I just caught up with last week's post a couple of days ago...so, for now, we're up to date with what I'm up to. Let's get into this week's music.
038: Muddy Waters – The Anthology (1947-1972)
This Anthology is 50 songs long. That's just shy of 2 and a half hours.
I've decided that with any albums of this size going forward, I'm going to have to pick out the most critically acclaimed tracks to listen to. There's just no way to absorb that much music in one week. It's hard enough to really absorb two albums of a more standard length.
That said--I feel like I listened to this collection enough to get a sense of the man and his music.
Gypsy Woman is a feat of songwriting economy. There are very few words, and yet the story is complete and interesting. "You know the gypsy woman told me, that you your mother's bad luck child..." Muddy Water's voice is incredible and distinct, to say nothing of his guitar playing.
His personality shines through on songs like I Can't Be Satisfied. I love the way he says at 1:11, "Well baby I can't never be sat-a-fied..."
I had no idea that his song Rollin' Stone was the inspiration not only for the band's name, but also for the magazine's.
Louisiana Blues has a very cool laid back, rambling feel to it. I had to look up what it means to "get me a mojo hand".
Mojo /ˈmoʊdʒoʊ/, in the African-American folk belief called hoodoo, is an amulet consisting of a flannel bag containing one or more magical items. It is a "prayer in a bag," or a spell that can be carried with or on the host's body.
Honey Bee has several cool guitar moments--especially where he mimics the buzzing of a bee (around 2:40).
I can hear his influence on artists like Jimi Hendrix in his vocal delivery on songs like I Just Want To Make Love To You.
Got My Mojo Working still sounds very modern.
037: Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
Like everyone else alive, I have heard the title cut of this record before...but I hadn't heard the album until this week.
This is another one of those albums that was considered satanic when I was growing up. So, it was forbidden. Given my penchant for rebellion, it's interesting that it's taken this long to listen. I guess I chose other battles.
This album is mostly mellow.
I'm mostly mellow.
So, you'd think, this is going to be a perfect pairing.
It comes so, so close. But it's not.
I can't really put a finger on it. I really do like much of the record. New Kid In Town is a justified classic. Those harmonies are my jam. Life In The Fast Lane has a cool groove, and a well-told narrative.
I do love how the songwriting here is adventurous, opting for interesting structure over the well-worn verse-chorus-verse form. Wasted Time is a beautiful example of this. The reprise that follows has such beautiful and cinematic string arrangements.
But then we get to the song The Last Resort.
This song is so beautiful and perfect, that it alone would warrant this album's place in history (for me). The sweeping scope of the narrative here is impressive.
The lesson I learned from this song is something else though. As a songwriter, it's easy when you come up with sections for a song to then feel that you have to write melodies and lyrics to fill up those sections. On this song, the writers (and/or arrangers) fight that urge. For instance, the modulation at 3:24, into the spare piano section at 3:49 up until the final verses coming in again at 4:21--perfect. In less capable hands (mine included), it would have been stuffed with a counter melody or vamp or solo...but here it's allowed to just breathe.
I learned two important songwriting tips from this week's songwriters. With Muddy Waters' Gypsy Woman, I learned the beauty of telling a complete and interesting story with as few words as possible. With Don Henley's and Glenn Frey's The Last Resort, I saw how giving a song some space--no words, no clever solos, no production tricks--can really allow a song to breathe, and let the listener contemplate the song.
I don't know if I walk away this week a converted fan for either album. But these lessons are good enough for me--and really speak more to why I'm doing this whole project to begin with.
036: Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
035: David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.