the order gives the album a character, something more than a collection of songs.

      I think there is validity to this. I think for me the biggest issue is having the time–and the attention–to do this.

    2. Reid, I’ve heard stories (some of them from you) about how you’d put some headphones on and jam to a jazz album oblivious to the world around you. Did I misunderstand and all along we were talking about just a few minutes at a time?

      And you’re right about pop albums, I think, as a generalization. Much more likely to be just a collection of singles. But shoot, I think of an album like Purple Rain or Tapestry, and it feels intentional.

      1. Did I misunderstand and all along we were talking about just a few minutes at a time?

        I would say that for a long time, the instances where I would sit for a long time and listen to music with undivided attention would be pretty rare. A lot of my listening occurred while doing something else. Or, if I really focused on the music, those moments wouldn’t last very long and would occur in spurts.

        And you’re right about pop albums, I think, as a generalization

        I tend to think applies to a lot of jazz albums as well.

        But shoot, I think of an album like Purple Rain or Tapestry, and it feels intentional.

        There’s no doubt some pop musicians make albums this way. There’s something else, too, though. I might like some albums as albums because that’s the way I listened to the recordings. Something like Billy Joel’s The Stranger comes to mind, or US’s Joshua Tree. Maybe the song order provides greater artistic experience, but I’m not sure I can tell if that’s the case.

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