Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My favorite album of 1982 was a gift from a friend visiting from Los Angeles. I was living in Victoria, and my friend, in an effort to cure me of my need to re-imagine the blues, gave me The Gun Club’s Miami.

Jazz pianist Al Neil once told me that the first time he heard Miles Davis’s Almost Blue (1959) he heard both a brilliant record and the end of modal music. With Almost Blue, the idiom had been perfected, so he quit piano and took up collage.

Miami had a similar effect on me. However, listening to it today, the record says more about what I thought I knew than what I knew I didn’t. Which is to say my conception of the blues was, in jazz parlance, square.

Funny what happens to songs when we return to them years later, how their colours can be more interesting than their words and musical structure. Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, who did not receive credit for any Stones compositions (and spent time in Morocco recording the Master Musicians of Jajouka in 1968), was a great musical colourist. So was his successor, Mick Taylor. For The Gun Club, that person was Ward Dotson, slide guitarist.

A final note on the album. Only this instant did it occur to me that Miami is by a band from the American southwest (LA), recorded in the northeast (NYC), named after a city in the southeast (Miami), that came to me in a place as close to the American northwest as a Canadian can get (Victoria, BC). Now how square is that?

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