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Explorations in Subgenres: Booze Rock

Jazz. Blues. Hip-hop. Names to describe musical genres. Really just labels to better catalog and locate the kind of music that gets our rocks off. It's why the typical answer of, "everything," to the eternal question, "what do you listen to?" is so maddening. It's never true and worse a thoughtless cop-out. Nobody can genuinely like everything. The ability to formulate distinctions is the very essence of taste. In the first installment of (what I hope) will be a recurring feature, Explorations in Subgenres, I'm pointing my spotlight onto a previously uncategorized style that falls between hard rock, southern rock, and blues rock: Booze Rock.

Picture yourself with your best pals in a southern-flavored dive, drinking and carrying on. The bottles are dusty but the liquor is clean. The wood paneling and beer on the floor assure that pretension has no place here. A rock 'n roll band has turned out and there's a dance party coming alive. This is booz…

Wharton's Weekly Albums #4: Week of December 31, 2018

Wharton's Weekly Albums #4: Week of December 31, 2018My weekly thoughts on the albums I listened to during last week's commute.
The Albums: Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
*Electric Warrior, T. Rex
Silent Shout, The Knife
*an asterisk indicates that this is my first listen to this album
The Thoughts: Another short list for another short workweek.  I'm not a big fan of Chance's Coloring Book; I don't care for all the preachy Christian stuff, and it seems much more formulaic and controlled than his gleefully anarchic Acid Rap.  

Luckily both Electric Warrior and Silent Shout are superb, though for very different reasons.  Electric Warrior sounds like the distilled essence of sexy rock and roll: everything is midtempo, no ballads, barely any guitar solos, direct in its carnal intentions but hardly aggressive, syncopated to the nth degree, hips groovin' on hips, lyrics basically just words that sound sexy together.  It sounds ridiculous, but it totally works.

Silent Shout

Wharton's Weekly Albums #3: Week of December 24, 2018

Wharton's Weekly Albums #3: Week of December 24, 2018My weekly thoughts on the albums I listened to during last week's commute.
The Albums: *Criminal Minded, Boogie Down Productions
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
Middle Cyclone, Neko Case
*an asterisk indicates that this is my first listen to this album
The Thoughts: A short list for a short workweek.  Didn't care much for the BDP.  YHF is an album I've heard so many times that it can be tough to listen to with fresh ears.  Someday I'll do a deep dive into Wilco, but today is not that day.  Instead my focus is on Middle Cyclone, Neko Case's 2009 album.  As an album, it's perfectly cromulent.  It opens with its strongest track, "This Tornado Loves You," one of my favorite songs from that year.  The rest of the songs are all fine, if less memorable.  They sound like Neko Case songs, and they have a general "nature as metaphor for romantic struggle" theme.  And then there's the last track: "…

Madwoman in the attic: Grateful Dead's "Bertha"

If music is the sound of emotions, then lyrics are its consciousness. I like my lyrics to be clever, catchy, and highly evocative. They don't have to make much sense as long as they capture a feeling or idea. When the lyrics are really good, it is poetry.
Robert Hunter's lyrics are clearly poetry. As the Grateful Dead's primary lyricist, he's responsible for many of their iconic lines, some of which have entered the public lexicon. "What a long strange trip" instantly comes to mind. Hunter's lyrics make allusions to a broad range of historical, literary, and folklorist topics. Meaning, in a Robert Hunter penned song, pretty much anything is possible. Discovering these literary allusions is one the many delights of Deadheadness.

With this in mind, I'd like to shine a light on the Hunter/Garcia tune, "Bertha." A popular set opener, especially in the early '70s, "Bertha" is a catchy song with a very sing-alongable chorus, "Be…

Wharton's Weekly Albums #2: Week of December 17, 2018

Wharton's Weekly Albums #2: Week of December 17, 2018My weekly thoughts on the albums I listened to during last week's commute.
The Albums: The ArchAndroid, Janelle Monae BEYONCE, Beyonce *Singles Collection: The London Years [Disc 1], The Rolling Stones Deja Vu, Crosby Stills Nash & Young *Power, Corruption & Lies; New Order Odelay, Beck

*an asterisk indicates that this is my first listen to this album
The Thoughts: This week included my first listens to the first disc of the Stones' Singles Collection: The London Years and New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies.  I come down heavily on the New Order side of the Joy Division-New Order divide, so this was a long overdue first listen, and it didn't disappoint.  The Stones' collection is mostly what you expect, their British dressup version of Chicago Blues, but includes some of their all time great cuts, like Time Is on My Side and Satisfaction.  Also re-listened to CSNY's Deja Vu this week, and was reminded…

Wharton's Weekly Albums #1: Week of December 10, 2018

Wharton's Weekly Albums #1: Week of December 10, 2018This entry inaugurates a weekly feature wherein I will recap the albums I listened to during my weekly commutes and give my brief thoughts about one of them.

The Albums:
*Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Bob Dylan
Bad As Me, Tom Waits
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson
Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
Complete Riverside Recordings [Disc 1], Thelonious Monk
Odelay, Beck
Illinois, Sufjan Stevens

*an asterisk indicates that this is my first listen to this album

The Thoughts:
Welcome to Wharton's Weekly Albums, my new weekly feature.  My ambition here is to use this to track the albums I listen to during the roughly 70 minutes I spend commuting each weekday and write a brief comment on whatever strikes my fancy from them.  The albums I listen to each week are semi-random, in the sense that they come off playlists that I curate through my own arcane criteria, …

That Katz Something I Can't Explain! My Lifelong Love Affair with '60s British Psychedelia

Before I was Deadhead. Before I was a Funketeer. Before—in retrospect, quite incredibly—I'd even discovered the respective genius virtuosities of Dylan or Hendrix. I was a Head; utterly obsessed with mid to late '60s British psychedelia. The objects of my desire, the things around which my entire obsession revolved, were two records: Cream's Disraeli Gears and The Pink Floyd's (as they were known at the time) debut LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, both from 1967. The wonderful satisfaction of discovering these two albums, the euphoria of delving into their backgrounds, finding out everything about them, served as the proverbial spark that launched not only my lifetime love affair with music, but fueled my enduring passion for the arts, specifically literature and cinema.
The first two records I ever acquired were the aforementioned Disraeli Gears and Jethro Tull's Aqualung (1971). I confess for a fifteen year old boy, it was love at first sight. The feel, the s…