Cheap Gifts!

Milder but steadier than their brothers in dissipation the Holy Modal Rounders, whose first two albums have been remastered onto one Fantasy CD, this aggregation set the standard for folkiedom's hedonist wing, committed only to good-time blues, goofball hokum, and the occasional silly pop song. At this historical distance they're at least as far out there as their inspirations Will Shade and Gus Cannon, neither of whom followed his harmonica player onto a commune when he decided he was God (Mel Lyman, you could look it up), and their selected works pack more fun than Yazoo's muddled Ruckus Juice and Chitlins comps: "Beedle Um Bum," "Ukelele Lady," "Borneo," "Never Swat a Fly," and a Maria Muldaur "Richland Woman" that couldn't make you forget John Hurt but might just inspire you to look him up. A MINUS

Jimmie Rodgers
The Essential Jimmie Rodgers

Rodgers isn't the most accessible of totems—read Nolan Porterfield on his "raw energy" and "driving" guitar and you'll think somebody made a mistake at the pressing plant. But he didn't invent country music being a purist. He was the first to put into practice the retrospectively obvious truth that Southerners wanted more from their music than hymns, reels, and high-mountain laments—blues voicings and pop tunes and even a little jazz, though most of these classics are strictly solo. Also, he yodeled, a sound that encompasses the restless bad-boyescapism of "The Brakeman's Blues" and "Pistol Packin' Papa," which fortunately for rock and rollers predominates, and the dreamy good-boy nostalgia of "Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea" and "My Old Pal," without which he wouldn't have meant spit in T-for-Texas or T-for-Tennessee. Also encompassing both is "Waiting for a Train," as signal a Depression song as "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." It was recorded in 1928. A

Greatest Hits
The Right Stuff/Solar

The Right Stuff/Solar Circa 1980, just after these Soul Train trainees pushed off the blocks, "urban" was reghettoized on the radio. So they did their best to appear not just pop but rock; whether they were that other thing wasn't discussed in polite company. Only now can we say it loud—they were disco. Producer-penned songs work courtship tropes with acceptable panache, but the content is all silky, luscious sound. Arrangements mix funk lite with kick-drum four and add enough strings to aerate the concoction. Voices promise whipped-cream sex that'll taste of mackerel in the morning. A

Hound Dog Taylor And The Houserockers
Deluxe Edition

The six fingers on Taylor's hands abraded his vibrato almost as good as 10-dollar guitars and cracked amps, which is a good thing, because in the end he found his hero Elmore James a bit of a fancy man. Filling out a trio with another guitar and a drum kit, he blasted Maxwell Street with a scrawny sound the booklet swears was "huge," which is another way of saying "Play Loud." From the "It Hurts Me Too" that howls out crucial lines in a prearticulate slide to the joyously unforgiving "Give Me Back My Wig," this is the house-rockin' music nobody else ever got right, as perfect in its way as Jimmy Reed, or the Ramones. A

Big Joe Turner
Joe Turner's Blues
Topaz import

Even by Kansas City standards, Turner was pretty primal. The aspiring urbanity of Jimmy Rushing and Jimmy Witherspoon didn't suit him—he's a whale out of water in the big-band settings his Rhino triple is forever upgrading to. Here he hollers and moans over boogie-woogie piano—especially Pete Johnson, but also, and differently, Meade Lux Lewis, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Albert Ammons, even Art Tatum—and combos playing de facto jump blues. Broke as the Ten Commandments or taking jockey lessons because he ain't no monkey man, he's a country bluesman with a jazzman's phrasing and a bad mother fuyer's certainty of his own endangered prerogatives. A MINUS

Big Joe Turner
The Very Best of Big Joe Turner

Atlantic was the site of Turner's "dumbing down," saith Jim "James" Miller, by which he means it's where the noble shouter streamlined, speeded up, and otherwise refused to act his age. The sound on this strictly hit-bound single-disc is one Turner devised himself in self-produced New Orleans sessions featuring a band-not-combo whose single-minded unison will pass for first r&b and then rock and roll. It's perfected with "Shake, Rattle and Roll," cut in New York with Atlantic sharpsters including drummer Connie Kay, whose sock means even more to the song than the sun shining through Jesse Stone's lyric. Until the niche marketers catch up with him, this fat (fat) 43-year-old is set to flip, flop, and fly all over America's teenaged heart. A


Bill Withers
Live at Carnegie Hall

Beyond "Use Me," "Lean on Me," and "Ain't No Sunshine," does anyone remember this guy existed? What a shame. Far more than best-ofs obliged to respect the career he maintained after this hypercharged 1972 night, his legacy is right here, a moment of lost possibility. Withers sang for a black nouveau middle class that didn't yet understand how precarious its status was. Warm, raunchy, secular, common, he never strove for Ashford & Simpson-style sophistication, which hardly rendered him immune to the temptations of sudden wealth—cross-class attraction is what gives "Use Me" its kick. He didn't accept that there had to be winners and losers, that fellowship was a luxury the newly successful couldn't afford. Soon sudden wealth took its toll on him while economic clampdown took its toll on his social context. But here he's turned on to be singing to his people—black folks who can afford Carnegie Hall. A

« Previous Page
Next Page »
New York Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • May
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu