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Grace & The Stone Roses

Since my last entry, I've moved to Nashville!  Well to be specific, I moved to Franklin for a few months until I find the neighborhood in Nashville that I want to put down roots in (hoping it has that right blend of affordability and inspiration).  I'd only been to Nashville twice...and had never been to Franklin, nor to the apartment I signed a short-term lease for there...

...but what could have been a disaster worked out very well.  Franklin is exceptionally beautiful (if oppressively hot this time of year).

We are mostly settled for now...but I'm on the hunt for a job to pay for my extravagant lifestyle!  It's not all swimming pools and rolling hills--okay, full disclosure we've swum twice in the week we've been here...and the lush rolling hills in TN are awe-inspiring.  But it's a HARD life...

I'm hoping to get this blog back on schedule.  

060: Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)

I have had an odd relationship with this album.  Back when it came out, I bought the CD for the love of the single Last Goodbye.  I listened to the album a time or two, but didn't get it--so I sold my copy to a used CD store (remember those?) in Boston so that I could buy another trendy (and accessible) release.

A few months later, I happened to see him play an anonymous acoustic set at a cafe in Cambridge (with less than 30 in attendance)...I really enjoyed it--but whispered to my friend during the last third of the set that we should leave.  No excuse.

Some time between then and the year I graduated (1998) a friend of mine suggested that I give it another shot.  I did, and fell madly in love with the album...it may have been around the time he drowned in that river in Memphis in 1997.  Yes, our culture's penchant for lauding artists once it's too late is gross--and I am certainly guilty of it myself.

I was happy to read the 33 1/3 book about this album--and found it to be one of my favorites in the series thus far (having read about three dozen of them so far).  I was interested to learn about Jeff's fascination with predominantly female vocalists (i.e. Nina Simone, Edith Piaf, and Mahalia Jackson)--and also Led Zeppelin and Nusrat Ali Fateh Ali Khan.  I also enjoyed hearing about his days in the village where he crafted his live show and aesthetic.

I hadn't listened to the album through in at least a dozen years.  I was blown away by how affecting it still is for me.  I listened to it as I was approaching the departure of our beloved NYC.  The energy of these songs shored me--the emotion resonated--the sheer musicality intimidated and inspired all at once.

It is an odd album--no wonder it took a while for people to adopt it.  Sure, you have the very accessible (but no less brilliant) Last Goodbye.  But then you have some very psychedelic and challenging rockers like Mojo Pin, Grace, So Real, Eternal Life, and Dream Brother.  There are the (now classic) covers of Lilac Wine (Nina Simone; written by James Shelton), Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen),  and Corpus Christi Carol (Traditional; composed by Benjamin Britten).  Then there are the majestic and brooding original Lover, You Should've Come Over.  

057: The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)

I had never really gotten in to The Stone Roses before.  Some friends were into them during my college years...but I never felt the need.

I listened a few times a few weeks ago and really liked this album...but thinking back on it now, it's like it didn't leave any lasting marks on my psyche.  

I really liked I Wanna Be Adored (and heard the cover of it by The Ravonettes).  I also liked (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister.  I really loved the grooviness of Shoot You Down.  I also liked the (oh, so 90's) Fool's Gold, but only just learned it wasn't part of the original release.

Verdict

Grace may well be on my top 10 albums of all time list--my desert island list.  He was listed as 39th on the Rolling Stone's best singers of all time list--and it's no surprise.  He was just authentically his own vocalist, and so completely capable of almost anything.

The Stone Roses...I liked, and admit that I might have liked them more had I listened during a less tumultuous time of my life...but, hey, one of of two ain't bad.

Up Next

056: Beck - Odelay (1996)

054: Pixies - Doolittle (1989)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Hunky Dory & Murmur

I'm getting even further and further behind on this blog...I'm listening to the albums, reading the books, and watching the documentaries--in short; I'm doing the work...but am having trouble finding the time to share it here.

I'm moving to Nashville one week from yesterday...For the past couple of months, I've been saying goodbye to friends one-by-one.  It's a very intimate way to go about it--very much in line with my life philosophy.  It is also difficult to sustain emotionally.  There is a certain wisdom in saying goodbye in one fell swoop, as you quickly make your way to your mode of departure, waving tearfully.  Emotional economy.  

Also, I've been doing this project now for over 60 weeks.  I am so glad that I've done this--and that I'm continuing to do it.  This is the most disciplined thing I've done that is merely for my own benefit.

But, my friends, it is work.  I guess a journey of personal enrichment should require some effort.  The question is do the results justify the effort?  

Definitely yes.  

I've been asked what records I've discovered through this process...I guess asking for a short encapsulation of what I've learned.  I've definitely fallen in love with some albums I'd never heard before (including one this week).  I've also fallen for some artists that I'd previously written off for no good reason.  But the biggest thing I've learned...and the thing that is largely ineffable is the feeling of history, legacy, and community that this project has given me.  I've been an aspiring musician and singer-songwriter for a while now...and regardless of what my perceived skill level or artistic merit is...I have been enriched by the stories of how others (at the height of their artistic powers) have gotten there...the embedded historical and cultural education...the endurance, faith, and discipline.  I'm inspired by the music and stories every single week--even when I don't necessarily love the album.  

063: David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)

I had never really understood the appeal of David Bowie--until I listened to Low a few weeks ago.  For whatever reason that album made me look at him a whole new way--perhaps an odd entry point into his very successful catalog.  

This album, while not quite as thrillingly experimental as Low, has increased my admiration.

I also watched the Bowie documentary currently available on Showtime (trailer below)--called David Bowie: Five Years.  The interesting documentary (originally produced by the BBC) focuses on five key years for Bowie – 1971, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983 – as well as his comeback efforts for his recently acclaimed album The Next Day.  Hunky Dory was released during the first of those important five years.

The main thing I was struck by on this album was Bowie's ability to morph into so many distinct vocal identities and timbres--and do so in a believable and technically adept way.  I'd never realized that he is one of the most capable male singers ever.  I guess I'd always been distracted by his changing, and always controversial, personas.  On this album, I also took note of how great a songwriter he is.

Changes is a classic.  The melody on the chorus of "Oh! You Pretty Things" is dizzyingly gymnastic--and so much fun to sing.  Who else would write a hook like that? I found myself singing it (poorly) several times during the week.  Life On Mars is epic--I couldn't help imagining Jessica Lange performing it as she did in this season of American Horror Story.  Kooks is a sweet song to his child...it (and Fill Your Heart) kind of remind me of Cat Stevens.  I love his odes to both Andy Warhol and (Song For) Bob Dylan. Then he settles into Lou Reed mode for his Queen Bitch.  

I love the lyrics feature of Spotify...is that new?  I'd never seen it before...Seeing them still doesn't help me make sense of the lyrics to Quicksand or The Bewlay Brothers.

062: R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)

I have always wanted to love REM.  

I bought a couple of their records in the 90's (aka Out Of Time, Automatic For The People, and Monster)...and really liked them.  

I had never heard this one, and wanted to give it a fair shake.  I (tried to) read the 33 1/3 book for this album.  The book is incredibly thorough--perhaps too much so.  It goes so deep into each track: the recording, the performance, etc...but at the end of the day, I couldn't match what I was reading to what I was hearing--so I gave up mid-book (something I rarely do, but do when I must).  This may be more of an indication of where I am right now in terms of headspace, but there it is.

This album is very good.  Like the REM albums I've absorbed previously, I really like it.  I don't love it though.

Maybe it's because, mostly, I don't get what the songs are really about...I'm admitting my idiocy here.  There are interesting images here...I like the mood...but I guess I like things that are more immediate, more vulnerable and direct.

I do love Perfect Circle...and We Walk.

The production throughout is really inventive and timeless.

Verdict

I really loved Hunky Dory.  Now having loved two Bowie records (Low and now Hunky Dory), I feel compelled to explore more of this landmark records (i.e. Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station To Station, Heroes, Scary Monsters, and Let's Dance).

I really do like REM, and look forward to getting to focus on Automatic For The People again (a little higher on this list).  

Next Up

060: Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)

057: The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Daydream Nation & Loveless

With less than two weeks to go until the big move, I've let this blog get a little behind schedule...

There are a lot of goodbyes to say...a lot of work piling up at my day job just before my last day (next Friday)...not to mention all the packing and general fretting ramping up as that date approaches.

I've also been hesitant because, for the first time in the past 16 months or so that I've been doing this project...I wasn't really crazy about either album this week.  It was a bit of a chore.

Spoiler alert.  

Oh, you're supposed to say it before you spoil?   

What's that?  

The term has reached its jump-the-shark moment?  

What's that?  

No one says jump-the-shark any more?

Read on, dear friend.  I promise to be brief.

065: Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988)

When I say I wasn't crazy about either album, it doesn't mean I didn't see the merit in the album.  Listening to it again now, I am liking the album-opener Teen Age Riot in a new way.  I can hear the influence this album must have had on the 90's alternative scene.

I can't really put how I feel about this record better than a fellow traveler on this album appreciation journey did on their blog...I found this blog while searching, trying to better educate myself to coax more love for Sonic Youth.  This anonymous person (as far as I could tell) is blogging their way through the 1001 albums listed in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book over the next 10 years and is blogging about it here.  That book is great--and from what I saw, this blog seems great (and ambitious) too!

In these 14 songs, there must be some that I enjoy, right?

Providence is cool.  I like the instrumental piano and noise, and the voice mail snippets from Mike Watt.

That's about it...this album is not for me.  


064: My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

This album has a lot in common with Daydream Nation.  They were both released around the same time period, and both experiment with noise.  This album grew on me much more than Sonic Youth's did, though.  Perhaps it's because the songs are more melodic, and the noise is more gauzy and moody than abrasive (for the most part).

What I first noticed about this album was how oddly the vocals are placed in the mix.  They are so (intentionally it turns out) low in the mix that the voice becomes just another element of the song--the lyrics almost indeterminate.  Perhaps it makes you lean in more to try to understand...or perhaps it's just frustrating...

This album, like Daydream Nation, definitely seems way ahead of its time.  It sounds to me more like records I was listening to in the late 90's or early 00's.  

Listening to it again now, maybe my error with this album was context.  This album is definitely not a headphones on the way to work album--it's more a melt into the couch, with the incense burning and the lights down low album.  Who has time for that any more?  Perhaps it's time to make time.

Verdict

I will never listen to Daydream Nation again.  I always noticed how revered Sonic Youth is--and wondered what I was missing out on.  I can honestly say I've now listened, have seen their merit, and admitted that it's just not for me.  It can't all be (he says defensively).

