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Formulate Infinity’s Favorite Albums of 2015

This past year in music marked a significant shift in how albums and songs are enjoyed. 2015 will go down in history as the year that music streaming went mainstream. With Taylor Swift giving Apple Music her royal approval, the music buying public has finally embraced the idea that music should be rented instead of owned. While I have personally resisted this digital transition, I am finally on board with Apple Music and have enjoyed the unprecedented access to artists that were once out of my listening reach. My preference remains one of ownership but I must admit the past year has led to a level of musical discovery on par with the tape and CD hunting of my youth. For this reason, Formulate Infinity has created specific categories to share its favorite 2015 albums. Hopefully, the categories will help express how eclectic my taste have grown over the course of the past year. As always a big thank you goes out to all the family and friends that make it their living to share the very best music!

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats Album of the Year (AOY): Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Great albums have energy. They are timeless. They can be enjoyed by all. Nathaniel Ratliff and The Night Sweets capture lightning in a bottle and run it through a bar-busting, soul-bursting blues-bar amp. Their journey echoes the sounds of Otis Redding, Van “the Man” Morrison and countless others who have bared their souls to a world-weary public. The night is just getting started with this crew and you know you are in good company when you can raise a glass to the home-town band. You need not know the words. Your drunk-ass will find a way to sing along no matter what!

Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A ButterflyRunner Up: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar has his finger on the pulse of America and its pointing right back at you (and me). He has produced a cinematic album that is timeless in its musical references (Dr. Dre, P-Funk, Tupac, Jazz, Soul, etc). The album also serves as an audacious lyrical flame thrower that calls out America for its cultural shortcomings and injustices. Lamar’s soundscapes and lyrics are occupied by the troubling reality that America has not made it as far as it thinks it has. Songs like “Blacker the Berry” challenge the listener to examine the societal mind-traps we all set for ourselves:

So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a n**** blacker than me?

As Lamar’s  inventive posthumous mock interview with Tupac at the close of the album proves, To Pimp a Butterfly is smart, brave, daring and, above all else, damn good music.

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To LoveRunner Up: Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love

No Cities to Love is more than a riot girl reunion. Its is a manic call to arms forged in the raw energy of pure rock and roll. Sleater-Kinney show that they still matter after their long hiatus. The band still has plenty to say and they are not afraid to put their sound up against the post-recession anxiety that looms over us all. No Cities to Love plays with bam-bam feminine gusto. It pushes pure punk power through your living room speakers with the intense sincerity of a band that has nothing to lose. Like all great punk bands, Sweater-Kinney give a a voice to the voiceless. And that voice is screaming with stories that occupy the restless music of No Cities to Love.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live)Live AOY: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live)

The fact that this album exists in 2015 is a testament to the staying power of Jimi Hendrix and his back catalog of music revelations. My dad hitchhiked to this festival from the Carolinas and was happy to recall that the counter-culture was in full effect when he arrived. The cops were held at bay by the throngs of young concert goers that showed up for a festival billed as the “Woodstock of the South.” This would be the largest audience ever assembled to hear the greatest guitarist to ever live. The music does not disappoint. Hendrix’s powers are on full display. His guitar is alive, his band holds him aloft and the music takes to the sky as guitar notes bend, flex and climb upward. Time capsule be damned, this is a great live album no matter how you frame it.

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: [Deluxe Edition]Boxset AOY Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (Deluxe Edition)

Bob Dylan has always been considered a musical chameleon. His greatest change of musical skin, however, was likely his first. In 1965 he shed his folkie protest-poet pose for the electric mercurial jam of a rock and roll trapeze artist. The Cutting Edge box set captures this intense creative transition with outtakes from sessions that redefined the very nature of Rock and Roll. The release of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde changed everything. “Like A Rolling Stone” blew apart a rock  song’s acceptable length.  Dylan explored topics and lyric constructs more in line with the beat generation, than rock and rollWhat makes the box set so great is that you can hear Dylan and his band mates closing in on a sound that would remake the world and inspire countless others to abandon simple pop ambitions for something more meaningful and true.

The Most Lamentable TragedyConcept AOY Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is likely the most ambitious album on this list. Named after Shakespeare’s first tragedy, the album tackles the deep stabbing depths of mental health despair. The album is both challenging and rewarding as it explores the very nature of living a life that is constantly measured against one’s fractured self. Music styles change, anthems blast and lyrics take on a complexity only the footnotes of Genius lyrics could explain. Ultimately, the album’s great reward is that these complex issues are presented with the push-punk flare of a great American rock band.

