86 thoughts on “music mmxxi

  1. I’ve been thinking a little more about the essence of rock n’ roll and how I distinguish this from rock. For rock n’ roll, three things came to mind:

    1. Crunchy electric guitars (or at least something that approximates that sound), but not too hard. This, as well as some of the other qualities (thumping drums), give the music an aggressive flavor, but not too aggressive.
    2. Strong ties to the blues.
    3. Accessible to a wide audience–e.g., catchy melodies, riffs, rhythms. Little or no characteristics that would alienate a mainstream listener.

    I think, for me, rock doesn’t necessarily need #1 and/or #2–maybe especially #2. Maybe rock can be thought of as rock-like music that move further and further away from the original forms of rock n’ roll?

    Pop would differ in that the aggressive sound might be even less. The music wouldn’t have much of a connection to the blues, I think. There would be a great emphasis on #3.

    Hard rock would be more aggressive. It may not be tied closely to the blues. Metal would be harder, and rhythmically and vocally it would be departing from rock n’ roll to a greater degree.

    Something like punk is a a more raw, unrefined rock n’ roll?

    OK, I’m just throwing things out there, now.

  2. I’m in a John Scofield mood now. “Sco” is a jazz guitarist. If someone asked me 80’s jazz musicians with most identifiable, original sounds, I think Sco would make the list. At the time I first encountered his playing, I was searching for jazz guitarists who incorporated Hendrix’s contributions. I also wanted to hear expansion of 70’s jazz, funk, and R&B. Scofield’s music incorporated all these element, but he did so in a more laid back, subtle way. So while I appreciated his singular voice, his music wasn’t one of my favorites, but when I’m in the mood for a more slow burn groove with improvisation, Scofield music does the trick.

    Here’s a sample. (I wasn’t listening to this clip, but after hearing a little I’m going to now–it sound really good.)

  3. I once heard a Fresh Air interview with Willie Nelson where Nelson sang some songs, accompanied by his guitar. I really liked his singing and playing, and I’ve been looking for recordings with just him and his guitar. Mitchell, do you know if he has any albums like that?

    1. No, but I agree that’s when he sounds the best, especially in his later years. Have you heard his 2020 album, That’s Life? Not solo acoustic guitar but pretty.

    2. I’m disappointed to hear that he doesn’t have such an album. I was hoping one existed, but just wasn’t on Apple music or youtube.

      I haven’t heard the 2020 album. Is there a lot of instrumentation. If he were playing in a small band, that might appeal to me.

      1. I got it wrong. “That’s Life” is his 2021 single. His 2020 album is First Rose of Spring and it’s at times spare and at times more orchestrated. And I’m not saying he doesn’t have a solo acoustic guitar album; I’m saying no I don’t know if he does.

  4. I was in a EWF mood, specifically, and a funk mood more broadly. I don’t think I’ve listened to entire albums of the former, not in one sitting, so I tried to do that today. Some general observations:

    • I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the songs that didn’t receive much air play. One big factor is the richness of the music. The horns are a big part of this, but the rhythm section, especially the bass, is really good. And then you have Maurice White’s voice, which is one of my favorites. Phillip Bailey then adds a nice contrast. For a R&B-pop group, there’s a lot going on musically and I love that.
    • The musical richness is where listening on good pair of headphones (or good sound system) can make a huge difference. On the former, the instruments are more separated and clear. Listening on a good system/headphones makes such a huge difference for music like this.
    1. All ‘n All (1977)

      Notes:

      • I really like this album, and I kinda like it as an album, not just the individual songs. I mostly listening to EWF stuff from a greatest hits box set, but I think they enjoy them more by listening to their albums. (I also listened to two others recently.)
      • Verdine White, the bassist and Maurice White’s brother, really stands out to me. At times he steals the show for me.
      • The musicianship and arrangements are also highlights.
      • Of course, Maurice White’s singing.
      • “Runnin'” is a solid (mostly) instrumental.
    2. Powerlight (1983)

      Notes:

      • This group is great at filler. “Filler” is kind of an insult, but I’m just referring to the non-popular songs. When I say “great” I mean I enjoy them quite a bit, and none of them are bad. A lot of them may not be great, but I really haven’t come across any that I would say is bad. I guess what it comes down to is that I could listen to Maurice White/Philip Bailey + the band play anything.
      • I should really analyze the songs themselves to see if they could stand up on their own.
      • As I write the above, “Freedom of Choice” comes on, which is not really a great song. The kiss of death. I should start making a list of the songs I dislike or don’t think are very good.
      • One curious thing about this group: the drumming doesn’t really stand out for me. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t love it, either. The bass outshines the drums by far. This is a little surprising because drums are critical for this music, and I tend to think that good drumming is often present in my favorite music. Then again, this might not apply to rock/pop so much.
      • There are a couple of tunes (e.g., “Miracles”) on this that sound like Contemporary Christian Music of the same time period–while retaining the EWF sound. I think the use of background vocals is one of the big reasons for this.
      1. Philip Bailey released a few albums on CCM labels so it’s not surprising. When I was working at the Giving Tree, I heard there was discussion (years before I worked there) about whether to continue stocking his albums because of “Easy Lover.”

