Random Five: trade show edition

It’s been a while since I’ve spun the wheel. Here are the five tracks that came up this time:

  1. The Kingston Trio, “The Patriot Game” (Kingston Trio: Collector’s Series). From late in the original trio’s run, after Dave Guard had been replaced by John Stewart (the songwriter of “Daydream Believer,” not the comedian), comes this cover of Dominic Behan’s ballad protesting the murder of an IRA volunteer by another IRA member. It’s the same tune (“The Merry Month of May”) that Bob Dylan borrowed for “With God On Our Side.”
  2. Joan Baez, “Away in a Manger (French Version)” (Noel). Boy, we’re really mining the 60s folk vein here this morning. My mom had (and occasionally played) this Christmas album, but for me it’s best remembered for the instrumental arrangements by Peter (P.D.Q. Bach) Schickele. 
  3. Polyphony, “II. In te, Domine, speravi” (Morten Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna). The most exquisitely dissonant movement of Lauridsen’s soaring setting of the Lux text. 
  4. Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Free” (The Bootleg Series Vol.9: the Witmark Demos). Dylan goofs on an old Lead Belly song. 
  5. The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe” (Surfer Girl). Did you know that a “deuce coupe” was a 1932 Ford Model 18? Now you do. 

Friday Random 5: Dry the Rain

An odd grab bag of stuff for an odd grab-bag of a day. But as the morning fog and rain burns off before the afternoon clouds roll in (feels a little like Seattle!), it’s a good day to strap the headphones on for a little Random 5.

Radiohead, “4 Minute Warning”: A song from the “Disk 2” companion to In Rainbows, it’s like a lot of the songs on that masterwork: pretty and conventional on the surface, shot full of existential dread underneath.

Nick Drake, “Know”: Speaking of existential dread, this bare guitar-and-voice track from Pink Moon carries the same emotional payload as Drake’s devastating “Black Eyed Dog,” without the comforting John Fahey-inspired solo guitar work. The repeated guitar figure comes across as accusatory and mocking as the narrator sings “You know that I love you/You know I don’t care/You know that I see you/You know I’m not there.” Is the narrator accusing? Stalking? Dead? A great track for Halloween.

PJ Harvey, “Hanging on the Wire”: Another pretty song of despair, this one from the battlefield. The technique is offputting for me, which may be why I never cottoned much to this album.

Nada Surf, “Here Goes Something”: Lovely, optimistic track from an album I’ve slept on a bit. Lucky isn’t as unabashedly brilliant as Let Go or The Weight is a Gift but there’s some really good stuff on it.

The Chieftains & Kevin Conneff: “The Green Fields of America”: No, I know. But come back. This isn’t the typical Chieftains track, heavy with tin flute and bonhomie (though I like a lot of those tracks too). This is a solo song by Kevin Conneff about the Irish immigrant experience, and it’s totally devastating. Must listen.

Friday Random 5: Welcome to the terrordome

By special request, I bring the Random 5 back this week. Let’s see what craziness this weekend begins with.

The Cure, “Sinking”: In middle and high school I was aware of the kids who loved the Cure, but never became one until Disintegration came out. When I finally listened to The Head on the Door, I liked it fine, but I found it facile compared to the later effort. The highs were giddy, but the lows felt shallow when stacked up against the massive thundering tracks of “Disintegration.” I still feel that way about songs like “Sinking.” Robert Smith is trying to reach for that note of despair, and for most of the song he doesn’t get there—maybe it’s the keyboards that don’t work for me. But then there’s that bridge: “So I trick myself/Like everybody else/I crouch in fear and wait/I’ll never feel again/If only I could remember/Anything at all.” And then I feel the connection to the dark heart that the best Cure tracks touch.

Herbert von Karajan/Vienna Philharmonic, “Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem. I. “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen”: One choral masterwork that has become completely embedded in my soul. This recording doesn’t draw out the precision of some of the interior orchestral lines the way that Levine was able to on his recording with the BSO (on which I sang), but the way that the choir emerges from the void in the beginning, completely seamlessly, with all voice parts completely seamlessly blended is something to hear.

White Stripes, “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?”: Back when the White Stripes were refreshing because of their relative lack of pretense and you weren’t sure whether they were brother/sister, husband/wife, or both, or what.

White Stripes, “I’m Bound to Pack It Up”: Proof once again that the iPhone’s random is really random, this second track from De Stijl sounds like the bastard child of “Going to California” and “We Are Going to Be Friends.”

