Monday, December 3, 2018

Sometimes A Post Writes Itself



It's only a little over $11,000 for a 5th row ticket to see the Rolling Stones this summer. They weren't worth that in 1971. Thankfully, I received a text from a friend last night, and the conversation that took place, saved me (and you) from another rant about this band and this tour.

THE CONVERSATION:

HIM:
You’re really right that Elvis Costello's “Look Now” is such a pleasant surprise. He’s always been engaged. How about a post on how while we pick on Macca, Van, Neil Young and the Stones, and to an even worse degree, Sting and Clapton, for putting out limp, coasting crap for two or three decades, at the same time, Bruce and Elvis have never stopped striving and being the best they could be? Robert Plant and Tom Waits, too.  On "Look Now," he seems even more engaged. Maybe a post about the people who ARE engaged.

ME:
Good idea. And a coincidence as well. A friend of mine texted me earlier about the Clapton Christmas record. I only read one review but it wasn't a good one. The joke I made to him was, it’s amazing how a guy could be so revered and thought of as a God, and his last good review was for Disraeli Gears.

FRIEND:
Hahahahaha.  It’s funny cuz it’s true.

ME:
Have you heard the new Jeff Tweedy? What do you think, if you have?

FRIEND:
On one listen I really like a lot of it. A lot. You?

ME:
I listened to it once. No interruptions, on the couch reading the lyrics, the old-fashioned way. Engaged!  I then texted my friend who is a huge fan and asked him why I should listen a second time. It really left me cold, very samey. Nothing to hold onto. And he replied, "I think it’s Jeff Tweedy’s best work. Think of it as late career Dylan." That really threw me for a loop. I love Tweedy, so I guess I've got to go back. And you know I will. Probably a few more times.

FRIEND:
I definitely heard stuff in there that moved me more than his recent stuff.

ME:
Well a Neu album is more moving than his recent stuff.

FRIEND:
Hahahaha. Wilco Schmilco indeed.There’s been enough good stuff on each to keep me in. But it’s been no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot recently. On the other hand, every time Neil Young’s new release is from 1975 it seems like he’s really trying again.


THE END

The ball is rolling. Fan or not of Bruce, Elvis, Waits or Plant's recent work, there is a lot to be said for these artists not phoning it in, pandering, or delivering second rate parodies of their earlier work. I'd like to add Joe Jackson to that list.

Who else?







43 comments:

Anonymous said...

John Doe
Marty Stuart
Rosanne Cash
Rodney & Emmylou
Jon Spencer (lord help me)
only two of the original members left, but Soft Machine's latest album is a keeper

Anonymous said...

He's only been doing his thing for 30 years or so but Freedy Johnston is an artist who keeps getting better and better.

Randy

Bill said...

Richard Thompson was the first one who sprung to mind. Just saw him last month and he still kills it live. He put s out a new record every couple of years and they're always good-to-great. Apropos of your text conversation, Tweedy produced his previous record.

Troy said...

John Prine
Mavis Staples
Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie (admittedly small sample size, but still...)
Cheap Trick

buzzbabyjesus said...

All the artists I can think of have already been mentioned.

Ken D said...

More artists over 60 still worth every penny:
Van Morrison
Alejandro Escovedo
Dolly Parton
Peter Wolf
Del McCoury Band
Willie Nelson
Marshall Crenshaw
Irma Thomas

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Cowboy Junkies Still rockin’ it. Well, you know what I mean.

Regards,
RichD

Troy said...

One additional thought:
In the original conversation Sal had with his friend, the first two artists cited as putting out limp, coasting crap were Paul McCartney and Van Morrison. I would argue that, while the muse may not always be as consistently strong, I don't believe either of them have been phoning it in as of late.

With the exception of Kisses on the Bottom, Paul's material going back to Flaming Pie has been overall quite strong. Throw in excellent releases like Chaos & Creation and Memory Almost Full, and you've got a pretty nice string of quality albums. Sure there are the individual song clunkers in there and we should never let him off the hook for the dreck that is 'Freedom'. But I wouldn't lump him in with Sting, Clapton, or Rod Stewart either.

As for Van, there have been a few duds in the past decade or two but there has also been his recent string of blues and jazz albums that have been solid and, at times, downright compelling. Of course, I'd love to see something that thrills me like the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, but what are the odds of that? I have every Van album or CD except Hard Nose the Highway (lost it some time back), The Skiffle Sessions (never liked it) and the ACL concert (could never find it to purchase), so I have been listening and have been paying attention. And I don't hear a lot of limp, coasting crap. Will see how his next release (due this Fri) is...fingers crossed.

Sal Nunziato said...

