When I say Roots, tho, its not just the Abyssinians.
I didn’t grow up Catholic, and didn’t start having more than two Catholic friends until I went to college. I’ve now sung the Mass many times, and know the components of the liturgy, but mostly its history. Popes. Who did what when. Aquinas. Augustine. Nicea. Etc.
I was always amused by hagiography. Who was a saint, who wasn’t. Rules of getting sainted. Don Novello’s Fr. Guido Sarducci had a great bit, said lately the church had been slipping, that a nun got sainted for card tricks.
I’m amused in the same way by Dylan fans. Dylanologists have packed the annals of Dylanalia with every abstruse fact imaginable. Not to say that much of it isn’t useful. I used to slow down my turntable to half speed so I could get the words or the changes. Now online, I can find that Eyolf Oestrom has tabbed every song that Dylan has ever recorded for guitar, and then for many, has supplied tabs for alternate and live bootleg recordings.
Dylan interpretation and hermeneutics comes better from some than others. One of my favorites is Sean Wilentz, who teaches history at Princeton and used to live in an apartment above the Gaslight. He actually saw Dave Van Ronk play as a kid. I had to settle for Llewyn Davis. .
Sean Wilentz wrote a great Dylan biography (in addition to many very good histories; I like Chants Democratic). He also wrote the liner notes for Dylan’s 1964 “Live at the Philharmonic” recordings that got released recently through the Bootleg series. Wilentz argues that Dylan has worn many masks throughout his long career, a truth that Todd Haynes explores wonderfully in “I’m Not There.”
Wilentz let me hear something about this from Dylan himself! And Im not sure even Dylan knew what he was saying. At the end of “Gates of Eden” on the recording, which Dylan jokes about before and after (you’ll have to find it some way that my low tech skills don’t allow; it gets cut off on every recording I can find online), he tells the crowd not to be frightened by the song, saying it is Halloween after all, for which he’s wearing his “Bob Dylan mask.” He’s “masquerading”.
Art. Truth. History. Listening.
Stream Bass Culture by Linton Kwesi Johnson on Bass Culture for free on Grooveshark.
Ive been fixing to write about LKJ for a while. Someone got a book of his poetry in college, I then got the chance to see him in person with his professor’s glasses, tweed coat, and trilby (backed by the Dennis Bovell Dub Band). Recalling that experience so long ago now, I settled on this song as how he says it best. From the opening riddim, the strangely flat drum roll, leading to the descending bass line—which then suddenly opens up, as the poet speaks.
muzik of blood, black reared, pain rooted, heart geared
all tensed up in de bubble an de bounce an de leap an de weight-drop
it is de beat of de heart, this pulsing of blood that is a bubblin bass, a bad bad beat, pushin gainst de wall, whey bar black blood
an is a whole heapa passion a gather, like a frightful form, like a righteous harm, giving off wild like is madness
Bad out dey
This is the music that finally helped me understand reggae. It was not about smoking kali, it was not about Jah, it was not about dread. It was about all those things, but they were merely epiphemera, appearances of a Way, spiritual touchstones of the struggle.
He’s in the same neighborhoods I was hearing about in punk songs, but he was showing what life was like on the receiving end of the skinheads in Brixton (some a dem say dem a paki-basher, some a dem say dem a black stabber). He was a black man in urban Britain, not a rasta in Trenchtown. And he describes how in the face of this oppression, they danced. He speaks of the abuse (dem kick him in him seed and it started to bleed, dem jook him in him head but it tough like lead) but also the parties on the margins (den we take chance, and get a likkle kali. den we take chance, and lick a sister Sally). The rhythmn of the subaltern, right under Thatcher’s nose. No man would dance but leap and shake.
And they’re ready to fight while theyre partying. When the mighty poet I Roy was on the wire. Feeling I-re. Dread I. Any police man come get some righteous Rasta licks.
OK. I get it. Reggae is not about getting high. Reggae is dread and blood. It’s about the struggle. And how do you lift that dread, even for a moment? How do you fight that War Inna Babylon? You dance. That couchlock attitude is just the stoner white boys who groove on the riddim. The bandoolis, feeling I-re, skank in the morning! Rude Boys. Stepping Razor. Ive had deep respect for the art form ever since, and little patience for pop melodies and messages with a reggae beat. I’ll let Bob do his Beatles and Dylan covers as he’s trying to get a record deal. But where iy’s at is Burning Spear singing, “Do You Remember the Days of Slavery?” Or the Abyssinians. This is roots reggae, music I finally understood after I listened it coming from an urban immigrant’s experience.