When MBV released their long awaited follow-up album last year, there was a lot of hype about how one of the great bands of all time had returned.  I had made assumptions about what they would sound like--based on very little.  They weren't what I thought they were...and given more time and, perhaps, the right context, I could see learning to love this record.


Next Up

063: David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)

062: R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Dummy & Unknown Pleasures

In just over 4 weeks, I will be a Nashville resident.  There are still so many goodbyes to say...boxes to pack...and New York moments to be done for one last time.

If you were going to leave New York, what would be the things you would have to do one last time?

I feel like I've done so many amazing things over the years...such that my list is actually not very lengthy.  There are museums I always wanted to go to, but never did.  But, it seems that at this point, if I didn't go up until now, maybe I just didn't really want to go.

One thing that we will FOR SURE be doing is going back to Red Rooster Harlem for one last Sunday Night Jazz dinner...and to Madame Claude's in Jersey City for one last Thursday Night Gypsy Jazz dinner.  I guess I'm a sucker for great food and great music.

068: Portishead - Dummy (1994)

This album hit the US during the first semester I went to Berklee.  I was, like so many others, very taken with their first single "Sour Times"--you know, the Nobody Loves Me song.

I had never heard anything so mysterious or pained--combined with such interesting and deep beats.  I bought the CD and spent a good bit of time with it on repeat on my walkman (yep, I'm old).  I fell even more in love with their sophomore, eponymous record--to the point where I kind of forgot about this record.  So, I was happy to revisit it this week.

The first two times I listened to it (through Spotify), I was taken by how great a record it was as a whole.  It took that second listen to ask myself whether I'd even heard "Sour Times".  Turns out Spotify doesn't let you download the three strongest songs on this album: Sour Times; Wandering Star; and Glory Box (although they do let you stream the full album).  So, I turned to my own collection to listen to it the album total.

If it was strong without those tracks, it is perfect in total.

I read the 33 1/3 book about this album this week.  It was the longest volume of the 30 or so I've read in the series, clocking in at over 200 pages.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It goes so deep into the making of the record, the reception, the over-exposure, and trip-hop--the genre this album (in part) created (along with Massive Attack and Tricky).  It goes deeply into their sampling process and other production methodologies in a way that was very interesting.  One example: the producers would find samples they liked from old Italian film soundtracks or soul records, and would then (most times) re-record the sample with a live band in a destructive/lo-fi way that would recreate that old sound--a way to capture the vibe without getting caught in the copyright litigation trap (like De La Soul did, as one example).  

My favorite tracks:

  • Mysterons
  • Sour Times
  • Strangers (love the ambient break in the first verse, and the scratched trumpet part)
  • Wandering Star
  • Roads (perhaps my favorite)
  • Biscuit (love the slowed down sample of Johnny Ray's "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" vocal)
  • Glory Box

 


066: Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

If Dummy is dark and moody, this album took me even lower.

I didn't know anything about Joy Division other than the song "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Upon the first couple of listens to the album, I was struck by how spare Unknown Pleasures is...and how modern.

I turned to the Joy Division documentary to get some background.

Once I finished the Portishead 33 1/3 book, I cracked open the (thankfully) shorter volume for this album.  In hindsight, I would have been better just sticking to the documentary--most of the book was a rehash of similar information.

I must have heard the legend of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division.  That he was epileptic...with an unparalleled onstage presence.  That he killed himself before their second album ("Closer"--further up this very list) was released.  I must have known that the band went on in the absence of Curtis to form the band New Order.

I must have known this...and yet, it was a bit before my time.  I had slightly older friends that loved Joy Division...but I didn't follow suit.  

I know now.

It's very interesting to learn that Joy Division started playing just a year before this record was recorded...inspired by a Sex Pistols show they'd each attended.  They were each terrible at their respective instruments (save perhaps the drummer)...but grew into the seasoned musicians that recorded this album within the year.

One thing I noticed early in listening to this record was the vast space between each track.  Normally, when sequencing an album, you keep the space between songs to a minimum to sustain people's attention throughout the record.  You only make it a lengthy gap if you want to give people a chance to absorb the song that preceded the space.  Perhaps the message here is that you need time to absorb ALL of these songs--attention span be damned.

I love the vibe of this record...even as I felt that the more I listened to it, and read more about the band, the more I felt pulled into the sadness of it.  When I was younger, I felt the romance of that pull.  Now, if I'm being honest, it scares me a bit...and I try to avoid it.  Too much darkness is just too much darkness.  I've got my own darkness, thank you very much.  OK, maybe not that dark.

The band were inspired by Kraftwerk and David Bowie (around the Low period).  You can definitely hear bits of that here.

I really like the tracks:

  • Insight
  • She's Lost Control
  • I Remember Nothing (my favorite)

 

 

 

verdict

These are not happy albums.  

It's interesting to think of whether sad or moody albums make you more sad or more full of mood...or whether their heft makes you lighter by some form of transubstantiation?  Do you listen to these records because you're sad--or are you sad because you listen to these records?

I am grateful to have remembered an old love for Dummy...and to find a new album in Unknown Pleasures...though I will have to handle each with care.

 

up next

065: Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988)

064: My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Three Feet High and Rising & Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Three Feet High and Rising & Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Thanks again to all who came out to my show at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3) last week.  It will be my last show in NYC for a while, because...

...after 12 years of living in the NYC area, I've decided to move to Nashville.  

There were many factors that went into the decision--but let's boil them down to wanting to a) be in a more affordable city; b) be closer to family; and c) have a new adventure in a city devoted to songwriting.

I have less than six weeks left before the big move date...so, needless to say, it's hectic.  

This project has been like an anchor (in a good way).  Even though so many things seem unknowable at this point, I take comfort in knowing that I have two expertly curated albums to listen to each week.  

 

075: De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

I had never heard this album before--save the still-amazing Me Myself And I.

This album is not available on Spotify--or anywhere digitally.  That's because this album was one of the first to heavily use sampling (like Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back").  With this album, it seems the copyrights were cleared for use with the formats of the time (i.e. cassettes, CD's, vinyl, etc.), but there was no clearance for future, unknown formats.  De La Soul settled out of court with The Turtles, whose 1969 hit "You Showed Me" was sampled in their INTERLUDE track "Transmitting Live From Mars".  Because of that, they haven't been able to clear the release this album digitally.  To get around it, they released it for free (for one day only) last year through their website.

This 24 song, 67 minute album is full of skits and oddball bits.  I can definitely hear the influence they had on groups that came later, like Digable Planets and Arrested Development.  

Tracks I liked:

  • The Magic Number
  • Ghetto Thang
  • Eye Know
  • Plug Tunin (Last Chance To Comprehend)
  • Buddy
  • Me Myself And I
  • Plug Tunin

[Not available on Spotify]

 

 

071: Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)


I loved this album when it came out.  It was my introduction to the band--I had not heard their earlier records.  But, I have followed every record since.

At the time of this record's release, much time was spent discussing how the band had been dropped by their label (Reprise/Warner) after delivering the master to them.  The label felt so strongly that the album wasn't commercial that they gave them the masters (which they'd spent over $80k for) back for free with the right to take it to any label they chose.

Once they signed to Nonesuch (also a subsidiary of Warner) some months later, they got a deal for more than three times the original budget.  So, as Jeff Tweedy says in the excellent documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart", they ended up getting Warner to pay more than 3 times what they had already spent on recording the album to get it back.  The band made out like bandits--how often is that the end of the story?

The documentary is a fascinating look at a band on the verge of releasing one of their most heralded records of all time, as well as the internal conflict present just before Jay Bennet was asked to leave the band.  The conversation that they have about the mix elements from the end of "Ashes of American Flags" and the beginning of "Heavy Metal Drummer" is astonishing.  Check out the video from about 31:30 to about 38:17.  It seems like Jeff Tweedy is so extremely patient in the face of Jay Bennet's harping, especially given his migraine and vomiting, and that after Jeff apologizes, Jay won't let it go.  Perhaps some of that is editing...but...

The album is also notable for its use of samples and noise in ways they hadn't experimented with before.  A lot of the hype for this album focused on the production...to a point where, now, years later, I'm surprised by how great the underlying songs are.  It's proof that you can use all of the studio wizardry you'd like, but you have to first have really great songs.

I really think there's not a weak song on this album.  Some of my favorites:

  • Kamera
  • Radio Cure
  • Jesus, etc. (one of my favorite songs of all time)
  • Ashes of American Flags
  • Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Pot Kettle Black
  • Reservations

Really, all of them...

Final thought: I had never really understood the lineup of Wilco over time.  I found this great infographic on wikipedia.  I added the album titles to help better understand the lineup in context of the albums.  Also, I always got confused by Jay Bennet (the guitarist/keyboardist who was asked to leave Wilco) and Jay Farrar (the co-lead of Uncle Tupelo, the band Jeff Tweedy and Jeff Stirratt left to form Wilco with Max Johnston, Ken Coomer, and Brian Henneman).  This helps a bit.  Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt (on bass) have been together for more than 20 years.

 

 

 

verdict

I was pleasantly surprised by De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising.  I feel like after a few more listens I may be completely converted.  67 minutes of an album is a lot to absorb in one week--especially one as hectic as mine has been.

I was better equipped to absorb Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because I was already a fan of the album for more than 10 years.  Listening to it again after a long break showed how great these songs really are.  Wilco has since become one of my favorite bands.  I'm glad I got to take a bit of time to reaffirm that affection.

up next

068: Portishead - Dummy (1994)

066: Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Endtroducing & Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

It's been a busy week.  I've been playing open mics in preparation for my show this Thursday at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  You can buy tickets and find out more about the show here.

I thought I was going to be able to share some pretty big news tonight about some changes in my life...but, alas, the soonest I can speak publicly about it is now tomorrow...so you'll have to be patient, and wait for next week's installment.

I know I'm mostly speaking to myself here...but I'm OK with that.  My therapist assures me it's compleeeeeeetly normal.

 

078: DJ Shadow - Endtroducing..... (1996)

I was turned on to this record back in 2000 by a DJ friend of mine.  I fell in love with it then--it was unlike anything I'd ever heard.  The combination of spoken word, sound collage, scratching, and the general hip-hop vibe (without any rap) was very new to me then.

DJ Shadow's scavenging has become legendary.  He did a segment in the documentary "Scratch" that was pretty fascinating.  I especially love his comment about how these piles of records (in his favorite local used vinyl shop) represents all of the broken dreams of artists who, at one point, believed they were the best.  And now, few of them are still making music.  It's this humility of his that I really respect.

