100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

October 08, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ARTS

#

I

The Michigan Daily.

Wednesday, October 8, 1980
ROOTS, ROCK, REGGAE
Pla it in rub-a-dub style

Page 7

Honky toi
* down in
By RJ SMITH
ATTENTION READERS: Down here
at the Michigan Deadly, some of the
brightest-shining stars in the place
have been up in arms recently over the
p quality of the stuff appearing on the Ar-
ts Page. Something about a certain
degree of unreadability, the in-house
culturati say. Well. I'll be happy to mail
anybody a glossary of all those boho ad-
jectives (Boho: Bohemian, beatnik,
etc.) employed. If you have any
questions, feel free to call me at 76-
DAILY. Elsewise, you're on your own,
and the only advice I can give you is to
bring a compass.
The issue at hand is the latest Joe Ely
album, Live Shots. Due to the general
cruddiness of the American record
distributing system, this disc is only
available as an import. But don't let
that get in your way; even if you're like
*me, and have only gotten as close to the
state of mind that is Texas as an order
of eggs rancheros as the Pan Tree will
take you, this chunk of Panhandle

rLaiily rnoto b,
nkin

way

the U. K.

Taylor taking successive hot-handed
solos. Ely follows that up with the stan-
dard "Midnight Shift." These two songs
set the tone for the album-fast saddle-
burners, and muscular, bluesy
workouts. On his three studio albums,
Ely frequently included loping, pier-
cing ballads of great warmth. Here,
such songs as "She Never Spoke
Spanish To Me" and "Honky Tonk
Masquerade," all of 'em died-in-the-
wool tear-jerkers, sound even more
rock-solid, more straightforward. One
gets the impression that he almost
couldn't perform his "Because The
Wind," from his album Honky Tonk
Masquerade, because the sheer
openess of the song (perhaps the sad-
dest tune I have ever heard-at least
until I heard Bruce Springsteen do
"Stolen Car") would be too naked for
the show.
The band that supports Ely is easily
equal to the task. Joe Carrasco once
told me that Texas Cajun star Alaco
Jiminez is the greatest accordian
player in the world, "'the Jimi Hendrix
of the instrument." But it is hard to
imagine one better than Ely's Ponti
Bone-a man who can make the box
sing, make it shreik, make you wanna
polka on the flophouse floor, all in the
space of a single solo. Everywhere in
the album, the band kicks out, a sound
that forces you to look twice to see if
there is a horn section.
Joe Ely is a Hank Williams fan in an
era when doing Hank Williams songs
usually draws a snicker from the bar
crowd, he's a rougeish rockabilly demon
when that's not enough-today you
have to be noisy, or a parodist, to play
rockabilly that gets heard. But on an
album like Live Shots, Ely shows that'
flash or no, there's a place in the world
for a lonesome-faced, whisky-drinking
Texas songwriter. Yeah-it's down
there on the bar floor in front of the
bandstand, partner.

By MARK COLEMAN
As close as the two countries are,
Jamaica's rich output of popular music
is virtually ignored in Aimerica. Reggae
means Bob Marley and flickering prin-
ts of The Harder They Come to most
Americans, while the island's rhythmic
and vocal innovations are digested
second-hand through disco and
"progressive" new wave bands. For all
the energy it added to British rock and
roll, the Ska revival only compounded
the confusion surrounding Jamaican
music by reviving an archaic style and
revving it up to pogo pace.
The relevance of Ska in 1980 lies more
in its pattern of development than the
actual music. During the sixties in
Jamaica groups of musicians would ac-
company records over p.a. systems at
dances, adding wacked-out rhythmic
and melodic variations to American R-
and-B. Even as the Jamaican recording
industry grew these "sound system"
dances remained important, and the
emphasis shifted to disc jockeys who
would sing/talk or "toast" over the
popular records of the day. By the late
sixties deejays like U Roy and Alcapone
were among the most popular perfor-
mers in Jamaica.
THIS VOCAL style came to be known
as "dub" after the B-sides (or dub
sides) that would often be re-arranged
instrumental versions of the a-side hit,
allowing the deejays to rap over the
systems. A recently released collec-
tion on the Trojan label, Everyday
Skank-The Best Of Big Youth, cap-
sulizes the progression of dub into a
self-sufficient style by chronicling the
career of its most distinctive voice.
The album traces Big Youth (a.k.a.
Manley Agustus Buchannan) from his
early hits-reworkings of raggae classics
-through his groundbreaking original
compositions. Big Youth is a preacher;
exuding self-assurance and righteous
indignation in a warm, friendly
baritone. This is dance music with a
conscience, irresistible rhythms inter-
sperced with moral and social respon-
sibility. Big Youth adds to the meaning
of reggae standards like "Pride and
Ambition" and "Stop That Train"
without a trace of didacticism; his
colloquial asides add a folksy, populist
level of interpretation to an already
familiar message.
At times Big Youth plays along with
the vocals and rhythms of the originals,
at other times plays with them:
mimicing and chiding Dennis Brown's
materialism on "Money in My Pocket"
("It's a shame, shame," - "Yes, you
oughta be ashamed") with his over-

