One hears the plucking of guitar strings and orchestral swirls, and Caetano Veloso’s voice is both light and grave. It’s fun to hear him sing Cobain’s “Come As You Are,” which was first recorded by the band Nirvana, and contains sharp contradictions, suggesting not confusion but an aware and complex mind. Veloso uses both a falsetto voice and a low, declamatory voice to interpret “Feelings,” making a song that had become a cabaret cliché sound like a genuine human expression.
When not practical, and even practicality has its deceptions, many people think in clichés, and even feel in clichés, and at their most rigorous they simply use one cliché to interrogate another, but in every generation, in every age, there are a few original people—and Streisand is original; and she often, if not always, has been fearless in art and politics.
While some of Ricky Martin’s songs refer to things that are important to many, such as love, friendship, and family, I would not say that the songs reveal their importance or addto the meaning of their importance. This—Ricky Martin’s Life—is a forcefully entertaining recording—rigorously planned and executed, and though performed with some charm and energy, I would not confuse that with spontaneity or deep sincerity.
I haven’t listened to jazz in the last several years as much as I used to, as I have been impatient to hear direct and explicit thoughts, though there’s an expansive feel to jazz that I miss: and Anthony Braxton, devoted to music, mathematics, and chess, is a legendary and legendarily complex figure, and he has been the subject of various critical studies, including Forces in Motion: The Music and Thoughts of Anthony Braxton by Graham Lock (Da Capo, 1988) and The Music of Anthony Braxton by Mike Heffley (Greenwood Publishing, 1996).
The Isley Brothers, featuring Ronnie, Rudy, and Marvin Isley, with support from Ernie Isley and Chris Jasper, recorded Brother, Brother, Brother, an album in which three of the eight songs were written by Carole King, whose record-breaking Tapestry album had man an impression on many performers of the time. Brother was released in 1972 by T-Neck, and re-released in 1997 by Sony. The collection, with notes by poet Nikki Giovanni about Cincinnati and Lincoln Heights (which she shared with the Isleys), contains “Work to Do,” a song written by the Isleys about the sacrifices (and understanding) required to accomplish a task, a song radio still plays. The Isleys give Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” a ten-minute workout: slowed-down, anguished, with mournful piano and screaming guitar.
Sinead O’Connor recalls the advice she received; revelation: “You must not try to be too pure./ You must fly closer to the sea.” On the more recent Throw Down Your Arms, there is a continuation: a collection of reggae songs, it is an affirmation of empathy with others and spiritual exploration, and her talent shows no diminishment; and I am drawn to “Downpressor Man,” a song of chastisement. Sinead O’Connor is one of the most significant talents to emerge in the last twenty years.
What really stands out though is the combination of the distinctive Gordon musical sound, the exceptional singers and the rich pathos of Hughes’ words. The music which is at once experimental and showtuney, innovative but accessible, has elements of Jazz,…