October 1, 2011

Playlist Week of 10-01-11

Wilco - The Whole Love

* Vivaldi: Late Concertos, RV 386, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Sony Classical CD)
* Vivaldi: Late Concertos, RV 177, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Sony Classical CD)
* Miles Davis: Miles Davis Quintet 1965-1968 (Columbia/Legacy 6CD)
* Sun Ra: The “New” Five Spot, New York, NY 6-11-75 (AUD CDR)
* Sun Ra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA Dec. 1975 (AUD CDR)
* Ronnie Boykins: The Time Will Come, Is Now (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Three Compositions Of New Jazz (Delmark LP)
* Anthony Braxton Ensemble: Carnegie Hall, New York, NY 6-27-76 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Jazz Gallery, New York, NY 6-23-11 (AUD 2CDR)
* David Torn: Best Laid Plans (ECM CD)
* Tony Levin/David Torn/Alan White: Levin Torn White (Lazy Bones CD)†
* ProjeKct One: Live At The Jazz CafĂ© (DGM CD)†
* ProjeKct Two: Live Groove (DGM CD)†
* ProjeKct X: Heaven And Earth (DGM CD)†
* Tortoise: Tortoise (Thrill Jockey CD)†
* Tortoise: Millions Now Living Will Never Die (Thrill Jockey CD)†
* Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (d.4) (Rhino 4CD)†/‡
* Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire & Beyond (d.1-2) (Rhino 4CD)†/‡
* Jimi Hendrix: The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Experience Hendrix/MCA 4CD)
* Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island/Brytermusic CD)†
* Nick Drake: Bryter Later (Island/Brytermusic CD)†
* Nick Drake: Pink Moon (Island/Brytermusic CD)†
* Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon (Experience Edition) (Pinkfloyd/EMI 2CD)
* Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Pink Floyd: Animals (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Pink Floyd: The Wall (Pinkfloyd/EMI 2CD)
* The Fall: This Nation’s Saving Grace (Omnibus Edition) (d.2) (Beggar’s Banquet 3CD)
* Beck: Mutations (Geffen CD)†
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/MoFi CD)†
* Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Real Emotional Trash (Matador CD)
* Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Mirror Traffic (Matador CD)
* Wilco: Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Wilco: Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Wilco: The Whole Love (dBpm/Epitaph 2LP/1+1CD)
* Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard (GBV, Inc. 2LP)



The new Wilco album dropped this week and it’s their best record in years—perhaps ever! As the inaugural release on their own dBpm label, Wilco has gone all out with this one: The Whole Love is available as a regular compact disc; a limited-edition slipcase package with expanded artwork, a 52-page booklet, and a bonus EP containing four more songs (including Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” the B-Side of the “I Might” seven-inch); and, finally, a luxurious 2-LP set with yet an additional song (a cover of Brian Patten’s “Sometimes It Happens”) plus a copy of the CD. Whew! I picked up the “deluxe” CD on Tuesday and was so blown away by what I heard I went back and bought the vinyl, which sounds spectacularly good (as well it should, having been mastered by Bob Ludwig, cut by Chris Bellman and superbly pressed at Pallas). I’ve been listening to it all week and enjoying it more with every spin.

The opening track, “Art of Almost,” is perhaps the most musically interesting thing they’ve ever committed to wax: a sprawling, multi-part prog-rock extravaganza brimming with twitchy electronica and shifting motoric rhythms, all capped with an orgasmic guitar solo from Nels Cline—yet when Jeff Tweedy sings a sweet melody, the music’s rootsy, punk-Americana vibe still shines through. It still sounds unmistakeably like Wilco. This song is the consummation of a long flirtation with hypnotic “krautrock” stylings dating back to the first tentative experiments on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and it succeeds in creating something entirely unique in pop music. If they made a whole record like this, I would be ecstatic! Although there’s nothing else on the album quite as adventurous as “Art of Almost,” the songs are uniformly strong and the band sounds equally inspired on country-ish ballads like “Black Moon,” “Open Mind” and "Rising Red Lung"; power-pop raveups like "I Might," “Dawned On Me” and "Standing"; or the old-timey music-hall flash of “Capitol City.” The album closer (“One Sunday Morning”) is another extraordinary, twelve-minute epic: starting out with gentle acoustic guitars and hushed vocals, the song builds momentum through repetition of a chiming guitar figure and Tweedy’s increasingly urgent enunciation, periodically spelled by blissed-out atmospherics and breezy improvisations. On the CD, the song simply fades out but on the LP, it is longer and doesn’t so much end as stop—after which you can hear the band members set down their instruments and step out of the studio, an evocative touch of audio veritĂ©. I'm not sure why the discrepancy, but there you go. Vinyl, as usual, is the preferred format.