I also read the 33 1/3 volume dedicated to this record--in my attempt to single-handedly keep this publisher in business.  

I really enjoyed learning about DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) in his developmental years.  He was so far ahead of the curve on this cut-and-paste sound that became more prevalent in the early 2000's (i.e. The Avalanches and RJD2).  This book was great about detailing each step in his evolution from early hip-hop enthusiast to hobbyist to start-up to innovative professional.  The book was the first I've read in the series that was really mostly an interview transcript--most of the words directly from conversations with Davis.

As for the music, I really enjoyed listening to it again this week.  The tracks I love:

  • Building Steam With a Grain of Salt
  • Changeling
  • What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)
  • Stem/Long Stem
  • Mutual Slump
  • Midnight in a Perfect World
  • What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 -- Blue Sky Revisit)

077: Derek and The Dominos -- Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)


I had never heard this record...and to be honest, the first time I heard it, there was little to no love.  I read somewhere that one of the notable aspects of this album was how understated it was...but I thought it was a dueling guitar record--too much going on.

That feeling subsided a bit on subsequent listenings--but I would never call this record understated.

It's a damn long album at 76 minutes.  On my busy weeks--that just gets me cranky from the start.

Songs I do like:

  • Keep On Growing
  • I Am Yours
  • Layla

 

Verdict

I really like Endtroducing.  I came to understand and appreciate DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) more this week by reading the 33 1/3 book and by watching his segment on the Scratch documentary.  He is a very thoughtful and capable artist.  I do think he pioneered the cut-and-paste thing, and paved the way for other acts I love like The Avalanches (self-titled) and RJD2 (Deadringer) and Lemon Jelly (Lost Horizons).  

I guess this project has definitively confirmed for me that I do not like Blues.  Perhaps one day my view will change...and honestly, I hope it will...I want to be one those guys that's really into the blues...I'm just not there yet.

Up Next

075: De La Soul -- 3 Feet High & Rising (1989)
071: Wilco -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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The Bends & Elephant

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The Bends & Elephant

Well...this is my first post on my new SquareSpace site.  I'm testing the interface before I officially move everything over...but so far so good.  It's a bit of a learning curve--having used WordPress for the past several years.  I really liked WP, because it gave me the flexibility to obsess about and tinker with every little detail.  But with WP, you have to rely on various web hosts to serve up your site.  Hosts I've used in the past few years have all started out great--and then got sketchy pretty quickly (yes, I'm talking to you MediaTemple and DreamHost).

So, I thought I'd try SquareSpace because the design and hosting is all contained in a single eco-system.  We'll see how it works out in the end...but I've heard good things from others who've used them up until now.

Quick plug--I'm playing my last show in NYC next Thursday night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3: April 16th, at 7PM.  You can buy tickets here.  I'll explain why it will be my last show (for a while anyway) next week.

080: Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

Radiohead is one of my favorite bands of all time.  This is the album that captured my attention.  I had loved "Creep" when it came out, but could never really get in to the rest of their debut album.  When this, their sophomore, album came out, I was hooked by songs like "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Trees".  

Listening to it again this week was probably the first time I'd heard the record, cohesively, in several years.

There is not a weak song on the album.  There were five charting singles from this album (in order of release): "My Iron Lung", "High and Dry", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Just", and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". 

I feel like it's aged really well too...is that just me?  Is it because it came out the year I went off to college that I want to believe it still sounds modern?  Though many bands came after that tried to sound similar, how could anyone ape this album?

I really love the cover of Black Star that Gillian Welch did several years back--proof that well-written songs can be sung in any genre and still sound right.

079: The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

I never really got into The White Stripes.  

I have tremendous respect for Jack White's talents--but had never really listened to their albums, so I didn't have an opinion about Meg White.  I just knew that Ray LaMontagne wrote a love song for her called, fittingly, "Meg White".

I had heard criticism about Meg's drumming...and I get that her timing isn't solid...but her feel is rawkus and vibrant though, if a little unsteady at moments.  

Being who I am, I like the quieter moments of this album...enjoyed the more rock tunes...but wouldn't really add any of them to a playlist.

I liked Meg's ambivalent delivery of "In The Cold, Cold Night".

I really loved hearing Jack's more tender side on "You've Got Her In Your Pocket".

My favorite song on the record, though, is probably "Little Acorns".  I really love the new vocal tones Jack is trying out--following the spoken word intro about squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter.  I also liked how the piano motif at the beginning becomes the heavy guitar riff at the proper beginning of the song.

 

Verdict

I was reminded of how much I love "The Bends".  I appreciate the more straight-forward songwriting of this record--not to say I don't love the more adventurous records that followed.

I got to see more sides of The White Stripes than from what I'd heard before.  Ultimately, I'm still not sold for myself...but respect what they're doing.

Up Next

078: DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996)
077: Derek and The Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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(What's The Story) Morning Glory? & Illinois

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(What's The Story) Morning Glory? & Illinois

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunesSpotifyBandCampAmazon SoundCloud

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Things have been a little crazy on this end lately (still).  I can't really talk about it publicly yet, for reasons that will be all too clear very soon...

I'll be playing a pretty significant show in just over a couple weeks at Rockwood Stage 3, April 16th at 7PM.  You can buy tickets for $10 here.  I'm going to play some songs from my new rekkid and some of my favorite covers (possibly including a cover of James Bay's Let It Go).

085 - Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory

085: Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

This album came out my first year of college.  It came out long before my appreciation for The Beatles blossomed (i.e. last year).  I loved the song Wonderwall--I even performed a cover of it with a band at my cafe show at Berklee in back in 1996 (it was awesome).  But beyond that, I never really got into Oasis.

I've heard of some of the rock-and-roll antics of the Gallagher brothers.  And they pretty much faded not too longer after the height of this record.

So it was interesting to take a listen back to it this week.

That The Beatles influenced these guys is undeniable.  Their songwriting is solid--I'm just saying that the template is unmistakable (as it has been for some other rock greats I've listened to over the past year and change).  Roll With It is early Beatles.  Don't Look Back In Anger is later Beatles/Lennon.  And so on.

I had never heard Cast No Shadow--and didn't know it was written about Richard Ashcroft.  I'm not sure I understand it lyrically...but I do like the song.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1qS5tCIWGSkgyXh5S5EHep[/embed]

084 - Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

084: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

From the opening eeriness of the piano rhythm in Concerning the UFO--with its odd and complex time signature--and his soft voice, I am hooked.

I've heard this record before--several times...though several years ago now.

After a few more listens, I still feel oddly about this album.

It is masterful.  No doubt.

But there's something about it that still exhausts me.  Maybe it's those long-ass, yes clever, titles...

The piano part on Come On! Feel the Illinoise! is super cool (two exclamation points).  Am I the only one who hears the Peanuts theme here?

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16xNlqtZg08[/embed]

John Wayne Gacy, Jr is one of my favorite songs ever.  I don't know what that says about me.  The lyrics are so spare, yet so effective.  He tells a rich story with an economy of evocative words.  His piano playing is so beautiful.   I could hear this song a million times, and still get chills each time.

According to wikipedia, here is what Sufjan contributed to this album:

acoustic guitar; piano; Wurlitzer; bass guitar; drums; electric guitar; oboe; alto saxophone; flute; banjo; glockenspiel; accordion; vibraphone; alto, sopranino, soprano, and tenor recorders; Casiotone MT-70; sleigh bells; shaker; tambourine; triangle; electronic organ; vocals; arrangement; engineering; recording; production

Yeah.  I'm impressed.  Not to mention writing and composing every song.  So, I guess, one should forgive some excessive titleage.

The next song that really does something for me, is The Predatory Wasp of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us.  That vocal melody.  That oboe.  The pulsing accordion.  "There on the walls in the bedroom creeping I see a wasp with her wings outstretched."  Damn.

The bass line on They Are Night Zombies!!  The staccato vocals...spelling ILLINOIS (I never paid enough attention to get that before).

I guess what I'm learning that I only like Sufjan when he's at his creepiest.

Another example would be the wonderfully sinister The Seer's Tower--it starts so hushed, but slowly becomes more and more anguished.  "Oh, my mother she betrayed us...but my father loved and bathed us...still I go to the deepest grave where I go to sleep alone..."  Woah.  Gut wrenching.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/72Te4Q4kVX6ToU0pfAv8Ol[/embed]

Verdict

I liked (What's The Story) Morning Glory, but didn't love it.  Not for me.

The parts of Illinois that I love--I love deeply (the creepy bits).  But, overall, I think the album is too long with so much that doesn't excite me.   At the end of the day though, Sufjan made a masterpiece that holds up very well ten years on.

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

080: Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

079: The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Transformer & Psychocandy

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Transformer & Psychocandy

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Things have been a little crazy on this end lately.  I'll be able to talk more about that next week...but it's big.  I'll be playing a pretty significant show next month at Rockwood Stage 3, April 16th at 7PM.  You can buy tickets for $10 here.

087 - Lou Reed – Transformer

087: Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

I had been looking forward to this since hearing the Velvet Underground's record from The List last year.  Especially knowing that David Bowie worked on it with him--now that I'm finally appreciating David Bowie...I thought this was going to blow me away.

And, well, it didn't.

I find this album to be a bit uneven.

Granted...this could totally be my state of mind at present.  Maybe I'm just not giving my full attention to it in order to let it properly blossom.

There are three songs here that are undeniable classics: Perfect Day; Walk on the Wild Side; and Satellite of Love.

Who doesn't like to drink San-grey-ya's in the park?  How does Perfect Day so perfectly toe the line between corniness and ballsy rock splendor?  Is it the line "you're going to reap just what you sow"?  Perhaps.

Yeah, that doubled bass line on WotWS is perfection.  I also love how Lou's doot-doo-doot's are then answered by the background singers dreamy, reverb-soaked doot-doo-doots.  The way those background vocals crescendo--growing in intensity, coming more forward in the mix.  Especially just before that coolly iconic sax solo at around 3:39.  What??  How could that have been done better?

Satellite of Love sounds like a Bowie song to me.  Those background vocals are sweet--bom-bom-bom.  I like Lou's treatment of his (or his character's) relationship with TV lyrically.  "I like to watch things on TV" becomes "I LOVE to watch things on TV" becomes "I love to watch things on TV".  Bowie's background touches on the final chorus are the perfect change-up texturally.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/2iSL4S5HXxYr9oRY0x30oU[/embed]

 

 

086 - The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy

086: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

The first time (and maybe first two times) I heard this record, I was pretty sure I would be chalking this one up with the major missteps of The List.

I had never heard any of this record.

