I've published quite a bit of late, (at least by recent standards):
For the Forward I wrote a piece about how Max Ticktin's adult education class on rabbinical literature changed my life a long time ago, here
For the summer issue of Dissent, I wrote an article on inequality and New York City called "Unequal Lives" which is here
For Open Canada, I participated in a symposium on "The State of Leftist Foreign Policy," which you can find here
For The Nation, I wrote
"Hey Roger Ailes, You're Fired"
"As Israel Drifts Further to the Right, 'Haaretz' Remains a Beacon for the Left" here
"More Bad News for Newspapers," here
"The Trumpification of Cable News," here.
And in case you missed it, do me a favor and read last month's "How False Equivalence Is Distorting the 2016 Election Coverage," here since I worked really hard on it.
1) The Cowboy Junkies at the Stepehen Talkhouse in Amagansett.
Ever since the Allman Brothers called it quits, I've been growing ever more attached to bands upon whom I can depend to deliver intelligent, technically sophisticated, soulful performances that connect me with my own past. (Recent announcements by Clapton and Paul Simon do not help in this department.) The Cowboy Junkies are the not the Allman Brothers, to put it mildly. But they are so good as to be nearly great every time you see them. Yes, their songs, including their covers, are uniformly depressing. But their peformances are not. They are life-affirming. Margot Timmins voice is as hauntingly ethereal as it was thirty-whatever years ago. And the musicianship is not only first rate, it is also telepathic--since apparently there's not much else to do in the wilds of Canada besides make music (and I suppose, chop wood,etc).
The Talkhouse show delved rather deeply into deep cuts. I counted only three songs that a casual CJ fan would recognize, not including one of the two Neil Young covers. (The other was a deep (and depressing) cut of Neil's.) Margot's patter was the kind you'd hear at a family Thanksgiving dinner that was going on too long. And yet the audience was rapt, and the performances mesmerizing. By the time they got to "Sweet Jane," we were all close friends. And the investment on both sides--the Talkhouse is pretty expensive--was reaffirmed. No Bruce songs this time--a big disappointment to this guy--but undeniably, faith was rewarded.
If you go to Cowboyjunkies.com, you can buy "Notes Falling Slow," which is four cds for only $25. You can also buy a whole bunch of other stuff, not only CJ music. And you should. This is a rare and valuable institution and we have to do our part to keep it alive.
2) PET SOUNDS Box Set
I am unconscionably late in recommending the newest iteration of Pet Sounds, though it is still summer. Pet Sounds (50th Anniversary Edition) wasreleased worldwide in June 10 (I was away) in more configurations than I can count. The best one is the 4CD/Blu-ray with the really nice hardbound book. You get the masterpiece itself in both stereo and mono, plus hi res stereo, mono, instrumental, and 5.1 surround mixes, session outtakes, alternate mixes, and previously unreleased live recordings. I can't speak to the 2CDand digital deluxe edition pairing the remastered album in stereo and mono with highlights from the collectors edition's additional tracks or the remastered, 180-gram LP editions of the album in mono andstereo.
If you've seen either the surprisingly excellent "Love and Mercy" or "The Wrecking Crew" documentary, you get a fascinating insight into the tortured creative process by which Brian created this album. (The other "boys" were allowed to sing, but not much else.) And even today, it still sounds like an accidental miracle, especially given Brian's fragile mental and emotional state and the fights had had to endure not only with the "suits" at Capitol but also Mike Love, who wanted to stick to what had worked in the past and was sure to make money again. (The Wilson dad was not much help either.)
Mojo ranks it as the best album of all time. Rolling Stone put it number 2. No question it belongs in the top five. If you've already got just the album, then the 4 cd version is definitely the way to go, but of course, just make sure you've got the album. (Off the top of my head and not to be held accountable: (Rubber Soul, Blonde on Blonde, Born to Run, Pet Sounds, and Live at the Fillmore East.)
3) Springsteen, Christic, 1990
Speaking of Springsteen, the live NUGS recordings have been turning out one great show after another. It's churlish to say which is the greatest, but perhaps the most desirable, given the georgeous sound quality and additional, previously unheard songs is the newest: the November 16 & 17, 1990 solo acoustic performances in support of The Christic Institute at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was a bad cause that Bonnie and Jackson roped Bruce into but a magical performance at a crucial moment in Bruce's career. We've had decent bootlegs of it before, but here we get both shows for the first time, including the duets with Jackson and Bonnie on "Across the Borderline" and "Highway 61 Revisited." Bruce is a tortured soul here, trying to make sense of his post-E Street life, LA life and writing new songs he doesn't quite know what to do with or know whether his audience can relate to. He plays them for the first time, nervously but confidentally, and the overall effect is as intense as any great E Street Band rave up. Both shows are available to download together as one release a tLive.BruceSpringsteen.net ranging from MP3 to 24 Bit Hi-Resolution and Audiophile DSD versions. I like having them on cd, and this one is a 3 CD set.
4) The Kinks, Everybody's In Showbiz, This album came out in August 1972 as the Kinks were falling apart. Pioneers in evey respect, it was one of the first albums that combined a studio album with a live album. The former was fantastic and contains the debut appearance of "Celluloid Heroes," which later on, tended to be truncated. The live album, was well, drunk, for better and for worse. ("Oh, Demon Alcohol") This re-release adds previously unissued studio sessions outtakes (recorded for the album in 1972) and live material (recorded March 2-3, 1972 from the Carnegie Hall shows.) Too much is just the right amount. The sound is almost as good as the SACD version, but with lots more music.
5) Clapton Crossroads and Loretta Lynn
My friends at Rhino have done us all the favor of released a 3cd set of what someone considers to be the highlights of all four of Eric Clapton's Crossroads guitar festivals on cd. (Previously they were only out on DVD and bluray.) It's 41 songs, nearly four hours and only $20. Why even think about it?
I'm not going to get into an argument about which tracks from EC Jeff Beck, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Cray, Billy F Gibbons, Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh, Ronnie Wood, and Jimmie Vaughn, among others, should or should not have been included. But I will mention that the $ goes to the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a treatment and education facility that Clapton founded in 1998 to help people suffering from chemical dependency. So again, what's the problem?
Finally, I'm really enjoying the new album from Loretta Lynn, "Full Circle." Jack White is nowhere to be found this time. Instead it's produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, and recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. It includes"Lay Me Down," a duet with Willie Nelson and "Everything It Takes," with Elvis Costello. But it would be just fine without them. She's 83, but sounds as good as she did 50 years ago. Maybe not so much in her mind, though. She's a big Trump fan.