Roy Brooks – Ethnic Expressions

Ethnic Expressions

Roy Brooks and The Artistic TruthEthnic Expressions Im-Hotep CS-030 (1976)


Roy Brooks’ group The Artistic Truth is captured performing live on November 22, 1973 at Small’s Paradise in New York City on Ethnic Expressions.  The music is syncretic jazz.  The players absorb and recreate all manners of styles, from hard bop, to soul jazz, to world fusion.  There is a spiritual, vaguely pan-africanist vibe (leaning “positive” rather than “militant”).  There were a number of groups and record labels pursuing this sort of approach in the early 1970s, and it is a style that has survived in pockets here and there.  What makes this record so special is that the band is great and they no matter how frequently they switch up the style or genre, it is always an organic transition and they play each and every style/genre deftly.  Brooks had a troubled life.  But this album shows no signs of any of that.  The album was once very rare, but is now widely available.

Dead Boys – Young Loud and Snotty

Young Loud and Snotty

Dead BoysYoung Loud and Snotty Sire SR 6038 (1977)


The best songs on Young, Loud and Snotty were ones carried over from the Cleveland cult band Rocket From the Tombs.  There is no question that the available recordings by Rocket From the Tombs are far superior, including both the demo and live versions (The Day the Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs) and the reunion recordings (Rocket Redux).  But I once heard Iggy Pop say that sometimes you need a stupid record.  For stupid, thick-headed rock and roll, it’s hard to beat the Dead Boys.

Jeffrey St. Clair – Notes From the DNC

Link to articles by Jeffrey St. Clair recounting the 2016 Democratic National Convention:

“Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention”

“The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention”

“Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention”

“She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention”

 

Bonus links: “Julian Assange: Choosing Between Trump or Clinton is Like Picking Between Cholera or Gonorrhea” and “Leaked DNC Emails Confirm Anti-Sanders Conspiracy” and “Stop Trump Fundamentalists Can Bite Me” and “The Political Compass: The U.S. Presidential Candidates 2016”

David Bowie – Scary Monsters… and Super Creeps

Scary Monsters... and Super Creeps

David BowieScary Monsters… and Super Creeps RCA BOW LP 2 / PL 13647 (1980)


In some ways, this is a transitional effort: the close of Bowie’s late 1970s style and the beginning of his forays into 80s pop.  The eclectic eccentricities of Lodger are held in check, focused around a more steady pop sensibility.  This is still quirky art rock, but it flows together as an album better.  Even if it lacks any individual song as good as “Modern Love” from Let’s Dance or “D.J.” from Lodger, there is not a bad tune anywhere.  It would take Bowie a long, long time to make an album this good again — and it could be argued he never did.

Munro Leaf & Robert Lawson – The Story of Ferdinand

The STory of Ferdinand

Munro Leaf and Robert LawsonThe Story of Ferdinand (The Viking Press, 1936)


One of the great children’s books.  Robert Lawson’s black and white illustrations are exceptional in their detail and clarity, yet those qualities are focused on distinct characters and objects with much white space creating a sense of freedom.  The story by Munro Leaf is a kind of happier version of Herman Melville‘s short story Bartleby, the Scrivener.  Ferdinand is a bull in Spain who does not want to be a part of bullfights.  He wants to sit quietly under his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers.  When stung by a bee and jumping about in pain, he confuses a group of men, who have come to select a bull for fights in Madrid, making them think that he is ferocious.  But when brought to a bullfighting ring (to his death), he merely sits down in the middle of the ring to smell the flowers in the hair of the ladies in the audience, and refuses to participate.  So Ferdinand is taken back to the country where he can smell the flowers.  And he was happy.  In this story, which describes the power of an individual to resist the violence of institutions, it is one of the most radical bestselling books in America (following the likes of Looking Backward).