Monday, July 27, 2015

Album Review: Jill Scott- Woman

My world changed when I picked up a Japanese compilation of Stax singles that introduced me to the likes of William Bell, the Bar-Kays, the Dramatics and Frederick Knight in the early 1980s. I don’t know how or when Jill Scott came to love those same songs, but it’s clear that she also knows them inside and out.  Woman is a vibrant tribute to the classic sound of Stax Records.  The video for “You Don’t Know” will persuade skeptics.

I didn’t expect my  review of Van Halen’s concert last week to instigate a classic rock rebellion.  The show struck me as unequivocally terrible.  It ranks among performances by Guy, Rick Ross and Soundgarden as one of the worst efforts by a major act I’ve witnessed in recent years.  The outraged reactions to my observations compelled The Kansas City Star to issue a disclaimer.

I also reviewed a concert by Graham Nash.

An item about Be/Non is my latest contribution to KCUR’s Local Listen series.

The Popper’s ”I’m KC” may be cheesy, but it’s my song of the summer.

Kutt Calhoun’s EP Kuttin Loose doesn’t contain any surprises.  RIYL: early Tech N9ne, rap beefs, gangsta sh*t.

Howard Rumsey has died.  Here’s Marc Myers’ remembrance.

David Banner’s “My Uzi” might be the best song of 2015.  It’s not about what you think it’s about.

Torche’s Restarter is likely to be my favorite rock album of 2015.  RIYL: Nothing, sludge, Electric Wizard.

Blue Dialect, a collaboration between bassist Mario Pavone, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, is astounding.  RIYL: Anthony Braxton, out, Myra Melford.

Ashley Monroe’s The Blade is a mess.  Only three or four of the tracks on the scattershot album are on point.  RIYL: uncertainty, Sturgill Simpson, indecision.

There’s nothing wrong with Richard Thompson’s Still, but I don’t intend to give the relatively unremarkable new album a second hearing.  I’ll count on There Stands the Glass readers to point out any hidden gems beyond the novelty goof “Guitar Heroes.”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Way Down Yonder On the Chattahoochee

One of the most common transgressions made by music fans is judging a genre by the people it supposedly attracts.

I encounter it daily:  Country fans are drunken homophobes.  Only elitists listen to jazz.  Hip-hop heads are illiterate. 

I’m also guilty of making rash generalizations.  Thankfully, I caught myself before I responded to a friend's direct provocation regarding Sturgill Simpson (a musician I appreciate).  I was going to suggest that most members of the audience at Simpson's concert in Kansas City last week were status-conscious bandwagoners who wouldn’t be caught dead at an Alan Jackson show.

That wouldn't have been nice.

Jackson's music may not be worthy of consideration by Pitchfork obsessives, but it will always have a place in my life.  In the parlance of 2015, plenty of the songs on his new album Angels and Alcohol are “basic.”  I'm not bothered that the album demonstrates no musical or ideological progression.

“Mexico, Tequila and Me” may be just as tired as its title suggests, but I genuinely appreciate the cliches of “Jim and Jack and Hank.”  I also think that the spiritual cheese of “God Paints” is delicious.  And the title track- easily the album’s best song- hits close to home.

Now, for the rest of the story: I wore a pink shirt to an Alan Jackson concert in 2007.  Harassed for hours by drunken homophobes, I thought I’d be killed in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

I reviewed Tech N9ne’s Special Effects for KCUR.

I reviewed a concert by Keith Sweat and Blackstreet featuring Teddy Riley and Dave Hollister.

I reviewed a concert by the Dave Matthews Band.

A segment about Jeff Black is among the recent Local Listen items I've contributed to KCUR.

Shades of Jade’s new single ”That One” is RIYL: Brian McKnight, Kansas City neo-soul, Bilal.

Bummer’s punishing Spank EP is shockingly great.  The Olathe band’s new EP is RIYL: Paw, blind rage, Tad.

The Kansas City Star recalls the infamous Ozark Music Festival of 1974.