Desaparecidos, 'Payola'Protest AOY: Desaparecidos, Payola

Desaparecidos can be loosely translated from Portuguese as the “disappeared ones.” Short history lesson, the “disappeared” refers to the people who were arrested and killed by Latin American dictators during the 1970s and 1980s. The Desaparecidos, as the name suggests, have a political axe to grind. Conor Oberst leads the march with songs that are demanding and edgy. The outrage is clear and the breadth of topics covered range from economic injustice and racial profiling to domestic spying and corporate greed. Needless to say, outrage and indignation has never felt so good. The album’s first song, The Left is Right, says it all:

It begins when we chain ourselves to the ATMs
Make a mess when we pitch our tents on the statehouse steps
Now we’re taking it, now we’re taking it back
Now we’re taking it, now we’re taking it back
For the greater good
Goddamn Robin Hoods

Fan the flames, serve them cocktails down at the Stock Exchange
Hear the screams, take our baseball bats to the limousines
They’ll be talking us, they’ll be talking us up
They’ll be talking us, they’ll be talking us up
To the journalists

If there’s any left

You know the Sixties proved that change is hit or miss
Every bloody pacifist concedes the truth
If one must die to save the ninety-nine
Maybe it’s justified
The left is right
We’re doomed

Father John Misty I Love You, HoneybearSinger-Songwriter AOY: Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Father John Misty’s second album hits all the marks when it comes to keen, poetic spill-it-all writing. The satirical, the plaintive, the emotive all coalesce into an enjoyable dare. In the same way that Leonard Cohen sings with a half-wry smile, Father John Misty sings heartbreak like a stand-up comedian who would rather be sitting down. I Love  You, Honeybear is full of lyrical twists that keep the listener guessing (and laughing quietly to themselves). Misty’s lyrics are pressed into action with a variety of music styles that serve as the perfect foil to what is one of the best penned albums of the year.

Simple Songs JIM O'rourkeSinger-Songwriter AOY Runner Up: Jim O’Rourke, Simple Songs

If you have not heard of Jim O’Rourke, that does not mean you have not heard him. He has been behind the boards and played with countless bands, most notably Sonic Youth and Wilco. His solo efforts are always well crafted timepieces. Simple Songs is brilliant expansion of his underground catalog. The music and lyrics are layered with precision. The only simple thing about Simple Songs is how effortless O’Rourke makes the finely crafted results seem.

Vulnicura BjörkAdvance the Avant-garde AOY : Bjork, Vulnicura

Bjork delivers another fascinating turn as musical enigma. She experiments with sound that thrusts longingly through the limitless space she has crafted for herself. What essentially constitutes a break-up album, turns itself into so much more with Bjork at the controls. Like a butterfly that splits from its cocoon, Bjork has released a fantastic album that creates its own atmosphere, rising far higher than the earthly anchors that hold other artists back.

Jenny Lewis The VoyagerAlbum with the Most AOY Pop: Jenny Lewis, The Voyager

If an introduction to Jenny Lewis is needed, check out her classic album Rabbit Fur Coat with the Watson Twins. The rediscovery of that album earlier this year lead me to Lewis’s brilliant new release, The Voyager. While Rabbit Fur Coat quakes with Americana heartbreak, The Voyager is something more confident, more modern. The “pop” tendencies of the album never go overboard. Instead, the songs on the album serve as a fresh assertion of what is possible when you take contemporary music techniques and match them with timeless feeling.

The Shakes avoided the dreaded sophomore slump by turning up the soul and expand the color of their sound. The result, Sound & Color, is enriched by forays into jazz, pop, funk and, at times, psychedelia. The band is still 70% southern charm and heartache but the the soulfulness of the band breathes deeper with each added nuance. Brittany Howard leads her talented bandmates with the purest, most brutal voice in rock. It's a deadly combination that will only become more lethal with each subsequent album release.Rock N Soul AOY: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

The Shakes avoid the dreaded sophomore slump by turning up the soul and expanding the color of their sound. The result, Sound & Color, is enriched by forays into jazz, pop, funk and, at times, psychedelia. The band is still 70% southern charm and heartache but the soulfulness of the band breathes deeper with each added nuance. Brittany Howard leads her talented band mates with the purest, most brutal voice in rock. It’s a deadly combination that will only become more lethal with each new album release.

