Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stepping Up My Game

I have been on a slow long road of transformation, one so long and so slow that at times it doesn't feel as if anything is different. But it is very different. Very very different. When I try and put myself back where I was even a year ago it seems as if I'm watching a tense claustrophobic independent thriller, one where every step the protagonist takes is a choice between bad options, one where you simply wish that the character would just up and renounce everything at stake in the plot because the only hope is for them to pull a caterpillar to butterfly transformation.

Well, I don't have wings yet but I have certainly woven the cocoon.

367. Readin', Rightin', Rt. 23 - Dwight Yoakam from ''

Some day I'm going to meet this guy and tell him (as if he doesn't already know) that he is one of the all-time greats in any genre. He is very interesting to me because he is a GIANT star and yet totally under the radar at the same time. Damn, I love this dude.

368. You're Gonna Hear Brendan - Pimp Fu from 'Who Knows'

Crazy sound collage from Cousin Timothy in which he calls me from a family reunion and records his end of the conversation, passing me off to his sister Marianne. They are all lit and want me to yell so I can be heard on the recording but I think Cashel was asleep so I had to be quiet! Hilarious.

369. Romeo And Juliet - Dire Straits from 'Money For Nothing'

I think someone should do a documentary about Dire Straits and MTV. Because something weird happened back there in which a writer PERFECTLY captured a moment with a song and a period in time. And then he exploded. He then seemed totally uninterested in keeping up that level of exposure. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it. He courted anonymity and a smallness of career instead of continually trying to polish and expand the brass ring he'd already grasped. And man, what a guitar player. Understated but one of the guitar gods.

370. What's The Difference - Dr. Dre from '2001 (Instrumental)'

I simply cannot overstate how much I love this album. But I am itching to hear the rapping because it is equally good. Dr. Dre is one of those giants that is easy to forget about because he sort of hangs back, even on his own albums. But make no mistake, this guy is his generation's version of Quincy Jones. A brilliant MUSICIAN.

371. Shitloads Of Money - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

I laughed to myself on the elliptical machine sweating like a mad man because she is so right. "It's nice to be liked/But it's better by far to get paid". Leave it to Liz Phair to cut through the indie rock low-budget-money-isn't-important-to-us-pose.

372. Bobby Peru - Luna from 'Pup Tent'

This is a chilling little ditty in which a guy sings about his recently deceased girlfriend and you mildly suspect that he might have killed her and claimed it was a suicide. Even if the suicide is real it is chilling because he is only concerned with how it has affected him. Phenomenally creepy little tune.

373. Avant Nous - Edith Piaf from 'The Very Best Of Edith Piaf'

Oh, bonjour, Edith, vous etes une chanteuse extraordinaire. De temps en temps, c'est possible d'oublier vos talents. Bravo!

374. Free Fallin' - Tom Petty from 'Full Moon Fever'

I was a huge Tom Petty fan when this album came out and I didn't like the production on it. Jeff Lynne of ELO produced it and it is slicker than slick, drums are round and deep, the bass is like a black marble floor, and the chiming acoustic guitars took away all the rough swamp grit of Petty's earlier works.

Now? It blows me away. Lynne saw something in Petty, some pop sheen that could be taken to the hilt. Surrounding that idiosyncratic voice with such lushness only further delineates the personality. Great work.

375. Slow Like Honey - Fiona Apple from 'Tidal'

Fiona Apple was a star from the moment she appeared. That is such a rare thing. When you consider all of her imitators who have come and gone in flashes (Natalie Imbruglia??? Vanessa Carlton???), the solidity of her presence out of the gate is rather astonishing. There was no long period like Tori Amos went through before finding her way (and Apple has Amos to thank for a lot more than that...). Nope. Fiona dropped this album and was instantly in the pantheon. Amazing.

376. Big Tall Man - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

By contrast, Liz Phair has never had that kind of cultural stability to rest upon. In fact, most folks don't even know who she is even though she is one of the most important singer/songwriters of the past thirty years. Weird. She and Paul Westerberg should do a tour together.

377. You Should Be High - Low Light Supercharger from 'Umpg Presents Res Freq Recordings'

This is just fine, this punk drag race of a song. There is a breakdown where a wah-wah pedaled guitar kicks in, though, and the solo is so basic and boring that I actually felt like I could have done a better job. And that means it is a BAD SOLO.

378. Intro - Jazzy Jeff's BBE Mix from 'DJ Jazzy Jeff and Peanut Butter Wolf...'

Less than a minute of noise.

379. Dolores - The Miles Davis Quintet from 'Miles Smiles'

What can you say about Miles Davis? I was basically an anti-jazz activist until I heard 'Sketches Of Spain' and then a whole universe opened up to me. I felt like an old racist who has had to come to terms with his bigotry and now cries with joy at being able to accept a whole beautiful aspect of humanity that I'd previously derided. Thank you, Miles, for showing me the light.

380. Run For Your Life - Jarvis Church from 'The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems'

Melody and I went to St. John's and spent a few days lounging on a tropical beach. We wandered the streets of the island town, watched an amateur baseball game that had to be canceled because the lights went out, shot pool in a hut and listened to ragga on the jukebox. So when I came across this compilation of ragga anthems I was totally transported back to that magical trip.

381. Don't Wanna Know - The Refreshments from 'Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy'

One of my favorite albums of all time. I know it by heart. I LOVE THIS ALBUM.

382. Napoleon - Ani DiFranco from 'Dilate'

I am now in a phase where I respond to Ani DiFranco in the way I imagine beleaguered fathers of goth thirteen year old girls respond to the over-dramatic response that they have to their lives. "Yep, your teacher does deserve to be burned in a pit of oil, dear, but you still have to do your homework." "Yes, dear, I know your friends are all minions of Satan and the world is a sad and sorry spectacle but we still have to go to your Grandmother's house for dinner."

383. Ex-Spectator - Fugazi from 'The Argument'

Integrity all the way down the line. These guys spent fifteen years honing and expanding their sound, dropped a perfect album, and called it quits. The Jim Brown of punk rock.

384. Portable Men's Society - Guided By Voices from 'Mag Earwhig!'

Most GBV fans dismiss this album almost out of hand. They might tolerate it but they certainly don't love it. Somehow it hit me at just the right time and went about as deep for me as you can go. I always wanted to be part of the Portable Men's Society, whatever it was. I think I'll join...

385. Pembroke - Soul Side from 'Soon - Come - Happy'

Mediocre. These guys were waiting to break up so that Fugazi could be born. They had some interesting things happening sonically but the songs themselves are forgettable.

386. My Wife - The Who from 'Who's Next'

Whenever Townsend and Daltrey give Entwhistle the keys he comes up with some bit of weirdness that doesn't really fit or work. Clearly a musical genius but it just goes to show you that proficiency does not equal inspiration or songwriting chops.

Still weaving that cocoon. It'll be fun to fly.

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