Taylor Tinkers!

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Paul Banks: Banks (Matador) Forgive me for assuming this incident has allegorical implications, but just the other day a co-worker was listening to this album, and, as I heard various snatches, phrases and melodies, I was interested enoughóbut only just enoughóto ask her who she was listening to. She told me it was Paul Banks, but then realized that name meant nothing to meóso she added he was the dude from Interpol. Oh. So then: a not bad at all album from a dude who, at this late date, is now best recalled as one of those two bands (Strokes being the other one) that were famous for sounding like other bands much better than them, but, all things considered, not especially bad. But Interpol never broke out in a big way, Paul Banks in the scheme of things is about as well-known as Peter Banks, the guitarist from Yes one generation earlier, and he apparently has it entirely within him to make interesting-sounding records, of which this is one. I like his album art, butócan I speak freely?ówith this economy, he might want to change his name!

The Doors: Live At The Bowl '68 CD (Rhino) Blu-Ray (Eagle Rock) Available in Blu-Ray and DVD from Eagle Rock and in audio form via Rhino, this new repackaging of the Doors' historic 1968 Hollywood Bowl performance is an absolute winner through and through. Catching the band at their musical peakówell before their shows would devolve into the will-he-or-won't-he, post-Miami fun-fair they'd becomeóthe buffed-up video in particular is visually striking, the sonics are amazing, and the song selection could not be a better representation of the Doors at the peak of their powers. If you've gotten the impression that the band's catalog has been, shall we say, vigorously exploited in the past decade, rest assured that this addition is, in the words of their late lead singer, stoned immaculate. Highly recommended.

Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man (Capitol) It would be the height of sexism to boldly proclaim that many of today's best albums are in fact being recorded by womenólike Beth Orton, St. Vincent, or Bat For Lashes' Natasha Khanóbut this would then allow me to note that this great new album features a naked girl on its cover, which, all things considered, is better than a cylindrical container of Quaker Oats! Her third album, filled with moody lyrics, wistful melodies, artful arrangements, and the profound influence of rock demigods Maroon 5, The Haunted Man is a solid set, of which she should be proud, were she not so conspicuously preoccupied with trading bats for lashes or, more broadly, pursuing bartering rather than the actual exchange of cash upon which today's much-loved capitalist system is based! And I wouldn't be surprised if PETA gave her grief for that coat of hers!

Clifford Brown: The Singers Sessions With Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Helen Merrill (Hip-O Select) In the world of music reissues, I get the feeling that we may be on the last legs of large projects such as thisówhich in this case is the second volume of classic jazz by celebrated jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown recorded in the early '50s for the Emarcy label. Collecting the trumpeter's work with vocalists Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Helen Merrill, the three-CD set features fine remastering and exquisite vocals by all three singers, and puts all the tracks, once scattered in various albums and reissues, in one very worthy place. Great stuff.

Gary Clark, Jr.: Blak And Blue (Warner Bros.) Some well-deserved buzz on this highly skilled guitarist/vocalist, who's put together an album that draws from a variety of sourcesóthe blues, R&B, Hendrix, etc.óshows amazing energy and musicality, and, in a world where album rock radio hadn't died a horrible death, with tracks like "Bright Lights" would fit right in between Free and Bad Company. Still, that implies a sense of retro that isn't entirely appropriate: This stuff sounds exciting and fresh--and suggests a possible future in which musicianship and technical skill won't be laughed at, disregarded, or considered quaint. (pause) Nah!

Diamond Rings: Free Dimensional (Astralwerks) According to his bio, Toronto resident John O is an "electro-pop maestro" who "defies laws of time and space"! To that end, he was born next year, died in 1556, and to listeners who favor psychedelics, resembles Grace Jones were she a nun! Yep, another Ke$ha clone!

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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