Posts Tagged ‘Los Lobos’

Weekend Playlist

14 March 2011

“My audience was my life. What I did and how I did it, was all for my audience.” ~ Cab Calloway

Iron & Wine | Kiss Each Other Clean

George Michael | Listen Without Prejudice

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros | Streetcore

The Upstroke | Porno Groove: The Sound Of 70’s Adult Films

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | Mojo

Dan Auerbach | Keep It Hid

Ben Harper | Fight For Your Mind

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros | Up From Below

Buena Vista Social Club | At Carnegie Hall

Los Lobos | Tin Can Trust

Led Zeppelin | Houses Of The Holy

Various Artists | Jackie Brown Soundtrack

Various Monks | Gregorian Chants

Lord Sitar | Lord Sitar

The Artist Who Shall Not Be Named | Avalon Sunset

Michelle Shocked | Captain Swing

Cab Calloway | Hi De Ho Man

Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Might See

Prince | 1999

Black Heat | No Time To Burn

Grant Green | Idle Moments

Doubleshot Tuesday: Full Moon Fever/Harvest Moon

27 July 2010

[Today: Full moon fever…]

Full moon tonight. Lots of green cheese hanging in the sky…

Listen: Harvest Moon [Neil Young]

Listen: Bark At The Moon [Ozzy Osbourne]

Listen: Moonlight Drive [The Doors]

Listen: Dancing In The Moonlight [Thin Lizzy]

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon [Los Lobos]

Listen: You’ve Got The Moon [Josh Ritter]

Listen: Fly Me To The Moon (Live) [Frank Sinatra]

Listen: Moon Dreams [Miles Davis]

Listen: Drunk On The Moon [Tom Waits]

Listen: Sugar Moon [Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys]

Listen: What A Little Moonlight Can Do [Billie Holiday]

Listen: Pink Moon [Nick Drake]

Listen: Moonshot [Joe Maphis]

Listen: Moonrise [Sean Hayes]

Listen: Big Sur Moon [Buckethead]

Masterpiece: Kiko

6 May 2010

[Today: Riding the slipstream…]

Kiko is an album that lives in the wee hours, when the tissue thin membrane between dreams and reality becomes a slipstream into another world. “I’ll teach you to jump on the wind’s back, and away we go,” promised Peter Pan, but this is an album that rides the rails and travels the back alleys to Never Never Land. The title track sees a young boy drifting off to sleep and gazing at the lavender moon before taking flight into a world of imagination. The songs here might be about his adventures in dreamland, or they might be about all the things that happen once the sun goes down and the stars come out. Either way, this is an original blend of latin styles, roots rock, and psychedelia.

Los Lobos came rumbling out of East LA and into the Los Angeles punk scene of the late-70s. They spent their first five albums establishing a solid roots sound, but nonetheless became best known for a cover of Ritchie Valens’ ‘La Bamba’ for the movie of the same name. By the time they got around to Kiko, they were looking to take their sound in a new direction and bring some novel musical elements into the mix. Songs like ‘Two Janes’ and ‘Short Side Of Nothing’ feature characters looking to break free of familiar terrain, and they were created by a band that was looking to do the same.

Released in May of 1992, this experimental tour-de-force is without a doubt Los Lobos’ masterwork. From South African Mbaqanga to New Orleans marches to angelic harp and beyond, the varying sounds and styles captured here make this a veritable concept album about rural music. It’s the sound of a circus train traveling from town to town along the back roads, visiting many different and colorful locations without ever leaving the solid tracks that allow it to move forward. Kiko has aged extremely well, and its melancholy air is balanced with enough loose joy to make this an album worth discovering over and over again…

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon

Listen: Saint Behind The Glass

Listen: Dream In Blue

Weekend Playlist

12 April 2010

“Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.” ~ John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) on the passing of Malcolm McLaren

Nat Adderley | Work Song

Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra | Waltzes… But By Cugat!

