I’m so looking forward to this record. Besides the fact that it’s Dr. John, who I’m a huge fan of, he’s made some deeply political music here, speaking out about the social conditions in New Orleans and the other war going on in Iraq.
Dr. John and the Lower 911’s City That Care Forgot
Crucial, caustic postcards from New Orleans
by Larry Blumenfeld
“This record ain’t mad as it coulda been,” Dr. John told me recently, sitting in his Harlem office. Fan-pleasing funky grooves aside, City That Care Forgot seems angry enough—more a connected set of rants than a collection of songs. But it’s easy to underestimate the depth of outrage in New Orleans, the breadth of indignity and injustice endured in his beloved birthplace. Locals gave knowing nods and approving hollers when Dr. John tried out some of this material at this year’s Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Taken in full, these 13 tracks might incite more widespread outcry: He channels post-Katrina fury as capably as rappers like Juvenile have, and lays out relevant issues—local, national, and global—in ways that, say, Nancy Pelosi simply hasn’t. If elected leaders lack Dr. John’s political will, they also don’t have his magnetic drawl or the bristling power of his Lower 911 band. Plus, he’s built a strong coalition of the concerned here, including Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco, Terence Blanchard, and a number of local-hero New Orleans players.
“If ya wonder how we doin’/Short version is we gettin’ there,” Dr. John sings at one point, then changes up the lyric: “If ya wonder how we doin’/Short version is we gettin’ mad.” “Promises, Promises” sounds like a revival-tent version of “Down by the Riverside,” its sing-song refrain nonetheless cynical: “The road to the White House is paved with lies.” “Black Gold” takes on the oil-industry greed fueling everything from environmental catastrophe in the Gulf to endless war in Iraq. “Say Whut?” demands accountability for the botched Katrina response, and bites hard: “Say it’s a job well done/Then you giggled like a bitch/Hopped back on the Air Force One.” In “Dream Warrior,” Dr. John imagines himself as an avenging samurai “sleeping with my sword” and proffers a conspiracy theory: “Lemme explain/About the second battle of New Orleans/Not about the loss, not even the devastation/About it was done with intention.” Beneath this beats a bamboula rhythm, bedrock of local resistance music for centuries.
It’s not all national headlines, though. “My People Need a Second Line” is a pointed response to an ongoing culture war over the brass-band-led funeral processions that define New Orleans musical tradition. It specifically references a moment when 20 police cars converged in Tremé (the oldest black neighborhood in the city), and two musicians were led away in cuffs. Dr. John explains the meaning of the jazz funeral via a doleful melody; then a snare-drum snaps and the tempo speeds up, signaling the second-line. “It’s something spiritual/Ought to be kept out of politics,” he chants as trumpeter James Andrews and trombonist Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews—older and younger brothers of a storied Tremé lineage—play soaring variations on a hymn. Such songs, directed at us all, are dedicated to families like these.
Gore Vidal: Literary feuds, his ‘vicious’ mother and rumours of a secret love child
He slept with Kerouac, hung out with Jackie O and feuded with Mailer. He’s the last surviving giant of American literature’s golden age. So why is Gore Vidal still so sensitive about his reputation?
Seventeen years have passed, I remind Gore Vidal, since he told a reporter: “This is the last interview I shall ever give. I am in the departure lounge of life.” “So where are you now? Tray table in the upright position, footrest stowed, taxiing towards the runway?”
The writer gives me a mutinous look. “How do you know that I didn’t leave? Actually, I’m more fearful of airplanes than I am of my own mechanism, because I know how to run it.
I’ve had diabetes for 20 years. I have a titanium knee. Which is quite strong. But don’t ask for it in the middle of the night.”
With Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and Norman Mailer gone, Gore Vidal, 82, is the last truly legendary figure from a golden age of American literature.
In 2003, Al Green released “I Can’t Stop”, an album that marked his return to the great soul music, after many long years, that brought him so much success and world wide fame. That album was followed up two years later with “Everything’s OK” delivering some more of his classic soul sound.
With his new release “Lay It Down” the fine soul tradition continues but with some new twists this time around. For one thing, his long time recording partner and producer of countless classic albums, Willie Mitchell, did not participate in the making of this record. The Roots Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson co-produced it along with James Poyser and Al Green. Also, on this record Green has joined together with other artists in an interesting and at times compelling musical collaboration.
Top notch talent like Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, and Corrine Bailey Rae.
Many talented artists have succumbed to the star studded collaboration syndrome on their records resulting in very poor musical performances. But, when its done in the manner that it is, for example, in Santana’s “Supernatural” album or in “Lay It Down” the musical outcome is stellar. Especially on this album, it’s not overdone. It’s done just right.
To Al Green fans “Lay It Down” will sound very familiar. All the well known trademarks are there, the sweet soulful vocals and that amazing falsetto, unchanged and glorious as ever. The dual blasts of the horns and organs.
Among the highlights for me are the two songs that feature Anthony Hamilton, “Lay It Down” and “You’ve Got The Love I Need”. Also, “Standing In The Rain” and “Take Your Time” with Corinne Bailey Rae.
These are all truly marvelous songs and I would go as far to say that it is some of the best music that Al Green has ever made.
Despite the contemporary setting, at least on the surface, that went into the making of “Lay It Down”, the music has a resoundingly old school feeling. Released in 2008 this album would not be out of place at any time during the 1970’s.
It’ll be interesting to see which path AL Green will follow. Will he continue to make these type of records? I surely hope so, because with “Lay It Down”, his third soul album in a row, the winning streak continues.
FAIR Action Alert
Winter Soldier Blackout
Media still freezing out anti-war veterans
In March, dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars gathered in Maryland to offer their firsthand accounts of what they had seen-and in some cases done-in both war zones. The dramatic Winter Soldier hearings were well-covered in the alternative and independent media. But the corporate media mostly took a pass (FAIR Action Alert, 3/19/08)–a trend that continued when
Winter Soldier came to Capitol Hill.
The group that organized the first event, Iraq Veterans Against the War, was invited to Capitol Hill on May 15 to appear before the Congressional Progressive Caucus in an informal hearing. As before, the assembled veterans offered remarkable accounts of their war experiences. Given the proximity to the Beltway media elite and the fact that Congress was debating another round of funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might have thought it would be hard for the corporate media to ignore Winter Soldier a second time.
But ignore it they did, offering even less coverage of these hearings than of the March events. One notable exception was the PBS NewsHour, which aired a report on May 21 about Winter Soldier. But they were a lonely exception to the media rule, which seems to be that there is now a little space to talk about certain veterans’ issues-like post-traumatic stress and suicide rates-so long as you don’t hear from the vets themselves, or at least this particular group of outspoken anti-war veterans.
ACTION: Ask the network newscasts why they decided, once again, to ignore the Winter Soldier hearings.
ABC World News
Or use this link:
CBS Evening News
NBC Nightly News
“The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth. Far more important than a good remuneration is the pride of serving one’s neighbor. Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.”
– Ernesto Che Guevara