I'm getting even further and further behind on this blog...I'm listening to the albums, reading the books, and watching the documentaries--in short; I'm doing the work...but am having trouble finding the time to share it here.
I'm moving to Nashville one week from yesterday...For the past couple of months, I've been saying goodbye to friends one-by-one. It's a very intimate way to go about it--very much in line with my life philosophy. It is also difficult to sustain emotionally. There is a certain wisdom in saying goodbye in one fell swoop, as you quickly make your way to your mode of departure, waving tearfully. Emotional economy.
Also, I've been doing this project now for over 60 weeks. I am so glad that I've done this--and that I'm continuing to do it. This is the most disciplined thing I've done that is merely for my own benefit.
But, my friends, it is work. I guess a journey of personal enrichment should require some effort. The question is do the results justify the effort?
I've been asked what records I've discovered through this process...I guess asking for a short encapsulation of what I've learned. I've definitely fallen in love with some albums I'd never heard before (including one this week). I've also fallen for some artists that I'd previously written off for no good reason. But the biggest thing I've learned...and the thing that is largely ineffable is the feeling of history, legacy, and community that this project has given me. I've been an aspiring musician and singer-songwriter for a while now...and regardless of what my perceived skill level or artistic merit is...I have been enriched by the stories of how others (at the height of their artistic powers) have gotten there...the embedded historical and cultural education...the endurance, faith, and discipline. I'm inspired by the music and stories every single week--even when I don't necessarily love the album.
063: David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)
I had never really understood the appeal of David Bowie--until I listened to Low a few weeks ago. For whatever reason that album made me look at him a whole new way--perhaps an odd entry point into his very successful catalog.
This album, while not quite as thrillingly experimental as Low, has increased my admiration.
I also watched the Bowie documentary currently available on Showtime (trailer below)--called David Bowie: Five Years. The interesting documentary (originally produced by the BBC) focuses on five key years for Bowie – 1971, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983 – as well as his comeback efforts for his recently acclaimed album The Next Day. Hunky Dory was released during the first of those important five years.
The main thing I was struck by on this album was Bowie's ability to morph into so many distinct vocal identities and timbres--and do so in a believable and technically adept way. I'd never realized that he is one of the most capable male singers ever. I guess I'd always been distracted by his changing, and always controversial, personas. On this album, I also took note of how great a songwriter he is.
Changes is a classic. The melody on the chorus of "Oh! You Pretty Things" is dizzyingly gymnastic--and so much fun to sing. Who else would write a hook like that? I found myself singing it (poorly) several times during the week. Life On Mars is epic--I couldn't help imagining Jessica Lange performing it as she did in this season of American Horror Story. Kooks is a sweet song to his child...it (and Fill Your Heart) kind of remind me of Cat Stevens. I love his odes to both Andy Warhol and (Song For) Bob Dylan. Then he settles into Lou Reed mode for his Queen Bitch.
I love the lyrics feature of Spotify...is that new? I'd never seen it before...Seeing them still doesn't help me make sense of the lyrics to Quicksand or The Bewlay Brothers.
062: R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)
I have always wanted to love REM.
I bought a couple of their records in the 90's (aka Out Of Time, Automatic For The People, and Monster)...and really liked them.
I had never heard this one, and wanted to give it a fair shake. I (tried to) read the 33 1/3 book for this album. The book is incredibly thorough--perhaps too much so. It goes so deep into each track: the recording, the performance, etc...but at the end of the day, I couldn't match what I was reading to what I was hearing--so I gave up mid-book (something I rarely do, but do when I must). This may be more of an indication of where I am right now in terms of headspace, but there it is.
This album is very good. Like the REM albums I've absorbed previously, I really like it. I don't love it though.
Maybe it's because, mostly, I don't get what the songs are really about...I'm admitting my idiocy here. There are interesting images here...I like the mood...but I guess I like things that are more immediate, more vulnerable and direct.
I do love Perfect Circle...and We Walk.
The production throughout is really inventive and timeless.
I really loved Hunky Dory. Now having loved two Bowie records (Low and now Hunky Dory), I feel compelled to explore more of this landmark records (i.e. Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station To Station, Heroes, Scary Monsters, and Let's Dance).
I really do like REM, and look forward to getting to focus on Automatic For The People again (a little higher on this list).
060: Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)
057: The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.