Khachaturian: Spartacus (1979, 2007) by The Bolshoi National Orchestra

Categories: 1956, 1979, and 2007.

As far as I can tell, this is the orchestral music from a 1979 performance of Khachaturian’s Spartacus. It is the complete four suites, I believe (or, rather, all the music). I definitely prefer listening to it all at once, instead of hearing one suite or something like that. Read More

Vox Humana? / Finale / Fürst Igor Strawinsky (1991) by Mauricio Kagel, performed by Ensemble 2e2m, Lyon National Opera Chorus conducted by Paul Méfano

Categories: 1979, 1981, 1982, and Music.

This record collects three of Kagel’s longish “choral” pieces. Kagel was a weirdo is the best ways. Listening to Kagel’s work, rather than watching it, is a bit of a problem, because Kagel’s work is often “theatrical” not just in the sense of being influenced by the theatre, but of having the musicians act out parts. Listening to the music online you miss that aspect. (Something big definitely happens 10 minutes in, when there is a giant scream.) That being said… This piece sure reminds me of Berio at his most theatrical (in a good way). It is about a Read More

Buy (1979) by James Chance and the Contortions

Categories: 1979 and Music.

Take English post punk, add some free jazz, some Pere Ubu and some Magic Band (specifically the slide guitar) and you get this record. New to No Wave (it seems), this is totally not what I thought this was going to sound like. I thought it was going to be Branca-eque detuned guitar industrial noise. The surprise is a pleasant one. This is some energetic stuff that combines the confrontational nature of the most extreme punk of the day, with all that makes English post punk good, with a whole ton of other things I like. It’s pretty wonderful stuff Read More

Setting Sons (1979) by The Jam

Categories: 1979 and Music.

This is apparently an abandoned concept album. That wasn’t very apparent to me, before I read that somewhere online, but that could just be because I’m not paying attention. The songs are strong again and the sonic palette is ever expanding (compared to their previous albums). This is very well done but remains just not my thing. Also, I detect a Bowie imitation creeping in. 8/0 Read More

Lubbock (On Everything) (1979) by Terry Allen

Categories: 1979 and Music.

Some folks will tell you that this is one of the great country albums of All Time. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t think the songs are quite there, or because I secretly prefer country rock and alt country to traditional country, but I don’t really hear it. What I do hear is a lot of songs (a lot of songs) that gently mock life in Texas in the ’70s. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re more corny. But for the most part, this is pretty straight forward country music that features reasonably clever and compelling lyrics, but no Read More

The Battle of Chile (1975, 1976, 1979, Patricio Guzman)

Categories: 1975, 1976, 1979, and Movies.

This is a remarkable 3-part documentary (cinema verite style) that exhaustively covers the political crisis that led to the 1973 coup in Chile and the aftermath. And when I say ‘covers’ I mean it’s an eyewitness account that was smuggled out of Chile. It has to stand as one of the film landmarks of the decade, one of the landmarks of cinema verite and it may qualify as one of the great documentaries of all time, though I have some reservations (see below). Read More

The Missing Link (1979, 1984) by Fred Anderson

Categories: 1979, 1984, and Music.

Anderson apparently got lots of exposure in the ’60s as part of the AACM but never got an album as leader until this one, and then this wasn’t released for five years. Listening to this music, it’s hard to understand why that was. Anderson plays relatively straight-forward (and often slower) lines for a “free jazz” saxophonist, and the title appears to allude to the space he seems to have found between traditional blues saxophone and free jazz. Like a number of free players, he seems interested in connecting free with tradition, rather than just trying to explode are traditions. But Read More

All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse)

Categories: 1979 and Movies.

I am not a fan of Fellini. Well, that’s not exactly true, I like early Fellini. But I find “peak” Fellini highly overrated and I pretty much can’t stand late Fellini. Of all the “Great Directors” I a have attempted to appreciate, Fellini is among my least favourite. And, well, this is among the most Fellini-esque American films I’ve ever seen. It might be the most Fellini-esque “musical” ever made (or at least up until 1979). As much as this film is all about Bob Fosse, it is all about Bob Fosse in pretty much the exact same way that Read More

Einstein on the Beach (1976, 1979) by Philip Glass

Categories: 1979 and Music.

