It may be important now to recall that William Blake not only saw the poverty in British society, but that he died poor. Martha Redbone has found an author who belongs to the canon and whose work signifies in lives today; and music such as this helps a culture to live a little longer, transmitting subject and sound, experience and values.
The repetition is intended to drive the lyrics into the brain, but the simplicity of the lyrics—as in “What’s Your Feeling”—can find a place there but they are not significantly resonant. They distract momentarily—like youthful engagement in a nightclub: just enough engagement to make a friend or find a lover, and get one into trouble.
Emotion is ground and sky for artists, but artists can forget that their emotions do not have the same firmness as stone, and the human world is a harder place; and while artists, soft of flesh and sometimes soft in the head, go about chasing their passionate visions, the world is making plans both to exploit their work and to live without them. Greatness elevates, but it is not protection.
Cassandra Wilson has explored a lot of experiences, a lot of music, and that is testament to her curiosity, imagination, and intellect; and her album Another Country, created in collaboration with Fabrizio Sotti, has an elegance that is thoughtful and timeless.
His work transcended the cultural barriers of the time. In “Wonderful, Wonderful,” the verses seem to have an Asian, specifically Chinese, rhythm, although the refrain is exultantly western. It is amusing to be reminded of how cultures are always gesturing across borders, and even oceans.
It has a rampaging rhythm that is both artificial and dominating. Yet, in a masterful composition about separation from a lover and loneliness, “Climax,” Usher uses a beautiful falsetto voice that defies the clichés of masculinity and ugliness dominant in much contemporary music. That song is a work of excellence.
The quality of Ablaye Cissoko’s voice is at once light and wise, with a timeless sensitivity, and the soft rhythm of his singing in “Amanké Dionti” sounds like the invocation of a ritual amid a bare, dusty landscape, though one imagines that now such music can be made in a teeming city, the music merely the remnant of an older civilization.
Frank Ocean moves from high life to low life. “I ain’t been touched in a while,” claims the singer-songwriter’s narrator in “Pilot Jones,” and its continuing lyrics point to alienation, slovenliness, and addiction as part of the atmosphere. It is free lyric association regarding an indulgent state that seems more troubled than liberated. FrankOcean, through language, through the texture of music, has found a way to suggest how deep, how mundane, and how overwhelming experience can be.
His Rite of Spring remains central; and its forceful jazz interpretation, arranged by Darryl Brenzel, and performed in Baltimore in 2010 at the Metro Gallery by the Mobtown Modern Big Band, is controlled, offering a shimmery, sizzling sound, with varied pacing that sustains attention.
There is a droning kind of chanting, earthy, intimate, intense. The songs are dedicated to particular times—such as morning and midnight, with prayers for “everybody.” The chants with both male and female voices have a greater appeal than those with only male voices—there is more complexity, and clearly more community.