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Monday, Oct. 27, 2008

Remembering a world long gone

With a melancholy spirit, Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business (Gotham) reflects on a time when real artists had legitimate control and the chance for exposure in the music business. It is also the story of how critics define who is authentic, along with how and perhaps why this is not the way it ought to be. One realizes that the geniuses in the book-and all of them are geniuses, going by author Danny Goldberg's reasonable definition-would have little or no chance in today's music scene, which is not so much fickle as totally fractured. Goldberg knows of what he speaks as a veteran manager and publicist for some of the world's top bands...
Album Reviews
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

Grapefruit Moon: The Songs Of Tom Waits (Leroy Records)

  The tribute-album idiom has changed. It used to be the cover song: Pat Boone covering Little Richard, for a '50s example of white artists taking black artists' songs into middle-class homes; or Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' "Little Darlin'" becoming a hit by the Diamonds while few even heard the first, utterly untamed version while the white cover hit the charts. And so it went, following a tradition that began much earlier, when the real thing was never the right one for charts and radio...
Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

The Many Modes of Tom Waits

Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen all suffer from genius exhaustion. They are hip nostalgia. Neil Young's superb Greendale went into so many different idioms (album, film, novel, comic book) that our short-attention culture couldn't manage its complexity. It was lost in translation. The Stones, Police and other rock brands are on Viagra tours, artificially getting it up. Weather Report is bringing back fusion that never should have existed and still doesn't if you want to authentically get down with jazz or rock. Tom Waits jumps out in front of all of them by scuttling up from the subterranean nether culture that has permitted him to grow artistically without suffering the kind of fame that can force one to keep going when it is long past . . .
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stoned in the ’60s

Zachary Lazar’s Sway: A Novel (Little, Brown) is a guide to self-involved characters slopping around in the sexual mud and quicksand of the ’60s. All of the characters are members of The Rolling Stones or were associated with them as the 1960s counterculture went the wrong way. Many had to scream “Gimme shelter!” for real. To reference another Stones song, there had been too much sympathy for the devil. The ’60s ran out of brilliant ideas midway through, and the end of it all is what this novel is about, with the Stones as cultural vortex.
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007


Johnny Cash is the ultimate American popular music enigma. Never considered hip during his career until the 1990s, when recording with Rick Rubin commenced, he fell short of rockabilly cool and could not quite make it to outlaw status within country music. He never got to rock ’n’ roll.
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

The Other Side of the Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival,

The folk-blues revival was a lively movement of rediscovery. It ran circa the early-1960s through Bob Dylan's death-knell summer of '65 performance captured on this DVD.

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