Eventually, I was struck by how ahead of its time it was.  This sounds like the late 90's to me--not the mid-80's.

I don't give much of a kcuf about the effects and distortion and all that.

I did find it interesting that they were heavily influenced by The Beach Boys and 60's pop.  Their evolution of that sounds was to layer it with their gauzy distortion and effects.

The songs I like--Just Like Honey; The Hardest Walk; Cut Dead (they love that boom-ba-boom jingle); and Sowing Seeds (changes it to boom-ba-boom crack).

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/5x80gQQ81Ziwj274tWW7f9[/embed]

 

 

Verdict

I wanted to love Transformer.  I liked several tracks, no doubt.  I walk away wanting to hear more of David Bowie's work--more so than Lou Reed's.

I grew to like The Jesus and Mary Chain more than I thought I would at the start of the week...but I don't see how this fits into my life.  But we'll see.

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

085: Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995) 084: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Low & Screamadelica

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Low & Screamadelica

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples): iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I have taken on a new project this month--I will be writing a song-a-day for the month of February.  I haven't written in a little while, so I wanted to make that a priority in the short term.  Because of that, this project will be put on hold for a month.  It actually saddens me to know that I can't do it all...especially after having enjoyed this week so much.  But, I will be able to look forward to getting right back into it on March 1.

In the mean time, I'm building out my site now for more information about the new album (including a new bio, lyrics, the making of the album, etc.).  Check back soon as the site evolves.

090 - David Bowie - Low

090: David Bowie – Low (1977)

This is one of my favorite albums from this whole project.  I had never heard it before.  I'd never really listened to much Bowie before last year's review of Ziggy Stardust.  I liked that album, but thought that Bowie was always that focused on show and, perhaps, less on emotion.  This album showed me a whole other side of him

In reading the 33 1/3 book about this album (by Hugo Wilcken), I learned quite a bit about Bowie's state of mind at the time of its recording.  It turns out that Bowie was hanging out quite a bit with Iggy Pop (who I somewhat dismissed last week).  In fact, Bowie produced Iggy's The Idiot kind of conjunction with the making of this album.  I turns out Bowie was coked out of his mind during this period of his life--and on the brink of major depression, exhibiting cocaine induced psychosis.

He recorded this album in a chateau in France, and some in Berlin.  He worked very closely with Brian Eno.

The first thing I was struck by about this album was its minimal lyrics and vocals.  The album is split into two distinct halves--the first side with the more conventional rock song structures (though with minimal lyrics--and two instrumentals); the second half is mostly moody ambient instrumentals with little vocal embellishment.

The sound of the record sounds so fresh to me, though it is almost 40 years old.  Bowie was really inspired by Kraftwerk at this time--but I feel like the synth sounds here held up better than some of Trans Europe Express.  I also really like the funky grooves of this album in contrast to the more robotic and stiff grooves of the Kraftwerk record.

Breaking Glass is the first proper song.  It is a great example of how Bowie can manipulate his voice into so many characteristics and styles.  I never really thought of him as a masterful vocalist before--but I do now.  The lyrics here are menacing while still winking at the object of his focus.

Sound and Vision is a favorite track (and was one of the two singles released from this oddly beautiful record).  I had heard The Sea and Cake do a cover of it on their One Bedroom record (without ever knowing it was in fact a cover until this week).  On Bowie's version, notice how it takes almost a minute and a half for the vocals to come in.  It is this restraint that is felt throughout the whole record.  He is expressing how he has nothing to say in this song (and perhaps the whole record).  But the omission of lyrics and vocals on so much of this album feels truly like restraint rather than a cop-out.  There is so much emotional impact in the music, that I feel he didn't need to do anything more than he did.

Always Crashing In The Same Car is a great metaphor and song.

The last instrumental on side one (A New Career In A New Town) is clearly an influence for bands like Radiohead that came later.  He and Eno took two disparate ideas and merged them into one piece--the blippy and synthy mellow beginning section with the bluesy harmonica stomping section that trades off a couple times.  Both pieces still work as one.

Then we get to the darker second side of the album.  With Warszawa, we are taken to some droning otherworldly place.  When the melody comes in around 1:19, it is haunting and affecting.  It then gets a bit darker around 3:54, just before Bowie's vocals come in, using a made-up language.  His vocals, though nonsensical, deeply convey something large and emotionally impactful--a cry for help?  A desperate plea?

Weeping Wall is a track that Bowie worked on without Eno.  That it sits so perfectly with the other tracks proves that it was a true collaboration with Eno, rather than Bowie (sometimes) singing over Eno tracks.   Bowie recorded it in Berlin very close to the Berlin Wall.

Subterraneans closes out the album with a truly beautiful, mostly instrumental track.  I can definitely hear the influence this track had on Radiohead.  Bowie's low vocals give this track its human and emotional anchor.  I love Bowie's sax line that comes in around 3:16.  And, again, Bowie's nonsensical lyrics at 3:54 pack a serious punch, clearly communicating the emotion of the song...even if you don't know what that's "supposed to be".  You know.  This is the music of a star on the verge of collapse.

 

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1CXESdyGPEmrI4D9YGKEMS[/embed]

 

089 - Primal Scream – Screamadelica

089: Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

I know this album is supposed to be important for the way it brought club music into the rock world.  While there is some really cool production here, I'm just not feeling it.  Even as he's saying he was lost, now he's fine.  I don't believe it.  Maybe that's because I spent the week listening to someone who did sound lost.

Maybe it's also that I've heard a lot of rock and club hybrids that have come since--and feel like it's been done better since.

This album just has a distinctly early 90's sound for me.  I'm thinking KLF and Deee-lite, whom I loved very much at the time.  Deee-Lite was one of my first club shows back in 1994 at a club in Orlando (I think was) called Firestone.

So, it's not that I don't love this kind of music...I'm just not getting why this is exemplary.

What am I missing?

It isn't until Damaged (track 8) that I thought, oh wait, they may have something to say...and this is a decided shift back to rock stylings (a la The Stones) with little to no club influence.

I do like the song I'm Comin' Down.  I especially like the sax lines with the layered synth overtop at around 3:40.  But this song, like so many others on the record (in my opinion), overstays its welcome.  It goes on for about 2 minutes longer than it needs to.  I get it, you're drifting.

I can hear how Higher Than The Sun could have influenced trip hop bands like Portishead.  So, I appreciate that.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/36tOUfkczpdzBsJmHK5S7n[/embed]

 

Verdict

As I said, I loved Low--though feel a bit bad for that, knowing now how badly he felt during this time.  Perhaps because of the depths he was really in personally, he created a truly beautiful work that really makes me think differently about song craft.  His restraint was truly enlightened and enlightening.

I did not see the light with Primal Scream.  Again, maybe this is because I feel like I've heard this before.  Maybe if I'd heard this in 1991, I would have a whole different appreciation for it.  But it does beg the question, should an album be deemed a best of because it inspired a sea change in music?  Or should it have to hold up better than any of those bands that it inspired?

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

087: Lou Reed – Transformer (1972) 086: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Raw Power & Fun House

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Raw Power & Fun House

It has been a busy week here. My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available.

You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I also had my album release celebration show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3 on Thursday.  Thank you again to all of you that came out and showed your support.  It truly was the best show I've ever given, and that was in no small part to the love you were beaming up to the stage for the entire show.

I am so lucky.

I'm building out my site now for more information about the new album (including a new bio, lyrics, the making of the album, etc.).  Check back soon as the site evolves.

 

094 - Iggy And The Stooges - Raw Power

094: Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power (1973)

This is going to be a short post.

As I said, it was a busy week with the release of my album and my show.

To have two albums by the same artist in one week could be a blessing or a curse.

For me, it was the latter.

As I've said before, punk is not for me.  I have gotten to appreciate some of the records on the list (especially The Clash's London Calling).

Iggy scares the shit out of me.  I've heard the stories about how he rolled around on stage over broken glass.  Do an image search for "iggy pop broken glass shows" and you'll see what I mean.

Not the kind of guy you want to ride an elevator with late at night.

Many of those guys have mellowed or lost their edge.

Not him.  I'm still scared.

I get that he inspired a lot of musicians, like Kurt Cobain, Frank Black, The Smiths, and the Sex Pistols.

Penetration is interesting, for it's unexpected use of a celeste (the bell sound).  Shake Appeal sounds like a Beatles song on amphetamines.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0Ufdo97F5jw7HD37Gewsdi[/embed]

 

093 - The Stooges - Fun House

093: The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

This album is grittier.

You can hear it's influence on records and bands that came later.

The Doors.  Guns N Roses.  The Rolling Stones.  U2.

I especially hear Iggy's influence in the song Dirt.  I do like that song's insistent/incessant bass line.

And that's it.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/4woauX8cqkbERdmBcJLzo7[/embed]

 

Verdict

I have to be honest and say that I used my veto power this week.  I did not listen to these albums the mandated three times, because I honestly didn't have the time.  I thought about extending for a week and doubling back to give them their due, but I just don't think there's more here for me this time.  So, to be fair, if I'm ever asked, I heard both of these albums--but I did not listen.

Up Next

090: David Bowie - Low (1977) 089: Primal Scream - Screamadelica (1991)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Trans-Europe Express & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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Trans-Europe Express & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Held Momentarily will be released this week (on Tuesday, January 20th)!! If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!  You can get tickets to the show here.

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169243103&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"So Well Loved" is the second song on the album.  These chords have been with me for a while, and have been in other songs I'd written, but eventually discarded...but I could never get the chords out of my head.  I began strumming them again, and decided to write a new song with them.  To me, the song is about the hope that comes from the right love.  After having searched for it in many different forms, and being disappointed, it's easy to give up on the idea of love.  It's a gift to find that it is out there, if we keep ourselves open to the possibility--regardless of past failings.  I've been told that this song feels like a growth out of my second album "Rebirth".  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

098 - Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express

098: Kraftwerk - Trans-Europa Express/Trans Europe Express (1977)

I had never heard this album either--no surprise, I'm sure.

I have heard them referenced by many bands that I do love, and can hear Kraftwerk's definite influence now--Daft Punk, Air, Radiohead, etc.  While the synth sounds have progressed a lot from those used on this record...the moody and paranoid vibe of this record is a direct parent to these bands' sounds.

It's crazy that this album was created in 1977.  It's got an 80's sound--but one that endures, unlike much of the music of the 80's (in my humble opinion).  In fact, this album became a big hit in the UK almost 5 years after it's release.  It influenced so many bands of that time, especially Joy Division.  It is also considered a forefather of all electronica that has come since.

So that's the pedigree...what of the album?

