soundtracking with Jordan Zivitz June 2009: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and SonseedJune 11, 2009
Here is this month’s musical interlude from writer-critic-editor-friend-Gazette colleague Jordan Zivitz:
In honour of this month’s Proust Questionee — and to try to prevent the coppers from raiding 11th Ave. on public-indecency grounds — here are three songs that are probably not on Al Kratina’s iPod (which I’m sure has a protective layer of baby skin and stops working within a two-block radius of any church).
Bob Dylan: When He Returns
I’m not generally a fan of Dylan’s born-again Christian phase in the late ’70s and early ’80s (at least, not before his sanctimoniousness was leavened with doubt). But I adore the poignant finale to 1979’s Slow Train Coming. Maybe it’s because the lyrics are less preachy than elsewhere on the album; maybe it’s because the production is less spic-and-span. More likely it’s because this is one of Dylan’s strongest vocal performances of the period. He’s passionate, committed and sounds like someone who believes — not just someone who is annoyed at you for not believing.
Tom Waits: Way Down in the Hole
There are many, many reasons to love HBO’s complex police/gangster drama The Wire. The god-loving, devil-fearing theme song is certainly on that long list. Each season, Way Down in the Hole was performed over the opening credits by a different artist: The Blind Boys of Alabama (Season 1), Waits’s own bad self (2), The Neville Brothers (3), DoMaJe (4) and Steve Earle (5). Being a hard-core Waits disciple, the original remains my favourite (the Blind Boys’ version is a close runner-up): It’s gritty, groovy, and has an immediately recognizable sax that shouts Waits’s name while Waits shouts at the infernal pit that will swallow him up if he lets go of Jesus’s hand.
Sonseed: Jesus Is My Friend
And speaking of the guy in the robe and sandals … I love bad music. Not Celine Dion bad, but cats-singing-Christmas-carols, Elvis-singing-while-popping-pills, William-Shatner-singing-anything bad. And let’s not forget Christian-ska bad. I’m pretty sure that if Ned Flanders wore a porkpie hat, this would be his favourite song — an infuriatingly catchy ska riff that could only have been written by the most precocious of 6-year-old Casio players, and a bunch of perky worshippers trumpeting the praises of their Best Friend Forever. Okay, the worshippers aren’t all perky — take note of the mumbly gentleman in the back, who looks like he loves Thorazine more than he loves Jesus (as my friend Mary said when she tipped me off to this song). If anybody has a bootlegged copy of Sonseed’s unreleased second album, Just Can’t Get Enough (Of Jesus!!!), please get in touch.
Jordan Zivitz would love to take your call, but he’s using tough love to teach his cat to sing the rum-pa-pum-pum part in The Little Drummer Boy.