Real Life Rock Top Ten

The old, the tired, the rejuvenated, and the dead


Painting the town red: Paul McCartney rocks the former Soviet Union
Cynthia Lemon for City Pages
Painting the town red: Paul McCartney rocks the former Soviet Union

9 and 10) Soundtracks: Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Red, White and Blues--A Film by Mike Figgis and Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: The Soul of a Man--A Film by Wim Wenders (HIP-O Records) I haven't seen the blues documentaries running on PBS--Scorsese served as executive producer for the series, and directed one episode--but I have heard the accompanying CDs, and I can tell you that Tom Jones's "Goin' Down Slow" (in the Figgis film) shows a deeper recognition of Howlin' Wolf than Lucinda Williams's embarrassing "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" (in the Wenders) does of Skip James--and that Jones has infinitely more of himself to bring to the song. These two albums in particular are a study in weird contrasts, with Soul of a Man filled with ridiculous performances by Shemeika Copeland, Cassandra Wilson, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, and Nick Cave, and Red, White and Blues mixing small masterpieces from Louis Armstrong (1947), Miles Davis (1957), and Big Bill Broonzy (1956) with famous and obscure recordings from the British 1960s (Cream's runaway-train version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," the Spencer Davis Group's impossibly sure, bone-chilling "Hey Darling") and grounded, present-day pieces by Jones, Lulu, and Jeff Beck. The shocker is the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group's more cited than heard 1954 cover of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Donegan is so excited he runs right out of the studio and into the street, shouting, dancing, and you can almost hear thousands of British teenagers--among them four named John, Paul, George, and Ringo--saying to themselves, "I could do that! I have to! Now! This is the sound of another life!"

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