Lucinda Williams, Six Blocks Away

Lucinda Williams made an album called Sweet Old World in 1992. It was the follow up to her fantastic debut album on Rough Trade, which was actually her third album. She’d had a previous career, 10 years previous, recording for Smithsonian. Exclamation mark.

Those first two albums, Ramblin’ and Happy Woman’s Blues, are great by the way.

In any case, after her terrific album Lucinda Williams, for Rough Trade, she got picky. It took a few years to finish Sweet Old World, which leads with an upbeat song about a street person who resonates.

It took her six more years to record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her masterpiece, but I think a lot of the earlier songwriting is better. But the guitars rock more on Car Wheels.

Subsequent events suggested she was unhappy with the sound of Sweet Old World, which is softer than her later albums. And last year her husband suggested Williams rerecord the whole album with a harder and more rockin’ edge. So she took her touring band into the studio and they redid it.

You know, it’s hard to dislodge what you like with something else, even if it’s better, but here’s the new version of Six Blocks Away, followed by the original. You be the judge.

 

Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left Handed

I loved Bill Withers. Lean on Me is an amazing song. But when John Legend covered this song with the Roots some years back I was surprised because it was powerful and unforgettable and I didn’t know it. Thinking about politics and music making lately, I’m not sure there is much value in trying to change minds, but this tune is a testament to deep feelings that affected us all once upon a time. Beautifully.

LINK: Scottish Pop at the National Museum

There’s a show about Scottish pop music showing up at National Museum of Scotland. If you were there, why wouldn’t you see it?

And if you’re not there, why wouldn’t you listen to the music? Which has always been really good.

So, go the museum. You certainly should. Or enjoy this:

 

Or this:

The Guardian is on it. Read this. 

What I’ve Been Listening To Lately: Between The Buttons

In 1967 I turned 11, and my aunt Dottie’s present was a copy of The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons.

It may be my greatest present ever, though I’m sure that’s a reckless statement. I’ve been gifted a lot, thank you totally.

The thing about Between the Buttons is it is not a Rolling Stones blues record. Though the blues are played, for sure. I’m terrible at these historical things, but the record seems to represent the apotheosis of Brian Jones. His influence is everywhere, and the music benefits from odd instrumentation and challenging harmonies.

It’s not like the 12×5 Stones were underachievers, but in many ways the Between the Buttons cuts are wilder and more creative than the more extravagant Beatles experiments at the same time. The Stones didn’t ever, I think, get totally absurd in their posture (even considering Gomper), while the Beatles got pretty mental in their days. In any case, Between the Buttons is an album of pop songs, some influenced by psychedelic experiences and styles of the time.

When I decided to write about this I had an “neglected elpee” angle, but everybody gives it five stars. Everyone considers Between the Button a masterpiece. So what I have to share are some clips, in case you didn’t know about masterpiece it is (it wasn’t really conceived as an album).

 

My two cents. These Stones are Brian Jones Stones. This is incredible music, orchestration, songs. The Stones went from great bluesimitators to pop meisters like the Beatles and the Kinks. Brian Jones was in charge of that.

We always think of Jagger and Richard, but this was a band that was led by Brian Jones, in the first part, and Mick Taylor in the classic part. And when Ron Wood came in the live magic didn’t end, but the songwriting and arrangements did.

Between the Buttons may be the high mark of the Brian Jones era. It’s a high mark indeed.

 

 

 

 

Weird Rolling Stones, Blow With Ry

What I didn’t know when I bought this sort-of Rolling Stones record a long time ago was that it was put out by an a-hole named Allen Klein, who had been the manager of the Stones, capitalizing on tapes he owned the rights to after they broke up.

What I did know when I bought this disk was that it was a pile of awfully good jamming by some awfully good musicians, even if it wasn’t at all polished or shaped. This, I thought, was musicians I liked playing what they wanted, and it sure was sweet.

I posted about It Hurts Me Too, that old Elmore James song, a few years ago, but tonight I found myself back here and this long jam is awfully good. Blow with Ry, because Keith was mad about having a great slide player come in. Okay.

LINK: Beatles/Stones Cage Match, Refereed by Michael Salfino

Michael is a friend of Remnants, and has categorically decided who is greater, the Beatles or the Stones.

A fun read.

Michael and I went to a show with Mike Meyers, the Spy Who Shagged Me, at the NY Public Library a few years ago, that tried to answer the same question.

Michael’s approach here is a little more data driven than Mike’s (and his brother’s), and at the same time just as arbitrary as everyone else’s. The problem, I think, are the categories. Deriving anything from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is bound to get you in trouble.

What are the right categories? Off the top of my head?

Best Album

Best Run of Albums

Live Performance

Influence

Innovation

Songs

I don’t know. It’s hard not to shape the questions to fit the answer you want to give, though I think the answer is the Beatles, even though the Stones are my more favorite band.

Try going with my categories and Michaels and see if you can up with different answers?

It could easily be a tie.