Archive for February 13th, 2009

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Friday, February 13, 2009
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964)

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964)

My first jazz album. I bought it in Norway, of all places, after my senior year. Music stores there have a much wider jazz selection. In a way, it’s a shame America’s classical music is more treasured across the pond.

But I digress. Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus.

This music really draws me in. I don’t know  the history of the album, or even Charles Mingus, well enough. I mean, I’m only 21. This album was released in 1964, twenty four years before I plopped into the world.

Though I’ve heard tale Mingus popularized the smashing of the guitar onstage, as he was prone to fits of anger (only he did it with his bass). This inspired Pete Townshend, who is usually credited with the act.

Since I’ve had this album a while, I’ve listened to it a lot. It starts out strong with “II B.S.,” a rendition of the “Hatian Fight Song,” an earlier recording by Mingus. Mingus has to be strumming one of the greatest basslines in music history. But I might as well say that for every one of his songs.

Things cool off with track two, “I X Love,” a ballad to Mingus’ ex-wife. This might be my album favorite. The notes carry you someplace else. Somplace not Earth. It’s a ride.

“Celia,” too, is great, featuring several time signature changes that keep things interesting.

“Mood Indigo” is an original by Duke Ellington. Charles Mingus idolized the legnedary man, and his cover is good tribute.

“Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul.” Well, if you don’t get hit in yo’ soul after listening to this song then blow my dress up and call me Charlie. This 12/8  swing is one of the most fun songs I’ve heard. This tune gets my blood a-flowing and my heart a-pounding. It bleeds pure, raw energy.

“Theme for Lester Young” is a take on Mingus’ very popular “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” a very popular tune in the late fifties. I like this one better than the original off Mingus Ah Um.

“Hora Decubitus” is just a groovy tune. But that’s just how Mingus is – fun, groovy, makes you want to yell.

The last track is  “Freedom.” Oh, how I love this track! Released in 1964, this song was right on time for the Civil Rights movement. Not being an expert on African American culture, I can’t say whether “Freedom” is an old African American spiritual  or whether Mingus penned it himself. Regardless, it’s a powerful way to close the album.

This album wins at everything. In fact, I want to apologize for this review, as my words cannot convey how great it is.

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Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

Friday, February 13, 2009
In Absentia (2002)

In Absentia (2002)

Though unique, In Absentia doesn’t sacrifice accessibility. On first listen, it is engaging, and remains so to me over a year after I got it.

In Absentia is a concept album about a serial killer – or the darkest elements of people. “The Creator Has a Masterpiece,” for example, is about child abuse. The music itself reflects the dark lyrics – the strumming is violent and thrashing, while some songs have a calm yet disconcerting vibe – “Lips of Ashes” is a good example. It’s a really cool album to listen to – it has many unexepected turns.

Given the murderous themes, this was a fitting album for my friend and I to listen to on our way to see Friday the 13th yesterday.

Some people really love Porcupine Tree. But I’m of the school that they aren’t the BA new gods of the universe some make them out to be. I admit Porcupine Tree’s musicality is impressive. The banjo solo in the almost poppy “Trains” is amazing, and the song’s hand claps are well-placed (I’m a sucker for hand claps). Other highlights include “Blackest Eyes,” “The Sound of Muzak,” and  “Gravity Eyelids.”

Though the front half of the album has the lion’s share of the best songs, my favorite song is actually the album closer,  “Collapse the Light Into Earth.” It’s a haunting piano refrain which repeats itself over and over, adding layer upon layer – first, voice, then strings, then all of them together. The song feels like a passageway from life to death, or life to new life. I can’t really explain why it feels that way to me.

I can’t understand Porcupine Tree, genre-wise, because they use so many ideas in their music. As a good progressive band, Porcupine Tree can take these varying ideas and combine them seamlessly.

Great album, great band.