Volume , Number 0
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Congress Privatizes the Net
Microradio Broadcasting Aguascalientes of the â€¦
Pulp Non Fiction: The Ecologist â€¦
Death to the MIA
Bootstraps Literacy And Racist Schooling â€¦
Bombing A La Mode
Interview with Martxedn Espada
Mark k. Anderson
Editorial: What Lies Ahead
Anatomy of a Victory
The Oscar Wilde Fad
"New Global Architecture" Poses Questions â€¦
title("Fraud In Oakland's Garbage Sweatshop")
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While a record company Big Six have been dominating music industry market space for almost 25 years, earlier this year Seagram gobbled up Polygram, bringing the major label music biz down to a Big Five (Bertelsmann, EMI, Sony, Seagram, and Time-Warner). If we can trust music industry rumors, it also seems likely that sometime in the very near future EMI will be swallowed by Sony, Time-Warner, or Bertelsmann, reducing the music giants to a Big Four. Needless to say, on the horizon is a day when virtually all musical entertainment emanates from one giant corporation.
The effects of this trend are, of course, all around us. Todays mass hit driven marketplace is by nature conformist and leery of all those sounds that seem too old, too new, or too odd to generate massive commercial success. However, for music fans and musicians unwilling or unable to join in the blockbuster rat race, there is an alternative. While not necessarily more progressive socially or economically than the mammoth conglomerates, the independent music industry offers a home for musical expression unpressured by the demand to be instantly popular with everyone, everywhere.
With that in mind, a salute to some adventurous music we probably wouldnt hear if it werent for independent music labels. All releases are from 1998.
The Fire This Time, Still Dancing On John Waynes Head (Extreme)
Formed in 1988, The Fire This Time is a loosely affiliated Canadian production collective devoted to encouraging political activism and solidarity through musical collaborations between African and First Nations people. Their second full-length album is a stirring, innovative melding of global sounds and concerns featuring a host of well known activist/musicians including American Indian singer-poet John Trudell, Public Enemys Chuck D, Spearheads Michael Franti, political exile Assata Shakur, scholar Angela Davis, legendary reggae and dub producer Lee Scratch Perry, the militant England-based Indian dance band Asian Dub Foundation, dub master Adrian Sherwood and traditional Native American drum/vocal group The Eagleheart Singers. Serious political messages abound, but the strongest inspiration derives from the throbbing, haunting blend of beats and voices from around the world. TFTT coordinators Marcela Toro, Pat Andrade, and Errol Nazareth deserve much credit for convening such a remarkable and visionary sound of resistance.
John Fahey, America (Tacoma/Fantasy)
Death Chants, Breakdowns And Military Waltzes (Tacoma/Fantasy)
Although guitarist/composer John Fahey was a prime definer of the solo acoustic guitar performer school that emerged from the folk and blues boom of the 1960s, his legacy seemed all but lost before Fantasy launched its current reissue series of his landmark Tacoma recordings. America and Death Chants, Breakdowns And Military Waltzes are two of his masterpieces--sad, crazed, humorous, tender, lonely, and beautiful sketches of the land and people known as America.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Aces Back To Back (32 Jazz)
The extraordinary multi-instrumentalist played all manner of jazz and other forms of black music, often in one mind-altering composition. A few years back Rhino brought Kirk back into focus with an excellent two-CD anthology, Does Your House Have Lions. The four-disc package of 32 Jazz adds a wealth of evidence to the case for his reappreciation.
Various Artists, Whats That I Hear? The Songs Of Phil Ochs (Sliced Bread)
Billy Bragg, Arlo Guthrie, Katy Moffatt, and assorted other socially conscious singer-songwriters rework some of the best tunes of the activist troubadours neglected legacy. A perfect companion to last years essential Ochs compilation, Farewells & Fantasies (Rhino).
New Bomb Turks, At Ropes End (Epitaph)
More fast and furious punk leftism from another powerhouse band on Epitaph. Raging guitars and tough, glorious anthems make this one a candidate for indie rock album of the year.
Inti-Illimani, Lejania (Xenophile/Green Linnet)
Following the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973, Inti-Illimani won a wide audience in the United States and around the world with their unique translations of the indigenous music of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Argentina. Exiled from Chile until 1988, Inti-Illimani came to represent the hopes and passions of peoples struggling for freedom and homeland. Three decades after the group was formed, their new album returns them to their musical roots in the folk music of the Andes Mountains in South America. Delicate, intimate music, still fresh and inspiring.