Joan Sebastian has died.  I reviewed his concert at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater last year.

Max Richter’s Sleep is “an eight-hour lullaby.”

Man Plans God Laughs is the title track of Public Enemy’s new album.

Heads of State’s Search For Peace is a standard-issue post-Coltrane jazz date.  RIYL: Gary Bartz, old school jazz, Larry Willis.

”God bless Rod Stewart.”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Album Review: Bilal- In Another Life

As an aficionado of the most strung out work of Sly Stone, Erykah Badu and Prince, I immediately took to Bilal’s In Another Life.  The R&B veteran can’t be bothered with the coherent concept of songs on his new album, but producer Adrian Younge maintains a powerful groove.  I love it.  The disturbing video for ”Money Over Love”, a track that features Kendrick Lamar, offers a fair representation of the contents of In Another Life.

I reviewed a concert by Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional.

I’ve been negligent in linking to my work for Ink.  Last week’s extended concert preview examined the work of Krystle Warren. 

Vince Bell recently uploaded an informal new performance of his ”Kansas City Song”.

Miguel isn’t as good as Frank Ocean, Prince or Marvin Gaye.  Yet he’s better than Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and Daft Punk on the new album Wildheart.

The video for Vince Staples’ ”Señorita is devastating.  I also admire Staples’ new album Summertime ‘06.

Paolo Bordogna’s Tutto Buffo is a hoot.  RIYL: Rossini, high drama, Italy.

A few of the poorly recorded Southern funk jams on Loose The Funk: Rarities From The Jewel/Paula Vault make life worth living.  Most of the tracks are second-rate B.B. King imitations, Albert King ripoffs or stale boogaloo workouts.  RIYL: Isley Brothers, sweat, Joe Simon.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Album Review: Downtown Boys- Full Communism

The Clash was my favorite band from 1979 to 1983.  Hip-hop and Cut the Crap made the Clash a far less important part of my life in the mid-’80s.

Full Communism, the new album by Downtown Boys, provides me with the same sort of jolt I once received from a new album by the Clash.

I don’t necessarily concur with the Providence band’s politics, but exposure to tear gas in South America last month has made me more receptive to radicalism.  Strident Full Communism songs such as "Wave of History" are balanced by amusing tirades like “Tall Boys.”

Punx not dead.

I reviewed Failure’s concert at Liberty Hall.

I featured the AM Trio on KCUR’s weekly Local Listen segment.

Justus West, a Kansas City, Kansas, teen, remade “Alone Again (Naturally).”

I listen to a lot of Red Dirt country acts.  Most are interchangeable.  Jered Deck, formerly of Green Corn Revival, has tapped into something both vital and traditional with ”17 Miles”.  The hearty song is RIYL: Will Hoge, Gaslight Anthem, Joe Ely.

Mark Guiliana’s Family First doesn’t do much for me.  RIYL: drummer-led jazz albums, Kamasi Washington, solos for the sake of solos.

(Original image of a mural in New York City by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Synapse Swing

A coworker at a record store gave me a copy of Jack DeJohnette’s Zebra in 1989.  I mistakenly considered the electronica project featuring trumpeter Lester Bowie a forgettable oddity at the time.  Twenty-six years later, DeJohnette’s experimentation seems remarkably prescient. 

I revisited the recording after enjoying High Risk, Dave Douglas’ exciting new album, and Starfire, the latest release from Jaga Jazzist.

Don’t tell my readers over at Plastic Sax, but mainstream acoustic jazz isn’t really doing it for me these days.  I either need to hear at least a hint of skronk or some sonic tinkering to get excited about the form in 2015. This pair of new releases does the trick.

Jaga Jazzist has a rabid following among the cool kids, but Starfire strikes me as an homage to the interstellar grooves of the Pat Metheny Group, a comparison that would surely upset status-conscious vinyl collectors. 

Dave Douglas expands on DeJohnette’s innovations on the outstanding High Risk.  The project’s luminous trumpet work and intriguing electronica thrill me.

I reviewed a concert by the Smashing Pumpkins.

I reviewed a concert by the Old 97’s.

I wrote a detailed review of Dominique Sanders’ A True Story Based On… for public radio station KCUR.

Kansas City’s Jooby Truth created a video for ”Rap Money”.

Teddy Dibble examines jazz in 1964.

Mel Waiters has died.  I reviewed a concert featuring the soul-blues artist in 2008.

Chris Squire of Yes has died.  Here are my notes on a 2013 concert at the Midland theater.

Gunther Schuller has died.

Jamison Ross’ debut album gives me whiplash.  It sounds as if it was compiled from several different sessions.  It includes Robert Randolph-style rock, Ramsey Lewis-ish soul-jazz and sophisticated balladry in the vein of John Legend.

Thundercat’s Beyond/Where the Giants Roam is RIYL: Flying Lotus, relaxed jams, George Duke.

Here’s an inspiring story about recent events at St. Louis’ Vintage Vinyl.

Kathryn Joseph doesn't make the sort of music I ordinarily appreciate. She sings like Joanna Newsom, a cloying affectation that usually drives me up a wall. Yet I’m enchanted by the Scot’s debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled.

My favorite selections on Ben Williams’ Coming of Age evoke Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and prime Lonnie Liston Smith. 

After all these years, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s gimmick still work for me.  Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015 is RIYL: 1965-era Rolling Stones, sleaze, Eric Burdon.

”Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”

I don't have much to add to Tim Finn’s review of the Rollings Stones’ concert at Arrowhead Stadium.  I enjoyed Saturday’s outing even more than the Stones shows I saw in 1981.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chee-Chee-Chee, Lay-Lay-Lay

A familiar refrain greeted me at a subway station on my first day in Chile two weeks ago.  Greg Kihn’s "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)" blasted from the in-house sound system.

Por que?

I often felt as if I had returned to 1983 during my ten-day trip to Chile.  Here’s a representative sampling of English-language hits I heard in public places: Van Halen’s “Jump,” the Police’s “Message In a Bottle,” Kenny Loggins’ “Meet Me Half Way,” Blind Melon’s “No Rain” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” (three times).

Por que?

I encountered street performer earning tips by recreating the repertoire of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Por que?

Pitbull seems to be the most popular contemporary artist in Chile.  I also heard current pop hits by the likes of Daddy Yankee and Enrique Iglesias.  I heard salsa on a bus for a few glorious minutes.  I never encountered the music of famous Chilean folk artists like Inti-Illimani and Victor Jara.

Por que?

I knew that metal was big throughout Latin America.  Sure enough, I saw plenty of men wearing Pantera, Iron Maiden and Metallica t-shirts.  Even so, the first television commercial to air at the conclusion of an important soccer game promoted a concert by the British rock band Blur at a 15,000-seat arena.

Por que?

It’s obviously not my place to tell Chileans that they should be listening to Ana Tijoux or Violeta Parra.  Instead, I’ll merely regret missing a performance by Kumbia Queers.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 08, 2015

Misusing Your Influence: Music Midway in 2015

I’m embarking on a blogging break.  I’ll return in two or three weeks. Here are listings of my favorite things from the first half of 2015.  See ya, suckers!

Favorite Songs of 2015 (So Far)
Call it the To Pimp a Butterfly stipulation- I elected not to duplicate any artists on my songs and albums lists.  (Spotify playlist)

1. Tyler, the Creator- “Smuckers”
2. Venom- “Long Haired Punks”
3. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear- “Silent Movies”
4. Sleater-Kinney- “Bury Your Friends”
5. Kenny Lattimore- “Nothing Like You”

6. Butch Walker- “21+”
7. Future- “F*ck Up Some Commas”
8. Courtney Barnett- “Dead Fox”
9. John Moreland- “Cherokee”
10. Charlie Wilson- “Touched By an Angel”

11. Maroon 5- “Sugar”
12. Ryan Bingham- “Fear and Saturday Night”
13. Big Sean featuring Dr*ke and Kanye West- “Blessings”
14. Father John Misty- “The Ideal Husband”
15. Joywave- “Nice House”