I love the vibe of The Hall of Mirrors and Showroom Dummies.

My overall feeling, from the first listen on through listening to it now, all of the songs go a minute or two longer than they should.  If they were a little tighter, they would be more effective--or if they grew or modulated to a greater degree.  I get that this was the dawn of the sound, and much of the technology (specifically the custom-made step sequencer they used)...but the songs kind of stick in a repetitive groove for too long.

I can see how Metal on Metal probably influenced a lot of industrial music that came later--like Nine Inch Nails.

Trans-Europe Express was also sampled by Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force's Planet Rock (and later by Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and Lil Wayne).  So it's reach is truly impressive.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0QpkNeEinU19gxBhJNN9wP[/embed]

 

097 - Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

097: Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

I had heard this one, and was really blown away by it when I heard it back when it was released.

I liked Kanye's first few albums, but kind of lost interest after 808's and Heartbreaks.

Turns out he was having a nervous breakdown around the release of that album.  His mom died in 2007, of a cardiac arrest related to a plastic surgery operation.  He was working tirelessly and had his infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Music Awards where he interrupted Taylor Swift to give a shout-out to Beyonce's video.

So, he went to Hawaii to rejuvenate and work on a new album.  He brought with him a slew of musicians and producers (including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Justin Vernon [of Bon Iver fame], Drake, Dwele, Nicki Minaj, Rhianna, among many others).  He recorded at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu and booked three studios.  He kept each room working simultaneously.  He would leave one studio (even if they were in the zone) to work on a different song--following his muse from moment to moment.

When I first heard the album, I was blown away by two songs: Monster and Lost In The World.  Nicki Minaj's contribution to Monster blew my mind then, and still does.  She embodies several personas in one verse...from a baby-voiced Barbie to a truly terrifying roar by the end.  I was in to Bon Iver at the time, and really loved Lost In The World for his contribution...but Kanye makes it his own and the song goes from quiet reflection to bombastic dance thumper.

This album presents Kanye at his most despicable, but also as a truly vulnerable man.  The production is astounding...with absolutely no filler.  It is, at times, difficult to listen to while the album also worms its way into your brain.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0mrRY6x9wPCAqsQb8Zqhyj[/embed]

Verdict

I am glad I finally took the time to listen to Kraftwerk.  I don't think I'll add this record to my collection--though I certainly respect it.  I have to say I loved My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and will keep the album in my collection--and dig it up from time to time.

Up Next

094: Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power (1973) 093: The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

 

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Surfer Rosa & Channel Orange

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Surfer Rosa & Channel Orange

Less than two weeks left!!!! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242086&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Already" is the third song on the album.  This was the last song I wrote for this album--on Valentine's Day in 2014.  The writing for this song was based on a very simple rhythmic riff--something different for me, as most of my songs start as (sometimes more complex) chord changes.  Then when I went to record it, I scrapped the rhythmic guitar riff and kept only a synth arpeggio, and built the production around that.  It's completely different than the rest of my work--and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.  To me, the song is really about how disaster can sometimes bring the right people even closer together (as Super Storm Sandy, and its havoc, did for us).  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.


This marks the first week that I am starting from the Acclaimed Music Top 100 list.  I will move through the new list, and skip over the albums I already covered during the 2014 project.  That leaves about 37 new albums to listen to.

Let's do this.

100 - Pixies - Surfer Rosa

100: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

Never heard this one.  Well, I had heard (and liked) Where Is My Mind, but nothing else.

How is that possible?

Watching the documentary below, I learned that they were a huge influence on Radiohead (one of my favorite bands).  The Pixies are also referenced and exalted by many other bands that I admire on this documentary.  The statement has been "Nirvana and Radiohead would not have existed had it not been for The Pixies."

That's huge.

[embed]http://youtu.be/UjAhm82v1es[/embed]

The first time I listened to this album, I was not sure how to feel.  It was dark and brooding.  It was strange.  I could instantly hear how bands that came later pulled from these sounds.

Once I soothed my fearful inner child, I began to really like these songs.

After about four listens this week, I wonder how this album is not on Rolling Stone's top 100 albums list?  It's certainly better than several of the albums I listened to last year from that list.

For me, the album is super strong up until Cactus.  The tracks after that are good, just not something I connect with as much.

I can definitely see why Kurt Cobain was so taken with the production of this album (by Steve Albini, who Cobain later hired for their album In Utero).  The deep reverb on the backing vocals is haunting, the guitar sounds are so dense.  The subtle production work is biting (like how that last syllable of To-ny, from Tony's Theme sounds almost like the bark of a rabid dog).

I don't mean to give too much credit to Albini.  From the documentary above, you can see from their live set filmed in 1989 that the band could easily replicate their sound in a live show with just the four of them.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/5zuD14oIlCqSfUKFhPE9eN[/embed]

 

 

 

099 - Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

099: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

I am proud to say that I had (finally) heard an album before I was slotted to listen to it for this project.  That's something that didn't happen very often over the past year.

I first learned of Frank Ocean when I heard his songs Novacane and Swim Good from his mix tape Nostalgia, ULTRA.  I especially loved the latter track--impressed by the his lyrics and melody.

http://youtu.be/PmN9rZW0HGo

So, when Channel Orange came out in 2012, I was looking for it.  Upon hearing it, I was deeply impressed by it--immediately aware that a bold new talent in alternative R&B had arrived.

There is so much in this album to reward repeated listening.  There are interludes between many of the songs that add to the dark and modern world he's creating here (with producer Malay).  The songs somehow deliver commercial appeal while also tucking in enough darkness to earn its alternative credibility.

In songs like Sweet Life, Ocean sings about California from the point of view of the young, wealthy, and black.  He talks about landscapers and housekeepers, and ocean views--privilege--and how that can prevent you from striving for something bigger, or to even identify your dreams.  This is something I hadn't heard represented before in R&B.

In Super Rich Kids, he continues this theme:

Too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce.

Too many bowls of that green, no lucky charms.

The maids come around too much.

Parents aint around enough.

Too many joy rides in daddy's jaguar.

Too many white lies and white lines.

Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends.

Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends.

In Crack Rock, he sings about less glamorous neighborhoods.  Toward the end of the song, he talks about crooked cops, and to paraphrase, he says when a crooked cop gets shot 300 men will search for the shooter, but when his brother gets shot "don't no one hear the sounds".  He says, "don't no one disturb the peace for riots--don't no one disrupt nirvana".  Just 2 years after he records this song, that lyric is no longer true.  People are disrupting nirvana for change--and I hope they will continue to.

On the back half of the near ten minute Pyramids, he tells a story of his girlfriend who strips at a club called The Pyramid, to keep his bills paid.  She comes back from work, and he wants to be with her, but her "love ain't free no more".

My point--he's covering some really dark content here.  Rock & Roll, right?  Sex.  Check.  Drugs.  Check.  But I wouldn't say he's glamorizing any of it.

Then, in Bad Religion and Forrest Gump, he talks about being in love with a him.  When has that really been done in commercial R&B?  Perhaps we could have thought he was just playing with pronouns to express his artistic vision.  Before the album dropped, he posted on tumblr, a confession of sorts that he was in love with a male friend (who didn't return his affection).  He had later been a bit dodgy about whether he is bi or gay.  He doesn't want to be beholden to any label or box.  He wants to be allowed to live a dynamic life.  In GQ, he said he shares what he shares as an artist because he wants people to connect with that aspect of himself.  Anything other personal details are his and his alone.

Good for him.  I love that we're in a time when someone can be that bold and vulnerable, and still have a wildly successful album launch.

One of my favorite tracks is the moody Pink Matter because it features one of my all-time favorites Andre 3000.

I love that there's a modern R&B album in the top 100.  It's the only R&B album in the top 100 from the past 25 years.  But I would be lying if I said I wasn't curious why some other modern (neo-soul) albums aren't higher on this list.  Or why Channel Orange ranks higher than them.  Some examples:

Lauren Hill's Miseducation is # 119. Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is #368. D'Angelo's Voodoo is # 521. Erykah Badu's Baduizm is # 594. Jill Scott's Who Is Jill Scott is # 1797. Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite is # 2163.

Don't get me wrong.  Channel Orange is an excellent album.  The issue with lists, is that there will always be question as to the specific rankings.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/41GFm8P4EuHi7a4TTpgKZP[/embed]

Verdict

I really liked both records this week.  I am interested to hear the next Pixies track further up this year's list.  As for Frank Ocean, I am curious where his career will go from here.  Even though we started back at the bottom of a new list, I still enjoyed this week's albums as much as I did last week's (Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper).  Blasphemy?  OK.

Up Next

098: Kraftwerk – Trans-Europa Express/Trans Europe Express (1977) 097: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

 

 

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Pet Sounds & Sgt Pepper

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Pet Sounds & Sgt Pepper

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here). If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242084&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Another Side" is the fourth song on the album.  I finished writing this song on Valentine's Day in 2012.  It represented a new style and direction for me.  The song is about the anxiety inherent in pursuing our dreams, and the need for some loving support.  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.


So this wraps up a year's blog project.  The original intent was to educate myself on the top albums of all time.  For years, I had felt deprived of a rich contemporary music upbringing.  I was raised in a home where the focus was more on religious music, and secular music was forbidden (but oddly some pop radio still made its way into our family car).  Since rebelling and running off to college, I became a new music addict--waiting like an addict for this Tuesday's new releases.  I built a good knowledge of music from 1995 on, but had a huge gap prior to that.  I guess I just got to a point in my life where I realized that we are in an age where all the tools I needed to educate myself are readily available.  No more excuses, no more blame.

I listened to each album three times (at least) and watched a ton of documentaries and read many 33 1/3 books (in addition to other sources).  Some weeks it was a total joy--others it was, honestly, a bit of a chore.  In the end, the project has helped to reignite my love of music.  At this point, my curiosity has grown exponentially.  I can't wait to continue my lifelong musical education, for as long as I'm fortunate enough to breathe.

 

2 The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

002: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

I had always kind of written The Beach Boys off as a sort of Monkees band that created the soundtrack for The Gidget set.  I hadn't ever heard their album (less surf-centric) tracks, and certainly hadn't heard Pet Sounds (save a couple unavoidable and beautiful tracks).

I read the 33 1/3 book written by Jim Fusilli, and highly recommend it.  I learned a lot about Brian Wilson specifically.  He was the son of a songwriter (Murry Wilson) and had access to many instruments as a child, and also to his father's contacts in the music industry.  Brian soon eclipsed his father's songwriting skills, and the competition never seems to have ended.  Though his father was the band's manager for a while, he was eventually fired for being erratic.  That he was also an abusive father in many ways (some truly horrible), perhaps speaks to Brian's extreme sensitivity as a young man.  That Brian then became an absent father to his own daughters is a sad truth.

