Known Johnson

October 2, 2007

The Breakdown: Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, PJ Harvey, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Megadeth, Prong

Filed under: Music,News,The Breakdown — Tom @ 9:16 am

You’ve got a whole week before that new Radiohead album, In Rainbows, is available to either shell out next to nothing (you decide!) or splurge on the $82 “disc box” of the latter which has two 12″ records of the music, a CD of the album-proper, and an additional CD of extra music – in addition to the box and artwork, of course. What are you going to do in the meantime? Here are some suggestions:

Miles Davis – The Complete On The Corner Sessions Box Set: Fingers crossed – come on, cross ’em – this should be out this week. Or maybe not – given how things went with the Cellar Door Sessions box, which was delayed and delayed and delayed (due to a conflict between the Davis estate and Columbia,) there’s really no telling when these sets will actually hit store shelves. And it always seems to come right down to release day, somehow. Given the fact that review copies are out (Pico’s fantastic review attests to that,) it should seem imminent that these could be in our hands – but, again, there’s no telling, as those review copies went out long before the final box was completed (it was, of course, complete in audio terms.)

Regardless, when it finally sneaks through, be it this week or whenever, this set’s six discs will be chock full of the studio material Davis recorded from 1972 to 1975, meaning it encompasses the tracks that made it not only to On the Corner but also to Big Fun and Get Up With It. That music is not for the faint of heart – this is not straight-up jazz but a further exploration of the elements that Davis employed during the making of Bitches Brew, and this era of Miles’ music set in motion changes in jazz that couldn’t be stopped, for better or for worse. If you hate all jazz-fusion on principle, you can lay much of the blame on Miles. If, however, you find there to be a sense of daring and excitement, again, Miles is the central figure.

On a side note, what is with the pricing on this set? $125?! It’s six discs! I realize that the packaging is the usual amazing quality that the other sets have had, but this is getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?

Bob Dylan – Dylan (Multiple formats): It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – they’ve covered just about all the bases they could with this one, a gift-idea for many a music fan if I ever saw one. There’s a single disc for those who aren’t really sure if they can handle that much Dylan, but likely want at least something of the legend’s in their collection (and can’t commit to actual albums,) then there’s the three-disc, 48-track career-spanning compilation, and finally the deluxe version of the same three-disc, 48-track career-spanning compilation in a very pretty package – all red-cloth covered and hinged, with 40 page book. Content depends on your point of view – it might make for a nice, extensive best-of, or it might just be yet another quick cash-grab by the label
. Me, I’m in between – I can see that maybe Biograph is a little too esoteric for some listeners, what with all the previously unreleased non-album material, but I also see that there’s absolutely nothing of interest here other than packaging for the long time Dylan fan. It’s obviously been carefully positioned so as to take advantage of the coming Dylan renaissance due to the weirdly intriguing bio-film I’m Not There, but beyond that, whether it offers something of long-time reward is up to the buyers themselves.

PJ Harvey – White Chalk: Harvey’s material has never been particularly sunny, but this album is seriously dark. AllMusic uses the word “eerie” in their review and I have to agree – this is haunting, chilling music, all stripped down to bare bones: piano, a few other instruments, and the atmosphere churned up by her voice. This is not easy listening, but it is intriguing as hell.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights: The Dap Kings are going to be a household name one of these days. You likely already know them – they backed new soul diva Amy Winehouse on her tremendously successful “Rehab” from her “way better than just ‘Rehab'” Back to Black. Like Motown’s Funk Brothers, who backed pretty much everyone on the label in the 60s, the Dap Kings are setting themselves up to be the backing band everyone in 00s soul wants behind them, at least on Daptone records, that is – for now. What we get with Jones is more of what Winehouse had to offer, but without the paparazzi. This is the real deal – be the first on your block to be dropping Jones’ and the Dap Kings names.

Megadeth – Warchest Box Set: And now for something completely different . . . As with the boxes mentioned above, long time fans are going to have the hard decision of deciding whether they need the non-album material that is included. Luckily, in this case, there is quite a bit of it in the form of demos, live tracks, and stuff that never found a home on any of the albums even in their “remixed, remastered, expanded” editions. The live material is the big draw here – one CD (of four) is dedicated to a concert from 1990’s Rust in Peace tour, arguably their artistic peak, and an additional DVD adds a show at their popular peak, on tour for 1992’s Countdown to Extinction. Chris Beaumont has a detailed rundown. While you save up your cash for that, be sure and splurge a little and grab this year’s United Abominations – it’s Megadeth at their best in a decade.

Prong – Power of the Damager: That’s a really unwieldy title right there, but it doesn’t seem to be indicative of the music contained within. Prong, whose chunky executions predated the fall of hard rock, but seemed to predict the format metal would take throughout the decade, failed to follow through on what could have been a fairly successful career. After a few albums, the band started to disintegrate, and while lead guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor picked some worthy successors, what was lost was the very spark that made them so unique in the first place. The band went on hiatus, then reformed for an album that received mixed reviews – 2003’s Scorpio Rising. The jury’s still out on Power to the Damager, but clips on the band’s requisite myspace page are promising – if not a return to the glories of Beg to Differ and Prove You Wrong, it might be along the lines of Cleansing, which was still a pretty damned solid album. We’ll see.


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