        1. I got a chuckle out of that last line. Anyway, yeah, I think I heard one of his Christian albums. But when was the first recording? I’m also referring to the music, more than the lyrics.

    3. Electric Universe (1983)

      Notes

      • Four songs in and I’m liking this album the least of all the ones I’ve heard. Interestingly, Maurice White only co-wrote the fourth. He seemed to be the lead writer on all the songs on the previous light, Powerlight. Musicially, there are still some interesting moments, though. Overall, the songs and performance of them are not as appealing as the other albums I’ve heard.
      • The bass parts are far less interesting in these songs. Overall, the songs are less funky, and more synth-poppy. Some of this could have made the soundtrack to Big Trouble in Little China
      • This is the least favorite EWF album I’ve heard so far.
    4. Touch the World (1987)

      (I wanted to go back to their first album, but I figured I’d go to the next album.)

      Notes:

      • “Magnetic” was one of the more popular songs on the previous album, I think. I don’t really care for it. “System of Survival” is not great, but I think I prefer it over “Magnetic.” No horns, though.
      • More of a 80’s pop thing, than an EWF thing. See “Evil Roy”, “Thinking of You,” and “Victim of the Modern Heart.”. I kinda like this 80’s drumming and what sounds like a Chapman stick (bass).
      • The songs that aren’t as good are also not very interesting–in terms of the performance or the songs themselves–unlike some of albums between the mid-70s up to the album before Electric Album (I haven’t re-listened to the early 70’s albums, yet.)
      • Overall, I like this album more than the Electric Universe, but it’s hard to call this an EWF album. It’s more like Maurice White and Phillip Bailey singing with a new group (and in a way that’s actually true).
    5. Open Our Eyes (1974)

      Notes

      • Looked in the wiki page for this. There is no horn section, and only one saxophonist. And so far that bears out. EWF prior utilization a horn section. So far, I’m liking this more than the Electric Universe and Touch the World
      • The way the two 80’s albums I mentioned above depart from what I consider the EWF sound and enter into 80’s pop, this current album is rooted in more standard 70’s R&B/soul. It’s like the album before EWF finds their sound–or at least the sound that I associate with EWF–the sound I love.
      • Verdine is out front. And that’s nice.
      • “Spasmodic Movements,” an Eddie Harris tune, a jazz saxophonist and composer. EWF plays this tune as jazz. The only jazz performance I’ve heard by them.)
      • “Caribou”–70’s instrumental, with jazz influences. In a similar vein to something like Kalapana’s “Black Sand.”
      • Overall, not a very memorable album. I like “Mighty, Mighty,” though.
    6. Head to the Sky (1973)

      Notes:

      • Seems in a similar vein as Open Our Eyes.
      • Not bad, but not very memorable, either.
      • “Zanzibar”–11:00 minute instrumental. The solos, over interplay, groove, and composition don’t really stand out.
    7. Last Day and Time (1972)

      Notes:

      • Hey, a horn section on the first tune. (The musicians are not listed on the wiki page, though.)
      • A groovier (in multiple ways) cover of David Gates’s “Make It With You.” Just OK.
      • “Remember the Children” nice funky groove, with moog.
      • Cover of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” I think I like this cover better. I need to listen to the original again, though.
      • “I’d Rather Have You”–Nice. Horn section back. One of the few (only?) songs with female lead vocals (Jessica Cleaves). Very 70s sounding. Maybe one of the better songs on this album.
      • “Mom” is kinda nice, too. (Horns back, with a samba groove, and some strings. Decent piano solo.)
      • Overall, I enjoyed this one more that Open Your Eyes, but it’s not as good as the albums between ’75-Powerlight.
    8. The Need for Love (1971)

      Notes:

      • “Energy’s” opening caught me by surprise–drum solo, displaying more chops than any of the other tunes I’ve heard. And then a trumpet comes in. It’s very jazzy…Man, according to the wiki page, it’s Maurice White. I heard he played with Ramsey Lewis, so I figured he had some jazz skills. What the heck?! After hearing this (not just the solo, but his playing in the song), I wish he played drums from here on out! It sounds good, better than the other subsequent drummers (Ralph Johnson and then Fred White). Maybe he couldn’t play drums and sing at the same time?
      • (Same song)The two vocalists–Wade Flemmons and Sherry Scott sound good. Whoa, the sound takes rather long instrumental section. Trumpet player sounds a little like Miles. This almost a Bitches Brew thing; very jazz-rock.
      • Nice start to “I Can Feel It in My Bones.” I’m noticing that Maurice White isn’t singing so much. I’m guessing the male vocalist is Wade Flemmons. He sounds good, but nothing as good or original as White. The rhythm section sounds good. Someone one fuzz guitar adds a nice touch.
      • Horns play a prominent role on this. Looks like the decided to move away from this–or maybe the record label didn’t allow it?
      • The songs so far are longer, more improvisation or vocal riffing. Maybe they focused more on getting on the radio after this album?
      • “I Think About Loving You” made the top 40 radio, I think. Musically, it seems the least interesting. The White brothers seem bored.
      • Thumbs up to “Everything is Everything.”
      • If you think EWF is not EWF without Maurice White’s vocals, this is not EWF.
    9. Earth, Wind, and Fire (self-titled) (1971)

