Friday, July 29, 2005

Langhoff Unpublished: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's A School of Bluegrass

This was admittedly a bit long for something that would likely garner no interest from Village Voice readers; I never heard back from Chuck. I actually placed it in my Pazz & Jop Poll Top 10 for 2004, which was kind of an overstatement, but I didn't hear that many CDs last year. And it is a really interesting CD, if exhausting.

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver
A School of Bluegrass

Bluegrass didn’t make it into Derek Bailey’s 1980 Improvisation treatise, but probably just because he couldn’t interview any practitioners by deadline--I bet Derek’s right at home with the deprecating wit, oral tradition, and even the tight constraints (YOU try playing “free” without breaking into “Autumn Leaves” or something) that bluegrass players embrace. Of all the hot playing on Doyle Lawson’s brilliantly-titled silver anniversary comp, the hottest moment comes from young roving fiddler Hunter Berry, who slashes his way through “Twinkle Little Star” (his only track) with wild invention, while still landing on the ones. But mandolinist Doyle makes sure everyone else in his revolving lineup has a great time, picking and swinging and filling any dead air with matter-of-fact melody.

That’s improv in micro--this two-disc live-and-rehearsal overview also documents the macro-improvisation of Doyle Lawson as a bandleader. As the notes point out, bluegrass folks “experiment” too; they’re just not WEIRD about it. Over 25 years, Doyle and the boys play around with sacred and secular, black gospel standards and ‘75 Bee Gees, fiddle and non-fiddle, piano and nose trumpet, all while maintaining exceptionally tight instrumental and a cappella ensemble. There’s an unfortunate patch where evangelism overwhelms the shredding fun, so when Doyle advises “Please listen to the words,” you can skip ahead a few tracks. Outside those, 40 of the 50 tunes create a monument to music-as-everyday-work that grows more mysteriously satisfying with every listen--not unlike 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong, with which this package shares more than you’d think.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

On another blog...

New! Check out this forced analysis of The Witches of Eastwick over on the 1984 wing.

Langhoff Unpublished: The Beatnuts' Milk Me

Welcome to Langhoff Unpublished, a sad series of unpublished record reviews that's sure to grow longer and longer until hope is gone. This one I sent to Chuck Eddy at the Village Voice some months after he listed the album in his "Eddytor's Dozen" column, thus some months after its release, which usually isn't an issue there, though maybe it's more of an issue when the review is as dorky as this thing. I had a heck of a time figuring out which Beatnut was which, and I'm still not sure I've got it right. Fun record, though.

Milk Me

I don’t know about you, but when I see a milk-soaked woman wearing a bikini on an album cover, I expect message rap. Blame my unreasonable expectations on a childhood diet of trenchant P-Funk and Ohio Players sleeves, but these “Beat Nuts” seem nothing more than what their name implies. I suppose “Confused Rappers” taught me more industry lessons than any song since Tribe’s “The Business” (now THERE were some social commentators par excellence), and if pressed, I’ll admit the double time march “We Don’t Give a Funk” flipped my helplessly crunk body off the walls with its motherfunking mad synthesized stabs and Mr. Juju’s promises to, “all jokes aside,” piss on my head. He really made the prospect sound appealing. As did (if I must) the completely banging “Find Us (In the Back of the Club),” during which hands were clapped, and all the over-the-top celebrity name-checking in “Buggin,’” (“You need to do like Kanye and fix your face” addresses that outstanding young man’s real-life torment), and… Well, I guess the first half is a funky fly dance party masterpiece. For safety’s sake, I’m currently listening to the second half and still having trouble remembering what it sounds like. Now that’s what I call message rap!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Songs are Better than Albums.

All right, the best songs for every year, same criteria! An altogether more interesting list, if you ask me. Though harder to compile.

