Thursday, September 25, 2003
Complete History, Volume One
Two discs and 80 tracks and they plan a Volume 2? All fooling aside, this DC hardcore band, the third-most famous and influential (Minor Threat and Bad Brains being numbers one and two) made 'em short and sweet, and unlike Minor T., didn't put a super-premium on drill-like precision, and unlike the Bad Brains, were proud of their limitations.
Vocalist John Stabb is indecipherable, the riffs hard as hell and digital technology has cleaned up their mess quite a bit. Best of all, they get in and out in a hurry, brief and furious, like an artless Minutemen. This is second-wave punk rock at its best--sure, it isn't as anthemic as the best of LA or their brothers in DC, but they're quick and they don't live and die by that boring polka two-step. Sure, the rants against cops/Reagan/other hardcore kids are kind of dated, but I prefer to think of it as "vintage."
Agradecido--Latin Jazz Mandolin
Agradecido, the title of David Ray's debut CD, is the Spanish expression meaning "grateful." In this case it refers to Ray's heartfelt interest in and appreciation for Latin rhythm and its accompanying melodic tradition. Agradecido displays Ray's mastery of South American musical territory with fine production values and a romantic's ear for melody.
The album amalgamates Ray's knowledge of the tight traditional rhythmic cadences of Brazilian Choro music and the songs of Venezuela with aggressive and passionate picking on both familiar and less well-known tunes from these folk idioms. Everything is performed with the sincerity of an artist concerned with the authenticity of what is being delivered, yet at the same time, some semblance of his underlying knowledge of western blues, jazz, and to a lesser extent, bluegrass, find their way into this recording. Ray is ably abetted in this effort by a group of accomplished Bay Area sidemen.
Jacob De Banolim's "Assanhado" bounces along with a pleasant and familiar lilt, but is given a distinctive treatment here. The CD's most familiar chestnut, "Manha De Carnaval," also known as the theme from the movie Black Orpheus, is also distinctly recorded and performed.
Agradecido is a fine first effort. And aside from being a terrific collection of music, it is more than suitable as part of any romantically inclined listener's bedroom CD collection, as this music possesses the ideal sonic recipe for passionate interludes. Further explorations into the gems of Latin American traditional music are greatly anticipated from David Ray and company.
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: The Soul of a Man
Top-flight soundtrack music from the Wim Wenders film about three critical blues singers--J.B. Lenoir, Blind Willie Johnson and Skip James, best known for the blues standards "How Long?," "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," and "I'm So Glad."
All three of the venerables appear here, but the catch is that their tunes are covered, mostly by alties and a few (white) venerables themselves. John Mayall and Bonnie Raitt do more than just right by their takes (Bonnie's version of "Devil Got My Woman" is the best thing she's cut in 15 years), but the kids are more than all right--Beck's "I'm So Glad" obliterates the version that Cream burned into our brains in 1966, Jon Spencer and Lou Reed prove that New Yorkers have more than just ironic soul, and Nick Cave justifies his existence as plausible blues man on his track, "I Feel So Good" (probably the first time Mr. Gloom and Doom has ever uttered those words in his life).
A soundtrack that makes you want to see the film--what a great notion!