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  Listen Up! 8/8/02 Listen Up!

Thursday, Aug. 8

Rory Gallagher, “BBC Sessions,” Buddha Records. Jeeezzzzusssss! This guy smoked on guitar. The first disc, which is what we’re playing, is all live on stage from Gallagher’s hottest period in the 70s. He took blues rock to about as high a form of expression as anybody ever did. The energy never wavers, and the imagination is deep.

Cal Tjader, “Cal Tjader Sounds Out Burt Bacharach,” DCC Jazz. It’s cheesy, but kinda fun to hear these 60s lite jazz versions of Bacharach tunes. The fact is Bacharach tunes don’t really work all that well in jazz, because they’re harmonies are so damn slippery and constantly shifting that improvisation becomes a matter of changing the melody only a little bit. The melodies are gorgeous, of course, but jazz is about making more creativity, not less. Still, Tjader gives it a great go, mixing up arrangements all over the place, and making sure we get to hear these great tunes.

Steve Earle, “Jerusalem,” Artemis Records. Here it is, the most dangerous song in America. “John Walker’s Blues,” which is merely doing what great songwriters have done for centuries, taking a character from real life and trying to imagine what goes on to put that person in the situation he or she is in. John Walker Lindh became a member of the Taliban at a time when that wasn’t considered a horrible thing by most Americans. But, why did he leave this perfect country and go to that horrible place where he inevitably found himself fighting against America? Because he was a fucked up American kid who couldn’t figure out what to do here, and thought he’d been handed answers, certainty in a world that didn’t look too certain. The song, like the rest of the songs on this album (at least the ones I heard before lunch) is powerful, earnest, and clear. Steve Earle is concerned about what’s going on around him, and we need more voices out there asking questions, trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s not all that certain, despite what many authority figures are trying to tell us. But this record is certainly great.

Project Pat, “Layin Da Smack Down,” Loud Records. Not terrible enough to beat out Bright Eyes or Lauryn Hill for the worst record I’ve heard this year, but it’s terrible enough to at least be considered. Imagine “The Exorcist” theme music with some syncopated drum machines and staccato, repetitious raps that annoy slowly, through gradual realization of the inanity of the hooks. It’s a peculiar torture, one that makes you realize just how uninterested you can be in how clean Pat is riding, how much cheese Pat is making, or in how often Pat gets his dick sucked. Uninterested, yeah, but he will tell you over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Eyes Adrift, “Eyes Adrift,” some label I don’t know. As I understand it, this takes Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, and weds him to Krist Novoselic of Nirvan, and some unnamed drummer. The end result sounds like a less fiery Meat Puppets. It’s nice, with plenty of inventive Kirkwood guitar, but suffers from kind of a generic Kirkwood song-writing curse. He’s done this type of thing a few too many times to really grab me this time.

Charlie Parker, some compilation Lew put on but took to his desk, and I want to go home so I’m not gonna go over there to find out what because what difference does it make? The important thing is this is Charlie Parker, and yeah, there are a lot of different compilations of varying quality, but when he’s on, which is a lot of the time, there aren’t very many better examples of joie de vivre in all of music. Just listen to his alto, and you’ll see why people thought it was so damned important to emulate him that they’d even follow him into heroin abuse. He’s so far above the rest of the world, and he knows it with every note he plays, other musicians had to believe just about anything could be the explanation.

--Steve Pick



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