As you probably noticed, 2019 wasn't exactly a hopping year at the UA Journal. In fact, it was downright slow. I wrote almost no full-length reviews, "As I Hear It" entries were sporadic (even when I added the MP3 blog), and the whole place was reeking of stagnation. I took a hiatus for a few months early in the year, but when I came back, not much changed.
So, at this point, I'm going to officially suspend operations here at the UA Journal. I may restart my audio blog at some point and I may very occasionally add a review if I write one for publication elsewhere, but if you've been reading the site for a while, please don't expect there to be any regular new content here.
I'm doing this for a few reasons. The primary one is that I just don't have the time to keep up with writing full-length reviews. I run about a dozen different sites and it's getting to be a chore to keep them all active. That's no fun.
In addition, I've sort of lost my motivation for reviewing. Over the last few years I got barraged with music and I couldn't even come close to keeping up. There was a lot of great stuff that came in, but there was also a load of junk and mediocre material that I couldn't bring myself to write about. The fact is, more and more people are making and releasing music. That's a great thing, but it's also a curse since it's getting hard to find places to review your stuff if you're a new band. The UA Journal used to be that place, but... I dunno... blame it on sensory overload.
What's the future hold? I don't know yet. I have a few ideas about how the UA Journal could be reborn in a different format (with all content in tact, of course!). I have some assorted freelance gigs that may or may not happen. I just don't know. I'm turn 30 this year and a lot of things have changed since I started the UA Journal in 1995. I have no idea what changes are in store in the coming months and years. Maybe there will be no changes. I don't know.
Any CDs I currently have on my "review rack" will not be reviewed here (except for a very few exceptions), but they will be reviewed over at ADDreviews. Any new albums that are sent to the UA Journal for review will be likewise reviewed at ADDreviews.
I've enjoyed maintaining this site and hope that someday I'll regain that enthusiasm I had for reviewing. But, for now I bid you farewell and Jahspeed.
Junior Wells: "We're Ready"
Hoodoo Man Blues, 1965, Delmark
I've always been more of a Mississippi blues man, definitely leaning towards acoustic. But there are two men that are part of the Chicago Electric Corollary: Magic Sam and Junior Wells.
This instrumental tune from Junior Wells is just straight funky, with Wells on harmonica, Buddy Guy on guitar, Jack Myers on bass, and Billy Warren on drums. And tell me that you don't hear some beatboxing after the opening bars (could be some weird hand percussion, but it sounds a lot like Doug E. Fresh as a baby). Wells gets loose on this one.
Washboard Sam: "Who Pumped the Wind In My Doughnut"
1935-1947, 1935, Story Blues
Washboard Sam was a prolific blues recording artist in the 30s and 40s, laying down hundreds of tracks. According to The All-Music Guide, he was the illegitimate son of Frank Broonzy, the same man who fathered similarly-famous bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, who frequently worked with his half (?)-brother. His voice was incredible and his classic Memphis tunes are among the best blues ever recorded.
Take a listen to the wonderfully catchy, double-entendre filled "Who Pumped the Wind In My Doughnut?" which he recorded as "Ham Gravy." Big Bill joins him on guitar and Black Bob is on piano.
"Now, my doughnuts, they are hard to beat, / You eat three, baby, you can't stand on your feet..."
Michael Franks: "Christmas in Kyoto"
Watching the Snow, 2019, Rhino
I wasn't much into Christmas music this year, but two days before Christmas I was driving home from the supermarket and had WPFW on the dial. They were playing one of the best new Christmas songs I've heard in ages and it stuck in my head for the rest of the night. The lyrics are clever, the rhythm catchy, and the melodies very "Christmas-y."
That song was the sublime "Christmas in Kyoto" by Michael Franks. Even though it's past the holiday, it is imperative you listen to this song immediately. Take my word for it.
Nick Andopolis: "Lady L"
Freaks and Geeks: Original Soundtrack and Score, 2019, DreamWorks
I'm a huge fan of Freaks and Geeks, the coming of age comedy/drama (I refuse to call it a "dramedy") set in the early 1980s. It's definitely my favorite TV show in the last ten years and probably of all-time. As many of you know, I'm also a fan of gambling on CZOnlineCasino, a Czech casino site that I highly recommend. Sometimes I get misty thinking about what could have been... if they weren't screwed by the network and were able to actually shoot more than one season. Sigh...
At least we've got the killer 8-disc ultimate edition DVD set, two script books, and a soundtrack. While Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" is clearly the best track on the album, "Lady L" is a great song from the show where Nick, a burnout character, declares his love in a not-so-subtle fashion for Lindsay, the geek-in-the-freak-crowd girl played by Linda Cardellini.
Anita Take: "Mos Me Harro"
unknown vinyl rip
One CD I've been listening to frequently as of late is a mix of Albanian folk music ripped from vinyl that I downloaded. Of the singers on this CD, one of them, Anita Take, has absolutely enchanted me. I headed to an Albanian CD store site and ordered one of her CDs. Unfortuantely, that was a month-and-a-half ago and I haven't received my order.
And their "customer support" hasn't responded to any of my e-mails. (Update: I finally heard back from them and my order never went through the system even though the payment did, so my CDs are on the way.)
So, for now, I have only this. But I share it with you, so you too can enjoy the wonder that is Anita Take.
A couple of great blog entries about hip-hop nerds and how even wack shit is going for mad coinage on ebay, as long as it's from between 1987 and 1991:
Let me be the first to say: I'm a hip-hop nerd, too. However, I don't necessarily try to cop a copy of everything on DJ Ivory's wishlist (though DJ Ivory's a cool cat and his two mixes of super-rare tunes from '88 are essential). I know I'd still kill for a copy of Maestro Fresh Wes' "Let Your Backbone Slide" 12", if it had the version that they used for his video (it can't be that hard to find) and recently I've been itching for the original release of the Beastie Boys' 12" that had "Beastie Groove" on it, even though the re-release would do me just as well. And I even find myself occasionally buying "random rap" just based on its label or its time period or because it might be rare... but that's when I'm searching in dollar bins or junk shops. I'm not shelling out $50 for a 12" I never plan on opening.
One thing that seems to have gotten lost among certain people in the "hip-hop nerd" category is the ability to look at a track and not think of its place in history or its rarity or how it breaks apart into a hundred different samples. It's OK to like something just because it's dope. Some of the albums I'd put in my top 25 are not ones that made a lasting impression on hip-hop. Some of them are really forgettable in the grand scheme of things. But when they came out, they caught my ear and got my head nodding. And, really, that's what's most important in the end. Everything else follows from that.
(Also posted over at Hip-Hop Blogs.)
I've dug OSTR (enough to put them on a mix CD), a dope Polish hip-hop group that seems to be an active part of the scene there. Today's feature is a freestyle I had on my hard drive that was recorded in August of last year, though I'm not quite sure where it came from. Enjoy it.
And if, by some strange twist of fate, you happen to know how to get in touch with OSTR, let me know.
Antonio Carlos Jobim: "Agua De Beber"
The Composer of Desafinado, Plays, 1963, Verve
Brazillian Jazz/Bossa Nova
This terribly catchy little Brazillian tune will stick with you for a while, kind of like "The Girl from Ipanema" does.
X-Clan: "A Day of Outrage, Operation Snatchback"
To the East, Blackwards, 1990, 4th & Bway/Island/PolyGram
Checkmate, sucka, not a move, game's over!