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Saturday, April 30, 2016

10,000 Maniacs: Twice Told Tales

10,000 MANIACS: TWICE TOLD TALES (2015)

1) Lady Mary Ramsey; 2) The Song Of Wandering Aengus; 3) She Moved Through The Fair; 4) Dark Eyed Sailor; 5) Misty Moisty Morning; 6) Bonny May; 7) Canadee-I-O; 8) Do You Love An Apple?; 9) Greenwood Sidey; 10) Carrickfergus; 11) Death Of Queen Jane.

As of 2015, it's officially alive — and no, it's not «Mary Ramsey and friends», it is still a more or less authentic version of the 10,000 Maniacs, with the original keyboardist, bassist, and drummer still loyally in place, and even John Lombardo making an appearance as the protective husband and the keeper of the flame, all in one. The only problem is that this time, they did not bother to compose any original material at all; instead, the idea is to really put the old «folk» back into «rock» and come out with an album of nothing but old folk tunes — an idea that both Natalie Mer­chant and the late Robert Buck would probably have abhorred. But it is 2015, and chances are that even if they manage to come up with another ʽDon't Talkʼ or ʽNoah's Doveʼ, nobody will give much of a damn anyway; so why, indeed, can't they just relax and be playful?

Actually, it's a nice little record. Not much to speak of: the arrangements are very straightforward and conventionally accessible — bass, drums, acoustic and soft electric guitars, some strings and keyboards, strictly middle of the road: no odd touches of electronica, and no attempts at strict acoustic-only «authenticity». It just sounds good, and Mary Ramsey's vocals still sound young and sweet, despite her recently pushing 50. Of course, it's also the kind of record that has already been produced countless times — more like Tales Told To Infinity, if you ask me — but if this material is handled with enough love and depth, well, it won't hurt to enjoy the old stuff once more in a very slightly different reading.

Oddities include the record being bookmarked by two strings-only performances of the instru­mental ʽLady Mary Ramseyʼ (amazing that, with a Mary Ramsey actually in the band, they never tried this stunt before!) and an accappella rendition of Yeats' ʽThe Song Of Wandering Aengusʼ, which sort of acts as a promotional introduction to our ageless national treasures, like a foreword or something. There the oddities end, and you get your predictable selection of Saxon, Irish, and Scottish ditties, shanties, canticles, and an occasional murder ballad thrown in.

I do reiterate that everything sounds nice, and they even put some effort in the arrangements — for instance, ʽShe Moved Through The Fairʼ gets a fairly complex set of overdubs and even a vaguely psychedelic guitar solo. The worst thing about the record is probably its album cover, cheesy to the point where you'd have to be a very cartoonish stereotype of a folk enthusiast to even want to pick up a CD like that at your local store; I do give my word that the music is much more rewarding than the album art would make it seem. However, none of the songs deserve individual comments — even Loreena McKennitt injects more personality into ʽCarrickfergusʼ than Mary Ramsey and 10,000 Maniacs, who, by the way, should really have changed their name to «10,000 Diligent, Respectful, Bookish Folkies» before giving us something like that.

Still, it's somehow nice to know that the band still has enough fans to support them, as the album was funded through PledgeMusic and released on an independent label — although why it feels nice, I'm not able to answer even to myself. I mean, when Jon Bon Jovi gets old and tired and washed up and penniless and starts appealing to fans on PledgeMusic, will that feel nice, too? Shouldn't that kind of compassion be reserved for people who still have something left to say even when long past their prime?.. Ah well, anyway, that would be taking it too seriously. All I know is, this record generated a decent vibe for fifty minutes, then sank into the swamp, but may­be it still made me a better man in the process; who really knows?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Carbon Based Lifeforms: The Path

CARBON BASED LIFEFORMS (NOTCH): THE PATH (1998)

1) Intro; 2) Behind The Corner; 3) Rain; 4) Rise To Tomorrow; 5) Hold; 6) Machinery; 7) And Contact; 8) Sinful Things; 9) Dreamshore Forest; 10) Submerged; 11) Contaminated Area; 12) Last Breath; 13) Station Blue; 14) Or Plan B.

