Hey, welcome to my "guide" to a few of my favorite rock and pop records. This isn't a definitive list, by any means, just some random comments about a few records that have stood out over the years, or that I've found the time to review.
This page covers the letter "D."
Bart Davenport "Bart Davenport" (Paris Caramel, 2002)
A pleasantly skillful, witty mish-mosh of pop styles by this unpretentiously urbane SF Bay Area scenester. Davenport visits the obvious lounge-y touchstones -- Bacharach, the whole '60s sunshine pop scene -- casting off dashes of '70s hard rock (ala Small Faces), melodic country and only the vaguest hints of trip-hoppish beats and jazz. It's a quick tour through practically all the styles you'd expect a self-respecting modern hipster to embrace; the winning factors here are the lighthearted playfulness and clever lyrical double entendres. Davenport betrays a wealth of pop knowledge with songs like "Sugar Pie," where he twists various classic metaphors into a compound sentence so complex that he finally just laughs and throws up his hands, crooning "I don't care/if you follow me or not..." just in case he'd lost anyone along the way. This album was recorded with a bunch of Davenport's pals, and has the casual charm of many of the best off-the-radar indie albums. I like it a lot... you might, too!
The Delmonas "Do The... Uncle Willy" (Get Hip, 2003)
At last! A CD reissue of this fab 1988 Delmonas LP, which was one of the first Billy Childish-related records I ever heard, and which helped usher me into an appreciation of thee whole Medway scene. The classic track here is "I Heard About Him," a song with a great chorus, a piercing guitar line and spooky vocals, and one that I've played on the radio so many times, it makes me blush to admit. The rest of the album is also pretty groovy, in a melodic, 'Sixties-styled garage-y kinda way. This disc doesn't follow the original album precisely -- there are some additional demo tracks, etc. -- but it's close enough for me. Recommended. (This disc can be ordered directly through the Get Hip label, which also has stuff by the Squares, and a zillion other great bands... Here's their website: http://www.gethip.com Tell 'em Joe sent ya.)
Bob Dylan "Bringing It All Back Home" (Columbia, 1965)
Yes, I do like Bob Dylan. Not all Bob Dylan, mind you, but I grew up with him as part of the aether around me, and dutifully checked out all his early albums when I was a kid. Certain albums really stand out and continue to attract me, lo, these many years later. Of his initial post-folkie releases, I find this one of the most enjoyable, because of its spaced-out, playful nonsensicality, and of course the live-wire accompaniment of his all-new rock band. Dylan's lyrics are glib and goofy, here he's willing to shed the growing air of profundity that was gathering around him at the time, and toss off a novelty tune or two... or three or four or more. I find songs like "Maggie's Farm" and "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" charming precisely because they are so lighthearted and fluffy, reminiscent of the adolescent abandon of early rockers like "Summertime Blues" or the Collins Kids "Hoy Hoy" -- a phase of simple revelry that the young Bob Dylan was required to skip in favor of more cerebral, serious Art, as the aura of Folk Prophet was laid on his shoulders. There are also some great "serious" songs, with darker tones to them, such as the trio that close the album -- "Gates Of Eden," "It's Alright Ma," and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" -- that show he had clearly not lost his edge among all the psychedelic folderol. (In fact, I would argue these songs are more scathing and perceptive than his earlier better-known political anthems... or at least more fun to listen to...) A great album, full of a vibrancy and spunk that some of his earlier folk material didn't consistently attain.
Bob Dylan "Blonde On Blonde" (Columbia, 1966)
This of course, is one of Dylan's great early masterpieces, originally a 2-LP set which had a pop-cultural impact on a par with the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's album. The songs are pretty densely crafted, in many cases impenetrable, and I have to confess I prefer the poppier, more accessible songs such as "Rainy Day Women," "I Want You" and "Memphis Blues Again," as well as the ballad-like "Just Like A Woman" (even though I know plenty of women who scorn it for it's sexist tone of patronization...) Yet even though the album as a whole is pretty inscrutiable, it's fun to listen to because of the loose-limbed, yet driving, backup of his Band, and in particular the sneaky piano and organ work of keyboardist Al Kooper. It's, um, recommended.
Bob Dylan "Blood On The Tracks" (Columbia, 1975)
Bob Dylan "Love And Theft" (Columbia, 2001)
Bob Dylan "Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue" (Columbia, 2002)
This is Dylan, arguably, at his freaky peak -- still young, intense, sincere, engaged, dynamic, musically expansive and emotionally emphatic, while also open to his audience and less guarded or elusive than in other incarnations. The Rolling Thunder tour had a shambling, sprawling, excessive vibrancy to it, spanning backwards to Dylan's strict folkie days (with several Joan Baez duets) and forward into the dense country-tinged rocker persona he still has today. This 2-CD set has plenty of surprises, such as a revealingly naked version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and countless wilder hippie-rock numbers. The accompanying DVD includes two performances taken from the film "Renaldo and Clara"; the generously thick booklet has lots of great photos of Dylan and cohorts such as Baez, Sam Shepard, Ronee Blakely, Mick Ronson and the other hotshot musicians in the Revue, as well as pictures of Allan Ginsburg and Dylan visiting Jack Kerouac's grave, and Dylan visiting the boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, whose death penalty conviction Dylan sought to publicize and overturn with the song "Hurricane." All in all, a great portrait of Dylan at his most fervent and relaxed... and with great sound quality, too! Easily holds up as an album, on a par with any of Dylan's early classics. Recommended!
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