Thursday, 31 August 2017

Joni Mitchell - Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, album review


It’s taken me 40 years but I have finally listened to Mitchell’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. And no, I hadn’t read The Rolling Stone review of the time to put me off then and since – but I have read just now and I get the dismissal, though disagree.

It isn’t Blue, though The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira had clearly signalled the tangent being taken from her glory days of sublime folk, or really singer-songwriter excellence.

The 16 minutes of Paprika Plains gets the main mentions – usually negative – in the other reviews I have also read just now, and as I listen just now to the orchestral sweep and ad lib piano that occupies so much of its middle I again get it [the criticism] though again disagree. But I disagree because I don’t have some expectation I’m sure I would have had 40 years ago, even after the two preceding albums mentioned. Maybe I’m just less agonised now, and so much drivel has passed by in four decades of other musical deviations that I can understand the better intention of this.

The opening three tracks are of course more traditionally sweet, though also jazz-upped, especially finely jazzed-upped via the bass of Jaco Pastorius – and there he is now 14 minutes into the paprika journey along with Wayne Shorter on soprano.

Some things are worth waiting for.

Eye Music 15

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Joseph Shabason - Aytche, album review

Soothed and Invaded

This is generally, though not entirely, a calming smoothed-out ambience of programmed and played saxophone. I don’t understand the technology and don’t need to, but with the looping and effects and other programmed sound – some rhythmic; some ethereal – there is a wonderful wash of repeating resonances that calm in their programmed control.

I presume much of the ‘conventional’ sound is recorded and played back, so piano chords are struck within the programming, though the horn on title track Aytche is played/recorded by JP Carter.

I said ‘calming’ though not ‘entirely’: fourth track Smokestack is scorched by an electronic invasion of noise [Nic Bragg on guitar], this nearly obliterating the much slower underscore of an ambient tune on repeat. It is relentless and brilliant. Closer Belching Smoke returns with the exact same intensity in case any listener had forgotten what a musical onslaught sounds like, having been caressed into forgetfulness across the intervening numbers.

There are drips and scratches and definitely much breathing – sax breaths – that have been programmed into the mix; echoes/looping too; the brush on drums. Horn sounds arrive like night-time trains, Doppler-drifting away in Long Swim, a sudden New Orleans peel diverting at an invisible junction. Key taps on penultimate Chopping Wood are like fluttering butterflies passing a mic, and someone with an industrial stapler is in the background pinning the occasional caught wing to the walls but otherwise regularly missing with each punch.

A beautiful noise throughout.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real - Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, album review

The Real Deal

I first reviewed Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real in 2011, smitten then by their sound – the clear Nelson vocal [this just cannot be ignored] and the rock pedigree, often most significant in the guitar work. And the references to smoking dope: explicit, most often, or implied, never as a furtive reference but more as a metaphor for living a chilled and seemingly content life, at least musically speaking.

The musically speaking side of a fulfilled life would probably be exemplified in Lukas and the band touring and recording with Neil Young, and I was lucky enough to see them together at the O2 in London when last here.

This album continues with the ingredients with which it all started back in 2011. Opener Sit Me Down on a Cloud is a chugging ballad of sorts, a choir, provided by Lucius, adding some swell to the simplicity of the song, brash guitar work injecting volume here and there, and then a closing guitar solo over Lucius’ wordless chorus repetitions that rails wonderfully. Next Die Alone comes along with another chug of a rhythm, organ bursts, and Lukas’ distinctive timbre of a voice stamping itself. This especially, but also the previous, has the echo of the Rolling Stones in its punchiness.

Third Fool Me Once has a jug-band sound, think Lovin’ Spoonful/John Sebastian as well as Mungo Jerry, with Lucius again on backing vocals. Fourth Just Outside of Austin is a clear echo of a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb collaboration, a sweet country-pop waltz of a song, with a sweetly romantic line in its storytelling and Willie providing signature guitar.

Fifth brings a shift up a gear – smoothly so – with a honky-tonk of a song Carolina and Lady Gaga providing the first of her two vocal contributions, and the song’s line I’m gonna roll me up a number, wait naked in bed, that chilled-with-weed narrative thread wafting through. The other Gaga assist is on seventh Find Yourself, one of the strongest songs in this fine collection. Germanotta’s soulful vocal adds its own contributing echo to the sound of Delaney & Bonnie on this, though Nelson’s timbre occupies its own distinctiveness in that notion [though at times rising to an Edgar Winter’s pitch of a growl] and the guitar is a spunky highlight in the mix.

There are other shades and signatures – the rock and rhyme-fest of High Times; the beautiful Forget About Georgia – but the core is a gospel-tinged southern country rock ensemble of joyous musical lineage and individual stamping that I look forward to enjoying for many years to come. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Iron & Wine - Beast Epic, album review

Call it Hummin'

I confess I can’t write much about this album other than to compliment it for its consistent pleasantness. These are essentially folk songs – ‘indie folk’ as some, or one perhaps, review/s describe it, and I don’t know how that defines it any more precisely. It is current folk, yes, but that has such an established lineage I don’t know if it warrants such a qualifying in the way ‘rock’ folk would be a clear distinction.

I wander. Some track are a little oblique, like Last Night which is lightly and playfully plucking its way through difference, but overall, as with third Bitter Truth and fourth Song in Stone [tiny echo of Nick Drake in songcraft rather than vocal] and fifth Summer Clouds that genuinely soothes, these are pleasant and peaceful ruminations on aspects of living* [what else] and dressed prettily in harmony.

I have been more intrigued by the reviews. The balance, of those I have read, is probably more critical than supportive, The Guardian not raving but warmly liking; the Evening Standard having a nice line in dismissal: Overall, it’s like discovering there’s another micro-brewed IPA in the world.

There won’t always be an apocalypse with a new release, and familiarity can, if it tries, breed a less exaggerated response.

*here’s an example from Call it Dreaming, and no, I don’t really know what it means, but I do think it reveals the problem of forcing a rhyme:

where we see enough to follow
we can hear when we are hollow
where we keep the light we’re given
we can lose and call it livin’

yet you’ll be humming it anyway.