In the early 1960s my dad joined a band called the Saxons. They recorded a number of singles, but the only one remembered today is “Camel Walk.” It’s a really good example of the kind of instrumental rock that was popular at the time, after the first flush of rock and roll but before Beatlemania. Incidentally, putting out singles was pretty easy back in those days–all the big companies were switching to new machines to press vinyl so the old ones could be bought for a song. I’ve never even seen any of the other records they recorded, but long ago my dad recorded them to cassette. My brother then took the frail old tape and digitized the songs. The audio quality is about what you’d expect from a second-generation copy of a poor source, but it’s perfectly listenable. It’s nice to get this family history online finally. I’ve put up a playlist here:
It’s taken me a long time to decide just how much I like the Philadelphia quartet Man Man. Now that I’ve heard their new album On Oni Pond, I think the answer is “a whole damn lot.” They channel the freaky side of the ’70s–Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart–but never sound like they’re rewalking old territory. I love how unexpected the lyrics are, too; when you listen to them the uniqueness hits you, but in reading them later it all holds together wonderfully. ” . . . and open up your chest for me and i will build a house / and peel apart your weathered scars and i will live there like a mouse (meow meow meow meow).” This might be one of the best albums of 2013.
For me, richly orchestrated, lush jazz never goes out of style. It can be bad of course, like any other music–typically falling to an artist with greater breadth of scope than chops, or a precious, mannered sound that wanders into easy listening. But with a frontman like Joshua Redman and arrangers like Brad Mehldau you get magic. Redman’s new album Walking Shadows could contend with some of the Columbia albums of Miles Davis and Gil Evans. To be honest I’ve never been a huge fan of Redman’s, but I think he works better in a large ensemble setting than a classic club combo. Have a listen, if that’s your thing.
Just a short one for now, though I know I haven’t been writing much anyway. Neko Case’s new album just came out and it is of course really great. If you know her work you might be wondering “Joe, why are you bothering to post this? It is only just and natural that Neko Case should release a great new album every year. Why do you feel obliged to shout it from the digital rooftops, you grotty ratfink?” I cannot help myself, yet I feel no sense of shame. Go forth and listen.