      Notes:

      • Very late 60s, early 70s R&B, soul+ horns–with a little flower power tinges.
      • In all or most of the albums I’ve heard, except for Electrict Universe and the one after that, Verdine White sounds constantly good.
      • So, it seems like EWF was basically lead by Wade Flemons and Shirley Scott. But after the second album, they left, and then Maurice White took over vocals.
      • “Fan the Fire” nice. More interesting drumming from White. (The drumming is bland on some of the others.)
      • Nice playing, some good tracks, but it feels misleading to call this an EWF album. I’m guessing a lot of people wouldn’t know this was EWF if they just heard the music.
    10. Gratitude (1975)

      Notes:

      • I prefer the studio tracks over the live ones, which is a slight surprise. I would think they would be interesting live. Actually, I got see them perform live, and I was a bit disappointed, but a bad sound system had a lot to do with that, I think.
      • The rhythm section, horn section, and vocals are in peak form on those studio tracks. “Gratitude” and “Celebrate” are two good examples of this.
      • Of the live tracks, I kinda like “Africano/Power.” The live version of “Reasons” is solid as well.
    11. That’s the Way of the World (1975)

      Notes

      • “That’s the Way of the World” still sounds good to me. Ditto “Shining Star”
      • Thumbs up on Verdine’s bass on “Happy Feeling.”
      • The kalimba is a somewhat prominent sound in many of the EWF records. I’m not that big a fan of the instrument.
      • “Africano”–like
    12. I Am (1979)

      Notes:

      • This is a contender for my favorite EWF album. What’s interesting is that there aren’t that many popular songs on this. One of the more popular songs–“After the Love is Gone”–is one of my least favorite songs on this. ( used to really like that song, too; but I like it a lot less now. I may even prefer “Boogie Wonderland” to this song–a song that was one of my least favorites of their songs, particularly among their hits.
      • I kinda like the flow from song to song, and the overall cohesion of the album is pretty good. Actually, it may be best as a whole rather than the individual songs independently.
      • The Phenix Horns are a prominent part of this album–and that’s probably a big reason I like this.
      • Songs I like, that I don’t normally listen to: “You and I,” ” Let Your Feelings Show,” “‘Wait”
    13. Faces (1980)

      Notes:

      • “You”–nice romantic ballad, co-written by David Foster. I like the music, and I think I prefer this to “After the Love Has Gone.” It doesn’t have a similar sound, though.
      • “Sparkle”–opens with the most rockin’ guitar riff I’ve heard from EWF (with an Eddie influence, I think). And it sounds good, but then they quickly go on to a jaunty R&B/pop song. I wished the stuck with that mood through the rest of the song. (I had trouble finding the personnel on this album, particularly for each song. One site lists Steve Lukather. I wonder if he’s playing on this song.
      • This album is interesting to me because it may not have a lot of memorable songs, but I like the EWF sound at this point, and every song is infused with that–so I like this album. It seems to work fairly well as a whole, too.
      • This is an album that would get repeat listens.
      1. Allmusic site doesn’t list Al McKay or Johnny Graham–or at least I don’t recall seeing their names. Personnel listings on the Allmusic site can be confusing to read, especially when there are a lot of names, as was the case for this album. My sense is that it was Lukather.

  5. The mood for R&B/funk continued so I listened to George Clinton’s Computer Games (1982). I listened to Clinton’s music many years ago, and it didn’t really grab me. This time around I liked what I heard, especially rhythm section and horns. I don’t know if he influenced Prince, or Prince influenced him, but there’s a Prince vibe on some of these tracks (including the use of timbales). His lyrics are kinda weird, which I guess is part of P-funk. (Parliament and Funkadelic were too groups that never really grabbed me, too.)

    1. Yeah isn’t it weird how a guy whose work is sampled by so many artists has never really put together a great, memorable playlist? That’s my take, anyway. The sampled bits are amazing in the contexts of their new songs. The sources not so much.

    2. I vaguely knew Clinton was sampled and popular among some musicians–this prompted me to check out his music initially. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the songs are great, but they’re not bad…Actually, it’s not so much the songs so much as the music and performance on the songs, if that makes sense.