I am a very big fan of John Adams’ Nixon in China from pretty much the moment I heard it. It seemed impossible to me that two seemingly diametrically opposed styles of music could be merged s seamlessly. It’s safe to say it changed my (musical) life. That experience is always shocking (in a wonderful way) to me, especially as I get older. I have been going out of my way to find supposed major events and touchstones in music history for about 15 years now, and every so often – sometimes every few months, sometimes less than once a Read More

Woyzeck (1979, Werner Herzog)

Categories: 1979 and Movies.

It’s interesting to see something that is so popular in one culture and yet unknown in another. I wouldn’t have guessed this was considered part of the German canon if you had asked me. And so, I feel like I have to ask the question, why not? But I won’t answer it, I don’t think I can. This is one of innumerable adaptations of the play, and one that appears to stick more closely to its unfinished nature (but that is just a guess on my part). Herzog does a good job with a staging: I might have guessed it Read More

The Old Patagonian Express (1979) by Paul Theroux

Categories: 1979, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is Theroux’s second excellent train travel book. In it he travels from Boston to Patagonia, mostly by rail (with the odd flight involved). As usual, he is astute, he is observant and, perhaps above all, honest. One of the engrossing – and I must admit frustrating – things about this book is how honest he is about his feelings. Other writers might have censored themselves when editing, but he lets us know when he dislikes a somewhere or someone. It doesn’t take away from the trip though; rather it humanizes it. We are more in his head as a Read More

This Heat (1979)

Categories: 1979 and Music.

This is like some unholy combination of ’60s avant rock, early industrial music and the earliest post-punk. And that description really isn’t fair. Really, there’s little out there like this, especially so stylistically diverse. Usually experimental music is experimental in one or two ways; this manages to run a whole gamut. Like little else. 9/10 Read More

Pelleas et Melisande (1979 EMI) by Claude Debussy, performed by Berliner Philharmonic, Von Stade, Stilwell, Denize, Van Dam, Raimondi, Von Karajan

Categories: 1979 and Music.

Though I am growing in familiarity with late 19th / early 20th century “art” music, I am still not there yet. So it is very hard for me to judge something like this, Debussy’s only completed opera, especially as it relates to other performances of the same work. So forget about that part. Read More

Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & the Attractions (Columbia 1979)

Categories: 1979 and Music.

It’s slightly overproduced but this actually sort of makes it fit in with what was going on in the world. Costello is more biting here (and more cohesive) which appeals to me. It lets me forgive some of the more bizarre flourishes. Like the past one, it feels like a step forward and a step back at the same time, which is okay I guess. It’s solid again but I still can’t see any of these as masterpieces. 8/10 Read More

The 50th Anniversary Collection by James Brown (Polydor 2003)

Categories: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 2003, and Music.

James Brown’s importance can not be understated. He is on The List of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century (along with Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Frank Zappa and maybe a few others). This compilation of his hit singles gives a very good idea of his progression and how he turned gritty soul and R and B into funk and thus got sampled more than any other band leader ever. The one downside is that this compilation of his hit singles is missing one of his biggest hits. Hard to understand that Read More

Friday night

Categories: 1973, 1979, 2005, and Music.

I’ve given up on my essay for today and I’m drinking “Austria’s Finest Beer” I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd a lot today and I can’t help thinking how great a guitarist David Gilmour is. Yes, there are far better guitarists in terms of say speed or innovation, but I think few rock guitarists rival his tone, aside from Clapton. It’s just ridiculous. And his solos are always exactly what the song / soundscape needs. While I’m on that, despite all The Wall‘s faults, Bob Ezrin is a brilliant producer. If you can fault The Wall, you can because of Read More