Thursday, November 16, 2006

Drive Home Review #2

Gypsy Caravan (Putomayo Records): Released in 2001, this Putomayo collection cuts across Europe on a Gypsy (now known as Roma) trail. France, Spain, Hungary, Serbia, & Macedonia are represented by 11 different musicians.

1. Diri, Diri, So Kerdjan? - Romanyi Rota
2. Mori Shej, Sabina - Kalyi Jag
3. Pena - Saban Bajramovic
4. Gipsy Song - Vlatko Stefanovski
5. Les Yeux Noirs - Coco Brianval
6. L'Amour S'Envole - Thierry Robin
7. Al Likindoy - Miguel Angel Cortes
8. Korkore Zav Ande Kalyi Ratyi - Romanyi Rota
9. Kutka Avel E Sej Bari - Amaro Suno
10. Codru - Djelem
11. Sza Tele Zsav - Ando Drom


Every time I've picked up a Putumayo recording I think , o.k., this is the time that they've finally put out a shoddy product; they just can't be perpetually and consistently good.
Well, they still are. With "Gypsy Caravan", they've done it again. As with most of their recordings, unless you're a polyglot (that would be you, Alcessa) you listen to the sound of the words and their intonation, forgetting about trying to understand the words' meanings. The booklet that is provided gives you quite a bit of detail of each band, the song, some related history, and key translations of the lyrics' segments. Again, you listen for the tone and let the singers' voice take you along. The musicians on all of the songs are first rate. For some folks, it may be difficult to get through some of the songs the first time through; the singers' styles are quite different, in most cases, then what an American ear may be used to.
Be patient, though, and you shall hear. An example would be the Serbian singer Saban Bajramovic. Living a full life would be an understatement for this man. Living a cat's nine lives would be closer to the truth. This seeps through his song, not necessarily a tiredness but rather a resignation touched with shredded remnants of hope. It takes a while to warm up to him, but you'll be a better person for it.
The production, as is usual of Putumayo, is excellent. On a first run through, the cd comes together well and it only improves with additional listenings. There's quite a bit of Django Reinhardt in Coco Briaval's "Les Yeux Noirs". Accordians dispersed all around, especialy in Vlatko Stefanovski's "Gipsy Song". Simply a great escape from a day's usual boring ride home. Keep both hands on the wheel! No finger snapping allowed!
Favorites include the Stefanovski song, Kalyi Jag's hypnotic "Mori Shej, Sabina", Amaro Suno's "Kutka Avel e Sej Bari", the jagged duet of violin and wordless singing of Djelem with the song "Codru", and the simply gorgeous album ending "Sza Tele Zsav" as performed by Ando Dromo.
Putumayo's done it again. Seemingly a perfect global d.j.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Fillmore East 1970 : With a fistful of positive reviews, this release, the first of a promised many from the vaults of Neil Young's live recordings, came out on Tuesday, the 14th. As an avid fan of Mr. Young it was my duty to pick it up. $18.99 @ Borders (these folks are nuts; another post on their slide to mediocrity later). $12.88 @ Amazon (but who can wait!!). Other assorted stores, $12.99 to $14.99. Short version? This newly arrived cd was barely being discounted. 6 songs, 4 of them listed as averaging 3 & a half minutes. "Down by the River", listed as 12:24 while "Cowgirl in the Sand" is 16:09. Why am I noting the times? Because they're bogus and this album is a rip-off....mostly. CD container is devoid of any information except the very basic. It's certainly not something you'd be missing if you download/burn some of the songs, i.e., is Reprise really trying to sell this cd or just get folks ticked off? "Wonderin", a nice enough song is listed as being 3:35 in length. I've listened to this cd multiple times and, while my cd player acknowledges it being that length, the music stops at 2:12. That's right, 2 minutes 12 seconds. The remainder, almost a minute and a half, is the audience clapping. This same song disparity holds for all of the times listed for the 6 songs. While I like live albums, I don't listen/buy them because of the sound of that one hand clapping. With Neil Young & Crazy Horse, I expect a live recording to have almost every song in the 7-15 minute range, especially if the recording is back frm the old days of the early '70's.

What saves the album are 2 songs. The 2 long songs, "Down by the River" and, specifically, "Cowgirl in the Sand". For anyone who doesn't give Young chops for his...chops, have a listen to the latter. The muddy shrieks that become his signature style are evidenced in this 1971 recording. He throttles and chokes the guitar for its last ounce of loudly driven pain; no one can sustain this level of bared emotional electricity as well as Mr. Young. Crank it up high, as you should with all Young & Crazy Horse collaborations, and feel his pain.

Zuma is still my favorite Neil Young & Crazy Horse recording, with1990's Ragged Glory a very close second. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Live at Fillmore East 1970 will not change my affection for those 2 albums whatsoever. I wouldn't recommend this cd to anyone but a Neil Young nutcase fan (uhhmm, that would be me), unless you can pick it up for $5.99. Download/burn "Cowgirl.." and you've got the only keeper from this cd. I'm still in shock that Borders had the cojones to charge $18.99. Just another indication of their continuing loss of reality's grip.

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Comments:
You know, I like the idea of Neil Young better than t he reality. I'd rather take a beating than listen to him sing.

The man is a talented songwriter and musician but damn.
 
Watch it there, Jagosaurus, that pedestal I've got you on is now showing a crack.
 
Excellent. It is best to get one's self knocked off the pedestal as early as possible.
 
This guy, Saban Bajramovic? I think by only listening to the few short audio-bits I can understand how he managed to get married several times and to father God-knows-how-many children and I've never heard of him till today. He's more than great! (I don't know why but the expression "molasses in his veins" springs to mind. I must be going crazy.)
Kalyi Jag are also very very interesting!
There are a few Gipsy Brass Orchestras from the Balkans touring the region and beyond, there was one from Bucurest I could recommend if I still remembered their name...
I don't think that much of Stefanovski, though he's not bad.
As we all know, Goran Bregovic can do it better.

I'll do the cracking part by admitting I don't know Neil Young at all.
 
Alcessa,
Sigh!!??
Between you and Jagosaurus (and, actually, most women who I know and admire), I have the subject matter for my doctoral thesis.

Reaching the Utter State of Boredom: Difference between Men and Women, using attention span to guitar solos as empirical evidence
 
Well Darko, if that means I (as a research object) get a scholarship to visit America, go to concerts for free and simply monitor my attention spans in return, all I have to say is - Dr. V.: Shall we start with the empirical part of your thesis?
 
Let me fire up my Microsoft Grant Writing Proposal package and see what funds for such important research are available. I'll request ear plugs as well, as the intelligent half of the human race tends not to be swayed by the level of volume as an added feature of expressing one's mental anguish.
 
I would, I think, prove to be a good test subject for your experiments, although I might not help to prove your thesis. Of all the instruments, I think the guitar has the most potential to be a beautiful extension of the human voice. And Neil Young is alright by me. ;-)

As for Putamayo collections, these have always felt like a guilty pleasure (and I love them!), the cheater's way to good world music without having to really know the musicians. Your review of the musicians is very worthy. I know I will add the Gypsy Caravan to my collection.
 
Darko, you're right about the noise - I'm too old fot that. That does it, then.

But I just HAD TO order Bajramovic at Amazon - maybe they could, erm, reimburse you for increasing their sales?
 
Gwynne, While I understand your way to guilt, I get there a different way. In any of the Putumayo cd's, I've come across at least 1, if not 2 or 3 musicians I'd never heard of before that sound fantastic. So, my journey to that place often visited by Catholics (even ex-Catholics are...Catholic), namely Guiltsville is when I start buying cd's of these musicians. I don't see the Putumayo discs as being an easy way to good world music so much as a collection of postcards from lands you'd want to visit. Although that land almost always ends up as Guiltland.
 
Heh. Spoken like a good ex-Catholic. ;-)
 
Neil Young is one of my favorite rockers, though I prefer his Harvest years of ballad-like music to the heavier stuff.

Such a unique talent.

We bought Prairie Wind last year and it is always on our top ten stack. I especially love the song, This Old Guitar:

This old guitar has caught some breaks
But it never searched for gold
It can't be blamed for my mistakes
It only does what it's told
It's been a messenger in times of trouble
In times of hope and fear
When I get drunk and seeing double
It jumps behind the wheel and steers

This old guitar ain't mine to keep
It's mine to play for a while
This old guitar ain't mine to keep
It's only mine for a while
 
CP!
Damn, the cavalry did arrive in time! Poor Neil was down to his last bullet. I love "Harvest Moon"; he just keeps on chuggin along., doesn't he?
 
Cue up that Bonanza music, Hoss!

Neil Young's signature scream is best on "Southern Man", doncha think?

I heard screamin'
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

Long years ago, in a Texas of the past, a friend and I would belt out this song at the top of our longs while doin' the drag down Camp Bowie Boulevard in my little blue convertible Fiat Spyder.

Better than any ol' crappy karaoke.
 
er, the top of our LUNGS.

Its nearly midnight here and I have looked at spreadsheets far too long today. Give me hope, give me love, give me peace on earth...
 
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