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(What's The Story) Morning Glory? & Illinois

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(What's The Story) Morning Glory? & Illinois

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunesSpotifyBandCampAmazon SoundCloud

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Things have been a little crazy on this end lately (still).  I can't really talk about it publicly yet, for reasons that will be all too clear very soon...

I'll be playing a pretty significant show in just over a couple weeks at Rockwood Stage 3, April 16th at 7PM.  You can buy tickets for $10 here.  I'm going to play some songs from my new rekkid and some of my favorite covers (possibly including a cover of James Bay's Let It Go).

085 - Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory

085: Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

This album came out my first year of college.  It came out long before my appreciation for The Beatles blossomed (i.e. last year).  I loved the song Wonderwall--I even performed a cover of it with a band at my cafe show at Berklee in back in 1996 (it was awesome).  But beyond that, I never really got into Oasis.

I've heard of some of the rock-and-roll antics of the Gallagher brothers.  And they pretty much faded not too longer after the height of this record.

So it was interesting to take a listen back to it this week.

That The Beatles influenced these guys is undeniable.  Their songwriting is solid--I'm just saying that the template is unmistakable (as it has been for some other rock greats I've listened to over the past year and change).  Roll With It is early Beatles.  Don't Look Back In Anger is later Beatles/Lennon.  And so on.

I had never heard Cast No Shadow--and didn't know it was written about Richard Ashcroft.  I'm not sure I understand it lyrically...but I do like the song.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1qS5tCIWGSkgyXh5S5EHep[/embed]

084 - Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

084: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

From the opening eeriness of the piano rhythm in Concerning the UFO--with its odd and complex time signature--and his soft voice, I am hooked.

I've heard this record before--several times...though several years ago now.

After a few more listens, I still feel oddly about this album.

It is masterful.  No doubt.

But there's something about it that still exhausts me.  Maybe it's those long-ass, yes clever, titles...

The piano part on Come On! Feel the Illinoise! is super cool (two exclamation points).  Am I the only one who hears the Peanuts theme here?

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16xNlqtZg08[/embed]

John Wayne Gacy, Jr is one of my favorite songs ever.  I don't know what that says about me.  The lyrics are so spare, yet so effective.  He tells a rich story with an economy of evocative words.  His piano playing is so beautiful.   I could hear this song a million times, and still get chills each time.

According to wikipedia, here is what Sufjan contributed to this album:

acoustic guitar; piano; Wurlitzer; bass guitar; drums; electric guitar; oboe; alto saxophone; flute; banjo; glockenspiel; accordion; vibraphone; alto, sopranino, soprano, and tenor recorders; Casiotone MT-70; sleigh bells; shaker; tambourine; triangle; electronic organ; vocals; arrangement; engineering; recording; production

Yeah.  I'm impressed.  Not to mention writing and composing every song.  So, I guess, one should forgive some excessive titleage.

The next song that really does something for me, is The Predatory Wasp of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us.  That vocal melody.  That oboe.  The pulsing accordion.  "There on the walls in the bedroom creeping I see a wasp with her wings outstretched."  Damn.

The bass line on They Are Night Zombies!!  The staccato vocals...spelling ILLINOIS (I never paid enough attention to get that before).

I guess what I'm learning that I only like Sufjan when he's at his creepiest.

Another example would be the wonderfully sinister The Seer's Tower--it starts so hushed, but slowly becomes more and more anguished.  "Oh, my mother she betrayed us...but my father loved and bathed us...still I go to the deepest grave where I go to sleep alone..."  Woah.  Gut wrenching.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/72Te4Q4kVX6ToU0pfAv8Ol[/embed]

Verdict

I liked (What's The Story) Morning Glory, but didn't love it.  Not for me.

The parts of Illinois that I love--I love deeply (the creepy bits).  But, overall, I think the album is too long with so much that doesn't excite me.   At the end of the day though, Sufjan made a masterpiece that holds up very well ten years on.

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

080: Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

079: The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Transformer & Psychocandy

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Transformer & Psychocandy

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Things have been a little crazy on this end lately.  I'll be able to talk more about that next week...but it's big.  I'll be playing a pretty significant show next month at Rockwood Stage 3, April 16th at 7PM.  You can buy tickets for $10 here.

087 - Lou Reed – Transformer

087: Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

I had been looking forward to this since hearing the Velvet Underground's record from The List last year.  Especially knowing that David Bowie worked on it with him--now that I'm finally appreciating David Bowie...I thought this was going to blow me away.

And, well, it didn't.

I find this album to be a bit uneven.

Granted...this could totally be my state of mind at present.  Maybe I'm just not giving my full attention to it in order to let it properly blossom.

There are three songs here that are undeniable classics: Perfect Day; Walk on the Wild Side; and Satellite of Love.

