CD Reviews – June

This month’s CD reviews include: Bob Dylan, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Jayhawks and Dave Brubeck.  Feel free to comment and let us know what you think…
Bob Dylantogetherthroughlife
Together Through Life
Columbia, 2009

At this point in his career, Bob Dylan could record an album of ABBA covers and it still might be worth buying. Even if it weren’t, there’d still be legions of fans who’d uncover some buried strain of genius from it. Such is the nature of Dylan. He’s that rare kind of musician who inspires unquestioning devotion and almost always begs considered study. However, the question Together Through Life raises is whether that esteem is purely residual. As good as his last two albums (Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft) were, Together feels sort of tossed off and less of a proper album than an exercise in self-congratulation. Apparently, Dylan wants us to know that this is the kind of music he’s been really into lately — obscure tunes from the Chess Records era, ’50s blues, some tex-mex, and Edith Piaf…you know, just to keep us on our toes. If the mere presence of longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on the album seems uninspired, the fact that he co-wrote 9 of the 10 tracks’ lyrics smacks of outright laziness. That another (the pointless “My Wife’s Home Town”) is basically a cranky clone of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You” seems intentionally hurtful. Is Dylan taking the piss here? Together Through Life makes you wonder whether he hasn’t been since 1962. — T. Bennison

The Flying Burrito Brothersthe-flying-burrito-brothers
Hot Burritos! Anthology: 1969-1972
A&M; 2000

The Flying Burrito Brothers didn’t find much of an audience while they were around, but since they broke up they’ve attained iconic status. This two-CD collection rounds up all of the band’s first three albums plus the best of their rest. The Gilded Palace of Sin, their first bow, is a brilliant mix of smooth singing and writing by founders Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman with “Sneeky” Pete Kleinow’s loud, distorted pedal steel guitar. Parsons stuck around for one more album, Burrito Deluxe, which includes the definitive performance of his party pals’ “Wild Horses.” Commercial pressures left their mark on the album, but the writing still scans everything that was great about American songcraft in the middle of the 20th century through a pair of cowboy shades. The anthology’s second disc proves that even after Parsons left the Brothers still had plenty of life left, especially on a gorgeous remake of the Byrds’ “Tried So Hard.” — B. Meyer

The Jayhawks
Hollywood Town Hall
Def American; 1992

Hollywood Town Hall, the Jayhawks’ third album, was a defining moment in the wake of the early ’90s “alt-country” movement, when for about five minutes people thought it would replace grunge as the next big thing. For those who noticed, their lives were forever enhanced — Hollywood Town Hall is as magic as music gets. The Jayhawks possess a rare ability to tap into profound self-realization and expose deeply textured emotions. In “Crowded in the Wings,” it’s the pain of discovering too late that the person next to you is the love of your life. When vocalist Mark Olson cries, “I would lay my life down for you, nothing seems real now that you’re gone/Been crowded in the wings then its you I find.” “Two Angels” is beyond solemn — “This lifetime’s easy/Way back home there’s a funeral” — yet so sensual. Eerily romantic with sincere harmonies throughout, Hollywood Town Hall reveals thoughts of hope, hearts-on-sleeves, and the deepest possible yearning. Life is full of mysteries; The Jayhawks find solace in accepting that we will never ascertain all of the answers. — J. Lux

Dave Brubeckdavebrubeck
Interchanges ’54
Columbia; 1954

In 1954, popularity and controversy swirled around Dave Brubeck. On one hand, his appeal on college campuses brought him great notoriety, culminating with his appearance on Time magazine’s cover of November 8. Brubeck was the first jazz musician to receive that kind of national attention. On the other hand, many musicians and critics dismissed his cool-toned, cerebral work as decidedly non-jazz; many musicians were peeved, thinking that Brubeck had stolen the thunder of more deserving jazzmen. The recordings on this compilation — which include the full album Brubeck Time and four songs from the live set Jazz: Red, Hot and Cool — almost seem as if Brubeck and alter ego Paul Desmond had something to prove. Most of the songs are up-tempo, buoyant, and energetic, especially for the “cool” Brubeck. His quartet swings softly but firmly on a collection of standards and a few originals. At their best, Brubeck’s group had a drive and a pulse, even though they were often subtle, submerged, or implied. Desmond’s alto was the perfect foil for Brubeck’s serious, angry, and tense piano, which often owed more to classical music than to jazz. — M. Greilsamer

One thought on “CD Reviews – June

  1. “Bob Dylan could record an album of ABBA covers and it still might be worth buying. Even if it weren’t, there’d still be legions of fans who’d uncover some buried strain of genius from it.”

    That is a very well versed preemptive strike against those with good taste in music. It is smart to set up such a defense before you slight a beloved American icon.

    Was this Dylan’s best album? I would not say that, and we would be hard pressed to find any Dylan fan that would…but to not grant him some form of credit for such a ground breaking and historical career is folly. No one is perfect in everything they put their hands to, but there are gems in all of Dylan’s albums, even in some of the less popular, such as this one.

    …and to say that you suspect that Dylan may have been “taking a piss” on everyone through out his whole career?! That sir, is to bold.

    It is however, a well written review, and I respect your freedom.

    -Fellow American

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