Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A song for every year of my life #21: 1997

A new house, two new kittens, an old rock band, and a newish job that is probably the most stressful experience I've ever had barring family tragedy have pretty much spelled box office poison for this blog. But I'm back, baby. Back and way behind on my musician obituary posts. Before I continue with the business at hand, R.I.P. to the following people who won't get posts of their own because there are too many of them and I'm lazy: Donald "Duck" Dunn, bassist with Booker T. & The MGs who also backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Neil Young, among many others; banjo player and bluegrass and country rock pioneer Doug Dillard of The Dillards and Dillard & Clark (not to be confused with Doug Gillard, who is alive); Donna Summer, whose mid-to-late '70s electro-disco collaborations with Giorgio Moroder are like a much hornier Kraftwerk and deserve to overshadow some of the cheesier stuff she did later; Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, who wrote and sang the lead parts on a lot of the melancholy baroque pop of their early years, which has been partially buried by the revisionist media historians who pretend the Bee Gees were only a late-'70s disco thing (though a lot of those songs are really good, too); John Harrison, first bassist for Hawkwind; Doc Watson, legendary country/bluegrass/folk guitarist and singer; Pete Cosey, who played guitar for Miles Davis in the early '70s and was also the house guitarist for Chess Records; Dennis Flemion of the Frogs, a band whose records should be next to hollowed-out Bibles containing dirty secrets in every good home; Lol Coxhill, a big, bald improv saxophonist who played with everyone from Kevin Ayers to Rufus Thomas to The Damned (I know that's a false range, but fuck it, it's not, really); the mighty Jon Lord from Deep Purple (we can all pretend he was never in Whitesnake, right?); Kitty Wells, who should need no introduction; and two of Motown's Funk Brothers, bassist Bob Babbitt and trumpeter Maurice D. Davis.

On to 1997. Robert Wyatt's music is a gorgeous, dangerous, mysterious thing. I love his voice and his ideas and his assemblages of surprisingly compatible musicians and his songs, and he just gets better and more interesting as he ages. I don't have to tell you that's a rare thing. I'm not generally a lyrics guy, and I tend to fixate on the sound of words rather than their content when they are part of a piece of music, but "Free Will and Testament" is a sharp bit of poetry as well as a fine piece of organized sound.

Alternate choice: Belle & Sebastian - "Lazy Line Painter Jane"
I had a hard time seeing the appeal in this band when my coworkers at the record store were losing their minds over them. I thought they were delicate, fussy, and lacking in abandon and immediacy. Gradually, I became an admirer of at least some of their work. The world could use a little more fuss and delicacy.