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  Listen Up! 6/23/03 Listen Up!

Monday, June 23

Fairport Convention, “Heyday,” Hannibal Records. The BBC did music fans such a great service. Not only did they invite virtually every key British rock band into their studios, generally multiple times from the 60s on, but they recorded and archived all that stuff. This classic release of Fairport Convention sessions from the BBC is an essential look at one of the greatest bands in history at a key point in their own history. Though now revered as the originators of English folk-rock, they hadn’t quite moved in that direction yet. “Liege and Lief” would be their next album, after the drummer on these 1968-69 cuts died in a car accident which also took the life of guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend. The tragedies were soon ahead, but at this time, all you get is exuberance and a love for pop music in all its forms. All but two of the songs here are covers of material from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, and more. All of them are imaginatively arranged – the version of Cohen’s “Suzanne” damn near cuts the original, with Thompson’s bubbling guitar pulsations setting the tone, and Ian Matthews and Sandy Denny trading vocals, and Dylan’s “Percy’s Song” was never sung more eloquently than when Denny takes the lead here. Everything included here was meant as a bonus for fans of the band, and once it was assembled as an album, back in the late 80s if I recall correctly, it became a treat for those of us who weren’t there at the time. I consider it an essential addition to any rock music collection.

Wynton Marsalis, “Mr. Jelly Lord: Standard Time Vol. Six,” Columbia Records. Here’s the thing. When you listen to Jelly Roll Morton, you get thrills, you get sexuality, you get fun, you get adventure, you get wild. When you listen to Wynton Marsalis try to recreate Jelly Roll Morton’s music, you get none of this, just the same notes played all crisp and pure and clean and dull. You want to hear modern day Morton, get yourself some Henry Threadgill renditions, and prepare to be taken somewhere. You want to stay in your little musty museum, listen to this dull record.

--Steve Pick


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