And what about 2006?
By Beppe Colli
Jan. 10, 2006

It had been my original intention to start the New Year, here at Clouds and Clocks, presenting some recently released CDs that had caught my attention during the Holidays. But then, some topics that kept passing through my head, some news I read and conversations I had, plus my intention to tie some loose ends from last year's final editorial, made me decide otherwise. Not to mention the fact that my trusted CD player is at the repairer's - and would the cheap substitute I'm using right now prove itself to be as sonically reliable when it comes to doing justice to the fine, challenging music that's so often the rich soundtrack of my days? (How some writers succeed in excavating some sense off the CDs they review by listening to them on those tiny computer speakers I'll never understand - but apparently it works for them, so...)

At the start of the New Year I decided to pay a visit to the mega-store that was doing the mega-sale with the mega-discount (50%) that I had mentioned in my previous editorial, just to see what was going on. There I happened to meet a couple of verbally articulate buyers - a nice change from the "well, you know..." types I usually meet in this kind of places (here I could tell you a few tales - maybe next time); granted, a brief exchange about whether Saxophone Colossus is really the superior album to Tenor Madness won't change the world, but hey, we live in an age of diminished expectations, right? Anyway, just as I expected the "classic rock" section presented many empty spaces. "And what's 'classic rock'?", I hear you say. Well, I mean The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Byrds, Steely Dan... you get the picture. I was quite surprised when I noticed that most of the 60s titles by John Mayall - and all the new SA-CDs by Can! - were also missing. Interestingly, most "semi-classic rock" - I mean, stuff like The Cure and Sonic Youth - was still there. What this all means about "modern consumption" - or just my specific geographic region - I can't really say. But I was somehow reminded of something I read long ago.

Somebody who worked in the music business - a producer from Nashville, perhaps? - was talking about the reality of the music business. "Many times I'm asked whether a particular song or record can be successful. What I reply is that this person can answer the question himself. Just look at the charts and tell me what record your song is going to replace." A bit too simple, right? But what I later understood was that, in this day and age, the "competition" is really all the music that's commercially available (and also, nowadays, what's commercially unavailable but can still be obtained from some member of some group on the Net). So, in a way, one's record competition could be a record by John Coltrane, The Beatles, Faust or Can (or Joni Mitchell, Dylan, The Stones, Laura Nyro, Jeff Beck, The Byrds... you name it). This is a notion that gets to be forgotten, since sometimes we all introject something offered practically everyday by commercial magazines: that the items competing for one's attention (and money!) are only those released in the course of that specific month. Which can be a commercially sound logic - maybe. But reality ain't like this. (And so it happens that when a young listener happens to discover some old record...) Of course, most "commercial music" comes all in one package with a lifestyle, some new clothes, a video, etc. But I'd really like that those who make "uncommercial music" would ponder this topic a bit more: There is just too much music around, and most of it is, if not plain bad, at the very least definitely unnecessary.

I was quite curious to hear the new album by Trey Anastasio. So curious, in fact, that I had pre-ordered it a few months ago. But I waited in vain, until the day the seller informed me that the album was not available - nor would it be. But I saw that it was (had been?) available in the USA! It appeared that Anastasio's new label (BMG - or is it Sony?) had somehow put some strange software whatchamacallit inside quite a few new titles - including the one by my man Anastasio! (Who by now I imagine is having second thoughts about his leaving Elektra...) Will the album be re-released? Stay tuned.

At least I was left with the nice option to listen to the new album by Nellie McKay - which, in fact, I had also pre-ordered. No way! It appears that the album - first delayed from September 16 to December 27 (?), and then to January 3 (??) - won't come out anymore - maybe. It seems like McKay's record company (Columbia - or is it Sony?) didn't like the fact that the new CD had 23 tracks and was too long - or something. Stay tuned.

Which brings me to a (related) topic that causes my stomach to burn: how come almost nobody in the (specialized - ha!) music press bothered with Nelly McKay's first album? (I hope that nobody will write to tell me that nowadays listening to an album like that is a common experience.) Plus, her colourful biography makes exactly for the kind of "easy writing/nice reading" element that's so welcomed these days. So? In my worst nightmares I dream that since her record had not been on the high priority list for Columbia (or is it Sony?) it had not been a high priority for the press... but no, it can't be. Sure, sometimes I get the disturbing feeling that there are some kind of "planetary forces" at work, but...

Stomach-ache case #2: Ben Folds and his Songs For Silverman. Did anybody bother? (This says quite a lot about the sincerity of those papers who claim to have the "songwriting language" as their main priority.) Now I can't wait for the Donald Fagen new album to come out (and the one by Walter Becker, too).

I was reading the most recent issue of Down Beat (January - at least, it is new where I live), when I noticed a double interview with Carla Bley and Charlie Haden, by Dan Ouellette. It appears that the two didn't really agree with the tepid reviews of their recent CD (Not In Our Name, released under the name Liberation Music Orchestra - you've seen it, right?. It's the one with the cover quoting their historical 1968 LMO collaboration) that had appeared in the very same magazine. Of course, "artist disagrees with critic" is nothing new. And I have read at least one review (by Francis Davis, in the Village Voice) that praised the album. But - the way I read it - Carla Bley put out a different line of thought: Maybe critics missed the subtle layers of allusions she had used in her arrangements. Which, to me, appears to be a topic that opens a whole different can of worms.

© Beppe Colli 2006 | Jan. 10, 2006