Sunday, June 25, 2006


Here's my eMusic downloads from the month of June. Unlike last month, I showed patience, restaint and maturity and didn't download my limit before the first week of the month was over. Found some great stuff.

Mr. Stranger Man by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles. I got interested in Monk after seeing his brief appearance in Robert Mugge's film New Orleans Music in Exile. This isn't quite on the level of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, but it's lots of Mardi Gras fun.

The Obliterati by Mission of Burma. This New England indie band that first made its mark in the early '80s is back in business. This is their secong album since re-forming a couple of years ago for their comeback ONoffON. If you like Afghan Whigs or Dinosaur Jr. try Mission of Burma.

The Magic City by Sun Ra. eMusic has a good collection of Sun Ra. This one was recorded in 1965. The title track is a 27-minute space journey, starting off slow and taking about 15 minutes to work itself into a cosmic frenzy. A subsequent piece called "The Shadow World" sounds like crime jazz from Neptune.

Radio Days by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys. Live radio performances by the King of Western Swing. Some eMusicers complain about the sound quality, but I don't find this to be distracting. This is a good companion to the upcoming 4-disc Wills box set to be released by Sony Legacy.

Wattstax The Living Word. This one is a jewel! Reportedly some of the music here was recorded in a studio, not at the landmark 1972 festival in Los Angeles, but who cares? There's some amazing stuff by The Staples Singers (my favorite being "I Like The Things About Me"), The Soul Children, and the late Rufus Thomas. ("Do the Funky Penguin"!) I'd already downloaded Isaac Hayes' magnificant "Aint' No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue" medley on Isaac's At Wattstax (also highly recommended), so my favorite discovery here is The Bar-Kays' "Son of Shaft/Feel It." 11 minutes of pure funk. eMusic also offers an album called Wattstax: Highlights from the Soundtrack, which has some stray tracks not found on the Living Word or Hayes albums. I used my last remaining track this month on a gospel song called "Peace Be Still" by The Emotions. I'll probably pick up some more from there, like Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton and Luther Ingram next month.

West of the West by Dave Alvin. This is Alvin's new one where he covers songs by California songwriters. He does fine interpretations of Los Lobos' "Down on the Riverbed" and Jerry Garcia's "Loser." But my favorite on this album is John Fogerty's "Don't Look Now." Though this wasn't a hit, this is one of Creedence Clearwater Revival's most poignant songs. When it appeared on Willie and the Poor Boys way back when, it was a slam at the the underlying antagonism between the self-satisfied hip and working class reality. ("Who'll take the coal from the mine? ... Don't look now it ain't you or me.") Alvin subtly transforms it into a cold look at globalization. ("Who makes the shoes for your feet and who makes those clothes that you wear?")

Vietnam by The Revolutionary Ensemble. Call me a rube, but when I think of the music of the Vietnam War I think of "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die," "Run Through the Jungle," Edwin Star's "War." "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and Les McCann's "Compared to What." And O.K. "The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley." This work, like the war itself, is long often tedious. The Revolutionary Ensemble, led by violinist Leroy Jenkins, does have a certain hypnotic appeal, but you really have to be in the mood.

J.J.D./Unnnecessary Begging by Fela Kuti.
Music is The Weapon of the Future (Volume One) by Fela Kuti.
No Agreement by Fela Kuti.
Comparing Fela to most African musicians favored by world beat weenies is like comparing John Coltrane to John Denver. Fela's music transcends Africa. It's tough, gritty and funky. I went on a Fela binge this month on eMusic. But what a bargain, both in quality and quantity. These three albums (actually the first one is a "twofer" so it's actually four albums), make for well over two hours of music and you're only charged for eight tracks. Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago plays trumpet on No Agreement

Free Bonus!

One of the cooler things eMusic has done lately is to offer the entire 2006 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler for free. It consists of mainly indie rock, but there's a smattering of rap, jazz and experimental music. It's got a few artists with whom I'm already familar (Mission of Burma, Yo La Tengo, Nels Cline, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, The Mountain Goats) and some new discoveries for me -- 8 Bold Souls, Art Brut. At this writing the whole set still is free for members, so download and check all of it out.

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