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).
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"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.