Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 1/6/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Thursday’s is #754:

Ellen Foley – Spirit of St. Louis

Often referred to as the “lost Clash album,” this 1981 obscurity features the band plus several of the sidemen who made Sandinista such a masterpiece backing Foley – already a bonafide pop star at the time in Europe (she had a #1 hit in Holland), who was dating Mick Jones at the time. You could call this the Clash’s art-rock album. It’s a mix of Strummer/Jones originals plus a handful of covers, and Foley’s own sweeping, evocatively riff-driven Phases of Travel. Her lovers-on-the-run pop duet with Jones on Torchlight is still fetching after all these years; her cover of Edith Piaf’s My Legionnaire is decent but nothing special. The two gems here are violinist Tymon Dogg’s wrenching, haunting ballad Indestructible, and the dramatic flamenco-rock anthem In the Killing Hour, a pregnant woman pleading for the life of her wrongfully convicted man as he’s led away to his execution. Otherwise, there’s the lush art-pop of The Shuttered Palace; Dogg’s eerie, surreal The Death of the Psychoanalyst of Salvador Dali and the minimalistic, reggae-tinged Theatre of Cruelty; the resolute feminist anthem Game of a Man; a big powerpop number and a couple of love songs. Foley followed this up with a forgettable new wave pop record; these days, she sings wry, clever Americana songs and can be found frequently on weekends playing New York’s Lakeside Lounge with her band. Oh yeah, she was also the girl on the Meatloaf monstrosity Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Here’s a random torrent.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/14/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #76:

The Clash – Spanish Bombs

Their best song, equal parts poignant janglerock requiem and cautionary tale about the deadly effects of fascism. From London Calling.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Very Be Careful – Escape Room

Los Angeles band Very Be Careful have built a well-deserved reputation as sort of the Gogol Bordello of Colombian music, both for their delirious, hypnotic live shows and the snotty yet absolutely authentic attitude of their albums. No disrespect to Carlos Vives, but Very Be Careful take vallenato back to its roots in the north, to back when, just like roots reggae, it was the party music of the drug underworld – it doesn’t sound anything like him. Which makes sense: Very Be Careful’s slinky cumbia pulse has a lot in common with late 60s Jamaican rocksteady, the otherworldly swirl of the accordion is nothing if not psychedelic and so is the eerie insectile scrape of the guacharaca, the beat of the caja vallenata and clatter of the cowbell. Although if you asked this band for more cowbell, you’d probably get one upside the head – they bring a menacing, hallucinatory party vibe a lot like the Pogues back in the day when Shane MacGowan was drinking at peak capacity but still lucid. That considered, their new album Escape Room works equally well for the drinkers, dancers and stoners in the crowd. It’s all originals along with three rustic, boisterous covers, with the same resilient-bordering-on-aggressive feel of their 2009 live album, the deliciously titled Horrible Club.

The opening track, La Furgoneta (The Van) is a cumbia, its catchy descending progression carried by Ricardo Guzman’s accordion as his brother Arturo swings low with broken chords on the bass, way behind the beat in a style similar to great reggae bassists like Family Man Barrett. It segues into a hypnotic, two-chord number, La Abeja (The Bee), followed by the fast, bouncy, wickedly catchy La Alergia (Allergies), accordion playing major on minor, vividly evoking a horror-movie summer haze.

The first of the covers by legendary vallenato composer Calixto Ochoa, Playas Marinas (Sandy Beaches) is a party song, a staggering series of flourishes as the bass runs a catchy octave riff over and over. The other, Manantial del Alma (Springtime of the Soul) makes a sly attempt at seduction, the guy just wanting the girl to let him play for her. Another oldschool number, by Abel Antonio Villa, evokes a guy’s heartbreak, vocals on the verse trading off with accordion on the chorus – although it’s a party song without any real heartbroken vibe, at least musically.

The rest of the album is originals, and they’re great. El Hospital sounds like something the Clash might have done on Sandinista, wry and cynical. La Broma (The Joke) has the accordion playing minor on major this time, to equally ominous effect. The metaphorically charged La Gata Perdida (Lost Cat) has the poor critter going round in circles: “I think this killed me.” They end it with the upbeat La Sorpresa (Surprise) and then the aptly titled, psychedelic El Viajero del Tiempo (Time Traveler), bass playing three on four beneath insistent, trance-inducing minor-key accordion. You don’t have to speak Spanish to enjoy this, although you won’t get the clever, often snide, pun-laden lyrics. But as dance music, it doesn’t get any better than this – it’s out now on Barbes Records. Another reviewer had problems with this cd, calling it unsubtle and complaining about being blasted by the accordion, to which the only conceivable response is, who wouldn’t want to be blasted by an accordion? Very Be Careful play Highline Ballroom on May 23 – also keep an eye out for their annual Brooklyn 4th of July rooftop party (they got their start here, playing in the subway).

