Music Consumption in the MP3 Era
Music Consumption in the MP3 Era

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Name: uao
Location: California

uao is also a contributor to Blogcritics.org, Rhapsody Radish. and FIQL.com.

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Feel free to dig through the Deep Freeze for more, but stuff dated before mid-March 2005 is still formative and impressionistic, and not really worth the effort.

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I grew up reading Robert Christgau, Village Voice, and Lester Bangs, Creem, Punk, various others.

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Note: the copyrighted audio material on this site is for listening only, and is not downloadable. It is provided as illustrations to the articles, and to interest people in the legal purchase of these artists' material. Any copyright holder who would like their material removed should contact me, and I'll remove it.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
 

Neverending Randomplay #21-#30

Neverending Randomplay is a weekly Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 17,394 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Jam Tags, 1-5 stars, follow each track.

21. Dire Straits: You And Your Friend ****
Dire Straits: On Every Street (1991)
It's worth recalling for a moment how giant Dire Straits had become around the time of Live Aid, in 1985. Brothers In Arms, their 6th studio album, was an unexpected bonanza, netting the band a #1 album after having been written off as had beens, and its singles charted at #1, #7. and #19. Six years had passed between then and On Every Street, the follow-up, released in 1991. Only Mark Knopfler and bassist John Illsey remained from the original band, both of whom are the most prominent players on this smokey, jazzy cut. This six-minute track takes laid-back to new sleepytime frontiers, but makes for tasteful background music for a sultry evening. Most of the album is like this; it didn't grab the millions who bought the last one, and Dire Straits ceased performing altogether in 1993.

22. Style Council: Walls Come Tumbling Down! ***
Style Council: Our Favourite Shop (1985)
England's Style Council was formed by Paul Weller in 1982 after he disbanded The Jam, his mod-revival band that had enjoyed considerable success in England, and had a small but fervid cult in America. "Walls Come Tumbling Down", from 1985, is indicative of the style he wished to pursue with his new band, a R&B/Soul styled workout with fat-sounding ersatz-Stax horns, and a quasi-Motown vocal delivery. Considering this is a white boy from England playing in a synth-band, this isn't bad. It is, however pretty slick, and the early 80's production values haven't aged well. The album, Our Favourite Shop was released in America minus the title track with the new title Internationalists.

23. U2: So Cruel ***
U2: Achtung Baby (1991)
Achtung Baby, U2's 1991 followup to Rattle and Hum, represented one of the more dramatic reinventions of a major band in history. After a progression of albums that saw them moving away from their early, choppy, guitar driven work into an exploration of Americana, culminating with playing alongside B.B. King on Rattle and Hum, this album was a bit of a shock. Gone were the organic, sweeping, majestic epic tunes that made The Joshua Tree such a huge success. Instead, Achtung Baby is a jarring, abrasive, seamy, semi-electronic album that recalled David Bowie and the then-current Madchester sound. It turned off some fans, but astonished the ones who stuck with them; many consider this the band's finest moment. "So Cruel" is one of the slow ones, with a lot of emoting from Bono, and not much of a melody, but a nice electronic gloss. Most of the other cuts are better, but this was a good mid-album change of atmosphere.

24. Juana Molina: Martin Fierro *****
Juana Molina: Segundo (2003)
Juana Molina is an ambient trip-hop artist from Argentina who bears some resemblance to Beth Orton. This opens with eerie electronic noodling and synthetic rhythm section; Molina's tender singing adds a soothing element, but the accompaniment twists and bends underneath her vocal; the tune gradually builds tempo and introduces a bed of hard strummed acoustic guitars as the ethereal doodling and warping burbles and beeps in the background. Originally a TV comedienne in her home country, her music was at first looked at with suspicion; she appears to be the real deal; a unique auteur with a vision. She also writes her own material.

