Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 1: Paul Brady "What a World" and J.J. Johnson The Eminent V.2

To begin I have to set what I'm going to attempt as ground rules.

First: I have to try and do at least two albums a day.

Second: I have to listen to the whole album. This rule is already chafing, more on that later.

Third: The CDs must be randomly selected, no picking and choosing. Pick a stack, take the ones off the top until the stack is on the hard drive, move on to the next stack. This is easy to do because these things are in no particular order and never have been.

Next, some clarification. I was only one of a few buyers at the store, and by the time I left, those buyer positions had been consolidated and I was relegated to 'books.' What I bought specifically was Jazz and Classical CDs and satellite genres as the store defined them. In a rock store with at the very least an indie affectation, I was the guy for that 'other music.' So that's what The Albatross is made up of, this won't be an "I Love the Nineties" parade of top artists of a past decade, those CDs went to everyone else in the store. These are the leftovers, the unwanted, the "Who the heck is that?" mixed in with some genuinely fantastic jazz and classical selections I was able to get even after I turned on the people above me to that kind of music.

Paul Brady
What a World

Having said all of that, this CD is a perfect example of The Albatross because I have no idea why it is here. Looking at the cover, I thought it might be one of those new blues CDs where it's more watered down soft rock than actual blues. I was half right, just not about the blues part. According to the liner notes this is a collection of collaborations with other artists I equally haven't heard of to produce a bunch of...I guess I can call it soulfully sung...soft songs.

It contains tracks named I Believe in Magic, The Long Goodbye, and Sea of Love. I should have seen it coming.

This sounds like the soundtrack to that movie you catch on Encore at 3pm which has a star you recognize in it but you don't remember it coming out and all of the hair looks out of date. Or maybe an unlicensed Steve Winwood cover band?

This is very nearly a dangerous amount of synthesizer use without a rapid beat, flashing lights, and E. (Screw you, Vampire Weekend, I'm using the damn Oxford Comma and if you don't like it you can suck it.)

I am perhaps being uncharitable. This is certainly not something I would be prone to be interested in. I don't know who...maybe mid-aged secretaries that want to have music taste but don't have the time to bother? It's not bad really.

The real question I'm wrestling with is why the hell is it here? There is a chance that it was mislabeled as 'world' at the store because the singer is from Dublin, which would have landed it in my box. But this is a pretty decent aping of inoffensive American soft rock. There's nary an Irish influence to be heard, not even in the affected twang in the singers voice. He's traveled the world, apparently, to find collaborators throughout the 90s, but I really can't even hear that. He does admit, however, that out of the 'around fifty' songs he wrote at that time, these are the ones that bore his imprint the most.

Oooh, Travelin' Light has some slide guitar. Like salt on a potato, it almost becomes about the salt since it is suddenly the spiciest thing going on.

This CD has successfully traveled through four cities and six moves. It's a poster child for The Albatross, the jewel case is smashed, the liner notes wrinkled from hopefully some mild water damage. There have been a few culls over the years, but usually I was unwilling to throw out artists I hadn't heard just in case, but during culls I don't have time to listen to everything. So this poor bastard has been following me around waiting for its moment in the sun only for it to be this. To make matters worse, I know the next artist and like him. So this is just excruciating.

I wonder about its journey, because somehow it's wound up in the 'prime pile.' The one that is actually in my room and not the shed, that was readily visible and easiest to access. Presumably these would be CDs that I actually selected or listened to, but I honestly don't have any memory of it. I have a feeling I'll be hitting shuffle in a few years and having to run to this blog to remind myself who the fuck this is and why it's on my iTunes, so here's a note to my future self: You didn't understand it then, either.

Jay Jay Johnson
The Eminent V.2

This is the other side of the Albatross coin. I know who J. J. Johnson is. I like J. J. Johnson. I probably made a big deal out of getting this CD, dragged it around the store and bored my co-workers with how awesome it was that I got it and that they should be jealous. I had even formed an arbitrary obsession with the main buyer in the store over trombone players, and when you have an arbitrary obsession with trombone players, there's not a lot of places to go. This CD was a score. It even had Charles Mingus on half of the tracks, and then Horace Silver and Paul Chambers on the other half. I mean, how awesome is that?

And yet, 8+ years later it's sitting in a random pile under Paul Brady unopened. Even Brady had shed his wrapper at some point, but this is the first that this CD has seen the light of day, factory fresh, as it where.

Blue Note had a big rash of re-issues with alternate takes and other such goodies, promising clean remasters (this particular one a "Rudy Van Gelder Edition"), also a big thing at the time. Here's my guess: I got this CD along with a batch of awesome Blue Note CDs and this got left out because I was too into Kind of Blue and poor J.J. was shuffled off to the forgotten heap, the white noise of apartment filler that was to become The Albatross. Which is a shame, because it's pretty awesome.

Somehow, even in its wrapper it has managed water damage (I hope it's water...some of my living arrangements have involved pets...I'll just leave that implication...) so I have no access to the liner notes (which the outside of the sleeve informs me are not the original ones because these are the 'actual sessions' and not the hodge podge (paraphrasing) of the original 12". Seems kind of a gyp, now that I think about it, for a fan of the 12" who was looking forward to his CD clean remaster. Jazz is in the solos, if it's not the same session that means his favorite solo is no longer there.)

I'm listening to this on a pair of studio monitor headphones (Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, if anyone cares), but I left the TV on...this is making an interesting soundtrack to the 'silent movie' version of the Secret Girlfriend re-run that's on. I have to say it's an improvement...it's also classing up the ads for the porno channels and chat lines, giving them that old school "Playboy After Dark" feel. 

This is really is hard bop at its best. (As a side note, I always thought 'hard bop' was mislabeled.) I used to want to play this, heavy arrangements in small combos with plenty of room for soloing. If I had opened this at the time I would have likely imagined myself taking Hank Mobley's solos on the second half of the album. Hell, I'm doing that now...

I was never able to do those breaks at the beginning of solos...too much pressure to do something awesome right away. Part of the reason I'd make a terrible rap artist, after the hype-man got done hyping me, I'd crumple from the weight of expectation. Maybe I could manage as a low-key hype-man, "Dudes, this guy is awesome...get ready to check him out, it'll be cool, I swear. No, really...just...you won't be sorry...hear him out for a few, if you don't like it get a drink and come back for the next act, that'll be cool for sure."

That was awesome (see? I'm a natural!). I wonder now if The Albatross will spit up V.1 at some point.

That's Day 1 of Project:Albatross, and it's managed to deal a pretty good snapshot of the beast, music I love but for some reason never cracked open and stuff that makes no sense as to why it's here.


  1. Some of my favorite bands - I'm talking hundreds of plays in my itunes - don't get this much thought. Nice job.

  2. Fanfare for the common man at the speed of light