Apparently my parents-in-law had a bunch of records in their basement that they only told me about now. So some of the records this week would be from this new addition to my collection. Others will be from the MCA’s the Freedom Principle. Some are from neither. If you’re in Chicago, you should go see the Freedom Principle exhibit at the MCA. It’s fantastic!
1. Joe McPhee – Nation Time 
The theme of the title track is very familiar, but I’m not sure where it’s from. Maybe Coltrane? Not a Coltrane song, but a little melody that is repeated in one of his tracks. Anyway, this song starts with a good times jazz feel. Just a cool jam with nothing too crazy going on. I thought that was surprising since this is part of the Freedom Principle where all the records are leaning heavily towards experimental and free improvisation, but then halfway through things started getting hairy. I need to listen to this record more to fully grasp it.
Favorite track is Shakey Jake.
2. Jackson Browne – Jackson Browne 
This record is schmaltz, and he sings like a heartthrob. Also every other song sounds like it played during the slow dances at every prom around the country in the early 1970s, but that didn’t stop me from playing side two again immediately after it ended.
I think my favorite track was Under the Falling Sky.
3. Poco – Poco 
Like Jackson Browne, this one is also from the parents-in-law pile. I took this one because the cover is ridiculous, and I was expecting some goofy band, and instead got this 70s rock cliche. The harmonies, bluesy guitar solos, organ, and I don’t know, the sort of ok but also boring songs? I almost gave up after the first side, but then I saw that the second side has a ~20 minutes song in there, so sure why not. That 20 minute song is pretty boring.
I guess my favorite song would be You Better Think Twice for it’s ultra creepshow vibes.
4. Viet Cong – Viet Cong 
These guys are hot shit right now, so I gave it a listen. There are a lot of moments there that remind me of This Heat, but then there are also moments (the beginning of Continental Shelf) that sound like Interpol. I think something about this band sounds insincere to me, but that might also just be me being jealous I can’t write long songs that remind people of This Heat.
Favorite song might be March of Progress because it sounds like This Heat’s Paper Hats.
5. Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre – Humility in the Light of the Creator 
Another one is from the MCA/Freedom Principle/AACM pile. I like it because I don’t get it. I don’t get what’s separating this record from other free jazz records. I guess it has the intense, non-verbal vocals that other records don’t necessarily have, but it just sounded like a bunch of really good musicians letting loose. I will definitely need to listen to it more to have any real opinion about it, but like most records I don’t understand, I like it!
6. Charles Mingus – Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 
This record is kind of nuts. It sounds like classical music (what type of classical music, you philistine?) but more “catchy”. Or maybe my listening to more experimental jazz records recently make this one sound catchy. What really attributes to it sounding classical is that it seems like there’s no improvisation. There’s no playing the theme, then everyone plays a solo, then playing the theme again, then go home. There are parts where one instrument plays alone, but it’s not a solo in the conventional jazz sense. I listened to this one while eating dinner so I definitely need to listen to it again.
Edit: I don’t know what I was talking about with the improvisation. There’s a lot of it going on here. I think the “theme” isn’t as clear, but there’s most definitely a ton of improvisation.
7. Joseph Jarman & Anthony Braxton – Together Alone 
Another one from the Freedom Principle. This record is similar to the Mingus record in the sense that it sounds more like modern classical music than jazz. However, I think I can detect when they improvise where I can’t with Mingus. The improvisation was the only jazzy thing I found about Together Alone.
Favorite track is Together Alone. This one has both Jarman and Braxton playing in unison, and then they split and improvise on that melody, or whatever that should be called. The last song, sbn-a-1 66k, is similar, except they play in unison for 15 minutes. There’s no way that’s improvised, but knowing the little I know about Braxton, it probably wasn’t composed in the classical sense of notes written on a staff. I need to read up on this and find out.
8. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs 
Uhh, yes, I never listened to this David Bowie record. I actually never listened to any Bowie record other than The Man Who Sold the World, and I don’t even remember it very well. I always thought of David Bowie as this guy who is really good at surrounding himself with really good producers and musicians. He’s a good songwriter, for sure, but each of his songs that I ever heard was so much more than just a good song. And since I know Bowie doesn’t play every instrument on those songs, I figured most of the credit should go to the musicians and producer(s). So I always saw David Bowie as overrated and a “cheat” because of all the good people he gets to work with him. That’s all nonsense, of course. What matters is that there are a bunch of songs that carry his name that are really good. How many people participated in their making, or who brought what isn’t important to the listening experience. Please keep in mind that my thoughts on David Bowie being a cheat were formulated when I was 12 or something and just stuck with me way into adulthood.
This record is a perfect rock record. There isn’t really much more to say.
Favorite song is probably Rebel Rebel. Could be because I already knew it.
9. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars 
The first few songs on this one sound like they’re out of a musical. Maybe it’s because this is a concept album? It is, right? I mean, it has a super long name, Bowie dressed up as Ziggy Stardust, and there’s a lot of space talk. I do know and love Starman, although hearing it after the first three songs I’m realized that it’s also a bit of a musical song. There’s nothing wrong with musicals, they’re just a bit over the top. Ok, Lady Stardust must have been written for a musical. How come no one ever turned this whole record into a musical? Hey! I think I know Ziggy Stardust too! I heard that riff before, that’s for sure. I also know Suffragette City! This song is great! My cat thought so too – he started running around the place as soon as it started playing.
Favorite track is probably Suffragette City, or maybe Starman. There are a lot of jams on this one.
10. Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft – Alles Ist Gut 
I’m cheating here a little bit. I’ve had this record for a while, and I listened to a couple of songs off it before, but I never listened to the whole thing. So while not technically a record I had never heard before, it’s practically one.
I’m digging this record. I think it has a very “human” feel to it, even though the first reaction to it is to label it as electronic music. I attribute the human-ness to several things (aside from it being made by, you know, humans). First, the synthesizers almost always sound out of tune, and the “lead” melodies always play some notes that aren’t in the scale of the vocals or bass. Then the drums are played by a living drummer, and even though he plays the sort of stuff you’d hear out of a drum machine, it has a different feel to it. This isn’t really about the record sounding human, but the dude’s singing is leaning more towards stuff you’d expect from post punk bands than electronic ones. For instance, it’s very different than the vocals you’d find on a Kraftwerk track.
Speaking of Kraftwerk, I find this record to be a very organic progression from krautrock and German electronic music of the 70s, like the stuff Cluster, Kraftwerk, and Neu! did.
Favorite track is Der Räuber und der Prinz because it’s probably the creepiest on the record.