  6. I listened to Bill Withers’ first two albums. I think he’d make my list of most original vocalists. Also, his music can be hard to label, particularly the songs drive by acoustic guitar. I see him classified as an R&B artist, but that doesn’t seem like a good fit. When thinking about “black” or “white” music, Withers doesn’t seem to fit comfortably in the former. It’s like he’s somewhere outside of these categories–or he’s closer to the white category–a kind of Afro-folk pop, maybe? Soul-folk? Whatever the case, I like his voice, and his music.

    1. I have always thought the same thing about Withers not fitting in with black or white kinds of categorizations. For some reason, the musician he has always reminded me of is Jose Feliciano, which kind of doesn’t make sense but kind of does.

      Do you have favorite tracks? I don’t know many of his songs but I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I have always loved “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

    2. Does he sound like a black or white singer to you? I asked Larri that, and she guessed white. She was surprised he was black. His sound is hard to place, which makes him interesting to me.

      I like all his popular stuff I guess, except for maybe “Lean on Me.” I like “Use Me” and “Just the Two of Us.” But I’ve been enjoying a lot of the lesser known songs, too–and that’s without paying close attention to the lyrics.

      I’m curious to hear why you think of Feliciano when you think of Withers, other than the use of acoustic guitar. They also do covers. I’m not sure what other connection they have, though.

      1. I definitely thought “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a white singer, and was very surprised when I found out many years later it’s by the same guy who sings “Lean on Me” and “Just the Two of Us,” which sound more like a black singer to me.

    3. Because of this discussion, I’ve been trying to think of black singers who sound white and white singers who sound black (probably a lot more of the latter). Do you have any suggestions? I thought maybe Johnny Mathis might be one example. In a some ways, I think Nat King Cole or even Ella Fitzgerald might be two others as well. (I’ve heard white female jazz vocalists that sort of sound like Ella, but I can’t tell if they’re trying to emulate her.) What makes this difficult is that if you know the race of the singer prior to hearing them, that can color (no pun intended) your perception.

      When I first heard Madonna, I thought she was black or at least sound that way to me.

      1. Well you already said you think Jimi sounds white, which I don’t hear at all.

        Corey Glover of Living Colour sounds white to me on recordings, but seeing him perform live he sounds totally black. Will Calhoun, the drummer, broke the head on his bass drum in the middle of a song, so when the drum tech came out to replace it, Glover went into an impromptu rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” acapella at first in this kind of whispered vocal style and it was just loaded with what felt like a history of listening to black singers. It was incredibly sweet.

        I don’t suppose Bryant Gumbel or Mike Tirico has ever recorded an album, hm?

        So, I’m not going to try too hard to explain why Bill Withers reminds me of Jose Feliciano (and leave out the acoustic guitar thing — I was talking about singing style), because I don’t have the vocabulary or musical understanding to do it well. But I’ll try in a few sentences.

        There’s something about the vocal phrasing — the way they attack a lyric. Some (mostly young, mostly black, mostly women) singers do this moaning into the first note of a line. Some worship leaders begin almost every line with “and” even when “and” doesn’t make lyrical sense. It’s usually not even enunciated “and.” It sounds more like “n.” Some singers (a great many of them, actually) play catchup with the melody and rhythm. This is kind of a soul singer’s approach. You’ve sung hymns in church, so you know that in congregational singing, we sing the lyrics right on the beats. These soul-type singers don’t. They’ll let a beat or two go by, then speed up the lyrics until they’re back on beats, then do it again. Singers like Michael Jackson and James Brown throw in other vocalizations that aren’t part of the lyrics, but we almost think of them like they are because we get so used to hearing the songs sung their way.

        I hear in Withers and Feliciano similar lyrical phrasing, but I can’t put my finger on it exactly (hence, all the different examples I just gave). Mostly on the beats, with not a lot of flourish but enough to sound soulful. I wonder if it’s a Latin thing — I just listened to “Just the Two of Us” and the rhythm’s very Latin. I wonder if Withers was influenced by Latin music somewhere. I’m not familiar enough to know where their syles come from.

        There’s also something very similar about the way Withers and Feliciano let some lines kind of drop off, then give certain lyrics extra punch, kind of the way a trumpet player often plays a solo, but with less staccato.

        They both also have just a hint of nasal in their voices, like their noses are stuffed up ever so slightly.

        EDIT: They didn’t do it quite like this, but here’s a good example. Dang what a singer.

    4. I don’t suppose Bryant Gumbel or Mike Tirico has ever recorded an album, hm?

      Hahaha. Charlie Pryde? I sort of think Nat King Cole is in the Gumbel/Tirico vein.

      Corey Glover is another. Living Colour is a rock/hard rock band, and generally I think that falls into hard rock. Are there more black sounding hard rock groups? The idea appeals to me. A black singing style with a hard, rocking band. Think Van Halen backing a vocalist with a black singing style–but harder or at least gruffer, like Howlin’ Wolf. I guess this would be like blues-based Led Zep tunes.

