(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Random notes

At heart, I'm an old school album guy. About the only time I put my iPod into shuffle mode is when I can't decide what to listen to. Once something comes up that grabs my ear, I usually switch over and listen to the album. Still, I thought it would be interesting to turn on the shuffle and see what the music fates would deal me. Here's a random sampling from my collection (13143 songs right now).

Power - MC Paul Barman (Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud)

Cock Mobster was my introduction to the clever rapper MC Paul Barman and his album, Paullelujah!. It was a long wait for his follow up, Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud.

Like his earlier work, it's his rolling flow and quirky perspective that sells the song. Power's lyrics riff on Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power, but with rhymes:
Six: So, court attention at all costs
If people don't talk smack then you're a small boss
Fall across the lime light
And even when I'm wrong, I'm right.
Why fight?
You Can Leave Your Hat On - Randy Newman (Sail Away)

I've always preferred the original to Joe Cocker's cover version. Randy Newman evokes the dimly lit bedroom, with its peeling wall paper and a big man who knows exactly what he wants. The simpler arrangement of piano and vocal get to the personal heart of the song in a way that Cocker's slick R&B arrangement misses.

Burn - Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise (Blackwater Surprise)

Blackwater Surprise was the first album introducing blind street performer Robert Bradley. Paired with a younger band, the album is full of funky neo-soul anchored by Bradley's voice. The band is solid, with some good funky grooves, but Bradley's vocals are like well worn corduroy. Burn is a fairly representative track. Funky bass, bluesy guitar drive, and a nice horn arrangement all keep the tune rolling forward while Robert Bradley's vocals casually hit their mark.

Monday - Wilco (Being There)

A solid track from a strong album. Being There signaled Wilco's intention to move away from their alt-country roots. Monday lays down a retro Rolling Stones groove that lets Jeff Tweedy toss out a stream of conscious story song. Take out the horns and you can hear hints of the noisy rock that Jay Bennett would bring to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Poison Pushy - Stanton Moore (III)

Virtuoso drummer Stanton Moore is adept at blurring the lines between jazz, funk, and experimental. This track features Robert Walter's lush organ and Will Bernard's smooth, singing guitar. After laying down a bluesy funk groove, the tune slides into a beautiful interplay between these three strong voices as they dance around each other like gymnasts.

Epochs in Dmaj - Caspian (Tertia)

Such a contrast with Stanton Moore.. The soft beginning sets up a figure and then builds upon it. Like an underwater vista, the sound opens up with strings and echo before pixelating into the void. This track is really just an interlude between the majestic climax of Malacoda and the dense crush of Of Foam and Wave.

Manchmal Haben Frauen... - Die Ärzte (Runter mit den Spendierhosen)

Ah, I'm glad Die Ärzte came up. This German band bridges punk, pop punk, rock, and pop. Many of their tracks are as simple as the Ramones, but this one is more subtle and moody. Their lyrics are often clever (figuring them out pushed me to develop my German skills).

In this case, it's a story song about a sensitive new age guy sitting through a chauvinist lecture at the bar ("sometimes, women like a little spanking"). When he comes home to share his chagrin (and slight curiosity) with his girlfriend, she knees him in the crotch and tells him that guys like him always get what they deserve. German slapstick at its finest.


  1. Neat - you should do these more often. Also, I know your focus is on new music, but I would really like to read your take on some older, classic albums. Maybe a monthly feature - Jester reviews the classics. You often reference these touch-points... e.g. Wilco's "retro Rolling Stones grove" - well, what's your take on "Let it Bleed"? After all, those older albums provide a musical context for our appreciation of current sounds.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll do just that!

    Earlier in my blog, I didn't have so many new things coming in, so I hit some older albums, but I kind of let that go.

    "Let It Bleed" would be a good starting point.

  3. Thanks again for the suggestion. It was a great idea.

    I just posted my review of "Let It Bleed": http://jesterjaymusic.blogspot.com/2012/06/history-lesson-rolling-stones-let-it.html