Troy,
As a regular reader you should know I am all about Macca’s solo work. Speaking for my friend, I am quite sure when he said “we” he meant the general consensus and not he or I. I agree with you completely regarding Paul and Van.

Troy said...

Yeah, I know you love those albums, especially Chaos & Creation. All good.

I still stand by my assessment that John Prine, Mavis Staples, LB/CMcV, and the Trick still deliver the goods too. I have been wrapped up in The Tree of Forgiveness recently, great stuff.

Nice post today, fun discussions. Thanks.

Shriner said...

Solo artists:

Robyn Hitchcock. His latest album is his strongest in quite some time. I never feel he phones it in.

Juliana Hatfield albums have all ranged from either "acceptable" (10%), "good" (40%), or "great" (50%) since the 80s.

Prince has not been mentioned yet? He never phoned it in and would probably still be going on.

Alice Cooper? Elton when he teams with Bernie?


I think it's harder for a band to phone it in, than a solo artist -- unless the band is on the verge of collapse anyway.



Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head, as far as folks who've been recording at least as long as EC The Younger, I'd say Paul Collins of the Nerves/Breakaways/Beat & solo. He's still putting out great powerpop music, although he'll never top The Beat's self-titled debut of 1979, one of the two perfect L.A. powerpop debuts of the era.
C in California

mauijim said...

Not sure what to make out of Bryan ferry's newest lp. Understood when he was asked to create some 30s music for the Great Gatsby soundtrack and out of that came a whole album of such material but to return to that genre again. is there an audience?
Think they are all passed on. Have grown to accept his last two other new lps as a return to his safe place and repeating that same sound.But look at me, i keep buying.

Bill said...

Also, Nick Lowe, who continues to make great music.

Anonymous said...

First I second Troy's comment about McCartney & Van. Van's later albums have mostly been good to very good; he's certainly not phoning it in.

And Neil has put out an album of original material almost every year. You don't have to love it, but if you say it's just for the $$, I'd argue that he could do just fine with his archive releases, like the Stones.

Ry Cooder has released some fine work in the 2000s, including Prodigal Son this year. And his recent tour was excellent too.

Steve Forbert forges on.

David Crosby has put out about one new disc a year recently.

The Stones can't hold a candle to this type of creativity. And at the risk of getting my head chopped off here, has Dylan done any creative songcraft since Tempest? Not sure that three cover lps and a Xmas album count.

-Peacenik

Dr Wu said...

Paul Simon and Eno. Both together and apart.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Mark Knopfler has been plugging away too.
-Peacenik

Unknown said...

Willie Nile is in his own renaissance, hands down.

Anonymous said...

Willie Nile is in a renaissance, hands down.

Paul

Unknown said...

Speaking of Elvis C., Variety has a great review of recent shows in Cal. Saw EC about 5 years ago (?) opening for Dylan and he was dynamic ... seems his health problems are at least on hold.
https://variety.com/2018/music/news/elvis-costello-concert-review-wiltern-1203073327/
Be sure to play the video.
Tinpot.

PS: agree about Van. His recent stuff is excellent.

ken49 said...

Richard Thompson for sure. I think his constant high level of quality almost works against him. Maybe you need a few duds to hear from the press and your fans how your new release is a return to form. Richard never dips too far from B+, A- range.

Anonymous said...

Dave Alvin
Lucinda Williams

Captain Al

Mr. Baez said...

I'm probably alone here,but I think Dylan's last several offerings on the "Great American Songbook" are rather compelling, especially the "Fallen Angeles" effort ("On A Little Street In Singapore" for example.) And, to further blow my cool, I feel that Ringo continues to deliver music that I'm delighted with and happy to hear. I also agree with Troy, Shriner and petty much most of the above. Rave on!

Anonymous said...

Wisconsin here. I like what's listed so far. I would add DBT and Steve Earle as well. On a side note, my tix for Stones in Chicago were $25.50 each. Sure, they were Lucky Dips, but so what? As if I need to be with the type of people who pay for seats upfront.

Sal Nunziato said...

Based on many of the artists suggested here, I think I need to clarify a few things.

First, as I replied to Troy, neither my friend or myself personally feel that Paul McCartney or Van Morrison have been phoning it in. I will say again, the "we" he is referring to is a general "we." Big, popular artists like Sting, U2, Eric Clapton, etc., get trashed all the time, even when they release quality material.

Also, I think I made a mistake using the term "phoning it in," which would mean "lazy." That said, Prince certainly was NOT lazy, and as Shriner said, would probably have released 5 albums or more in the time since his death. But as a Prince fanatic since seeing him live at The Ritz touring "Dirty Mind" in 1980, most of what Prince has released since "Emancipation" has been spotty, at best. You'd be hard pressed to find one record that was truly as good as any of classics. Prince seemed to make records only for himself, as if he needed to, like eating or breathing. But few seemed truly focused. "Musicology," "The Rainbow Children," "Thitd Eye Girl," "Plectrum Electrum," "NEWS," "3121," Planet Earth, "Lotusflower..." Jeez, it's exhausting and mostly forgettable.

