Music reviews I’ve written for music released in 1984.
1. Husker Du: Zen Arcade (10/10)
Another classic, do-everything double album in the tradition of do-everything double-albums.
2. R.E.M.: Reckoning (9/10)
A little more…tangible…that’s not the word…than its predecessor. It lacks the mystery. Or something.
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: From Her to Eternity (8/10)
The covers are great and the originals are mostly great. They were almost there.
4. The Replacements: Let it Be (8/10)
This is done so well, I can’t resist it, even though I normally don’t like this kind of thing.
5. Philip Glass: Akhnaten (8/10)
This is a significantly more traditional piece of music than Einstein on the Beach. (I have not heard the second opera in this so-called trilogy.) Not being super familiar with Glass, I’m not sure when this change happened, but this is a lot closer to traditional opera (there is evidence, albeit minor, of a plot) than his first effort. And that’s both a good thing (if you care about such things) and a bad thing (if you enjoyed the more radical approach).
I like this – I am generally very intrigued by works that clearly mix traditions as this does with minimalism and traditional opera – but it’s hardly a landmark. Enjoyable for sure, though.
6. Fred Anderson: The Missing Link [recorded in 1979] (8/10)
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 the lack of a second horn, and the substitution of a percussionist in place of the trumpet, makes the record sound more radical. It’s an unusual combination that both gives more prominence to Anderson’s role and also forces the bass to play a little more of a melodic role.
It’s good stuff. It’s certainly not as far out as some free, but it’s also “catchier” for lack of a better word, despite the slightly impenetrable rhythms.
It’s really hard to understand why this man was pretty much unknown when he recorded this.
6. Hans Werner Henze: Symphony No. 7 (8/10)
Henze’s first symphony in twenty years, the seventh, is a markedly more traditional piece (and admittedly so, apparently, as Henze claimed he was trying to write in the tradition of Beethoven). The work is is very pleasing and, as these things go, is something I enjoy listening to, but I cannot shake the conservativeness of it. Certainly it is more daring than most Neo-Classical/Neo-Romantic works, and it breaks more traditions, but it is, at bottom, a far more conservative piece than
what he used to write. And so I struggle with it. But, I cannot deny how compelling it is.
7. Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (7/10)
I love the film. I got a copy of it not that long after I saw it – in a theatre! though with only about 6 people in it – and it’s become one of only a few staple rock concert films I have.
But half the appeal of this movie is that it’s a movie. The Heads’ show is unique and is literally half the fun.
Divorced from the film the performances are alright, but most Heads fans agree that the earlier official live album is better. And I can personally attest that there are better performances available on Youtube.
This is still great stuff, it’s just that the visuals are really key and they’re missing when you just listen to the soundtrack.
Also, somehow listening to “Genius of Love” on its own, without the visuals, makes me dislike the Tom Tom Club even more, if that was possible.
8. King Crimson: Three of a Perfect Pair (6/10)
A disappointing end to a rather incredible reunion. Read the review.
9. Mauricio Kagel: Der Eid des Hippokrates (5/10)
Der Eid des Hippokrates is one of those piano pieces where the piano is used in unconventional ways. It requires three hands and one of them must be doing that knocking. It’s not something that’s going to stay with me.