Patrick Watson, “Big Bird in a Small Cage”: Ever run across a track that you’re not sure how it got into your music library? That’s this track. Wikipedia tells me it was a Starbucks Pick of the Week in 2009, which is probably where I got it—and the last time I heard it. But I like it. Sort of Devendra Banhart meets the Beach Boys and Dolly Parton.

Friday Random 5: poets edition

Not poets as in “writers of poetry,” but as in “p*ss off early, tomorrow’s Saturday.” Or, more precisely, the Memorial Day weekend. Here’s a quick 5 to take us into the weekend:

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, “As This Moment Slips Away”: I keep sleeping on this album, which is a mistake. The Bad Plus are astonishing on their own, but as a rhythm section they keep Joshua Redman on his toes and bring out some really strong playing. This tune is a little more controlled than some of the stuff on the album, but I dig the way Redman and Ethan Iverson make improvisation seem effortless, even over 9/4.

The Lonely Island, “Sax Man”: Just silly. Jack Black as a lead vocalist who’s intimidating the saxophonist is hysterical. “Okay, movin’ on!”

Amahl and the Night Visitors, “Oh No, Wait”: Yeah, it’s going to be one of those days where everything turns up on the random shuffle, isn’t it? Amahl was a holiday staple in my house. This moment where the mother acknowledges that she has allowed her despair to overcome her moral center and offers the gold back to the child, followed by Amahl offering to give the only possession he has, is the key turning point, and Menotti pulls it off in just over a minute and a half.

David Byrne, “What A Day That Was (Live from Austin, TX)”: From David Byrne’s superb Austin City Limits show, this key track from The Catherine Wheel gains a little meat on its bones from a string arrangement that owes a little to western Swing.

My Morning Jacket, “Cobra”: An early indication, from the Chocolate and Ice EP, that Jim James and MMJ owed more than a little to funk and R&B. Very different from their earliest stuff, but in retrospect pointed the way to some of the later surprises on Circuital. Heavy heavy bassline. And then after 7 minutes it gets really weird.

Friday Random 5: coming out of the rain

It’s been a rainy week back in Massachusetts, and that’s contributing to a small sense of writer’s block for me this morning. So it is that I double-dip and write about music again today.

China Girl (David Bowie, Nothing Has Changed): to say that this song skirts the edge of offense today is probably an understatement, between the title and frequent invocation of “my little China girl” and the stereotypical “oriental” melody in the opening guitars, it’s kind of astonishing that it escapes the valley of offense. But it’s one of Bowie’s more interesting 1980s melodies, though the backing track, especially the bassline, is solidly 80s, and his unhinged second verse opening “I stumble into town/just like a sacred cow” is kind of brilliant.

Come the Meantimes (Elvis Costello, Wise Up Ghost): If EC is really leaving the world of albums behind, as he hints in his brilliant autobiography, he could have done worse with a parting shot than this album. The Roots seem like a counterintuitive backing band for Elvis, but then so did the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Spike. The backing rap “you can’t beg” on the chorus makes this song feel a little like his early angry young man songs like “Goon Squad,” but the beat is a lot funkier.

This Ole House (Live) (The Statler Brothers on Johnny Cash, Live at Folsom Prison Legacy Edition): What a bass part!

Walk Alone (The Roots, How I Got Over): More Roots, but this is in their own wheelhouse. Lots of different directions in this track, unified by a great chorus sample.

Tempest (Bob Dylan, Tempest): A fourteen minute evocation of the sinking of the Titanic with fiddle band accompaniment? Sure, why not.

 

Friday Random 5: recovery edition

A long, good week calls for a quick Random 5.

The Cure, In Between DaysThe Head on the Door: I’ve heard this song as a country-western cover and as a dance remix, and I’m enough of a child of the 80s that I still prefer the original. For everyone who’s ever got so old they felt like they would die.

Flunk, Blue MondayFor Sleepyheads Only: This was among the first modern downtempo covers of a New Order song I heard back in the day. I no longer need to hear any more, thanks.

Miles Davis, NefertitiNefertiti. The circularity of the main tune, the way the two horns drift in and out of time with each other, the way that the rhythm section led by Herbie Hancock continues to churn as the horns repeat the melody over and over. There’s so much about this tune I love, and it’s not even my favorite performance on this album.

