So, where ya been, Scotto?
I've been taking a little hiatus for the last month or so. Unlike the one I took last summer, there's no crisis or breakdown behind this one, I'm not frustrated or bored or angry at music or my ability to write about it. I spent January and February devoting a bit more time to a promise I made myself regarding other projects. But that didn't stop awesome music from coming out or being available in the back catalog. So part of what I was doing, between pushing fictional characters around in Word documents, is trying to come up with a way I could do this site regularly and not utterly drain myself every time I open up a New Post tab. Although I'm still not sure how it's gonna turn out, I'm gonna workshop some kind of possible new format that involves me just freestyling about stuff I've been listening to, what's out now or what old music I finally got around to. So basically... this site, still.
Just yesterday saw the release of the new David Bowie album, The Next Day, which you absolutely should be buying right now, if you haven't already. Back in January we we got a glimpse into this thing with the advance single, "Where Are We Now?" which was gorgeous and exceptional and both new and classic at once -- the rest of the album delivers on that promise. I think the great thing about Bowie releasing an album in 2013 is that we are now in a time when new work by old artists is very highly valued. Bowie was a working artist all through the 90's and up to the early 2000s and his new releases were, despite good marks from critics, received lukewarmly. Allmusic aptly describes him as being "taken for granted" during this period, as audiences maybe grew weary trying to suss out what his current "thing" at any time was. As someone who made his bones as an innovator, seeming to fall behind the pack was death, even as he was making good music ("I'm Afraid of Americans" rocks.) I remember when I was in high school and his last new albums were coming out, either Heathen or Reality, and the public response was basically "Oh, a new Bowie album? It's not Ziggy Stardust, it's not Heroes, it's not Let's Dance... so whatever." Then again I was 15 and not particularly paying attention so maybe I don't know for sure.
But in 2013, after a decade of absence, David's audience can be less self-conscious about being eager to receive him and appreciate what he does. At this point his "thing" can basically just be "Being David Bowie," whatever that may mean. I'll leave to Bowie scholars to pinpoint periods of reference: "This from Heroes, that from Station to Station, a bit of Hunky Dory and then Scary Monsters..." I don't really think like that, but some do and that's cool. But it sounds like Bowie and even better, it sounds vital. There's an audience for it, I daresay a huge one. There's an entire generation of folks like me who have now grown up voraciously absorbing music that was recorded before we were born. If you didn't buy any of those 90s Bowie albums, pick this one up anyway.
Also released last week was the third and, I think final, "new" Jimi Hendrix album. For those curious, as I was, it turns out that before he died he was working on a huge, huge project, and recorded maybe three LPs worth or more of material with his Band of Gypsys, but then it was caught up in legal disputes after his death, and released in inferior formats over the years. The previous two released were First Rays of the New Rising Sun and Valleys of Neptune. This one, People Hell & Angels, feels more gritty and human, than say, if your idea of Hendrix is "Purple Haze" or "Voodoo Chile." There are horns and backup vocals and things that didn't seem synonymous with Hendrix's traditional canon. Most importantly though, these are full-bodied, lush recordings, not rough sketches, demos or outtakes left off earlier albums due to inferior quality. These sound like they were either ready for release in 1970, or not far off and touched up very well. Considering that for 40 years his library has consisted of three albums, I think people should be very into this "new" Hendrix, I believe the last there will ever be. Considering I just recently promoted the Gary Clark Jr. album by saying "If you can't have new Hendrix you can at least have this," I would feel silly not putting my stamp of approval on this one.