My Musical Comfort Food

Now that I’m not mon­i­tor­ing news feeds across the web for the lat­est break­ing music news, I’ve been set­tling in with some old favorites. They’re beyond pre­dictable, but I find it so refresh­ing to tune back in with music I was lis­ten­ing to non­stop when I first start­ed get­ting inter­est­ed in music crit­i­cism. Let’s just say I find it more reward­ing than try­ing to fig­ure out what peo­ple find so amaz­ing about, say, Best Coast.

What am I lis­ten­ing to now? Here’s a quick list:

  • The Byrds. There was a stretch there in the ear­ly part of last decade that I thought they’d get a crit­i­cal revival from the freak folk crowd, but it did­n’t real­ly mate­ri­al­ize. They opt­ed for Cros­by’s amaz­ing solo work instead. Fair enough. Love the Byrds in all man­i­fes­ta­tions. Feel like they’re the Amer­i­can ver­sion of anoth­er of my favorite bands.
  • The Kinks! Love this band so much and real­ly haven’t lis­tened to them much at all late­ly. Guess the last time I went total­ly crazy for their stuff was right around the time I caught Ray Davies at Irv­ing Plaza in 2005. Going to see him in a few weeks. Can­not wait.
  • The Rolling Stones. Watch­ing Char­lie dance to Exile on Main Street remind­ed me how much fun this band is. I know it’s quin­tes­sen­tial dad-rock, but what can I say? I’ve been going back and check­ing out albums like After­math and Between the But­tons and lov­ing every minute. Real­ly need to pick up these reis­sues.
  • Bob Dylan. Have to admit that Dylan’s a tremen­dous blind spot for me. I have a bunch of his albums, my favorite being Bring­ing It All Back Home, but I’m not exact­ly con­ver­sant. Now I can spend some time!
  • Neil Young. It’s high time this old man took a life at his life, too. Have always loved Neil, not that that’s any­thing spe­cial, but feel like I was always scram­bling to hear some­thing new that crowd­ed out my fur­ther appre­ci­a­tion of this liv­ing leg­end.
  • Kate Bush, Vic Ches­nutt, so many more. Long over­due.

There are plen­ty of oth­er acts I’m leav­ing out. I’m not rul­ing out new music entire­ly, mind, but I’m so hap­py to have unplugged from the non­stop music PR cir­cuit.


My Take on the 33 1/3 Books Series

I final­ly fin­ished read­ing The Kinks Are the Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion Soci­ety (TKATVGPS) Andy Miller’s con­tri­bu­tion to the 33 1/3 books series. It’s not a long book, but it took a minute for me to actu­al­ly get into it, even though the Kinks are prob­a­bly my favorite band of all time, and this album is of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance to me. Why? Well, like many of the books in the series, it’s not exact­ly the smoothest read.

The book’s struc­ture is strange. It first tells the sto­ry of how the album is made and the var­i­ous stum­bling blocks that the Kinks — or rather Ray Davies — ran into along the way. That’s the sort of sto­ry I’m inter­est­ed in read­ing and it was an engag­ing one. How­ev­er, once that sto­ry ends, it begins again, this time as a painstak­ing account of each song that was writ­ten and record­ed dur­ing this peri­od, along with some spec­u­la­tion about why it had or had­n’t appeared on the final ver­sion of The Kinks Are the Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion Soci­ety. It does­n’t sound as bad when I write it here, but trust me, read­ing the same sto­ry told two dif­fer­ent ways smacked of a wit­ness per­jur­ing him­self on the stand.

Such is the rep­u­ta­tion of the 33 1/3 books series. Every author approach­es his or her book dif­fer­ent­ly, and even the most adven­ture­some  music fans approach the series with trep­i­da­tion. These are beloved albums after all.

Now comes word that the series itself has hit a snag due to the cur­rent state of the econ­o­my. I’m not sure any­one would be sur­prised con­sid­er­ing how both the music and pub­lish­ing indus­tries have fared late­ly. I just hope that Gee­ta Day­al’s Anoth­er Green World book sees the light of day. (Of course I’m root­ing for Christo­pher Wein­garten’s It Takes a Nation of Mil­lions book, too, but that’s in the more dis­tant future.) As author Dou­glas Wolk once (infa­mous­ly) wrote of 33 1/3, “the series that more peo­ple want to write than to read!” I guess that makes the 33 1/3 series the Vel­vet Under­ground and Nico of microniche music books!