My Morning Jacket, One Big HolidayIt Still Moves. This may be my favorite My Morning Jacket album. They had outgrown some of the rough edges of their journeyman albums—I love The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn, but they’re clearly products of a young band—and had just started to unironically embrace big southern rock sounds, no more so than on this track.

The Beach Boys, In the Parkin’ LotSurfer Girl/Shut Down, Vol. 2. You have to admire the early Beach Boys’ total dedication to their aesthetic. They produced a song about just about every aspect of high school and surfing life, including sitting in the car in the parking lot making out with your date, and brought the same tight stack of harmonies to it as they did to everything else. Not essential, but fun.

Friday random 10: Prince esta muerto

I break the normal rules of the Friday Random 5 once again, this time for the obvious reason. I wasn’t as completely shocked by Prince’s death as I was by Bowie’s, but that’s partly because Bowie had just dropped an incredibly compelling new album that in retrospect clearly laid out what was happening to him. With Prince’s death, I’m still a little numbed by the suddenness of it. So I turn to his music.

Mom warning ahead: Prince wrote about sex so I will too.

Just 4 the Tears in Your Eyes: I still can’t believe that this song was only a b-side. I heard it for the first time 22 years ago when I picked up his first, and best, career retrospective, the three-disc monster Hits/B-sides compilation. It’s an appropriately somber note on which to start this retrospective and a useful reminder that Prince had spirituality as well as sensuality working for him.

Shy: Depending on how I feel at the time, this is either a monstrously underrated track from the underrated The Gold Experience, or it’s an arch piece of songwriting. I figure, the way life is, it’s probably both. But I love the way he builds the track off the footsteps of the protagonist, adding just a lead guitar, then building the track out on top of the rhythm guitar pattern that falls in behind the verse.

Adore: The slow jam that closes out Sign o’ the Times, complete with horn section and falsetto for days. An endlessly fascinating love song. This is definitely the song that Beck was listening to when he wrote “Debra.”

One of Your Tears: From the in-retrospect seriously interesting Crystal Ball rarities collection. I understand why this track remained a rarity; when your song has the narrator’s estranged girlfriend sending him a used condom in the first verse, it’s kind of amazing that it can actually recover. But the stacked harmony that fills out the chorus has insinuated itself into my brain.

Come: Okay, now shuffle is just playing with me. The salacious horn-driven title track from another underrated Prince album from the early 1990s and probably the most explicit paean to cunnilingus ever written. It appears that this song was a last minute addition to Come (the album), but it doesn’t sound like it. I hope Heaven has a horn section this funky.

Scarlet Pussy: Another early b-side, I think of this as the early flip side to “P. Control.” While it’s unusual in early Prince songs for having a female protagonist, the song doesn’t escape reducing her to her sexuality. But it’s got a George Clintonesque narrator, an electrofunk backbone, and an unforgettable chorus. So there’s that.

I Would Die 4 U: What does it say about this song that it’s probably the least memorable of the hit singles from Purple Rain? Only that Purple Rain is an album so full of win that it couldn’t have been written by anyone else. The beats and the one-note verse and the minimal arrangement (synths, handclaps, synth bass) all add up to something a lot more than the parts.

Interactive: Another Crystal Ball number, this is a rock number that featured in Prince’s Interactive video game CD. (Has a more early-90s sentence ever been written?) I don’t think the rock that Prince was writing in the early 90s was his best stuff, but this track is pretty good, particularly the guitar work.

P Control: The remix version of the lead-off track from The Gold Experience, this is another track on Crystal Ball. This version adds scratching and backing vocals and plays around with the instrumentation on the bass track, but it’s otherwise the same great song. I’ve always loved this song because it plays gleefully with the dirty words and paints a portrait of the most independent of his female musical protagonists, in which the only way the narrator wins a chance with her is by acknowledging and respecting her strength. That’s a long way from “Scarlet Pussy.”

Hide the Bone: Yeah, OK, shuffle, we get it. I should listen to Crystal Ball more often.

BonusCloreen Bacon Skin. After “Hide the Bone,” I listened to about another hour of miscellaneous Prince stuff before this track came on. Another treasure from Crystal Ball, a fifteen minute funk jam with just Prince on bass and Morris Day on drums, featuring Prince doing an impression of an elderly James Brown via George Clinton and … really, I don’t know what else to say because if you weren’t already looking up the song on Youtube by the end of that sentence, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Composition note: I dictated this via speech to text while driving to Charlottesville, only to lose it when the WordPress app hiccupped, so had to rewrite it from scratch.