      And yeah, Hendrix, his music anyway, feels white, especially his more psychedelic, non-blues music. I don’t know if his singing style is white, but to me it’s not really black, either. There’s a goofy, loopy sound–almost as if he’s incorporating Dylan’s style, which I also don’t care for much–and which is more of a white sound than a black one.

      Re: Withers and Feliciano

      I get similarities regarding a nasal sound, but not so much the part about singing behind the beat and then catching up–not to the degree that they do this in a way that other musicians don’t.

      I’ll try to listen for the Latin influence. I recall hearing this in some of his songs, but I don’t hear it in a lot of his songs. I’ll try to focus on this, though.

      1. Well there’s also Body Count. Ice-T’s All-Black (or mostly Black) metal band. And King’s X, one of my all-time favorites. In fact, Dug Pinnick, the bassist-singer, filled in for Corey Glover in Living Colour when Glover couldn’t participate in a tour for some reason.

        Man I love these guys. They met a million years ago when the drummer and bassist were doing a project with Greg X. Volz (the Petra singer). That fell apart, so they hired on to be Phil Keaggy’s touring rhythm section. The King’s X guitarist was in the opening act, so they all got to know each other. Started out as a Christian band but they haven’t really been a Christian band since their first or second album.

      2. I didn’t really think the King’s X vocalist sounded black. If I didn’t know he was black, I would have guessed he was white. You mentioning Ice T made me think of Prophets of Rage(?)–the band with Chuck D. I have mixed feelings about them.

        I’m wondering what a black singing style would actually sound like within the context of harder rock. Is there such a thing? I associate the yelling/screaming style with white singing now. I don’t know if that makes sense.

          1. They may sound different, but not so different that one the former sounds white while the latter sounds black–not to me anyway.

          1. I don’t, but you might think this one’s a better example. Suggest listening at least through the third verse or the ad lib near the end.

          2. I wish didn’t know the race of the lead singer. But if I didn’t I think I’d guess the singer was white. This goes back to the way hard rock is a white sound overall. So black vocalists, singing in that style, end up sounding white. The same applies with country music, although Charles still sounds black when he covers country songs, although maybe he covers them in a more R&B way. (I can’t really remember the way his country covers sound now.)

            Maybe an example of black singing style in a hard rock setting woudl be something like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” or “Dirty Diana.” That’s more pop, I guess, but it does tilt a little towards hard rock. I guess if a lead singer singing in a black style + hard rock band = harder pop rock?

          3. We must have different ideas about what Black singers sing like. Ronnie James Dio, David Lee Roth, and Chris Cornell don’t sing like Corey Glover or Dug Pinnick.

      3. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to communicate this clearly.

        Just try this. Listen to a Bill Withers song, but picture Jose Feliciano singing the words, the same way Bill Withers is singing them. When I do this, it sounds like a Feliciano song, like Withers is singing it very close to the way Feliciano would sing it. If you do the same exercise with Michael Jackson or David Lee Roth, it doesn’t work even for a few bars.

        Switching it around, listening to a Jose Feliciano song and picturing Bill Withers singing it doesn’t work quite as well. It works for some songs but not others.

        For the record, I was pointing specifically to the way both singers sing behind the beat and catch up, not the fact that they do it. Their phrasing is similar, is my point.

  7. A couple of week ago, Sammy Hagar and the Circle released an album called Lockdown 2020. When the band had to cancel its tour, just for fun, drummer Jason Bonham asked members of the band to record their parts of a pre-concert backstage warmup they do called “Funky Feng Shui” on whatever equipment they had, in whatever space they had. Most of them recorded via FaceTime right into their iPhones. They sent the parts to their producer, who mixed it and made a video.

    As a way to stay in touch with fans, they worked on a new one each month. “Funky Feng Shui” is the only original; the other ten tracks are covers (including three Van Halen covers and one Sammy Hagar cover) and released the videos on YouTube. This album is the compilation of their Lockdown Sessions.

    Like most Sammy Hagar albums, this one’s not amazing, but it’s fun, loose, not very challenging, and very listenable. I’ve lately found it to be great background music while I do my work-related writing. I’m up late finishing a work project and have spun it five times already this evening.

    My favorite track is the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Sammy and the band (the other members are Michael Anthony on bass and Vic Johnson on guitar) mash in parts of Lou Reed’s “Wild Side” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

    Anyway. If you dig Sammy Hagar, or even if you just kind of like him, it’s worth a listen. It won’t win any awards; it’s just a good, fun album. And I really like the lo-fi approach for some reason. Just feels like some friends making music against the challenging reality of pandemic life.

    I love the Led Zep poster behind Jason Bohnam’s drum kit in this video.

