This is her 18th album, and I’ve been on the Ani bus for a lot of awesome listening years. She’s always on point, and she’s always brilliant. This one’s another fine example that sounds great.
Alright, enough of me whining about being sick. I still feel like crap, but this is a music site, dammit. Let’s get to it.
Recorded live at Bull Moose Music, in Scarborough, ME on 2009-04-17, in celebration of Record Store Day. It was for radio broadcast, as well. It’s a short and sweet set, just Ani with Todd Sickafoose on bass.
There’s a short radio station intro, then Ani greets the crowd and goes into an excellent run-through of Alla This. Cool song (from Red Letter Year), as you all know already.
Breaking up the songs there are interview segments. First up is asking Ani about her association with Record Store Day. As a fiercely independent artist, it’s an easy question. Apparently Bull Moose Music was one of the first stores to carry her stuff, so there’s resonance there, too.
Then they play November 4, 2008.* Typically Ani, it’s politically charged and gorgeous to listen to… also quite interesting, given the current political dumpster fire in the US. So much hope in this song, and now…
Interview segment 2 asks her what she thinks of all the labels applied to her (she doesn’t think of them), and what makes a ‘red letter year’ for her (another softball question, you can imagine her answer). Then she discusses post-Katrina New Orleans, where she was living at the time.
Then she drops tuning and they “take us back a few years” to play Everest (from Up Up Up Up Up Up). Gorgeous.
Interview segment 3 she discusses what it’s like to tour with a baby, and when the new record (at the time) will be ready. Then they play one last song, Ani prefacing it by checking they were no longer on the radio, in case she needed to swear in the song…
Unworry is an excellent new tune, which appeared on the next album (2012’s ¿Which Side Are You On?). Hot damn.
Sonically, this EP is gorgeous. Actually pretty hard to believe it’s a live recording. The crowd must have been held rapt, so quiet while she played. The interview segments were fine (mercifully short and to the point), but it does break up the listening. Take all the talking out, and this is a 4-song EP.
I’m happy I got this (I try to collect as much Ani as I can!), and in the spirit of indie music, I got it fairly cheap too. If you come across it in the shoppes, buy with confidence!
NB: Tracks #4 (November 4, 2008) and #8 (Unworthy) were previously unreleased, at the time of this recording. The sleeve of the release does not indicate this.
NB: Wiki says this was limited edition, but I couldn’t find anywhere just how limited it was.
* The lyrics for November 4, 2008:
the victory was ours and you were the first to say it.
never known so many people donate time to a campaign.
and when you were elected there was a global wave of joy.
who knew a world gone mad could still go sane.
and we poured into the streets
and we danced and we cheered
and a neighborhood was a neighborhood
like it hadn’t been in years.
all eyes meeting were filled with tears
yes we prayed you were coming and then we saw you were here
you are black you are white you are red you are blue.
you are green you are orange with a purple and yellow hue.
you’ve risen like a phoenix from each flame that they threw.
you’ve been everything that we’ve asked of you
oh president Obama it’s an honor just to say it,
i used to hide my passport now i want to display it.
thank you for our democracy through you is resurrected,
thank you for our basic decency in you is reflected
thank you America for being more than i expected
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
president Obama you do not have to be perfect,
i trust that you are a public servant,
steady as Abraham Lincoln ready as Martin Luther King
is the spirit that you bring.
and we vow to uphold you through these tricky times.
keep you safe in our hearts and informed with our minds.
and we will uphold each other we won’t divide and attack
cause there’s no going back, no there’s no going back yes no going back
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
the victory was ours and you were the first to say it.
Well folks, here we come to the end of my scores at BMV, during my foray into the Taranna wilderness with Mike. Seems I can’t go to Taranna without getting me some more Ani (I’m a fan!). I couldn’t believe this DVD was only $3.99… Score!
The 5th Annual Toronto Expedition Series, Part 12 (CD)
Just Ani, a bass player, and the crowd. Sure, there’s some rehearsal footage, crowd shots, backstage stuff… some poorly fimed, some pro… whatever, it’s the performance that counts.
Of course, they nail it, musically. But there’s little interaction with the crowd, which was singing along so loudly it almost drowned her out. On the Render DVD, she mentions this – can’t hear herself think! Nice problem to have, but nuance does get lost.
Still a cool DVD.
From Righteous Babe:
Recorded Live at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC by Danny Clinch May 11 – 12, 2004.
