50th Annual Grammy Awards Post Mortem: What do I know?

Apparently, absolutely nothing. While I didn’t make any predictions for this years Grammy Awards, I did make some personal picks. Evidently, that’s the kiss of death. Paul Winter took the New Age Grammy for his very fine album, Crestone, but I would’ve preferred Eric Tingstad’s Southwest, which was a much more ambitious recording and a courageous album in terms of defying career expectations.

Southwest

Once again R. Carlos Nakai was snubbed, this time for his adventurous electronica excursion, Reconnections, in favor of Johnny Whitehorse (a.k.a. Robert Mirabal) and his album of pleasant, albeit fairly routine Native flute solos, Totemic Flute Chants.
ReconnectionsTotemic Flute Chants

I wasn’t surprised to see Loreena McKennitt’s An Ancient Muse get snubbed in the Contemporary world music slot. It takes a Paul Simon or Bruce Springsteen superstar level artist to win in that category if you don’t have some clearly defined, non-white ethnicity going. I can see that in a way and certainly powerhouse performers like Céu, Gilberto Gil, and Bebel Gilberto make the case for that perspective, as did the ultimate winner, Angelique Kidjo for her CD Djin Djin. Perhaps Loreena would be better served in the New Age camp, although it’s her choice to not enter in that category.

An Ancient MuseDjin Djin

I knew there was little chance for Gustavo Santaolalla’s Babel to win in the soundtrack field, an award that went to Ratatouille by composer Michael Giacchino.

I didn’t catch much of the Grammy TV Show. Just too much tripe, tedious thank you lists and horrific performances. And Amy Winehouse? I happened to catch her set and found her appalling on so many levels from the faux retro-soul to the goth skank look. She and Ketih Richards would make a phenomenal duet on the mainline-to-hell circuit. But congratulations to Herbie Hancock, a shocking winner for album of the year for River: The Joni Letters. Hard to believe he’ll be 68 in April. The Joni Letters (with Bonus Tracks) - Amazon.com Exclusive

John Diliberto

Comment posted by
at 2/13/2008 10:12:59 PM

Amy certainly is on the mainline-to-hell circuit BUT – the question is – can you guess when she’ll reach the destination?

www.whenwillamywinehousedie.com

I appologize I didn’t add much to the conversation…

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 11:59:01 PM

It’s a shame that 98% of the people only listen to 2% of the music and that’s what the Grammy’s represent. It’s as bad as the discrepancy between the rich and poor in this country, where 2% have the wealth and it doesn’t benefit the other 98%. It seems like today, the discrepancy leans with such a hard majority to things being so out of balance, that it seems unlikely that we’ll get back to a state of balance.

It’s great to see the Grammy’s pay tribute to its past and its roots but it was almost embarrassing to watch a slightly-overweight, surgically-corrected Tina Turner come out and do three numbers with a younger, voluptuous version of herself, Beyonce. Although, I am sure most people really enjoyed it! Then, to have a guy who looked like grand dad, Anybody Wisconsin, propped up on a piano stool, and Little Richard, a veritable caricature of himself, howling like he was doing an Ex-Lax commercial.. I don’t think we gave either one of those rock-n-roll giants their fair due. I’d rather see a black and white montage of some of their great performances back up with a John Fogerty soundtrack.

I could go on forever here and I feel bad about Kanye West’s loss of his mother as that was tragic, but to put the guy and his back up band –if it was live– in a pseudo 1980’s tron movie, superimposed, doesn’t have me believing that hip-hop is the top cultural phenomenon of our time.

But hey, who am I to judge, I’m in the bottom 2 percentile. Heck if I had any talent, I’d be in a sequin dress and illuminated sunglasses belting out Little Richard and probably getting a private dance with Tina Turner.

Break a leg, Grammy’s!

Comment posted by
at 2/13/2008 12:15:47 AM

I just added Amy as a friend on MySpace because, until this discussion, I’d never heard of her. .. ok, shoot me, all of you… ;)

Personally, I like her voice but I can see where I’m hearing more mirror images rather than something resplendently blessed with unique sound.

The ambient/ mellow/acoustic/new age/lounge/indie/electronica productions coming out these days catch my attention because they’re rich with the imaginative music culture of the entire scope available, not some mock-up of the last Grammy-winner.

