Tag Archives: Album Recommendations

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 27

Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps – Blue Jean Bop

51ikwtyxqxl-_ss500

If you made the statement that rockabilly guitar begins and ends with this album—the debut from Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps—the only argument I could possibly mount would be to say you really have to include the self-titled second album as well, since Cliff Gallup plays on that one too.

Because Cliff Gallup is of course the greatest rockabilly guitar player ever.

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 26

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Cole Porter Songbook

41kutm7b2bal-_ss500

It was Ella’s birthday yesterday. So I am recommending this album, because it contains my favorite Ella performance of all time.

This is a very hard distinction to make, mind you, and obviously. She delivered interstellar performances in the thousands. She was a living goddess. Her voice, and her power to use it, were gifts from the gods.

Still, this song is my favorite of them all.

The album is legendary, and justifiably so. It was Ella’s first recording for Verve. It was the first in the series that would become known as the Songbook series. It is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

It also contains my favorite Ella song of all time.

Miss Otis Regrets.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 25

Blind Boy Fuller – Volume 1: 1935-1938

81av0pkhyrl-_sx450_

No self-respecting Country Blues fan has a music collection that lacks Blind Boy Fuller. He’s canonical. And once again, JSP does it right with these remasters.

He’s excellent. Blind Boy Fuller is excellent.

He’s also tragic. His was a life of hardship, and continued mistreatment at the hands of a system that repeatedly failed him. He worked hard, was bloody damn good at what he did, and was ill most of his life. He died too young, and his legacy has been tarnished by inaccurate attempts to paint him as violent, irresponsible, and self-destructive. The truth is, his fate was to be constantly trying to get help from a system that refused to acknowledge his craft and his work ethic in positive ways. He recorded over 120 songs, was well-known and popular, and died essentially penniless and destitute.

Shame on us all for that!

Musically, he is kind of a “bridge” artist, with the chord progressions and finger-picking techniques of the Piedmont written into his bouncing style, and the rough-hewn Delta rawness emanating from his National Resophonic and his gruff but melodic voice. The blend is both beguiling and harrowing; sly and serious.

He is so, so good. Don’t leave home without him.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 24

Benny Goodman – Complete Capitol Trios

5126layzgtl-_ss500

Benny Goodman’s legacy is a complicated one, to say the least, and I don’t intend to unravel it here. Instead, what I intend to do is recommend to you a record that should go a long way towards reminding you that all other matters aside, the man could create musical beauty of unparalleled grace with nothing more than a clarinet, a piano, and a drum kit.

There are no revolutions afoot here. There is no wildness of youth. There is no gravitas of age. This is middle-period music of a master. It’s perfection. It’s a clinic. It’s timeless.

It’s required listening.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 23

Dwight Yoakam – Guitars Cadillacs Etc, Etc.

71nowhdp5bl-_sx425_

The first 12 seconds of the song “Twenty Years” can and will tell you exactly what you need to know and understand about this album.

If you can’t understand that, then I can’t do nothin’ for ya, man …

This debut album introduced two HUGE talents to the world; Mr. Dwight Yoakam, and Mr. Pete Anderson. Country Music—the writing, singing, performing, and guitar picking of it—would never be the same again.

I mean, I WORE this thing out when it came out.

Song for song, pound for pound, Hillbilly Deluxe is probably the better album, but this thing was just SUCH a shot fired cross the bow, man, you just have to tip your hat in respect …


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 22

Fred McDowell – Long Way From Home

51xlmx2zyyl-_sx425_

Back on February 9th, I recommended the album Levee Camp Blues by Fred McDowell (or “Mississippi Fred McDowell” as he’s sometimes termed). In that post, I mentioned that Levee Camp Blues is tied with one other Fred McDowell album for my all-time favorite. This is the other album.

It’s oddly a very different album. It’s shorter, the songs are more “familiar” in terms of their origin stories being in the general country blues canon, and most notably of all, it’s recorded very, very differently.

Levee Camp Blues is notable for its intimacy, its warmth, its clarity, its “naturalness.”

Long Way From Home is very different. It’s sparse, loaded with reverb, and flat-out haunting.

It’s a pretty hard collection to find, actually. It’s part of the Original Blues Classics series on Milestone, and it was recorded in 1966. I got it on vinyl when I was still in high school, and I was floored by it. It was just SO fuckin’ cool.