[embed]http://youtu.be/pmexRESUl3c[/embed]

I also watched the Don Was documentary called Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Meant For These Times (clip above).  It's one of the best documentaries I've seen this year--because it presents the good, bad, and ugly.  So many films I watched really downplayed the emotional problems, drug-use, or bad behavior.  This one put it all out there, and makes the subject more understandable because of it.

It's interesting to note that Brian Wilson, during the making of this album, decided that he was no longer going to tour with The Beach Boys.  Instead, he would stay in LA, and write, produce, and arrange their future material--and the rest of the guys would promote it on the road.  Brian was having trouble being on the road, and being away from his wife and his mother.  Who does that??

Wilson was really inspired by The Beatles' Rubber Soul, and was challenged to outdo it in his own style.  The Beatles were then inspired so much by Pet Sounds that they recorded Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

A critic said that these are "sad songs about happiness".   I really missed that on my first listen.  The music is just so joyful--harkening back to Wilson's idol Phil Spector's production bombast.  But lyrically, the happy lines are co-mingled with introspective and more melancholic lines.

On my first listen, I was also struck by how modern songs like You Still Believe In Me still sound.  The influence on bands like Vampire Weekend is unmistakable.  The melodies are adventurous, the harmonies confounding (in a good way).

In the documentary, Tom Petty made a really good point about Wilson's genius.  On this album, he is using so many odd instrument combinations.  This is easy enough to do now because most of the recording is done using virtual instruments.  Back then, he would have had to book the live musicians in advance and have them all come in and record--and only then could he experiment.  In other words, he had to know intuitively that a harpsichord, doubling a flute, and a bike whistle would give him the sound he wanted in order to hire those musicians to see if he was right.

Instead of saying which songs I like (which I've done most of the year), I will just list the ones I don't love as much.  OK, the one.

Because, let me be clear...I love this album.  Completely.

Sloop John B was recorded before the sessions for this album as a single, and was kind of tagged on to the album.  It's a fine song, but it doesn't really fit alongside the other songs.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0ckjlrqM8GfvnKefm05FJy[/embed]

 

 

1 The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band

001: The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

This project has a made me an irreversible Beatles fan.  I used to think I hated those kind of people--you're a fan of the most obvious band on the planet...great for you.  Maybe that's why I avoided really listening for so long.  But now I have listened...and I'm one of those annoying people.  Proudly.

I had never heard this album--just a couple of the tracks.  If I had a dollar for every time I said that this year, I would have $92.

With this album, The Beatles had decided they were going to record something that they would never play on tour.  It's also considered the last album where Lennon and McCartney were writing together.  McCartney had the idea of creating an alter-ego band--a construct that would allow them to shed the expectations that were starting to completely stifle them.  Because of this thin conceit, this album is considered one of the first concept albums.

I really like the songs here, but don't know if I could say that it's a better album than their others high on the list (Revolver or Rubber Soul)...

"A Day In The Life" is brilliant.  I really love "When I'm Sixty-Four" (mock me if you will).

I think "With A Little Help From My Friends", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "Getting Better", and "She's Leaving Home" are wonderful tracks...

Could I say that this album is the best I've ever heard...I don't know.  I don't think so.  At the end of the day, I'm glad I've heard it...the ranking of great albums is completely subjective and almost beside the point.  But without ranking, how could I have done this project at all??

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]
 

Verdict

I've kind of spoiled my thoughts on both.  I see why both are so high on the list...is Pet Sounds a lesser album (even marginally)?  Not to me.  Is Sgt Pepper the best Beatles record?  I don't know...it was certainly ambitious.  Either way, I am a newly converted fan of both bands, and will devour anything I come across from both of them for some time to come.

Up Next

100: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

099: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Highway 61 Revisited & Revolver

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Highway 61 Revisited & Revolver

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242077&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Homesick" is the sixth song on the album.  This song was also written back in 2010--and has gone through some subtle shifts before making its way onto the album.  I had to really struggle with myself not to add more sections or overwrite this one.  I'm happy with the results.  This was the first song I produced and recorded for this album.  The recording features Lior Magal on bass, and was also mixed by Lior.

 

4 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

004: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

I had never heard this album before this week.

We've worked through several Dylan albums to this point.  I've admitted some trouble connecting with those records--though I see their undeniable genius.

This one just feels different.

"How does it fee--ee--el?"

Good question.  It was the first Dylan record I've listened to this year where after my first listen, I immediately played the album again from the top.  Desolation Row just kind of left me breathless.

I read the 33 1/3 book about this album (by Mark Polizzotti, see here).   The book thoroughly documents the writing and recording of this album (including the instrumentalists, producers, etc.).  I really enjoyed it--my one complaint being that he wrote at length about some songs that didn't make the final album, and then did not touch on several of the songs that were on the album.  It's also written for the faithful--taking it as a given that you know the Dylan mythology and shorthand.  I do not.

I also watched the documentary he filmed (just before this album was worked on) called Dont Look Back.  It was so interesting to see this side of someone so young and at the peak of their fame.  He's at a very pivotal point in his career, doing a solo acoustic British tour just before he shifts gears and starts touring with a band, embracing his early love of rock.  Watching the way he interacts with (read: eviscerates) interviewers and interlopers is hard to watch at times.

http://youtu.be/C6y7AXw5U6w

It was interesting to learn that Dylan's writing was not only inspired by authors and poets, but also visual artists.  It makes such perfect sense that this was the case considering how abstract and dreamily evocative his lyrics are.  It really inspired me to expand my notion of just what can influence songwriting.

My favorites from the album are Like A Rolling Stone (which he considers his best song ever written); It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry; Ballad Of A Thin Man; and Desolation Row.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/6iFLhoZo6haUSEItIKkzdN[/embed]

 

3 The Beatles - Revolver

003: The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

Again--I had never heard this album before.  A few of the songs, sure.

The thing I love about this album is the mixture of sounds and vibes on a single album.  This record was written and recorded during a major creative shift for the band.  McCartney was becoming more of an equal with Lennon.  Harrison was proving himself a powerful writing contributor, and brought his newfound love of Indian instrumentation to the band.  To me, there are reflections of their earlier work (with added bite) intermingled with their more audacious material that was still to come.  It makes for a very satisfying and surprising listening experience--a near impossible balance to strike.

Tomorrow Never Knows.

Incredible.  It still sounds so fresh.  That this band was able to give us so many interesting songs of such diverse style in such a compact period of time is astounding.

As a writer, I hate them while I (and everyone else who knows the score) yearn to rip the seams and discover their pattern, fabric and stitching choices.

Or maybe a course in channeling is in order.

My favorite songs Eleanor Rigby; I'm Only Sleeping; Here, There and Everywhere; For No One; and Tomorrow Never Knows.

I struggle with Yellow Submarine.  I want to place it in the same category as Octopus's Garden (not a compliment)...and yet there's something so appealing and forward-leaning about it (that brass section after the second verse, all the weird sound design and production choices).  Brilliant.

I want to say that by writing only 2 minute songs, they're somehow cheating.  Seriously though, how the hell do they do that?  It's so hard to pack in all that interest, and complete ideas, into a single song at all...that they do it in 2 minutes is just maddening.

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]
 

Verdict

I want to be honest with you.

You have to promise not to judge me.

Agreed?

[If not, lie to me]

Both of these albums (and the artists who gifted them to us) deserve very, very deep study and scrutiny.  Anyone who studied either would doubtlessly be rewarded exponentially.  At the end of the day, though, this (as with all things in life) comes down to choice and predilections.  I would choose to study the songcraft of The Beatles--good melody, harmonic interest and production resonate with me.  Bob Dylan is (for shizzle) an amazing poet and one of the most brilliant minds of our age.  Lyrics are important to me, but the other things I've mentioned are primary for me...and those are things that just don't matter as much to Dylan.  The Beatles give us a variegated perfection and directness.  Bob gives us raw, aloof, sometimes intentionally imperfect recordings/songs that are about story first and everything else second.  I've heard that the divide is between The Rolling Stones and The Beatles...you love one or the other, but you can't love both.  I would say it's much more possible to love both of those packs...maybe the line really is more between Dylan and The Beatles??

Up Next

Could this be the end of a year's journey?

002: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966) 001: The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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What's Going On & Rubber Soul

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What's Going On & Rubber Soul

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah everyone! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242074&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Vulnerary Love" is the seventh song on the album.  This was the first song I wrote for Jeanne--back in 2010.  The song was further inspired by a word-of-the-day entry I'd seen for the word "vulnerary".  Used heavily in the 1800's, and not much now, the word means "used for or useful in healing wounds".  As a songwriter, many times people will offer up "Oh, that would be a great song title".  You can see now that my idea of what makes a good song title is wildly different than what most would consider good.  This was the second song I produced and recorded for this album.  The recording features Lior Magal on bass, and was also mixed by Lior.

 

6 Marvin Gaye - What's Going On

006: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

I have listened to this album before, but it had been a while.

To get some context, I watched a documentary from the American Masters series about Marvin Gaye.

http://youtu.be/snc15-SuRWI

I found Marvin Gaye's story to be an complex and inspiring, if cautionary, tale.  If you don't know his story, I encourage you to watch.

He pushed through resistance from Motown to move away from his love-song-dense past work.  He was struggling with depression and drug dependency.  He wanted to reflect the world as he felt it was at the time.

Listening to the album now, it doesn't seem much has changed.  I wonder what the album would feel like if he worked on it now.  I sincerely hope someone is picking up his torch with half of the talent he possessed.

One of the more interesting things about this album is that it is structured like a song-cycle.  I've also seen it referred to as a quasi-classical suite.  Basically, most of the album blends from one song to the next.  I'm still on the fence about whether I like this effect.  It certainly makes the album seem more cohesive--but I wonder if it's not too much so.  Again, perhaps it aggravates our modern ADD for it to all stay in a similar groove for so long.  The album is only 35 minutes, but without that breathing room between songs, it seems much longer.  Especially because he is tackling some major themes.

From the documentary, I learned that Marvin Gaye was an incredibly personal lyricist.  He inserted his humanity and vulnerability into his songs.  I had listened to his "Here, My Dear" album about 15 years ago, but know that I would find more to relate to in the album now given my own, ahem, maturity.  That album is part of my blog project for next year.

