The Lonely Goatherd Blog And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32
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February 19, 2008
New CD Album Releases, 2-19-2008: Ray Davies, Nick Lowe, American Music Club There's one obvious new album this week that would bear looking into, Ray Davies' second solo album, Working Man's Cafe. He only put out his first solo album Other Peoples Lives in 2006 after 40 odd years of leading the Kinks.
The deluxe edition (just a couple bucks more) includes Americana A Work In Progress, a DVD of a Ray Davies film documenting his his 2001 Storyteller tour with his readings of stories and some of these songs, apparently.
Not exactly new, but THE groovy thing this week is kinda like new, the Yep Roc release of a 30th anniversary edition of his classic 1978 Nick Lowe solo album debut Jesus of Cool. It's kinda like new in that the album got butchered up in the American release in the actual songs and content, and even the album title. We Americans have had a groovy album called Pure Pop for Now People made up mostly of most of the Jesus of Cool songs, with a couple of others thrown in.
Whereas this Yep Roc release has the entire English album under the original ultra-groovy title, with additional songs from the American release - every song ever on either the English or American releases - and several bonuses, including an early version of Lowe's main actual hit single, "Cruel to Be Kind." Best I know of, this is the first time an album has been issued under the Jesus of Cool title in the US.
All that record company nonsense aside, Jesus of Cool is a landmark album. Nick Lowe was a major architect of what would broadly come to be called "new wave." Take this album along with the first three Elvis Costello albums that Lowe was producing at this same time (and throw in a couple of Police and Clash albums), and there's pretty much of the blueprint for how the new wave connected the Protestant reformation of punk rock back into popular music.
Beyond that kind of grand theorizing though, Jesus of Cool was a killer batch of memorable pop songs. Among the classics that have enriched my days for a couple of decades now, I might start with "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass." I recently saw it described as a Bo Diddley beat, but I've thought of it as something of a disco song. The inherently genteel spirit of Nick Lowe belies the nominal malevolence of the lyric, but you might consider this a punk Bo Diddley disco song.
"So It Goes" would make a good textbook example of "power pop." It could have been from the Armed Forces sessions that Lowe would have been producing somewhere within that same year, though again the gentle empathy of the sentiments are non-Elvis like. Some days this is my favorite song, and I've only with age really come to fully appreciate the sympathetic image of the US diplomat trying to keep a lid on the chaos
All day discussions with the Russians But they still went ahead and vetoed the plan Now up jumped the U.S. representative He's the one with the tired eyes 747 put him in that condition Flyin' back from a peace keepin' mission
"No Reason" has a fairly unique effect as a reggae inflected rock beat carrying a particularly delicate ballad urging a girl to dry her tears. It's a particularly tender moment.
I couldn't write about this album without saying a few words for "36 Inches High." The basic point of it is a regretful lament from a minion of the ruling class, remembrances of the suffering he'd inflicted on people as a soldier and then as a tax collector. Thinking on it, by rights it is the most clear cut slow ballad of the batch, but it doesn't feel like one. Besides being one of the most directly sincere and heartfelt songs on the record, it's one of the most unique production sounds. There's a relatively long introduction with the bass guitar and the freaky organ/synthesizer rising up that'll likely stick with you from the first time you hear it.
Nick Lowe was also a good spokesman for punk era attitudes of skepticism about the whole idea of music as a profession. The first song here is "Music for Money." Note also the similarly sarcastic outlook in "Shake and Pop." In the bonus songs is one I don't recall hearing previously that goes to that same kind of skepticism, "I Love My Label." I'm guessing that Nick has managed to make a decent living from this, but it's at least spiritually appropriate that he's done business at some points as proprietor of Keepitasahobby Productions.
Yet there's the perfect empathy for the music experience, particularly from a fan's view in the very strong but gentle anticipation of the "Roller Show." As part of the rock and roll Protestant reformation, Nick Lowe is progressive in looking for new sounds and styles but also as a Protestant reclaiming not so much specific sounds but spirits of the early rock era. These words of love for the Bay City Rollers often put me in mind of Buddy Holly. It doesn't really sound like a Holly record, but his spirit is all in this.
For all of that, the centerpiece of this album and perhaps Lowe's career is "Marie Provost." It's the most distinctly old-fashion song on the record, though again it's difficult to put a finger on exacly which old fashion. The closest thing spiritually is what Lowe would likely recognize as cheesy old school rock melodramas like "Leader of the Pack."
The story is based on the sad, lonely death of silent era film starlet Mary Bickford Dunn, stage name Marie Prevost. I find now that Lowe was playing very loose with the actual biographical details, starting with misspelling her stage name. But I could imagine that being a subtle purposeful artistic effect, one more little sad thing, so forgotten that her name gets spelled wrong even in her own song 40 years after her passing.
Lowe totally gets it both ways in this song. He's certainly making horribly morbid humor of the story of "a winner who became a doggie's dinner." Yet it's truly full of empathy for the plight of poor, poor Marie and even her sad little dachshound and the human condition in general. *************** Speaking of tragic fallen stars and re-releases of classic albums, poor Michael Jackson gets screwed at Billboard this week. The 25h anniversary edition of Thriller that came out a couple of weeks ago sold some 166,000 US copies, making it by rights the #2 selling album of the week. But Billboard officially considers this the same as the old album, and thus not eligible for the top albums, but must remain ghettoized as a "catalog" album. This is despite having five more songs than the 1982 original, and a whole bonus DVD. It's tough being Michael Jackson.
Here's the listing of this week's new album releases, courtesy AMG:
American Music Club The Golden Age Merge Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Ray Davies Working Man's Cafe V2 Pop/Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Nick Lowe Jesus of Cool [Bonus Tracks] Yep Roc Pop/Rock, Power Pop, New Wave, Rock & Roll
Allison Moorer Mockingbird New Line Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Folk-Rock
The Raveonettes Lust Lust Lust Fierce Panda Noise Pop, Indie Rock
Atlas Sound Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel Kranky Experimental Rock, Indie Rock
Roland Auzet Percussion(s) [Includes Book and DVD] Mode Modern and Contemporary Music for Percussion