Friday, March 6, 2009

Underrated, Underappreciated (#1 in a Series)

Bob Dylan's
Planet Waves

Recorded in L.A. with The Band, this might be more overlooked than underrated, though I think it's both. Dark, troubled albums usually have a better shot at attaining "classic" or at least critical favorite status than upbeat ones with songs about the positive side of love. Dylan doles out some of both here, which makes Planet Waves tough to pigeonhole or fit into a single concept. Jam-packed with some of the greatest Dylan songs that nobody ever seems to talk about: "Going, Going, Gone" (memorably covered by Jay Farrar), "Tough Mama", "Dirge". I was surprised to find out this made it to #1 on the album charts, though apparently sales dropped off fast after an initial burst of publicity. Today, it seems to be lost in the still-growing Dylan discography between the low of Self-Portrait (probably also underrated given its horrible reputation) and the high of Blood on the Tracks. Christgau called it "
stray cat music--scrawny, cocky, and yowling up the stairs". No way I can do better than that. The phrase on the cover, "Cast-iron songs & torch ballads", is not a bad description either.

Old-fashioned donuts

I was a fan of this style long before discovering Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but their perfect renditions are the pinnacle of classic donut making. The old-fashions at Edwardsville, IL's Donut Palace were sweetly glazed, dense, irregular and hard-fried. They were good (and hopefully still are). Peter Pan's are a bit lighter, and the glazed versions are less thickly glazed (and therefore not quite as sweet). PP also has sour cream versions, which are a nice variation, though the flavor difference is subtle to me. I've also been meaning to try Donut Pub on 14th St in Manhattan, which has a good reputation but as far as I know does not live up to its name by serving beer with donuts.

There are fancier donuts (the Lower East Side's "correctly"-spelled Doughnut Plant does great things) and more popular donuts (the airy, sticky, tasty but overrated Krispy Kreme glazed), but the humble, homely old-fashioned is the king.

Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece

Might be Van's second best album (if you don't think this is his best, you are truly a contrarian and need to defend yourself with a well-reasoned argument). Two other underrated/underappreciated VM songs, though not from this album: the early "Joe Harper Saturday Morning" and the more recent "High Summer".

Murphy's Irish Stout in the nitro can

Better than nitro can Guinness, and often cheaper.

Elvis Costello's Brutal Youth

Has some middling (for EC) tracks in the middle, but benefits hugely from one of the best openers ("Pony St.") and closers ("Favourite Hour") of any Costello album. I played this a lot in the car, when I had a car. Good replay value.

No comments: