After the Apocalypse (with Alter-reviews)

My recent columns:
America Now Has (at Least) 9,999 Problems
How Trump's Media Cheerleaders Turned Campaign Coverage Into a Total Disaster

What We Talk About When We Don't Talk About Climate Change


1) David Bromberg Live
David Bromberg has a fine new album out, which I believe I recommended in my last "Altercation." Last week (or so) I caught him with his Big Band at the Society For Ethical Culture. I've been seeing David now for 40 years and unlike most of us, he just gets better. He's a great guitarist, a musicologist, a polymathic performer and an incredible ham. And the new album, released 'The Blues, The Whole Blues, And Nothing But The Blues' is a perfect showcase for all these talents. It's filled with songs by deep cuts from Robert Johnson, Bobby Charles, George "Little Hat" Jones, Ray Charles, Sonny Boy Williamson. It's funny too. Thing is, the acoustics at Ethical Culture are better for a lecture on ethical culture, or just about anything else, then they are for a big band. So while it was a warm, intimate evening, and David was happy because his Socialist grandfather used to read poetry there--or so he says--it was not really suited to such a large ensemble.
Larry Campbell and Teresa Willams and their band were the warm up, and they are always good.
2) Elvis Costello & The Imposters Live
Elvis, together with bassist Davey Faragher with original Attractions members, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve) showed up at the Beacon Theater a few days later for two shows on their "Imperial Bedroom & Other Chambers" tour. The idea, said Mr. C, was to frame selections from 1982's "Imperial Bedroom" album with "the songs that led in and out of that velvet-trimmed playhouse." And what does that mean? "In the words of the great Eric Morecambe," he adds, 'I am playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.'"
Just playing a show is not good enough for Elvis and this case, while the theme was
1982 classic (inculding "Human Hands," "The Loved Ones" and "Town Cryer") it was a 33-song set list that gave us "Alison" and "Everyday I Write the Book" "Watching the Detectives" "Pump It Up" and a wonderful closer of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" Taling about the election, Elvis the audience in a brief "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" from "Horsefeathers." The band was hot for sure, and Elvis was in a generous mood, playing guitar at the front of the stage as if he were Stevie Ray Vaughan. But what was most distinctive about the show was the incredible artwork that was displayed for each individual song. I'm pretty sure Elvis said he had done the paintings, though I won't swear to it. All of it was based on the theme of Imperial Bedroom, but nuanced for the individual song, (except for the wonderful noir collage during "Detectives." It was the most visually interesting show I've seen since U2's last tour and, in some ways, more impressive (literally) given the intimacy of the venue. Bravo, Elvis.

Also: This year's pre-Thanksgiving Hot Tuna show at the Beacon will be on November 19. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady joined by drummer, Justin Guip have brought all-start bands into town lately and have been mixing up their bluesy stuff with some re-imagined Jefferson Airplane. Jack and Jorma have been playing together for 51 years straight so we have a pretty good idea what to expect. And if it's your thing, they'll deliver it.

4) The Grateful Dead "July 1978, The Complete Recordings" on Rhino is a limited editition 12-cd box set of the band at what I would argue, anyway, was their musical peak with setlists featuring "Playing In The Band," "Sugaree," "Franklin's Tower," "The Other One," and "Candyman," "Eyes Of The World," "Friend Of The Devil," "Wharf Rat," and of course, "Terapin Station." (And don't forget "Werewolves of London," which appears here twice.