Okay, so properly speaking, this is not quite Carbon Based Lifeforms yet: this is credited to «Notch», a band that, in addition to Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Ringström, also included a third musician, Mikael Lindqvist, credited here for at least three of the tracks. The music itself is also significantly different from that of CBL proper, which, according to the musicians, was originally formed as a side project for just the two of them and then became a full-time occupa­tion — Notch sound more chilly and transcendental, generally go easier on the bass and have a more New Age-like feel on the whole. But still, the connection is more than obvious, and it is no wonder that many «loose» discographies of CBL have this as their first entry, so we might as well start our carbonated journey right here.

The Path, self-produced and self-released by this bunch of laborious Swedes, is no great shakes, but I'd still rate it as a fairly accomplished and pleasant electronic experience for background listening. Despite the length (and subsequent CBL releases would only become longer) and the relatively static nature of its tracks, it is surprisingly diverse, tempo-wise and style-wise, and takes in about equal proportions from minimalistic ambient, modern (or not so modern) classical, and various types of «soft» dance music. Besides, they actually got a retro vibe going on: either it is the choice of instrumentation or an intentional return to traditional analog-era harmonies or both, but there are plenty of moments here that remind me of classic 1970s electronics — Tan­gerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Cluster, Bowie/Eno's Berlin Trilogy, you know the drill. Some­thing like that, instead of becoming yet another bunch of Aphex Twin or Autechre clones.

A track like ʽRise To Tomorrowʼ would be quite telling. Steamy industrial intro, mechanical vocal overdubs, psychedelic synth clouds dripping acid droplets, out of which gradually emerges a simple, but steady bassline and, one after another, several lead keyboard loops chasing each other by the tail. Melody, complexity, atmosphere, the works. Something is lacking, though, to make the whole thing properly «otherworldly»: the warp engines splutter and try to kick in, but in the end, you get vague glimpses of a parallel universe without being transported. Maybe it's be­cause we know these recipes from past decades all too well, and they have yet to learn how to add a secret ingredient that would make you want to relive it all over again.

Likewise, ʽMachineryʼ, which spends its eight minutes running on a busily rotating set of electro­nic pistons, does sound like a working machine, but a very smooth, humble one — steam exhaus­ted in the background, piston running in the foreground, and tiny kaleidoscopic gurgling taking place on a micro-scale. Never relenting, never stopping, never experiencing any technical prob­lems, just quietly doing its thing, whatever it is, while you are either busy doing something else or trying, out of fun / curiosity / boredom (pick whichever you like), to adjust your brain pulse to the rhythm so that you, Notch, and the universe can all tune in to the same wavelength. (Didn't really do that much to my brain, but maybe I'm just too old and cynical).

Sometimes they get almost too modern, though: ʽLast Breathʼ is an exercise in trip-hop, with a croaky wah-wah synth line making an «instrumental rap» bit on the side, and while I find the track amusing on its own, it is somewhat out of place on a record like this, especially when you find it jammed between the creepy chill of ʽContaminated Areaʼ and the subliminal bass pulses of ʽStation Blueʼ. On the other hand... diversity!

Anyway, what is really the most pleasing here is the density of sound: for a couple (or even trio) of guys self-producing their first record, The Path is exceptionally rich in texture, right from the opening «quasi-orchestral» bit (ʽBehind The Cornerʼ) and until the very last track. If you are a major electronica fan, there's enough detail here, and endlessly shifting nuances, to keep you occupied for a long time. If you're not, you probably won't be planning to return to it any time soon, but even so, it is precisely this attention to layering and nuancing that inconspicuously plants seeds of respect for The Path into one's mind. That said, I will not succumb to the temp­tation of calling this «the lost CBL masterpiece» or anything like that — the music's debts to its ancestors are way too huge, and they wouldn't really start paying them off until the impressive, but still inanimate Notch evolved into Carbon-Based Lifeforms.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Carcass: Reek Of Putrefaction

CARCASS: REEK OF PUTREFACTION (1988)

1) Genital Grinder; 2) Regurgitation Of Giblets; 3) Maggot Colony; 4) Pyosisified (Rotten To The Gore); 5) Carbo­nized Eyesockets; 6) Frenzied Detruncation; 7) Vomited Anal Tract; 8) Festerday; 9) Fermenting Innards; 10) Excre­ted Alive; 11) Suppuration; 12) Foeticide; 13) Microwaved Uterogestation; 14) Feast On Dismembered Carnage; 15) Splattered Cavities; 16) Psychopathologist; 17) Burnt To A Crisp; 18) Pungent Excruciation; 19) Manifestation Of Verrucose Urethra; 20) Oxidized Razor Masticator; 21) Mucopurulence Excretor; 22) Malignant Defecation.

If you ever had any problems with the Liverpudlian accents of the Fab Four, try this for comfort: anybody capable of deciphering even a single word on Carcass' debut album without peeking into the lyrics sheet should probably be burned at the stake for serious witchcraft. Likewise, if you can commit even a single «melody» on this album to an individual memory cell, you should probably take immediate action to get yourself committed before the shit hits the fan.

Meet bass player Jeffrey Walker, guitarist Bill Steer, and drummer Ken Owen, three friendly and (according to most sources) perfectly normal guys that, one day, set out on the quest of making the most disgusting rock album ever. The immediate influence here is the pioneering grindcore of Napalm Death, for whom Steer also played guitar (and Walker designed the art of their first album, Scum, just to indicate the sort of symbiotic relationship between the two) — but while Napalm Death concentrated more on the laconic-minimalistic side of things, Carcass took it into an, ahem, somewhat more anatomical direction. As you can see, you do not need to go further than the song titles — and a thorough study of the lyrics with a medical encyclopaedia by your side, accompanied by some unflinching staring at this and the ensuing album covers, will make you perfectly qualified for a job as morgue assistant without any real need for a college degree.

The only thing in favor of this record is total commitment — but its totality is, in fact, so over­whelming that it translates to a certain kind of hip charm even in the minds of perfectly sane people (in fact, perfectly sane people are its base audience — it's not as if Carcass had a small, but loyal fanbase of mass murderers and necrophiliacs in mind). The band is unquestionably very tight and professional, but here it completely sacrifices skill to the idea of heaviness, speed, and «melodic blurriness», making Slayer sound like ABBA in comparison; and the vocals are an incomprehensible slurred growl all the way. For 37 minutes in a row, the record operates in two modes — fast and very fast, where all fast parts sound the same, all very fast parts sound the same, and the only difference between fast and very fast is... uh... tempo.

One does have to somehow «accept» the whole package — music, voice, song titles, song lyrics, album art, etc. — for the experience to work. Of course, it's essentially an «anti-musical» joke, whose only serious point is testing the limits of personal and artistic freedom, something that John Peel must have understood very well when he called Carcass his favorite new band of 1988 and got them to appear on his show. Later on, the songs would become longer, more melodic and «musical», not to mention the production, which is pretty bad here, and, apparently, the band members themselves were unhappy with it, but with this kind of approach, lo-fi, dirty, and mean actually works best: I mean, when you name a song ʽVomited Anal Tractʼ, it better sound like a vomited anal tract, or else what's the frickin' point?

It would hardly make sense to condemn the album with the «anybody could produce this kind of shit» argument, either. First, it takes some serious practice to become a top level grindcore artist. Second, it takes real guts (or, perhaps, in the spirit of the album, it takes some really fermented innards) to come up with such an uncompromising concept. Third, once you get around to reading the lyrics, they are really hilarious — probably some of the most verbose, poetic, inven­tive texts centered around complex human anatomy ever thought of by living man (not that I'm mentally prepared to analyze any of them here). Fourth, the sheer contrast between the persona­lities of the band members (who are nice-behaving vegetarians) and the «atrociousness» of the whole concept is somehow quite comforting — I'd certainly rather have that than comparable work of an actual madman like G. G. Allin.

But clearly, there's no need to actually discuss the music; unlike later Carcass albums, the basic point of these songs is that even if they start out with actual chord sequences, the insane tempos mash them together in a grinder and the muddy production finishes the job. The idea is not to «hum» these songs, but to participate in a deranged, macabre dance of death — a fun thing to do, provided you do not accidentally blast these songs out of your car when passing near a hospice (and even if you do, you'd still have to drop leaflets with printed lyrics in the yard to achieve the necessary sacrilegious effect) or send out a complementary version of the CD to victims of nuc­lear meltdown accidents. I am not, by any means, giving this album a proper «thumbs up», but I certainly acknowledge not just its right to existence, but its actual artistic purpose. Besides, you could probably get an M.D., easy, with just a cursory analysis of the lyrics — or, at the very least, vastly expand your anatomical vocabulary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Camel: The Single Factor

CAMEL: THE SINGLE FACTOR (1982)

1) No Easy Answer; 2) You Are The One; 3) Heroes; 4) Selva; 5) Lullabye; 6) Sasquatch; 7) Manic; 8) Camelogue; 9) Today's Goodbye; 10) Heart's Desire; 11) End Peace.

