Monday, 28 March 2016


"Fuck Tha Police" by N.W.A.

I've tried really hard to learn how to listen to rap music because African-Americans have always made transformative and transcendent music, but I confess to both a cognitive and existential deficit when I listen to this genre: it all comes too fast and too nimbly for my auditory processing neurons (they're slow and not clever), and even when I can make a very basic sense out of all the words, the worlds they describe are really difficult for me to understand, what with my being a middle-aged, Euro-descended, twice-divorced, middle-class Canadian who has most of what he can deal with trying to figure out the world he's living in.

But those beats are gonna get to you, regardless of your origins and attitudes and age. Luckily (even though it wasn't hiding), I found this number, a brilliant rock (it's a fucking genuine fucking diamond) in all the roll of contemporary life. I was already a self-embroiled grown-up when it came out, and I remember hearing about it, but I didn't ever listen to it (I was busier back then). Now that I have more time, I realize what I was missing, and how narrow and stupid I was about music I wasn't used to; I still am, but less so, I hope.

It's a miracle, this more-than-a-song song. It takes you from your world (if you're a middle-aged, Euro-descended, twice-divorced, blah, blah, blah Canadian) into its world. It's like reading Shakespeare, except you get to dance.

Saturday, 26 March 2016


"I Got Everything I Need (Almost)" by Downchild Blues Band*

I had forgotten how good these guys were. I also forget what led me to stream this song on to my playlist. (I have a "playlist" that I can listen to however and wherever I want to -- without wires! Some technology is too wonderful for my poor words.) I was in my twenties when I often saw this brilliant band in bars in cities where I was living, and falling in love, and learning about the blues -- of goddamned course, they're on my playlist.

This singer (he was big and hairy and completely unpretentious, as I remember) -- oh man, back so many years ago, he told us all about how he had it all: a car, a wish on a star, lots of friends (who liked him!), lots of dough, fame, no trouble getting high. But he had wisely discovered what he'd been missing, and now he was just telling us about how he'd come to his senses. Perfect horns, drums, guitars, and a dazzling harmonica that forced us to move our bodies backed up his epiphany. (There's usually music for those, right?)

* I believe they eventually shortened their name to "Downchild", but I prefer the extended nomenclature.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Sir Jagger Meister

"Hang On To Tonight" by Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger has so much glamour and money and fame on his hands it's easy to forget he's always been a really soulful country singer as easily injured as the rest of us. He was good even when he was a kid, and has just improved with age. I think he was in his fifties when he sang this song, and like all great singers he makes you believe that he's lost in the person who's feeling the feelings and singing the words that are making you stop what you're doing. It's all great studio sweetness (it's got Sir Mick's longing harmonica, too), and it's exactly how you'd plead your case to an unsure lover if you had a case to be pled.

Too bad Sir Mick Jagger too often chooses to holler at thousands in stadiums instead of doing what he does in this song. If you offered me a free ticket to a Rolling Stones concert in such a place, I'd run for the nearest small night club and pay whatever outrageous cover charge demanded by management if someone like the Mick Jagger in this gem were inside, getting ready to sing, getting ready to show us his scars. If you're in the upper deck of a place where baseball or football or soccer or hockey or basketball is played, looking at a giant video screen and listening to aural mud, you can't hope to witness anything as musically or emotionally interesting as that.

Their Majesties

"Baby I Love You" as performed by Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King

Because I love when men and women really talk to each other, I love male-female duets, especially this one, where lucky you and I actually get a male-female quartet: her guitar (all its buttery desire) and his guitar (all precise urgency, equally desirous), plus her voice and his, each of them as euphonious as you could want. Because all four of them know what's what, that's a lot of talking going on, but overkill it ain't: four interactions of atoms are telling each other that they love each other, and there aren't sounds enough in the universe to nail that one down. It takes a lot of playing and singing, a lot of consultation. Ironically enough, here it's a queen and a king showing us how to talk to each other.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Super And Natural

"Witchcraft" as sung by Frank Sinatra

I've said it before: Frank Sinatra was an asshole with women*, but man, did he know how to tell them he loved them! In this song, he does it really nakedly, admitting his helplessness right out of the gate: Those fingers in my hair/That sly come-hither stare/That strips my conscience bare/It's witchcraft/And I've got no defense for it/The heat is too intense for it/What good would common sense for it do?

Although it would be perfectly fine if this song were just about sex, I don't think it is; hell, sex isn't about sex -- it's about surrendering. If even a smooth operator like Mr. Sinatra has "no defense" for whatever "it" is, what chance do the rest of us schmucks have?

The band is cool but ecstatic as it backs up all the tightly clever lyrics and the exquisitely phrased singing ("such an ancient pitch," indeed). The drummer swings, the horns do, too . . . Why, it's witchcraft! And all in less than three minutes!

(* With men, too. He was rich, white, powerful, glamourous as hell, very deeply talented, and he really alpha-dogged his way all over the place. If I'd known him, I would've hated him, but if he'd broken into song every time we were in the same room, I'd have stayed in that room till he was finished.)