Today, in celebration of our second birthday, we revisit a few favorites from our first month.
If I didn’t have kids, would my ears be stuck, forever, on “repeat”?
Here’s something my younger son Luke, who just started college, played for me recently, after first pronouncing it, with quiet but absolute authority, the best thing this guy has done (already Luke’s learned that what’s important isn’t to be right; it’s to seem right).
Lupe Fiasco, “Hip Hop Saved My Life,” live, Los Angeles, 2008
And here’s a track my older son Alex played for me a couple weeks ago, before heading back to school.
Dirty Projectors, “Stillness Is The Move”
Koan for aging parents: What is the sound of a childless house?
(Originally posted 9/14/09.)
Nobel-Prize-winning economist devises a way to turn faces—images of them, that is—into marketable commodities: the more expressive the face, the greater the value.
Haiti is named one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
Arcade Fire, “Haiti” (Funeral, 2004)
(Originally posted 9/23/09.)
Performances like this usually fall somewhere between disappointing and disastrous. So many things can—and usually do—go wrong when you take a bunch of folks who’re used to leading their own bands and throw them together onstage. People trip all over each another; flash trumps feeling. But this performance, with Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Paul Butterfield, and (at the end) B.B. King, has plenty of strong moments—some funny ones, too. Listen to Albert bark at Paul:“Turn around!” (0:39) And watch Albert outfox B.B. First he invites him back onstage (4:40) and then, just when B.B.’s about to take flight (5:55), he cuts him off—faster than you can say “wham”—with his own (wonderful) solo. So much for Emily Post.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Paul Butterfield, B.B. King, live, 1987
(Originally posted 9/18/09.)
If spirit could be sold, New Orleans would be rich.
Rebirth Brass Band, live, New Orleans, 2009
Brass band musicians are a wild bunch. They’re hard to control. The street funk that the Rebirth [Brass Band] plays definitely isn’t traditional—it might be in thirty years time.
—Lajoie “Butch” Gomez (in Mick Burns, Keeping the Beat on the Street: The New Orleans Brass Band Renaissance )
(Originally posted 9/11/09.)
Muddy Waters, Saul Bellow, Steppenwolf Theater Company (John Malkovich, John Mahoney, Gary Sinise, Laurie Metcalf, et al.), Curtis Mayfield: a lot of great artists, musical and otherwise, have come out of Chicago in the last 50 years. Among the greatest is this group: the Art Ensemble of Chicago. While the horn players (Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Lester Bowie) got the lion’s share of the attention, what gave their music its juice—what made it dance—was (as you’ll hear) one of the finest rhythm sections ever: Malachi Favors, bass; Don Moye, drums.
Art Ensemble of Chicago, live, Poland (Warsaw), 1982 (in four parts)
Part 1 of 4
Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4
Part 4 of 4
(I talk about the AEC in the past tense because, while recordings are still released under this name from time to time, with two key members [they were all “key members”] now dead—trumpeter Lester Bowie  and bassist Malachi Favors —it just isn’t [nor could it be] the same.)
(Originally posted 9/8/09.)
Here—with a shout-out to my brother Don, with whom (at the age of 15) I saw the MC5 in Chicago’s Lincoln Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention (when nobody outside the Detroit/Ann Arbor area [including us] knew who they were)—is an awfully good cover, from what might seem an unlikely source, of one of their “greatest hits.”
Jeff Buckley, “Kick Out The Jams,” live, Chicago, 1995
And here, courtesy, apparently, of the Department of Defense, is (silent) footage of the scene in Lincoln Park on August 25, 1968—the day the MC5 (who appear here fleetingly) played.
(Originally posted 9/7/09.)
If influence were compensable, Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones—a huge influence on Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Eddie Kendricks (Temptations), Al Green, even Paul Simon (who took inspiration from a line in the Swans’ “hit” “Mary, Don’t You Weep” [“I’ll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name”] when he wrote “Bridge Over Troubled Water”)—would have, when he passed earlier this year at the age of 94, died a wealthy man.
Swan Silvertones, “Only Believe,” live
New York Times obit
When he leaves the house [in NYC], he whistles his favorite tune, ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus,’ while greeting the assorted neighborhood junkies and prostitutes who knew him mainly as sometime manager of the [Hotel] Cecil. ‘What’s new, Jeter,’ they ask. ‘Nothing new, nothing good, just thank God for life up here with these heathens and muggers.’
—Anthony Heilbut, The Gospel Sound: Good New and Bad Times(1971)
(Originally posted 9/13/09.)
Without a song, each day would be a century.