This album has always been—and continues to be—a huge influence on my songwriting and my playing. Honestly, if you go listen to “Preacher Boy and The Natural Blues”—my debut release on Blind Pig Records—after listening to this record, it’ll be REAL obvious whose spell I was under at the time.

Recommended track to start with: Milk Cow Blues. For my money, it’s the best version of this song ever recorded.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 21

Billie Holiday & Lester Young: Complete Studio Recordings

51jam54wt9l-_ss500

Obviously, I picked the “complete” recordings, because I love everything they did together. The music they MADE together was divine.

His was her voice, from the horn, and hers was his horn, from the voice. She that named him Prez, he that named her Lady Day. Tragic figures, elegant figures, melodic figures. Heroin and sadness took the one, alcohol and sadness the other. But in that America, when you could be so great and still so scorned, how could they not have been saddened?

“Most of the cats in the band were wonderful to me, but I got tired of scenes in crummy roadside restaurants over getting served. Some places wouldn’t even let me eat in the kitchen. I got tired of having to make a Federal case over breakfast, lunch and dinner. You had to smile to keep from throwing up. As they say, ‘There’s no business like show business.'”

This one’s for the sound engineers who pressed record whenever these two played. For first they were here, and then they were gone.

Love is like the faucet
It turns off and on
Sometimes when you think it’s on baby
It has turned off and gone


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 19

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

a15-dilj02l-_sl1500_

I’m getting ready to read Springsteen’s new autobiography, so I needed to get my head into the right sonic space, and if I had to pick one Springsteen album above all others, it would be this one.

If nothing else, listening to this album ought to out least make you pine for the days when the word ALBUM meant something. When we thought of ALBUMS the way we thoughts of novels, or plays, or paintings. We used to think of them as miniature self-defining and self-completing universes, with themes, and relationships, and … purposes.

This is a completed circle. It is a closed ecosystem.

It was a massive, massive artistic accomplishment, and it was a bloody brave move to release it. No major artist in the history of rock n’ roll music had ever—or HAS ever—taken such a decidedly unexpected—and completely non-commercial—left turn at the height of their careers. And Springsteen was at the HEIGHT. At this point, he had become The Boss. He was Bruuuuuuce! He was the Hungry Heart.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Suddenly, the man who spent 4 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 decided to release an album recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder. An album whose very first lyric was this one:

I saw her standing on her front lawn just twirling her baton
Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 18

Bix Beiderbecke – 20 Classic Tracks

51qpxqmswnl-_ss500

I stumbled on this particular release quite by accident, but I’m rather glad I did, as it actually offers an outstandingly seamless point-of-entry into the world of Bix Beiderbecke’s music.

The masters are great, the song selection is exceedingly strong, and it’s got a great deal of instrumental music across its 20 tracks, which is always my preference when it comes to Bix in the mix …

I should note tho, that it’s a collection that won’t please everyone, as it doesn’t have some of his more commonly anthologized star turns … but as a very solid snapshot of the man’s devastating talent, Parlophone UK should be commended for their curation efforts here …

For those not familiar, Bix was one of jazz’s greatest early instrumental stars, and can be credited in the same breath with Louis Armstrong as being one of the contributing inventors of what would become the early jazz canon. His style continued to be hugely influential despite his early death at the age of 28, and in his moody mid-range minimalism as compared to Armstrong’s most histrionic high-register style, we can see a precursor to the Miles Davis vs. Charlie Parker Yin-Yang that was to come a couple decades later.

Honestly, you should just listen to any Bix you can get, but this is a great please to start if you don’t already have your favorites.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – April 17

Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, “From The New World” / Symphonic Variations (Alsop)

51pgrs5rpwl-_ss500

Dvorak’s 9th debuted on my birthday (Dec 16th, also Beethoven’s birthday!) in 1893, and it still stands today not only as an extraordinary symphonic achievement, but as one of the most majestic expressions of the influence of American folk music.

There is some debate over the actual extent to which Dvorak was influenced by African-American and Native American sounds and forms, and he himself apparently made some contradictory statements on the matter, but it seems clear that the influence is real, and one need only listen to the music to experience how this is so.

Dvorak’s most anthologized quote on the subject is this one:

“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”

All ethnomusicological musings aside, the work is gorgeous independent of its influences, and this particular recording is arguably one of the finest. If there be no other way to determine the state of your soul, let us at least monitor your heartbeat as you listen to the 4th movement—if it doesn’t quicken, you may be dead.


%d bloggers like this: