232) Vladimir Cosma, Diva Soundtrack: Romanian composer Cosma was born into a family tree fruity with starched-collar music folk. He may be a bit of a starched collar himself as his forays into rock and pop have the sound of being approached with an academic's forceps, but his tastes and sonic instincts are sound. Keep in mind this is 1981, a time when digital sounds and gated drums were nearly as exotic as throat singing. Both are used to impressive effect on Ground Swell. Dead End sounds a little like The Buggles channeling Peter Gabriel but the unaccompanied piano piece Sentimental Walk is a minor masterpiece. The choice of the La Wally aria (ca. 1892) with its searing high notes and juicy operatic histrionics tosses a capital "M" musical IED into the bulls-eye.
Download and judge for yourself:
Choir Invisible, The Distance From...
Choir Invisible, Playing Cards
235) Ruth Brown, He Treats Your Daughter Mean: Raw in the way that only the 50s could be (released in 1953) from this so called Queen of R&B. You have to love the way her voice squeaks up at the end of "mean." It's a voice that's sweet-girly at its center that ruffles tough at the edges. It's a rasp well-worn from a young woman's want of hard loving. The song itself isn't much more than a trite confection but the devil is always in the details and Brown brings the details like a Von Dutch paint job.
238) Jandek: Let's say there are two kinds of music makers in the world: those who want to make music that sounds like the music they love, and those who don't. This Don't category is exceptionally small. Jandek is a Don't. It may not be that Jandek doesn't want to sound like someone else, he probably couldn't if he tried. His muses won't let him. Often called an "outsider" musician, there does seem to be a strain of madness in his work, whether it's actual or a coy imitation it's hard to know. His muses seem to be transmitting from Neptune. His technique can bounce from child-like to childish and at times his ear seems to be pure tin. The songs have an improvised off-the-top-of-the-head quality and at times it brings to mind the music of The Shaggs. You have to give Jandek, nee Sterling Richard Smith, his rightful due. Anyone with a pretty voice can find an appreciative audience. It takes real courage to get up in front of people and make these kinds of sounds.
239) Clifford Brown, Yesterdays: Brownie, as he was called, jumped this coil at the tender age of 25 and left behind only 4 years of recordings. Considered a major influence on the many trumpeters to follow and one of the three greats of the modern jazz age (along with Miles and Diz), he was easily the most melodic. Probably best remembered for standing sweetly before a string section, Brownie could blow it hard when he wanted to. Probably one of the best instrumental renditions of Yesterdays ever recorded.
240) Al Green, You Ought to Be with Me: Sure, Al Green is great. Undoubtedly. Who else stands his class? Marvin Gaye, maybe? That aside, imagine how disappointed I was to learn of Green's history as a wife beater. (Admitted, without contrition, by Al himself in court.) Because Reverand Al is an asshole in his personal life shouldn't change his standing as a singer or his deep catalog of great 70s era work. He had the whole package – passion, great songwriting, the ultimate sex groove of a band, and great production. Al never oversings or resorts to musclely histrionics. He just doesn't seem capable of singing a fake note. Only wish he wasn't such an asshole.
241) Three Thirds: Buffalo Skinner: Clearly, Three Thirds were Jandek fans. Woody never sounded so abstracted.