1. Educated Guess
4. Coming Up
6. Tip Toe
10. God’s Country
12. You Each Time
13. Swan Dive
15. Angry Anymore
17. Little Plastic Castle
18. Grand Canyon
Here’s a little extra post about another Sonic Boom find from our trip to Toronto in June…
Ani DiFranco – Wish I May
I snapped up this 2-song promo single (for the great 1999 album To The Teeth) for a couple of bucks, because I’m a compulsive Ani buyer.
Wish I May is a funky wah-wah Ani swinger with incisive lyrics (of course!) and a reggae beat. Hello Birmingham is a musically-beautiful piano/guitar tune that starts out gentle and build a bit before gliding elegantly back to gentle. But the song is, as Wiki best put it, “a sad, angry response to the shooting murder of abortion doctor Barnett Slepian.” From the headlines to her albums.
There was nothing special or collectible about this single – it’s just a promo for Righteous Babe, and both of these tracks appear on the album. Still, I wasn’t gonna leave it there.
Here’s another total score from She Said Boom! on our most recent Toronto trip!
Ani DiFranco – Puddle Dive
Ah, Puddle Dive. I owned this CD when we lived in Montreal. As to what happened to that copy, I have no idea. Sold? Loaned out? Lost? Who knows. No matter, I’m happy to have it here again.
And what a record! It’s intimate, strong, political, brilliant. This is Ani in 1993, her fourth record in three years, still early days. But it’s also around the time she started branching out a bit more, adding instruments and growing as a songwriter (though it’d be pretty easy to believe she sprang fully-formed onto the scene with her first record)!
The guitar work is typical Ani (meaning intricate, percussive and excellent). The lyrics are about a little bit of everything, and she’s nailing it song after song. She has this ability to take ordinary things and make them poignant, and mix them with important messages that aren’t force-fed. Tunes like Blood In The Boardroom keep things edgy.
Highlight tracks you might know include Names, Dates, Place, the interesting My I.Q., and I’d fully recommend the excellently bluesy Back Around. But it’s hard to pick favourites, the rest of the tracks here are just as cool.
And to think, the fantastic Out Of Range was next. Whoa.
Puddle Dive. Greatness.
So, all of these other posts (and the theme change) were distractions in order to give me more time to get caught up on the other stuff I bought in Toronto on our most recent trip there (a couple weeks ago). I appreciate your patience! Now I’m moving on to the stuff I found at She Said Boom! on College St. So awesome. Let’s give ‘er!
Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips – Fellow Workers
More Ani DiFranco! Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be!
Three years after their (excellent) collaborative album called The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, here comes Utah and Ani with Fellow Workers. And guess what? Yeah that’s right, it’s super-awesome. You probably knew I was gonna say that.
Utah ranting away is always a brilliant proposition, he was a ranconteur par excellence (may he RIP). We’d all be lucky to hear more of him on a regular basis. Ani providing the backing music is the very same awesome, though she seems to let herself and the Mensabilly band (haha awesome name) stay in the background a bit more and let Utah shine. Good call (and I love Ani). We get Mother Jones (The Most Dangerous Woman!), Joe Hill, Herb Edwards, and Stupid while we get history lessons of things we likely didn’t learn in school. There are instrumental bits, tribal beats, old time revival tunes, Utah talking and singing, and a whole lot more. Even right down to the liner notes were written by Howard Zinn (The People’s History of the United States) and they’re great too.
This is an excellent package all around. I whole-heartedly recommend this record (and the one before it too). If you see it in the shops, buy with confidence!
To compliment my Ani review from yesterday, I do believe this is the last of my items from BMV during our most recent trip to Toronto. If I’m wrong about that, I will correct myself. Anyway, of course it’s another Ani record, because Ani. And not to fear, there’s still plenty to come, with my scores from other stores. Let’s give ‘er!
Ani DiFranco – Educated Guess
This is not your typical Ani album. It’s not just her great guitar work, or her fascinating lyrics. My first time through this one, I thought it was frickin’ weird. I mean, it sounds like Ani, no one else sounds like her. But it’s pretty out there. The silly baby voices, the far-stretching arrangements and wonky time signatures. And you still have the jazz inflections, the blues rumblings, the spoken-word poetry, the percussive guitar stabs…
I suppose, on one hand, one could think this was a sign of some sort of end for her, that she was going too far away from shore (and what we’ve known of her) to even be listenable. That couldn’t be more wrong. No, what’s on this record is fresh, supremely creative, and exactly what she wanted to do at that time. Every Ani record has been a product of all the building that came before it, and this is no different. We can like it or not, she’s too busy expressing herself. That’s Ani in 2004 following her vision, not regurgitating.