Existence of this record is often attributed to pure contractual obligation: by 1982, Camel were pretty much defunct as a band, with the next-to-last remaining founding member, Andy Ward, leaving Latimer's company due to personal problems, yet Decca still expected Andrew to fulfill the contract and hand them another LP — and, moreover, a «commercial» one, rather than yet another morose semi-instrumental suite about some crazy Japanese soldier. With no place left to run, Latimer concurred, and, allegedly unwillingly, produced the next «Camel» album all on his own, deserted, disillusioned, and dissatisfied.

Actually, not nearly on his own — as a matter of fact, The Single Factor «boasts» the single largest number of guest musicians on a Camel album so far. Out of the old friends, Bardens makes a brief appearance on the instrumental ʽSasquatchʼ, and keyboardist Duncan Mackay, who played on Nude, reprises his duties on another instrumental, ʽSelvaʼ. Elsewhere, you get to feel the vibe of such diverse talents as former Genesis member Anthony Phillips (here mostly playing keyboards rather than guitar, despite being much better known as a guitarist), Fairport Conven­tion drummer Dave Mattacks (one track), Pilot's and Alan Parsons' bass player David Paton, and about half a dozen other less well-known musicians.

With a chaotic soup like this replacing a virtually defunct band, and with industry demands spiling the joy of artistic creation, and the overall times not being particularly auspicious for old school progressive rock, it is, in fact, amazing that The Single Factor is not such a complete dis­aster as could be predicted. It is fairly bland, unadventurous, unfocused, and self-plagiarizing, yes, but things could be much worse — it would be all too easy to see Latimer plunge into synth-pop or electrofunk, for instance, conforming to popular demand and embarrassing himself to no ends. This he does not do, even if the songs are mostly «pop», and there's quite a few synthesizers on them. Nor does he go all cheerful and life-asserting on our asses, betraying his natural melan­choly — which ends up showing even on the «positive» songs like ʽYou Are The Oneʼ.

The problem with Single Factor is that, despite all the various guests, it sounds very mono­tonous and mono-mood-like. Layers of acoustic and electronic keyboards, sometimes merging into one with Latimer's guitar parts, all give a constant feel of something very smooth, pretty, sad, and utterly uneventful, no matter how involved the rhythm section is or at what tempo they play the song. ʽSasquatchʼ is a rare exception, distinguished by a well-composed Latimer lead melody and benefiting very much from Phillips' 12-string guitar part and Bardens' mini-Moog solo — and some of the guitar overdubs give a really weird psychedelic effect, too. But stuff like ʽSelvaʼ and ʽEnd Peaceʼ has little to distinguish it from a thousand contemporary or later New Age instru­mentals, unless you find yourself specifically moved by Latimer's minimalistic bluesy solo on the former (I cannot say that I am, because he is trying to hit us in the soft spot that's already been occupied by the likes of Santana).

Of the superficially catchy pop songs, there is not one that actively irritates me (although the fast tempo and overall tempest-in-a-teacup attitude of ʽManicʼ comes close), but not a single one that would beg for replay value, either. It is bizarre that the verse melody of ʽCamelogueʼ begins exactly the same way as AC/DC's ʽLet Me Put My Love Into Youʼ (should that be interpreted as proof of Latimer being a closet fan of Back In Black?), but that's about the most profound ob­servation I could make about this bunch, alternating between odes of admiration and nostalgic laments but never reaching any solid musical heights. There's even a song called ʽHeroesʼ, but David Bowie has nothing to be afraid of — it's slow, instrumentally hookless, and completely dependent on its whiny plea of "heroes, I call for you!" that no hero could take seriously, unless it would be to promptly arrive on the scene and put the pleader out of his misery.

In short, I am quite tempted to give the record a thumbs down — it is truly the first Camel album that has nothing new or interesting to say — but as long as Latimer maintains that low profile and that humble façade and does not pretend to be a master of musical forms that he does not under­stand or love, there's nothing discretely «bad» about this music, and it can work okay as a back­ground mood setter. However, in terms of the overall trajectory, it is a fairly mean blow to be presented with something like this right after the relative artistic triumph of Nude.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Can: Flow Motion

CAN: FLOW MOTION (1976)

1) I Want More; 2) Cascade Waltz; 3) Laugh Till You Cry, Live Till You Die; 4) ...And More; 5) Babylonian Pearl; 6) Smoke (Ethnological Forgery Series No. 59); 7) Flow Motion.