Also, Ken D--there is no bigger of champion of Irma Thomas than yours truly, but she hasn't made a record in 15 years. Same with Marshall Crenshaw, his last full length was 2009.

As for Dylan's trilogy of standards--I tend to agree with Mr. Baez. I don't love these records and the one I do own is "Fallen Angels" for the reasons Mr Baez has stated. But Dylan does NOT sound like he phoned it in, like Rod Stewart on his half dozen American Songbooks.

Ken D said...

Sal, re Irma Thomas: "Simply Grand" was in 2008 (per Amazon) so 10 years, not 15. But still, way way too long. (And the title of the record is it's own review as well...)

Touching story about her on the radio last spring—she received an honorary doctorate from Tulane:
https://www.npr.org/tags/614553523/irma-thomas

Sal Nunziato said...

Ken,
Seemed longer for Irma. But yeah, the two post-Katrina records- "After The Rain" and "Simply Grand" are beyond amazing.

cmealha said...

Absolutely Nick Lowe

Shriner said...

re: Prince: I liked Musicology and 20Thirteen a lot, but I'll also admit up front, I did not listen to *every* album Prince released.

I thought "Anthology 1995-2010" was pretty dynamite, though.

Troy said...

Agreed on Irma. Last year for our anniversary, I took my wife to see Irma, Preservation Hall Legacy, and Blind Boys of Alabama at Symphony Center in Chicago. She sounded terrific. Would love for her to put out some new music.

Chris Collins said...

I also like the Dylan standards records. I don't listen all that much. But they're interesting.

I would like to submit Willie Nelson, who seems to release an album a week. But many of them are good to very good. Not bad for a dude in his 80s.

Elton John has been making a real effort on all his post 2000 releases. The quality may vary, but there's been some really good stuff in that run.

kevin m said...

would like to add Paul Weller, The Church, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds to this list.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Nick Lowe. His LP's are always welcome.
I can think of two: Roger Waters and Ray Davies.
And though gone, JJ Cale was consistent to the end.
And there are some others that will be really missed when they decide not to record again: John Mellencamp, Tom Waits, Not even the best band in Ireland...what about a real new record from Peter Gabriel?
Roy

Ken D said...

cmealha, YES! How could I forget Nick Lowe? No better example of staying absolutely "ear-worthy" and relevant long long after the chart success...

JD Seid said...

I offer up Nick Cave

Anonymous said...

Nobody mentioned Bowie! I generally like all of his post-80s work, but think his last two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, rank with his best work. I wouldn't go so far with Prince's last two albums, Hit N Run Phase One and Two, but I do think they are way more focused than most of his late period work and well worth checking out.

Elvis Costello has had his ups and downs but to my taste has never made an album not worth engaging with, which is both a blessing and a curse. But I will defend even Goodbye Cruel World, Mighty Like a Rose, and North. Or at least I find much to enjoy about them.

Like others here, I like and respect Dylan's covers albums, even the Christmas one, though wouldn't say I listen to them that much. Here's hoping they represent another fallow period, like his early 90s folk records, before a new creative peak. His Beacon shows also sent me back to Tempest, which is a better album than I realized at the time--and I liked it to begin with!

Bruce H

Sal Nunziato said...

Bruce,
I am a little embarrassed that I didn't mention Bowie. I've been raving about his post-80's work for years.

Dr Wu said...

David Byrne.

cmealha said...

Let's discuss ticket prices. "What can a poor boy do, except to sing for a rock & roll band" and charge exorbitant prices that only his very rich friends can afford! Fucking capitalism run amok. They don't have enough money? Greedy bastards.

Dr Wu said...

Robert Plant (sorry, last one: listening to ‘Raising Sand’.

M_Sharp said...

Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakum.

Dwight's last album was bluegrass remakes of his own songs (plus a good "Purple Rain"), there's an acoustic album of his own songs, plus two albums of covers (one all Buck Owens), but his original material has all been first rate.

The only Steve Earle albums I didn't care much for were "The Hard Way" and "Colvin & Earle", but I wouldn't call either one phoned in.

Anonymous said...

Oh fer goodness sake! IAN HUNTER. His last four albums are the best of his career and they all happened past the age of 70!

muse2222 said...

A few additional artists doing one or more albums in recent years that have matched or approached their best work:

Jules Shear
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes
Elton John
Graham Parker