Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue & Mermaid Avenue Vol II

Woody Guthrie's daughter has Billy Bragg and Wilco write music for lyrics left behind by Woody. What happens?

Although Tweedy was indifferent to [Billy Bragg's collaboration] offer, Bennett was enthused about recording songs of one of his idols. . . Bragg mostly recorded the politically-charged lyrics, while Tweedy preferred to record lyrics that showcased Guthrie as a "freak weirdo."

Tempers flared between Bragg and Wilco after the album was completed. Bennett believed that Bragg was overproducing his songs, a sharp contrast to Wilco's contributions. Bennett called Bragg about the possibility of remixing Bragg's songs, to which Bragg responded with "you make your record, and I'll make mine, fucker." Eventually Bragg sent copies of his recordings to Chicago for Bennett to remix, but Bragg refused to use the new mixes on the album. The two parties were unable to establish a promotional tour, and quarreled over royalties and guest musician fees. [wikipedia]
So while the production sounds like the Clash of the Titan Egos, the products are wonderful. Nora Guthrie requested that-
Rather than recreating Guthrie tunes, they should write as if they were collaborating with Woody, creating new, vital music for the lyrics. . . . The results are almost entirely a delight, mainly because all involved are faithful to Guthrie's rowdy spirit -- it's a reverent project that knows how to have fun. There are many minor, irresistible gems scattered throughout the album, and most of them come from Bragg. Where Wilco's fine contributions sound inextricably tied to the '90s, both for better and for worse, Bragg's music sounds contemporary while capturing Guthrie's folk traditions. [allmusic]
So- here are Volumes 1 & 2. Hilariously, my sister burned Mermaid Avenue onto the same CD as a Misfits album, and when you're listening to the CD in the car, it's like going from the motel jacuzzi to the motel pool, which, full of peeing kids and chlorine, is for some reason still real cold.

It's all good, but here are. . . Mermaid Avenue Highlights: "California Stars", "Christ for President", "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key." Volume II Highlights: "All You Fascists", "Joe Dimaggio's Done It Again", "My Flying Saucer", and "Blood of the Lamb."
*Hey pretty boys n girls. I just realized NONE of the tracks are numbered. . . which means I haven't ever listened to either of them in order. Sorry about that!

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