Frank Black and the Catholics, Live at Melwkeg – While I appreciate pretty much anything former Pixie Charles Thompson records, whether going by Frank Black or Black Francis, I do rather miss when he played with the Catholics. I saw them live once in November 2002, and it was a good mix of songs from throughout Frank’s career, including both Pixies and solo stuff. This album, recorded at a venue in Amsterdam on 24 March 2001, reflects that mix of songs, although there isn’t anything from Frank’s pre-Catholics solo albums. (Well, I guess “Men in Black” technically counts, but it was on The Cult of Ray, basically a Catholics album from before the Catholics were named.) There are Pixies songs, a few things from Pistolero that I don’t think I’d heard live recordings of in the past, and some stuff that hadn’t been released at the time of this show. “I Will Run After You” and the Tom Waits cover “The Black Rider” would both first appear on an album the following year, although the version of the former is different from either of the two on Black Letter Days. As Frank himself put it on Twitter, that’s the sign of a good song. There’s also what I believe is Frank’s first official release of “John the Revelator,” a traditional call-and-response gospel number probably most famously recorded by Blind Willie Johnson. It’s actually followed in the setlist by another Bible-themed cover that Frank had released a few times before, Larry Norman’s “Six Sixty-Six.” I understand that the late great Norman, an early Christian rocker, was a favorite of Frank’s. What I’ve read about his childhood suggests he was exposed to a lot of born-again Christian culture, and that’s reflected in the lyrics to some of Frank’s work, especially some early Pixies songs. “Gouge Away” is loosely based on the story of Samson and Delilah, and “Dead” on David and Bathsheba. “Nimrod’s Son” is also about a Biblical character, although I don’t know of any story about Nimrod that made him an Oedipal character. There WAS a legend that he was reincarnated as his own son, however, so that might well have been Black Francis’ inspiration. (For what’s it’s worth, versions of “Gouge Away” and “Nimrod’s Son” are on this album, but “Dead” is not.) Oh, and I feel I should mention that the last track, listed as “Manta Ray,” is actually “Dancing the Manta Ray.” That would be a nitpick if it weren’t for the fact that there weren’t a separate Pixies song called simply “Manta Ray.” Speaking of Frank (or should that be “speaking Frankly”?), I need to pick up the new Grand Duchy album, but I couldn’t find that one at Princeton Record Exchange.
Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Sings – Another album that I picked up from the record store was this collection of Bob Dylan covers performed by Robyn. I’m not that familiar with Dylan’s work, but it does include some of the songs everybody knows. “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Like a Rolling Stone” are both here, and done quite well. I can definitely see how Dylan influenced Robyn, but I guess Dylan influenced everyone.