This was not intended to be the Yin to the Yang of my earlier Out Loud post. Rather, this was ‘inspired’ by my listening to samples of Norah Jones’s upcoming album, ‘Little Broken Hearts’ due for release on May 1st. Her cool, calm voice never fails to send me to a pensive state a la Gandalf and Bilbo on an evening sit-down, blowing smoke rings. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of her this year – a very interesting sounding album, produced as it is by Danger Mouse (a.k.a., although not so much, Brian Burton). The entire album is being streamed for a limited time on NPR.
Anyway, listening to Ms. Jones made me dig up some of the low and slow from my collection. And I couldn’t think of a better start than My Morning Jacket’s ‘Slow, Slow Tune’. I think this is a bittersweet ode to fatherhood, but with Jim James (a.k.a., sometimes, Yim Yames) one can never be quite certain. There’s a startling guitar solo which you don’t quite expect in a song such as this, but that’s not the only reason that I think this is the brightest in the stellar set of ‘Circuital’.
I do not know why it took Robbie Robertson 11 years to come up with his first solo album after the break-up of The Band (such a lovely, simple band name, isn’t it? But then those were still early days – that name was still available. But these days one has to make do with Supreme Dicks or something like that). It didn’t matter. Some 25 years after I first laid my hands on it and despite his obvious lack of vocal power, I still think this is a great album. Some people have this ability to conjure up images with their songs. The Band had that and not surprisingly, so does Robertson. On this album, ‘Somewhere Down The Crazy River’ is probably the best example of that. I know what I see and feel when I hear it, but you could have a very different vision. So I’m not going to spoil it for you.
The Counting Crows are back after a 4-year break, or what I thought was a permanent break-up, with an album of covers. Incidentally, one of their first (their very first???) hits was called ‘Mr. Jones’. Errmmm…just saying. I’m on the fence on this new release, but perhaps it’ll grow on me. Counting Crows are that kind of band. But this song, ‘Colorblind’ is not one of those slowly-creep-into-heart pieces. Adam Duritz’s impassioned voice and the beautiful piano work will seize your attention from the first note.
Bruce Springsteen is back with a new album. Back? Well, he just never seems to have gone away. Outspoken, highly energetic yet surprisingly tender at times, Springsteen has never sounded as sweet – in my opinion – as on ‘Secret Garden’. This is one of the finest songs I’ve ever heard. Period. For the music, the vocals, that beautiful sax solo from Clarence Clemons and the lyrics:
She’ll lead you down a path
There’ll be tenderness in the air
She’ll let you come just far enough
So you know she’s really there
She’ll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She’s got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away
Incidentally, Steve van Zandt of Springsteen’s E Street Band features on that Robbie Robertson track.
Leonard Cohen’s back after about 7 years, but that gap’s not surprising from a man who’s produced just about a dozen studio albums over a 44-year career. I first heard him on the 1988 album ‘I’m Your Man’ and after I recovered from the blow of his baritone voice, my first impression was, “this man’s a poet”. I had little clue about him then and didn’t realize that I was only giving thought to what had been a known fact for years. It’s only apt that this master poet/songwriter should come up with something like ‘Tower Of Song’.
Well my friends are gone and my hair is gray
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day in the tower of song
I said to Hank Williams, “How lonely does it get?”
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
Oh, a hundred floors above me in the tower of song
These are songs to be heard on an evening (preferably a sultry one with the fan switched on and crickets/cicadas providing an aural background) as you get busy doing nothing. Enjoy! At least, I hope you do 🙂