Known Johnson

December 4, 2007

Saved by rock

Filed under: In the ears, on my mind,Music — Tom @ 10:36 pm

Some days just don’t ever seem to start going on their own, and today was one such day. Perhaps it wasn’t the best of ideas to listen to a “discreetly acquired” copy of disc 2 of Radiohead’s In Rainbows on the way to work, but I had to hear it. And . . . it’s not that great. Certainly not worth $80, and I’m a pretty big fan of the band.

To slow and sluggish, I then gave some David Byrne a listen, which helped, but frankly by then I was just not quite right, period. I also tried Drew Gress’ Spin & Drift, which was quite great, but still not quite the right vibe. Some days are just like that. It wasn’t for a couple hours that things would click, when I realized I needed something rude and noisy to kick me out of the funk I’d gotten into, and that thing was Adrian Belew’s Side Four (Live), which arrived yesterday bearing the signatures of all three members of the trio. The amount of noise that guy can create on one guitar, live, is simply astounding, and he’s backed by a very able rhythm section in the form of the brother-sister duo of Eric and Julie Slick on drums and bass, respectively. She is especially impressive, nailing not only Tony Levin’s bass parts but his tone – and all at all of 20 years old. She’s going to have quite a career ahead of her.

While reading a discussion of Zappa, who died 14 years ago today, I came across mentions of Danny Gatton and realized I’ve always heard of his legendary status but had absolutely no idea why. A quick trip to Amazon cleared that up right away: where have I been hiding all these years?! How have I ignored this guy? Rootsy, rockabilly blues with touches of jazz here and there . . . mixed in just the right way for me to get deeply involved in. I will have to rectify the empty spot in my collection where his stuff would fit.

Listening to Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop on the way home tonight, I was reminded why the opening track never ceases to amuse me. Not only is it a funky, weird guitar workout, there’s also a good dose of humor right in the middle where a voiceover announces some cheesy guitar-oriented hyperbole. For some reason, I seem to recall an interview with Beck where he stated that everything there was actually taken from real ads, not something they put together, and that just makes it all the more fun. It’s all so ridiculously over the top (“Groove tube,” “Balls deluxe!”) and, if real, takes on an extra embarrassing edge. Not only did someone actually write that stuff, someone actually thought that would sell equipment. A snapshot of a very different time, that’s for sure. A hell of a fun album – I didn’t quite “get” it way back when, and eventually sold it off, but re-bought it and sure enough, as time goes by, it digs a deeper and deeper hole into my heart. The best music always does, doesn’t it? I just wish I could learn my lesson the first time around . . .


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