April 28, 2010 Posted by | latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/24/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday’s song is #96:

The Clash – Something About England

Like the Beatles before them, the Clash did just about every style you could want: punk, reggae, soca, mento, dub, blues, art-rock, rockabilly, janglerock, hip-hop, powerpop, Motown, noisy instrumental soundscapes, you name it. This is the haunting, towering art-rock anthem that closes side one of Sandinista, producer Bill Price constructing an orchestra out of all those guitars – and an otherworldly laugh at the end to drive its message home.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/25/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #126:

The Clash – Cheat

Joe Strummer at his most savagely punk, 1977 – the track appears on the British and Canadian versions of the band’s first album, but not the American one (it’s on the first Black Market Clash ep from 1981) . Hmmm… By the way, this song is about cheating the system, not cheating your neighbor.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Black 47 – Bankers and Gangsters

Another year, yet another excellent album from Black 47. It’s hard to fathom how they can keep it so fresh after twenty years, but they do it. Their previous album Iraq, a vividly thematic soldiers-eye view of the never-ending war, took the #1 spot on our best-of-2008 albums list. This one finds the Irish-American rockers exploring more diverse terrain, a characteristically eclectic mix of Clash-style anthems, a small handful of electrified Celtic dances, a reminiscence of better days in the New York rock scene, snarling sociopolitical commentary and more lighthearted, comedic fare. Black 47 make it very easy for you to like them and get to know them: the lyrics to the all the songs on the album are here and the “song bios,” each one explaining what they’re about, should you want the complete story, are here. Musically speaking, they go for a big, blazing, somewhat punk-inflected sound, equal parts Boomtown Rats and Pogues with frequent tinges of ska, reggae and of course traditional Irish tunes, bandleader/guitarist Larry Kirwan (who has an excellent new novel out, Rockin’ the Bronx) charismatically railing and wailing out front.

The title track, a big sardonic Clash-style anthem speaks for the generations disenfranchised by the new Great Depression; likewise, the vivid opening cut, Long Hot Summer Coming On ominously foreshadows a city where all hell’s about to break loose. Wedding Reel, a duet, is a somewhat less brutal take on what the Pogues did with A Fairytale of New York. There’s also a fiery tribute to Rosemary Nelson, the murdered Irish human rights crusader; a cynical number about an Irish music groupie; and a couple of absolutely surreal ones, the first about a Lower East Side romance circa a hundred years ago that isn’t actually as unlikely as it might seem (and on which the band proves perfectly capable of playing a good freilach), the other a long anthem based on the true story where former Jimi Hendrix bassist Noel Redding absconded with tapes of Hendrix’ last live recordings, using them as collateral for a mortgage in Ireland. All of this is catchy, a lot it is funny and you can sometimes dance to it, in other words, typical Black 47.

Black 47 typically play Connolly’s on Saturday nights at 10 when they’re not on the road; they’re also doing their annual St. Paddy’s Day show early on the 17th at B.B. King’s at 7, which despite the Times Squaresville location should be a good way to spend the evening away from the amateurs.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Shatter the Hotel – A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer

If you’re a musician, you’ve got to be very careful if you want to cover an iconic band like the Clash. The obvious question is, why bother, since virtually all of the songs are impossible to improve on. Pretty much the only way to approach material like this is to either redo it with a completely different feel…or do it in a rub-a-dub style, mon. The new Shatter the Hotel compilation is yet further proof that just about everything sounds good if you play it as reggae. Yet it’s only logical that this album would happen eventually: the Clash were competent reggae musicians themselves, inspired equally by the music and the roots esthetic. This album is charity effort whose proceeds benefit Strummerville, set up by the Strummer estate to benefit young musicians. It’s an intoxicatingly psychedelic, smartly original dubwise collection of reinterpretations of a whole bunch of classics – Clash fans will love most of this, as will fans of oldschool conscious reggae as well.