dubbed rap. And like any good preacher
he can pull out the fire and brimstone
when necessary, turning Marley's
"Concret Jungle" into an apocalyptic
nightmare on "Screaming Target".
THE INNOVATIONS hinted at on the
'versions' of others' songs are
manifested in Big Youth's self-
produced original material, which com-
prises side two. The songs are more like
sermons, painting a stark but sym-
pathetic portrait of life in urban
Kingston, through humbly delivered
homilies that rail as much against
juvenile delinquency and immorality
among blacks as racist oppression. The
lyrics are rescued both from heavy-
handedness and total obscurity for non-
Jamaican listeners by the ease and
power of Big Youth's delivery. His raps
flow with the constantly shifting course
of the rhythms, bending and twisting
but never deserting the path. The sub-
tleties of reggae's sprung rhythms are
explored and ultimately exploited to
new potential here, freed from tight
song structure. The free rhythms and
semi-stream of consciousness vocals
converge in a form that combines the
gut bucket intensity of rhythm-heavy
music with open-ended experimen-
tation on pieces like "Wolf in Sheep's
Clothing," punctuated by the street-
slang hooks and Big Youth's vocal
signature; the "hhnnnnnnnnnnnuhhh"
that sounds like Ratsa clearing his
throat while holding in an especially big
hit of ganja.
The influence of Big Youth's music
can't be overstressed; he opened up the
rhythmic possibilities that Public
Image Ltd explored on Metal
Box/Second Edition and as father of the
dub style provided the impetus 'for
American disco-raps like Kurtis Blow's
"The Breaks" and Sugarhill Gang's
"Rapper's Delight". As our economic
condition dictates the increasing use of
recorded music as live entertainment
in America, the significance of dub will
soon become obvious on a larger scale.
Punk deejays rapping over Gang of
OPENS TOMORROW
OCT 9-12, 8pm
- o
CHi IDRN
canterburq loft

Four records? Dub DOR versions?
Well, anything's possible.
Alongside the aforementioned Ska
revivla in England is a flourishing in-
terest in more modern reggae. On his
second stateside release, Bass Culture
Linton Kwesi Johnson firmly
establishes himself as the most impor-
tant non-Jamaican voice in reggae.
A BRITISH SUBJECT of West Indian
descent, Johnson brings an Angelicized
poetic organization to the dub style,
reciting his song/poems in a hypnotic,
sinewy monotone. On his first U.S.
release Forces of Victory, Johnson
railed against the two-faced racism of
English society with the eloquence of
total outrage, and a surprising cock-
eyed optimism, buoyed by the impec-

cable polyrhythmic arrangements of his
band. The intensity and articulation of
Johnson's music and lyrics made For-
ces of Victory the best reggae album
released in America last year.
On Bass Culture , Johnson turns his
raging insight inward and the music
follows suit. Johnson has adopted a
looser, narrative style that is a direct
contrast to Victory's epic density.
Johnson spins simple yarns that reveal
the inequality of a Black man's life in
England from a personal viewpoint,
complimented by sparser arrangemen-
ts and a pared-down rhythmic em-
phasis that is still intriguingly varied.
Johnson's rage is hardly dulled by the
See REGGAE, Page 10

property will mean a lot more to you
than 99 percent of the product labelled
"country music" nowadays.
ELY IS AN old-fashioned backwoods
rock and roller, and his band is a group
of crack musicians who capture most
of the sounds one could hear on old Sun
records. He's no nouveau cowpoke, a la
Willie Nelson, Waylon, etc. Ely's music
is too hard-bitten for most of country.
stations to latch onto and popularize.
And one gets the feeling from his songs
that he's too fond of knocking around to
sit still long enough to be made a star.
It's not as much fun.
Live Shots is a compilation of songs
recorded on his 1979 tour of Great
Britain, when he opened up for the
Clash. From the beginning, Ely and his
band make it easy to see why the
frenetic punk heroes chose him to lead
off. "Fingernails," the first song, rum-
bles around like a jaunt inside a Maytag
dryer, with the piano player (either the
Blockheads' Mickey Gallagher or
Reese Wynans, the liner doesn't
specify) and electric guitarist Jesse

STUDENT DINNER SPECIALS MON-THURS
251 East Liberty 0 Ann Arbor, Michigan
Phone: (313) 665-7513
Monday 75C off Veggie Sandwich
Tuesday $1.00 off any Quiche Dinner
Wednesday 75C off any Giant Stuffed Potato j
Thursday 75C off any of our Crepe Dinners L
II
Coupon valid between 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. I:
EXPIRES NOVEMBER 30, 1980
Lmm mow

Tonight

THE WILD BUNCH

7:00 & 9:40

At LORCH HALL
A fine example of Peckinpah's style of filmmaking, emphasizing the more
violent aspects of human behavior. However, the film does not dwell on
violence for its own sake, but utilizes it to examine the changing aspects of
the mythic Western Frontier as it was integrdted into American society. With
BILL HOLDEN, BOB RYAN, and ERNIE BORGNINE. 7:00 & 9:40 at Lorch Hall
(Old A&D Legally, Changed Its Name).
Thursday: BLACK ORPHEUS

CINEMA GUILD

Involved In The
Non-Profit Movie Gig

l 1

it An artist of broad
powers and deep com-
prehension. A keen in-
telligence and delicate 7
sensibility producing
one of the purest forms
of beauty.,1
- Herald Tribune, Paris
ithony dcu13onziventuri,
An American Pianist Returns to Ann Arbor
ZaturdayOctober148:30,
Bachham uditorium
Tickets $8.00, $6.50, $5.00

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan