Tea for the Bloggerman

Top Five Albums of the Week: August 17th “John Week”
August 18, 2008, 7:20 pm
Filed under: music | Tags: ,

Lots of Johns this week. Let’s get started.

1. Wicked Grin by John Hammond
I bought this CD in San Diego a few weeks ago with an feeling that it would be good, and it is. I was not a huge fan of Hammond’s vocals at first; I saw his documentary on Robert Johnson and his odd renditions of Johnson’s classics seemed extremely out of place in the middle of rural Mississippi. When it comes to blues guitar, no one can touch Hammond, but when John would stand at the corner of that small delta town singing “Dust My Broom” you could see the confusion on the faces of those people. But his voice grows on you. Just like the man that Hammond covers in this album, Tom Waits. The songs on Wicked Grin are nowhere near as good as Tom’s originals, but I like them. And Tom must like them too. When I saw Tom in Phoenix at the beginning of the Glitter and Doom tour, his performance of “Murder in the Red Barn” was clearly modeled after Hammond’s rendition. Only I wouldn’t realize this until a month later.

2. Amelie by Yann Tiersen
Thanks Lee, you are the best. I love this album, I really do. The first time I hear “Les Jours Tristies” I thought it was horrible. Just like the first time I heard Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits and John Hammond. Yann is extremely talented; no one plays the accordion or toy piano like he does. There is a little toy accordion for sale at F.A.O. Schwartz in Caesar’s Palace that I want to buy simply so I could make sounds resembling the ones on this CD.

3. Safe as Milk by Captain Beefheart
I listened to this CD a number of times this week, mixed in with a listen of Trout Mask Replica and some cuts from the Grow Fins rarities collection. I love Beefheart. I shelled out $18 for a new copy of Trout Mask on a hunch last year simply because of his connection to Frank Zappa. Zappa was a friend of his, Zappa produced Trout Mask, Zappa performed live with the man, it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t bad, in fact it was quite good. Yet unsettling. I couldn’t listen to it through all the way. It took me a couple of days to make my way through the twisted odyssey of sound Beefheart takes you on. But I liked it. Liked it so much that when I saw a used copy of Beefheart’s first album, Safe as Milk, on sale, I bought it instantly. A bit more “normal” than Trout Mask, this is one good solid blues-rock album. A highlight is the first track, “Sure ‘Nuff Baby ‘n Yes I Do,” which I recently learned how to play along with on harmonica (he uses a D harp people!). The copy I have is nice because it is the most recent remastered edition with about nine assloads full of bonus tracks, none of which were recorded during the Safe as Milk sessions. How do you like that? The bonus cuts are great though, mostly instrumental jams. It’s interesting to hear the difference between Safe as Milk guitarist Alex St. Clair and the guitarist on the bonus cuts the great Zoot Horn Rollo. All in All Beefheart is the quintessential desert-induced heatstroke musician. He spent most of his life stuffed in a trailer in the Mojave desert, and when listening to this album on your mp3 player while waiting for the bus under the 115 degree Las Vegas sun, the madness slowly starts to unravel.

4. Paris 1919 by John Cale
This is a strange album. It came into the bookstore I work at and I borrowed it to burn on my computer, but when I heard it I was fascinated by it. I paid for the CD along with another Cale album and listened to it four or five times through. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I like it or not. But it fascinates me. Cale is an amazing musician. From his work with the Velvet Underground to his later solo work, I have nothing but praise for him, but this album is so…restrained. It’s humble and soft, but there is something underneath it that I can’t uncover. I desperately want to hear the original vinyl version of this. Part of the restraint may be due to poor remastering, but I’m not sure.

5. City of Refuge by John Fahey
If I thought the Cale album was strange, then this should knock me into a coma. I had heard some of Fahey’s earlier newgrass/blues/folk recordings and I respected him for the weight of his influence and his work to preserve the many old recordings he found inspiration in (a compilation of old time gospel music released under Fahey’s Revenant label, American Primitive Vol. II, is one of my favorite CDs), but I had not heard enough of him. So when I saw this CD I had to pick it up. This is one of Blind Joe Death’s later recordings, 1997 I believe, and it is very experimental. Most of the album consists of Fahey’s overdriven electric slide guitar playing small, simple melodies in front of what sounds like an old refrigerator. There is one nice bluesy cut somewhere in the middle of it but I can’t tell you the track. The album works as a whole. I had this playing the bookstore one time and a woman with her mother came to the counter. The mother goes “what is that supposed to be?” The daughter says “it’s a guitar.” “Then he needs to tune that guitar!” “I think he’s trying to show all the different sounds you can make on a guitar.” She’s probably as close as one could get.


1 Comment so far
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I loved Amelie! You need to let me listen to the soundtrack.

Comment by Anonymous

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