Stream I Am A Pilgrim by The Kentucky Colonels on Appalachian Swing! for free on Grooveshark.
Yesterday was Clarence White’s birthday. Legendary flatpicker with the Colonels and then Telemaster with the Byrds who was taken too soon (his guitars now treasured by the likes of Tony Rice—the D-28—and Marty Stuart—the b-bender modified Telecaster. He left us plenty still to chew on, listening in awe.
Nigeria 70 - Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos, an album by Various Artists on Spotify
Given that all we hear these days from Nigeria is about Boko Haram, and after that oil (which of course is really why the West cares if hundreds of schoolgirls are being abducted), lets go back a few decades and recall what Nigeria has been doing for us so long in the West: taking our stuff and making it better.
Next candidate for Radio420 programming.
The repeat of the chorus, the poly-rhythmic instrumentals, and the distinctive, dreamy high voice juju talking/singing (a style of singing so similar in King Sunny Ade, Emperor Pick Peters, and - playing here - Admiral Dele Abiodun that at first I couldn’t tell the difference between them) is oh so hypnotic. But, really, most hypnotic of all is the pics passing through.
It’s like watching slides in a viewfinder. Slides of someone’s prized collection of LPs from Nigeria. It’s pretty awesome.
Good #juju from the Admiral.
If I was going to start programming a music Internet Channel (video clips, Spotify links, soundcloud embeds) called Radio420, this would be my first entry.
Idris Muhammad is a fabulous drummer. He plays on Grant Green’s Live at Club Mozambique. On that album, I hear echos of Billy Martin. I’ve wondered in Martin is in any way influenced by Muhammad.
Either way. This. Has a nice. Loping. Groove.
A gift: live footage of Jerry Garcia Band playing in their peak - Spring, 1976. April 2, 1976 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey, to be exact.
A peak, in my view, because of the line-up, which lasted in this incarnation from late ‘75 until August ‘77, when Elvis died: Jerry, Keith & Donna, John Kahn, and the inimitable Ronnie Tutt on drums. (Tutt was Elvis’ drummer.) They had a spare, gospel-infused sound then that IMO pushed the limits of unrushed, meditative playing for the sheer pleasure of playing. It was a soulful, sometimes exceptionally quiet music that required a drummer who could be spare, could accent silence, and all the while could maintain absolutely perfect timing — because without that precise beat it would have fallen apart. Ron Tutt held them together through the heroin-infused haze, in my view. Later drummers played in a typically busy, Dead-appropriate way to keep time for Jerry and John Kahn, lots of doubletime tapped out, but Ron Tutt could keep perfect time without overplaying. I just love his playing. I love videos such as this one not only for the rare chance to see Jerry, Keith, Donna - the much beloved main characters in this story - but also to see Tutt do his thing.
If, like me, you spend more time than you should rooting our minute details about this period in JGB’s history, you also learn that Ron Tutt sang backup harmony as he played drums in the band. This video is the best record of his Jerry Band singing I’ve ever heard — especially for Catfish John, a favorite tune of mine. Give it a listen. In the chorus, there’s Tutt’s voice as clear as you’ll ever hear anywhere. (True of other songs in this show, too, including Sisters & Brothers, where this a great shot of him drumming and singing behind Donna.)
People have various benchmarks to help them understand the quality of a new experience. New sushi place? Try the hamachi. New BBQ joint? Try the baby back ribs. You know the drill. Every time I come upon one of these JGB mid-70s treasures, I go straight to Catfish John to see how they were playing for the night.
4-2-76 was an amazing night. But then, so was the next night, at Lisner Auditorium in DC. That Catfish John was all about Donna’s harmonies. Just. Perfect.
Only complaint here is an occasional warble in the video - but, hey, I’ll take it.
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going rain today
I love what UB40 did in their early years, especially the first album. (Maybe only the first album.)
This song (all of Signing Off really) takes me back to being thirteen years old, in Cape Town, South Africa, spending every free moment either at the beach or listening to music via a shitty tape recorder on a train coming or going from the beach — and becoming aware of adult worlds that surrounded us, clues everywhere, worlds I had until that moment been completely unaware existed….
One of those worlds had as its soundtrack a music that was both angry and beautiful, a kind of tension that made it especially compelling to teenage surfer kids at the tip of the African continent IMO. Bob Marley, Third World, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, and this album — I listened to it so often it takes me right there every time. To say nothing of the beauty of that delicate line. Human kindness if overflowing and I think it is going to rain today.
Chris Ott (via newspeedwayboogie)