I worked a lot on my new album Held Momentarily this week. A new version of Another Side is almost ready to be mixed. No Longer Alone, proving a tough nut to crack (who uses this phrase anymore?) is coming together with a new version as well. I am recording and producing this album myself--so needless to say it's been a lot of hair pulling and learning, but also deeply satisfying. In the coming weeks I will reach the halfway point for the production of the album, and I'm excited to start sharing some of it.
56: Elvis Presley -- Elvis Presley (1956)
I'm going to say it again--I never heard this record before this week. Sure, I heard Blue Suede Shoes, Tutti Frutti, and Blue Moon before, but never in the form of this album, nor the rest of the tracks here.
I was hoping to be converted. I am honestly sorry to say that I have not been.
Elvis is credited with revolutionizing music, bringing Rock & Roll to the masses (admittedly co-opting black music and commercializing it). As an artist that loves R&B, Soul, and Funk myself, I was hoping to hear something of a luminary in Elvis. Instead I hear a lot of that hiccupy, gimmicky vocal trickery that seemed popular in the fifties (and skewered in 'Inside Llewyn Davis'). I guess it's hard to look back and see how truly revolutionary something was--when it influences everything that comes afterward.
I watched the Classic Albums episode about this album, and enjoyed it very much. You can see how attractive and charismatic Elvis was, and how his growing audience loved him. I was surprised by the analysis of Tutti Frutti--I had no idea how suggestive those lyrics were until I saw this. You hear a song like this so many times, the lyrics can become like wallpaper that you never focus on.
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A few songs I did enjoy were I Got A Woman and Trying To Get To You. I love the haunted simplicity of I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') and Blue Moon (had I ever really heard his version of this song, or just a million bad versions that came afterward?).
55: Jimi Hendrix -- Electric Ladyland (1968)
This is my second Jimi Hendrix experience...and I like the essence of what he was about, even if I don't buy the whole thing part and parcel.
I read the 33 1/3 book about the album. It is one of the best in the series I've read thus far (up there with Sign O' The Times, Court and Spark, and There's A Riot Going On). It delivers on the promise of the series: it is a thorough examination of this album; its creation (complete with song-by-song analysis), reception and its legacy. It's a quick and worthy read.
For bonus points, I also watched the Classic Albums episode of this album. The book and documentary have a LOT of overlap, so you could do with one or the other.
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I have a hard time connecting to Jimi as a lyricist. I mostly don't know what he's talking about--so much is mystical and psychedelic.
Crosstown Traffic is growing on me more and more, as I found myself humming it several times this week. Voodoo Chile is a great groove--but I don't have the patience to stick with it for 15 minutes to see if it's going somewhere.
My favorite track here has to be Burning Of The Midnight Lamp. Loneliness IS such a drag. I love those otherworldly background vocals (as sung by Aretha's background singers) and the harpsichord melody.
Rainy Day, Dream Away would be right up there too, though. That talking guitar part is very cool (at 3:12, it's said that he's making the guitar say "Wow! Thank You. Thank you very much". Hear it or not--it's cool. So nice he used it twice--it actually begins the track Still Raining, Still Dreaming too.
All of the sounds Jimi gets out of his guitar on 1983 is impressive (birds, waves, fog horns, buoys)--as is that laid back yet still epic guitar theme before the verse. Ultimately, though, I again don't have patience for a near 14 minute track. I do like the chill instrumental section in the middle (mostly atmospherics from about 4:55, the guitar coming in at 5:47, but it seems to lose its way around 7:50 as more dissonance comes in, leading to a dreaded drum solo).
The Bob Dylan cover All Along The Watchtower is certainly the most famous of the songs on this album. Dylan has since agreed that this version has become the definitive version of his song. Since Hendrix was a huge Dylan fan, having come up in the village around the same time, this would have meant a lot to Jimi--had he lived to hear the posthumous praise. The 33 1/3 book pointed out the 4 section guitar solo which I had never really taken notice of--four solos with distinct stylistic personalities strung together. It's not hard to see why he's considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
The album ends with a reprise of Voodoo Chile, now Voodoo Child (Slight Return). You can hear the influence of this song alone on many recent tracks by Jack White, Gary Clark Jr, or The Black Keys.
I am happy that I took the time to listen to both albums, and learn more about Elvis and Jimi through the Classic Albums episodes and 33 1/3 book. I will have one more attempt with both artists as we get further up the list. Elvis's Sun Sessions is #11 and The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced is #15. I like the idea of Jimi Hendrix. With Elvis I don't know what all the fuss is about. Maybe these next albums with be the tipping point.
54: Ray Charles -- The Birth Of Soul (1991) 53: The Beatles -- Meet The Beatles (1964)