Lynyrd Skynyrd | (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd)

The Byrds | Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971

Love | Forever Changes

Hector Lavoe | Revento

Richie Havens | 1983

Hubert Sumlin | Hubert Sumlin’s Blues Party

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Sex Pistols | Spunk

Little Feat | Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Bob Dylan & The Band | Before The Flood

The Band | Northern Lights – Southern Cross

Various Artists | Verve Remixed 2

The Doors | Waiting For The Sun

Los Lobos | Kiko

Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II

Albert King | Live Wire/Blues Power

B.B. King | Live In Cook County Jail

Joe Turner | The Boss Of The Blues

Furry Lewis | Shake ‘Em On Down

Weekend Playlist

14 December 2009

“Par is whatever I say it is. I’ve got one hole that’s a par 23 and yesterday I damn near birdied the sucker.” ~ Willie Nelson

The Doors | Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

LCD Soundsystem | LCD Soundsystem

Radiohead | Kid A

Dean Martin | For The Good Times

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land

Les Claypool & The Holy Mackeral | High Ball With The Devil

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The Jimi Hendrix Experience [Box Set]

DJ Shadow | The Private Press

My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves

Willie Nelson | Stardust

Steely Dan | Gaucho

Elvis Presley | The Sun Sessions

Massive Attack | Protection

Los Lobos | Kiko

Neko Case | Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Hank Williams | The Complete Hank Williams

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti

Various Artists | Break N’ Bossa

Pixies | Complete ‘B’ Sides

Jerry Garcia Band | Jerry Garcia Band

It Was 40 Years Ago Today…

20 July 2009

"...and one awesome banjo solo for mankind!"

On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong and his band of singing astronauts took the original moonwalk and made that “giant leap for mankind.” In honor of the anniversary of this historic event, here are a dozen albums that take their inspiration – or at least part of their title – from a certain orbiting body…

Pink Floyd | Dark Side Of The Moon
Pink Floyd | Dark Side Of The Moon

Nick Drake | Pink Moon
Nick Drake | Pink Moon

Air | Moon Safari
Air | Moon Safari

Tom Petty | Full Moon Fever
Tom Petty | Full Moon Fever

Neville Brothers | Yellow Moon
Neville Brothers | Yellow Moon

Television | Marquee Moon
Television | Marquee Moon

Neil Young | Harvest Moon
Neil Young | Harvest Moon

Ozzy Osbourne | Bark At The Moon
Ozzy Osbourne | Bark At The Moon

Howlin Wolf | Moanin' In The Moonlight
Howlin’ Wolf | Moanin’ In The Moonlight

Dr. John | The Sun Moon & Herbs
Dr. John | The Sun Moon & Herbs

Los Lobos | By The Light Of The Moon
Los Lobos | By The Light Of The Moon

Greg Brown | Milk Of The Moon
Greg Brown | Milk Of The Moon

The 25 Greatest Albums Of The 90’s

21 June 2009

The 90’s were a tough decade for music, but by the time the odometer finally clicked over to Y2K, it was possible to look back on a whole bunch of fine albums released over the preceding ten years. Here are 25 of my favorites…

Kruder Dorfmeister | The K&D Sessions™
25) Kruder & Dorfmeister | The K&D Sessions (1998) – This big, beautiful sprawling album blurred the line between electronica, dub, and remixing, and proved that Chill Out music could be artistically satisfying.

Listen: Bug Powder Dust

Built To Spill | Keep It Like A Secret
24) Built To Spill | Keep It Like A Secret (1998) – BTS lead singer and guitarist Doug Martsch was an axe hero for the 90’s, and his stinging, squalling solos bring to mind Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the height of their feedback-fueled jams.

Listen: Carry The Zero

Primal Scream | Screamadelica
23) Primal Scream | Screamadelica (1991) – Primal Scream was a mixed-up band, in the best possible way. With a name that sounds like a punk outfit, this Glasgow group was the farthest thing from that, incorporating elements of gospel, electronica, and good old Rolling Stones-styled rock & roll. Screamadelica is an uplifting joy ride…

Listen: Movin’ On Up

PJ Harvey | Dry
22) PJ Harvey | Dry (1992) – Hell hath no fury like PJ Harvey’s debut album. Dry took on feminine issues, but served them up on a platter of snarling punk and squinching feedback, along with a healthy side of biting lyrics. Bruisingly good.

Listen: Dress

Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
21) Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) – With talents like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, and GZA, the nine-headed Wu Tang Clan had superior parts that formed an even greater whole. Their debut drips with grease and grime in a way that only Exile On Main St. can match, and the album made stars out of the whole clan. Solo records were made, ODB OD’d, and The Wu never again reached this great height as a group. But Enter The Wu Tang remains one of the strongest – and greezyest – albums of all-time.

