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Listen Up! 1/7/02
Monday, Jan. 7
Blue Mitchell, "Out of the Blue," OJC Records. A fairly obscure, yet
remarkably brilliant album recorded in late 1958 and featuring Blue Mitchell
on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers
or Sam Jones on bass, and Art Blakey on drums. The musicians complement each
other perfectly. Mitchell plays a very light, very melodic trumpet; Golson
blows deeper and harder on tenor, and attacks the rhythms while Mitchell
rides them. Kelly's piano is bouncing chords in between the constantly
swinging bass lines and drums. This record doesn't explode, but it hooks you
in from the git-go, and doesn't let up. Great improvs on a cool version of
"When the Saints Go Marching In," too.
Various Artists, "Hank Williams Timeless," Lost Highway Records. I still get
all excited when I see a tribute album come in, as long as there are any
artists on the record that I like. This one has a high hit-to-miss ratio in
that department. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris,
Lucinda Williams and Johnny Cash fall squarely on any list of artists I
really dig; Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler, Hank III, and Ryan Adams have all
impressed me from time to time. That leaves only Keb' Mo' and Beck as dark
horses. So, like I say, I went into this with high expectations, and, as
with so many tributes before, I come out of it with very few musical
revelations. There are pleasant moments on here, to be sure. Dylan's "I Can'
t Get You Off Of My Mind" rides the same joi de studio that his latest album
"Love and Theft" has. Keb' Mo' actually sounds pretty entranced by "I'm So
Lonesome I Could Cry." Petty jumps his way through "You're Gonna Change (Or
I'm Gonna Leave)." Only Beck out and out fails with his lazy-ass rendition
of "Your Cheatin' Heart" (cause he's so ironic, see), though Mark Knopfler
does sort of snooze through "Lost on the River." The one true piece of
brilliance comes courtesy of Lucinda Williams, who understands that "Cold,
Cold Heart" should send chills up and down the spine, that it is a song of
extreme passion and suffering and pain and, most importantly, hope.
Happy Mondays, "Pills 'N' Thrills and Bellyaches," Elektra Records. The
truly amazing thing about this totally innocuous record is how big a deal
people made of it at the time of its release some dozen or more years ago.
The rhythms, which seemed so au courant at the time, are stodgy. The tunes
are barely developed. The singing is Brit-pop average. The energy is
non-existent. Nothing bothers me about this, nothing interests me about it.
Dave Edmunds, "A Pile of Rock Live," Castle Music. So here's one of the
great nice guys of rock, the kind of guy who doesn't excel at anything more
than conveying a love and warmth and enthusiasm for good old fashioned rock'
n'roll virtues and values. The liner notes don't say when this was recorded,
but it could just as well have documented a live concert from virtually any
night in the last 25 years; there's no song newer than 1980 or so. Geraint
Watkins, long-time piano playing sidekick, is on board, as is Billy Bremner,
one-time cohort in Rockpile, Edmunds great band of the late 70s with Nick
Lowe. The songs are great - "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock'n'Roll,"
"Crawling From the Wreckage," "Lady Madonna". The band is playing in the
pocket and working up a sweat. The result is pure rock'n'roll joy.