The three singles gave Gaye three #1 singles on the R&B chart, a first at the time: What's Going On, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), and Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).  I love these songs, and also Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky) for its fierce introspection (and perhaps confession).  Also I love his spiritual exploration and exhortation on Wholy Holy.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1KzVdOSEqV6udwLhUweVq0[/embed]

 

5 The Beatles - Rubber Soul

005: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

I had never heard this album before--though I had heard a few of the songs.  As with the previous Beatles' albums, I almost immediately loved this album--with one exception (more on that later).

What is it about their records that are so inherently likable?  I came across an article recently about an online group that claims The Beatles were actually much more than 4 (or 5, counting George Martin) people.  I can certainly understand that wish.  If these guys were that good, what does that say about the rest of us.  I understand it, but really love having such a lofty goal to aspire to.

This is their 6th album, the second album that featured their own songs, and the first that hinted at a new, post-Beatlemania artistic direction.

I really love McCartney's moody and sweet "Michelle", and also Lennon's "Girl".  "In My Life" has been heard many, many times, and yet its sustaining beauty is undeniable.

Run For Your Life is the album closer, and it almost spoils the whole album for me every time I hear it.

I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man

...

You better run for your life if you can, little girl

Hide your head in the sand little girl

Catch you with another man

That's the end ah little girl

That's some misogynist sh!t right there.  Apparently John Lennon later claimed that this was his least favorite Beatles song, and he regretted writing it.  I hated that first line when I heard it on the Elvis song "Baby, Let's Play House".  I overlooked Elvis's song because it was released in the 50's (thinking it was of its time)...but I have always thought Lennon (and the mid-60's in general) was far more evolved than this.  How naive of me, knowing now how long change really takes.

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]

 

Verdict

I have a renewed interest in Marvin Gaye from this album--though I didn't love this album per se.  I understand its importance, and think there are some beautiful songs here--not to mention an unprecedented artistic risk and reward.  Perhaps, given more time, its genius will continue to reveal itself to me.

While I love Rubber Soul, I couldn't say I liked it more than The White Album or Please, Please Me (or even Abbey Road).  I do like it very much though.

I guess we're at a point in the list where I'm thinking the albums are ranked so highly they're supposed to instantly change your life.  Again, change doesn't work that way.

Up Next

004: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965) 003: The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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London Calling & Exile On Main St

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London Calling & Exile On Main St

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242071&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Jump Alone" is the eighth song on the album.  I wrote the core of this song back in 1999--just after I'd finished my second album Rebirth.  I had the first verse done, and all of the chords.  I played it over and over at the time, but was never able to find the thread that would allow me to complete it.  After a 12 year hiatus, I picked the song up again and finally finished it. The lyrics reflect the realization that you can spend time wishing that things had been different in your childhood--that you had been supported or nurtured better.  There comes a time when you have to just take a leap, and find the confidence and faith in yourself to do the things that scare you.  The song features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

 

8 The Clash - London Calling

008: The Clash – London Calling (1979)

I did not love the Sex Pistols.  I liked the self-titled debut of The Clash more than I thought I would.  That album showed a musicianship far superior to the Pistols' (and the other punks band in my limited exposure).

This album takes that idea and blows it out times a hundred.  They break out of the genre and explore so many others (reggae, rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock--per the album's wikipedia page) that they caught heat from punk purists.  The last song on the "post-punk" double album, Train In Vain, reminds me so much of a Fleetwood Mac song.  Now that's post-punk.

It's a lot more fun than I expected.  Once again, the album started growing on me the more I listened to it.

My favorite songs: London Calling, Lost In The Supermarket, The Guns of Brixton, Lover's Rock, and Train In Vain.  The Guns of Brixton is so modern, it still sounds fresh (with the possible exception of that spring "boing" sample that is repeated throughout, although that has grown on me too).  It sounds like a predecessor to some Gorillaz tracks.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/4WzhXzd3OeAJ3NidV6Ucfx[/embed]

 

7 Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

007: The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St (1972)

First, I need to vent about something I've learned over the course of this project.  Bonus tracks, especially in the case of classic albums, should not be part of one's initial experience of an album.  With many of the albums I've listened to this year that had bonus material, the added stuff was obviously of a lesser caliber than that of the original release.  Sure, if you already love the album, a few extra tracks recorded at the same time might be interesting.  But, otherwise, it's an unnecessary diversion.

I mention this because this album (or the re-released version on Spotify) had 10 extra tracks tacked on to the end.  That brought the total listening time close to an hour and 45 minutes.

The previous three Stones' albums on this list have been among my favorites of the year.  This album follows those 3 records chronologically, and was recorded while the band were in exile due to tax evasion.  Keith Richards was deep into his heroin addiction, and the band was not having an easy time working together while in France.  Mick Jagger did not like the direction the band was taking, and changed course on the albums that followed.

I've had a harder time with this, their most acclaimed, record.  None of the songs here grab me in the way their previous album's songs did (i.e. Wild Horses, You Can't Always Get...).  Also, I've already admitted that I don't love the Blues (which I know makes me a bad person)...and this album is very much rooted in American Blues.

I do love the production--horns and background vocals especially.

I do like the songs Rocks Off and Loving Cup.

That's something.  Right?

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/627Pew3FqQ49xmfWmnUauK[/embed]

 

 

Verdict

I didn't fall in love with either of these records this week.  London Calling surprised me, while Exile On Main St disappointed.  Critics didn't love Exile when it first came out, so perhaps it's a grower, not a shower?  I liked the other Rolling Stones albums earlier in the year so much that I'm sure I'll revisit this album again somewhere down the line.  Perhaps I'll be more open to receiving its gifts then.

Up Next

006: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971) 005: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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The White Album & Blonde On Blonde

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The White Album & Blonde On Blonde

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242068&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"So Now What?" is the ninth song on the album.  I wrote this song in 2012, the year I left the safety of my non-musical career in pursuit of writing and performing in NYC--the reason I moved here almost 12 years ago.  The lyrics reflect a moment of doubt that many of us wrestle with from time to time.  The effects on the opening piano parts were inspired by John Martyn--whose use of tape delay on some of his biggest work really surprised me when I was turned on to him a couple years ago.  The song features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

 

10 The Beatles - The White Album

010: The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

This is the first Beatles record I ever gave a listen--back in the early aughts.  Until then, I had been reluctant to give them much of a chance.  A co-worker urged me to give this double-album a listen--and she was right.  I loved it.

This album was written during a time when The Beatles were in India studying Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi.  While there, according to the wiki page, they went without drugs (marijuana the exception--hey it was the 60's) and were able to write around 40 songs.  30 of them ended up on this record.  Much of this album was recorded via overdubs, with the full band rarely working together...apparently the rift that led to their break-up began during the recording of this album.

I loved it when I listened to it about 10 years ago...and for some reason, the first two times I listened to it now, I was having trouble remembering why that was. By the third time, again, I was shaking my head and loving every song (with a few exceptions).

This album is not available on Spotify, so no embedded player, but I'll comment on some of my favorites anyway.

To me, Rocky Raccoon, is the best song on the album--and one of the best songs ever written.  It's a perfect example of storytelling being central to a song--but the melody and production don't take a back seat.

11 songs were written by McCartney (including Rocky Raccoon), 10 by Lennon, and only 2 songs written by both (Birthday and Cry Baby Cry).  Harrison wrote four of the songs (including another favorite While My Guitar Gently Weeps).  Ringo wrote 2 songs (including Good Night, which I like so much that I've decided to forgive Octopus's Garden).  That leaves Revolution 9, which I'm not sure even gets songwriting credit.

During the past year, I've come to respect John Lennon for his artistic integrity and searching nature almost to the exclusion of any affection for Paul McCartney (as if it has to be one or the other).  Once I look at who wrote what, I realize that Paul is certainly John's equal, even if he was his own animal.  I've never explored their solo work much (beyond Lennon's entries on this list).  I look forward to exploring even more of their work--especially George Harrison's.

 During the coming weeks, I plan to watch the 9+ hours of their mid-nineties documentary Beatles Anthology (available here).

9 Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde

009: Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Before this project, this is the only Bob Dylan record I had ever listened to...and I honestly loved it.

I had trouble listening to it again (perhaps this is because I had a stomach virus that turned into a full-blown cold that has yet to exit my weakened body).  I just wasn't connecting.

This was one of the first double-albums in the Rock & Roll era.  It was recorded in Nashville with some of the top session musicians of the time.  You can tell too--focus on any backing instrument on any track and behold the mastery.   You want an example?  OK.  Check out the piano on One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later).  Or check out the guitar on I Want You.

I have to say that I still have trouble with the length of many of Dylan's songs...just too many verses.  That's probably more an indication of my ADD (face it, we all have it at this point).  I'm more partial to songs (like with The Beatles) where you get in, say what needs to be said, and get out.  Bob likes to pull that taffy as far as it will go, and he certainly gets at some beautiful things by doing so...but while the taffy doesn't break, my attention eventually does.  I'll work on it.

Who wouldn't love the energy on the opening track Rainy Day Women #12 & 35?  They sound like they're having a great time.

I love pulling and distorting syllables, doing my best Bob Dylan impersonation.  The best song to do this with is Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again.  It's just so perfectly Dylanesque (especially the titular line).  The song also has my favorite lyric:

Mona tried to tell me

To stay away from the train line.

She said that all the railroad men

just drink up your blood like wine.

And I said, Oh I didn't know that

but then again there's only one I've met.

And he just smoked my eyelids

and punched my cigarette.

Just Like A Woman is my ringtone for Jeanne.  She loves Dylan.  I love her.  So it seemed to make sense.  Another thing I love about this song is that it isn't verse, verse, verse, verse, verse like so many of his songs (again, this offends my ADD).  This song has a bridge to break up the song.

It definitely helps to have his lyrics in front of you as you listen to the album.  Some things take shape, while others stay in the misty middle space.  You almost have to study his songcraft--as many have.

I'm not sure that I'll ever be compelled to.

But I've been wrong so many times before.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/24qD0JZJXfKhyj75nltpx8[/embed]

Verdict

I had trouble with both of the double albums this weeks--even though I'd loved them both before this project.  It's a lot to absorb...especially while visiting family for Thanksgiving and then fighting off not one but two illnesses.  With The White album, my affection came back in full effect.  With Blonde On Blonde, I'm not sure it has.  I still love a hand full of those songs, but have trouble with the lengthier, more dense ones.  I am more than aware that the problem lies with me.  I'll keep trying.

Up Next

Two more double albums?  Fantastic.

