Thoth! It’s a Grammy!

grammySomehow, it got a lot later than I thought it would get tonight. Actually, it’s a little hard to tell how later it really is, because I broke my main clock this afternoon, and the two back-ups can’t seem to agree on anything. There’s something nice about breaking a clock for a change (as opposed to the usual vice versa, I suppose), and the dreadfulness of the season makes it an apt time for a time out; it’s just that it seems so late all the time, lately.

Well, what the hell, at least we’re through with February.

Now that the opening Whine is Concluded, we shall pass on to gladder tidings, for I have seen such things lately of which I shall tell you frothily, and thith! Anon, yonder paragraph doth contain such great and plenty froth of fith wit waddles, dexter, thot, and ambiguity! Wot widdles!

Oops, ah, what… well, apparently the medication has started to kick in.

How about I try just one or two more openings, and then you can just pick the one you like (or, if necessary, hate least)? Here you go:

It was early one day – really early, like literally almost morning or something – when Hilary noticed something disturbing had happened to Tuesday’s burnt porridge.

or

Well, hey you crazy nut bags! Have I got a bangeroo surprise for you all! It’s time for our yearly Kelp Grammy Wrap-Up that we’ve never, ever had once before in history, and why? Well, I don’t know, except, because… well, what the hell, it just is!

After all, I’m, you know, the big music columnist guy, so we may as well see if we can find out if they had the Grammys last week, and if anyone won any. Besides, this will give me another few moments to dweedle away on the internet like an idiot. You wait here. Have some nuts.

Oh! Well! You won’t believe it! They just gave all the awards to Norah Jones, an artist whom I myself, have, in these pages, publicly liked. It’s a great album, but in a very low-key, self-effacing way, charming rather than magnificent -a surprising subject for all this prestige! It also could be that her babe-aliciousness overwhelmed the voters, rendering her lovely tone and natural, unobtrusive way with a song almost moot. It’s probably quite healthy for all concerned, with the possible exception of Ms. Jones herself, who I figure to be following up with some really bratty behavior in the near future (and who wouldn’t?)

Actually, there were a few other satisfying developments this year besides: Flaming Lips won (for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, of all things); so did Foo Fighters, Solomon Burke, Doc Watson, Lee Perry, the Funk Brothers, and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Even Charley Patton won, and he’s been dead for about fifty years.

Randy Newman also took home one (Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media), following his long-delayed triumph at the Oscars; it was his third. Randy’s a genius. Norah Jones should give him some of hers.

One of the best albums, ever, in the whole world, is Randy Newman’s “Good Old Boys”, which was originally released in 1974. It has recently been re-released on Rhino, with an extra disc of Randy playing demos of some of the songs from the record and an equal number of songs that didn’t make it, accompanied by his laying out his original story line for the piece, much of which was discarded (along with its original title, “Johnny Cutler’s Birthday.”)

The songs are frequently brilliant -just as good as the album they were intended for, even when sometimes truncated -and the combination of his slightly confused, semi-illuminating narration and his strange, spooky, incisive songwriting is fascinating. If there’s one thing the arrival of CDs and DVDs have taught us, it’s that a great outtake is a very rare thing; “Johnny Cutler’s Birthday” is full of them.

Of course, the experience would be well worth whatever the most mercenary, villainous record retailer might charge, if it only provided an excuse to listen to the original album again. It’s a portrait of Huey Long’s racist Louisiana of the 1930’s and 40’s, and it’s scathing, bitter, outrageous, courageous, hilarious, and both heart- and ground-breaking. You can’t write songs better than this -there’s not a dud on here – and the arrangements are likewise as good as it gets. They don’t make albums like this anymore; in fact, they never did. Listening to it is enough to restore hope.

A long time ago, I had a discussion with some friends in which each of us tried to name a songwriter who hadn’t done anything lame, ever -a daunting task (after all, even the Beatles wrote “Octopus’s Garden.”) Randy was the only guy we could sort of agree on (and we were sort of upset with him for letting the Eagle’s sing on “Short People.”) Then, out comes the “Good Old Boys” re-issue (and by the way, you can tell it’s going to be great, because they left the ‘d’ in “old”) and it turns out they sang on that one, too. So somehow, Randy Newman got me to love, without reservation, an album that had the Eagles on it -without my even knowing they were on it at all!

He’s a genius, folks -check this one out (again, if necessary.) Better grab a Norah Jones, too -she’ll be needing to lay some money aside for her nervous breakdown.

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