Listen: Method Man

Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
20) Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One (1997) – A low-fi, low key ode to love, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One functioned as Yo La Tengo’s dissertation on the state of indie rock in the late-90’s. It’s full of buzzing guitars and swirling feedback, but this is a beautiful batch of songs that reflect the quiet anxiety that comes with any good love. Their sampling of crickets throughout ‘Green Arrow’ is but one of the typically clever and fantastically effective musical devices used here.

Listen: Green Arrow

Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
19) Beastie Boys | Ill Communication (1994) – This is the lynchpin between the smug, malevolent Beasties of the 80’s and the mature, world conscious group that they’ve become. ‘Sure Shot’ is one of the group’s best songs, but the Adam Yauch-penned ‘Bodhisattva Vow’ is a clear-eyed look at one man’s place in the world, and a tune that simply wouldn’t have fit in on earlier Beasties albums. From the punk fire of ‘Heart Attack Man’ and ‘Sabotage’ to the multiple dusty instrumental funk jams to the smooth raps ‘Root Down’ and ‘Get It Together’, Ill Communication has a little bit of everything that makes the Beasties great.

Listen: Sabotage

A3 | Exile On Coldharbour Lane
18) Alabama 3 | Exile On Coldharbour Lane (1997) – The Sopranos used ‘Woke Up This Morning’ as its opening theme song, but Exile On Coldharbour Lane represents a rollicking trip through electronica, country, and gospel, helmed by a sleazy/hilarious figure named Reverend D. Wayne Love. It looks like a disaster on paper, but this is a rolling musical carnival-slash-revival that has its tongue firmly in cheek and grooves firmly in pocket. Absolutely one of the great lost albums of the 90’s…

Listen: Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness

Massive Attack | Mezzanine
17) Massive Attack | Mezzanine (1998) – Many prefer their first two albums (both great), but this band really hit their dark stride with Mezzanine. Less trip-hop than shadowy, claustrophobic atmosphere for urban decay, this album sets a mood within its first few seconds, and carries it to the bitter, lovely end. ‘Man Next Door’ casts a weary eye at constantly fighting neighbors, ‘Inertia Creeps’ is a slithering, intoxicating ode to doing nothing at all, and the whole of the record rides a slipstream of urban discord. But the darkness here is elegant enough that this became the soundtrack for every boutique, salon, and restaurant during the summer of ’98.

Listen: Man Next Door

The Stairs | Mexican R 'n' B
16) The Stairs | Mexican R-n-B (1992) – The Stairs suffered from nothing so much as an acute sense of bad timing. The lo-fi, psychedelic garage band ditties they were penning in the early 90’s had nowhere to go, but ten years later there would be a host of bands (White Stripes, Black Lips, et al) successfully mining the same vein. Mexican R-n-B meanwhile, is the lost album of the decade – a perfectly ripped garage album, rough around the edges and utterly timeless. It didn’t stand a chance in ’92.

Listen: Flying Machine

Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream
15) Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream (1993) – Smashing Pumpkins were considered part of the grunge movement, but mainly because they had a key track on the genre-defining Singles soundtrack, and Billy Corgan’s vocals are dripping with angst. The lyrics here reflect some of his personal issues at the time, and most of the songs center around phrases (“The killer in me is the killer in you” or “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”) that sound like fortune cookies for profoundly anxious people. Corgan and company perfectly combined the technical flatulence of Prog with the fire and brimstone of Metal and the confessional self-probing of a Singer/Songwriter, and the result was one of the best albums of the 90’s.

Listen: Today

Nas | Illmatic
14) Nas | Illmatic (1994) – Nasir Jones’ debut traces his rise as a rap prodigy in the Queensbridge section of Queens, NY and lends credence to the idea that rap is a document of the streets. The album builds up to its final song, ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’, when Nas releases the pressure over an extended Michael Jackson sample, and basks in the glow of his own verbal skills. Illmatic is the Martin Scorcese film of hip-hop albums – it appraises the mean streets with an honest eye, but captures the hard beauty that hangs in the rough and tumble alleyways of NYC.

Listen: It Ain’t Hard To Tell

Sublime | Sublime
13) Sublime | Sublime (1996) – Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell could rap with the best MCs, scream hardcore, sing in a soul-tinged rasp, and lay down some serious reggae. His freakish talent is all over Sublime, an album that bobs and weaves from punk to ska to rap and back, traces the branches of Nowell’s messed up life, and sounds joyously obnoxious the whole way. Nowell died from a heroin overdose in May of 1996, at age 26 – just before this star-making turn was released.