    1. I like the concept, but I’m a little disappointed in the performance. I like Hagar’s voice though. I think I’ve come to appreciate it more over time. I need to check out out more of his stuff.

      1. Sammy’s voice is the voice of rock and roll. Also: didn’t notice until now that Michael Anthony is wearing a Hawaiian Human Society t-shirt.

  8. From Paris to Rio (1999)–Karriyn Allyson

    (Note: originally posted in “Great Albums on a Saturday Morning,” January 30, 2021)

    For Saturday mornings, I’ve been focusing on great rock/pop albums, but this morning I started with this collection of samba and French tunes, sung by jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson. French songs and Bossa Nova may not seem like a good mix, but the ones chosen do work well on this album. I don’t know if I would say the album is great, but it’s one I like. More importantly, perhaps, It’s good music for a Saturday morning in my view. Check out the first two cuts to see if you agree:

  9. Shadows and LIght (1980)–Joni Mitchell

    A live concert back by jazz musicians–Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Lyle Mays, Don Alias, and Michael Brecker.

    Notes:

    • Nice solo by Metheny on the first tune
    • Liked the version of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
    • Mitchell’s singing on “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” kinda reminds me of Annie Ross

    Overall the album disappointed me, especially given the quality of musicians. After a really dissatisfying experience with a movie, I have a strong urge to watch a good movie, as a way to get the bad taste out of mouth. Unfortunately, that’s how I feel now about this album.

  10. RIP Chick Corea

    Some general thoughts:

    Between Hancock, Jarrett, and Corea–the three young lion jazz pianists of the 60s–I think I like Corea the best–his melodic sensibility, his groove, and his accompaniment. When I first got into jazz, the saxophone was the instrument that attracted me. Solo piano or piano trios didn’t really interest me much. Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was one of the albums that changed that for me. (I liked Bill Evans’s Vanguard albums, but this Corea album really made me interested in piano trios more broadly.)

    In terms of accompaniment, I think of his short stint with Miles Davis. I loved the rhythm section of Corea, Holland, DeJohnette, and Moreira. I’m probably in the minority, but I like this group as much as any of the previous rhythm sections that played with Miles.

    Another album I liked was his duo with Gary Burton, a live concert in Zurich(?), Germany.

    I think he came with a trio to the Waikiki blue note two years ago. I’m sorry I missed it. I never got to see him perform live.

    1. He’s played here a lot, and I’m annoyed with myself for never going to see him.

      Does this mean you’re changing your mind about concerts?

    2. OK, got it. The answer is no. Hahaha. I regret not seeing him, but I suspect that still won’t motivate me much to go to more concerts. Alas.

  11. This is an 8-minute song without a video, so if you’re curious about what I’m writing here, just press play and then read while it continues. 🙂

    I’m working on my best albums of 2020 list (I know you can’t wait), and giving everything a last spin before I decide on final rankings.

    Last night I listened to Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic, the 2020 release by The Ocean. It was my second-most anticipated album of the year, and unlike the first-most anticipated album, it didn’t disappoint.

    The band started off 20 years ago as a collective, a project to create music tracing the history of the world’s oceans. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Somehow it works. As you know, the geologic history of our planet and its oceans shows us that the waters have changed, through ice ages and climate changes and stuff like that, not to mention the life living in the ocean.

    In 2013, the band (no longer a collective; now a set band) released an album called Pelagial, and rather than trace the ocean’s characteristics through time, it traced them through depth, beginning with the waters near the surface, the epipelagic zone, getting deeper and deeper until the final track, the benthic zone, where the ocean is completely dark and the pressure enormous. Musically, the songs take the characteristics of the ocean layers they describe, and it’s quite an experience.

    It’s my second-favorite metal album of the 2010s decade.

    Anyway, this 2020 album continues the historical record, actually concluding the ocean’s history, since the cenozoic era of the phanerozoic eon is where we and the planet are today.

    One of the things I love about this band and its approach is it doesn’t limit itself to its concept literally, which would be pretty great anyway. It often uses the characteristics of the ocean metaphorically, with lyrics describing (for example) scientific or philosophical thought, or romantic relationships. So a song about the beginning stages of the ocean’s first living creatures might have lyrics about the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, when things are new and teeming with possibility.

    Like a lot of cool bands, the Ocean often releases instrumental versions of their albums along with the lyrical versions. This song is the intstrumental version of “Triassic,” the first song on the 2020 album.

    I almost always prefer the lyrical versions because they seem to be what the bands meant for the albums, but the instrumental versions are great too, and provide a different experience. I think I love the instrumental version of Phanerozoic II.

    1. The concept is cool. Then again, this is the kind of thing that, if not handled well, could be a little cheesy.

      I listened to the track. I kinda liked it, but I wished they developed the music a bit more, especially melodically.

      1. The genre is kind of known for not having melody. It’s “post-metal,” which is more like soundscape compositions than traditional songs. So you might actually prefer the version with lyrics. Melody in the the vocal lines.

