Friday, May 26, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: Mick Jagger, Radiohead, Stevie Ray Vaughan, MOJO 1000 (2002)

Mick Jagger's Goddess In the Doorway

As the highly visible frontman for rock hall-o-famers the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has an artistic identity that rivals any in popular music. Yet most of Jagger’s solo efforts have been designed to distance the artist from his legendary image. As shown by Goddess In the Doorway (Virgin Records), Jagger’s fourth solo album and his first since 1993, distance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Recording with a veritable “who’s who” of contemporary hitmakers like Lenny Kravitz, Rob Thomas, Missy Elliott, and Wyclef Jean, Jagger has delivered a high-spirited collection of radio-friendly tunes that are as far away from the Stones as Mick can get. A literal buffet of musical styles, Jagger mixes dance tracks, reggae rhythms and slashing rock riffs on outstanding cuts like “Visions of Paradise,” “God Gave Me Everything” and “Brand New Set of Rules.” Although nothing on Goddess In the Doorway will make you forget the Stones, Jagger’s latest is an earnest effort towards a modern sound with tracks that are fresh and lively.  

Virtually ignored by the British rock press at the time of their 1993 debut album, England’s Radiohead would later be crowned the saviors of rock ‘n’ roll by an enthusiastic music media. About the time of their coronation, though, the band released an album of experimental electronica titled Kid A, completely confusing fans and critics alike. Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong (Capitol) is an eight-song mini-album of live recordings, collecting performances of songs from Kid A and its more rock-oriented artistic bookend, Amnesiac. Mixing electronic rhythms and rock riffs, I Might Be Wrong captures the best of both the albums it draws from. Sort of like an authorized bootleg, the sound quality varies and performances are stitched together haphazardly, resulting in a disconcerting ambiance that is at once both alluring and maddening. The disc closes with the enchanting and bittersweet “True Love Waits,” an unreleased gem that hints at Radiohead’s possible future direction.

When Stevie Ray Vaughan took the stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 17, 1983, few watching could have expected the subsequent events his performance that night would inspire. The relatively unknown Stevie Ray and his seasoned band delivered a red-hot set of Texas blues to an indifferent and hostile audience. Sitting in the crowd that night, however, was a thoroughly impressed David Bowie, who provided an artistic “coming out” for Vaughan by later using the six-string wizard on his highly-successful Let’s Dance album. Jackson Browne, who also witnessed Vaughan’s incendiary Montreux performance, provided free studio time for SRV and Double Trouble to record their debut album, the ground breaking Texas Flood.

With a pair of critically acclaimed, best-selling albums providing his credentials, Vaughan recreated the blues-rock genre and kick-started a blues revival that continues today. Two years after his Montreux debut, Stevie Ray returned to the festival stage as a conquering hero. This time, the young guitarist delivered another smoking set to a far more receptive crowd than previously. Both historic performances are paired on Live At Montreux, 1983 & 1985 (Epic/Legacy), a scorching two-disc set that showcases Vaughan’s considerable live chops and further cements his legacy as one of the greatest guitarists ever.

Listening to these two live performances – one as a brash, youthful guitarslinger and the other as a maturing, confident artist – one can hear strains of Vaughan’s artistic lineage, masters such as Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, and Lightning Hopkins. You’ll also hear signature songs such as “Pride and Joy” and “Texas Flood,” refined from show to show, performed alongside such gems as “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” and a cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” Much of the material on Live At Montreux, 1983 & 1985 is previously unreleased, the set complimented by extensive liner notes and rare photos. Vaughan’s accidental death in 1990, while on the verge of even greater success, robbed the music world of an incredibly gifted guitarist. If you’re unfamiliar with the brilliant blues-rock of this legend, these inspired Montreux sessions serve as an excellent introduction to Stevie’s world.        

England’s Mojo magazine has long enjoyed a reputation among rock cognoscenti as the journal of note for pop music. Not as trend-driven as most of the British music press, Mojo mixes contemporary artists and historical perspective to deliver a consistently entertaining and informative read. It was based on the magazine’s rep that I coughed up the $11 for MOJO 1000, an odd-sized, 172-page paperback sub-titled “the ultimate CD buyer’s guide” by its publisher. The scope of the guide is breathtaking, offering up capsule reviews and cover pictures of hundreds of albums in the rock, soul, blues, country and other genres as well as brief overviews of significant artists such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash.

Better executed than similar attempts by American counterparts such as Spin magazine or Rolling Stone, the MOJO 1000 nevertheless overlooks many significant works. Although I can accept the book’s Anglo-orientation – Mojo is a British music magazine, after all – some of the most glaring omissions need redressing. The country music section is long on current “alt-country” artists and ignores talents like David Allan Coe, Guy Clark, and Loretta Lynn in favor of dubious CD choices from Beck and the Jayhawks. The reggae section omits influential artists such as Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff while Joan Baez is completely missing from the folk listing. Despite its flaws, MOJO 1000 is a heavy read, offering the veteran record collector and neophyte alike a load of information. I expect to use the guide quite a bit during the next year or so, or at least until they publish a “Mojo 1200.” (The View On Pop Culture, January 2002)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.