Less ‘More Life’ & More Clark Life

All day long today, it’s been Drake this, Drake that. Dear God man!

But you know, Drake instead of Marcia.

Drake dropped More Life a few days ago. It’s a playlist. It’s not an album and it’s not a mix tape. It’s a playlist. Whatever Drake. I liked this bit from a Vulture review of More Life, commenting on Drake’s penchant for being cavalier with the official names of his releases.

“Drake’s declining to call More Life an “album” after the mixed reaction to Views gave some pause. Was this an attempt to push back goalposts and score easy points after a less-than-stellar outing? Was Drake courting collaborators he feels too restricted in his “proper” albums to work with? Was he finally delivering a full-fledged OVO Sound compilation? The finished product isn’t arranged very differently from a standard Drake album. The notion that his art needed new methods of presentation is a laugh, since neatly arranged 60- to 80-minute auditory therapy sessions are as natural to him as hooks and memes.”

I’d add that naming these methods is pointless because thanks to Spotify and other streaming services, everything is just a collection of songs now. No need for formalities anymore. People listen to an album maybe once or twice all the way through and then cherry pick their favorite songs, add them to a playlist and then tuck the album away for safe keeping. As a man without a real time, Drake seems to both understand this and not understand it concurrently. I don’t think that’s a compliment.

Much like everyone else who has listened to More Life, I get down with “Passionfruit.” I don’t know how you couldn’t. One of the similarities between Drake and his true contemporaries Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift is his ability to put out songs that are undeniably good and even songs that even the most ardent Drake naysayer will genuflect in their direction of ever so slightly. I’m looking at you “One Dance.” You cannot not like Drake, but some of his songs are damn near impossible not too like. It’s like a magic trick.

But the real point of this post is not to talk about Drake. Everyone else is talking about Drake and I’m already slated to do a podcast tomorrow devoted solely to Drake. I’d rather talk about this new live album from Gary Clark Jr.; an album that won’t get nearly the amount of attention as More Life, probably shouldn’t get the amount of attention that More Life is getting, but is definitely worth a listen nonetheless.

Gary Clark Jr. at the Paramount Theater on December 6, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman

Live North America 2016 is a throwback of sorts, taking us back to a time when live albums were a thing and a chance to get a real, raw glimpse at our favorite artists. Sure, live albums are essentially catalog filler and a seat filler as we wait for a new studio album, but they still serve a purpose. Recorded while out on the road promoting his 2015 album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, it pulls heavily from that album, with the exception being two covers from Jimmy Reed and Elmore James, right up the alley of old blues heads, and “When My Train Pulls In,” an old standby of Clark’s. It’s a blistering album, click bait for guitar lovers who morph into puddles of admiration at the first few notes of a breath-taking blues solo, of which there are many on this album.

On average, the tracks on Live North America 2016 run close to seven minutes, as Clark and his band let the kids breath and the dogs out for a nice long walk. I’m of the opinion that a good live album makes you want to run out and see that band or musician right away. It’s like a good preview to a movie that leaves you wanting more, but gives you enough to know you want to see it. I have no interest in a live album from The Strokes, no matter how much I like the Strokes. But a live album like this one from Clark is why live albums were made; it gives you a side of Clark you don’t fully get if you only know him through his studio albums. Those albums are good (Sonny Boy was definitely a step up from Blak and Blu) but an artist like Clark is so much more outside of a studio. Live North America 2016 gives you that and more.

So yes, Drake is fine. His album will probably be around longer than Clark’s, but let’s use this as an opportunity to not let More Life completely block out other albums, playlists or mix tapes dropped on Friday. You miss stuff that way and Live North America 2016 is an album not to be missed.

 

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