Friday, February 8, 42 A.B.

Why Langston Hughes Was A Better Man Than I Am

I've long known that Langston Hughes was an important poet in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  What I didn't know until yesterday was that he was also a nice guy.

That's according to his secretary, Raoul Abdul, anyway.  Turns out that Hughes wrote many things besides poetry - and among those many other things were book reviews.  According to Raoul, however, he refused to review books he didn't like.  Apparently Hughes believed that anyone who could get a book published by a major publisher didn't deserve to be dumped on.  This is confirmed by Nikki Giovanni, who says "He was determined to find the good and praise it."

Hughes probably would not like this entry....

Unable to engage in any new unicorn hunts or whirling dervish marathons while entertaining Mr. Cold Virus, I've been sampling more new music instead.  I'm trying to find the good and praise it - I really am! - but it's proving to be a far more difficult task than I expected.

Maybe Mr. C.V. has clogged my sense of adventure as well as my nose?  Maybe I need to start giving singers more of a chance to make a favorable impression than the 30-second song samples can provide?  Maybe I need to just face the fact that I'm a precocious curmudgeon, get myself a cane, then shake that cane at the world as I sit in my rocker ranting about the young'uns?


Putting myself in a trance and using a Ouija board to compose the following reviews in hopes that the spirit of Mr. Hughes will come and help me be as kind as possible....

Alan Jackson's "Drive" - Country music annoys me for many, many reasons.  This best-selling CD reminded me of all of them.

Ludacris' "Word of Mouf" - Comedic rap which does for blacks what Cheech and Chong did for Latinos.

Ja Rule's "Pain is Love" - There are some nice musical sounds floating around on this CD, but the ugly rap lyrics pretty much drown 'em out.

The Chemical Brothers' "Come With Us" - As a fan of electronica, I've repeatedly bent over backwards to find something to like in the critically acclaimed releases of these guys.  This latest collection of unpleasant sounds energetically repeated ad nauseum relieves me of the desire to ever try again.

Nas' "Stillmatic" - Another rap release which records the last moments of some interesting musical sounds getting suffocated in their cribs by harsh lyrics and a deadly monotonous beat.  The tracks entitled "Rule" and "What Goes Around" might contain some astute social criticism but by the time they rolled around I no longer cared.  In fairness to the possibly perceptive mind behind those two tracks, however, I'm moved to say this: If you buy only one CD this year with the words "You can suck my dick" on it, this should be the one.

Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama" - Soulful diva packs a lot of slinky sounds and emotion into this whopping 17-track disc.  Too bad I'm not into soulful divas.  Even so, it's impossible for me to reject out of hand any singer willing to perform a bluesy song about PMS.  And out of the more than 60 songs I sampled this outing, only "Family Affair" prompted me to listen to it a second time.  What I'll end up remembering, however, is the damnably unforgettable way the angst-ridden theme of "The Young and the Restless" soap opera has been incorporated into the title track.  I won't be able to sleep for days now as my mind struggles once again to understand how Steve can be so blind to the fact that his sister's husband, Ken, is really the father of Karen's baby....     

There you have it - yet another unrequested batch of off-the-cuff reviews of music I know virtually nothing about.  I purposely wrote 'em longer and longer as I went along in hopes that the spirit of Langston Hughes was merely being delayed by some unearthly traffic jam and might yet arrive at any moment to inject some understanding and compassion into my opinions, but I guess his spirit has better things to do with its time.

Maybe these CDs will sound better to me once I'm over my current illness.  Maybe I should try listening to them again then.

Then again - just to be safe - maybe I better wait until I'm rich and famous enough to hire a secretary named Raoul....

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(©Now by DJ Birtcher just to prove to certain rappers that it really IS possible to do something without using the word "motherfucker")