Favorites Various Artists, Joyful Noise: Celtic From Green Linnet (Green Linnet)
Green Linnet Records is the premier U.S. label for a full menu of Celtic music. This recently released two-CD collection pulls together a wonderful array of songs and styles performed by some of the most revered artists in the field: Martin Hayes, Altan, Eileen Ivers, Seamus Egan, Dick Gaughan, Tannahill Weavers, Kevin Burke, to mention a few.
Various Artists, The Harry Smith Connection (Smithsonian Folkways)
Dock Boggs, Dock Boggs: His Folkways Years 1963-1968 (Smithsonian Folkways)
Recorded last year at a live concert honoring record collector Harry Smiths Anthology of American Folk Music, The Harry Smith Connection presents vital contemporary versions of the folk, blues, country, cajun, and gospel tunes compiled on Smiths indispensable anthology of Southern musical traditions. Nothing hip or faddish, just different generations of musicians (Lonnie Pitchford, Dave Van Ronk, Balfa Toujours, Rodger McGuinn, Jeff Tweedy, Toshi Reagon, The Fugs) demonstrating the profound staying power of our roots heritage.
The success of the Grammy Award winning Anthology of Folk Music has also reawakened interest in the intense country blues of Dock Boggs. Though the singer/banjoist only recorded 12 songs in the 1920s, his fierce, tortured voice made an indelible mark on folk traditions. Lured back into music by Mike Seeger during the 1960s, Boggs recorded 50 more songs included in his repertoire. His Folkways Years has them all on a two-CD collection. Not as frightening as his recordings of the 1920s, but still a powerful and moving working class voice struggling with the failed promises of America.
Various Artists, Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf (Red House)
When she died of leukemia in 1986 at the age of 44, singer-songwriter Kate Wolf was little known outside the small circles of the folk music community. But in her 15 years of performing and writing her life and music planted many seeds that continue to yield a healing wisdom. Whether you missed her in her time or youre a veteran fan longing to reconnect with her soulful, honesty, Treasures Left Behind opens Kate Wolfs artistry to a needed reappreciation. Produced by her guitarist and friend Nina Gerber, Treasures unfolds 14 Wolf compositions through consistently acute interpretations by the likes of Dave Alvin, Lucinda Williams, John Gorka, Greg Brown, Emmylou Harris, Utah Phillips, Nanci Griffith, Ferron, and others. Her gift, as Utah Phillips put it, was to tell us the truth about her life, but without complaint or self-pity...in a positive, giving way.
Asian Dub Foundation, Rafis Revenge (Phase 4/London)
This quintet of Pakistani/Indian immigrants is intent on destroying the notion that dance and groove music has nothing to do with politics. Unloading fiery rhetoric over deep thumping beats, tense pulsing reggae, and raw explosions of electric guitar, the group nails the pre-millennium flavor of Britains class and race divisions through tunes that are angry, confrontational and didactic. Party music for the new century.
Junior Kimbrough, God Knows I Tried (Fat Possum/Epitaph)
CeDell Davis, The Horror Of It All (Fat Possum/Epitaph)
There are still a few regional pockets in the south where the blues seems closer to its African roots than to the slick rock influenced hybrids dominating the contemporary blues market. The Oxford, Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records has made a home for these rugged sounds and the late Junior Kimbrough was one of the labels elder masters. Kimbrough played a brand of trancy, raw blues sustained by the small raucous juke joints of North Mississippi. When he died earlier this year of a heart attack at age 67, Kimbrough was beginning to enjoy modest recognition outside Mississippi. God Knows I Tried is likely the final document of his dark, moaning electric blues. Like his three other Fat Possum releases--essential listening.
Arkansas bluesperson CeDell Davis sounds like some long lost link to the rural blues of the early 20th century. Though crippled and wheelchair bound, Davis employs a butter knife for mean slide guitar noise and with a powerful voice evoking the work song origins of the blues, creates a sound simultaneously ancient and original. The Horror Of It All is Davis in his rowdy prime.
Mickey Hart/Planet Drum, Supralingua (The World/Rykodisc)
In 1991 Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart pulled together a band composed of some of the greatest drummers from around the world and fashioned a world music classic built entirely on the rhythms and textures of global percussion. A long time coming, this follow-up to Planet Drum adds singing and chanting to the formula, but the heart and soul of this mesmerizing sound remains the worlds first musical instrument. Another enduring gem.