16. Chedda Da Connect- “Flicka Da Wrist”
17. Chris Stapleton- “Whiskey and You”
18. Lila Downs- “Balas y Chocolate”
19. José James- “Lover Man”
20. Little Big Town- “Girl Crush”

21. Maysa- “Last Chance For Love”
22. Kanye West- “All Day”
23. Doomtree- “Cabin Killer”
24. Mat Shoare- “Murder”
25. Pops Staples- “Better Home”

Favorite Albums of 2015 (So Far)

Call it the To Pimp a Butterfly stipulation- I elected not to duplicate any artists on my songs and albums lists.(Spotify playlist)

1. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly
2. Rudresh Mahanthappa- Bird Calls
3. Mark Ronson- Uptown Special
4. Ghostface Killah and Badbadnotgood- Sour Soul
5. Marc Cary- Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 2

6. Dominique Sanders- A True Story Based On…
7. Jodeci- The Past, The Present, The Future
8. Tech N9ne- Special Effects
9. Action Bronson- Mr. Wonderful
10. Alabama Shakes- Sound & Vision

11. Young Fathers- White Men Are Black Men Too
12. Jazmine Sullivan- Reality Show
13. J.D. McPherson- Let the Good Times Roll
14. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment- Surf
15. Yelawolf- Love Story

16. Dead Sara- Pleasure to Meet You
17. Bob Dylan- Shadows In the Night
18. Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld- Never Were the Way She Was
19. Liturgy- The Ark Work
20. Valentina Lisitsa- Plays Philip Glass

21. Donny McCaslin- Fast Future
22. Viet Cong- Viet Cong
23. Terence Blanchard- Breathless
24. Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet- Acknowledgement
25. Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside

Favorite Reissues of 2015 (So Far)
1. The Supreme Jubilees- It’ll All Be Over
2. Next Stop Soweto: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga 1975-1985
3. Thomas Mapfumo- Lion Songs: Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe
4. Led Zeppelin- Physical Graffiti
5. Michael Angelo- Michael Angelo

Favorite Performances of 2015 (So Far)
A brief romp in New York City made a big impression on me.  Aside from items 3, 6 and 24, all shows took place in the Kansas City area.

1. Mark Dresser, Myra Melford and Matt Wilson- Take Five Coffee + Bar
2. Charlie Wilson- Sprint Center
3. Lee Konitz with the Dave Douglas Quintet- Jazz Standard
4. Four Fists- Riot Room
5. Helmet- RecordBar

6. Joyce DiDonato with the Philadelphia Orchestra- Carnegie Hall
7. Sufjan Stevens- Midland theater
8. Lauren Krum with the Project H- Westport Coffee House
9. Merle Haggard- Uptown Theater
10. Avishai Cohen, Tal Mashiach and Nasheet Waits- Take Five Coffee + Bar

11. Sleater-Kinney- Uptown Theater
12. Max Raabe and Palast Orchester- Helzberg Hall
13. Crobots- Penn Valley Park
14. Luke Bell- Riot Room patio
15. Hellyeah- Midland theater

16. Bill Frisell- White Theatre
17. Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks- RecordBar
18. John Doe- Knuckleheads
19. Ebony Tusks- Riot Room patio
20. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7- Green Lady Lounge

21. Robert Randolph & the Family Band- Town Center Plaza
22. Duncan Burnett and the Ministry- Riot Room patio
23. Various Blonde- Pizza Bar
24. Noah Preminger Quartet- 55 Club
25. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Take Five Coffee + Bar

Favorite Opening Acts of 2015 (So Far)
1. Doug E. Fresh- Municipal Auditorium, for Guy
2. Ben Miller Band- Uptown Theater, for Blackberry Smoke
3. Joe- Sprint Center, for Charlie Wilson
4. Apocalyptica- Midland theater, for Sixx:A.M.
5. Joywave- Midland theater, for Vance Joy

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)