365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 18

AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

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I bought this on vinyl when it first came out. Still have my copy.

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For my 13th birthday, my best friend gave me his handwritten guitar tablature for “Problem Child.” That song was my 13-year old bible.

Every night
Street light
I drink my booze
Some run
Some fight
I win they lose
What I need I like
What I don’t I fight
N’ I don’t like you
So say bye bye
While your still alive
Cause your time is due
Cause I’m a problem child

I first saw AC/DC in concert on the “For Those About To Rock” tour. Also on the bill: Quiet Riot and Great White. It was at The Tacoma Dome in Washington state. During the song “For Those About To Rock,” some lunatic in the crowd left off an M-80 and set a hole in the roof on fire.

I met Angus Young briefly once at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. I was there early for a soundcheck, and he was just at the bar havin’ a coffee. I was amazed by how small he was, and how much his voice sounded exactly like it does on “Dirty Deeds.”

I never met Malcolm Young, and now, I never will. But I have the albums, and the memories.

#RIPMalcolmYoung.

What a great fuckin’ rhythm guitarist. What a great fuckin’ rock ‘n roll band.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 4

Catfish Keith – Mississippi River Blues

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I’ve both known—and known of—Catfish Keith for a long ol’ time, and I consider myself very lucky for that. There was a time in the UK when I felt like I was just chasin’ his tour posters around, tryin’ to keep up.

The point is, Catfish has been doin’ what he does so well for a long time, and he just keeps gettin’ better at it—his latest is the proof.

He has a way of playin’ the guitar that is SO authentic, and yet somehow so … odd. Which is really as it should be, and it’s the hallmark of a true country blues master; that little bit of the strange.

You can hear it on the first track, right away: the extra aggressive bends on the strings, the yodelly warble in the voice; the reconciliation of huckster and hoodoo that sits at the center of everything Catfish does ….

The Whale Swallowed Jonah features some of Catfish’s toughest sounding guitar work yet; Jumpin’ Jack Rabbit finds him at his funkiest and most soulful; and Sleepy-Eyed John is Catfish at his bounciest and folkiest. And that’s all to the good.

But to really get the full flavor, ya gotta check out the slide guitar on Mama Don’t You Sell It, Papa Don’t You Give It Away, and the low-tuned 12-string of Reefer Hound. These are where you really feel the Catfish fix pay off.

All in all, it’s another great record in an already-great career. Check it out, and then start working backwards!


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 3

Tom Waits – One From The Heart

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Technically this isn’t REALLY a Tom Waits album. It’s the soundtrack to a Francis Ford Coppola film. But it’s Waits’ music, and he performs it, and I think it this point, we can just consider it a Waits creation.

It’s a fascinating album as much for what it represents as for what it sounds like.

It’s really the bridge moment of Waits’ career; the moment where he finally leaves the barfly balladeer schtick behind, and becomes his own next wave of visionary. Heartattack & Vine somewhat telegraphed the change, but One From The Heart made it official.

Sonically, the pairing of Waits and Crystal Gayle may seem unlikely, but they’re perfect together for the narrative.

On a personal level, I’m especially partial to Old Boyfriends. I was asked to contribute a song to a Waits tribute many years ago, and I was loathe to do it, as I assumed I’d been asked simply because of perceived vocal similarities. So to get around that, and to get one up on the producers of the tribute, I took on Old Boyfriends; a) because it’s a beautiful song, and b) because while Waits wrote it, he doesn’t actually sing it—Crystal Gayle does!

Along with that song, Broken Bicycles, Little Boy Blue, and You Can’t Unring A Bell are some of the other wonderful creations to be found here.

Students of the Waits story will do well to listen to this album. Students of high-craft songwriting will learn a thing or two. And appreciators of fantastic songs performed by disparately beguiling voices will revel in the complex beauty of this album.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 2

Phil Ochs – Rehearsals for Retirement

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A very difficult album to listen to, this is. A sort of baroque folk suicide in progress. It’s an extraordinarily emotional experience, just living with this album. I think it would be so even if one didn’t know the story behind it, and the story to follow.

If one does know the stories, it’s only that much more heartbreaking.

At the song level, “uneven” is probably a pretty fair assessment. Some of the songs rank well below Ochs’ finest. But then some of the songs are easily as remarkable and poignant as anything Ochs ever released: The Doll House, William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed, and The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns are almost unbearably gorgeous.

