current listening 10/23/10

+ David Bowie: Station to Station (1976/2010) – Arguably David Bowie’s greatest work, Station to Station is a slab of dark post-disco cool that still rocks like mad. It lives again this fall as a three CD box set that teams the original album with an unreleased double-disc live set cut in New York two weeks after Station‘s release. A serious look and listen to one of Bowie’s most dangerously creative but critically underappreciated periods.

+ Dave Alvin: The Best of the Hightone Years (2008) – Despite the generic title, this 18-track, 77 minute disc is boldly comprehensive is its assemblage of sleek Americana cool,  righteously traditional folk and West-of-the-Rockies rock ‘n’ roll. A few unreleased treats (Dixie Highway Blues, Why Did She Stay So Long) and alternative takes fortify this vital primer album by one of America’s most skilled, soulful and literate songsmiths.

+ Caravan: In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971/2001) – An unmistakably autumnal sounding slab of vintage British prog rock. The highlight remains the eight-part, 22 minute suite Nine Feet Underground, a wondrous mix of post psychedelic pop and meaty jams by singer/guitarist Pye Hastings and keyboardist David Sinclair. A relaxed instrumental version of Winter Wine highlights the unreleased goodies added in 2001.

+ Miles Davis: Live at the Hollywood Bowl (2010) – A clean, but still bootleg-ish account of a September 1981 concert that solidified Davis’ stage return after an extended hiatus. An album-opening guitar slash by Mike Stern, which jolts Back Street Betty to life, establishes the jagged, primitive flow of these performances. One of several new low-priced import live albums documenting Davis’ final concert years.

+ Mark Knopfler: The Ragpicker’s Dream (2002) – My favorite post-Dire Straits Knopfler record. Its sound is light, sleek and pristine. But never is the music antiseptic. You Don’t Know You’re Born, for instance, positively shines from the polish. But the twang of its airtight groove is still impossibly cool. Ditto for the horns that pepper the hot rod machismo of Coyote and the Yuletide ghosts at play on the title tune. A quiet classic.

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