'64: "I Saw Her Standing There," the Beatlez
'65: "Don't Worry Baby," Beach Boyz (is that the right year, Kyle?)
'66: "Under My Thumb," Rolling Stonez
'67: "Incense and Peppermints," Strawberry Alarm Clock
'68: "This Girl Is a Woman Now," Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
'69: "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," Bob Seger System (very close: "Baby, I Love You," Andy Kim)
'70: "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," Sly and the Family Stone
'71: "Life On Mars," David Bowie
'72: "Highway Star," Deep Purple
'73: "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," Elton John
'74: "The Lord's Prayer," Sister Janet Mead
'75: "Kashmir" or "Born to Run" or a couple things off Babe Ruth, who can say?
'76: "As," Stevie Wonder
'77: "Somebody to Love," Queen (or maybe "Bodies" by the Sex Pistolz)
'78: "Hollywood Nights," Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
'79: "Tropical Hot Dog Night," Captain Beefheart
'80: "The Glow of Love," Change
'81: "No Reply at All," Genesis
'82: "Don't Stop," Sylvester
'83: "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," Air Supply
'84: "Neverending Story," Limahl
'85: "A Little Bit More Conviction," Carman
'86: "Bizarre Love Triangle," New Order
'87: "The Water Is Fine," David Meece
'88: "When It's Love," Van Halen
'89: "Blue Savannah," Erasure
'90: "I Saw Red," Warrant
'91: "Can't Truss It," Public Enemy
'92: "Chariot Song," King's X
'93: "Go West," Pet Shop Boyz
'94: "Film At 11," the 77z
'95: "Heartspark Dollarsign," Everclear
'96: "You're Still Standin' There," Steve Earle
'97: "Stomp," God's Property feat. Kirk Franklin
'98: "Breathing Apparatus," the Coup
'99: "Heartbreaker," Mariah Carey
'00: "Cartoon Heroes," Aqua
'01: "Anticipating," Britney Spearz
'02: "Let's Not Shit Ourselves," Bright Eyez
'03: "99 Problems," Jay Z
'04: "This One's For the Girls," Martina McBride
'05: "The Knock Is There," Young Gunz

Lots of album tracks in the '90s and '00s--I'm not sure if that supports, refutes, or has nothing to do with Kyle's theory of album decline.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh wait, I'm supposed to UPDATE this thing?

Kyle, if no one else, will get a kick out of this. Here's my favorite albums for every year since '64. "Favorite" is currently defined as "the album that, when I think about having to sit through it again, feels like the least amount of work." (I'm kind of in a bad mood.) Thus My Fair Lady beats Meet the Beatles even though it boasts nothing so great as "I Saw Her Standing There" and possibly not as many great songs--listening to the whole thing seems marginally more enjoyable. '64's the first year I can reference more than 10 albums--the '63 winner is currently The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but who knows what else is out there?

64: My Fair Lady original soundtrack
65: Tom Lehrer-That Was the Year That Was!
66: Cecil Taylor-Unit Structures
67: The Velvet Underground and Nico
68: Miles Davis-Filles de Kilimanjaro
69: Tony Williams Lifetime-Emergency! (I'm listening to it right now!)
70: Merle Haggard-A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills)
71: Led Zeppelin IV
72: Yes-Fragile
73: Led Zeppelin-Houses of the Holy
74: New York Dolls In Too Much Too Soon
75: (good year!) Sesame Street Cast-Bert & Ernie Singalong
76: Various-Have Moicy!
77: Billy Joel-The Stranger
78: Van Halen
79: Neil Young-Rust Never Sleeps
80: Change-The Glow of Love
81: a crude amalgam of select songs from Genesis's Abacab and Phil Collins's Face Value; that or Kix
82: Michael Jackson-Thriller
83: Weird Al Yankovic
84: Bruce Springsteen-Born In the USA
85: Tom Waits-Rain Dogs
86: Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman-Song X
87: Guns 'n' Roses-Appetite for Destruction
88: EPMD-Strictly Business
89: King's X-Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
90: King's X-Faith, Hope, Love
91: (good year!)Amy Grant-Heart in Motion
92: Pavement-Slanted and Enchanted
93: Nirvana-In Utero
94: Garth Brooks-The Hits
95: Moby-Everything Is Wrong
96: Weezer-Pinkerton
97: Roni Size & Reprazent-New Forms
98: The Coup-Steal This Album
99: Various-Get Crunk!
00: Eminem-The Marshall Mathers LP
01: System of a Down-Toxicity
02: Paulina Rubio-Border Girl
03: David Banner-Mississippi Screwed and Chopped (haven't heard the original)
04: R. Kelly-Happy People/U Saved Me
05: And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead-Worlds Apart

In other news, it's always nice to see your work criticized by strangers, and in that vein you can check out what looks to be a very interesting Freakonomics blog, which contains an excerpt from my WOW #1s review. Which is (probably correctly) ripped to pieces. Ah, check out Freakonomics anyway, it's a good read.