25. Moby Grape: Indifference *****
Moby Grape: Moby Grape (1967)
Capturing the manic energy of the Bay Area of 1967, but minus the leaden tempos and overlong jams that eventually became synonymous with the scene, this is a glistening close-harmony on top of crisp guitars that moves along with a brisk tempo, and concludes with a nice psychedelic raga-rock section. Somewhat reminiscent of the Byrds or Buffalo Springfield, but with an added soulfulness to the vocals. Moby Grape's self-titled 1967 debut, from which this is taken, remains one of the freshest sounding albums from a late-60's American group.

26. Culture Club: Miss Me Blind ***
Culture Club: Color By Numbers (1983)
The fourth hit single (#5) from Culture Club's biggest album, Colour By Numbers, released in 1983. The album was an enormous success, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, and crossing over to #7 on the R&B charts. "Miss Me Blind" is an R&B tune with vague rock elements (a completely synthetic guitar solo, among other devices); its primary lure was Boy George's voice, which consciously evoked Smokey Robinson to a degree. The synths sound pretty dated now, but the voice holds up. Culture Club never was a particularly great group, or even a good one for very long. But their hits are tuneful and catchy enough; if you loved their biggest hits, you probably like this one, too.

27. Orange 9mm: Fire In The Hole ****
Orange 9mm: Tragic (1996)
New York's Orange 9mm was formed from the ashes of Burn, by Chaka Malik (vocals) and Chris Traynor (guitar). Contemporaries with Helmet and Quicksand, the band was one of the key bands in the city's metallic hardcore scene of the early 90's. They specialized in rap and hip/hop influenced vocals over a funkified metal guitar attack, comparable to Rage Against The Machine. "Fire In The Hole" is the leadoff cut from their best album, Tragic, from 1996. A molten piece of funk metal, sporting densely fuzzed vocals and headbanging guitarwork, this delivers the goods; it's also a souvenir of a short-lived musical era whose day has passed. Fans of Rage Against The Machine or early Red Hot Chili Peppers will appreciate this.

28. Dexter Gordon: Body And Soul *****
Dexter Gordon: Ballads
Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon had a brilliant but troubled career. Interrupted by a drug problem and some time in jail, he managed to overcome his problems to record some of the most important jazz music of his era. In the late 1940's he was a major figure of the Central Avenue jazz scene of Los Angeles, and had worked with names like Lionel Hampton, Buddy Eckstine, and Dizzy Gillespie. "Body and Soul", from 1961, is one of his later works, after his prime bebop era, and after he had lived as an expatriate in Eurpoe. Ballads, from a series of sessions recorded by Blue Note in the 60's, captures him in fine form; the album closer, "Body and Soul" is the most ambitious, stretching 17 minutes and benefiting from an unusually strong rhythm section. Gordon's soloing is all over the place, lively, sultry, swaggering, pensive, playful, blue.

29. Van Morrison: Ain't That Lovin' You Baby? ****
Van Morrison: A Night In san francisco (1994)
This oft-covered Jimmy Reed chestnut is given an energetic live workout by Morrison and a slew of guest performers from his 1994 release, A Night in San Francisco. Morrison is at his low-groove jazz-bluesy best throughout the album, the playing is slick and professional, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Junior Wells make appearences, and the smokey club ambience is appealing. It should be noted that this song, and the album, really have a feel of an all-star performance to them, with mid-song band introductions followed by solos, a distraction. Still, this sounds just fine; Morrison fans will find this very enjoyable.

30. Fleetwood Mac: Come A Little Bit Closer ****
Fleetwood Mac; Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974)
This is from Heroes Are Hard to Find, from 1974, the last album to feature Bob Welch, and the last album before the 1975 addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham would rocket the group into the stratosphere with the Fleetwood Mac LP. This piano-based Christine McVie number, features a countrified pedal steel guitar played by guest Sneaky Pete Kleinow (Flying Burrito Brothers). Sweetened with strings, but without overdoing it, this has something of a stately sound to it; it doesn't sound like a hit, but it has an appeal that will please fans of the later editions of the band. One of McVie's best pre-Fleetwood Mac tunes; the album charted at a respectable #34.



Listen to Fleetwood Mac: Come A Little Bit Closer (1974)