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Cat on my shoulder
July 2000

Music is a mirror of what's going on around us, locally, regionally, nationally, and finally globally. Music, like every other artistic expression, reflects on contemporary times one way or the other.

Books, paintings, and of course music are to be comprehended in the social, cultural and political context, in which they are generated. The times are changing, and so is music. Is it?

Well, sometimes it seems it isn't changing at all. Take "Silver & Gold", Neil Young's latest CD. When I listened to it the first time I was sent on a time-journey way back into the early 1970s, when he released "Harvest". The music I was listening to seemed to be "out of time". I'm not saying "out of synch", because that's a completely different matter.

I'm not sure what Neil Young forced to record "Silver & Gold". My interpretation is: he wants to show us that music is ... well, music. Just that. Perhaps he believes good music will survive any time machines, and as a real fan of Neil Young, I join him here.

But there's still this "deja-vu" experience with "Silver & Gold", and I guess I would be a wise man if I could explain what it really refers to. This CD leaves me stunned in two ways: it's lovely, melancholic Neil Young, and it's all we've already listened to in the past decades. Nothing new ... which is probably the news he wants to convey.

A different thing is Douglas September's "IO" from 1999. This is a singer-songwriter of the exceptional class. His songs are haunting me, his voice makes me feel paranoid, his lyrics are sometimes too much to swallow. This guy sounds so terribly "normal" that I need to see my face in the mirror to check whether there's a cat on my shoulders.

Douglas September generates the melange of emotional conditions and intellectual obsessions which reflect urban ways of life as much as urban ways of death. He does not circumvent any topic, he simply attacks it with the tools of music, arrangements, and lyrics. Arrangements, by the way, seem to be substantial for his performance. He's not as expressive as Jeff Buckley, his voice is simply too "simple", but he generates similar emotions.

Finally, two ladies of rock, who offer amazing music: Ani DiFranco and Aimee Mann.

Ani DiFranco's "Up, up, up, up, up, up" (1999) is an exquisite collection of sounds, melodies, rhythms, and lyrics of a woman who knows how to play with music and how to play the music. She's an unbelievably talented musician, a playful singer, and serious producer of her own stuff.

The same can be said of Aimee Mann's "Bachelor No 2 - or the last remains of dodo". What a feast of excellent music: pop, soul, blues, you name it, Aimee Mann is capable to just serve the whole range of contemporary music. It is a shame that no major label feels confident enough to offer her a contract guaranteeing her artistic freedom and musical and economic control. Well, it's business, of course, and therefore the latter ain't much in favor with the bosses.

Aimee Mann has found a way to distribute her excellent music via her web-site and other means.

I wish I could do something to help her gaining the success she certainly deserves.

There's a Neil Young web-site out there at I checked it several times and I can't imagine that it is authorized by him because it's an entirely commercial site. So, don't visit it unless you hear differently from "yours truly".

Copyright © by Eberhard Wenzel, 1997-2001