I’ve been doing this annual CD review for several years now, even though few people notice, let alone care. So lately I’ve been pondering why I’m so obsessive about this ritual of seeking out new music, listening, buying, evaluating, ranking, and reporting, especially in a world gone so relativistic that we’re afraid to suggest that one thing is actually better than another thing. We’re comfortable enough saying we like this or that, but the idea of excellence as an absolute that transcends mere taste seems fascist to us. And when I assert my opinion that a particular CD is something you might like, and ought to listen to, that probably strikes some as more than a little arrogant.
So why do it? Part of the answer is simple enough – I love music and find the process both challenging and fun. But there’s more to it than that – I feel like we’re all caretakers of our culture. Ideally, everybody has a corner lot somewhere that we feel responsible for maintaining. Some people teach, some work tirelessly for the poor, some volunteer for the arts, some collect stamps, some coach little league, some sing in barbershop quartets…. You could argue that certain of these activities are more noble than others, but the point for me is that music is a powerful, affirming force, and a lot of really talented musicians are out there busting ass trying to move the culture along in a meaningful way. That’s their corner, and I’m genuinely grateful to them, even the ones whose music I despise, when they sing and play from the heart. Read more