Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 14, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Nikka Costa's Far-Flung 'Pebble' Makes a Splash

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washingtonpost.com: At 9:30, Of Montreal's Kooky Kitsch

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J. Freedom du Lac: Will she or won't she? That's the Janet Jackson question of the moment, and it has nothing to do with her disrobing.

Jackson - Miss No-Show, if you're nasty - has bagged 10 concerts on her Rock Witchu tour, including one last night at the Turning Stone Resort in New York.

She's supposed to perform at [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center tomorrow night, but she's already pulled the plug on a Thursday-night date at Madison Square Garden.

Liz over at Celebritology is conducting an internet poll re what exactly is wrong with Miss No-Show. (Janet's camp hasn't explained what's wrong with her, other than to say she's sick and staying off the road on the advice of her doctor.) Last I looked, "she's having some kind of mental/emotional breakdown" was leading with more than a third of the vote.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: What do you know about the possibility of new music being released by D'Angelo sometime later this year or early next year? It's been almost 10 years since his last album. I can't wait any longer.

J. Freedom du Lac: There are rumblings that he's making progress on a new album, but I've no idea whether he's anywhere close to the finish line. You really ought to read this story from Spin magazine. The headline: "D'Angelo: What the Hell Happened?" The online version that I've linked isn't the full story, which is really worth finding. Fascinating - and also kind of heartbreaking.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the interview with Nils Lofgren! Have you heard that album of Neil Young covers?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks. He's a good interview (judge for yourself here). A lot of history there, between his own projects plus the work he's done with Neil and that Springsteen guy. I'm generally not a big fan of tribute albums, but I think "The Loner: Nils Sings Neil" is excellent - any fan of Nils or Neil would probably enjoy it. Well-considered song selection, and some of the interpretations are just flat-out fantastic.

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Baltimore, Md.: J, do you know if Malitz has a problem with Ra Ra Riot? He seems to be upset that this band will become big one day.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't know, let's ask him.

Malitz?

washingtonpost.com: Is that how it came off in my review today? No, I don't have a problem with them becoming big, I was basically just stating the inevitability of it. New Weenie America (TM) is the big thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that. More on the blog sometime soon, including the full roster breakdown of NWM.

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Rocky Mount, N.C.: Forgot to ask last week (and I guess so did everyone else)... Any thoughts on the Phish reunion announcement? Planning to go to Hampton in March 09?

J. Freedom du Lac: It was inevitable, wasn't it?

Don't know about covering the reunion itself. Might interfere with my fantasy baseball draft.

By the by, if you haven't already, you really need to take a look at this fake headline/news bulletin that Malitz wrote upon hearing the reunion news.

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Arlington, Va.: What's the musical equivalent of a Rays/Phillies World Series?

J. Freedom du Lac: Probably a Lykke Li/Nils Lofgren collaboration. One is a nascent semi-star with a small but growing following, the other is a vet who's definitely had some highs and played on the biggest stages, but isn't nearly as storied as, say, Springsteen's Yankees. Their fans are their fans, and while they'd be interested (as would hardcore fans of music/the game), everybody else might just shrug. Including Fox and MLB - or, in this case, EMI.

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No Control: We're worried about a 73 year old POW camp survivor being healthy enough for a Presidential term when a seemingly healthy 42 year old singer/dancer can't even make it to the Verizon stage for a couple of numbers off a new album that few people could name without checking Wikipedia? David Bowie did so much cocaine that he can't remember 1976 but never canceled a show during his entire career until a heart attack and angioplasty in 2003. Janet Jackson has no respect for her fans or the stage.

J. Freedom du Lac: What does McCain have to do with the price of iced tea at the basketball arena in Chinatown?

I dunno, could be that there's actually something wrong with Jackson - maybe she came down with Crohn's, or is suffering from some other serious ailment. Which to me is a whole lot different than Bowie snorting himself into a stupor. But if that's the case, though, doesn't she owe it to her fans to explain what's going on? Her camp has been weirdly quiet about this, which has some of Jackson's fans frustrated.

Her record is still better than Sly Stone's, who continues to back out of concerts to this day.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Your thoughts on the new Beyonce video "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)?"

