when my lips are sealed
If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
If you don’t like vanilla ice cream, we offer 27 other flavors.
All of the above sentences or phrases came to mind this morning as I listened to a very early advance copy of an album (I still call them that) from an artist that is known, loved and (most likely) advertised here at this site. It was delivered to me two weeks ago and although I sampled it a little, it wasn’t until this morning that I listened to it from start to finish. I’m a big fan of this artist and own everything that has ever been recorded and released. And as it turned out, I don’t like this new album at all.
While I often post here, I’m not apt to do music reviews. Too much work (for no pay), too much fact checking, too much pressure and too many writing and intellectual skill sets that I don’t possess. If I find something I like, I share it. If I listen to something I don’t particularly enjoy, you’ll usually never hear about it from me. (Footnote…if you look hard enough you’ll find a review I did on Bob Dylan’s Christmas album where I just trashed the darn thing. I thought he could weather the blows. And it turned out I was wrong. The video for “Must Be Santa” is a classic.)
I’ve never been a fan of most music reviews…or maybe it’s more accurate to say the actual process. And I’m not talking about the blogging community. I mean those published by folks who get paid for what they do and are serviced by record labels, publicists and promoters. And my criticism toward critics is not because they get free stuff and might be swayed (because most aren’t), but by being awash in so much material I think it’s hard for them to maintain perspective. Over time the process makes it easier for them to say thumbs up or down, yes or no, good or bad. Which in my opinion makes it unfair to both the artist and the reader.
Now here’s the asterisk or fine print in all this:
Had Grant Alden not recently written about a little-known singer named Ruby Johnson, I’d never have learned about her or heard her. Ditto for Elizabeth Cook. If Adam Sheets didn’t wax enthusiastically about John Mellencamp, I would have never bothered to check him out again. (And I’m still not a fan Adam, but you made me want to try.) And don’t get me started about the writing and reviews posted here from Ed Karn…his taste in music is so much like my own I sometimes feel we were separated at birth. All I need to see is the name of the artist he is writing about and I just go to Amazon and start sampling it. And usually buy it. Kim Ruehl is another one who helps empty out my wallet whenever she writes about someone new. She’s like E.F. Hutton to me.
In a world where any Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Sara or Katie can record music on their laptop, post it on You Tube and My Space, sell it on iTunes and Amazon, play at the local coffee shop or on the quad…how do we discover this? For myself, I don’t need to know if someone is not talented or has made an un-listenable album. I do need to know if someone is talented or has recorded something that is special to not only them, but the writer and potentially me. And that’s why I like to read blogs and also recommendations that people post…because more often than not they do it because they like something enough to want to share it passionately. And I like when that happens.
I’ve read many posts and articles about music (or film or plays or food or whatever) criticism and the importance it plays in our culture. I do “get it” but just aren’t so sure I “buy it”. And this community is a big enough tent to allow for whatever it is that you may desire. So it’s not my intention to spark a debate about reviews or music critics. As I often do, I’m just thinking out loud.
Today, I’m happy to be clear of who I am and what it is I do here. I blog. I share thoughts. I share things I like. I share opinions. I share memories. I share my music library with you and tell you what I like. But I don’t do formal reviews. (At least not all that often unless I’m in love with an album and have stars in my eyes.) And when I hear something that I really don’t like, my lips will be sealed.