But.. I have to say, and I may know very little about the engineering behind what I say here, but I really was looking forward to Jeff Oster’s album, TRUE, at the least, being nominated. The dynamics of the production, the spontaneity of the album’s creative sounds, the diverse realm of the earthly sounds it could cover, the depth of emotion tied into it, the way it yearned at my heart [for one] to hear it over and over as loud as I could.. THAT was and is the sound of music, to me. … I want to feel it as I drive long roads, as I ponder beautiful scenery, as I write, as I paint or draw, as I enjoy a delightful meal, as I dance… Those are the makings of memorable music and musicians. Singing about one’s discontent or anger at the world… is not music .. to me.

Comment posted by
at 2/13/2008 5:44:19 AM

Hmm…that “Newageica” guy once put out a CD called “To The Shores Of Heaven” that was magnificent, along with several others that were just about as good..don’t let him slip under your radar (Jeff P., feel free to take that line and run with it..but good to see you “sticking” around.)

Kvetching about the results of the Grammies is as much a ritual as the event itself. The annual “Roadkill Performance Award” goes to “Goth Skank Look”-a/k/a Amy Winehouse. Frankly, John, I thought Marilyn Manson or that guy from Babyshambles might make a better partner for her than Keef. For pure entertainment value, though, I’d rather watch the Paul McCartney/Heather Mills divorce trial than any of this year’s “performances.”

One little note about the MOR recording made by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach a few years back; The “single” from that record, “God Give Me Strength,” was included in the faux Carole King/Brill Building DVD “Grace Of My Heart.” In that movie, there is a cover of “God Give Me Strength” sung by (I assume) a studio singer named Kristen Vigard, with only piano accompaniment. It is not only the “show-stopping” moment of the movie dramatically, but unlike Elvis Costello, Ms. Vigard actually reaches the high notes of that song-I could never bear to hear Elvis Costello screeching a song he simply had no business even attempting in the first place. As for Ms. Vigard, though, her aim is true.

John, Doris Day? Never thought I would see her mentioned on an ECHOES blog. Oh well, que sera sera.

Comment posted by
at 2/11/2008 10:41:37 PM

I can already hear the advertising announcing your being a prestigious judge on some higher level than the Grammy’s one of these days.. I’d so love to see that. you have pretty amazing opinions, I believe.

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 1:38:05 AM

I’m afraid the phrase “defying career expectations”, and Grammy Winner are somewhat mutually exclusive. Perhaps its time to institute an awards event that truly focuses on the music that breaks through, on the artists that, while not well known by millions (yet) have created something breathtakingly new or in some way reached beyond the tried and true that came before.

It is such tricky territory when the words “good” and “bad”, “best” and “winner” are brought into our world of music. Certainly, quality can be felt, and beauty is recognized when it is manifested in music. In watching the Grammy process, from the inside as well as from out, all I can hope for is the eventual realization that the best music is that which breaks the mold, which defies tradition, which goes beyond “same as it ever was”…

Thank you Echoes for sharing that kind of music with the world…

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 5:43:14 PM

The Grammys: don’t watch ‘em, don’t participate in ‘em. I’m suspicious (at best), or dismissive (at worst) of the entire “process” around the Grammys and other awards. Perhaps these come off as the words of someone who could never win such a thing in the first place, ) but life is too short, and if anything is going to distract me from the joy and love of playing music, it’s going to be my family, and NOT an “industry honor” that turns musicians into pushy politicians (”vote for me!”).

…plus, I’d be hesitant to show support to any organization that thought, way back in 1990, that Ian Anderson fronts a metal group….

Having said THAT- there HAVE been other awards/organizations over the years other than the Grammys- “AFIM/INDIE” and “Just Plain Folks” come immediately to mind. AFIM/INDIE is no more, but Just Plain Folks is still around.

