Seasonal change, I find, always inspires me to listen more closely to music.
After seeing the Steve Reich gig last week I’ve been listening to him quite a great deal. I bought this CD to flesh out my collection a little bit. “Music For A Large Ensemble” just kinda picks up where “Music For 18 Instruments” leaves off. I think “18” is a better example of music beaming down to you from outer space. But “Large Ensemble” has moments of escalating beauty that, seriously, leave me short of breath. There is a very sparing use of rising brass soaring over the phasing percussion rhythms and pulsing woodwinds that, I shit you not, might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I had to stop walking and grab a parking meter on East Broadway just last night while listening on headphones and, no, I’m not usually so dramatic in public.
Most fans list “Harvest” or “Everyone Knows This is Nowhere” as Neil Young’s best, but “Ragged Glory” will always be my favorite. Perhaps, I admit, this may simply be because it came out when I was a junior in high school and the songs mean something to me. . .but you listen to “Days That Used To Be” and tell me that Neil’s voice isn’t fraught with an intolerable sadness. “Love and Only Love” and “Love To Burn” both clock in over ten minutes and feature guitar solos that seem to never end, each with a rage and pain and beauty that seem incongruous to the simple lyrics straight ahead rockin’ song structure. The drumbeat on “Over and Over” is just. . .if I may get right down to it. . .so awesome I can’t handle it. “Ragged Glory” has been on frequent rotation for me for sixteen straight years and may very well be one of the most influential albums of my life.
Gustav Mahler would have written awesome movie music. The Titan Symphony (Symphony #1) opens in a swirly, atmospheric, almost frightening rising pattern. It just builds from there and by the time we get to the deathly, funereal “Frere Jacques” I’m hiding under the covers.
There was a long time I just kinda wrote Ornette Coleman off. “The Shape of Jazz To Come” is probably his least nustso atonal avant-garde collection. . .and it’s about as far as I’m willing to travel with him. The legendary dirge “Lonely Woman” is incredibly evocative but some of the other tunes, after you listen to them a few times, actually have a zippy and playful quality to them. I dare say: some of this music is fun.
Muse, on the other hand, is all good fun. Imagine if Radiohead and Dream Theater had a love child. And it was produced by whoever produced Queen. It’d sound like Muse’s “Black Holes and Revelations,” a splendid album that I thank for reminding me that I should once in a while check in and see what’s new that the kids are listening to.