365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 18

Koko Taylor – Koko Taylor

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This may be one of the funniest pairings of album cover to album content in the history of music—this LP cover CERTAINLY does not prepare one for the raw onslaught of vocal power it contains etched into its grooves.

From the moment Chess Records and Koko Taylor came together, the world of music would never be the same.

Of course we know these recordings for Koko’s version of “Wang Dang Doodle,” and a listen this morning confirm the track is just as ferocious as ever, but there are so many other amazing tracks here as well: “Don’t Mess With The Messer” and “Insane Asylum” being but two of my favorites (the latter with Willie Dixon), and honestly, if the groove on “Love You Like A Woman” don’t make your booty move, then your booty must be dead.

So I’m gonna tell you in plain English
Just as plain as I can
I’m gonna love you like a woman
But also fight you like a man


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 17

Emmylou Harris – Red Dirt Girl

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We knew her voice was a gift from the gods. And we knew the few songs she HAD committed to record were fine ones. And we knew Wrecking Ball was one of the best albums of her career.

And then came Red Dirt Girl.

Then came Red Dirt Girl, and the revelation that Emmylou Harris was an extraordinary songwriter.

She wrote or co-wrote 11 of these 12 tracks, and they all easily hold their own against anything coming from the otherwise oddly male-dominated Americana/Roots/Singer-Songwriter/Folk realm.

The title track itself is a story-song tour de force, and for my money, one of the best things she’s ever done, period. Which is saying a great deal, given her storybook career.

I’ve heard it said that the album’s production wields a heavy hand, and from other corners I’ve heard whispers that it’s an imitation of Lanois, without Lanois.

Interesting arguments, sure, but I come down firmly on the side of the album being just wonderful, just as it is.

It’s been one of my favorite albums for over a decade-and-a-half now, and I expect it will remain as such for a long, long, long time to come.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 16

The Carter Family – The Carter Family: 1927-1934

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Americana 101. Enroll now.

p.s. JSP remaster! 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 15

Nina Simone – Little Blue Girl

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Only my two cents of course, but as far as I’m concerned, with the passing of time, we are only going to continue to revere and admire this woman more. Courageous, inspired, gifted, complicated, damaged, and simply astounding.

Only now, I think, are we really able to learn how brave she was. So many of her challenges to racism and oppression—long hidden in deep vaults—are still coming to light, and with each revelation, we learn more about how deep, deep, deep this artist, this human, really was.

And such music in her. Such music.

I recommend this album not because it’s her best, not because it’s my favorite, but because it’s her debut, and because her depths are so incredibly deep, you simply must, at some point, start at the beginning, if you’re ever to hope to comprehend the full measure of what she accomplished, of what she gave to us all.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 14

Dr. John – Gris Gris

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“I love Gris Gris. I want everything I do to have as much vibe and be as spooky sounding as that!!” —Kid Andersen

What he said. ^


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 13

Dr. John – Gumbo

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And with that, may I present to you, an absolute fuckin’ clinic on how to be funky …


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 12

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

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My Dylan kick continues, but I have to now jump chronologies a bit, as, after John Wesley Harding, things go a bit (pardon the pun) off the track for a few releases.

Until this one, that is.

Blood on the Tracks is a staggering accomplishment. This was Dylan’s 15th album. That’s more than most artists will ever record, period. If they even DO make that many, you’d think #15 would inevitably come in the winter years. But Dylan was barely 34 at this point. This is hardly even mid-career.

Yet, in many ways, it’s an archetypal “mid-career” release.

If the stereotypical trajectory of a maturing artist runs from the over-zealous early years, to the overly minimal winter years, then of the mid-career years we would expect the seamless integration of everything passionate and wild and exuberant and dangerous and groundbreaking that made the early years so good, balanced against the refinement, the maturation, the seasoning, and the devastatingly spot on self-editorial skills of a lion in winter.

And that’s pretty much exactly what we have here. In my opinion, Blood on the Tracks is probably the single best representation of the broadest range of Dylan’s otherworldly abilities. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s awkward moments—it does. It’s not perfect, not flawless. But if someone asked me, with one single album, to try to establish grounds for saying that Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter this country has ever produced, I’d probably hand ’em this one.

Tangled Up In A Blue alone could sustain the curriculum demands of an entire University system devoted to songwriting. As could Shelter From The Storm; Lily, Rosemary, and The Jack of Hearts; Simple Twist of Fate, and so forth.

Put another way, it’s a hell of an album.

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 11

Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding

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The Dylan kick continues.

This is an album for which the term “deceptive simplicity” might have been coined.

It was recorded in about 12 hours total, across 3 sessions.

It was commercially released about 4 weeks after the recording sessions were complete.

There are only two other musicians on the bulk of album—Kenny Buttrey on drums and Charlie McCoy on bass. There is a bit of steel guitar from Pete Drake on 2 songs. All the rest is Dylan, on acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica.

There are 12 songs total.

The album is less than 40 minutes long.

There are, give or take, something like 60 different “biblical allusions” to be found in the lyrics.

Of this album, Dylan once said, “There’s no blank filler. Each line has something.”

I believe it was Rodin who once famously described sculpting as something to the effect of , chipping away at everything that wasn’t the sculpture.

When you’ve chipped away the sculpture, this is the album that remains.

And what a perfect sculpture it is.

Deceptively simply.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 10

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

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Alright, so first, let me get this off my chest: I like Old Crow Medicine Show. But their take on this album, is a bad album.

Next, I am agnostic about  “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” I neither like it nor dislike it.

Finally, my favorite thing about this album is remembering my Dad singing “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” to me when I was a kid.

Double-finally, I don’t agree with Bob Dylan that Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is the best song he’s ever written.

That said, it’s pretty fuckin’ incredible.

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 9

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

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Yep, still on my Dylan kick. We already recommended Bringing It All Back Home a few months ago, so skippin’ ahead to Highway 61 …

Is this Bob Dylan’s single greatest album? It’s entirely possible it is.

in 1965, Bob Dylan was 24 years old. 24 years old. 24 years old.

Bob Dylan was 24 years old, and this was already his 6th album.

Rolling Stone listed this 4th on its 500 Greatest Albums of all Time list, behind Sgt. Pepper, Pet Sounds, and Revolver. This is patently stupid to the point of nonsensicality.

Is Ballad of a Thin Man this most brilliantly scathing song ever written? Possibly …

Al Kooper has recalled that at the end of the session, when the musicians listened to the playback of the song, drummer Bobby Gregg said, “That is a nasty song, Bob.” Kooper adds, “Dylan was the King of the Nasty Song at that time.”

He was also simply King of the Song.


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