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Issachar Conference Group

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Jacob Taylor
Jacob Taylor

2Pac рџ‘‘ Mama Ain't Raised No Punk

I just re-read your review of Michael Nesmith's album InfiniteRider on the Big Dogma for the first time in around 40 years. . . it seems to me you reviewed him, his career, his business. . . but NOT the album or its music. Terrible review . . . probablyhurt his sales . . . his reputation . . . and cost him a lot of money!aI find this so touching I couldn't resist reprinting the two queriesin the order they were received. I mean, it's a very long time afterthe release of the ex- (and future) Monkee's ninth album of thedecade, six of whichI reviewed even though by 1979"new wave" was all the rage (two including a comp got B plusses),and this fan, apparently of both Nesmith and Der Dean, is still notjust brooding about my B minus but convinced that my lukewarm recordreview in a Greenwich Village weekly destroyed the sales ofwhat he regards as Nesmith's masterwork. As it happens, I wrote aboutthe Monkees respectfully inmy very first Esqure column in1967, and by the end of that year had singled out Nesmith as thetrue musician of the foursome, which soon became conventional criticalwisdom. And just for the record, The Monkees' Greatest Hits hasits own jewel-cased position right next to my 40 or somethingThelonious Monk CDs. Also just for the record, I thought the Monkees'"revival" of the aughts was one-upping "poptimist" contrarianism pureand silly.enddate2021-05-19fromLiam BriginshawlocMelbourne, AustraliaqI have a question which you may have answered multiple times, and ifthis is the case I apologise for not digging it up. Autobiographiesand biographies by musicians are relatively common, and often enoughthey're not particularly well written, either because the musiciansaren't suited to that kind of format in the case of autobiographies,or--and this is perhaps more common--the musicians have becomedeities, and their biographers simply feed into that narrative with abunch of crazy stories that don't necessarily say much about the livesand ideas of the musicians, or the world that they lived in. Thereare, of course brilliant ones out there too, written with greatsubtlety and thoughtfulness. Which are your favourite bios ofmusicians that you've come across over the years?aAlways glad to be handed a chance to remind readers and I hope bookbuyers of my 2018 Duke collectionBook Reports, which includesessays on books about Jerry Lee Lewis (I'd now add to Nick Tosches'sHellfire, Rick Bragg's Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story),Lead Belly, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Ed Sanders, RichardHell, Carrie Brownstein, Patti Smith, Rod Stewart, James Brown, ArethaFranklin, and Bruce Springsteen. In this newsletter itself I'vepositively reviewed Jim DeRogatis's dogged R. Kelly bookSoulless andCharles Shaar Murray's magnificent John Lee Hooker bioBoogie Man. TheLouis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Franco,and Bob Marley pieces inIs It Still Good to Ya? are alsokeyed to biographies. And in my 1998 collectionGrown Up All Wrong the Elvis chapteris called "Elvis in Literature" because it's based mostly on a sliverof his endless bibliography. Both volumes of Gary Giddins's BingCrosby are superb--with the second one especially sharp onU.S. culture during World War II. John F. Szwed's Miles Davis and SunRa are damned good. And I should add that although I'd recommendobtaining my collections from Duke or a local bookseller, naturally,most of those essays are findable on my site, which has aBook Reviews tab to help you track down afew more.enddate2021-05-19fromBrad MorosanlocLondon, Ontario, CanadaqLove your collection, Book Reports, as it has recommended someterrific books. I remember reading somewhere your admiration for JunotDiaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so I was curiousas to what are your favourite novels so far in the 21st century?Thanks.aThis is something I happen to keep track of, so here's the top 10 ascurrently conceived only with extra books for a couple of authors:George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. Junot Diaz, The BriefWondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Michael Chabon, The AmazingAdventures of Kavalier & Clay I (also TelegraphAvenue). Norman Rush, Mortals (reviewed in BookReports). Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora (also New YorkCity 2140). Jonathan Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude (alsoDissident Gardens). Carola Dibbell, The Only Ones (sheused to be lower but that was a polite lie). Colson Whitehead TheUnderground Railroad (also The Nickel Boys and SagHarbor). Elif Batuman, The Idiot. Akhil Sharma, AnObedient Father.enddate2021-05-19fromBrianlocDublin, IrelandqDoes a best of the '90s list exist? (This question inspired by renewedLiz Phair excitement over new singles being quite good actually.)aNope. As I'm always whining, lists like these, if properly prepared,are work. But it occurred to me that having just done my RollingStone top 50 a year ago, I at least had a good start--until acount suggested that more than half were from the '60s and '70s andonly five, F-I-V-E (5), from the '90s--six if I count James Brown'sStar Time, almost all of which was decades old by the time thefour-CD comp was released, but of course I can't, just as I can'tcount the fabulous and now scarce Go-Betweens best of1978-1990. So we'll begin with those five, alphabetized: DJShadow's Endtroducing DJ Shadow, Eminem's The Slim ShadyAlbum, Guitar Paradise of East Africa, The LatinPlayboys, Tom Ze's Brazil Classics 4. Then I will quicklyadd Arto Lindsay's Mundo Civilizado on the grounds that Carolarequested it when feeling poorly at dinner one night recently and wewere so entranced we instantly felt compelled to play it again rightaway and then yet again for our 19-year-old out-of-town grandniece thenext day (she said she liked it and also left with a bunch of surplusCDs I was happy to declutter myself of). But of the other candidatesI've tested out only Nirvana's Nevermind roared into certaintop 10 status (and if you're keeping score, as I know a few of youare, that would seem to make both of those A plusses, end ofstory). Alphabetically once again, the remaining candidates are:L.L. Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out, Stern's Africa'sSenegalese The Music in My Head comp, Liz Phair's Exile inGuyville (which did seem a little thin musically first time out),Amy Rigby's Diary of a Mod Housewife, Lucinda Williams's CarWheels on a Gravel Road.enddate2021-05-19fromSergio ThompsonlocSalem, OregonqIf you made your own music, what kind would it be? Who would it soundlike?aIf my dream life is any indication, I'd be the leader of a postpunkrock quartet. On a number of occasions, I've had dreams in which Iplayed such a role, although as I believe I've pointed out somewhere,I've also had dreams--long before my current semi-lameness, let meadd--in which I could walk in 12-foot strides, and once it was thesame dream. And then there's what I dreamed last night, after I'd readthis query: that I'd somehow been hired to visit a college and play mysongs, accompanying myself on an acoustic guitar. This was a terribledream without being a nightmare: having arrived at my destination, Ifailed to call my contact and instead began gabbing with a woman Iknew while avoiding all thoughts of a) not knowing how to play guitarand b) never having written a song. Hours passed, my appearance timeneared, and the whole deal was so annoying I woke up to be out of itat 6:30, which is early for me. But at 7:45 I got back into bed andsoon found myself in a slightly revised version of the samedream. None of this was fun. I blame you.enddate2021-04-14tagTaste vs. judgment, the (somewhat) enduring appeal of Leon Thomas, the diminishing appeal of Green Day, reading about if not listening to Joanna Newsom, and the hymnals of Judee Sill and Todd Sniderurl -sez-april-2021fromDavid WasserlocSwarthmore, PennsylvaniaqIn your Auriculum podcast you differentiated between taste which issubjective and judgment which involves, I gather, someobjectivity. You also discuss your own preferences in music--e.g. fast over slow and happy over sad. How do you reconcile thosepreferences in the taste/judgment continuum?aTaste, obviously. But within those tremendously broadcharacterizations inhere countless gradations, none of which willdetermine in themselves my or anyone's aesthetic responses to anindividual piece of music or portion of same. This means that even atthe crudest levels they should generate questions like, "If I'm such abig fan of happy music how come I hate the Kars 4 Kids ad even morethan you do?" or (to choose an example from this past March 17) "ShaneMacGowan takes 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' so slow, why am Isitting there after the dishes are done doing nothing but listeningsix minutes in?" I go into this in some detail in the Sonic Youthpiece"Rather Exhilarating" in Is ItStill Good to Ya?, which includes the following slightly editedpassage: "One concept the non-old have trouble getting their mindsaround is the difference between taste and judgment. It's fine not tolike almost anything, except maybe Al Green. That's taste, yours to dowith as you please, critical deployment included. By comparison,judgment requires serious psychological calisthenics. But the factthat objectivity only comes naturally in math doesn't mean it can't beapproximated in art. One technique is to replace responsereports--'boring' and all its self-involved pals, like 'exhilarating'or the less blatant 'dull,' with stimulus reports." Which is to say,I'll now go on, physical descriptions of the music, best accomplishedfor the lay reader with