The Galaxy – “New” music for the New Year

Live in Europe (Otis Redding album)

Image via Wikipedia

For starters, Happy New Year, everyone!  I pray your 2011 is rich with blessings.

I get quite a thrill when I stumble upon a new artist, a young musician ripe with creativity and brimming with promise.  St. Vincent (the stage name used by Annie Clark, who has formerly played with the Polyphonic Spree and other artists) is one such artist.  Her music is unique and original, and quite a joy to listen to.  She also is a fine musician with a flair for lovely guitar lines.  My daughter suggested that I play some of her music tonight, and it was an excellent suggestion.

Part of my criteria for determining how good a band really is is how well they represent themselves on stage.  Well-engineered recordings are a great thing to hear, but to my musician’s ears it is still important to be able to interpret the material in front of an audience.  There are options for the interpretive musician.  One can be like Rush and blow us away with the accuracy of their interpretation of the recorded material.  For Rush, this works quite well since their recorded material is so mind-blowing in the first place.  The opposite end of the spectrum is to work like Led Zeppelin, to use the recorded version as a starting point, subject to change and adaptation.  This also worked well for Led Zep, as they were brilliantly creative musicians who made their songs seem as if they were alive and breathing.

With this in mind, consider this clip of St. Vincent’s The Party, from a 2009 episode of Austin City Limits.  The album is an excellent studio album, one that Clark largely recorded herself, that comes across very well through good stereo speakers.  But Clark obviously has a clear vision for how she wants to represent her work, and you can see this in the arrangement of this song, and her selection of musicians who can manage 4 part harmony and who can all play multiple instruments.  Very professional, very competent, and the results are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Of course, I often dip into the classics, especially when I have live material.  Otis Redding was a true classic, and his death in a plane crash was all the more tragic because of the talent that was lost.  Thankfully, he left us a number of live recordings that do well in documenting the power of his live performance, particularly this sample from his legendary 1967 tour that led him to the Monterey Pop Festival, where he shared the stage with Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar, and other stars of the day.  The man was absolutely irrepressible – you couldn’t keep him off the stage, and you really didn’t want to either.  The following video clip comes from that same tour.

We followed the great Otis Redding with some more promising talent that I came across in 2010.  Cancer Bats and Architects are bands that both toured with As I Lay Dying and Underoath last summer, an excellent show that showcased a number of talented young metal acts.  It was only natural for me to follow up these two bands with Underoath, whose most recent album I have yet to acquire.  Following this is The Deftones, who may have issued one of the best albums of 2010 with Diamond Eyes and participated in an excellent tour with Alice in Chains and Mastodon.

A video clip for one of our Architects songs…

The video for You’ve Seen The Butcher, which was just put out on October 28:

And, of course, the video for Rocket Skates, a song that is hard for me to deny when selecting from Deftones songs.

We follow the Deftones with something from Sergei Prokofiev, his Sonata No 6, Op. 82 in A.  Prokofiev poured his soul into his chamber music, and it shows in this beautiful piece of music.  The Sonata No. 6 was the first of Prokofiev’s three “War Sonatas”, and was premiered on April 8, 1940 by the composer himself.  The performer we hear here, the legendary Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, was a frequent champion of Prokofiev’s work, and he actually premiered the second War Sonata himself in Moscow in 1943.

We finish tonight’s show with Charles Mingus doing an extended 29 minute rendition of Fables of Faubus, with the great Eric Dolphy playing in what would be his last tour.  The performance was from a March 18, 1964 concert at Cornell University, a performance that had been all but forgotten until Mingus’ widow Sue Graham Mingus discovered a tape of the performance in her archive.  The tour is relatively well-documented, with Mingus’ famous Town Hall Concert recording (which had been thought to have been the first performance of the tour) and the legendarily bootlegged Paris concert both previously issued.  But this recording, taking place a fortnight prior to the Town Hall Concert, catches this particular ensemble at a high point, especially since Johnny Coles became ill during the Paris Concert, making this recording one of only a few recordings that captures this ensemble.  This particular song, long a concert favorite of Mingus that was first recorded for Mingus Ah Um, receives an excellent interpretation here.

The following is a copy of the “original playlist”.  The original, as always, is maintained at The Galaxy’s website.

Composer Performer Title Genre Label
St. Vincent
The Strangers
Rock, Modern, Indie
4AD, 2009
The Party
Laughing With a Mouthful of Blood
Lennon/McCartney
Otis Redding
Day Tripper
R&B, Soul
Stax, 1967
Otis Redding
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
Jagger/Richards
Otis Redding
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Otis Redding
Try A Little Tenderness
Cancer Bats
Sleep This Away
Metal, Metalcore
Distort, 2008
Rust No One
Architects
Numbers Count for Nothing
Century Media, 2009
Early Grave
Underoath
Coming Down is Calming Down
Solid State, 2008
Deftones
You’ve Seen The Butcher
Metal, Alt
Reprise, 2010
Rocket Skates
Sergei Prokofiev
Sviatoslav Richter, solo piano
Sonata No. 6 Op. 82 in A
Classical, 20th Century, music for solo piano
RCA Victor, 2001
Charles Mingus -w- Johnny Coles (t), Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Jaki Byard (p), Dannie Richmond (d)
Fables of Faubus
Jazz, post-bop, avant garde
Blue Note, 2007
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