J. Freedom du Lac: Single ladies - put a get me bodied beat on it! I kind of liked the video, in a Tina Turner goes interpretive-dancing-as-a-Mod-in-black-and-white kind of way.

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Washington, D.C.: Janet's Madison Square Garden date was POSTPONED ... not canceled. It was moved to November 1; she did not just "pull the plug." This change was made days ago.

PLEASE STOP SPREADING LIES ABOUT JANET JACKSON!

J. Freedom du Lac: What, you can't plug something back in after you unplug it? I didn't say she canceled it. You did. Stop spreading lies about what I'm saying here.

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I'm still not done being sick of Phish: Not ready for them to have a reunion.

J. Freedom du Lac: At least the "kind veggie burrito" business will get back on track - for a few days, anyway.

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Janet Jackson has no respect for her fans or the stage.: Not fair. We have no idea what is wrong. She does have the right to cancel a show if her health is suffering. Yes, it sucks for the ticket holders, but still not fair to say this until you know what the reason is.

Do you always go to work when you're ill?

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't you think she owes it to "her public" to explain what's going on? One or two shows, fine - she's in Celine Dion territory there, no biggie. But she's up to 10 now. That's an awfully long string of postponements.

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RE: Sly Stone: I was watching Woodstock not long ago. The Sly segment made me sad. How could a guy that talented with a band that sharp just disappear?

J. Freedom du Lac: Drugs and paranoia.

Here's what Bobby Womack told me a few years ago when I was working on a story about Sly:

"He was so creative, one of the most talented guys I've ever met. It was inspirational being around him. He made some great music. He just wasn't happy in his personal life. He got to the point he wouldn't even listen to his own stuff. That's paranoia. As the drugs set in, the warm, creative side went away. And then it got worse and worse. He was a person out of control. ..."

"We used to be as tight as bark on a tree. But I haven't heard from Sly in 15 years. At least. The last time I saw him, I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard, and he was going the opposite way. I blew the horn and said, 'Sly!' He looked at me and just kept going. But then he turned around and said, 'Bobby, I can't do that to you, man.' I said: 'What was that about?'"

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Janet...: Perhaps she's pregnant and suffering complications? There have always been so many rumors about her being pregnant, I'm surprised no one is considering that now.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's among the widely circulated rumors which are filling void created by her camp's silence.

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Baseball is Life: Good answer on the musical equivalent to a Rays/Phillies Series. Which leads me to this - who is the musical equivalent of Manny Ramirez? I go with Dylan - undoubtedly brilliant, sometimes erratic and occasionally incomprehensible.

J. Freedom du Lac: That might be right, though here's a big difference: Manny is always smiling - on the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse (except for when he's pouting and trying to get out of Boston). The people around him seem to really enjoy his company. You get that sense with Dylan?

But more significantly, as far as this comp is concerned, Manny is way more consistent than Dylan. Look at his stats. He's never suffered through a slump along the lines of Dylan's "Street Legal"/"Saved"/"Shot of Love" period, let alone "Knocked Out Loaded."

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RE: PLEASE STOP SPREADING LIES ABOUT JANET JACKSON!: NO I WON'T. IT'S MY FAVORITE THING.

Take your pick: I heard that Janet Jackson invented the intermittent windshield wiper but was cheated out of her fees by Ford. Also, I heard that Janet Jackson knows how to rope a steer. Also, Janet Jackson is absolutely the most relevant singer/performer working today.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, she's the Chuck Norris of pop.

Janet Jackson can unscramble an egg.

Janet Jackson can kick start a car.

Crop circles are Janet Jackson's way of telling the world that sometimes corn needs to lie down.

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More Janet: Judging by this picture, the aliens have beamed her aboard.

J. Freedom du Lac: Malitz just noticed something amazing.

Janet has transformed herself into Sly Stone! Check out this photo of Sly at the 2006 Grammys vis-a-vis the Janet pic linked above.

It all makes sense now.

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Manny is always smiling: He was a great guest on Leno. Smart, funny, personable, answered questions about his "attitude." I felt like I understood him a lot better after after seeing that show.

I don't know that I would understand Dylan any better if I saw him in an interview.

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't you get it? Dylan doesn't want us to get him!

This is truly one of the greatest blog posts ever: New York's Vulture blog on "The Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time." I actually have it bookmarked. So great.

