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Joseph's New CDs

by joseph    April 08, 2002

So the way I normally buy music is to save up money for a month or two and then log on to CDNow (who did not have to pay for this endorsement, generous souls that we Schpiellers are) and click around through various avenues, loading disc after disc into my virtual shopping cart until my clicking finger hurts. Then I go through the list and pull out stuff until it reaches my budget. I'm not sure why this guerilla music shopping works for me, but I think it's because it cuts down (somewhat) on impulse purchases. I'll hear a song on the radio and think "I should get that disc," but if I'm still thinking that a couple of months later when I have my shopping spree, that's a good sign.

I just recently have waded into my latest batch of music selections. Here's the goods on the goods:

Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Buck Jump
Who thought these guys could get any tighter? This is an amazing disc, with the brass boys tackling Caribbean rhythms and even more complex harmonies than previous albums. This is an amazing release. Buy the CD, then buy tickets to the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival to hear them perform. Wave to me. I'll be the one of the many dancing up a storm.

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde
Bob's mid-60s flagship album. Bob has been a prolific musician, releasing scores of albums over the years. However, a few stand out as must-haves for even a casual Dylan listener. Beyond the Biograph tracks like Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Visions of Johanna (albeit a different version), I Want You, and Just Like a Woman, you can't deny the greatness of songs like Absolutely Sweet Marie, 4th Time Around, and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, perhaps the greatest love song ever written, composed to his former wife Sara (and I'm not just conjecturing here; Dylan says on "Sara" from the Desire album that he had been "stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel / Writing Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for you.")

Ryan Adams: Gold
If you haven't heard of Ryan Adams, you should. His song "New York, New York" was composed before September 11, but it became a staple of alt/mainstream radio since. Beyond that song, though, the album bristles with energy, great lyrics and Adams’ distinctive voice. If you’re casting about to check out a new singer/songwriter, you could do much worse than Adams. I think I'd probably be completely ape-shit for him if it weren't for:

Pete Yorn: Musicforthemorningafter
Pete Yorn is amazing. I can't say it enough. When "Life on a Chain" came out, I was impressed. When "Strange Condition" came out on the radio, I was doubly impressed. When I heard the CD, I was convinced that this was a great in the making.

Bob Dylan: Bootleg Series I-III
Unlike Blonde on Blonde, the Bootleg Series requires a little more rabid Dylan fanship to justify the thirty-plus dollar price tag. If you are a Dylan fan, though, the original New York recording of Tangled Up in Blue will justify that price tag many times over. And only Dylan could make me think I don't hate poetry readings--listen to his "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" (check out for a complete recording of this song if you don't want to buy the CD) and try not to be moved by one genius’ tribute to another. (Check out Joe Klein's biography Woody Guthrie: A Life for more info on the Dylan-Guthrie connection.)

John Mellencamp: Cuttin’ Heads
John Mellencamp doesn't get the credit he deserves. With his amazing Human Wheels album, he started down a somewhat experimental path, and his unique ability to play roots music with an alternative/experimental sensibility continues with Cuttin’ Heads. This is a great album, with solid songs like Peaceful World and Women Seem, but his lyrics, never the most brilliant, here seem to show a certain strain--they just don't always click, and more than a few throwaway tracks seem to have made it onto the album.

Wilco: Summer Teeth
I should have bought this a long time ago, but I didn't, and I regret not having had it to listen to until now. An amazing album from an amazing band. Despite the shorter review, it's my favorite of the new crop.

Tom Waits: Rain Dogs and Nighthawks at the Diner
Okay, so Rain Dogs was actually just a replacement for me, but one of my favorite discs that I had been sorely missing for the last few months since my original one snapped in half under mysterious circumstances. It's Tom's best, in my opinion. Nighthawks I bought simply to fill out my collection--it was the last disc I bought to do so. However, while not Tom's most interesting musical outing, the inter-song banter is, as in his live show to this day, witty and hilarious. Tom is a Lenny Bruce and Jack Kerouac combined.

Radiohead: OK Computer, The Bends and Pablo Honey
Radiohead is our Pink Floyd, the Stravinsky of rock and roll. All of which is, in my opinion, a great thing. I only owned Kid A and Amnesiac, having gotten into Radiohead only recently. However, anyone who remembers Creep remembers one of the best songs of the '90s -- haunting, mysterious and rocking. They've only gotten better. Listening to these three albums, while great, only make me appreciate Kid A all the more. Here's a band that is truly charting its own course and, thankfully, we're all allowed along for the ride.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Boatman's Call
Nick Cave is like a more cynical Tom Waits, if such a thing can be believed, and, like Tom, what's so effective about his lyrics is that when that burst of real emotion comes through that veil of cynicism, the effect is doubly powerful. Cave's dissection of love and religion on Into My Arms is a testament to the space in an agnostic's heart. The rest of Boatman's Call plays with the same theme, the power of love made especially powerful in a world without capital "m" Meaning.

Indigo Girls: Become You
A solid album from a group that we should all be glad to have back together. Emily's Deconstruction is one of the best songs they've ever done, with lyrics that break the heart -- "We’re sculpted from youth, the chipping away makes me weary / And as for the truth, it seems that we all just pick a theory." Buy it.

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