Ha, now you’ve read that and wondered what the hell is up with this record. Well, I’d say if you love Ani (and who doesn’t?), and you’re interested in different, absolutely pick this up. It’s taken me, distractable as I am, more than one listen to fall in love, but fall in love I did. This is not background music. You can’t just throw this on and semi-ignore it. This is in your face, forcing you to listen. In other words, it’s an Ani record.
I love that I can still be so woken up by a record. Full marks.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Toronto without at least a couple of Ani DiFranco albums for the collection. Here’s one I found at BMV on our most recent trip…
Ani DiFranco – Imperfectly
Ani’s third album, from 1992, is a gem. It’s so immediate-sounding, right there in your face and crystal clear. Her energy grabs you right from the opening guitar strums and, through acoustic folk and spoken word, she pulls the listener through a wide variety of thoughts and questions about life and people and the world that really make you sit up and listen. Politics, sexuality, existential queries… Haha wait, that’s every Ani album!
These early years are just solid gold. I don’t even need to go through this one song for song, I didn’t hear a track even approaching mediocre. A stand out track (among many), to me, is album opener What If No One’s Watching. Holy moly what a great song! Check out this little bit of the lines:
“we have to be able to criticize what we love
say what we have to say
’cause if you’re not trying to make something better
as far as I can tell
you’re just in the way”
Damn straight, Ani! See, this is what I love about her songs. They’re so strong musically, and then she just constantly hits you upside the head with these truths you feel you’ve known all along, putting them into words like few others can do. And that, friends, is the mark of a superlative artist.
During our trip to Toronto in May, I found a few other things for other people, even a Grail List item!, and that thrilled me as much as anything I may have found for myself. And after this, I’ll tell you about the free things I found, too. But here we have the final thing I bought for myself at Sonic Boom in Toronto in May. It was $2.99. Unreal. What were they thinking? Haha total score for me.
Ani DiFranco – Living In Clip*
I owned this years ago. I don’t know what happened to my first copy of it. Maybe it got loaned out. I wouldn’t have sold it off, I don’t think, but stranger things have happened… this is me we’re talking about, after all…
Over the time I owned it, I played this 2CD set many times. Even though I have not yet had the pleasure of attending an Ani show myself, to hear this is to feel like I have been there.
Not long ago, I reviewed So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (which I also bought in Toronto in May), and I think it would be unfair to compare the two. They’re different animals, different bands with her on stage. Both are great, and for different reasons. Recorded all over the place, these Living In Clip tracks are so good. They captured an incredible energy, it’s varied, and the song selections are just great.
You cannot go wrong here. If you like Ani, and you wanna hear her live in 1995/96, buy this.
CD1: Whatever / Wherever / Gravel / Willing To Fight / Shy / Joyful Girl / Hide And Seek / Napoleon / I’m No Heroine / Amazing Grace / Anticipate / Tiptoe / Sorry I Am / The Slant/The Diner / 32 Flavours / Out Of Range
CD2: Untouchable Face / Shameless / Distracted / Adam And Eve / Fire Door / Both Hands / Out of Habit / Every State Line / Not So Soft / Travel Tips / Wrong With Me / In And Out / We’re All Gonna Blow / Letter to A John / Overlap
Wow! Highlights for me include the fantastic version of Fire Door (recorded in Worcester, Mass.), and the versions of Amazing Grace and Both Hands with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, which I take as a companion pieces to the symphony version of Joyful Girl I told you about on the More Joy, Less Shame EP a little while ago. Nice one!
* From the liner notes:
“POWER: rate of energy flow generated by an acoustical or electrical system.
POWER AMP: a machine which converts sonic energy into an electrical current of sufficient amplitude to effectively drive speakers.
CLIPPING AN AMP: overloading an amplifier with a sonic signal that exceeds the machine’s power capacity, resulting in a terrifying snapping sound and the illumination of a tiny red warning light on the face of the amp indicating that it is about to blow.
as in: “the stage amps are, like, living in clip, man.” (-Larry I. Berger, PA Tech, tour ’96).”
Here’s another treasure that I neglected to mention when I was giving a run-down of all the goodies I found at BMV during our trip to Toronto in May. I simply forgot it, despite being in the middle of reading it, because it’s a book and those take me longer to digest than does an album.
Ani DiFranco – Verses
In truth, I didn’t even know that this book existed, but it’s a beautiful hard cover edition, published in 2007 via Seven Stories and Ani’s own Righteous Babe Records.
The poetry here is exciting, inciteful, and gorgeous (you knew it would be), and that’s because most of it is her song lyrics. But there are a few new pieces here that haven’t (yet, to my knowledge) been turned into songs, and those are great too. Mixed into the pages like some sort of bonus round gift are a series of paintings. I can’t find credits for anyone else in the book, so I have to assume they’re all Ani’s. The reproductions are on the small side, despite having pages to themselves, so it’s hard to really appreciate them. But I’m absolutely in love with the painting of the swimmer on page 50. Gorgeous.
Anyway, I am a poetry fan (I own many books on and of the subject) and I am an Ani fan (as you’ll have guessed by now) so this book was a no-brainer purchase as soon as I saw it on the shelf. I’m glad it’s here. It’s lovely, and it’s something I could easily pull from the shelf and flip through many times, always finding something new and invigorating with each visit. My first read through told me that repeat visits will be a must.
A feast for the eyes and brain. So very well done.
I don’t know if we can trust WP’s counting on these things, but it says this is the KMA’s 1500th post. Thanks for reading, everybody!
Here’s another score from the awesome Sonic Boom in Toronto. This one was also $2.99 which tells me someone is drastically underpricing these. Not that I’m complaining!
Ani DiFranco – Knuckle Down
I know, it seems endless, I’m always finding Ani albums and I’m always saying “THIS IS AWESOME!” but that’s because it’s completely frickin’ true.
It’s gotta be pretty damn rare to find an artist that has consistently cranked out awesome albums with the incredible prolific rate that Ani has done it. Has she ever missed? I don’t think so. I haven’t heard them all, but I’ve heard most and they’re all gold.
Knuckle Down is gorgeous. Her voice, her playing, the band… all stellar. She’s a killer guitar player and songwriter, poet and storyteller. She’s real, she’s in your face but it’s all done with love. And her band is right there, covering the bases and backing her with total aplomb.
Seriously, I could go through this song by song but why? All you need to know is it’s brilliant because it’s Ani and therefore smart, beautiful and totally classic.
Here’s the third (and final) CD that I found at She Said Boom! in Taranna on our trip there in May…
Ani DiFranco – So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (2CD)
This live set kicks so much ass. The brilliance of Ani and her band of merry music makers is flying on high form throughout, and the recording itself sounds so rich and full. It may even sound better here than it did at the shows themselves! Ha probably not, because I can only imagine how much fun a show of hers would be to attend. And no, I have not ever had the pleasure of seeing her live – we had one opportunity when we lived in Montreal (1999-2001), but I recall that tickets were really ridiculously pricey, like we wondered what they were thinking, and we balked. Shame that, because it would have been great. Ah well.
I love how human this whole thing sounds. Silly to say? Not really, when you consider that most live albums don’t have this level of never knowing what’s going to happen next, the creative energy and little moments that stray from the originals but still totaly work. And Ani’s songs are more like storytelling anyway, so the whole thing feels like some sort of document of an instant that needs to be captured before it morphs again. Fortunately, this set does just that!
One of my favourite additions to the songs here is the horn section. Of course, you knew I was gonna say that (I always cheer for the horn section). But their jazzy lines here bring the tunes to a new level. The piano too, and Ani’s guitar… ah hell, you knew it was a shoo-in that I was gonna love this.
I was reading online where some people were questioning the need for another 2CD live set in 2002 when she’d already released the seminal (seriously, everyone needs it) Living In Clip 2CD live set in 1997. Um, hello? 5 years is a long time, especially given that Ani is so prolific, not to mention (seemingly) always changing her sound/song approaches and band configuration/combinations… hell, she could put out a 2CD live every year. I’d buy ’em and it would all be awesome.
If you see this one in your travels, get it. It’ll blow your mind.
CD1: Swan Dive / Letter To A John/Tamburitza Lingua / Grey / Cradle & All / Whatall Is Nice / What How When Where / To The Teeth / Revelling / Napoleon / Shrug / Welcome To:
CD2: ‘Comes A Time / Ain’t That The Way / Dilate / Gratitude / Rock Paper Scissors / 32 Flavours / Loom/Pulse / Not A Pretty Girl / Self Evident / Reckoning / My I.Q. / Jukebox // You Had Time
Here’s the second CD that I found at She Said Boom! during our trip to Taranna in May…
Ani Di Franco – More Joy, Less Shame
I paid $1.99 for this 6-song EP. It’s an interesting expedition of listening. The original Joyful Girl, from the brilliant Dilate album, is a classic insightful/inciteful, deceptively simple-sounding Ani track, and a fan favourite enough to have made it onto the Canon hits set. Anyway, you probably already know all about this tune and we can leave it at that.
This More Joy, Less Shame EP collects four other versions of Joyful Girl:
1) the Danger and Uncertainty Mix adds a swingin’ drum track, rumbling bass stabs, and a room/echo effect on the vocals. Then the odd effects/scratching kick in, and backing choral ahhhh vocals.
2) the Peace And Love Mix keeps the drums, bass, effects of track 1), but brings the vocals back to the simple fore.
3) the Peace And Love Extended Mix adds 1:46 to track 2). Near as I can tell, none of it was different, just more of the same. I sort of skipped parts of it, coming on the heels of the same thing in the track before…
4) Live With The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is the best version here, because it’s so close to the original track, but done in a gigantic room somewhere. The plucked violin or cello (?confirm) is a neat touch. I’m glad when the orchestra kicks in with the horns, because they must have taken the crowd noise right out, except for some person talking while she’s singing – that’s right, you concert-talking asshole, you’re on the tape! You should just stay home if all you’re gonna do is yap the whole time. Anyway, it gives the whole thing the feel of being a sound check run-through.
There are two other songs here, including:
5) Shameless (Bathtub Mix) takes the original Shameless (also from Dilate) and gives Ani a baby-ish voice, while taking the cool hook pieces and trying to funk up the original brilliance of the tune. And again with the scratching, in a couple of places. It sort of succeeds but I’ve heard the original so many times, I find this one jarring. Meanwhile,
6) Both Hands (Live In Austin, TX) is a true live track, recorded with that immediate feel that lets you be right there. Of course, this a live version of the opening track from Ani’s debut 1990 album, so it’s just as it needs to be. Best track here, honestly!
I’m glad I have this, but I wouldn’t call this essential except to completist Ani collectors. It is interesting to hear the different versions, I got the sense I’d been let into the studio listening session while they were trying to pick the album version. And, in the case of both Joyful Girl and Shameless, they definitely chose the right versions. The live version of Both Hands is the icing on the cake.
Ani DiFranco – Out Of Range
Because record shopping in Taranna is awesome, I almost always find a couple of Ani albums I didn’t yet own. One day, of course, this blissful project will end when I finally get them all (that’s my goal!). But because she has released so many albums over the years, I may yet be a while before I get to that point.
Because Ani is awesome, this record is so very excellent. She knocks it out of the park every time. I could go through every song, like album opener Bridges And Buildings, or both the acoustic and electric versions of the title track, or Falling Is Like This, or Face Up And Sing, or You Had Time, or… Nevermind, the whole thing is cool.
Have a look at the comments about it on Amazon, people are describing it as “one of my favourite albums of all time,” and even more descriptive, “while no two songs sound the same, the album is more like a folk symphony.” At her best (which is almost always), Ani’s clarity of thought and lyrics acts as a gateway for you to enter your own way of looking at things.
She does have detractors, like ‘A Customer’ (who couldn’t even use a better fake name, let alone a real one), who said “However…it only reinforced, in my mind, the kind of militant feminism that has made Ani so popular, and, to my mind, so irritating. It’s as though she believes that every man in the world is an abusive, wife-beating, child molester, and that all women are inherently spunky, sweet creatures who need to find their own fire. Perhaps the reason I dislike her so much is that I found my own a long time ago.”
Completely missing, of course, the point that she isn’t saying that every man is like that, but the power of her writing and its immediate evocative ability can cause an interpretation for such strong reaction. I’m glad A Customer found their (her? his?) own fire ‘a long time ago.’ But in making her songs, Ani isn’t just speaking to you alone, it’s to everyone, and the next person who hears it will hear it differently. Ain’t intepretation of art, and life in general, grand?
It saddens me that I found this one in the 3-for-$10 at BMV, because it’s worth much more. Good thing I rescued it, then!
This is yet another thoughtful, strong (and therefore typical) Ani album. Enjoy as you see fit!
Ani DiFranco – Shy
I picked up this 1995 promotional-only single at BMV on my recent Taranna trip (for $1.99). Both tracks are from the incredible Not A Pretty Girl album (in their studio versions).
First up is Shy, the album version (and a single). It’s another great Ani story-song with one of those awesome slinky Ani guitar riffs. “The heat is so great… ” indeed.
Next is 32 Flavours, recorded live at the Moore Theater, Seattle, WA 1995-11-03.* I’m sure you’ve heard this song before, and this live version is superb. It’s quite a bit more stripped back from the studio track, but it retains all of its power.
Really, I paid $2 for one song, here, as I already have the Shy album track. But I really don’t care. Ani rules, and I’d never seen this single before, in my travels, so it was a natural for me to grab it up.
* Wiki says this live track appeared on “some versions” of the Not A Pretty Girl album. A quick Discogs search shows it appearing on the 1998 Japanese release (very expensive!) and the 2011 RM release. Anyway, it’s not on my old CD copy of the album, so I’m glad I’ve got it now.
Happy Victoria Day Weekend
I didn’t have a post prepared for today, then we had people stay over last night and into today and it was a bit of a party, so…
But I did I discover that one of the CDs I bought in Taranna recently, from the 3-for-$10 bin at BMV was Ani DiFranco’s excellent album Red Letter Year. And how do I know it’s excellent? Because I already owned it! Heck, I even wrote one of my brevity blurbs about it, back in January.
Ah well. I gave the CD to a visiting friend, she’ll give it a good home.
As for why I didn’t have a post ready for you this morning? I have a pretty damned good Scottish reason…
Ani DiFranco – Not So Soft*
Second record, definitely early days, and its a classic. This record, like all others, is a real guitar showcase for her, and all the gentle, awesome tunes here add up to a superlative album of song s you cannot live without hearing. Not so soft? You got that right!
Ani DiFranco – Red Letter Year*
Right from the trippy drift-off intro track we’re well into another record of very adventurous and great full-band tracks that prove this incredible artist just keeps growing. You know her sound, you know what’s here… I always loved just her guitar but these tracks with a full band are excellent. What an album! This is great highway roadtrip music, for sure.
Ani DiFranco – Which Side Are You On?*
All gorgeous, full band beauty. These are almost theatrical tunes, with great sections of syncopation. A banjo into an electric (still old feel) and that’s only the first three tracks! Ani just keeps getting better and better, and she was fucking brilliant to start with…
Rheostatics – 2067*
I’m not even sure if I know how to write-up a genius Rheos record like this without screwing it up. How does one put words on everything contained herein? We all love the Rheos, right? So… All I’ll say is that this is fucking brilliant and you’ve gotta get this!
Julie Doiron – Woke Myself Up*
I love Julie Doiron’s music. With Eric’s Trip, all the solo and side stuff… so, my bias will show. From the opener’s great bounce rock, the acoustic and drums of the second track, the guitar waltz of track three, the gentle her and guitar of track four that builds into a full band mover, and the gorgeous acoustic/voice of track five… and so on and so on and so on… YES. Julie Doiron. Love love love.
* Bought on last year’s trip to Toronto with Mike.
Jian Ghomeshi, Pt. 6
It has been a while since we updated on this case, so here is some recent news of note from the last couple of months (in reverse chronological order, meaning most recent at the top, of course):
1) Ghomeshi now faces three new charges of sex assault, bring the total to six women. He is out on bail and his next court date is February 4.
2) It was announced that two high-level CBC executives were put on immediate leave in the wake of the scandal.
3) His publicist fought publication of a planned Toronto Life story about his love life.
4) CBC is removing (almost all) of Ghomeshi’s interviews from their online content “for now.”
Ani Difranco – Reprieve*
I fell in love with this record. I hear a lot of Ani, and this one was just completely arresting. Yes, it’s a bit dark, with hurricane Katrina on its mind, but all the emotional, political, cultural and personal insight is fully intact. If you buy one Ani album this week, make it this one. Amazing!
Ani Difranco – Not A Pretty Girl*
This, her fourth album, straddles her early days acoustic poetry slammings and her more experimental later stuff. Songs like Worthy and 32 Flavors are well known, where something like The Million You Never Made (among all the others), or Tiptoe, with its incredible intro, are other hits you need to hear. This is gritty, real, and fantastic.
Bif Naked – I Bificus
This is one I always knew about, and of course I had heard songs like Moment Of Weakness and Chotee, which I’m sure you’ll know as well. To step back and look at the album as a whole I recognize it as a very vital, energetic, excellent rock record chock full of great songs, while Lucky and Any Day Now offer some rest from the loud and fast. But all of it demands your attention, as you spin through. Very excellent record.
My copy has Boomtang Boys Mixes of Spaceman and Lucky tacked onto the end, which I thought totally sucked. I hate dance mixes, even on songs where it isn’t so much of a stretch (Spaceman). Blech. Completely skippable.
Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin^
Holiday always had a knack for conveying sadness and pain with such beauty so this, recorded not very long before her death and with her voice cracking and fragile and yet still so damn arresting, is unquestionably required listening for any and all of you who don’t yet own it. The production is so clear that, in the good headphones, it sounds like she’s right here in front of me. Absolutely mind-blowing. ESSENTIAL.