colloquial, non-musicological language.enddate2021-04-14fromLeelocBrooklynqDo you really think Leon Thomas's Legend album is an A record?Listening back on it after many decades myself, Thomas's admittedlyunique voice seems more a novelty than anything else and the albumitself more clunky than swinging.aMy records indicate that I Consumer-Guided just two albums by the manwho sang Pharoah Sanders's "The Creator Has a Master Plan," neither ofthem Facets--The Legend of Leon Thomas. Both are from 1970: The LeonThomas Album, an A, and Spirits Known and Unknown, a B plus. But bythe time I did the '70s Consumer Guide book I had hedged Thomas overinto theSubjects for Further Researchaddendum, where I pointed out that his solo career had disappeared by1975 and expressed reservations about his "muddle-headedness." So Icouldn't tell exactly what you were talking about. But with my memoryjogged I went to Spotify, so much faster than excavating my vinyl, andstreamed Spirits Known and Unknown. Not clunky by me, a B plusat the very least--the yodeling rousing, the scatting spectacular. Andwhile the rationalist I am remains well south of agnostic about theGuy, Gal, or Both with the Master Plan, he fervently believes Thomas's"Disillusion Blues" should bebrought out of retirement if there's anybody out there with the chopsand spiritual wisdom to shout and yodel it.enddate2021-04-14fromAidan KinglocCape Elizabeth, MaineqHey Bob, I'm curious why you haven't reviewed the last few Green Dayalbums. I know you didn't like American Idiot and 21st CenturyBreakdown all that much, but I'm just wondering why we haven't gottenreviews of Uno, Dos, Tre or Revolution Radio. Have you gotten bored oftheir shtick?aElementary, really. When I give two consecutive albums by an artist Ionce liked C's, you can assume that I checked out the next one onlybriefly if at all, and chose not to find another way to hoist saidartist on his or her own petard. In fact, said next one sounded likemore of the self-important same, and I'm not sure I got all the waythrough the one after that, although I have a dim memory of tryingbriefly once. Nor has what little I've read about these albums givenme any reason to believe I've missed anything. Punk is so tied up withthe disillusions of growing up that punks do often age poorly.enddate2021-04-14fromCathal AttylocDonegal, IrelandqI'm curious as to whether you have any thoughts on Joanna Newsom'slast few albums; or did you merely file her under over-indulgence andlogorrhea after Ys?aIt seems to me that the answer to this and many similar questions isobvious: duh. (See Green Day directly above.) The reason I'mreprinting it here is to report that a year or two ago I received aletter that began: "Joanna Newsom is the greatest artist of the 21stcentury. Your misogyny is showing in your refusal to acknowledge herwork." Such rhetoric is only to be expected when you're a criticbecause most people don't know what good criticism is, but though thiscorrespondent was obviously only in her mid teens it was stilldisheartening--I am so not a misogynist. The second reason is to alertyou to the superb and adulatoryErik Davisfeature on Joanna Newsom in the 2007 Da Capo Best MusicWriting anthology (those were the days), which I edited. Immenselylong. As I explain in the book's intro, I read it in one 45-minutegulp, because I do know what good criticism is, and even though Newsomreally ain't for me however much I appreciate her debut, this wasclearly it. Different strokes, you know how it goes.enddate2021-04-14fromKeith SheltonlocSan DiegoqAny thoughts on the Judee Sill revival?Your reviews were spot-on, thegrades maybe a little low (given how grades have morphed since 1972, amoot point). My knowledge of non-gospel Christian music begins andmercifully ends at Amy Grant, so I was grateful for her gorgeouslyrendered, way-out-there perspectives in a genre I'll never care enoughto revisit.aHaving had no idea there was a Judee Sill revival, if there is, myfirst thought is how glad I am not to feel obliged to worry overmuchabout such wavelets in music's vast sea. Clearly this is a time whenevery moderately gifted female singer-songwriter in creation awaitsrediscovery, and Sill was a distinctive one. But where I was curiousabout how Leon Thomas might sound today, I found I could do withouthearing Sill again. An overstater, a militant if fundamentally humaneChristian--life is too short, especially when you're turning 79.enddate2021-04-14fromJon LaFollettelocIndianapolisqI've spent several Sunday afternoons enjoying Todd Snider'slivestreaming shows--even bought a shirt to chip in for thecause. During a recent performance in which he playedAgnostic Hymns in full,he claimed it was his best record. That was news to me, given how fewof those songs have been worked into his recent live sets--he didn'tplay anything from it when I saw him in 2019. I even recall reading aninterview where he seemed pretty ambivalent about