Kamasi Washington The EpicJazz-head AOY: Kamasi Washington, The Epic

Three hours of original sax-jazz brilliance is a phenomenal gift in 2015.  Kamasi Washington’s sends his free-flowing music straight to the listeners head and the results are epic. The fact that this album exists during the same year as Washington’s other breakout performance, the jazz infused flourishes of Kendrick Lamar’s, To Pimp a Butterfly is amazing. The Epic’s standout compositions and performances are a complete 180 from the hip-hop world that dominates the mainstream. Washington paints with a broad canvas and your ears will be surprised by the directions his music takes you. Much of what The Epic achieves can be viewed as the natural extension of the experimental jazz that John Coltrane threw down so many years ago. It appears the heir apparent has finally arrived.

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment SurfSurprise AOY: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Surf

Surf would not be on anyone’s radar if it were not for the mind-blowing creative fire that was lit by Chance the Rapper’s brilliant Acid Trip. The appeared in iTunes unannounced and surprised fans. The fact that this fulfilling head tripper came free of charge is simply jaw dropping. Sometimes it really is about the music. Chance’s growing collective reaches new heights as Surf beats with an emotive, eclectic heart. The Social Experiment mix multiple musical genres with hip-hop sensibilities and come out ahead in the game. The large cast of performers make for a lively listen, too. Never has an album sounded like such a communal effort. One cannot listen to Surf and not feel like they belong to the Chance collective, too.

Wilco, Star WarsSurprise AOY Runner Up: Wilco, Star Wars

Surprise! New Wilco album, oh and its free, too! Enough said.  Hot off the heels of the bands 20th anniversary, Wilco has never sounded more confident, more loose that on Star Wars. While the release itself has more in common with Tweedy’s earlier work with Jim O’Rourke and the Loose Furs, the album still rings Wilco true. All the right notes are hit with the relaxed precision of a band that has earned a creative license to try anything. Is there any other band more beloved than Wilco? After 20 years of music making, Star Wars shows the band’s creative peak has yet to plateau.

Jason Isbell, Something More Than FreeAmericana/ Singer-Songwriter AOY: Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

The term “country music” has become synonymous with pop chart princesses and brainless bad boys in 10 gallon hats. The term “Americana”now alert listeners to a music that taps into the old bluegrass and country traditions that once helped define the DNA of country rock and roll. Listeners alienated by the plastic music of to the new country world order, will find singer-songwriter glory in Jason Isbell’s finely crafted sophomore effort. From the opening hook of “It Takes a Lifetime” to the last strum of “To a Band I Love,” listeners can be assured that the old traditions are not completely lost. In fact, Isbell proves track after track that he is an artist capable of starting some new ones of his own, too.

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.Slacker AOY: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett’s slacker daydream immediately sends the listener back to a time many Gen-Xers longingly refer to as the “90s.” With her deadpan delivery, her day-to-day musings, and her shrug it off mentality, Barnett makes not giving damn sound pretty damn good. Choruses like “Pedestrian at Best” are at the core of Barnett’s slacker sound:

put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you
tell me I’m exceptional and I promise to exploit you
give me all your money and I’ll make some origami honey
I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny

The listener, however, should not be fooled. Underneath the slacker pose reside some pretty inventive lyrics and sounds.  For instance, “Depreston” starts out as a simple house hunting song but ends with surprise musings about a long gone Vietnam Vet who once resided in a suburban home that’s now being sold. Just like the 90s music that came before, there’s much more percolating beneath the surface of “Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.”




Formulate Infinity’s Favorite Albums of 2014

The ranking of albums at the end of year is a time-honored tradition celebrated by many websites and blogs. Formulate Infinity stepped into the fray last year with a list that was relatively safe (Formulate Infinity’s Favorite Albums of 2013!). It was so safe that a separate list was needed to include all the albums that were missed throughout the year (Formulate Infinity’s Missed Music List of 2013!). Suffice it to say, that is not the case this year. A big thank you goes out to all the family and friends that make it their living to share the very best music (I am talking about you Brotha B and Jan!).