    2. “Melody” wasn’t the best choice of words on my part. I didn’t mean a melody that was lyrical or catchy. Maybe linear development or just development would have been better words.

      By the way, was the instrumental clip a rhythm track–i.e., the music without the vocalist singing the melody? It almost sounds that way. I started listening to the version with lyrics, and that also reinforced this impression.

      1. Yeah it’s the same recording minus the vocal track. When you have some time, I wonder what your response would be to the music of Friends of Dean Martinez. I’m thinking maybe it’s not your jam either. Not metal, but a similar kind of approach to making music.

        I dig it. 🙂

      2. OK, that makes sense. To me, that’s not the best way to present their music; it’s not really fair to them. The fact that a little disappointed in the music says little about the quality of the music.

        Do you have any specific recommendations for Friends of Dean Martinez?

  12. Speaking of Duke by Genesis, Pitchfork ran a review of Duke this week and it’s fantastic.

    It’s long, though, and I don’t really expect anyone here to read it. Sharing on the off chance someone does. Here’s a sample:

    There are great bands who evolve by expansion, or by drastic reinvention, or by keen attention to the demands of their time. But I can think of no band besides Genesis who evolved so fluidly through subtraction. Without the guiding, commercial vision of producer Jonathan King, Genesis evolved into a pastoral folk group with a focus on Anthony Phillips’ 12-string guitar. When Phillips quit, they became a heavier prog band led by Gabriel’s theatrical vision. When Gabriel quit, they developed a more atmospheric sound, showcasing the inventive style of guitarist Steve Hackett. When Hackett quit, they were now a trio with Collins on vocals, left to focus on melody and songcraft. And with nothing left to lose, they became one of the biggest bands in the world.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the way people write about music, especially how they write album reviews, and this really strikes me as the kind of treatment you can’t give just any album, but certain albums of significance in an artist’s discography. Most of it isn’t even about the record; it’s mostly about the band and who they were at this moment.

    Very cool idea. I’m taking notes and saving for mimicry some time in some unknown future for some album.

    1. I haven’t listened to a lot of Genesis prior to the 80’s, when Phil Collins became the lead vocalist, but what I heard sounded really different. I never knew the band changed in the way described by the quote. That’s pretty interesting and noteworthy.

      (I still need to listen to that album while walking around my neighborhood.)

      1. I’d be seriously surprised if any Peter Gabriel era Genesis is your cup of oolong. I spent a bit of time Sunday night listening to Selling England by the Pound. Such progginess.

    2. I believe I did listen to snippets of the Gabriel lead Genesis, and, you’re right, I didn’t care for it.

  13. I don’t know if you remember this, but Reid was looking for bands who had an AC/DC sound and I didn’t do well with recommendations. It’s largely because while there are bands who play similarly, none of them are as good. AC/DC is likely the best band who plays what AC/DC plays.

    Especially if the lead vocals are part of the consideration. Bon Scott and Brian Johnson have unique voices, so if part of why you like the band is specifically the singing, you’re pretty much out of luck.

    Still, I thought about the issue recently and came up with a few more suggestions. Because I’m a sucker for being wrong! Anyway: for everyone’s consdieration:

    The lead vocals aren’t even close, but the backing vocals sound like AC/DC and the song structure is super AC/DCish.

    This one’s a little more Bon-Scotty, including the lyrics.

    1. I just want to clarify something first: I wanted recommendations for bands that really rocked with a hard, punch-you-in-the-face sound–basically, a great hard rock band. I mentioned AC/DC and Van Halen as examples. It’s not that I wanted a band with a singer like Scott or Johnson, similar vocals, etc. I wanted more the general hard rock sound–that was really aggressive and done well.

      Having said that, X-Sinner sounds totally like AC/DC–almost too much, if you ask me. I should go check out Def Leppard again. I really liked them in the past, but i don’t they’re as hard or aggressive as AC/DC or VH. As for Accept, I don’t think I’ve ever heard their stuff, but I agree their singer sounds like Bon Scott, at least slightly.

      Also, let me add that with AC/DC, I think what also sets them a part is the quality of their songs. Sometimes their lyrics might border on fodder for a Spinal Tap parody, but overall they have really good rock songs. “Shook Me All Night Long” is great, for example.

      With VH, it’s all about Eddie, and Alex, to a lesser extent.

  14. I was wondering what’s been going on with Judith Hill, and I found this clip, playing with her mom (on keyboards) and her dad (on bass). This is smokin’.

    Man, that’s a talented family! Judith Hill has a really great voice, and I’m a little surprised someone with her voice is not more well-known–hasn’t been more popular. My sense is that it has to do with the quality of songs–not that her stuff is terrible. It’s not. But to really popular, the songs have to be great (pop songs). If she had someone like Clive Davis and a stable of songwriters to match her with the right song, I don’t see why she couldn’t become a star. (She doesn’t really have an original sound–but there are others like that, too. And she can sing.)