008: The Clash – London Calling (1979) 007: The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St (1972)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Kind of Blue & The Sun Sessions

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Kind of Blue & The Sun Sessions

With the release of my third album "Held Momentarily" just 9 weeks away, I've decided to post a track a week until the release.  I already leaked a track called Now That The Curtain's Drawn several weeks back (check it out here).  I'll post the 9 songs in reverse order of the track listing on the album.  If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242066&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"To Be Yours" is the last song on the album.  It is one of the most intimate songs I've ever written.  I am in an age-gap relationship--yep, that's a thing.  This song is my attempt to explore that and convey my feelings and fears surrounding that.  It is the only song on the record that is the same now as it was on the original demo of the song--nothing was re-recorded, though it was professionally re-mixed for the record.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

12 Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue

012: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)

I have heard this album many times, having fallen in love with it while I was in college.  I was looking forward to getting to it this week...and yet, it took me a few listens to spark up those old feelings for it.  What's more, I feel like I appreciate it now in a much deeper way.

This is the most successful jazz album of all time, selling more than four million copies.  Another interesting note about this record is that it marks Miles' songwriting departure from writing songs based on chord changes.  He felt too hemmed in by improvising over chord changes, so he started exploring modal improvisation.  The best way I can explain it (and, God help me if I'm wrong about this) is that modes are different types of scales.  We're all more familiar with major and minor scales...but modes take it to a whole different place.  There are seven of them, one for each unique note in a scale...and each mode has it's own personality, in addition to its funky latin name (i.e. phrygian, mixolydian, etc.).

So, Miles came into the session with his band (which includes one John Coltrane) and identifies the modes they'll work within for a given song...sketch out a couple of melody ideas...and the band then improvises within those very broad definitions.  There was no rehearsal, and very few takes recorded.

When that bass line comes in for So What, I'm in.  I love the subtle touches--like how in the beginning, after the bass lays out the original melody, and the rest of the band responds with their descending two notes, the fourth response is only piano with everyone else laying off...love that.  I am not very familiar with the pianist Bill Evans' work--but after hearing him here, I definitely want to.  Deft stuff, his playing (especially around 7:06).

I find it interesting how much Coltrane shines on this first cut. You would think that as bandleader, Miles would want to be far and away above everyone else...but it seems everyone has their moment (or two).  And it never goes into that masturbatory territory that jazz often does.  There seems to be an emotional truth that's central here...and everyone honors that.

Wynton Kelly comes in for piano on Freddie Freeloader (the only track featuring a different pianist).  After Miles spells out the new melodic structure for this song, Wynton comes in with his own killer blues-laden wizardry.

That tone of Miles' muted trumpet.  No wonder he's so beloved.  There's so much mystery and mastery in his melodic choices...so much mood...so much blue.

That chord change in the beginning of Blue In Green--woah.  Twisting and turning, and completely unpredictable, and yet somehow natural.

I love how you can really hear the spit rolling past the reed in the opening sax lines of All Blues.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/64gkOJlJBbLTw9aQEP3DEt[/embed]

11 Elvis Presley - The Sun Sessions

011: Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions

I didn't love Elvis when his self-titled RCA debut came up on this list a while back.  To be honest, I was kind of tolerating him the first couple of times I listened to this collection this past week.

Then that kind of horse trot rhythm of Blue Moon, mixed with a David Lynch kind of strange and cool vibe, comes in...and I took note of what all the hype is about.  That vibrato rich, falsetto cry he surprises with (at around 0:56)...so emotive.  None of that self-aware smarminess, that "hey look what my hips are doing" is there...it's just pure.  Greatness.

Once I had that entry point established...my appreciation for him began to unfold and blossom.

Tomorrow Night was the second song to catch my attention.  I had heard Patty Griffin (one of my absolute favorite singers) do a version of it on her 1000 Kisses album and always just assumed it was hers.  Elvis's version is weirder...more haunting.  He draws syllables out, and rushes through others, in a way that is all his own.

I also love Harbor Lights.  His vocals are so evocative.  Love the whistling.

By the third listen, I was digging the way he sings That's All Right.  He's doing the full Elvis thing...but again, it seems like he's discovering it within himself, rather than putting it on.

I was walking around the apartment trying my best to pull off I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine.  Let's just say I didn't.  That's where I really appreciated how complex his thing is...those melodies are more intricate than they sound.  And it's fun to do that Elvis thing...so I can see why it would be so tempting to take it too far.

I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') is one of those songs that has it all...that end of the party, drunken slow dancing sway punctuated by the jazzy strut that comes in the end.  Cool.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/6HubsHFS2fmZZIQpH8g7if[/embed]

Verdict

I want to live in the world that Miles and his band create on Kind of Blue.  I don't know what that says about me...but there it is.  It's a sophisticated and moody cityscape...not sad, per se, maybe more contemplative.  I don't know when I'll come back to this album...but I hope I can peel back even more layers to discover more of what makes this album so perfect.

I think I finally see what all the fuss was for about Elvis.  I think before I only saw the attractive guy who shook his hips and made the girls go wild.  If I sound jealous, it's only because I absolutely am.  With these early recordings, I hear something really original and raw.  I bought the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die recently...and Elvis is listed a few times.  I would have never been interested to listen further until this week.  Now I'll take a deeper look.

I cannot believe we're now in the top 10.  I definitely feel like I'm reading one of the best books of my life--and have that feeling you get when you get to the final chapters...that sadness of knowing that it's almost over.

Up Next

010: The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album) (1968) 009: Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Abbey Road & The Velvet Underground & Nico

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Abbey Road & The Velvet Underground & Nico

Another week down. I booked the Album Release Show for Held Momentarily.  The album will be released on January, 20, 2015.  The show will be at Rockwood Stage 3 on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 7PM.  I am excited to be playing Rockwood for my first time in over a year and  a half.  I'll post more information as it becomes available.

I also edited a promotional video of a conversation I had with my brother, Josiah Correll, about the making of my new album.  You can watch it here, and check out samples of each of the songs on my new album.  We filmed it on a rooftop in Jersey City.  The video includes clips of various locations around Jersey City--where I love and call home.

http://youtu.be/ihnscF2lGYY

14 The Beatles - Abbey Road

014: The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

First off--this album, as with all other Beatles' albums, is not available on any streaming service.  So, I can't very well embed a player for you...and I'm sorry.

I'm gearing up to spend a lot of time with The Beatles over the next several weeks--four albums in the top 10 alone.  I've meant to do this for over 15 years...now's as good a time as any.

I had bought this album a couple of years back when they did a tribute to the album on The 2012 Grammy's.

http://dai.ly/xom6rj

That was the year Paul McCartney led a medley of songs from Abbey Road: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, You Never Give Me Your Money, The End, [Extended Guitar Solo Pissing Contest].

I loved some of those bits and wanted to hear the full songs.  Normally when you hear a medley, it's an amalgamation of full-length songs that have been crammed together in a witty way to give you bits of what you love into a singular, tasty casserole.  I was disappointed to learn that those bits were the most ever committed to tape.  There are no full-length versions.

That's maybe not a fair way to introduce this album.  But it's the way I was exposed to it.

Thanks a lot, Grammy's.

Some of their best songs are from this album: Come Together, Something, I Want You (She's So Heavy), and Here Comes The Sun.  There are also the great tracks Oh! Darling, Because (which I first heard as an Elliott Smith cover on the American Beauty soundtrack), and You Never Give Me Your Money (perhaps my favorite here).  The left-field tracks--Maxwell's Silver Hammer and (Ringo's odd) Octopus's Garden--grew on me over repeated listens.

After 9 full-length songs, the album finishes with a "suite" of songs that were never finished, giving the album's second half an air of operatic proportions.  Paul and John had all of these song fragments that they couldn't finish.  George Martin, who produced this record, decided he would record what they had and weave them together into a synthesized whole.

For me, the "suite" is not as satisfying in a song sense.  But in a production sense, it is an impressive feat.

This is the last album The Beatles worked on.  Let It Be (not on this list) came out as their last album, but was mostly recorded before Abbey Road.

 

 

13 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

013: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

I was first exposed to The Velvet Underground and Nico on The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack.  I liked the songs (neither from this album), and yet for some reason I can't explain, it didn't lead me to check out this album.  I had never heard it until this week.

For some context, I turned to the 33 1/3 Series for their volume covering this album, written by Joe Harvard.  This was one of the more rewarding books I've read from the series. It perfectly covers the formation of the band, the making of this album, the societal context, song-specific reflections, the public response at the time, all the way to the long term importance of this album.  In short--everything you want and need to know about this album is covered in this short, short book.

This album was very controversial in its time.  Lou Reed wanted to bring to Rock & Roll songwriting some of the edgier subject matter he'd read in more pulpy novels he was in to.  He wanted to be sure not to write the kind of "moon-June" love songs that were popular at the time.  I think he achieved that.  Here he covers scoring 26 bucks worth of heroin in the upper west side, sado-masochism, to the drug scene in Union Square.

The band were embraced by Andy Warhol, who became their manager, had them play at his parties, and ultimately got them their record deal.  The label was not thrilled about Reed's voice--so Warhol encouraged them to add model, actress and singer Nico to the lineup.  She only stayed in the band for this record...but you can feel the balance she adds to this album--adding a sultry lightness to Lou's dark and gritty songs.

This album made me feel similarly to the way I felt with Horses earlier in this list.  It's very moody, dark, and scary--but also exciting to see what a different world an artist can create and explore.  Many people talk about boundary-pushing albums--but few actually have the way that these two records do (still).

My favorite tracks here are Venus In Furs, All Tomorrow's Parties, and I'll Be Your Mirror.  I have to admit the last two songs lost me.  I got so far though.  So far.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/36Y1HQIIz9Z5smE2NIzdGO[/embed]

 

Verdict

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about Abbey Road.  I thought that the song suite thing was just something they'd done to fulfill their album obligation to the record label.  It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized that there are 9 full-length tracks--more than enough for any album.  Would the album be better off without the medley of unfinished songs?  I don't think so.  But do I still wish some of those bits got the full attention of these three songwriting geniuses (sorry Ringo)?  You bet.  Especially Golden Slumbers.

Velvet Underground is not what I would typically seek out.  This album is cool on many layers...and opened up the content that songwriters could explore ever since.  There's also a beautiful blend of melody and noise.  A lot of times with edgy bands, the focus is all on noise--as if that's the heartbeat of edge.  It's more interesting to me how Lou Reed and John Cale (et al) establish that they know how to write and execute beautiful songs, filthy and voyeuristic content, and experimental noise.  I'm glad I finally got around to this album.

Up Next

012: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959) 011: Elvis Presley – The Complete Sun Sessions

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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