Category Archives: Album Recommendations

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 20

The Stone Poneys – Evergreen, Vol. 2


So, yes, of COURSE the reason to include this is to hear Linda Ronstadt sing Different Drum. It’s just an exquisite song, with a great backstory. A quasi-feminist anthem written by a male quasi-legit musician, taken over completely by a quasi-feminist artist, and delivered like a great big cannon salvo from the heart of quasi-hip Laurel Canyon aimed quasi-squarely at the quasi-prepared ears of quasi-mainstream American.

Put another way, it’s West Coast folk-rock perfection, carried on the wings of one of history’s great voices.

“I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready
for any person, place, or thing
to try and pull the reins in on me”

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 19

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow


There’s no question the 60s gave us some pretty awful music, and there’s no question the various musicians in and/or associated with this band have given us some pretty awful music.

On the other hand, it’s exceedingly difficult to dispute the raw excellence of Somebody To Love, or the total grooviness of White Rabbit.

It also must be noted that, for a short while at least, Grace Slick possessed one of the great rock n’ roll voices. That long, held “love” towards the end of Somebody to Love is one of the great vocal notes of all time.

No matter which was you slice it, this album deserves its place in rock n’ roll history, and as such, you can’t much claim to understand the full scope of what rock n’ roll can offer, w/out understanding this album as well.

Highly recommended on vinyl, by the way!


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 18

Van Morrison – Moondance


It’s tempting to name this my favorite Van Morrison album, because I love it’s great songs SO much; and familiarity be damned: Moondance is an amazing song. As is And It Stoned Me.  As are Crazy Love and Caravan. As is Into the Mystic. And Brand New Day.

Geez, maybe it IS my favorite Van Morrison album.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 17

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks


For many years, Astral Weeks just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t even see it there. We were like a rabbit and a squirrel in the back yard. We were just each looking elsewhere.

Then, I knew Astral Weeks existed. But I wasn’t really moved either way. I was there. It was there. Nothing more, nothing less.

Then I forgot about Astral Weeks for a while.

Then I remembered it, and I tried it, and I kind of got into it. But then it didn’t take.

Then I tried again, and I got mad at it. I decided I especially disliked Richard Davis’ much-vaunted bass lines. The album made me mad.

Then, I got it. I got it, and I got into it. All the way into it. I forgave Richard Davis.

Then I crawled back out, and tried to make sense of my feelings.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not AS great as many make it out to be, but that its great moments, ARE great. The Way Young Lovers Do. Madame George. Slim Slow Slider. Sweet Thing. And so forth. These are pretty remarkable artistic achievements.

Ultimately, it’s a must listen. It’s definitely an album you have to have fully engaged with somehow, in some way, at some time. You’ll have missed something critical otherwise.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 16

Great Bluesmen at Newport


It’s December 16th. So I’m recommending what is probably the most important album in my life. This is the one that started it all for me. I was sixteen years old. I had “The Country Blues” by Samuel Charters under my arm as I boarded the city bus to go to the U District in Seattle. There was a Tower Records there, and that’s where I was headed. Because I’d fallen in love with the names and stories in this book, but I didn’t know their music. I knew Muddy Waters. I knew Howlin’ Wolf. I knew Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins. I didn’t know Son House, or Lightnin’ Hopkins, or Bukka White, or Mance Lipscomb, or Mississippi John Hurt. I had to know what they sounded like.

I had been playing guitar for a couple years at that point. I wanted to be Joe Strummer. But a strange spell was taking me over. This blues spell. Something was growing inside of me. And it was leading me to Tower Records with “The Country Blues” under my arm. I was determined to find an LP by one of the names in the book.

What I found, was this album. Robert Pete Williams. Son House. Fred McDowell. Skip James. Reverend Gary Davis. They were all there.

I got home. I put the record on. Side One. First song. Mississippi John Hurt. Sliding Delta. For the first time in my life, I knew. Right away. That was it. That. That was what I wanted to do with my life.

