We Don’t Know

Jody Rosen has written a long and worthwhile story about masters archives, jumping off from a fire that burned about 120,000 masters of the Universal Music Group in 2006. He does a great job explaining why the masters of albums by Elton John and Nirvana and Muddy Waters and John Coltrane, among many others, are valuable even when you can stream their music online. But then he gets grittier, and talks about Don Bennett, whose masters burned in the UMG fire, and whose career is almost impossible to survey. He was a vocalist in the Chocolate Watchband, which I’d heard of, but he also had a solo career, which has almost completely disappeared. The point? Lots of music that is disregarded at first turns out to be valuable later. So, here is the Chocolate Watchband. And a plea for Rosen to digitize the album he bought and get it out there!

The Opposite of Remnants

Vampire Weekend has a new album out. Drew Magary wrote a funny review of it. I haven’t listened to the album yet. Don’t know why I would (though I like Oxford Comma, the song), but this is my favorite quote (I liked that one Shins record a lot, only to recoil afterward): “Motherfucker, this just sounds like the other two songs. Like The Shins did a one-off album after scoring a djembe at a yard sale.”

LINK: Michael Salfino on Paul McCartney’s Solo Career

Longtime friend of the Remnants, Michael Salfino tackles what turns out to be a more interesting question than it seemed on first hearing. How great was Paul McCartney’s solo career compared to the Beatles?

You can read Michael’s thoughts here: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/07/reassessing-paul-mccartneys-solo-career-successful.html

For my part, I think McCartney’s best solo song is Maybe I’m Amazed, but I also think Silly Love Songs is a brilliant bit of self-referential pop fluff (with a side of self referential sarcasm).

Michael doesn’t point out that Sir Paul is the only Beatle to record songs with Elvis Costello, Kanye West, and (the remains of) Nirvana. Constantly exploring, working, imploring, McCartney’s career has been admirable, even when the music is less successful. It’s hard to always write and perform great music.

And for pleasure? This one:

https://youtu.be/4IKXjuE4gH0

 

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.

 

Dream Syndicate, Still Holding On To You

They came from LA in 1983. Jon Pareles, NY Times rock critic then and now, wrote about their show at the Mudd Club. They did indeed do a fine job imitating the Velvet Underground back then, as I learned a few days later at their show at Gerdes Folk City.

Their second album, Medicine Show, was produced by Sandy Pearlman, of Blue Oyster Cult fame, who had a few years had produced the Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Medicine Show sounds harder than Days of Wine and Roses, their debut. I put the record on the other day, for the first time in probably 30 years and liked this one right off the bat.

 

A Weird Story About Zane Campbell

The Washington Post profiles an old failed punk rocker turned failed but also kind of exalted country artist Zane Campbell. There’s also a video well worth watching.

This is a big ol’ shaggy dog story involving musical history, the Ramones, drugs, drinking, notebooks and a voice that the writer gushes about. It’s also tough to judge from the video if the artist the writer describes deserves the attention. But he rewards, even if he isn’t actually worthy.

To judge that I went to hear his music, something the video avoids.

I’ve now sampled a lot of his country stuff. I didn’t find album cuts, there aren’t any on Google Music, but there’s lots of poorly recorded live videos. I don’t know, I think I get why the video stays away from his song.

The 2015 album the article admires is available on Spotify, if you want to give some better produced tracks a try. It’s a better presentation, but the awkward breathing mars the singing, and weird pauses disrupt the flow of the songs. Campbell’s history is a checkered one, he freely admits, and it is reflected in the polish of these songs. It isn’t like they need to be slicker, but they should be more integral, more bewitching, instead of sounding like a man fighting to keep up. I liked the Post story better before I heard them.

Van Gets Even

One of my favorite Van Morrison albums is his 1991 double CD Hymns to the Silence, which is admittedly uneven but is also eclectic and lovely and swinging, religious and profane, too. And that’s what the best of all Van Morrison’s work is.

Hymns wasn’t on any streaming service and my version of it is vinyl, so I hadn’t listened to it for a long time, but Steve’s post prompted me to look for it again and there it is now on Google Music. But that’s not today’s story. While looking for Hymns today I found a record called The Infamous Contractual Obligations Albums of 1967, which consists of 30 songs, not one of which is more than a minute and half long.

The title is relatively new. The record was originally released as The New York Sessions ’67, and the story is complicated, involving contracts, hatred and death. You can read the whole thing here, at Dangerous Minds.

The writer there ponders the question of whether there is musical merit in these dashed-off tunes, a Minutemen-colored version of Van the Rocker. I’m not sure about merit, but what is cool about listening to the album through is how elemental the chord progressions of these “songs” are. Many refer to other hit songs, like Hang On Sloopy and Twist and Shout, but others are just clever enough to stand as underdeveloped bits of rock ‘n’ roll with goofy lyrics.

This is more derivative than some, more rockin’ than others. Go ahead, try out the whole thing. It’s fun.