Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In the Changer

I have gotten a whole lot of new cd's in the last year, and have been trying to absorb them in order to file them in the collection. Some of these I may have written about before, but here is what has been in heavy rotation of late:

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Cold Roses: I have said it before and I will say it again: Ryan Adams is a genius, but his blessing is also his curse; He is almost too prolific for his own good. The highlights of this double album set (One of three albums Adams spewed out last year -- a record of productivity that makes me envious) are brilliant. My two favorite songs are probably "Let It Ride" and "If I Am a Stranger" from disc two. Compressed, this would be one hell of a cd. Separately, there is just a little too much chaff. This ties into one of my theories about cds and movies these days, however: "They" (presumably the record companies and movie studios) know in their hearts that their products are too damned expensive. But rather than do the logical thing and lower their prices, they instead think that we consumers are morons, and that we will think that more=better, and therefore worth the usurious cost. This seems to explain why so many cd's these days have 19 tracks, several filler, and why even the most marginal fluff movies weigh in at two hours. I am more than happy to pay $10 for a dozen good tracks, or $6 for a good, taut, 90 minute movie. In any case, I give Cold Roses a B, but it could have been an A had Ryan or Lost Highway curbed a little self-indulgence.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik: Jazz Sounds of Africa: The title is at least a little bit of a misnomer. Abdul-Malik, a bassist (primarily), bandleader, and well-regarded jazz composer, is not African per se (he is of Sudanese descent). He has, however, embraced a cultural Afrocentrism that allows his work to swing easily between traditional jazz and inflections of Africa, especially North Africa. He earned his earliest fame working with Thelonius Monk and has been a committed advocate of both African music and of breaking down artificial national barriers. In a sense, this album is something of a hybrid. One can imagine it most easily consumed in lp format (and if you do not know what an lp is you are far too young to be reading this!), as it seems that this disc is self-consciously more traditional jazz on the first half, and more African on the second. If you are looking for an introduction to African jazz qua African jazz, this may not fit the bill. But if you want to hear a master craftsman comfortably blending and merging styles with a transnational focus, Jazz Sounds of Africa will be a listening pleasure. B+

AC/DC: High Voltage: I used to say that AC-DC was one of my guilty pleasure bands. Fuck that. I just plain like AC-DC. I do not need to listen to them in large doses, I probably never have to listen to the wildly overplayed (and overrated) Back in Black again, and Bon Scott's death marked a turning point for the worse with these Australian hard rockers, but people who cannot let themselves like AC-DC also probably think that sex is too messy and beer is too lowbrow. High Voltage was the lads' first real studio album and it is pretty raw. But their best work was right around the corner, and this album shows definite signs of the promise to come. It's simple, dumb RAWK. And what's wrong with that? B

Brokeback Mountain Remember that Brokeback began life as an Annie Proulx short story in the New Yorker. Well, the dvd comes with this story-on-dvd. I have not yet been able to bring myself to watch Brokeback -- I know it is going to be heartbreaking, and I am not afraid to admit that I have a quick emotional trigger. Hell, about once a week a story on Sportscenter will be so touching or sad that it will make me tear up and suck snot. (This week's was a feature about a recreational baseball Umpire in Utah who got cancer and devoted the rest of his days to his wife and to umpiring games.) So while I am not a books-on-tape kind of guy (for me, books on tape are like phone sex. get the real thing or don't bother.) I figured this might provide a good introduction since I had been too lazy to track down the original version of the story and I refuse to pay $10 for the newly published book version with Jake Gyllenhaal and heath Ledger on the cover. (I never buy the promotional edition of a book with the Hollywood actors on the cover. I have few principles, but this is one.) In any case, it is all that I had imagined and hoped -- tragic, sad, and powerful. I have only listened to it once, and that is probably enough, so while it is not really in rotation, and was never in the changer (I listened to it in the car while running errands. As it ended I was at the post office and had to sit and compose myself for a few minutes, running the air conditioner for about ten minutes in 105 degree heat, surely sucking up about $3 worth of gas.) I wanted to mention it. The story? A The cd version: A- (I still don't dig books on tape).


Thunderstick said...

I love Stone Roses. One of my favorite albums of last year. While it is true that its length gives rise to a couple not-so-great tracks, the way I figure it, every album has a couple clunkers. I'd rather have a double album with 30 good to great songs and 10 clunkers for $17 than a single album with 15 good to great songs and 5 clunkers for $12. Your cost per good song is 57 and 80 cents on the double and single album respsectively. That's some good science!!

Don't listen to ACDC much, but I'm not too proud to admit that the Motley Crue Greatest Hits album is my guilty pleasure. It's always in my car--nice day, sunroof open, windows down...always lends itself to a run of Dr. Feelgood, Girls, Girls, Girls, Home Sweet Home and Girl Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away.

dcat said...

I think you would love Jacksonville City Nights, which he also put out last eyar. It is my favorite of his 2005 albums.

I should get the Crue greatest its, which I would assume would be all that one would need, though i remember loving Shout at the Devil back in the day.


Thunderstick said...

The 6 CDs currently in my car:

1. The Violent Femmes-Viva Wisconsin. Fantastic live album. I always felt the Femmes were trying to come up with simple, catchy songs to put on their studio albums that people could sing along to after listening once or twice. Completely different band live--I love listening to them jam.

2. Cypress Hill-Live at the Fillmore. One of the most underrated rap acts of all time and just fantastic live.

3. Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits. Like many people, I was reminded how good his stuff was upon seeing Walk the Line. I just caught that movie about a month ago, so I'm still in that phase or relistening to a lot of his stuff.

4. Motley Crue's Greatest Hits--as previously mentioned, too many great driving tunes on this. Needs to be accessible in the car.

5. NERD's Fly or Die--I bought it when it came out probably 2 years ago and it has yet to leave my car CD player. My favorite album of the last 2 years. Pharell is going to prove to be a mix of Dr. Dre and Quincy Jones.

6. Backstreet Boys--Black and Blue. I don't really like it but DCat kept raving about it and after much razzing he finally sent me a copy so I listened to it out of respect for him. Doesn't do much for me, but DCat won't shut up about it and how he thinks it will eventually be the viewed as the Abbey Road of the early 2000s.

dcat said...

Actually, more like the White Album.

I dig the Femmes. most people know their first album (Blister in the Sun, etc.) but they also have a couple of other good cds, and one ditty, country death song, that is just brilliant.

montana urban legend said...

As long as Al Gore's been the topic of so much conversation lately, I figured I'd ask if anyone remembers whether ACDC was one of the bands he conducted Senate hearings on during his/Tipper's war against heavy metal.

dcat said...

I'm not sure. I could do some research, but I am lazy, so i will not. Did Tipper target actual bands, or specific examples of lyrics and such. AC-DC was so caught up in bad double entendres that i somehow doubt they were a topic of conversation, but I could be wrong.