Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sharp, Smart and Snapping: T-Bone Proves it Through the Night

Mr T-Bone Burnett

T Bone Burnett is best known these days as a producer of records of the highest quality for some of the finest popular artists in the business. You get T-Bone to produce your album and you’re guaranteed a clear, full, sophisticated sound as well as heaps of critical kudos.  His charges run the gamut: Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Roy Orbison and Leon Russell.   Greg Allman just released his first album in nearly 15 years to rave reviews. Guess who produced? T-Bone Burnett.

I discovered T Bone in the mid 70s when he was part of Dylan’s barnstorming national tour, The Rolling Thunder Revue, which was broadcast at certain venues on American TV.  In the late years of the decade he and fellow RTR refugees, David Mansfield and Steven Soles formed the Alpha Band, which could best be described as a proto-Christian mystic rock ‘n roll band. They put out a trio of albums filled with allegory and accomplished musicianship that kept me company as I painted houses in Minneapolis throughout the summer of 1979.

Proof Through the Night, his third solo record was released in 1980. It snapped with intent and intensity. Critics loved it, even though a few pushed back against what they interpreted as ‘moralising’. The lyrics were clever, the music sharply delivered by the likes of Pete Townsend and Ry Cooder and of course the production is outstanding.  An allegory for a creaking deteriorating America Burnett railed against the ultimate hollowness of the sixties experience and its icons. Oddly, but pleasingly, though he takes a lance to the ‘free love’ myth a certain sensuality percolates throughout the record in songs like Fatally Beautiful and After All These Years.

This is one of those records which doesn’t have a poor song on it. Particular favorites are After All These Years and the slightly haunting Shut it Tight.  If you like smart, fun, sharp rock music, do not pass this by.

            Track Listing
1.     The Murder Weapon
2.     Fatally Beautiful
3.     After All These Years
4.     Baby, Fall Down
5.     The Sixties
6.     Stunned
7.     Pressure
8.     Hula Hoop
9.     When the Night Falls
10. Hefner and Disney
11. Shut it Tight

Listen here.

The Washerman’s Dog Scale of Essentiality rates Proof Through the Night at 9 / 10.

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