Today I revealed the results of the Expert Witness community’s first-ever jazz album poll over at Robert Christgau’s MSN.com music blog. For this poll I asked voters to choose their ten favorite jazz albums recorded in the 1960s. Voters could define “favorite” and “jazz” however they wished, and were asked to allocate points to each of their ten albums as per the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll's points system. A full list of the EW Jazz Poll's rules is available here. I wrote some pre-game commentary here, and some post-game commentary and individual ballots are available in the comments section of Christgau’s MSN blog. Below are the results, compiled from 29 ballots. Please note that Robert Christgau did not vote in this poll.
1. Miles Davis, In a Silent Way 238 (19)
2. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme 233 (17)
3. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 136 (9)
4. Miles Davis, The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 92 (7)
5. Albert Ayler, Spiritual Unity 80 (7)
6. Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch 79 (8)
7. Duke Ellington, Meets Coleman Hawkins 61 (6)
8. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard 60 (5)
"Seth Rogen is a great American artist. He can think whatever he wants about Steely Dan far as I’m concerned."
— Robert Christgau, in a comment on his Expert Witness blog at MSN.com. He was responding to Ryan Maffei's remark that “the only truly objectionable part of Knocked Up… is when Seth Rogen says that Steely Dan can gargle his balls.” I suppose this could be considered objectionable except for the fact that Donald and Walter likely spit scotch and soda out of each of their respective nostrils when they heard Rogen’s line. An honor.
I am hosting the first ever Jazz Poll for the online community active at Robert Christgau’s Expert Witness blog. The rules and parameters for this poll are available here, and the poll closes Oct. 30. This first poll concerns the best jazz albums recorded in the 1960s. If anyone wishes to vote—and I hope you do!—please be sure to read the rules carefully and submit your ballot to the email address listed there. Voters are asked to provide their ten favorite albums within the poll’s parameters (or the ten “best,” or however else you wish to define your ballot). You may either rank these using the Pazz and Jop points system (as explained in the rules), or weight them each equally; either is just fine.
Since a lot of jazz was recorded in the 1960s, I put together this list of recommendations culled from the texts of two book chapters by former Village Voice critic Gary Giddins: “Postwar Jazz: An Arbitrary Roadmap (1945-2001),” as reprinted in his book Weather Bird, and “Collecting Jazz Recordings,” in the appendix of Jazz, written with Scott DeVeaux. For a few of the recommendations below, Giddins had merely mentioned the existence of the album, or only explicitly recommends one song from the album (“Three Little Words” from Sonny Rollins on Impulse! for example). But I’ve sought out enough of these albums to know that when Giddins mentions one, it’s probably worth hearing.
Brief caveats: these are not the only great Jazz recordings of the 1960s. Notice Giddins does not mention Thelonious Monk’s work on Columbia, John Coltrane’s Ascension, or Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way, nor any albums by Davis’s second great quintet in either of these chapters. Don’t get mad; he discusses and recommends each of them elsewhere, if memory serves, but just not in these two chapters. He doesn’t mention any singers either, except Armstrong with Ellington, nor any European recordings, unless you count the albums by the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Albert Ayler, each of which is identified with American jazz anyway. He recommends such contenders elsewhere as well, just not here.
If you’re not as familiar with Jazz as you would like to be, or just have some gaps in your knowledge of ’60s Jazz, you’re going to have a good time with this list. Check these albums out, share them with friends, and don’t forget to have fun. Because Jazz is fun, and polls are fun. Most will be available on any one of several streaming services. I use MOG. Now dig in! The list is after the jump (click “Read More”).
The Rolling Stones, “Far Away Eyes” (Some Girls, 1978)
This Stones song has stirred up some interesting conversation over at Robert Christgau’s Expert Witness blog. Many who have commented find Jagger’s faux-Southern accent classist and condescending; you can scroll through the comments section here to follow the discussion. I don’t mind the accent, so I don’t wish to pursue that argument here, but the controversy led me to listen closer to the words, which offer a few surprises. Could the girl with the far away eyes be a… um… paid escort? He has an “arrangement” to meet her, and is surprised she hasn’t gone off “with the nearest truck driver she could find” when he’s running late. Maybe she has “far away eyes” because she’s a “professional” and not actually emotionally interested in him?
Which makes his embrace of the radio evangelist in the first verse tastier, or at least more complicated. Because, since God is always by the protagonist’s side, he can run “twenty red lights in [God’s] honor,” and the disconnect this demonstrates between the spiritual benefits of faith, and the discipline required to earn those benefits, leads the protagonist to advise that when “you’re down on your luck” or “downright disgusted,” you best go get yourself “a girl with far away eyes.” Maybe not so Christian, though it is sweet that he pays the evangelist ten dollars to say a prayer for her. Unless that prayer is a request for a discount. That would be a little crass.
Also concerning Some Girls, many comments at Expert Witness diss on the title track because it’s sexist and not funny enough. Personally, I think it’s funny, and though I can see how it is sexist, I also wish to point out that initially girls are doting on Jagger and giving him money and jewelry, though by the end he is the one doling out the cash to gain women’s affections. Oh, the perils of fame. All of that said, Jay-Z’s similar “Girls, Girls, Girls" is funnier, and actually more offensive: "Got this Chinese chick, I had to leave her quick, because she kept bootlegging my shit." Whoa!