Review: Bluebird Memories

In a performance that combines the personal and poetic with the literary and the lyrical, Grammy, Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe-winning artist Common spins something entirely new and bold, for both his old-school fans and those new to one of hip hop’s most essential voices. This is Bluebird Memories, part of Audible’s Words + Music that blends storytelling, music, and performance to create a one-of-a-kind listening experience.

Written and conceived by Common with Awoye Timpo and NSangou Njikam, originally recorded live at The Minetta Lane Theatre in New York City and backed by a world-class band including special guest appearance by Robert Glasper and ensemble of vocalists, Bluebird Memories tracks Common’s intimate journey from childhood to manhood. At its heart, serving as both an open letter to his estranged father, and a personal meditation on the quest for greater self-understanding, self-worth, and connection to the world that surrounds him.

As a young artist, introduced to the work of literary icons from James Baldwin and Gwendolyn Brooks to Rakim and Melle Mel, Common would grow to use their works as motivation and a high-water mark for what would become his life in words. In a performance that recounts stories about growing up in Chicago, discovering hip hop, longing for a consistent father, and his awakening into Black consciousness, the evolution of Common, as son, as man, artist, and activist is all here, unpacked and laid bare.

At just under two hours, Bluebird Memories is constantly in motion, soaring with emotion and pulsing with raw vitality. Seamlessly blending, stretching, and playing with forms, Common slides between poetry and candid conversation, kicks into one of his classic tracks, and backs out into a moment of nearly silent reflection. For those hip-hop heads, the treat of hearing Common bounce between bars of his own self-admitted cringey party raps, to rapturously reciting classic hip hop’s most revered verses is a joy to behold. (Yes, bumping human beatbox included). In a performance that calls forth the spirit and legacy of so many artists, thinkers, and heroes who informed both his artistry and personal philosophy, Common invites listeners to experience him in his totality. A finely tuned instrument capable of conveying a sweeping breadth of power, range and tone. Listen to a modern icon deliver at the top of his craft.

Review: The Year of Magical Thinking

When celebrated writer Joan Didion’s life was altered forever, she wrote a new chapter. In this adaptation of her iconic memoir, Didion transforms the story of the shattering loss of her husband and their daughter into a one-woman play performed by Tony Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, who originated the role on Broadway in 2007. Written with Didion’s trademark style of cool observation, The Year of Magical Thinking weaves back and forth in time, taking listeners on a poignant journey through heartbreak, grief, and resilience. It’s an unforgettable theatrical experience that resonates with anyone who has ever loved.

Review: Midnight Calling

Lynn Walker watched her dad, John, deteriorate from Miami undercover narcotics agent to drug smuggler, from protective father to monster—a very charming monster. By the time she was in high school, her dad was in prison for smuggling 12,000 pounds of marijuana. There, John made a connection with a powerful Colombian drug lord. Within months of being paroled, John waltzed back into his kids’ lives, dishing out pure, Colombian cocaine to Lynn and launching her brother’s coke-dealing career. After a few years of abusing coke together, Lynn lost everything and was forced to choose between her life and her father.

Jaw-dropping, emotionally raw and heart-breaking, Midnight Calling: A Memoir of a Drug Smuggler’s Daughter is a story about family bonds, addiction and the price of hanging on when it’s time to let go.

Reviews © Copyright 2022 Korra Baskerville