I’m someone who greatly enjoyed “Crestone”, and was glad it (and Paul and company) were recognized this year. It seemed to me that what all the nominees in the “new age” category this year had in common was a musical history- all the nominees had been around for quite a while, and have contributed quite a bit to the musical history of the genre. At one point, the Paul Winter Consort and Will Ackerman (who won in 2005 for “Returning”) were seen as musical mavericks, and not “the old guard”. Music does have to evolve or risk death, but not all evolution is good evolution- Amy Winehouse comes to mind, and now, thanks to John Diliberto, I won’t be able to even think about her without hearing the phrase “goth skank look” in my head. I owe you one, John… )

Jeff

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 6:11:07 PM

Don’t hold back Jeff ;-)
Actually, the Grammys are no more or less susceptible to politicking than any other award and at the least, I can fairly confidently say that there’s nothing corrupt going on there and the academy goes to great lengths to make the process as transparent and fair as possible. You’ve got to give credit to an organization that can give Herbie Hancock the Best Album of the Year award. Remember who’s voting: musicians and record companies. And you can blame Jethro Tull’s record label for nominating him in the Heavy Metal category in the first place, although the selection committee should have screened them out. As I recall, that was the first year for that category so things hadn’t sorted out, the same way that jazz saxophonist Yusef Lateef won in the second year of the New Age category. And you’re right, a lot of old vets in the New Age category. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. For the Indie musician, unless you’re really willing to put money for publicity and a lot of effort into it, there’s not much point in entering your music into the Grammys. Think of it like a caucus. It’s more about organization than who has the best policies.
John Diliberto

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 7:29:09 PM

John- thanks for the permission to stop holding back, I shall attempt to be suitably unchained… )

I’m sure the actual vote counting and all that with the Grammys is on the up and up and there’s no shenanigans involved with vote rigging, etc… my perspective, and previous post, comes from the that of “musician on the outside looking in, with no desire to enter that monkeyhouse at all”. Indie musicians/labels are at a major disadvantage when it comes to the Grammys, and you’re right- there probably won’t be “big results” unless you throw out a huge amount of cash. Hopefully, sanity would rear it’s ugly head and cause a musician/label to ask what they are, in the end, getting for their money.

It was nice that Herbie Hancock won album of the year, and was surprised when I read that on the news websites. I’ve not heard “River: the Joni Letters”, but have enjoyed quite a few of his recordings in the past. Again, from a musician point of view, I think there’s a lot to learn from the “old guys” like Herbie (he’s really going to be 68?) Paul Winter and Eric Tingstad. They may be vets, but they are vets for a reason; somehow, they’ve managed to stick around through the musical trends and ups and downs of the industry. And, from listening to “Crestone”, there’s a lot to learn musically from Paul- at least a lot there for someone such as me to learn.

Regarding voters: you’d THINK that, from the VOTERS point of view, with that first metal Grammy category, they would have known enough about Jethro Tull to know that they weren’t metal. For Pete’s sake- one of the other nominees was Metallica- “metal” is right there in the name, that should have helped some of the voters. But I’m betting those voters are smarter now, and because of that, if I ever decide that I want a Grammy, my first step will be to get on the ballot with a project recorded under my newest pseudonym: “newageica”…

Jeff

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 9:23:51 PM

John, I agree with your take. Watching the Grammys is like viewing some alternate reality… who is listening to the artists they present? Certainly not music lovers. What musician do you know that listens to any of that stuff on the program?

In regards to very popular artists doing something interesting; Where is Radiohead? Sigur Ros? The Decemberists? The White Stripes? The Arcade Fire? Elvis Costello? Tom Waits?

The Foo Fighters are their idea of a rock band? They’re giving awards to Doris Day?

Comment posted by
at 2/12/2008 10:09:28 PM

I’m not sure who was on the show this year but:
Elvis Costello won in 1998 for his MOR album with Burt Bacharach.
Radiohead won in 1997 and 2000.
The White Stripes won in 2003 and 2005 and this year.
So that music is represented.
And what’s wrong with Doris Day?
John Diliberto

Comment posted by
at 2/11/2008 3:05:38 PM

thanks for your grammy show sunday night on wshu. even with the fund raising, it was better than that crap on tv. i’m waiting on a tv show on the web recognizing the music that’s really out there.

Comment posted by
at 2/11/2008 8:56:53 PM

John,

I totally agree with you about the Grammys: both your picks and your observation about the TV show. The whole thing was so repulsive that I had to pull the plug after only 5 minutes. Keep up the great work with Echoes and know it is appreciated by many!

Comment posted by
at 2/11/2008 9:01:05 PM

Boy howdy, I do not have a TV, and went out to watch Crappies and can’t quite believe what the poor TV watchers of the world must put up with. Endless commercials (finally just shut my eyes) overproduced numbers……
Thank Wolves for NPR.

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