Listen: What I Got

Beck | Mutations
12) Beck | Mutations (1998) – Odelay would be the pick for many, and it’s a fine album, but this is the one that I keep coming back to. Mutations created a mood that Beck hasn’t reached since – boredom, sadness, and wonder, blended over a bed of psychedelic sounds, electronic whizzes and whirs, and simple acoustic guitar. From ‘Cold Brains’ to ‘Lazy Flies’ to ‘Dead Melodies’ the song titles themselves speak to the ennui within, but this music sounds better with each passing year.

Listen: Nobody’s Fault But My Own

Los Lobos | Kiko
11) Los Lobos | Kiko (1992) – Labeling this a ‘roots-rock album’ is like calling Diego Rivera’s art a mural – it’s true enough, but only hints at the depth of the artistic palette that’s involved. From South African Mbaqanga to New Orleans marches to angelic harp and beyond, the varying sounds and styles included here make this a veritable concept album about rural music. But Kiko plays like a latino version of Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life – its reach is ambitious but its ruminations on life fit together into a satisfying, cohesive whole. The music here has aged extremely well, and its melancholy air is mixed with enough loose joy to make it an album worth discovering over and over again.

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon

DJ Shadow | Endtroducing...
10) DJ Shadow | Endtroducing… (1996) – Created from samples culled from hundreds of forgotten albums that Shadow found in the basement of a Davis, CA record store, Endtroducing… is like no other album made before or since. The original release of this album had a sticker on the shrink rap that compared Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) to Jimmy Page, and my first reaction that was a big fat BULLSHIT. I spun this album a time or two, and then put it away to gather dust. But a funny thing happened on the way to the vinyl slaughterhouse: I watched the documentary Scratch, and gained a new appreciation for where this was coming from, and each subsequent spin revealed a little more of its brilliance, until it’s become an album I can’t imagine living without. Like Star Trek and Star Wars, Entroducing… charts the waters of a cooler parallel universe, one where beats reign supreme, and no album stays forgotten.

Listen: Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt

Pearl Jam | Ten
9) Pearl Jam | Ten (1991) – During the course of researching this list, I was astounded to find plenty of Best Of The 90’s lists that dismissed Pearl Jam’s Ten out of hand, claiming it unworthy of discussion. I understand some of the reservations with this album – Eddie Vedder’s over-emotive vocal style here tends to grate after a few songs, and many of the tracks, including ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Black’ feel almost comically serious. But this album also has plenty of great moments, including the anthemic ‘Alive’ and hard grooving ‘Even Flow’. Like Little Richard, Sgt Pepper, and Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam so perfectly captured the essence of an era on their debut album, that even at its corniest, it’s still undeniably worthwhile.

Listen: Alive

Jeff Buckley | Grace
8) Jeff Buckley | Grace (1994) – On Grace, Jeff Buckley sings like a fallen angel, drawing notes out to excruciatingly fantastic lengths and ranging between highs and lows in the blink of an eye. Each track cuts to the quick about love lost (including the definitive reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’) and the entire album is nothing less than the sound of a human heart falling to pieces, one fragile, intricate piece at a time. “This is our last embrace. Must I dream and always see your face?” he sings, like a man who knows bloody goodbyes.

Buckley drowned in the Mississippi River the day before he was due to begin recording his second album. His untimely death at age 30 left us with only Grace, and ensured that his legacy would forever be tied to this one majestic, breathtaking, and tear-stained album.

Listen: Hallelujah

The Black Crowes | The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
7) The Black Crowes | The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion (1992) – The cover of The Black Crowes’ second album features the band in an auto junkyard, among twisted heaps of metal, and that’s a pretty astute metaphor for the state of Southern Rock at the outset of the 90’s. Unless .38 Special was your cup of tea, you had to go back nearly 20 years to Lynyrd Skynyrd to find a true Southern Rock band at the time the Crowes blasted onto the scene. Their debut went multi-platinum, but The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion is their masterpiece, featuring ragged rockers, smokey blues rock, world weary ballads, and a sweet Bob Marley cover. It’s the sound of a band exhausted from both the pursuit of stardom and single-handedly resuscitating a long dead genre.