As much as I enjoy their records, live is where it’s at and Wilco is in town this weekend, playing two nights at the historic Ryman Auditorium, home of the original “Grand Ole Opry.” When we saw them there back in 2008, it was really a special occasion, with Tweedy decked out in a custom “Red Rose” Nudie Suit—he even stepped out in front of the stage to sing an unamplified rendition of “Someone Else’s Song,” a fitting tribute to the extraordinary acoustics in country music’s “Mother Church.” We managed to obtain (“obstructed view”) tickets to tonight’s show but since winning better seats for tomorrow (thanks, Grimey’s!), we opted to give them to friends who were unable to get into to these sold-out concerts. While Nels Cline is a fabulous guitar player, he’s no Jerry Garcia (wink)— and I don’t see any real point in going both nights as the setlists will be virtually identical. We’re also looking forward to what will probably be a mellower, Sunday night crowd in downtown Nashville (what can I say? I’m getting old). Anyway, we are really excited to see our favorite band at such a magnificent venue. In the meantime, I’m going to have another listen to The Whole Love—good stuff!


Also out this week are the new Pink Floyd remasters—and they sound surprisingly good. Frankly, I’m not the world’s hugest Floyd fan. In my personal pantheon of British art-rock bands from the 1970s, they rank far behind King Crimson, Genesis and Yes—in that order (with a special place reserved for the more obscure bands like Soft Machine and Henry Cow, who were the most musically advanced of them all). By comparison, Pink Floyd’s big-selling records are more simplistic and obvious, easy to understand—they were the “progressive” band even the “jocks” and “straights” could love. Oh sure, I have fond memories of listening to these albums in my misspent youth; but after a while, they lost their charm, and with it their ability to surprise, so I got rid of them. Many years later, I found a mint-condition white-label-promo of The Wall and would pull it out once in a while when in a particularly bad mood—the album is one enormous temper tantrum—but, apart from “Comfortably Numb,” which contains one of Dave Gilmour’s finest guitar solos, it’s an overblown, embarrassing mess. I also have The Dark Side Of The Moon on SACD and it’s fun to listen to occasionally, even though the remix is not quite what I remembered. But my favorite Pink Floyd album was always Wish You Were Here and I’ve been (half-heartedly) looking for a clean copy on vinyl for forever, just to hear it again. So, when this new edition of the catalog came out, that was the one I had to check out first. Wow! In this era of dynamically squashed, ear-bleedingly bright remasterings, this sounds very nice, almost analog-like: warm, relaxed and non-fatiguing. Turn it up loud and the music really blooms—heck, I felt like I was sixteen again! The others I picked up all sound similarly fine and, like the recent Beatles remasters, they prove that Redbook CD can sound truly great, despite the format’s obvious limitations. In fact, what I’ve heard sounds so good I might just get the rest their catalog—even if Pink Floyd is not my most favoritest band.


Another week has passed and still no Europe ’72 box. I’m so annoyed I can’t even listen to the Dead—and, as faithful readers know, that’s highly unusual. In fact, I’m so pissed-off I’m telling myself I’ll never order anything from dead.net ever again. Of course, I’m just a hapless fan—and a sucker to boot—so I will probably renege on that promise. Let’s hope it eventually shows up. We shall see…

1 comment:

Sam said...

Better late than never! Here's my list for the week before last, or something:

Playlist 2011-10-03:

*Anthony Braxton & Walter Frank: 4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004
*Bill Dixon Orchestra: Intents and Purposes
*Fred Frith/Christian Marclay: 1987-02-12 The Kitchen, NYC (CDR)
*Coleman Hawkins: The Bebop Years (disc 1)
*Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore: Blowing In From Chicago
*Charles Mingus: A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music And Poetry
*Charles Mingus: Pre-Bird
*Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton: Roscoe Mitchell Duets with Anthony Braxton (side 2)
*Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory: 1997-06-16 Knitting Factory, NYC (CDR)
*Weather Report: Weather Report
*Weather Report: Live in Hamburg 1971 (DVD)
*New Loft: 2011-08-24 "Wet or Dry?" (wav)
*Beach Boys: Surfin' Safari/Surfin' USA (two-fer)
*Beach Boys: Surfer Girl
*Beach Boys: Little Deuce Coupe
*Grateful Dead: "Dark Star" 1972 (audience CDR compilation)
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 11 (1972-09-27 Stanley Theater, NJ)
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 7 (1974-09 London) selections
*High Llamas: Cold and Bouncy
*Buddy Holly: Down the Line: Rarities (disc 2)
*Various artists: Still I Dream of You: Rare Works of Brian Wilson

Reading List 2011-10-03:

*Furst, Alan. The Spies of Warsaw (started)
*Manguel, Alberto. History of Reading (started)
*Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night (First Folio ed.) (started)
*Benedict, Elizabeth. The Joy of Writing Sex (finished)
*Furst, Alan. Spies of the Balkans (finished)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 2 (in progress)
*Bradbury, Ray: Bradbury Stories (in progress)
*Lambert, Philip. Inside the Music of Brian Wilson (in progress)