Kendrick Lamar – DAMN

I am not a music critic and don’t have the best language for this, but I am going to attempt to tell you why the new #KendrickLamar album is so remarkable. Imagine when you are 16 years old you try something. You are a natural and over 10 years you become the best in the world at it. At some point in the future you are 29 and you learn all the success in your life is based on one choice made 25 years ago. This choice had nothing to do with you. It was arbitrary. You realize there were different possible versions of you based on this choice. Permutations that existed, but didn’t come to be. You decide to undertake an exercise of extreme empathy and make a record based on a version of you who had to deal with the opposite of the choice that was made. The record you make #DAMN represents how narrow the window of possibilities is that we slip through is and how many other possible versions of us exist. For some they are better for some they are worse, but they always exist. In my own life I sometimes feel the echoes and reverberations other versions of me would have dealt with, but I never did. Those tales become coiled in my head despite their non-existence. It is powerful to hear one such tale recorded over 80 minutes.

– Gene Mclaughlin May 2017

That Crusoe Must Have Thunk/version 2

I have the kind of

Knowledge you get

From spending days and years alone

Books existing as my solace

When I am lonely to the bone

I am a dreamer

I am a drunk

I am thinking all the thoughts

That Crusoe must have thunk

I have the kind of old soul

That runs away from pain

I know all about the price of love

And its small and subtle gains

I am a dreamer

I am a drunk

I am thinking all the thoughts

That Crusoe must have thunk

I might have misgivings

Gathered up along the way

But the train’s already moving

And the fare has been paid

Some come on now

All you words and songs

Give me that substitute

For that which my soul longs

Gene G. McLaughlin 2015

A Great Forgotten Record of the 1990’s Big Chief – Mack Avenue Skullgame

In 1993 I bought a record called Mack Avenue Skull Game.  It was was a fake soundtrack to a 70’s urban movie that never existed.  For a while I thought it was a real movie and it in the days before the internet it could take a while to find your way to the truth.  The band was never overly famous and never hit it big although they did have somewhat of a following and when I saw them live once it was a full room.  The album itself reminds me of a Tarantino movie.  It is a record made by white people and is a respectful homage to 70’s black music that stands on its own.  I equate it with Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.  I listened to it on Spotify recently see how it held up 20 years later.  The record is still strong.  The music is still gritty and tight and the vocals are occasionally remarkably.  It drives forward with momentum and never dwells too long in one place.  What sounded somewhat out of place in 1991 is much less out of place in 2014 as the world has come full circle and if Big Chief were touring today they be on the summer circuit festival making crowds move in the summer sun.  It is a record that was out of place in 1993, but it did make many people like me find our ways to the original 70’s funk records that inspired it.  On Spotify there is no related artists tab, because Big Chief kind of stood alone for 1993 any related artists would be from a generation before.  Personally I am grateful for the record as a gateway to funk.  I don’t know much about what happened to Big Chief and I don’t know much background information on them.  I kid of like it that way, the album just stands on its own.  I don’t think Big Chief made a record after Mack Avenue Skullgame, but for me it stands as a great record that time forgot.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2014

This Is Not My Pop Song

This is not my pop song

Playing on the radio

My pop song is still playing

On the air waves of long ago

 

I can’t hear the melody

And the harmony sounds bad

Well I think whoever bought this single

Well I think that they’ve been had

 

Well how the hell they dancing and singing

Without losing all their damn breath

I bet they’re damn lip synching

How else they avoiding cardiac death

 

I try to switch the radio dial

But all the stations are the same

I will just sit here quiet a while

And think who I should blame

 

This is not my pop song

Maybe it belongs to you

The song structure is all wrong

The rhythm sounds bad too

 

Maybe I have just lost touch

And start to get a bit old

But this song sucks way too much

If the truth really be told

 

Well instead of sitting here feeling sad

Looking for some new tunes to hum

I am going to just be really glad

I got a box of old LP’s if I need some

Gene G. McLaughlin 2003

Musical Memories Recalled

Bob Dylan barely aware

Looking at the crowd

As if he didn’t recall why they were there

Beck as a young man

Becoming something new

Before our eyes

John Lee Hooker singing tales

I was too young to understand

But am starting to now

Lou Reed looking older

Yet still defiant

Equal parts rage and love on stage

P Funk swirling like chaos

Floating on the boards

In a smokey dark haze

Elliot Smith standing like a shadow

Singing with beauty and fear

Shortly before the end

Public Enemy fist raised

Marching and calling out orders

Daring us to move

In my mind

I hear the music still

Feeling the sound

And the pulse

Of the crowd

Gene G. McLaughlin 2013