And that IS what I did with my life.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 15

Fugazi – (EP/7 Songs)


I am a patient boy.
I wait, and I wait, and I wait.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 14

Morphine – Yes


You dig funky music. You dig smart music. You dig dark music. You dig film noir. You dig downtown jazz. When I say, two-string slide bass & saxophone jams, you say, yes.

Does this sound like you?

Then you like this album. You like Morphine.

Do you like Morphine?


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 13

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane


Of all the various “staged” albums recorded with Ellington that saw him paired with various “young guns,” this is certainly my favorite, followed very closely by Money Jungle with Mingus and Max Roach.

This version of In A Sentimental Mood is quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded.

Two things that should be immediately apparent about Ellington and Coltrane from this album—in case you weren’t aware already—are that a) Ellington is a really masterful and unique pianist, and b) Coltrane is a master of tone.

My Little Brown Book is almost as beautiful as Sentimental Mood, and Big Nick is probably the best example of a true blend of the two artists’s style, but note for note and pound for pound, this is simply a must-have recording for anyone who believes in—and wants to learn more about—the genius of jazz, in the hands of the masters.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 12

The Smithereens – Especially For You


#RIP #PatDiNizio

I remember one particularly eye-opening incident. We were living in Denver, Colorado for a spell. There was a street concert happening in the then-still-new- LoDo. The Smithereens were playing. I was over the moon. I told my best pal at the time about it, urging him to come with me. He had no idea who The Smithereens were. I couldn’t believe it. At the moment, I realized that the entire world WASN’T in fact aware of one of the great rock n’ roll bands of all time.

I was in high school when Especially For You came out. I was already playing guitar, already trying to be in bands. 1986 was a pretty good year for a young musician. REM came out with Life’s Rich Pageant. Billy Bragg released Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. Husker Du had Candy Apple Grey. Simultaneously, Dwight Yoakum arrived with Guitars, Cadillac, etc. Steve Earle gave us Guitar Town. Add to this XTC’s Skylarking, Costello’s King of America, and Nick Cave’s Kicking Against The Pricks, and you had a pretty good year.

And then came “Blood and Roses.” For where I was at, this was perfect music. Moody, noirish, heart-on-its-sleeve 4-chord rock. Simple poetry, minor melodies, big guitars. I was in. “Behind the Wall of Sleep” was right up my emotional alley as well. God, I loved this record.

The Smithereens kept it coming across 2 more beautiful albums. We got “Only A Memory” from Green Thoughts. “A Girl Like You” from 11. I loved it.

By 1991, and Blow Up, I had moved on, admittedly. But I’ll always love the first 3 albums, and especially Especially For You.

RIP Pat DiNizio, and thank you.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 11

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come


It’s hard in this day and age, to fully understand how controversial this album was upon release. To modern ears, it sounds beautiful, possibly quirky, certainly original, but it unquestionably sounds like … JAZZ. Tho that’s not what ALL folks thought at the time.

It was probably the quartet’s fabled residency at the Five Spot that followed the release of this album that REALLY cemented the revolutionary reputation—those shows BLEW people’s minds!

Maybe it was the lack of a chord-based instrument; in Ornette’s musical cosmology, that allowed for more harmonic freedom. But Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan had gone sans piano before, tho admittedly not to quite the same effect. Maybe it was Ornette’s almost infantillacly squeaky plastic sax tone—tho honestly, was that any worse than many of Bird’s recordings? Maybe it was Don Cherry. Certainly to my ears, he’s the true freak of the show, in all the best ways. There never was anything quite like Don Cherry, and there never has been since.

Whatever it was, the album and quartet both were a lightning rod, and the album still compels today. Peace is one of my favorite works on the record, and of course Lonely Woman deserves every accolade it receives. And Congeniality bounces as bouncily as anything Bird ever bounced off Billie. If this was the shape of jazz to come, then jazz had a good future in front of it. And it did.

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