Known Johnson

September 18, 2005

Filling in the holes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 5:56 pm

Presenting the other side of “collecting”: when you run into something you actually did want that really is hard to find. Take as an example my afternoon today. I made a Zia run with a batch of purgeables and wound up running into not one, not two, but three things I’d wanted – all used, too! The most important of these three is a used copy, for a mere $1.99, of Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” single. Now, if you’re a big Sugar fan, you’ll probably be thinking “aren’t most of those tracks on Besides, the cleverly titled b-sides compilation? And in most cases I’d say, yes, you’re right, and I wouldn’t have bought this. However, what I ran into today, for the first time ever in the 13 years since this single was released, is the other version of it. See, the one version that I’ve always seen has a non-album track with two live versions of album tracks – all three of these are on Besides. What I found today, however, is version two, which features three live tracks from a BBC broadcast that are available nowhere else. This is the kind of thing that makes me love looking for music – something I had seen existed, but have never actually seen, and for a dirt-cheap price (in contrast, the other version of the single was also available – for $4.99!) And yes, these live versions are worth seeking out – it’s a much tighter version of Sugar than you’ve probably heard in other live releases (again, on Besides and the totally-cool limited live disc that came with it, or bootlegs,) perhaps due to the live-in-studio nature of most BBC live material. Either way, it’s a really fun addition to have.

Other purchases, with trade:

Brad Mehldau: Live in Tokyo – I held off buying this until now, not quite sure why, but maybe it’s simply because it’s a solo-piano release and I really like Mehldau’s chemistry with his two bandmates. I took the plunge today because I’d been listening to Largo and was fascinated with the delicate intricacies of the actual physical aspect of Mehldau’s playing – he’s such a stunningly talented pianist that you can really hear the extreme dynamics available on the piano, which is something most pianists today either don’t know how to do or simply can’t. I’m also curious to see if this is the same show as a Mehldau solo bootleg that I downloaded a couple years back – seeing the inclusion of a 20 minute rendition of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” piqued my curiosity, as this is a feature of the much longer bootleg that I already have. I’m hoping not – as much as I want to support artists like Mehldau, I’d really rather have a completely different performance. I’ll have to dig that out tonight and see . . .

Blues Traveler: Bastardos! – It’s entirely by chance that I even ran across the fact that BT has a new album. I, like many people my age, know the band from the singles they released off of Four back in the mid-90s as part of the grunge movement, which is odd because they’re not a grunge band. They were, however, a jam band, a genre I tried to enjoy but ultimately found frustrating because most of the musicians just aren’t strong enough to carry off long improvisations like they wanted to. That, or maybe I just needed a lot of drugs to really appreciate the “artistry” in hearing the same riffs over and over for 25 minutes. Regardless, Blues Traveler managed to surpass the genre over time, but as is always the way, they disappeared from view of the majority of music listeners. Last week, however, Alissa and I happened to be up late with the fussy Amanda and I saw the band perform on the Tonight Show. The song really resonated with me and, what’s more, I really enjoyed hearing the fluid, emotive contributions of their bassist, who replaced the guy who died a few years back. It was a great, catchy song, and, from the brief glimpse I got, showed that the band had indeed progressed beyond the limiting confines of the jam-band scene to simply make good songs. Today I ran into a used copy, so I could safely expore without investing too much. Now I feel a little guilty – it’s a very solid album and, as AlMusic says, it’s entirely possible that it’s their best album.

John Vanderslice: Life and Death of an American Fourtracker – I picked up Vanderslice’s latest album, Pixel Revolt after reading consistently solid reviews and, I admit, a download of the album to check it out – it blew me away and I had to have it, and it’s definitely one of the best releases of the year. JV’s one of those disgustingly talented guys who can make any subject matter an intriguing listen. Pixel Revolt‘s subject matter veers from a soldier experiencing the Iraq war to a man remorsefully admitting to losing his girlfriend’s beloved bunny, all wrapped in thoughtful song compositions that bring to mind Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird (another two whose albums are among my favorites of the year.) I have no doubt that more lyrical adventures away in Fourtracker.

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