Sunday, March 21, 2010

1974 - Court and Spark

This album made me fall in love with Joni Mitchell.

I'm not just talking about her music, I'm talking about HER. See, you don't listen to Court and Spark so much as you LIVE IN IT, and it in you.

I spent the winter of '08/'09 with little more than a copy of Blue to keep me company, and it was more than enough. This year, it was Court's turn. From the opening piano chords of the title track, Joni slowly worked her way into my very being, and set up shop there for the 36 minute running time. Believe me, I was happy to have her.

Of course, there are a bunch of commercial hits on the record, like the ubiquitous "Help Me," or "Raised On Robbery." In the context of the album, surrounded with lesser-known gems like "Car On A Hill" and "People's Parties" they become so much more. This is definitely a real ALBUM, one that moves from song to song with grace and poetry.

However, the thing that makes this such an intimate and affecting piece is her unfailing, sometimes painful honesty. She's insecure, neurotic, and sometimes mean-spirited, but those neuroses and faults make her, and the songs on this record, seem that much more human. Joni becomes a best friend, (or more,) one who feels more than comfortable telling you EVERYTHING. Look at this lyric from "Same Situation," where she all but pleads for help, cosmic or otherwise:

"Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering who was there to hear
I said 'Send me somebody
Who's strong, and somewhat sincere'"

It slays me every time.

With that said, my absolute FAVORITE moment on Court and Spark is in "Just Like This Train," and I think it serves as a distillation of everything I love about this album. As she delivers the line "Sour grapes, because I've lost my heart," she lets out this endearing giggle/vocal flub. It's a cute little blemish, and I just love the way it runs so contrary to the achingly cynical nature of the line. It's complicated, conflicted, and messy, but then again, so is love. Listen for yourself: (the moment in question is around 3:20)



Friday, January 1, 2010

1971 - Who's Next

This is one of my favorite albums.

Who's Next, the 1971 album from The Who, is an absolute barnstormer. Forty minutes of powerful, concentrated ROCK. Of course, when an album opens with "Baba O' Riley," and closes with "Won't Get Fooled Again," I guess this kind of goes without saying.

What makes this a GREAT album though, is the way they balance the brash, ballsy rock with slower, mid-tempo love songs that are every bit as sincere and as convincing as something like "Fooled Again." It feels raw and powerful and, perhaps most important of all, authentic. Listening to the whole thing front to back, you feel the regret, the heartbreak, the anger, the need for escape, and all the confusion that comes with.

And of course, Keith Moon is absolutely KICKING ASS behind the drums, from start to finish.

Choice track: Bargain
I love this song. From the opening notes, to the moment the drums kick in, to the cute little Townshend-sung coda... oh man oh man. Enjoy.



pazz & jop.

I'm about to start something crazy.

I've learned a long time ago that I need some sort of structured environment to work in, in order to stay productive. Being able to do anything and everything my heart chooses? Not always a good idea.

So, I've decided to give myself some structure.

The annual Pazz & Jop poll, inaugurated by Robert Christgau in 1971, is a year-end poll of music critics. Through a scoring system, the top thirty albums of the year are listed and ranked. Generally, if an album makes number one, it was pretty damn good.

What does this have to do with me? Well, I'm going to listen to, and subsequently write about all of the Pazz & Jop number ones, starting in '74. Of course, for legality's sake, I'll have to generate some sort of visual accompaniment. They may be pencil drawings, paintings, or something completely different.

That's thirty-six albums total, ranging from Elvis Costello to Hole to Lucinda Williams. Crazy? Of course. Wish me luck.

(By the way, if you want to see what's coming, here's the wiki page for ya.)