The late Curtis Mayfield integrated music and message in a way that changed history. Four-plus decades after achieving renown, his talent shines in the film Movin’ On Up: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions (Reelin’ in the Years Productions). More than a documentary, Movin’ On Up presents 22 complete songs, along with interviews.
Nick Cave might not be well known, but time spent with this complex Australian rocker is well spent. He doesn’t shy away from dense theological issues, which he explores in a rambling, lyrical style that recalls Jim Morrison at his poetic peak.
The band R.E.M. is easy to love—and hate. In the 1980s the group from Athens, Georgia, defined college and indie rock. It grafted locomotive Rickenbacker guitar and bass onto the no-nonsense beats of Bill Berry and the barely audible but alluring vocals of Michael Stipe.
Down in New Orleans
The Blind Boys of Alabama
Time Stand Still
Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947
New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, largely inhabited by poor African-American residents, looks not much different now from when the floodwaters receded. You have to wonder how Washington would have reacted if Katrina had hit a wealthy, white gated community.
The Pigeons Couldn't Sleep
The Best of Jonathan Rundman: 20 Songs from the 20th Century
Peter Himmelman, formerly the bushy-haired hero of the New Wave band Sussman Lawrence, has transitioned into a middle-aged rocker, and his music reveals only the best results. His songs have a muscular, energetic groove that begs comparisons with Bob Dylan—his father-in-law. The lyrics balance pungent humor and well-versed, poignant observations.
He was up in the choir loft, tuning his pipes of the old century’s wind-pump organ; I heard taps and bangs on metal, strange half-throated off- notes, near-notes, puffs, sighs and cough-blasts;
and then he was playing—Bach, Buxtehude, Peters— it was a young Jehovah’s making, a bright hands-full soaring over oceans of soul-light, filling the chill of the chapel with a lush of breathing. Now, in my everyday listening,
for the poem,the music, I am Mary before the ash-soft fall of the messenger, I am John after the disappearance beyond the clouds; I listen to the silence beyond the thuck and thudding of a day’s importance, to hear the hum that figures
a countryside of darkness, the sounds of April whispering over into May, the thunder of apple blossoms dropping from the tree; I listen for the tune that my days make in the works of love, in the notes’ approximations to a symphony.