Listen: Remedy

Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind
6) Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind (1997) – This one felt like Moses coming down from the mountain. Dylan is and will always be artistically relevant to anyone who’s serious about music, but until Time Out Of Mind, he hadn’t released an album of new material for his second generation of fans. Dylan sounds every bit the dusty prophet here, riding in from the desert on songs like the indifferent ‘Love Sick’ (later used in a Victoria’s Secret ad) and the forlorn ‘Standing In The Doorway’ – songs that were as good as anything he’d done in his previous artistic lives, and sounded better than any Dylan fan could possibly have expected in 1997. This album might lack the wit and fire of Highway 61 Revisited or the pure autobiographical power of Blood On The Tracks, but it was a staggering artistic statement from a musician who continues to evolve and confound his critics and fans alike.

Listen: Love Sick

Soundgarden | Superunknown
5) Soundgarden | Superunknown (1994) – One of the great albums of the 90’s, Superunknown is a sonic masterpiece that transcended the toe-tag ‘grunge’ and heralded the arrival of Soundgarden as a serious musical force. Here they married the sludge of Black Sabbath to the craftsmanship of The Beatles, creating an album that topped the charts, sold more than 3 million copies, and earned the group a pair of Grammys. Few could have guessed that they would release only one more album (1996’s Down On The Upside) and then pack it in, just as they were achieving greatness.

Many bands have used the inner combustion of competing artistic ideas to create beautiful music, and the Lennon/McCartney roles were played here by lead singer Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil. Cornell is an avowed Beatles and Jeff Buckley fan, while Thayil prefers the heavier sounds of Sabbath and their metal offspring. Much of Soundgarden’s earlier music is so dominated by the pulverizing, heavy riffs from Thayil’s guitar that ‘Slaves And Bulldozers’ could have been the name of almost every one of their songs. A tune like ‘Black Hole Sun’ – drenched as it is in psychedelic signifiers – simply wouldn’t have had a place on any of their first three albums. But with Superunknown, the group figured out how to balance their differing musical visions, before the friction finally tore them apart.

Listen: Black Hole Sun

Nirvana | Nevermind
4) Nirvana | Nevermind (1991) – For better or worse, Nevermind made alternative rock a viable commercial commodity. But the reason this album rates so high is down to the music. Forget ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – although it remains a wickedly effective anthem for Gen X – the rest of the songs here shine like intricately cut jewels. ‘Come As You Are’, ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Something In The Way’ were dark and deeply indebted to punk, but these were well-written, finely-honed tunes that betrayed Kurt Cobain’s love of The Beatles in general and John Lennon in particular. Cobain’s songwriting chops have been buried beneath an avalanche of hype and myth, but his songs connected to a generation of fans not because of the concomitant headlines, but because they were honest – and sometimes painful and loud – examinations of a soul at odds with itself. Like its namesake, the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, the true brilliance of Nirvana’s second album remains obscured behind a barrage of adjectives.

Listen: Come As You Are

U2 | Achtung Baby
3) U2 | Achtung Baby (1991) – With the release of the 1987 blockbuster The Joshua Tree, U2 became international superstars of the first order. That album found its groove in the highways and bi-ways of America, but with their 1991 follow up (forget Rattle & Hum, it was essentially Joshua Tree 2.0) Achtung Baby, the group left America far behind and made an album that was rooted in Middle Eastern mysticism and filled with mediations on love gone wrong. The Edge’s guitar still rings out, but here it’s joined with electronic beats and sludgy effects.

But the key difference is lead singer Bono, who had matured from a two-tone, new wave belter on Boy and War to a supple, nuanced singer who caressed his vocals like a long lost lover. He has referred to this album as “”four men chopping down the Joshua Tree” but by reinventing their sound U2 only enhanced their standing in the world of music. Achtung Baby spent just one week at the top of the Billboard charts, but it contained five hit singles and went on to sell more than 18,000,000 copies. It was also the last time U2 reached the top of the mountain artistically.

Listen: Mysterious Ways

Johnny Cash | American Recordings
2) Johnny Cash | American Recordings (1994) – Before this album, Johnny Cash was a has-been, a man from another era who hadn’t had a record contract in years. But producer Rick Rubin had a plan for Cash, and the stark simplicity of Rubin’s production – just Cash, a guitar, and a mic – was brilliant, and miraculously restored Cash to his rightful place as one of the most powerful singers in music. American Recordings contains a variety of material. Cash re-imagines two songs he’d recorded in the 60’s, including a haunting ‘Delia’s Gone’ that blows the doors off his original. It had a few well-chosen covers, including Nick Lowe’s ‘The Beast In Me’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’. And he nailed a couple of songs written specifically for him – Glenn Danzig’s ‘Thirteen’ and Tom Waits’ ‘Down There By The Train’. Cash was alternately a killer, a cowboy, a drunk, a preacher, a wife-beater, a comedian. Throughout the album he used his granite voice to make each song his own – a spellbinding performance that earned him a new generation of fans.

