41 Favorites: #5

The look at some of my favorite things begun here last year upon my 40th birthday is finally continuing. Now it’s 41 Favorites, since I took over a year off after my last entry — but the number will likely change again.

Cover to Edie Brickell album 'Volcano' showing her at the corner of two green walls kicking at some leaves on the ground

My 5th in alphabetical order on the list spitballed last October is the music of Edie Brickell.

I came home for Thanksgiving during my first semester of college in 1988 and,
standing in the kitchen of my mother’s house one day, was entranced by music coming from the den. MTV still lived by the words that gave the channel its name back then (Music Television, kids) and it was playing the debut video of Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, for a song called “What I Am”. The very next day that I could, I went out to Sam Goody and bought the group’s album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, on vinyl.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that “What I Am” is the greatest song ever written,
but it struck me at a time when I was discovering great old music thanks to friends and fellow dormers at Oberlin yet inspired by precious little new music. And the album as
a whole really got under my skin, from that first cut to the dreamily romantic “Air of December” to the driving “Beat the Time” on to the closing number “I Do” — originally an unlisted track, a fact that’s always made it all the more haunting to me. It didn’t hurt that I had the album in heavy rotation the next summer as I corresponded with a lovely young woman between semesters, nor that whenever I set the needle down on the record my beloved cat Fef would trot into the room and jump up on my bed.

Edie Brickell is not some generic hippie-chick singer/songwriter and only a “one-hit wonder” by the literal metrics of the pop charts. She hasn’t put out an album that I haven’t played almost incessantly, under her own name or with New Bohemians or another ensemble, helped along surely by the way I so internalized Rubberbands but due also to the voice and craft that drove me to put that first album on constantly in the first place. The 2006 release Stranger Things, which reunited Brickell with guitarist/
co-founder Kenny Withrow and other New Bos, might actually be a better album than Rubberbands by objective measures (keeping in mind, of course, that we’re still talking about the highly subjective, um, subject of music), and her 2003 solo album Volcano is probably her best overall, so if you’re curious about her work or all you know is “What
I Am” I’d start there.

Volcano featured late Bohemians member Carter Albrecht and the great bassist Pino Palladino. Brickell and Paladino are now both part of The Gaddabouts, whose name is
a play on that of drummer Steve Gadd; they premiered with an eponymous album back in January of this year and, I’ve just discovered, are set for another in early 2012. Brickell released her own eponymous album the week before The Gaddabouts came out, recorded over several years, again featuring the work of Albrecht (who died in 2007) and Volcano producer/musician Charlie Sexton. Many of the songs had earlier been made available to fans through Brickell’s website [bad link].

Brickell’s versatility is really on display on the 2008 album The Heavy Circles, named after her project with Harper Simon — the son of Brickell’s husband Paul Simon, who co-produced her 1994 non-Bohemians debut Picture Perfect Morning. Circles has a different kind of vibe than New Bohemians’ output and features contributions from Sean Lennon, Martha Wainwright, and Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda.

Rubberbands was one of the last vinyl records I bought, in the days when the format was being phased out in favor of compact discs and before its resurgence in popularity this millennium. New Bohemians’ excellent, darker 1990 follow-up Ghost of a Dog was one of the first and very few albums that I bought on tape, when CDs were still a little too pricey. Rounding out their catalog are 2000’s rare The Live Montauk Sessions and the 2002 Ultimate Collection that’s a hodgepodge of relative hits, non-album singles, collaborations, and previously unreleased material.

I didn’t mean this post to be little more than a recital of Brickell’s discography, but had I truly delved into an album-by-album excavation it would take over the blog entirely. Her music in all its variations has from the moment I first heard it felt like it’s been a part of me forever.

41 Favorites: #1-3 | #4 | #5 | #6 ... All
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