* Purchased during last year’s trip to Toronto with Mike!
^ Mine is a CD remaster of this 1958 classic.
Platinum Blonde – No Regrets b/w Hey Hey You (7”)
Last September, my lovely wife and I got away for a couple of days for our wedding anniversary. Sharp-memoried KMA readers will recall we went to Mike’s town and saw Big Rude Jake play a fantastic set in a pub. While in town, we went to Orange Monkey Records, and the man there played me a these Platinum Blonde tracks, as we’d been talking about them (their CDs are on my Grail list – see top of page for everyone’s lists!). I love d the tracks straight away. The 7” is hard to find, he said.
Time passed, it’s now January. I recalled hearing those songs, wanted them again. Found them on the Youtubes, they’re still fantastic! I sent it to a few friends, and so far responses are positive! Of course, the search is still on for the 7”. I found one online, $10, not bad. But it’s a UK seller and shipping is same as buying the thing. $20 for one 7”… I dunno, it is rare, though… Anyway, point being if you’re reading this and haven’t yet heard these tracks, hie thee to the Tubes Of You (if not buy the 7″!) and check them out. They’re great fun!
Roots – The Tipping Point*
A needle hits vinyl and we’re in. A delicious record from one of rap’s premier acts. It isn’t in a hurry, but it flows like nobody’s business. It’s smooth, funky, a record where a real 70s feel can flow into spy theme music and then into a sweet soul jam with ease, and an old school speed rap like Boom! makes sense in the picture too. I read complaints about it being bland, commercial, too short, lacking an overall vision… fools. This is The Roots. They do what they do, and never once have they disappointed.
Roots – How I Got Over*
The Roots roll back with another sweet soul excursion, each track proving they are inventive and superlative players. I really felt this one, the songs going deep into all the threads that make up life, love, and everything. Lots of guest stars here, including Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom, John Legend and so on. This was so good, I played the thing twice in a row!
Ani DiFranco – Swing Set EP*
EP for the track from To The Teeth (1999). Love the funky jazzy sax of Swing (Radio Set). It’s there on the album version too. Next is To The Teeth (Shoot Out Remix), gunshot noises leading into a version with drums and funky effects on the guitar. Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi (live) is next and it’s brilliant (as you can imagine it would be). When I’m Gone is a gorgeous late-night contemplative track with great guitar. And finally it’s Ani’s cover of the classic Bob Dylan song about Hurricane Carter. I think I paid $0.99. Shame, it’s worth a ton more.
Ani DiFranco – Like I Said: Songs 1990-91*
Collecting tracks from her first two records, this is a mindblowing compilation of brilliance. More remarkable, since we basically expect excellence from her now, is that this early period was when her future wasn’t so ensured. Of course, going back knowing what we know we can say ‘of course it was,’ but when she boldly struck out, it was hard work, fearless intelligence, talent and her own wits and determination against the world. I can’t recommend this disc enough.
* Bought during last year’s trip to Toronto with Mike.
The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
I got this CD for $5 brand new, and have enjoyed it several times already. This trip through was no different. I was surprised, then, that it’s really just a re-editing of the Rock Of Ages set (which I don’t own = oversiiiiight!). If this is true, this disc is just a cash-grab by the label. At least, that’s what the internets told me, and we all trust everything the internets has to say! But do I care, really? Nope (or at least not until I get RoA!). The music here is great (I loved the trumpets in the title track!), and the song selection and sound quality is excellent. Perfectly fine for my $5.
Barstool Prophets – Crank
Here’s a blast from the mid-90s. I was surprised to find this one still in my collection, honestly. I know for sure I would have kept it for Little Death (Oh Mary Mary), such a cool song, but the rest of this CD turned out to be quite tight, highly enjoyable rock music. It has very big sound, and the songs are very well-done. This was a great find, I really enjoyed hearing it again. I played this one a lot, in the mid-90s, so it’s rediscovering an old friend, for me now!
Ani Difranco & Utah Phillips – The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere*
Can I even begin to express how cool this CD is? And lucky thing, too, because this sort of thing could equally have gone into suckage territory – pairing music with old tapes of an old man speaking? Dicey! But this is Ani we’re talking about, and she has yet do anything even mediocre. And Phillips seems the right mix of ornery and intelligent to be a remarkable storyteller. Even the looping of his voice is OK, as it drives points home. So many great quotes here, like “…the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked!’ There’s plenty here that’s heartfelt, poignant and, yes, wrenching too, as you get pulled effortlessly along. The music is fanastic (of course). The whole thing is a clear-eyed and brilliant master stroke. I can’t recommend this enough.
