Known Johnson

August 2, 2007

The Breakdown: David Bowie, Charlie Hunter

Filed under: Music,News,The Breakdown — Tom @ 8:32 pm

With Overlooked Alternatives behind me, I now embark on this brand new series . . . which is nearly identical. But don’t you like this new name better? The important thing is that I’m still bringing you the details on some of the week’s odder releases.

I have to admit, however, dear Reader, to not being quite as excited about this week’s offering as I always hope to be. Perhaps it’s just the time – after 7 months of great releases, I’ve got a backlog of stuff to go through; or, perhaps it’s just that I’m more intrigued by the remixed and remastered copy of Derek & The Dominos’ Layla that I just picked up. Yes, that’s right, I just bought this now. I’ll ‘fess up – I had heard the original version of Layla long, long ago and simply found it boring. Aside from the title track, nothing really grabbed me. I was just a kid then, so maybe time has warmed me to Layla‘s wiles, or maybe it’s the fantastic remix that breathes new life into the album. Some of you out there are gasping as you read that. If you listen closely you’ll hear it too.

You audiophiles know who you are – all of you clutching your imported German vinyl copies of the album, or shuffling through a CD rack with copies from every territory on earth (because one is more better than the others, but you have to have all of them to compare.) I’ve just said the worst words an audiophile can hear: “the remix/remaster is better.” All I can say is, I’m a revisionist, happily letting time-honored works be replaced by newer versions that do something to bring the mixing style into the present. You’ll always have your precious originals in whatever format you choose. Why not just let the remixing happen so that other people can have that moment of epiphany when they realize they love the music? Without the remixing, the album remains an old album to many, but with it, new ears may open in curiosity. After all, it’s just about the music, right, guys? It’s not about simply collecting these things, is it, or not wanting anything to change, right? Remember, as the famous philospher drummer Neil Peart wrote, “Nothing is permanent but change is.” (Yes, yes, I’m aware he’s quoting Heraclitus.)

Let’s move on, shall we?

David Bowie – Glass Spider Tour (DVD): This much-maligned period of Bowie’s, the 80s, seems to be getting a bit of a revival of sorts lately, what with The Best Of 1980-1987 having been released not too long ago and now this long out of print video getting the DVD treatment. That period just wasn’t kind to him and yet, strangely, he set out on one of his most ambitious tours ever in support of Never Let Me Down, which played out like a rock opera on stage, complete with a 60-foot spider that Bowie rides in on. Almost universally trashed at the time, the show’s being rereleased now when Bowie is decidedly much smarter about his projects, and time has been kind to this thing, for I’ve seen more positive comments about this set and tour than ever before, when it was basically the butt of jokes about Bowie. I’m not sure I’m curious enough to dive into this set yet, but for anyone who is, be aware that there is a “deluxe edition” of this set that includes a two-disc live album along with the DVD, and the nice thing is that the CDs are from different nights of the tour. So you actually do get something unique with that package. Whether you like the music that much, however, is another matter.

Charlie Hunter – Mistico: His first on Fantasy/Concord after stints with Blue Note and Rope-a-Dope, this one’s a little bit different than previous Hunter releases. Charlie is working with a piano/keyboard trio consisting of Simon Lott on drums and Erik Deutsch on piano, Fender Rhodes, and CasioTone, which lends a more blues-oriented feel to the proceedings. The lineup change might prove fortuitous for listeners who, like me, found Hunter’s previous album, Copperopolis, more than slightly disappointing. Hunter feels so confident in his new trio that he’s released a live show of the group playing some of the new material, available for purchase and download on his site.


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