It's the first release of the semi-famous "Betty Boards" shows and includes at least three soundboard shows that have never circulated even among the most dedicated Dead/tapeheads. The highlight are the two shows at Red Rocks (7/7/78 and 7/8/78), long-considered classics, backed up by shows at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (7/1/78), St. Paul Civic Center, St. Paul, MN (7/3/78), Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE (7/5/78). Someon at Amazon did a useful calculation and came up with the following: "Of the 54 unique songs in the collection (not counting "Space" and "Rhythm Devils"), only four titles appear three times (Around And Around, Deal, Estimated Prophet, and Wharf Rat), 30 songs appear twice, and the remaining 20 appear only once each. In a nice touch, there are no duplicates (other than "Space") in the two Red Rocks shows." In addition to al that music, the set features original artwork by the cartoonist Paul Pope, liner notes by Nick Meriwether, who oversees the Dead archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as a producer's note from the nearly immortal Dave Lemieux, and are of course, soundboard recordings newly mixed and mastered by Jeffrey Norman

5) Lou Reed - The RCA & Arista Album Collection on Sony Legacy is a big beautiful box that brings together 16 of Lou's studio and live albums that followed the 1970 (confusing) break-up of the Velvet Underground.

While you might think that Lou's voice did not have much range, his musical direction direction sure did. Like Dylan and Neil Young, Lou followed his muse without concern for commercial prospects. Sometimes it resulted in genius; sometimes in dreck. (And sometimes in comedy as on the two-cd "Lou Reed Live Take No Prisoners, from November 1978," which sounds almost as if Lenny Bruce could have recorded it at the end of his career.

All 17 cds were newly remastered under Reed's supervision, a project that he lived to see completed before he died at 71, in October 2013.

As Hal Willner, Lou's aide-de-camp, producer, and biggest fan writes in the liner notes, "Everyone who was in that room or around Lou during this period witnessed a beautiful thing as he enthusiastically relived that whole period of his work with the joy of rediscovery, excitedly pointing out subtleties in sounds he hadn t heard in years. In retrospect, reminiscing about these sessions done less than four months before he died, the mo, ents seem even more magnified."

The anthology comes with an 80-page hard-bound book featuring memorabilia from Lou's personal archives, photos and artwork and and five 8"x10" prints with facsimile reproduction of a rare RCA promotional poster. Which of these albums will be your favorite will depend on what period Reed appeals, (in this and only this respect, he is similar to the Dead.) Unlike most Reed afficianados, I'm going with Street Hassle (1978), Growing Up in Public (1980),The Blue Mask (1982), Legendary Hearts (1983) and New Sensations (1984). I'm sure we can all agree that we, though perhaps not Lou, could have lived without Metal Machine Music (1975) which sounds even better/worse than ever than it did on its unlistenable release. Reed's uncomprosing stance toward his life and his music made him a hell of a difficult person to be around--all of this music predates his pussy-cat stage with Laurie Anderson--but it sure gave us some unforgettable music. This box gives it the respect it has always deserved.

6) The Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol 5
This 3-disc box set collection represents another excavation into Miles' incredible "second great quintet" that featured Miles (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums) working in the studio between 1966 and 1968. It's made up of rehearsals, partial and alternate takes, extensive and fascinating studio conversation, as well as over two hours of previously unreleased studio recordings from original sessions from the recordings of Miles Smiles (1967), Nefertiti (1968) and Water Babies (1976) albums, all of which were produced by Teo Macero (with the exception of "Fall," produced by Howard A. Roberts).

Of course all of it is interesting. The producers assume that you've already got the albums themselves because the box is arranged with take after take, rather than with complete albums and the outtakes coming afterward. As for this late pre-Bitches Brew period, genius is as genius does and here it is, in development and action. It's nicely packaged as all the Legacy Miles bootlegs have been, and pretty well-priced too.

7) The Rolling Stones, Havana Moon
Finally, you can own the bluray/double cd of the historic live show the Stones did in Havana earlier this year (on Eagle Rock). It's a pretty orthodox Stones show (Jumpin' Jack Flash, It's Only Rock n' Roll, Gimme Shelter, Brown Sugar, etc) but I gotta say, I was in tears watching how much these Cubans were enjoying their first taste of what has sustained me my whole life. God, Communism sucked. And what an amazing band these geezers are. "Satisfaction" brings a kind of joy to the faces of this million-plus crowd (or so they say) that belies their earlier claim that "It's Only Rock 'n Roll." I think it's more like a goddam miracle. How did anyone ever live without it?