High Notes, Low Notes

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Bits and pieces gathered from the musical universe by Bwog music critic Bryan Mochizuki:

  • The new Norah Jones comes out today, and her two parallel existences continue. One is the more popular Norah “always a safe bet for Mom” Jones, or Snorah for naysayers. The other is her insanely cred-garnering alter-ego, the one who covered Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, sang out-of-this-world duets with Andre 3000 and Ryan Adams, and does a better version of “Bessie Smith” than The Band (besides getting Garth Hudson to play accordion on her second album). On this record, Bizarro-Norah has a song called “Sinkin’ Soon” with troubadour du jour M. Ward. It’s a lead-footed pub-jaunt filled out by a trombone solo and little piano-roll here and there, and after a few listens it starts sounding pretty darn political (“a captain who’s too proud to say that he dropped the oar”). This is normal fare for someone like Tom Waits, but so far not Ms. “Come Away With Me”—which is why she’s still so exciting. The Bizarro-Norah doesn’t get much press, but would the regular one be nearly as relevant if she cut that side of her persona entirely? 
  • In the 90’s, our own WKCR carried a late-night show hosted by DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia. It ran for a little under a decade, at the end of which Source Magazine called it – pretty inarguably – the “Best Hip Hop Radio Show of All Time.” There’s a lot of folklore to the show’s history – Jay-Z, Nas, and Wu-Tang all got their first breaks there – and a lot of it is explained in this video, passed along by WKCR DJ Martin Kostov. The best part? Stretch now has a blog with old shows, and a few are gems.

Read on for more musical morsels…

  • Via a flier found in Mac: “Diddy’s Back! And this time, he’s looking for the best MALE talent in the nation for…Making the Band 4.” New York auditions are next Tuesday at the Roxy (more info here). Go try out. And take a camera. Ten points for an Ashley Angel sighting, 20 for Dylan John. 
  • Prince is playing the Super Bowl halftime this weekend. A few notes: 1. You know how during March Madness, for example, they’ll cut away to shots of campus bars and the fans are going nuts? They should do something like this while Prince is playing. Put a camera in some strip-joint. Put another one in some old pint-and-a-shot Chicago pub. Compare and contrast. 2. Over Prince’s career, he’s definitely made a combined 20 minutes of music that the FCC can OK – but can he really be on stage for 20 minutes without saying something triple-X? There’s an outside shot he starts shaking uncontrollably in the middle of “When Doves Cry,” before launching into the chorus of “Erotic City”. 3. It seems like the Super Bowl folks picked up on Prince’s lack of crossover appeal to a lot of football fans. Howard Stern played a clip yesterday morning of Prince singing a mish-mash of “All Along The Watchtower” and the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You.” Odds are you’ll hear this on Sunday and the Foo Fighters will probably play back-up, since the Super Bowl traditionally adores collabos and the Foos play a great cover of “Darling Nikki,” which brings us back to point #2.

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  1. Robbie Robertson  

    The Band's version of "Bessie Smith" is far better than the Norah Jones version. I like Norah Jones, but I did want to go to sleep when I heard her do it. Musically, there's much more interesting stuff going on with the Band's version - just listen to the organ.

  2. well  

    both versions of norah photograph nicely.

  3. It's official  


  4. Norah

    Norah = dyke? Or am I misunderstanding something

  5. The muthafuckin Time  

    If Prince does something crazy at the Superbowl, it will involve mentioning Jehovah. Little sexy bastard found him some religion.

  6. hey now  

    i think the angry ad poster should at least get some credit for the very small "unless it was an accident" line.

  7. perspective  

    I fail to see how any of this adds up to "insanely cred-garnering" behavior or some kind of "bizarro-Norah." It seems pretty much like SOP for a breakout star of the middlebrow adult-contemporary/Americana variety. She covers her revered elders (Dylan and Van Zandt), brings some attention to her less-popular colleagues (Ryan Adams and M. Ward) and does some pop-crossover work with the hip young cat that all the kids love (Andre). So how we get from there to "exciting" and "relevant"? Fine, she criticized the president, but that's hardly an iconoclastic move in the current political climate. It doesn't seem like she's done a damn thing to challenge, let alone alienate, her well-established ENORMOUS middle-aged audience.

    Frankly, I don't even care enough to find her "Bessie Smith" cover or the songs with M. Ward or Ryan Adams to judge them for myself. I'm prepared to believe they're good, as far as they go, but I'm skeptical about "exciting" and "relevant." I think I'm like a lot of people in that I don't find anything about Norah Jones particularly noxious or bad or offensive--precisely the opposite. She is bland, middle-of-the-road, boring. The most damning thing I can say about her is that she seems to make music for people who don't care about music very much. A trombone solo? Be still my heart.

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