The single most imaginative cut here is Infantry Rockers’ transformation of Rebel Waltz, a head-spinning, surf-inflected mix that takes the song straight 4/4 – in its own way, it’s as good as the original. Dubmatix‘ version of London Calling, which kicks it off, features both longtime Clash collaborator/dj Don Letts along with Dan Donovan. It’s more of a reggae-rock effort that sticks pretty close to the source except for a little toasting after the second verse (best not to try to upstage Joe Strummer when it comes to lyrics). Dub Antenna take White Riot and completely flip it, turning it into a slow groove (where you can actually understand the lyrics, which are great!). By contrast, Creation Rockers keep it short and sweet with Four Horsemen, clocking in at just under three minutes, although they take Complete Control in a completely opposite direction with equally successful  results. Nate Wize mixes equal parts electro and vintage dub on Rock the Casbah and vastly improves it – when’s the last time you heard a Clash cover that’s actually better than the original? John Brown’s Body prove themselves to be the perfect band to cover Bankrobber, adding their trademark, slippery keyboards-and-horns sound.

The deepest, bassiest dub here is Wrongtom Meets Rockers’ hydroponic instrumental of Lost in the Supermarket. DubCats do Rudie Can’t Fail in a modern, techie Jamdown pop style, while Citizen Sound’s take on One More Time starts out without adding anything til the dub effects start to kick in. O’Luge and Kornerstone’s straight-ahead roots treatment of Spanish Bombs reminds what a great song it is under any circumstance, and Danny Michel’s cover of Straight to Hell is a real eye-opener, accenting the tune’s underlying Celtic edge. The only real miss here is the cover of Know Your Rights which adds nothing to the original, which was nothing special anyway – the Clash were running on fumes by that point.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Song of the Day 2/7/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #172:

The Clash – Gates of the West

English punk apprehensively sets out for America, knowing that it’s a long way, literally and figuratively, “from Camden Town Station to 44th and 8th…stealing cross the shadows, will I see you again?” Joe Strummer wants to know. The searing layers of Strummer and Jones’ guitars are exquisite. Originally issued as a bonus single packaged with the first American release of the Clash’s first album, it’s on a bunch of digital compilations as well.

February 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Song of the Day 1/1/10

The new decade marks the return of our daily top 666 songs of alltime countdown. We’ll keep going til we reach #1 and after that who knows. Friday’s song is #209:

The Clash – London Calling

OK, an obvious choice, but what a great bassline…and that majestic production. “I live by the river!” A lot of us will be in our forties or older by the time the waters start rising as the polar icecaps melt, and by then whoever‘s left in the coastal cities probably deserves to die anyway – at least if Michael Bloomberg and others like him get their way. But Joe Strummer predicted all this first.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Les Triaboliques – rivermudtwilight

This is one of those rare albums whose title perfectly describes it. With an earthy, after-the-rain feel, it’s the brainchild of a trio of old British punks. Justin Adams is the least punk of the three – lead guitarist in Jah Wobble‘s band, collaborator with Tinariwen and Juldeh Camara (and recently with that has-been 70s rock guy), he’s one of the world’s foremost desert blues players. Lu Edmonds was in the Damned and then the Mekons, eventually took the same route Joe Strummer and dozens of his contemporaries would take into world music and is adept at a museum’s worth of stringed instruments. Ben Mandelson was in Magazine and would go on to found Globe Style Records, home to such diverse acts as Varttina and the Klezmatics. The debut collaboration between the three is a frequently  mesmerizing, otherworldly blend of desert blues, Balkan songs, vintage Americana, Britfolk and a gypsy caravan of styles from around the globe. It’s one of the best releases of the year in any style of music.

The first and last tracks are the most hypnotic, the former clanging like a stripped-down Tinariwen until a catchy, elliptical theme finally emerges, the latter a breathtaking amalgam of styles from Middle Eastern improvisation (played as a guitar taqsim by Adams) leading into a big blue-sky theme similar to early Pat Metheny. Spiced with guest Salah Dawson Miller’s guiro, Gulaguajira sets a vivid Russian prisoner’s lament atop a latin groove. The lush mesh of a phalanx of jangling, clanking, plinking, thumping stringed instruments – guitar, mandolin, saz and cumbus (Turkish lutes) and others is rich with suspenseful overtones, particularly on the tricky, sidestepping Afsaduni (I Have Been Corrupted). The single best song here is the eerie, atmospheric nocturne Shine a Light, an antiwar vocal number intoned ominously by Adams.

Heavy metal disguised as dusk-core, as the label calls it, the title track is surprisingly effective and psychedelic even if it kicks the hypnotic vibe to the curb. There’s also a stark Balkan lament, an even sparser one-chord jam on the old folksong Jack O’Diamonds (no relation to the Fairport Convention version), and a delightful John Lee Hooker style boogie flavored with exotic instruments (only the British would come up with some thing like that). The only misstep is a pointless cover of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood which owes more to the odious Santa Esmeralda than to the Animals. This is one of those albums that’s as fun to hear as it must have been to record. If you can’t wait til Tinariwen’s new one comes out, this will do just fine.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment