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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Top 31 of 2007 - #12

Cale's Pick
The Most Serene Republic: Population
Released: October 15, 2007

As it was in 2005, one of the year's best albums belongs to The Most Serene Republic and, just like in 2005, it will largely go unnoticed. I can't figure out why. Perhaps Arts and Crafts really isn't pushing them as much as they should be. That could be true, as every time a new Broken Social Scene or Stars album comes out you can't walk 10 feet without hearing about it. Rogue Wave faced the same problem with SubPop. They put out two great albums that nobody heard, and so they dropped the label, moved to Jack Johnson's, and are now on Microsoft Zune commercials. Sometimes a little droppage of the label can go a long way for a band, and I think The Most Serene Republic should consider it. As much as I love Arts and Crafts, they are doing a disservice, not only to the band, but to people everywhere by not promoting this great album. Population is an very unique listen, but at the same time, you can pick out bits and pieces that sound familiar and comforting. Granted, it's all under layers and layers of guitars, drums, and vocals....but it's there. It's exciting and refreshing to hear a band stray from the norm. To be able to say that your album literally sounds like nothing that has come before it is a huge accomplishment, and The Most Serene Republic can now say that. Now if only they could say that they sold more than one copy (to me)...

For giving me a reason to dislike the Arts and Crafts label, The Most Serene Republic is given this #12 spot on my list.

The Top 31 Songs of 2007 - #12
"All My Stars Aligned" by St. VIncent, from the album, Marry Me.

Jill's Pick
Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964
Released: July 17, 2007

It's chock full of history, this album. Recorded in March of 1964, before the Mingus Sextet went on their European tour, at Cornell University. (And 3 short months before Eric Dolphy died.) (Eric Dolphy, if you are wondering, was an Alto Sax player and an important Bass Clarinet player. He was also well known for his Flute solos.) This particular show is actually a recent discovery; apparently no one but the band and students knew the show was going to happen let alone be recorded. What makes this so special is that these particular songs were not ever preserved in regular studio recordings

Mingus was such a prolific and amazing band leader, managing to combine Blues, Bop, Swing, Piano, Bebop, Ragtime, Classical, and Jazz into one dizzying 130 minute long show. That's right. 130 minutes. There are several notable length of tracks here: 29 minutes, 15 minutes, 17 minutes, 31 minutes. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to witness the Mingus Sextet play one song for 31 minutes, but I do wish I had that experience. There are solos and solos within solos. There's witty banter and the occasional "Name That Tune" game. There are the lyrics: "Two, four, six, eight they brainwash and teach hate" in the song "Fables of Faubus." There's also an interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady", because Mingus always paid tribute to Ellington.

My favorite track: "Fables of Faubus", written by Mingus in direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus. Faubus, as I'm sure you might remember, was the man responsible for sending the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. It was actually recorded for a 1959 album, but the label said it was too controversial and it was chucked. (Literally.) It was rerecorded in 1960 for another album but was censored by the label. The version at the Cornell concert is played the way Mingus intended it to be played. (Thus making it a version not preserved in a regular studio recording.)

Songs you should give a listen to:
--"ATFW You" (which means: Art Tatumisms and Fats Wallerisms) (Google it.)
--"Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, the Blue Silk"
--"Take the A Train"
--"Jitterbug Waltz"

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