Friday Random 5: Spring es gesprungen edition

The daffodils survived being covered with six inches of snow, the rabbits and peepers are out, and I hear the owl at night: spring is definitely here.

  1. TemptationElvis Costello (Costello and Nieve: Live at the Troubador: Los Angeles)
  2. Typical Situation – Dave Matthews Band (Under the Table and Dreaming)
  3. Stone Cold Bush – Red Hot Chili Peppers (Mother’s Milk)
  4. The Candy Man – Cibo Matto (Viva! La Woman)
  5. Night Flight – Jeff Buckley (Night Flight single)

Temptation: Not the New Order song. I’ve loved this song, in this arrangement, for a long time, really ever since I had Tower Records order the Costello and Nieve set for me back in the 90s. It’s literate without being arch, musically witty without being precious, and it’s got the right amount of irony and true emotion. And one of Elvis’s finest lines: “I wrote this song in Nashville, 1978. I was watching a very famous singer on stage, and I said, ‘That’ll never be me. I’ll never be trapped by fame…’ Well, that part was true.”

Typical Situation: I don’t listen to Dave Matthews much any more (and was never part of the crowd that saw him live). And this song isn’t the one that comes to mind when I think of him—the lyrics are a little overstated and pompous without actually meaning anything. But the arrangement is great and it’s really well engineered; unlike some later DMB tracks it’s actually a pleasure to listen to. And fantastic flute work from the late LeRoi Moore.

Stone Cold Bush: Never one of my favorite tracks from RHCP lyrically, the combination of John Frusciante, Flea and Chad Smith is nevertheless fantastic here.

The Candy Man: If you’re looking for proof that music in the 1990s was a different time, look no further than this album. Two women, Japanese expats in New York, make a trip-hop album about food. Tchad Blake’s contribution as producer and engineer is evident, but the supreme weirdness of the lyrics make it unforgettable.

Night Flight: I’ve written about this, a single released in advance of the issue of the complete Live at Sin-é, before—almost 13 years ago! I was overly harsh on his melismas then, though I do think he spent too much time in the upper tessitura. And the guitar work is pretty solid on this rendition too.

Friday Random 5: Hackathon IX edition

I’m bending the rules of Random 5 to bring you this hackathon themed random 5. Pray I don’t bend them again.

  1. Be Thankful for What You’ve GotMassive Attack (Blue Lines)
  2. Rabbit In Your Headlights – UNKLE (Psyence Fiction)
  3. Roads – Portishead (Dummy)
  4. Górecki – Lamb (I Still Know What You Did)
  5. Breathe – Telepopmusik (Genetic World)

Be Thankful for What You’ve Got: I love this version, but I feel like I’m harming my cred just a little bit to admit that I like the Yo La Tengo version even more.

Rabbit In Your Headlights: Featuring a Thom Yorke vocal and dialog samples from one of the most tortured early 90s movies ever, this shouldn’t work as well as it does. But it totally does. Something about the rhythm section, and the fact that this was before Yorke wrecked his cords.

Roads: I want to like this album more than I do. But I love the electric piano intro to this.

Górecki: There’s no better way to confuse me than to reference this song, because I’m never sure if we’re talking about the Polish composer, or the Lamb track that samples piano chords from the second movement of the Third Symphony. Still a great song, though I’ve always preferred the edit that appeared on the CD2 single back in the day.

Breathe – This is really the tail end of the time period, but I’ve always considered the 90s lasted until September 11, 2001 anyway. Great song, regardless of its use in a Mitsubishi commercial.

Friday Random 5: Catching Up Edition

Looks like, in my illness last week, I missed the Friday Random 5 and didn’t even remember it. Today I’m stuck at the car dealers again while they fix my air conditioning, so it’s time to write that catch-up post.

  1. Handel Concerto No. 4 in F: I. AllegroVirgil Fox (Virgil Fox Encores)
  2. Born Again – Mark Sandman (Sandbox)
  3. Listening Guide: Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow – Sting (Songs from the Labyrinth)
  4. Ghost Train – Straight No Chaser (Best of BOCA: The First 20 Years)
  5. Lithium (Acoustic Version) – Nirvana (Lithium (Acoustic Version) – Single)

Handel Concerto No. 4 in F: Is there anything better than starting the morning off with organ music? No, I don’t think so either.

