It's been a busy, but good week. I, like I'm sure many of you in the colder climes, am really looking forward to Spring. We keep getting teaser-days, but the cold always returns the following day. If I didn't have this project constantly surprising me with its delightful music, I just might have fallen victim to SAD this winter. Who am I kidding? It got me anyway, but it certainly would have been worse.
84: Aretha Franklin -- I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You (1967)
Last week, I said that Aretha was anything but chill. When listening to Lady Soul, I was struck by her sheer power, but longed for a softer side. This week's I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You gives me that and more.
The record starts off strong like Lady Soul, but then around track 3 (the title track), there's a sensuality that I didn't hear last week. I especially hear it in her tone in the beginning of Soul Serenade. Baby, Baby, Baby is nice...and I also like the track that follows Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business) even though it always strikes me how the two songs are in the same key, which oddly enough takes me out of my enjoyment (or is that just music nerdery?). I do love the verse:
Now I don't mind company because company's all right with me every once in a while...but OOoooh when me and that man get to lovin', I'll tell you girls, I dig ya, but I just don't have time to sit and chit, and sip and chit-chat and smile.
Wait. Let's back up. I know. I didn't mention Respect. It's one of those songs that has lost its luster due to overexposure through almost every media type for more than 4 decades. But I tried to listen with fresh ears. You gotta love that jangly guitar line that opens us up over the intro horn lines. Then Aretha comes in, slicing through it all with those pipes. Something I love about these recordings is the way a lot of "flaws" are left in the stew. Aretha's voice on that third line "What you NEED" is scratchy and thin on that last word, but also perfect. Like last week, the background vocals are just as cool and innovative and noteworthy as the leads--switching from Oohs to Ree-Ree-Ree-Ree's to Sock-It-To-Me's to Just-A-Little-Bit's...nice.
In Do Right Woman - Do Right Man, she sounds like a totally different woman in the beginning. This is maybe my favorite song here.
A Change Is Gonna Come. What do you even say? The versatility in her vocal tones in this one song alone are nothing short of amazing.
83: Jimi Hendrix -- Axis: Bold As Love (1967)
Now, let's talk about the coolest motha funka on the planet.
I had never listened to any Hendrix before this week. I had only heard snippets of his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock (not even the whole song, at that). I knew he was one of the stars that died at 27, but I wasn't really clear how. So, coming to this record, I was pretty much free of any bias.
From the odd intro track Exp, I immediately heard the direct influence on several musicians I've heard over time, for example OutKast, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, even the guitar tones of Rage Against The Machine. As an aside, I'm very interested to see Andre 3000 in the upcoming Jimi Hendrix biopic.
I was expecting some amazing guitar playing--and that's here for sure. I wasn't expecting such a cool voice and style. Up From The Skies starts us off with a funky hippy strut. The lyrics here are almost impenetrable. He sings of a changed world, people farms, living in cages tall and cold--how he comes from the ice age and hardly recognizes this burned world with stars out of place. Uh-huh.
Then The Jimi Hendrix Experience kicks in with Spanish Castle Magic. A song about getting high--which I missed until I saw a video of a live performance where he delivers the line "...It takes about half a day to get there, if we travel by my a.....DRAGonfly"...where is stops mid-word and pulls an imaginary joint to his lips. Ooooh, I get it.
I love the guitar groove on Wait Until Tomorrow--and that hook is funky as it gets. Then comes the beautiful Little Wings--along with its strange lyrics, followed by the equally trippy, yet timeless If 6 Was 9 with its classic line
White collar conservative flashing down the street, pointing their plastic finger at me. They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die, but I'm gonna wave my freak flag high.
The beautifully sad Castles Made of Sand sounds like a good description of his too early death. One Rainy Wish is just beautiful, but there's plenty of that acid-trip imagery. Bold As Love--wait. That's not a John Mayer song? Also, I would love to ask the Axis--but I don't know who that is.
What to do.
What's that, Drew, over there at Yahoo Answers?
The word "Axis" in Jimi hendrix's song "Bold as Love" refers to the axis of all living things. or in other words a God. an axis is a center point that everything rotates around. it is pretty much saying "Just ask the all knowing".
All right. Cool.
I watched a documentary of Jimi Hendrix's rise and short career. The performance footage was spellbinding. His stage antics were amazing, only topped by his guitar mastery. The thing I didn't like about the documentary was how it kind of washed over how he died. But still worth a watch. You can watch a preview below and decide for yourself.
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Hot-BZMcu70" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen]
I really liked both records this week. Both had some amazing songs, by performers clearly at the height of mastery. After 3 listens to both, I don't think the whole album speaks to me in either case...but some of Aretha's songs are some of the best I've ever heard. In the case of Jimi Hendrix, I'm excited to hear two other records of his that charted higher on this list.