These weeks are flying by at this point. It's hard to believe it has already been a week since my last confession. Up first: a quick update about my record. I finished the recording sessions for two more of my songs this past weekend. That means I have only to get the bass lines added (more details on that soon), and then send the files off for the mixing process. I plan to be completely done with the recording phase by the end of this weekend. With the addition of the bass tracks, and the mix, that means we're looking at being finished with the production phase in the next two weeks or so.
Of course, then comes the fun part of choosing album artwork, doing photographs, getting back out and doing shows to promote the album, etc.
I think I've landed on the album title that makes the most sense now...and it's not either of the working titles I've mentioned here and on Twitter. I knew I liked "Held Momentarily" but it didn't seem to connect with this album (maybe it'll reappear on my next project). Then I thought, "Another Side" is a great track...but Bob Dylan has already done an album by that title--and I'm sick of people comparing us...
Yes...relax...breathe...that's a joke.
But the new title works...at least for now...I can change my mind up until the CD's go to print...
In the mean time, know of any great graphic designers or photographers? Please comment or email me to make the connection. Thanks!!
044: Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
This album was difficult.
The first time I listened to it. I was honestly like, "what the f*ck am I listening to here". I guess that's the feeling I always when I heard snippets of Patti Smith's work in the past. I wasn't a fan of her voice, or her style.
The second time I noticed the beautiful piano playing of Richard Sohl. The complexity and subtle depth of his chord choices--that was what hooked me first.
Then I bought the 33 1/3 book about this album, written by Philip Shaw. I have to admit that his writing style is more academic than I like (not a good comment for someone about to enter grad school, but, yeah--there it is). I stayed with it though, and learned a lot about Patti's rise from her Jersey childhood up to her historic performance at St. Marks, through to the creation of this album. I would especially recommend reading the section called "Horses"--where he specifically covers this album, track-by-track.
Because of this newly gained perspective, I was able to hear the lyrics in a way I never had. For instance, at first listen, I thought Redondo Beach was just a shitty reggae knock-off (especially having spent time with Bob Marley last week). Then I let the extremely dark lyrics wash over me, and woah.
Birdland is perhaps my favorite track here. Her writing is nothing short of otherworldly. I realized how she must have inspired so many of the female artists I've loved thus far (PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, etc.)--not to mention how she changed the game for many, regardless of gender. She's doing things with her songwriting that I've never heard before.
Then we get to Land. This song scares the crap out of me. The book revealed how difficult the recording process was for this album. The producer, John Cale, and Patti Smith were clashing in the studio over creative differences. He was pushing her to do a longer version of this song--and to really stretch artistically. The end result is that they recorded the basic track of all music, with Patti giving some verbal cues. Then she went back into the booth and recorded three more takes with various stream of consciousness takes. Then she sat at the mixing console and crafted a final comp that was a combination of these takes, layered and scatological at times (check out around 4:50). The end result is amazing. The lyrics are darker than anything I've heard before. And, yet, also beautiful in that eerie darkness.
The 8 track album ends with Elegie, a beautiful and haunting meditation on the deaths of Jimi Hendrix (whose Electric Lady studio she was recording in), Jim Morrison (from whom Break It Up was also inspired), and poet Rimbaud.
043: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
This album started this whole project for me.
A little over a year ago, I was doing a mid-life internship at a music licensing company. I was working with several music lovers. A couple of the interns had a vast knowledge of seminal albums of many genres. I had ignored the "great records" my whole life, and as I've mentioned before, I did not come from a family whose record collection consisted of much of this stuff. One of my supervisors there, Lior Magal (who mixed and played bass on 4 of the tracks on my new album) asked off the cuff one day if I'd ever listened to "Dark Side Of The Moon". I could tell that he expected that my only answer would be "of course, it's my favorite". But when I told him that, no, I'd never heard it...his jaw dropped, and had a response much like this:
So, I listened to it...and, yep, I did love it. And that light bulb made me question...if I previously dismissed this, but actually love it, which other of the greats would I like.
And here we are--almost 60 albums into answering that question.
I still like this album very much, but I was surprised that I didn't realize last year how much of this album is instrumental (at least half). I have mentioned before how I'm not such a fan of instrumentals--but here, it works. This album achieves much of the same things that I liked above about Horses (cohesive, creates its own sense of place, etc.). The difference here is that the lyrics are nowhere near as dazzling as Patti's--though I think they were going for something more universal. The focus here is on the production and cohesiveness overall.
I watched the Classic Albums episode of this album, though it was a year ago...I don't remember specific details--just that I enjoyed it then.
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Because this is really an Album, it's hard to pull out individual songs to cite, but Breathe (In The Air) and Us And Them are two beautiful examples--with deserved classic status. The wordless singing of Clare Torry on The Great Gig In The Sky is powerful, soulful stuff.
Lastly, I had heard for a very long time (long before I'd actually heard the record) how cool it was to play Dark Side Of The Moon alongside The Wizard Of Oz. I had never tried it, because it always seemed just complicated enough to not be worth it. But then I discovered that someone had already gone through the trouble of synching the two on youtubes:
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So this is how I listened to this album this week for one of my requisite three listens. It does match up in several spots in cool, synchronistic ways. Maybe I didn't get the full effect because I wasn't smoked out...but it was cool anyway. And now there's one more thing checked off my bucket list.
Like last week, both of these albums are going to be added to my collection. I already bought Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl immediately after listening to it last year.
Horses will join the stack very soon. Looking back, this is the type of album that will take you to a dark place. I wouldn't say that I am going to put this album on repeat any time in the near future. I can say, though, that my respect for Patti Smith as an artist and writer, especially with this album, is deep. This album achieves the goal of any album in my opinion: it has a strong point of view; it is idiosyncratic and creative; takes you to a specific place; and makes you think differently.
Horses is the soundtrack to any of my future dark and twisty days...though I pray they never come.
042: The Doors – The Doors (1967)
041: The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)
Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.