Born Again – Really just a one-liner, but what a one liner. “I hope I don’t get born again, ’cause one time was enough.”

Listening Guide – Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow – while I appreciate the thought of providing audible liner notes, I really don’t like them cluttering up my iTunes library. I’m glad more albums don’t do this.

Ghost Train – I like this album for some of the tracks that provide an innovative approach to a cappella. This one is much more straightforward but very effective.

Lithium (Acoustic Version) – The lead single off the With the Lights Out box set, this is solo Kurt Cobain. Great track.

Random 5: Going home edition

It’s been a long week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco and I’m happy to be headed home today. Thankfully I have a random 5 to help me unwind!

  1. Water WheelSteve Gunn (Time Off). An interestingly meditative song, this was my introduction to Gunn, who’s a heck of an artist of sunbaked American primitive guitar.
  2. TightlyNeko Case (Blacklisted). Still a great album almost 15 years later, the shambling grace of this track always makes me smile.
  3. The Bronx Bird WatcherAllan Sherman (My Son, the Celebrity). “On the branch of a tree sat a little tom tit, singing willow, tid willow, tid willow/An uncomfortable place for a boidie to sit, singing willow, tid willow, tid willow.” Even more than Weird Al, I owe my weird sense of humor to Allan Sherman, and specifically to this album.
  4. She’s Lost ControlJoy Division (Unknown Pleasures). Of Joy Division’s short canon, this is not one of the most essential tracks. The lyrics set the pattern for a bunch of bad songs from bands like Interpol and Black Angels. And yet. The tightly wound guitar that simmers until it boils, the metronomic regularity of the bone dry drum kit, that bass.
  5. Quiet SteamPeter Gabriel (Digging in the Dirt). Still by far my favorite take on this song from Us, it holds on by its fingernails to quiet, with only the guitar and slowly building organ chords hinting at what lies underneath. I’m not sure the song gained more than it lost when it transformed into the brass driven version on the final album.

BTW, If you’re interested in the sorts of things I was learning about at the conference, check out a few Storify stories here:

Random 5: Pre-RSA edition

I’ll be traveling next week to the big security industry trade show, but hope still to manage some blogging. It should be … interesting. There’s some very cool stuff coming up from us, and always a few new things to see from competitors and hear about from the market. But in the meantime, there’s Random 5!

  1. Reckoner (Piano/Strings Stem)Radiohead (Reckoner (Instrument Stems) – EP). Radiohead, experimenting with distribution and business models around the time of the In Rainbows album, released five separate instrument stem tracks for their song Reckoner. The tracks conserve whitespace and so are not for casual listening—this track opens with 1:22 of silence—but repay close inspection. With this stem you can hear how the piano provides a chord progression which is then picked up by the strings, for a net effect that wouldn’t be out of place in a soundtrack.
  2. AnecdotesJoanna Newsom (Divers). I like this track just fine, but I preferred Joanna Newsom before her edges were sanded off.
  3. ToylandAnita Ellis (Vintage Christmas). Man, remember when pop songs had serious orchestration with artistic interest and value? Yeah, me either.
  4. For What It’s WorthTalk Talk (The Very Best Of). This anthology isn’t the “very best of” Talk Talk—that’s their album Laughing Stock—but has some otherwise interesting tracks, such as this non-album track. Built with the same instrumental essentials as any mid-80s track (the bass treatment could be heard on lots of 80s pop), the minimal slow burn of the two-chord vamp on which the song is built makes it stronger—and stranger—than many of its contemporaries. And then there’s…
  5. The Sea IncertainGastr Del Sol (Upgrade & Afterlife). David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke doing what they do best: a piano exploring a set of changes on a simple melody is gradually pushed to the background by electronic whistling sounds, a straining clarinet, and feedback. Essential listening.

Random 5: family travel edition

Flying back today, so trying to put the Random 5 together using the WordPress app on my phone. The miracles of modern technology!