* Purchased during the 2014 trip to Toronto with Mike. There’s a second volume to this collaboration, called Fellow Workers. I do not own it currently, but listening back to this one again made me want it!
Found in Toronto recently on my annual trip to the city with Mike. It was in the 3 For $10 bin. Ani has become a go-to must-buy artist for me on these trips to the city. A Tradition, of sorts.
Quite honestly, I wish I had been hip to Ani way earlier, but this is probably my jumping-in point with her catalogue, hearing Untouchable Face on a CMJ sampler CD. Over the years I’ve owned, sold off (needing cash), and re-bought most (if not all) of her records. Whenever I’m in a period where I don’t have any of her stuff in the house, I immediately go get me some. I should just keep the damn things…
… because they are so damn GOOD! This lady makes knock-out records like you make… well, most people don’t ever do anything this cool. But she keeps cranking out these excellent records, and all on her own label with her own resources and smarts. She’s not just a star, she’s an idol. Someone for us all to look up to as a paragon of wit, energy, talent, independent strength and getting it done!
Another thing to love is her guitar work, as always, and it shines here on each of these songs. Untouchable Face has so much vitriol in a pretty song it’s awesome. Napoleon soars, Shameless’ guitar and lyrics are just stellar. Oh, and then there’s Outta Me, Onto You, Superhero, Dilate, Amazing Grace, Done Wrong, Going Down, Adam & Eve and Joyful Girl. All brilliant. All of them. Seriously.
Find out what Mike thought of the Ani Difranco album Little Plastic Castle right HERE!
Mike’s still branching out and away from his safe, known, hard rawk happy place by reviewing some of the stuff I bought for myself in Toronto last October. It’s healthy for Mike, and he’s lucky I sent him the stuff in the first place. 😉
The thing with Ani is that no matter what she does, there’s always gonna be somebody who says she should have done something differently. She’s not angry enough. She’s not like she used to be. She’s gone off in some (insert criticism here) wrong direction. The music’s not melodic enough. It’s too SOMETHING, either way. Another big one is that she’s had incredible success with her own label, boldly avoiding the majors, so she must be Up To Something. Well you know what, she IS up to something. She’s making great records, on her own terms, and it’s clear she’s having a blast.
I should note, for the sake of you reading this, that I have owned and/or at least heard all of her albums, over the years. I didn’t own them all when they came out, I didn’t hear them in order, and I don’t own them all now (I wish I did). But I am a fan of hers, and am always happy to spin one of her discs.
So for all that, I can say that Little Plastic Castle is fairly typical Ani for this period of her career. It’s slick, it’s accessible, and it’s still edgy enough to make even the old-school hardcore Ani fans nod knowingly. By 1998, Ani had definitely changed, and grown, from the young woman who burst out of the gates as a superlative creative artist. And what a guitar player! So cool. By the time of this, her 8th record, she was established and seasoned and still just as capable of anything. And she was riding high on Living In Clip, a brilliant live record. The future was limitless. Wiki reminded me that the song Glass House was even nominated for a Grammy!
Wrapped in excellent and controlled music, and with lyrical blasts of an intelligence and capability many artists would kill for, this record contains moments of angry, hopeful, silly, thoughtful, adventurous, powerful and beautiful. In other words, it’s Ani. She’s not afraid to explore. She’s not afraid to laugh. She’s not afraid of, well, anything. She is just full-on.
I don’t really have favourite songs from this record, ones that I skip to or play more often. I tend to just let it play. If that sounds like a cop-out to you, from a review or write-up perspective, I can live with that. I don’t have a need to go through this, song for song. It’s all good. I’d recommend it (and the excellent 2-CD collection called Canon), if you’re looking to give her a try and can find a reasonably-priced copy. You’ll love it.
Cool aside: One of the drummers on this record, Andy Stochkansky, enjoyed a solo career that had some success (and should have had more). We got to see him perform in Saskatoon, at Louis’, but at first I couldn’t remember when or with whom. So I emailed James, who was also at this show, and of course he had a note of it. We saw Stochansky as an opening act for Emm Gryner, on 2002-10-23. He put on a really cool show. This would have been around the time of Five Star Motel, and the song of his that you probably know, Wonderful (It’s Superman). I remember our buddy Rowan chatting with him, as he came out into the crowd after his set. But I don’t recall what they talked about. Knowing Rowan, it could have been anything (poor Andy!). James also noted that Emm Gryner looked pretty damn hot in that dress she had on, for her portion of the show. True, true. Anyway. This isn’t much to do with Ani, anymore, so I’ll stop.