adventures in vinyl (listening to old records)

1. John Cale, "Gideon's Bible," from the Vintage Violence LP. Not long after leaving the Velvet Underground Cale essentially invented '70s pop with this album of short country-inflected songs. (Anything with prominent pedal steel guitar is country-inflected.) "Gideon" begins with a slightly jazzy intro reminiscent of pre-Joker Steve Miller, and builds to a chorus that is unadulterated Brian Wilson, with strange lyrics: "Gideon lied/and Gideon died/the force of China fell."

2. Tod Dockstader, "Traveling Music" from Organized Sound by Tod Dockstader (Owl Records). Early '60s electronic music that doffs the serialist hair shirt and has some serious fun, or fun seriousness. Exploiting stereo, tape effects and reverb, Dockstader's abstract blips and pulses move with a rhythm of expansion and contraction over a 9 minute run time. Surprise, humor and seductive aural textures keep the listener's attention completely in the moment. While it is not as unforgiving as, say, Milton Babbitt from the same time period, "Traveling Music" never detours into Enoch Light stereo hi-fi kitsch. It hasn't dated in the slightest.

3. Ornette Coleman, "Free Jazz," a 37 minute continuous improvisation with one drum-bass-sax-trumpet quartet parked in the left channel and another in the right. Each group was listening to its own members as well as the playing of the other quartet and one hears quite a bit of antiphonal dialogue. The piece is not as "free" as it probably sounded in 1961, and maintains a steady hard bop rhythm for most of its length. The overall feel is as "all-over" as the Pollock painting gracing its gatefold cover but one's ear has a tendency to linger on the lapidary skronks of Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet. (About that Pollock painting: the cover tells us that White Light appeared with the permission of art dealer Sidney Janis, meaning it was still a few years away from MOMA, where it now resides. Per Naifeh & Smith's Pollock bio it was a late embarrassment for Pollock, a messy so-called return to his drip style after some figurative experiments, which was in fact "painted long before" the other works in his final one-person show in '54. While overworked, it's not a bad painting, and reproduces boldly on the Coleman LP jacket.)