I can already imagine the endless grief I will get for posting this from certain band mates and some camps that think themselves too hip for Stewart’s charms. But I fucking love his shit anyway. There’s no doubt that the early solo years and Faces period can never be equaled. (Those years set a bar that most musicians, period, will never equal. And pretty much every musician I know loves this era of records.) But as long as Rod is singing something that has a hint of rock n roll in it, something that makes you cry in your drink, or that you can imagine him kicking a soccer ball to in a stadium, I am in. Really, except for his American Songbook dreck, and his other recent covers albums, I pretty much like everything. (The American Songbook stuff is one of the few times even I will say he went a bridge too far.) It’s not only his voice, but the fact that he seemingly throws himself in with total enthusiasm, even to things that other musicians wouldn’t try, and possibly shouldn’t. But I feel he can get away with it, as he has an exuberance that is equaled by few. This song would be filed under his quasi-celtic soccer stadium anthems, but it’s good fun, and most of all emotional sounding. At the end of the day the first rule of music should be that it is emotional. Rod rarely fails to deliver on those terms, no matter how overly professional his backing band sounds. About eleven or twelve years ago I went to see him live and I was sure I was going to be witnessing a cash grab, but he ended up having the entire audience, all ages, on their feet for the entire night. Not only is he a first-rate interpreter, he is also a really underrated songwriter when he decides to pick up the guitar and pen. Too often his celebrity has overshadowed his very real talents, and his best song lyrics display a great wit, that is equal at conveying sadness and humor. At this stage Never a Dull Moment is probably my favorite record of his. If you doubt Stewart’s talents, but love rock n roll in the slightest, check it out. There are many reasons that I love many kinds of music, but rarely has someone made me smile as much as Rod Stewart. For that reason alone I would feel ashamed of myself for not sticking with him. So there: I love Rod Stewart. What are you going to do about it?
A musician friend has helped usher me into the world of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Black Ark studios. I have long known about Perry as a great reggae and dub producer, but he has been recording for so long, and his discography is so immense, that I think I stayed away because I didn’t know where to start. When I was first getting into classical music and jazz about a year ago I faced the same problem. How do you navigate your way into a new scene, when you know next to nothing? The sheer amount of something can be intimidating. How do you discern good from bad? With a limited budget, how do you make the right choices when buying something? It helps to be pointed in the right direction and then you find many other doors opening along the way. For classical music I bought a book. For jazz I asked my friends to suggest records.
The Perry produced record that was first suggested to me was The Congos album Heart of the Congos. This is not only one of the best reggae albums ever, but a great place to start understanding what makes Perry’s work so unique. It’s essentially a reggae record, with great songs and melodies, but the production features many of the unique sonic qualities that differentiate Perry from producers that came before him. From there you can decide if you want to explore more of his reggae productions, or if you want to get into the weirder world of dub. I think it’s a great entryway into his world as it is both unique and accessible.
The link above, while no means definitive, is a great overview of his lengthy career. It gives you a sense of his accomplishments and highlights some of his better works, if not all of them. Heart of the Congos is strangely given only a sentence.
The above video is Perry recording in Black Ark studios. It’s inspiring to see someone accomplishing something so imaginative in a situation that is very low tech by today’s standards.
If you are someone that loves records and recorded sound, his work is definitely a world that you want to explore. Not only is it innovative in and of itself, but it has influenced modern music in immense and unmeasurable ways.
If there is a band that is underrated, it is Thin Lizzy. As far as rock band with two guitar, bass, and drums goes they as good as anyone. There are bands that were more original. There were bands that were more consistent and had longer periods of peak creativity. However, when Thin Lizzy were at their best, as far as rock music goes, they are hard to beat. Their grooves swing, their playing is musical and memorable, and in Phil Lynott they had a truly great songwriter and frontman. He might have not have been a poet on the level of someone like Dylan, but he wrote lyrics that were evocative and just plain cool. (Cool is not a term I like to use a lot. However, if anyone earned that word, it was Lynott. He also sometimes wrote lyrics in meters and rhyme schemes that are unique in rock music.) He had voice with real swagger that was able to be vulnerable when needed.
In my opinion any fan of rock music should own four albums: Fighting, Jailbreak, Bad Reputation, and Black Rose. All the Thin Lizzy records have something of merit, but those four are front to back classics. The early records it still seems like they were finding their voice. After Black Rose Lynott’s drug problems seemed to take their toll on his abilities slightly, although there were still plenty of great songs to come, if not great albums. Johnny the Fox is sort of the odd album out. It was recorded during their peak, but is a concept record. Although it is close to being great, it has a few songs that are more generic than typical Lizzy fair.
The above song, Renegade, is not taking from one of the four that I mentioned above. It is later period Thin Lizzy. The instrumental section goes on a little too long possibly, but overall it is a great song that has a cinematic mood and showcases Lynott’s effortless cool. I picked it because it precisely because it is somewhat of a lost gem. It is one of those songs that would feel good late night in a bar, when you foolishly think you can do anything.
It is off of the album with the same name. However, I would definitely start with with one of the four albums I mentioned above, and eventually get all four. Thin Lizzy come about as close to embodying rock music as just about any band I can think of.
In honor of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s new album, Power in the Blood, coming out this week, I thought I would post one of my favorite songs of hers. Unlike many of her songs that I love for the message that is conveyed, I love this one simply because it makes me happy. How could this song not make you happy?
A great friend and guitar player emailed me today, which reminded me of our mutual appreciation for Dinosaur Jr. I was a little late to the game, not really being aware of Dinosaur Jr. until their album Where You Been came out. (Though I love earlier songs like Freak Scene very much now.) My brother reminds me of when I used to play the song Start Choppin on repeat, so many times and at such a loud volume I used to drive my family nuts. (I was 15 at the time.) In music, I have always loved the combination of a great melody with primal guitar playing. This song has a great melody from which singer and guitar player J Mascis continually takes a break from to choke the fuck out of his guitar. I love that duality, that combination of beauty and sonic insanity.
Years later, in Austin, I got the chance to see the reunited Dinosaur Jr. live. J Mascis had long flowing white Gandolf hair by this point, taking his guitar into outer space, just like you would want him to.
The above link is to a Think Progress article about what the police said in South Carolina before the Walter Scott video was released. I think this is really important, because it sounds like so many statements the police have made, about cases which we have heard before. Anyone can watch the video of Walter Scott’s shooting and know something is horribly wrong. (An unarmed man was shot in the back and died. If you don’t think that is wrong, there is something else going on in your judgment of the situation.) I have talked before about how more people were killed in the U.S. by police in March than in England since 1900. When you see anger in places like Ferguson, it is because of things like this. Again, I don’t think you can just blame the police for situations like this. There is a whole list of historical and cultural factors involved here. Hopefully though, this video will be our dogs on the bridge moment, which was when violence against protestors in Selma woke Americans up to the cruelty of segregation, the moment when the majority of America can no longer ignore what is being done in its name.
Above is the official video for Morrissey’s song Kiss Me A Lot, which in my opinion is from the best album from the last few years, World Peace is None of Your Business. This is easily the most straightforward pop song on the album. I like the fact that even in a straightforward pop song he can get a term in like, “Bastille mausoleum.”
This video has created a lot of controversy in the world of Morrissey. He has strongly supported feminism throughout his career. The fact that this video features scantily clad models, which are so normal in most pop music, has caused disbelief amongst fans. I admit that I was surprised to see them.
However, I love the song and the man. Even if you count the above video as a stumble in his career, his life’s work still towers above most of modern pop music.