Listen: Delia’s Gone

Radiohead | OK Computer
1) Radiohead | OK Computer (1997) – In the mid-90’s, aliens touched down near Oxford, England, and – displeased with the ascendence of grunge music – brainwashed the band Radiohead so that within a few years the group would recreate the symphonies of the universe, as channeled through the motion and humdrum of life on earth.

How else to explain OK Computer? This 1997 album was so out of its time and ahead of the curve that it was often referred to as the Dark Side Of The Moon for the 90’s, and in its haunting exploration of the human condition, that’s exactly what it was. But comparing Radiohead to anyone – even Pink Floyd – is a disservice to a band that embraced the possibilities of electronic, computer-enhanced sounds at a time when every other band on the planet was trying to sound like Black Sabbath Jr.

Symphonic and elegant yet paranoid and claustrophobic, the tunes on OK Computer interlock to form a picture of a world at odds with itself and the technology driving it. Radiohead understood what Aldous Huxley was getting at when he wrote that civilization is sterilization, and the music here sees the cold edge of reason triumph over emotion time and again. ‘The Tourist’ sonically recreates the feeling of seconds-lasting-minutes that occurs just before an automobile crash, and serves as the 21st century answer to The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’. ‘Karma Police’ burrows deep inside the beauty of a world gone mad at itself. ‘Paranoid Android’ updates a British nursery rhyme, and sounds like the alienation that comes with too much technology and not enough time.

Thom Yorke sings throughout like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, his falsetto stretching a reedy, membrane-thin wall between sanity and madness. His vocals are generally buried beneath the murk and burble of electronic tape-loop noise and Jonny Greenwood’s itchy guitars. The compositions come off as a mad grafting of Kraftwerk and The Beatles, as the brilliance of the arrangements vie against the detached mood of the lyrics and music.

In the same way that Nirvana’s Nevermind changed music in the first half of the 1990’s, OK Computer had an instant and noticeable influence on the way albums were constructed – an influence that continues to the present. And somewhere far, far away, the aliens are extremely pleased…

Listen: Karma Police


25 (or so) more that merit a spin…

A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
Rage Against The Machine | Evil Empire
Ice Cube | The Predator
Steve Earle | El Corazon
Primus | Sailing The Seas Of Cheese
Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age
Beta Band | The 3 EPs
Red Hot Chili Peppers | Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Tool | Undertow
Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog
Snoop Doggy Dogg | Doggystyle
Alice In Chains | Dirt
Various Artists | Singles Soundtrack
Public Enemy | Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black
G. Love & Special Sauce | G. Love & Special Sauce
Wilco | Summer Teeth
Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville
Neutral Milk Hotel | In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Outkast | Aquemini
Jane’s Addiction | Ritual de lo Habitulo
Dr. Dre | The Chronic
Metallica | Metallica
Slint | Tweez
Radiohead | The Bends
Beck | Odelay
Black Crowes | Amorica
Massive Attack | Blue Lines
Soundgarden | Badmotorfinger

A Dozen Albums From The Edge Of Folk

30 April 2009

Because it intersects with so many different kinds of music, Folk is difficult to define with any real accuracy. In its broadest meaning, Folk is traditional music that’s been passed down through the generations, and is played acoustically. But Folk influenced so many musicians during the 1960s that hybrid forms of it started to appear, and other genres of music began to absorb elements of its sound and style. Here are a dozen (or so) albums that live on the fringe of Folk, but probably wouldn’t be recognized as such by the purists…

Graham Parker | Howlin' Wind
Graham Parker | Howlin’ Wind – Parker’s debut lives at the crossroads of Punk and Folk, and is the kind of music that Bob Dylan might have made during the 70’s if he’d gotten hooked on the Ramones instead of religion.

Listen: Howlin’ Wind

Tom Waits | Nighthawks At The Diner – Waits perfected his drunken piano man/beat poet routine during the 70s, before turning to darker subject matter in the next decade. Recorded live in the studio, Nighthawks… is the zenith of his Beat phase, and songs like ‘Putnam County’ and ‘Big Joe And Phantom 309’ represent a unique – and very inebriated – brand of Folk.

