Friday, September 23, 2011

Steal Wilson's Records!

For the first time, the inner sanctum of a Wilson & Alroy critic (in this case, Wilson) will be opened to the public. More importantly, you can take any of the CDs, LPs, and cassettes you see there. Five winning entries will be selected from comments submitted on the theme "Wilson's Worst Review Ever... And Why."

Speaking of "why," why is Wilson doing such a thing?
1) Out of space. Over the years, Wilson (referring to oneself in the third person never gets old) has kept more or less everything he's reviewed, plus a bunch of stuff he never got around to reviewing. By now he has no room for any of the accoutrements pertaining to, y'know, a normal life.
2) Going digital. As wonderful as cover art and liner note are, the convenience of keeping music on hard disk (not to mention the various cloud options - look for my trenchant analysis of Spotify soon) is impossible to ignore.
3) Can't sell 'em. For four reasons - Wilson tossed his jewel cases years ago to save space (see 1), most people don't buy music anymore (see 2), a variety of cats have torn the LPs to shreds, and most of the library is out-of-favor stuff like The Spinners' Live! - record store guys have advised that the fair market value is approximately nil. Or, as Spinal Tap would say, their appeal has become much more selective.

Application Deadline: 7 October

Golden Ticket Scavenger Hunt Date: 15 October

A few caveats:
a) Wilson's lair is in downtown Jersey City.
b) Two cats live there (see above), so if you're highly allergic you may want to pass.
c) Wilson is keeping a very few physical discs, mostly for sentimental value and a few because they don't seem to be available online. So don't make the trip out there hoping to get Godmoma's Here and go home disappointed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

He Said "Lay Down Your Funky Weapon" But I Didn't Think You'd Actually Do It

Here's something a little different: A response to a piece written by my friend and actual music writing professional Kurt Gottschalk and published by the Brooklyn Rail titled In Which Prince at Last Wins the Battle Against Evil, and Yet Y'all Still Make Fun of Him:

Personally, I kinda miss having to defend Prince. Back in the 80s, you were always a little guarded when you confessed you were a fan, because it seemed like everyone had something to say about him. "That skinny motherfucker with the high voice? Please!" Hip hop heads and funkaholics wondered why he messed around with falsetto ballads; old-school soulsters wondered why he used programmed drums and samples if he was such a virtuoso. At least one Billboard columnist questioned whether black music should permit effeminate males in its leadership. Religious friends thought it was disrespectful to recite the Lord's Prayer in "Controversy"; atheist friends didn't want to hear "God"; both camps critiqued his calling himself the Messiah (and his spelling) in "I Would Die 4 U." And that was before he wrote "slave" on his face, changed his name to a symbol, and stopped shipping platinum.

But now? After wearing down his critics inside the industry and out with decades of carefully crafted, insistently musical—if inconsistently engaging—albums and tours, Prince announced himself at the 2004 Grammys as elder statesman who could put the young folk to shame, and no one disputed it. The metalheads in Rainbow denim jackets I grew up with in Queens are now the people uploading his Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to YouTube and captioning it "GREATEST GUITAR SOLO EVER!!!" The dudes who wondered why that high-heeled freak was running around with those tall white women are now saying the Black Eyed Peas' bombastic Super Bowl show was a disgrace compared to the tasteful showmanship and serious chops Prince displayed way back in... 2007. At the end of each sold-out Madison Square Garden show, today's most desperately buzz-seeking celebs elbowed each other for a place on stage. He's the hottest ticket in town. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy that Prince is happy, and that he's largely succeeded in making over pop music in his image. I just wish there was still someone around to argue with.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Second Generation All-Star Band, or, That Last Name Looks Familiar

Maybe I attend too many geezer nostalgia tours, but I've been seeing a lot of bands where the star brings one of their kids onstage. Which ones are cases of nepotism, and which are actually worth hearing? I decided to organize the results as an all-star team; please give me the credit if a promoter puts together a touring combo out of this.


Let's get this out of the way first: there are a lot of pop star kids who have gotten up on stage to sing, and even gotten record contracts, who are just not that great. There's Goffin-King daughter Louise Goffin, Buddy Guy's daughter Shawnna and Nona Gaye among others. Neneh Cherry may have sold more copies of Raw Like Sushi than all of her father's albums put together, but color me unimpressed; likewise, I can't bring myself to care about the Wilson sisters or any of the Wainwrights. Arlo Guthrie and Jakob Dylan were legitimate one-hit wonders, if nothing more.
I don't know if Ronald Bell's son Rachid will ever make a followup to his outstanding debut album, but he's probably the only candidate who could conceivably dethrone Jeff Buckley.


Los Van Van drummer Samuel Formell is the easy choice, stepping into the shoes of Cuban music legend Changüito and rapidly winning over the band's skeptical and demanding fan base. I've never heard much from Jason Bonham or Zack Starkey but you'd think they have to be in the mix somewhere. Honorable mention for Mother's Finest drummer Dion Murdock, one of the few to play in a band with both parents.


I know Eddie Van Halen (and Valerie Bertinelli, he mentioned gratuitously) spawn Wolfie is touring with his dad, but I have no idea what he sounds like. I'm sticking with James Jamerson Jr.


I think this has to be Elio Revé Jr. Not only did he take over his father's renowned charangón, his compositions, arrangements and piano put the group in the forefront of the late 2000s timba scene.


As I'm not inclined to pick Dweezil Zappa or Doyle Bramhall II, I'm sure not going to pick Trey Lewd, and I've never heard Teddy Thompson, I'll pick Wendy Melvoin, though her session pianist/arranger dad Mike isn't exactly the kind of front-line performer the competition is all about.


Got to go with trumpeter Mercer Ellington over tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, based on Ellington's strengths as composer as well as bandleader.


Dionne Warwick's pride and joy Damon Elliott is the standout.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Progeny)

Who's the Barry Bonds of the group, the child of a star who becomes a bigger star? Obviously Norah Jones is a much bigger commercial force than father Ravi Shankar, but it's my list and I can snub her if I want to. For "Moon Mist" alone, Mercer Ellington is one of the most accomplished, but he certainly isn't going to make anyone forget the other Ellington. On the other end of the scale, Jeff Buckley made a huge impression during his short career, but it would be a stretch to consider Tim Buckley a star. So I hate to say it, but the winner in the category is probably Bocephus. Please tell me I'm forgetting somebody.