Spoon Album of the Year Goes To They Want My Soul By Spoon

Spoon has always performed at a high level. So much so that many rock critics are baffled by Spoon’s status as the most under-appreciate band in rock. They Want My Soul is full of great tracks from the punch-punch-punch of “Do You” to the trippy drip drop of “Inside Out.They Want My Soul plays to the ears first and the crowd second. Needless to say, this album has everything.  In a year when U2 pandered to the masses and gave away an album that sent many recoiling from the corporate tie me up tie-in of online music commerce, it is heartening to hear rock and roll that is un-compromised by the quick cash grab. Spoon refuses to become a parody of their success. Instead, Spoon’s below the radar greatness has allowed them to build a rock legacy that will last.

TD'Angelohis year’s Best Album Consolation Prize goes to D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s Black Messiah. This album has appeared at the 11th hour of 2014 but is well worth the listen. I was taken aback by the albums inventive and mesmerizing musicality. Each track is an experience unto itself. D’Angelo and the Vanguard peel back soul music for the 21st Century and put all the soul sucking fakers on notice. This is music that attacks the heart, soul, and mind simultaneously. Simply put, Black Messiah is high stakes R & B art.

Rounding out the top five:

Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music plays like a space outlaw’s metaphysical phone call to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. This album also includes Formulate Infinity’s Song of the Year, “Turtles All the Way Down.” Turtles stands as a mind bending affront to all things pop country. Take that Darius Rucker! Eat the Document Taylor Swift!

St. Vincent’s self-titled masterpiece, St. Vincent, rams full throttle into the listener’s brain. The music pops, pounds, grinds and pours out with every guitar chop and synth stomp.  The albums electicity is future forward without being pretentious. It is by far the most adventurous album of the year.

Tweedy’s Sukierae turns musical experimentation into a family business. Never has a father-son pairing sounded so inspiring. The combo has me looking forward and backwards as I raise my own family. The music is daring and Jeff Tweedy’s son Spenser is a fantatstic drummer in his own right. The music is fantastic!

In addition Sturgill Simpson gave one of the Best NPR Music Interviews of the Year: God, Drugs And Lizard Aliens: Yep, It’s Country Music

81HBFoiE0aL._SX522_Best Live Album Goes to Gary Clark Jr’s Gary Clark Jr. Live 

“For most rock acts, the live double album is breathing space between studio shots. This rising Texan’s two-CD set is his defining moment, a generous blast of prowess that backs up the future-of-blues-guitar promises made in Gary Clark Jr.’s name since his bust-out performance at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads festival.” – David Frick, Rolling Stone

dylanBest Reissue Goes to Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes Complete 

The Basement Tapes Raw, like the original ’75 release, blends brilliant performances with pure curiosities. What’s remarkable, though, are how many beautiful, emotionally daunting moments came into being during these rather informal sessions.” – Matt Melis, Consequences of Sound

Honorable Mentions:  The following albums got heavy rotation from my car to my Apple TV to my late night headphone land.

81XrwUxDG3L._SX522_Conor Oberst, Upside Down Mountain 

“All of Mr. Oberst’s gifts align on Upside Down Mountain: his empathy, his unassumingly natural melodies, the quavery sincerity in his voice, the plain-spoken but telling lyrics that he’s now careful to deliver clearly.”  – Jon Pareles, New York Times

riff faffHurray for Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes

“Their faultless fifth album pays homage to a variety of roots forms. There are easy-going country laments here, harmonicas, a blues or three and even a doo-wop number, all doffing hats to tradition. Segarra’s caramel voice goes down spectacularly easily, and the effortless swing of these songs suggest she was born and bred under a bandstand south of the Mason-Dixon line (spoiler alert: she wasn’t).” – Kitty Empire, The Guardian

Beck Morning PhaseBeck, Morning Phase 

“Whether his melancholy morning is a phase or part of a larger cycle to which he may return in the future (the latter is more likely), Beck proves once again here that he’s a tremendously versatile artist, capable of excelling throughout the musical spectrum.” Jordan Mainser, MusicOMH

van ettenSharon Van Etten’s Are We There

“Are We There offers an artist in full command of her voice and her instrument, a woman who knows exactly what she wants to offer listeners and who isn’t afraid to accompany the barest streaks of sunlight with thousands of clouds.”  Todd Van Der Werff , A.V. Club

Jack_White_-_LazarettoJack White, Lazaretto

“You suspect that getting on the wrong side of White would be inadvisable. Thankfully, he has channelled his demons in Lazaretto to create one of the great break-up albums of recent years.” – James Hall, The Telegraph