Listen: Big Joe And Phantom 309

Iron & Wine | The Shepherd's Dog
Iron & Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog – Sam Beam released three albums of relatively straight-ahead acoustic Folk before unleashing this shimmering, kaleidoscopic jewel. The Shepherd’s Dog is rooted in Folk, but built upon layers of sound that would make Brian Wilson and Phil Spector smile.

Listen: Boy With A Coin

Los Lobos | Kiko
Los Lobos | Kiko – One of Folk’s dirty little secrets is that by definition it includes only European or North American-based songs. But I for one don’t buy that country club-style exclusion – Los Lobos have been crafting soulful roots music for decades, and with Kiko they made an album that carries itself like a smart, serious, and sometimes sentimental Folk record.

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon

Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska
Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska – Originally recorded as the demo tracks for an album The Boss planned to record with the E Street Band, these stark songs tell the stories of sympathetic losers stuck in a world beyond their control. The sleet grey horizon pictured on the album cover sets an appropriate tone.

Listen: Nebraska

Michelle Shocked | Short Sharp Shocked
Michelle Shocked | Short Sharp Shocked – The dividing line between folk and country is particularly foggy, but Michelle Shocked deserves consideration for the former category because of the literate, humorous, and warm nature of her music. If Woody Guthrie were to make a sudden, dramatic recovery from death, I have to think he’d be a big fan of her music.

Listen: Vx Fx Dx

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land
Dave Alvin | Public Domain – Dave Alvin is the heir to Folk gods like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who could take any song and make it a Folk tune just because they were so damned folksy. Here he dusts the cobwebs off 15 traditional songs, restoring their natural sparkle for all to enjoy.

Listen: What Did The Deep Sea Say?

Lou Reed | New York
Lou Reed | New York – Yeah, I know – Sweet Lou would probably punch me in the face for daring to brand him a folkie, but dude has a way of telling the stories of the down and out. With New York, he spun cryptic tales of life in the Big Apple that were full of greasy, troubled, and colorful characters who wouldn’t otherwise have their say. He might not like the designation, but Lou Reed keeps it as real as any folksinger.

Listen: Dirty Blvd.

John Martyn | Solid Air
John Martyn | Solid Air – Martyn was a pure folk singer for his first few albums, but by the mid-70s, he was adding such heavy doses of jazz, world music, and electronic effects, that his music could only properly be described with the help of many hyphens. Still, beneath all the jazz phrasings and echoplex feedback beats the heart of a real folksinger…

Listen: Over The Hill

Grateful Dead | Reckoning
Grateful Dead | Reckoning – Forget the drugs and the dancing bears, Reckoning most definitely is a folk album. It consists of acoustic renditions of both traditional and Dead songs that were recorded in New York City and San Francisco in September and October of 1980. These are fine, understated performances that reveal the folkies behind all the psychedelia…

Listen: Deep Elem Blues

Alexander 'Skip' Spence | Oar
Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence | Oar – Fractured folk from a fragile mind that was slowly losing the thread, Oar features meandering, broken melodies, cryptic lyrics, and songs that fall apart in midstream. This is where Folk enters the dark halls of the asylum…

Listen: Little Hands

Dino Valente | Dino
Dino Valente | Dino – This feedback drenched record by the would-be and future lead singer of Quicksilver Messenger Service only passes through the most remote corners of Folk. But with ‘Me And My Uncle’ – a chilling portrait of robbery and murder – Valente created a Folk masterpiece that still sends off heat waves.

Listen: Me And My Uncle

Steve Earle | El Corazon
Steve Earle | El Corazon – Dadgumit, if Steve Earle didn’t sound like a guy from Texas, he’d probably get a lot more consideration as the rabble-rousing folkie he really is. He’s certainly got the moral compass, soapbox personality, and storytelling genes that mark the best folksingers.