it. It's always beenmy favorite of his (got lucky on eBay once and found a promo copy onvinyl for pennies on the dollar), so it was neat to hear Snider agreewith me. I was wondering if you felt the same. Best to you and Carola.aExpecting consistency fromTodd Snider is like expecting pie inthe sky when you die--this is a guy who probably changes his mindwhile he's tying his shoes. We listen tohis albums quite a bit aroundhere given the wealth of alternatives, and the only one over the pastcoupla years I thought maybe wasn't a full A was East NashvilleSkyline, which I expect was because I wasn't paying attention atthe right times. Can't swear we've played Agnostic Hymns,however. Did definitely play both discs of The Storyteller in recentmemory, and got Nina to listen to the entirety of "KK Rider Story,"which as a comedy fan she loved. But since it came out our surprisefave has been 2019's apparently ramshackle Cash CabinSessions--have enjoyed it so much so that we entered it in ourprivate Rolling Stone best-of-all-time sweepstakes. In thatcompany, true, he did admittedly fall somewhat short.enddate2021-03-17tagGroove with a side order of vocal emotion, soul with a (small) side order of jazz organ, Queen with less kitsch and more camp, and parody with honor. Plus: two movies, one a must a see.url -sez-march-2021fromEduardo MujicalocColombiaqI notice how over the years you have reviewed music in languages thatyou (presumably) don't understand. How do you approach this kind ofmusic and what is your mindset when you enjoy it?aI enjoy it as music merely, kind of the way I enjoy jazz--whichgenerally entails harmonic details in musical languages I don'tunderstand either. This means that when lyrics are prominent, as theyare in a lot of non-Anglophone pop, I tune out--even when the lyricsare in French, which I can speak and understand well enough to find arestaurant or the train station, but not to follow lyrics. All ofwhich is to generalize broadly, with numerous exceptions. But for surewhat I usually respond to in non-Anglophone music is groove with aside order of vocal emotion or affect. Because I recognize andtreasure the African contribution to the Anglophone rock-etc. at thecenter of my pleasure zone, and also because I've long been aware ofhow decisive African culture is in American culture generally, I'vealways been eager to hear what African music I could, and so paidattention to the few compilations that began to surface in the early'80s, starting with the great John Storm RobertsAfrica Dances collection ofthe mid-'70s, which for whatever reason delighted me from the firsttime I heard it and prepared me for the trickle and then flood thatfollowed; see the 1991 Rock & Roll & called"Afropop Without Guilt" for moredetails. But over the years many other grooves and even tune familieshave spoken to me. In Colombia itself it's been cumbia mostly, whichdidn't take long. For some reason, though the dominant horn parts arecertainly part of it, I've never really gotten into Puerto Rican salsaeven though I love Puerto Rico, which I've visited many times. Butonce in the south of the island I watched entranced for half an houras a cumbia band entertained near the town square.enddate2021-03-17fromChris RogerslocMissouriqWhat are your favorite albums featuring jazz organists? I'm guessingthat Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland and Booker T Jones must be some ofyour favorites but what albums by those artists or others do you turnto when you crave soul jazz or a keyboard master jamming out onelectronic organ?aTo my surprise, since I never ever "crave" soul jazz or Hammond B-3,you guessed right. As I discovered by utilizing the Google Searchfunction on my site, I've actually given positive reviews to albums bybothJimmy McGriff andCharles Earland. Stax mastermind andhidden genius of Willie Nelson's Stardust that he is, BookerT. doesn't have a horse in this race--soul jazz has never been whathe's about, which is fine by me because I've always found that callingtoo schlocky by a factor of three. Jimmy Smith in particular I'veavoided for half a century. Cornball, cornball, cornball.enddate2021-03-17fromOscarlocJohannesburg, South AfricaqI'm asking this because I'm a sucker for Queen, but what is youropinion on Queen--if you've ever listened in retrospect? You prettymuch wrote off their albums, yet you later said their music has "thehigh gloss of committed kitsch" and Freddie Mercury was a "truequeen." It's strange you've rarely mentioned them, especially becauseof the enduring popularity of songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We WillRock You," and more, plus their endless popular Live Aid set.aI've definitely softened on Queen since I started to figure out thatthere was camp and joy in their overstated virtuosity as well asvitality and endurance in their tunes. I have both ClassicQueen and Greates


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