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Seattle, Wash.: Any opinion on Tom Moon's book, 1000 recordings to hear before you die?

J. Freedom du Lac: Haven't seen it.

But that reminds me of the first time I met Tom: In the press area at Woodstock 1994, where we were separated from the festivalgoers by a chain-link fence. A group of them were chit-chatting against the fence right around deadline on either Saturday or Sunday, and Tom turned around and yelled at them to shut the hell up.

Poor kids. But hey, it made it easier for all of us to write. So: Thanks, Tom!

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L'enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.: J. Free--

Loved your review of Of Montreal. Question for you...I'm looking forward to seeing Conor Oberst at 9:30, but what kind of dynamic will his new backing band add to the show?

PS - Was Chris Cooley really at the Of Montreal show?

J. Freedom du Lac: The band said he was there, but a club source says he wasn't.

Who's in CO's band now? The same people who played on his solo album? Or is he working with a different configuration? Can't tell the players without a scorecard.

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More Baseball: If Manny sorta = Dylan, who are the comps for BJ Upton and Evan Longoria? Two of the Jonas Brothers?

J. Freedom du Lac: Sounds like a blog post. We'll do one on the eve of the World Series. Though it remains to be seen whether we'll be writing about Upton and Longoria or Papelbon and Malitz's former hero, Jason Bay.

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Dylan = Barry Zito: Started out modestly. Became a solid performer, then a superstar with a cult-like following. Then reverted to (at best) mediocrity.

Hey, did Dylan ever do 'roids?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not even close.

Zito's best years with Oakland never approached the brilliance of Dylan's best work - and besides, Dylan was voted Comeback Player of the Year in 1997, when he was also named Most Valuable Player. To this day, he remains a viable MVP candidate. Zito's never gonna sniff the Cy ballot again, unless one falls out of Tim Kurkjian's back pocket. Plus, Dylan never dated Alyssa Milano.

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Atlanta, Ga.: I like that new Hank Jr. McCain song. Well, that's not exactly true. I like that it's there for me to make fun of with my elitist friends.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hey, somebody had to step up for him. He was running out of options, per this Time blog post.

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If Manny sorta = Dylan: No! I thought we all agreed Manny IS NOT Dylan. NOT.

J. Freedom du Lac: And Malitz notes another reason that Dylan isn't Barry Zito: Barry plays more guitar these days than Dylan.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Nice Nils interview, and I was glad to see you brought up "Bullets Fever."

And also the idea of aliases when doing session work. Years ago he produced an album by a band called Charlie and the Pep Boys. The guy credited with playing keyboards: Lefty Potomac.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nils apparently had a little bit of game himself, back before he tore up his hips. Unfortunately, I don't think this will be the year he winds up recording "Wizards Fever." Not looking great for the home team.

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RE: Dylan never dated Alyssa Milano. : There's still time. Once he gives up on Alicia Keys.

J. Freedom du Lac: "I was thinking 'bout Samantha Micelli, I couldn't keep from crying/While she was born in St. Louis, I was livin' down the line."

That'd work.

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Quit your moanin': Oh, please, you pop music people have it easy with your performers canceling. Pity me, whom George "No Show" Jones has stood me up at least a dozen times (why do I keep on coming back for more punishment?). And I still haven't forgiven Merle Haggard for abruptly ending his show at the intermission at the Birchmere a few years ago ("I got a backache"), given that it took me twice as long as the "show" to drive to the venue (and then back). His band had the grace to look embarrassed as they slunk off the stage in Merle's wake.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm supposed to interview George Jones for a Kennedy Center Honors profile. Hope he actually shows up at the appointed hour. Though in reality, he eventually turned it around and started actually, you know ... showing up for his shows.

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Dylan doesn't want us to get him! : I'm torn between believing that he's totally in control of himself and doing all the crazy talk as his own personal inside joke, and believing that he's insane.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or, the correct answer could be c): He simply exists on another plane.

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The Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time: All I can say after looking at the blog is "wow."

J. Freedom du Lac: Like I said, it's an all-timer. Can you imagine suffering through one of those interviews? Wow.

And on that note, I have to prepare for a much easier interview with Ne-Yo, who may or may not be the Steve Garvey of 2008 pop.

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