Beyond the Top Ten: These albums also qualify as Honorable Mentions. Each of them, in their own way, enriched the cinematic soundtrack of my everyday charmed life.

turn blueBlack Keys, Turn It Blue “There’s an ever-expanding diversity of appeal to Turn Blue that should win new fans and please the faithful.” – Andy Gill, The Independent


golden messengerHiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers “Lateness Of Dancers has the unmistakable aura of a deep classic. It is a US masterpiece. A wonderful thing, for sure.”Max Bell, Record Collector

leonard cohenLeonard Cohen, Popular Problems “At the age of 80, Leonard Cohen has created a masterpiece. It’s a smoky, late-night concoction delivered with a deceptively light touch that masks deep seriousness. Opening” – Neil McCormick, The Telegraph 

thurston mooreThurston Moore, The Best Day “Purists will always pine for Sonic Youth and their glory days, but with a band and album this good, who cares about the past?” –  Matthew Ritchie, Exclaim

remedyOld Crow Medicine Show, Remedy “Old Crow Medicine Show is so consistent, so unfailingly and solidly good at what they do, it’s tough to get exercised about a new record. So here I am admitting a stupid thing. I wasn’t excited about this, and yet here it is, one of the best Americana records of the year.” – Stuart Henderson, Exclaim

everyday robotsDamon Albarn, Everyday Robots ” The 12 songs that comprise Albarn’s first proper recording under his own name serve as a quintessential cumulation of the amalgam of moods reflected in his post-Blur output—the English moodiness of The Good, The Bad and The Queen, the polyrhythmic sway of Rocket Juice and the Moon—in the form of this most intimate and illuminating collection.” –  Ron Hart, Blurt Magazine

Black and Blue Simmer: Three Albums for Your Summer Soundtrack

With my first Capri Sun of the year imbibed (thanks Hunter and LA!), we can now officially announce the onset of summer. School business is coming to a close and graduations are commencing. Baby boy will soon celebrate 7 months of joyful existence and bask in his first summer brightened by familial sun.

So pop your cans and clap your hands! It’s time to cue up the summer soundtrack! From morning commute to beach getaway, these albums will liven up your travels. Each artist on this list offers up a record that represents a culmination of their musical powers and all are worthy of your grill and chill time. Without further delay, here are three strong contenders for your endless summer rotation.

oberst-upside-down-mountain-338x300Upside Down Mountain is Conor Oberst at his very best. The album’s reflective and expansive lyrics are sealed in a 1970s California sound.  While the Wah-Wahs wah and the guitars twang, Oberst delivers lyrics that dance around the dark edges of life. With song titles like Enola Gay, the artist is not afraid to point out the futile struggles of modern life. This isn’t to say the album is downcast. In many ways, the acceptance of life’s limitations has a freeing effect and the music moves upward as Oberst laments his musings. Ziggzaggig Toward the Light is a confident testament to living free and making art on your own terms.  Night at Lake Unknown is a whimsical, swirling country tinged play about. All in all, Upside Down Mountain is perfect for bringing your summer morning into focus, especially when the album strips down to the acoustic simplicity of Desert Island Questionnaire and Artifact #1.

turn blueThe Black Key’s Turn Blue trades in the crunch stomp that made the band famous for a more nuanced, pop bubbling sound. With Danger Mouse once again producing and co-writing with the duo, the band finds itself experimenting with song construction and vocal performance.  The songs on the album expand outward and falsetto-croons are trapped inside Danger Mouse’s airtight sound. Songs like Weight of Love and Bullet in the Brain build and move across sonic landscapes that dip and dive with flourishes of guitar brilliance.  Gary Clark Jr.’s influence can be felt throughout the record and is most evident on the album’s subdued title track. Turn Blue plays best out by the grill or on motorcycle drive-bys. If you need to take a trip to headphone land, the album can fill that void, too. Overall, Turn Blue represents the big mid-day snack of your summer.