Listen: Christmas In Washington


A Dozen (or so) More Albums That Might (or might not) Be Folk

M. Ward * Transfiguration Of Vincent
Terry Allen * Human Remains
Calexico * The Black Light
Kris Kristofferson * Kristofferson
Johnny Cash * American Recordings
Syd Barrett * The Madcap Laughs
Joni Mitchell * The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
Willis Alan Ramsey * Willis Alan Ramsey
Beck * One Foot In The Grave
Dock Boggs * His Folkways Years (1963-1968)
Bob Dylan & The Band * The Basement Tapes
Tony Joe White * Tony Joe White
Joao Gilberto * The Warm World Of Joao Gilberto

Weekend Playlist

27 April 2009

Here’s the latest from our turntable:

Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King
Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King

Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age
Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age

Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once
Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once

The Temptations | Anthology
The Temptations | Anthology

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Soul Rebels
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Soul Rebel

Burning Spear | Garvey's Ghost
Burning Spear | Garvey’s Ghost

Sublime | Sublime
Sublime | Sublime

The Who | The Who Sings My Generation
The Who | The Who Sings My Generation

Los Lobos | La Pistola Y El Corazon
Los Lobos | La Pistola Y El Corazon

Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard
Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard

Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Rust Never Sleeps
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Rust Never Sleeps

Lee Oskar | Lee Oskar
Lee Oskar | Lee Oskar

Various Artists | Om Chilled 2007
Various Artists | Om Chilled 2007

Big Star | #1 Record
Big Star | #1 Record

The Four Tops
The Four Tops | The Best Of The Four Tops
[Cover not pictured]

Moby Grape | The Place And The Time
Moby Grape | The Place And The Time

Kanye West | Late Registration
Kanye West | Late Registration

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Mad River | Mad River
Mad River | Mad River

Donny Hathaway | Live
Donny Hathaway | Live

Al Green | Livin' For You
Al Green | Livin’ For You

Various Artists | Africafunk: The Original Sound Of 1970s Funky Africa
Various Artists | Africafunk: The Original Sound Of 1970s Funky Africa

Horace Silver | Silver's Blue
Horace Silver | Silver’s Blue

Charles Mingus | Mingus Ah Um
Charles Mingus | Mingus Ah Um

6 Albums I Wish Were In Print On Vinyl

4 May 2008

This list could easily be 60 albums long, but for the sake of brevity I’ve narrowed it down to the records that I’m constantly looking for at my local music stores. There are dozens more that I’ve already tracked down and paid a pretty penny for – including The Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight, The Peddlers’ Suite London, the Wild Style soundtrack, The Incredible Bongo Band, and John Phillips’ John Wolfking Of L.A. – that ought to be more readily available on LP.

So if you happen to know somebody who can pull some strings and make things happen, here are a half dozen albums I’d love to see on vinyl, and soon…

Los Lobos * Kiko – Los Lobos have just a couple of albums available on vinyl, and their masterpiece Kiko is not among them. The fact that this album was released in 1992, around the time vinyl was bottoming out, probably explains why it wasn’t issued in the US (it was briefly issued on LP in the UK), but it’s time to re-issue this one on wax.

The Stairs * Mexican R-n-B – There are a few copies of this overlooked early-90’s gem floating around out there – occasionally one will pop up on eBay and fetch upwards of $150. For that kind of dough you could buy the entire Black Lips catalogue on vinyl and still have enough money left over for a night on the town.

Various Artists * The Anthology Of American Folk Music – The few OG copies of this that hit eBay fetch close to $200 apiece. The recent tribute album to the Anthology Of American Folk Music was issued on vinyl, so it can’t be too much to ask for the real deal. This one should definitely be reissued at 78 rpm.

Whiskeytown * Pneumonia Strangers Almanac only recently received the 180 gram treatment, and Pneumonia deserves the same. Whiskeytown’s sound is so suited for LP, it’s a sin that their albums have had to wait any length of time to be issued on vinyl.

Jerry Lee Lewis * Live At The Star Club, Hamburg – This was recorded in 1964, and could well be the very first punk album of all-time. Lewis was an afterthought at this point in his career, and he takes it out on his piano, forcing his hired band to play catchup at breakneck speed. LP copies will fetch $40+ dollars, on the rare occasions that they surface.

A3 * Exile On Coldharbour Lane – Another album that was released for a heartbeat in the UK, this ultra-rare gem is worth $150-$200 on the open market. But this album was a cult curiosity both before and after A3’s ‘Woke Up This Morning’ was picked up as the theme song for The Sopranos, so it’s probably a longshot for any kind of LP reissue.


Honorable mention for Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, which was recently reissued as part of the vinyl box set Fruit Tree but has yet to be reissued on its own. Predictably, the box set can be had for about $50, while single copies of Pink Moon fetch $40-$45 – only in a free market!

Also, M. Ward recently reissued his first album, the confusingly titled Duet For Guitars #2, so there’s reasonable hope that his best album, Transfiguration Of Vincent, will soon be enshrined in waxy goodness.