This is where the fans really went nuts — Can scoring a commercial dance hit on the UK charts? Perfidy! But in fact, Flow Motion is quite a chivalrous and tasteful continuation of the band's search for a compromise between musical experimentation and public acceptance. Had most of these tracks appeared on a David Bowie record, they would probably be encountered with praise by the critical community, since Bowie was a «pop» artist by definition, and his embracing of «progressive» values within a pop context was always welcome; on the other hand, Can, who with these albums were sort of meeting «pop standards» halfway, were scolded not because of the actual quality of the music, but because of their trajectory, which is frankly unfair.

The trick is that Can are not simply playing funk, reggae, and pop on Flow Motion: they are playing Can-style funk, reggae, and pop, which means that they will do everything possible to populate these conventional musical structures with odd sounds and strange atmospheres. Take the hit itself, ʻI Want Moreʼ — it's odd from the very start, with the first rhythm guitar part soun­ding like an old Bo Diddley part from ʻMonaʼ, and the second, joining in ten seconds later, soun­ding like a contemporary Talking Heads funky groove. It's a simple combination, but somehow from the very first start it adds a bit of a psychedelic dimension to the track, where your mind gets trapped between the two interlocking rhythms and tossed to and fro like a basketball. And that's just the beginning, because then you get a New Wavish synth hook, ghostly echoey vocals, additional layers of distorted guitars and keyboard loops — again, if your average dance track were produced with that much care and creativity... well, it wouldn't be too good, because most people would be too entranced to actually do much dancing.

Or ʻCascade Waltzʼ — it actually is a waltz, playing in diligent 3/4 time, but the rhythm guitar is chopping out... reggae chords, making this arguably the first instance of an actual reggae waltz on record. With the cascades in question probably symbolized by the slide guitars, which give the whole thing a bit of a Hawaiian feeling, I am not even sure any more what it is I am listening to: a bizarre stylistic combo with an atmosphere of lazy, dreamy, colorful relaxation. For ʻLaugh Till You Cryʼ, Karoli picks up a Turkish baǧlama, but the band carries on with a Caribbean stylistics, playing an equally relaxed slow ska pattern that agrees very well with the song's slogan — "laugh till you cry, live till you die", and when people tell you that, if you call yourself Can, then you're supposed to keep on producing tracks that turn your subconscious outside out and expose to the world its darkest, smelliest corners, just let them know how much you care by writing more songs like ʻBabylonian Pearlʼ (which sounds like the band's tribute to Roxy Music).

All right, if you do want some darkness, there's always the title track, which seems to also have begun life as variations on a ska/reggae groove, but is more in line with Can's traditional ways of jamming. Largely instrumental, it builds upon the interlocking patterns of Schmidt's keyboards, faintly resonating from some faraway corridors or deep waterholes, and Karoli's heavily pro­cessed guitars, for some of which he uses the wah-wah and the phasing effect at the same time, producing some fairly devilish sounds. There's a Hendrix vibe here, too, and a Funkadelic one, perhaps, but all in a nice shroud of Teutonic darkness; and whoever would want to ask questions like "what are these Germans doing covering black people's music?", well, just remember that the band's first vocalist was actually black, and that the band's actual musical roots had always been in the blues rather than in Bavarian folk songs or The Ring.

If there's one single complaint I'd have to voice, it's that for the first time, I do not notice the rhythm section all that much. It's there, for sure, and doing a good job, but I do not feel a great deal of involvement on the part of Czukay, and there's not a single jaw-dropping rhythm pattern from Liebezeit, either (perhaps he was just getting the hang of that whole reggae thing, and re­mained content to be relegated to quasi-apprentice status for the time being). That is not good, be­cause ultimately Can is first and foremost about the rhythm, and only later about everything else; and it is hardly a coincidence that Czukay's duties would only diminish from then on, until his complete resignation from active player status in 1978. But whatever might have been the reason for this change, Flow Motion has plenty of cool things going on to compensate, and remains in­dispensable listening, I'm sure, for everyone who does not spend half of one's lifetime standing round the corner and waiting for a nice occasion to shout SELLOUT! as if it really mattered. Most definitely a thumbs up.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Charley Patton: Complete Recordings Vol. 5

CHARLEY PATTON: COMPLETE RECORDINGS VOL. 5 (1930-1934/2002)

1) Dry Well Blues; 2) Moon Going Down; 3) We All Gonna Face The Rising Sun; 4) Moaner, Let's Go Down In The Valley; 5) Jesus Got His Arms Around Me; 6) God Won't Forsake His Own; 7) I'll Be Here; 8) Where Was Eve Sleeping; 9) I Know My Time Ain't Long; 10) Watch And Pray; 11) High Sheriff Blues; 12) Stone Pony Blues; 13) Jersey Bull Blues; 14) Hang It On The Wall; 15) 34 Blues; 16) Love My Stuff; 17) Poor Me; 18) Revenue Man Blues; 19) Troubled 'Bout My Mother; 20) Oh Death; 21) Yellow Bee; 22) Mind Reader Blues.

Fortunately, the final volume of the boxset once again manages to focus on Patton himself rather than friends — although not before making us sit through eight tracks by the Delta Big Four, a vocal quartet that just so happened to get captured in the tin can sometime in May 1930 in the same Grafton, Wisconsin studio; and no, Patton is not playing with them and he certainly is not contributing guitar. If you are a fan of pre-war barbershop quartet music, these recordings are of mildly passable quality, and the four guys harmonize fairly nicely, but personally, I'd rather sit through eight different takes of ʻStone Pony Bluesʼ instead.

Almost everything else is Patton: two more tracks from the June 1930 Grafton sessions (ʻDry Well Bluesʼ and ʻMoon Going Downʼ), and a batch of his final recordings in New York City, produced during a three-day session (January 30-31 and February 1, 1934); Patton died three months later, on April 28, in Indianola, allegedly from heart problems; it is probably a coinci­dence that one of the last songs he'd recorded was a duet with Bertha Lee on a spirited version of ʻOh Deathʼ, since he was probably used to performing these spirituals on a regular basis, but still a little eerie. (There are also two solo tracks by Bertha Lee appended at the bottom).

There's nothing particularly revealing about that last session, and, in fact, quite a few of the tracks are just rehashes of older recordings (ʻStone Pony Bluesʼ is, obviously, a new take on ʻPony Bluesʼ; ʻHang It On The Wallʼ is ʻShake It And Break Itʼ, etc.), but there's one piece of good news: the quality of the recordings is tremendously superior to the 1929-30 recordings, with very little hiss and crackle to obscure the singing and playing — and given that Patton remained in top performing form until the very end, this probably transforms the 1934 batch into the finest intro­duction to the man's talents. ʻ'34 Bluesʼ, with its wonderful superimposition of rhythmic strum and melodic lead lines, perfectly illustrates his mastery of the six-string; and ʻPoor Meʼ may be his best (or, at least, best appreciated) vocal performance, with heart-tugging overtones of sadness and melancholy emanating from the ragged-rough crust of his croaky vocals (and once again reminding the modern listener of how much Tom Waits owes to these pre-war moans).

So, is it really a historical accident, caused by the timing of the re-issues, that Robert Johnson had gone on to become a household name, and Patton has to limp in his shadow? At least with this 1934 session in your hands, it is hard to make an argument based on sound quality — these tracks sound as discernible as anything Johnson would go on to record several years later. A more likely theory is that Johnson sounded far more «modern» in the 1960s, when he was «rediscovered» by British and American bluesmen, than Patton — with his cleaner vocals and a sharper, more understan­dable guitar style that was also easier to relate to Chicago electric blues than Patton's original wild Delta style, where chord strumming, crude bass «pings», whiny high-pitched leads and percussive stomps could replace each other so unpredictably. And that voice, too — of all pre-war blues players, there probably isn't one other (with the possible exception of Blind Willie Johnson) capable of giving you the illusion of taking you back even further, at least into the dark depths of 19th century slavery, if not into the even darker depths of ancient tribal Africa.

So, you could imitate Robert Johnson to a certain degree, but as for Patton, he could only remain a source of admiration and reverence, rather than an active influence. Even Howlin' Wolf, who clearly was influenced by his one-time senior partner, does it a different way — his vocal style was all about, um, carnality, whereas Patton's style could hardly be described as «sexy»: more like something with a direct connection to Mother Earth herself. There may have been others like Charley, walking American highways in the pre-war years; but there hasn't really been another one like him ever since, and there certainly never will be. Which, allegedly, makes this 5-CD set a must-have in your collection, even if it means throwing out extra money for all of Charley's colorful retinue of fiddle players, lady pianists, and barbershop quartets.

Sunday, April 24, 2016