Jack_White_-_LazarettoLazeretto is probably the best album of Jack White‘s inventive and groundbreaking career. The Black Keys sing the blues. Jack White belts out the blues with a white-hot flame throwing veracity that torches the eardrum.  White has gone on record to point the finger at his imitators (the Black Keys among them) and the self imposed shoulder chip serves him well. We all need something to prove. With that in mind, White delivers a record that deconstructs all of his earlier work, from the White Stripes to his collaboration with Loretta Lynn, and rebuilds it into one giant towering babel of sound. The title track lays down the gauntlet, White rapping with enthused zeal while his guitar plays jam master to the ceremony at hand. The album goes on to the explore every music possibility from the modern Appalachia of Temporary Ground to the stripped down Entitlement. No genre is left untouched or reimagined.  High Ball Stepper brings all White’s musings together and the stomp that entails is an instrumental warning to all other musical challengers that he is a force to be reckoned with.  With that said, the entirety of Lazaretto has enough variety to support a romping party by a summer bonfire held underneath the held high stars.  In deed, the energy present throughout the album should inject your summer rotation with enough vigor to get you to August and beyond.

RIP Rubin “HURRICANE” Carter

Rubin Carter

He was the inspiration for the last great political song of Bob Dylan’s career.  He was a man who never gave up the fight to clear his name. He was an American who showed us how to fight injustice. He was the Hurricane! RIP Rubin Carter.

Hurricane by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, “My God, they killed them all!”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world

Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see
And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously
“I didn’t do it,” he says, and he throws up his hands
“I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you understand
I saw them leavin’,” he says, and he stops
“One of us had better call up the cops”
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’
In the hot New Jersey night

Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that
In Paterson that’s just the way things go
If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street
’Less you wanna draw the heat

Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head
Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”
So they took him to the infirmary
And though this man could hardly see
They told him that he could identify the guilty men

Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye
Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for? He ain’t the guy!”
Yes, here’s the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world

Four months later, the ghettos are in flame
Rubin’s in South America, fightin’ for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley’s still in the robbery game
And the cops are puttin’ the screws to him, lookin’ for somebody to blame
“Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”
“Remember you said you saw the getaway car?”
“You think you’d like to play ball with the law?”
“Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin’ that night?”
“Don’t forget that you are white”

Arthur Dexter Bradley said, “I’m really not sure”
Cops said, “A poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
Now you don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow
You’ll be doin’ society a favor
That sonofabitch is brave and gettin’ braver
We want to put his ass in stir
We want to pin this triple murder on him
He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”

Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much
It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay
And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail
But then they took him to the jailhouse
Where they try to turn a man into a mouse

All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed

Rubin Carter was falsely tried
The crime was murder “one,” guess who testified?
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell
That’s the story of the Hurricane
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world

Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music

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Beck’s Morning Phase

Beck Morning PhaseOn February 24th Beck will release his 12th studio album, Morning Phase. The chameleonic singer has undergone yet another sea change and turns in an effort that is far different from his last major release, Modern Guilt. That album had a fun bounce that surprised summer audiences with carefree jams that tapped into the singer’s urgent roots. Morning Phase, however, is a much more reflective album that plays on the artist’s quieter sensibilities.

Thanks to iTunes Radio’s first play stream, I have enjoyed listening to the album as I cut across the winding back roads that make up my morning commute. The music, like the sun that cuts through the pine trees on my way to work, glimmers and shimmers in beautifully layered instrumentation and bright, floating vocals. Every musical touch is full of well thought out nuance. From the lift of orchestral strings to the quiet strum of acoustic guitar, the album has a quiet, apparitional feel that relaxes the spirit. The lyrics are well constructed and show flashes of Beck’s inventive flair but they do not impose themselves on you like some of the artist’s other works. This album is all about the sum of its parts and while there are standout tracks, like “Blackbird Chain” and “Wave”, the record is best enjoyed in its entirety.

Fans not familiar with Beck’s break up masterpiece, Sea Change, may experience surprise when listening to the mature vocal performance that connects all the tracks together. While it’s not quite as shocking as Bob Dylan’s non-nasal country croon on Nashville Skyline, it does take the listener aback if they are expecting an Odelay style folk-rap repeat.   The album, however, will grow on you as each track reveals something new with repeat listening.

Morning Phase may very well make a lot of Best of 2014 lists and it is an early favorite to make Formulate Infinity’s top albums rundown at year’s end. The record also leaves me hoping that after 6 years of exiled experimentation, Beck is ready to go through yet another fruitful period of producing great and varied music. Only time will tell. One thing is certain, his next album will sound nothing like Morning Phase. Until then, enjoy.