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  Listen Up! 2/12/04 Listen Up!

Thursday, Feb. 12

The Dixie Hummingbirds, “Diamond Jubilation,” Treasure Records. On the one hand, I worry about the recent trend of pairing brilliant but aging gospel singers with younger, “hipper” white musicians (and songs). It just seems wrong that these amazing vocalists have to mix their artistry with outside influences in order for people like me to even notice them. But, the results just keep on winning me over. And besides, it’s not like the Dixie Hummingbirds haven’t done this before – these are the guys providing the spectacular harmonies on Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock.” The guest-stars on this record – Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Dr. John, and some guys I don’t know from Adam – are more interested in playing gospel music than they are in bringing the singers into their world. And, there’s only one Bob Dylan song brought in from outside the normal gospel tradition, and even that one is an obviously Christian number. The fact is, you’d pretty much have to dislike joy and be immune to beauty to reject this wonderful record.

The Byrds, “Live at the Fillmore February 1969,” Columbia Legacy. I’ve never heard this live concert album from about four years ago until today. Here is the Byrds line-up featuring guitarist Clarence White, and, while I’m enjoying this quite a bit, I’m not bowled over by it in the ways I’m supposed to be. White’s playing is tasteful and imaginative, Roger McGuinn is Roger McGuinn, and the songs are all great. Perhaps I’m just hung up on comparing it to the earlier editions of the Byrds, which made breathtaking records, some of them of the same songs included here. Perhaps it’s that McGuinn’s live vocals are a little spotty on the high notes. There is a listlistness in the rhythm section, too, which bothers me a bit. Oh, well, it’s an interesting document, just not one I’ll go back to much.

--Steve Pick


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