1. After Midnight: Kean Kean College 2/28/80
Artist: the Jerry Garcia Band
Day 2 and already the second “Dead related” album. “After Midnight” is a complete Jerry Garcia Band show taken from the late winter ’80 tour that lumbers over 3 discs. Overall it was a very weak gig hurt by slow, almost dirge-like arrangements of Garcia-Hunter penned ballads and classic rock songs. In 1980, the Garcia Band was a drums, bass, keyboards & guitar 4 piece. The drums and bass are excellent with an almost Motown groove on the rare occasions when the band gets it going. The keyboards, unfortunately, are awful. Very cheesy synth sounds and slow Garcia ballads don’t mix well. The only real highlight was a bouncy jamming segment comprising most of disc 2 that started with J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight,” segued into a fluid and emotive instrumental cover of “Elanor Rigby” and grooved back in to “After Midnight.” At the show, the After Midnight–>Elanor Rigby–>After Midnight probably made up for an otherwise uninspired evening. I’m not really sure why the Garcia Estate decided to release 2/28/80. There must have been stronger shows from that tour.
2. After the Goldrush
Artist: Neil Young
One of my favorite albums, “After the Goldrush” has a little bit of everything: a great guitar workout with Crazyhorse (Southern Man), tender ballads (Birds, Don’t Let It Bring You Down), serious 70s comedown politics (After the Goldrush) and a bizzare 1:30 song about a ferry (Cripple Creek Ferry). If I had 1 album to explain what Neil Young is all about to a Martian musicologist, I would choose “After the Goldrush.”
3. After You’ve Been Gone: The Original Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet Recordings
Benny Goodman is known primarily as a big band swing bandleader. I’ve never been a big fan of swing because it’s way too structured and formulaic for me. Goodman’s Trio and Quartet recordings have an intimate and personal sound that I find more expressive than “It Don’t Mean a Thing…” Historically speaking, the most important aspect of “After You’ve Been Gone” is that it’s the first integrated Jazz recording. This is not something I would have listened to without the Listening Project, but it was very enjoyable on the whole.
4. Agaetis Byrjun
Artist: Sigur Ros
I had a long chat with a friend on G Chat about the Listening Project yesterday. When I told him that “Agaetis Byrjun” was slated for Day 2 he said something like: “Nobody should ever have to listen to a Sigur Ros album all-the-way through.” I like Sigur Ros, but like a good French meal, I find that a palate cleansing Sherbet or 3 is usually needed to digest an entire album. “Agaetis Byrjun” shared 1 thing in common with “After Midnight:” they were both very, very slow. I think most people describe Sigur Ros as beautiful or elegiac or something along those lines. The combination of “After Midnight,” “After You’ve Been Gone” and “Agaetis Byrjun” left me very, very tired of “slow music.” All the beauty of the album was sucked out of the listening experience because of the context. I guess that’s one of the perils of the Listening Project: whatever you’re listening to is forced to converse with the other albums on a given day. Sometimes to the detriment of an individual album.
5. Age of Adz
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
I didn’t enjoy listening to “Age of Adz.” It was plodding and pretentious with a sprinkle of ridiculousness thrown in. “Age of Adz” sounded like “a vision of the future from the past,” maybe the 30s or the 50s. The songs were turgid, overly structured and tectonically cold, positioning “the New” like some metal machine exhibition at pre ww2 Moma. Stevens seems to need a combination of bombast, pretense and critical distance to create. Maybe that’s why his work flowers on “Illinois” and “Michigan,” where the songs are told from the point of view of various characters. Inhabiting researched characters allows Stevens to maintain a hands-off approach to the emotional content in his work. “Age of Adz” is equally hands-off and distant, but lacks surrogate voices to give the songs any kind of emotional depth or meaning.