    In a way, she reminds me of Bruno Mars sans the songwriting ability. Again, not to say her compositions are bad, but Bruno’s are just really, really good. Bruno is more of a retro guy, but his songs are so catchy that I like him in spite of the retro-ness. (There are limits, though–e.g., I’m not as enthusiastic about his new one with Anderson Pa.ak–although they’re both excellent in it–and it’s solid song.)

    Man, she can sing though.

  15. I forgot about this song. It takes me back to 6th grade.

    I didn’t realize this was a cover. Here is the original:

  16. I came across a female singer that I would call, “the Hawk.” I would call her that because she and her music sound like a female version of the Eagles. Her name was not familiar to me at all, but then I discovered that I actually knew one of her songs–an early 80’s song that might have been played regularly for about two or three months, and then never played again; it’s one of those songs that I don’t think I’ve heard since it first came out.

    Anyone know the artist and the song I’m thinking of?

      1. I need to cry uncle on this one. It’s too difficult. I can’t think of any female singer whose music reminds me of the Eagles, and the fact that the musician’s name was unfamiliar to you should actually make it easier for me, but for some reason it doesn’t. Everyone I can think of who might remotely be considered to sound like the Eagles is someone you’re aware of, like Bonnie Raitt.

        Your brain works in such an interesting way. You hear a musician you were unfamiliar with, and your response is immediately to give her a nickname because of who she reminds you of.

        At first I rolled my eyes, but then I thought (while on a long drive) it would be a fun game just to play by myself. So I thought of a female singer whose music reminds me of Meat Loaf (I’m not kidding) and nicknamed her Salisbury Steak. It’s a musician anyone reading this is very familiar with. Any guesses? 🙂

        1. Are you thinking primarily the vocal quality or the nature of the music as well? Is this someone we would likely know?

          1. Yes, as I said anyone reading this would really know this person. I wouldn’t say the sound of her voice is like Meat Loaf, but the way she sings is pretty similar. The music and songs are really what I’m thinking.

          2. The first name that came to mind after reading your most recent post was Bonnie Tyler. Prior to that post (after your first one), I thought of Lita Ford.

          3. Hey, you got it. Nice.

            Jim Steinman, who wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell album wrote “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

            Also Air Supply’s “Making Love out of Nothing at All,” which didn’t surprise me in the least when I learned this.

      2. Also Air Supply’s “Making Love out of Nothing at All,” which didn’t surprise me in the least when I learned this.

        That was my reaction as well. I can also see the connection between “Total Eclipse” and Meat Loaf’s songs. Let’s turn the melodrama up to 11. Are there any other songs/singers that come to mind?

    1. Karla Bonoff.

      She kinda reminds me of Linda Ronstadt, who also sounds like a female version of the Eagles–but I sort of forgot this. (I believe Rondstadt sang some of Bonoff’s songs.)

      By the way, calling Bonoff the “Hawk” was done with tongue-in-cheek–a kind of dorky joke. At the same time, I do think some of her music is in the Eagles’ vein.

      1. Oh yeah I know her. Huh. Never thought of similarities to the Eagles but I’ll give it another listen.

  17. Comments from Frank Zappa:

    My technique as a guitar player is … fair. There are plenty of people that play faster than I do, never hit a wrong note, and have a lovely sound. If you want to rate guitar players, go for them. But there isn’t anybody else who will take the chances that I will take with a composition live on stage, in front of an audience, and just go out there with the nerve, the ultimate audacity to say, “Okay I don’t know what I’m going to play, and you don’t know what I’m going to play, SO that makes us equal. So let’s, go, we’ll have an adventure here.” And that’s what I do. There’s no way to rate that. You either like that kind of stuff, or you don’t.

    To me, what he’s describing is a jazz approach–at least an approach that many of the jazz greats employ. I love this approach. It can sometimes lead to music that is flat (although I guess that can happen with performances of through-composed music), but when the musician really creates a good solo, there is an extra thrill. I like the uncertainty of the situation, and I think it creates or adds a vitality to the music that would otherwise not be there.

  18. The story about the way Donald Fagen and Walter Becker got the guitar solo for “Peg.” In the documentary about the making of Aja, Fagen and Becker play snippets of other guitarists who played the solo, but weren’t used. Some of them sounded good. I’d like to hear versions of the song with the different solos, although I suspect Fagen and Becker would not want to release these.

  19. I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard from guitarist, Gary Smith. To me, he was one of the few non-Japanese guitarists to combine free jazz and Hendrix (similar to the Japanese noise-rock guitarists) in a way that I found satisfying. Here’s something I heard recently:

    I wouldn’t mind getting this album, but it’s hard to find. On a side note, the drummer, Joe Gallivan, was living in Hawai’i in the 90s. (I’m not sure if he still lives here.)

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