This Minstrel Life – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Sock Records)


NOT a review, rather a brief attempt to capture the essence of this music and this musician

NBTMusicRadio has been playing Rosenthal albums since his very 1st release and now with the release of his 7th and latest collection, I started thinking about WHY this artist is one of my personal few ‘reliable’ and ‘go to’ guys and indeed one of the very few acts that I know (even before I have heard a note) is going to deliver something honest, catchy, somewhat subtle, perfectly formed and produced that rewards frequent listens.

One of the worst parts of curating playlists for the 24 hr stream is to reluctantly drop songs, and I have noticed doing this to a ‘Toke’ track is the hardest thing of all.

I think what appeals to me, and the listeners and his fans, is the complete lack of bombast and artifice, a brave willingness to let the lyrics shine through, embedded in song structures that are ‘just so’ and feel so damn natural. And yes it’s often all too easy to mistake this whole enterprise as seeming rather effortless.

This is why, when he gets political, for example as he does here a few times, he forgoes the strident and the lectures, employing rather a quiet almost street intellectualism, not hiding the anger or the dismay, but not letting them take over the artistry of the tunes.

Just under half of the new album consists of live recordings at different venues and with a variety of talented musicians, and again, the secret of their success is the mix of the laconic and the passionate, a beautiful balance very few musicians can get anywhere near right.

In short he creates that near impossibility, albums that are comforting yet always totally though provoking.

Now a lot of readers will, at this stage, be muttering to themselves, ‘’why he doesn’t tell us about the bloody music’’ and if that’s what they came here for, they would probably be justified and they would probably leave still muttering, because I am not going to.

This album is so rewarding that I think it should be listened to without the clutter of other people’s thoughts and mere opinions. Take the time, settle down and give yourself a gift and jump right in.

Tracks from the album are playlisted all over our NBTMusicRadio-Two stream


The NBTMusic Review 142

review 143

The Random Playlist Experiment

Older Reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

So I thought I would try something different, Take three very talented, very different artists, throw all their new songs into a folder and let my player spit out the music at will, and I will attempt to convey my emotional, my sensual, my heart’s response to what hits me, and for three tracks from each artist I shall discover what private movies are created, what memories are triggered. I shall leave the technical dissection for other worthy critics; they have my permission, to conduct strenuous autopsies upon the verse and chorus of each song.

The three albums I will listen to are:

Monsters by Dudley Saunders (Strange Troubadours)

Tokyo’s Fifth – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Sock Records)

Long Way Home – Max Carmichael (Independent Release)

So as a famous pair of lips once said in a cult film one dark rainy night, ‘’let’s get to it boppers’’

The first track up is Rosenthal’s ‘’What Did I Used To be’’ a reflective dark start to the proceedings.  3AM fragile where sunrise seems a lifetime away, and the hope that kept the younger man going seems in short supply. What surprises is how gentle this is, perhaps this is how depression hits us not with blunt force, but cloaked in sweet melody.

Saunder’s ‘’ What Rats Are We’’ stays in that temperamental time zone,  part of the night where time slows to a crawl, but this is  jazz romantic, neon sign reflected in puddle moody, kinda hip as the ghosts of Marlon Brando and Miles Davis are evoked. These too are lost men, but watch for the proud tilt of the head, the small wicked smile.

And so we leave the street and enter a packed club, An impossibly cool band whose members all look like Max Carmichael are playing on a tiny cramped stage, the song is, ‘’ Yellow Mud’’, we think of the Beatles, but not in Hamburg, rather in CBGBs, Jonathan Richman looks on and takes notes, a yuppie in the corner is loudly demanding a coloured drink, perhaps because his girlfriend is paying too much attention to the band.

Speaking of the Beatles, Tokyo takes back control of their ‘’Helter Skelter’’ but with none of the affectation of U2. This is country fiddle joyful, recalling a glorious time in the mid 70s when the American charts were full of country rock boogie, sing along anthems devoid of guile, you know, like when the Doobie Brothers were NOT slick, NOT polished, and there wasn’t a genre called adult contemporary.

Carmichael’s ‘’Plateau’’ comes skipping in, keeping the party vibe going, Everly Brothers overdosed on Paul Simon sanctioned subliminal afro rhythms, the singer enjoying the insecurity of sunshine through clouds,  we feel we are on a roundabout ,things become a pleasant blur, tension and giggles in equal measure.

Dudley Saunders brings back the fear, but oh how tactile, stirring seductive he makes it, in ’’ The Man In The Game’’ we cuddle up nervous next to one of his curiously broken characters, find an understanding for the approaching horror, glory in the detachment, this is how nightmares should be written, not with screeches and bombast, but rather with a slightly dangerous empathy.

Rosenthal’s ‘’Waste Of A Heart’’ with its traditional Oprey feel, and shy lilting harmonies from Andrea Connolly, makes us wish that Leonard Cohen, had written more Country songs. Regret and acceptance he moves out towards the dawn at last

In ‘’Zero Out (In These Boxes) ‘’ by Dudley Saunders,  we discover how memories can trap the soul, how powerful inanimate objects can be, as if they are magic, that just by looking at them, taking them out of that box in the attic or the top of the cupboard, they bestow the not  completely welcome gift of time travel. This for me is the most personal track on this album and all the more beautiful for it.

And finally we head down into Max Carmichael’s ‘’Rifted Valley.’’ What amazes me here is suddenly we are no longer in the artist’s beloved New York post Punk Loft dreamscape, but somewhere deep in that intellectual alt Americana that folks like Andrew Bird inhabit. It is fitting that this is the last song of this random journey, because the music is epic, growing, dense and like all that we have heard today, full of ideas, but never disregarding the raw emotion of it all.

Find out more from these artists right here:

And you can hear LOADS of tracks from these three albums on the NBTMusicRadio 24 hour stream
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