  1. “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her” – Paul Desmond (Bridge Over Troubled Water). A surprising album of all jazz covers of Simon and Garfunkel songs by Dave Brubeck’s longtime saxophonist. The results are a little uneven—no one needed that jazz cover of “El Condor Pasa”—but this track is lovely, with some fat Rhodes piano by Herbie Hancock (!) and a full orchestration. 
  2. “Weightless” – Brian Eno (Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks). One of my favorite tracks from this album, framing Eno’s atmospheric synths and textures with Daniel Lanois’s subtle slide guitar. 
  3. “El Niño: Pues Mi Dios Ha Nacido a Penar” – Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin, Kent Nagano (John Adams: El Niño). I will forever be sorry that I couldn’t sing this with the BSO a few years ago. This movement features a sublime solo from the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and some typically unsettled choral writing from Adams.
  4. “Two Sacred Songs Opus 30: I. Zlożę Na Pańskim Stole” – Ronan Collett, Stephen De Pledge & Chamber Domaine (Górecki: Life Journey). A baritone lied in Polish, in glacial time, accompanied by the barest outlines of a piano accompaniment. I considered using this for an audition piece once, and still might. I’d like a better translation before I do though, to better sell whatever takes the baritone into the higher register for two phrases near the end. 
  5. “My Secret Weapon” – Mark Mothersbaugh (The Lego Movie: Original Soundtrack). Great incidental music for a pivotal moment in the film, works surprisingly well against the Górecki and the Eno.

Friday Random 5: North of the Sunset

It’s that time again! Give your music player a shuffle and play along!

  1. A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into SubmissionSimon & Garfunkel (The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964–1970). Particularly timely given the exchange between Hillary and Bernie Sanders regarding Henry Kissinger in the Democratic primary debate last night. Remember back when we worried more about McNamara than Kissinger? Yeah, me neither. “The man ain’t got no culture.”
  2. North of the SunsetThelonious Monk (Solo Monk). Killer track featuring only Monk doing his thing and sounding for all the world like the left handed son of Jelly Roll Morton.
  3. Strange Fruit (live)Jeff Buckley (Live at Sin-é (Legacy Edition)). It’s hazardous for a white male artist to cover this signature Billie Holiday song, with its resonances of Southern lynching and Jim Crow. That Jeff Buckley’s effort, to which he brings a Chicago-blues inflected guitar and an improvisational vocal, fails is unsurprising, but he gets points for doing something a little different with the song in trying to bring out the pain from its dark corners.
  4. Whatcha Gonna Do?Bob Dylan (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964). A “Times They Are A-Changin'” era composition that’s a little tighter in scope and execution than that masterpiece. Reminiscent of certain hymns and uncertain blues.
  5. I Dig LoveGeorge Harrison (All Things Must Pass). One of the more surprising and less spiritual songs on George’s debut, with an opening that sounds like it could have come from one of John’s albums from five years later. Killer rhythm section and what I suppose is Billy Preston (since there were three keyboard players on the track) laying down some fat grooves. Tasty.

Friday Random 5: Snowed in edition

One of those annoying winter storms today—not a real blizzard, just messy enough to cancel the kids’ school. So here I am working at home and watching the woods fill up with snow. Time for a Random 5!

  1. Cowboy BootsMacklemore & Ryan Lewis (The Heist). Let’s not judge, okay? I grew to appreciate Macklemore during his many live in-studios on KEXP, and there’s something homey about hearing him rap about the passage of time—though the chorus about urban cowboys on Capitol Hill is a little annoying.
  2. Sarah AnneDaniel Bachman (Jesus I’m a Sinner). It’s not fair, the talent of this kid, who comes across as the second coming of John Fahey. This is a strong track from what’s ultimately a journeyman album compared to his epic River, but still mesmerizing.
  3. Last TimeBlack Dub (Black Dub). A disappointing track that buries the old gospel song in layers of drums and reverb, along with the stylistically unsuited (if strong) voice of Chris Whitley’s daughter Trixie. I expected better from Daniel Lanois.
  4. SuperheroJane’s Addiction (Strays). Okay, Shuffle, I guess the theme of today’s Random 5 is “regret.” As in, regret that I picked up this reunion disk 13 years ago. At least the playing is as tight as Perry’s lyrics are lame (“I’m not your average guy”? Really?).
  5. Like a VirginMadonna (Celebration). This is where I’m supposed to dump on Madonna like I did when I was 12 years old, right? Can’t do it. Incredible track, and her still-hiccuppy vocals sell the song in a way that her more mature voice couldn’t have done years later. I’m reminded of the joke in Sting’s “Nothing Like the Sun” tour program, where they did capsule bios of each band member—including Branford Marsalis, Minu Cinelu, and the late great Kenny Kirkland—and asked them about their musical guilty pleasure. “Madonna’s backing band” came up about four times.