But it’s the lyrics to My Life that do the listener in:

My life was once a joy to me,
Never knowing, I was growing, everyday.
My life was once a toy to me,
And I wound it and I found it ran away.
So I raced through the night
with a face at my feet, like a god I would write,
All the melodies were sweet, and the women were white.
It was easy to survive, my life was so alive.
My life was once a flag to me
And I waved it and behaved like I was told.
My life was once a drag to me
And I loudly, and I proudly, lost control
I was drawn by a dream
I was loved by a lie, every serf on the scene
Begged me to buy.
But I slipped through the scheme
So lucky to fail
My life was not for sale.
My life is now a myth to me
Like the drifter, with his laughter in the dawn.
My life is now a death to me
So I’ll mold it and I’ll hold it till I’m born
So I turned to the land
Where I’m so out of place
Throw a curse on the plan
In return for the grace
To know where I stand
Take everything I own
Take your tap from my phone
And leave my life alone
My life alone.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 1

Big Maybelle – The Complete Okeh Sessions 1952-1955

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Didja know it was Big Maybelle that first recorded “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On?” It’s true, and her version is baddassedness incarnate.

Her 3 years on Okeh make for some of the most beltin’, grindin’, shoutin’, stompin’, wailin’, cryin’ r&b blues ever recorded, and this collection is a track-by-track masterpiece.

Her sound can in many ways be understood as a web spun between many worlds; she possesses some of that old school post-Vaudeville punch of a Ma Rainey, but she’s also got some Chicago in her, and some Torch, and a bit of early pre-Aretha soul as well.

She’s a force of nature, and you GOT to understand.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 31

The Modern Jazz Quartet – Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings of the Modern Jazz Quartet 1956-1964

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It might be said, though not everyone will agree, that the creative tension between John Lewis’s more baroque sensibilities, and the swingin’ blues-mindedness of Milt Jackson, is what led the MJQ to become a poster child for what’s come to be called “third stream” music.

If you’re interested in a “is it classical, is it jazz?” kind of debate, this series will be good listening for you and your fellow toastmasters. And if you care to address the question of whether jazz is “serious” music or not, you’ll find much to provoke you here as well.

And if you simply want to listen to some of the most imaginative music to be made in the name of jazz in the last 50+ years, then you’ll definitely want to listen to this incredible collection from Mosaic.

And for the record, in honor of John Lewis, this post was brought to you by the letter “L.”


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 30

Solas – The Edge of Silence

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I first came across this rather extraordinary Irish-American band through their version of Jesse Colin Young’s “Darkness Darkness.” It’s a gorgeous song to begin with, and when sung by the fantastically talented Deirdre Scanlan, and rendered with such deft hipness as it is here, the song transcends the original, which is high praise.

Solas are masters of invigorating traditional Irish music without embarrassing themselves.

Similar to Afro-Celt Sound System, or Ashley MacIsaac, Solas manages to maintain the bittersweet and lilting melancholy of the traditional, while simultaneously tethering it to a funky and atmospheric modernity.

The blend is beguiling, to say the least.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 29

Killing Joke – Night Time

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It’s pretty hard to overestimate the importance and influence of Killing Joke when you’re talking about—for lack of a better term—alternative rock.

There is a sweet spot in the history of this music where early angst begins to mature, but doesn’t yet fade. The Replacements nailed that spot. As did Ministry. As did REM. As did Husker Du. And so forth.

Killing Joke nailed it with this album.

If you have any doubt as to just HOW impactful Killing Joke—and this album—are, listen to “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. Nirvana is arguably alternative rock’s greatest triumph. But for all intents and purposes, the music of “Come As You Are” was recorded by Killing Joke six years prior.

There is of course a supplemental conspiracy theory that suggests The Damned beat them all to the punch with their 1982 song “Life Goes On.”

The real point is, Killing Joke was a killer band, and their mix of punk ferocity, dance floor aggression, and socio-political rebellion made for truly necessary music.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 28

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking

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Mountain Song.

It turns out something IS shocking. How good this album is.

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 27

The Impressions – The Complete A & B Sides 1961 – 1968

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The music made by The Impressions was simply beautiful, and this collections collects almost too much beauty to bear.

You’ll know “People Get Ready” of course, but you should listen to it all. Listen to it, and remember a time when music was willing and able to be slow, elegant, beautiful, rich, and deep.

Curtis Mayfield had a way of reconciling the head, the heart, and the soul that very few writers ever achieve. When social consciousness meets some straight up old-school wooing, you know it’s time to drop the needle down, turn the music up, dim the lights, and dig The Impressions.


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