Monday, October 02, 2006


Lately all I want to listen to is early-'70s blues-rock/proto-metal. It doesn't matter how big or how obscure the band was. I like Cactus as well as ZZ Top, Buffalo as well as Sir Lord Baltimore. Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, Mountain, Cream, AC/DC, Blue Cheer (and Randy Holden's solo disc, Population II), Grand Funk Railroad,Ted Nugent, the James Gang...they're all in my iPod. My copy of the first Josefus album, from 1970, hasn't come in the mail yet; we'll see how much I like them. I have also thus far failed to investigate Humble Pie and Free, but they're sure to get their turn soon enough.

This stuff has always been paradigmatic, for me. When I was studying audio engineering not too long ago, I didn't want to learn how to make pristine records like Steely Dan's Aja, much as I love those guys. I wanted to learn how to put three or four guys in a room with some mics and some amps and get a sound as stripped-down, yet crushing, as the Grand Funk album.

Anybody making music that doesn't follow these rules is just gonna have to work harder to gain my approval (assuming they're seeking it) than a random trio or quartet of knuckle-draggers cranking out variations on "Baby Please Don't Go" or "Mississippi Queen" for 40 minutes. The visceral pleasure of big, stomping, feedback-laced crunch-rock has a grip on me nothing else can quite match, not even death metal or free jazz. Much as I love tech-death (both old and new school - Cynic, Atheist and Death did one thing, Neuraxis and Necrophagist and Arsis do a whole different thing, but both are fine by me), it doesn't have that swing that Mountain or Cream or even the Jeff Beck Group has. (Though the Beck albums - Truth and Beck-Ola, both about to be reissued by Legacy with a bunch of bonus tracks each - have a really fractured rhythm thing going on that's almost anti-rock at more than a few points. They really seem to be actively subverting, say, "Jailhouse Rock," turning the original's groove into a lurching, square-wheeled-car rampage. And I'm sorry, but Rod Stewart was always a horrible vocalist. It sounds like he recorded "Shapes Of Things" in a single take, and if there were any notes there to be hit, nobody pointed them out to him. His reputation is totally inexplicable to me.)

Anyway, I don't know how long this phase is gonna last, and I don't know how it's gonna interfere with my job as a world music magazine editor or my freelance work as a jazz critic. But right now no album of, um, highly evolved music, even one as brilliant as, say, Jason Moran's Artist In Residence, sounds half as good to me as Sir Lord Baltimore's "I Got A Woman."

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