Who doesn't like to drink San-grey-ya's in the park?  How does Perfect Day so perfectly toe the line between corniness and ballsy rock splendor?  Is it the line "you're going to reap just what you sow"?  Perhaps.

Yeah, that doubled bass line on WotWS is perfection.  I also love how Lou's doot-doo-doot's are then answered by the background singers dreamy, reverb-soaked doot-doo-doots.  The way those background vocals crescendo--growing in intensity, coming more forward in the mix.  Especially just before that coolly iconic sax solo at around 3:39.  What??  How could that have been done better?

Satellite of Love sounds like a Bowie song to me.  Those background vocals are sweet--bom-bom-bom.  I like Lou's treatment of his (or his character's) relationship with TV lyrically.  "I like to watch things on TV" becomes "I LOVE to watch things on TV" becomes "I love to watch things on TV".  Bowie's background touches on the final chorus are the perfect change-up texturally.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/2iSL4S5HXxYr9oRY0x30oU[/embed]

 

 

086 - The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy

086: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

The first time (and maybe first two times) I heard this record, I was pretty sure I would be chalking this one up with the major missteps of The List.

I had never heard any of this record.

Eventually, I was struck by how ahead of its time it was.  This sounds like the late 90's to me--not the mid-80's.

I don't give much of a kcuf about the effects and distortion and all that.

I did find it interesting that they were heavily influenced by The Beach Boys and 60's pop.  Their evolution of that sounds was to layer it with their gauzy distortion and effects.

The songs I like--Just Like Honey; The Hardest Walk; Cut Dead (they love that boom-ba-boom jingle); and Sowing Seeds (changes it to boom-ba-boom crack).

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/5x80gQQ81Ziwj274tWW7f9[/embed]

 

 

Verdict

I wanted to love Transformer.  I liked several tracks, no doubt.  I walk away wanting to hear more of David Bowie's work--more so than Lou Reed's.

I grew to like The Jesus and Mary Chain more than I thought I would at the start of the week...but I don't see how this fits into my life.  But we'll see.

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

085: Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995) 084: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Low & Screamadelica

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Low & Screamadelica

My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available. You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples): iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I have taken on a new project this month--I will be writing a song-a-day for the month of February.  I haven't written in a little while, so I wanted to make that a priority in the short term.  Because of that, this project will be put on hold for a month.  It actually saddens me to know that I can't do it all...especially after having enjoyed this week so much.  But, I will be able to look forward to getting right back into it on March 1.

In the mean time, I'm building out my site now for more information about the new album (including a new bio, lyrics, the making of the album, etc.).  Check back soon as the site evolves.

090 - David Bowie - Low

090: David Bowie – Low (1977)

This is one of my favorite albums from this whole project.  I had never heard it before.  I'd never really listened to much Bowie before last year's review of Ziggy Stardust.  I liked that album, but thought that Bowie was always that focused on show and, perhaps, less on emotion.  This album showed me a whole other side of him

In reading the 33 1/3 book about this album (by Hugo Wilcken), I learned quite a bit about Bowie's state of mind at the time of its recording.  It turns out that Bowie was hanging out quite a bit with Iggy Pop (who I somewhat dismissed last week).  In fact, Bowie produced Iggy's The Idiot kind of conjunction with the making of this album.  I turns out Bowie was coked out of his mind during this period of his life--and on the brink of major depression, exhibiting cocaine induced psychosis.

He recorded this album in a chateau in France, and some in Berlin.  He worked very closely with Brian Eno.

The first thing I was struck by about this album was its minimal lyrics and vocals.  The album is split into two distinct halves--the first side with the more conventional rock song structures (though with minimal lyrics--and two instrumentals); the second half is mostly moody ambient instrumentals with little vocal embellishment.

The sound of the record sounds so fresh to me, though it is almost 40 years old.  Bowie was really inspired by Kraftwerk at this time--but I feel like the synth sounds here held up better than some of Trans Europe Express.  I also really like the funky grooves of this album in contrast to the more robotic and stiff grooves of the Kraftwerk record.

Breaking Glass is the first proper song.  It is a great example of how Bowie can manipulate his voice into so many characteristics and styles.  I never really thought of him as a masterful vocalist before--but I do now.  The lyrics here are menacing while still winking at the object of his focus.

Sound and Vision is a favorite track (and was one of the two singles released from this oddly beautiful record).  I had heard The Sea and Cake do a cover of it on their One Bedroom record (without ever knowing it was in fact a cover until this week).  On Bowie's version, notice how it takes almost a minute and a half for the vocals to come in.  It is this restraint that is felt throughout the whole record.  He is expressing how he has nothing to say in this song (and perhaps the whole record).  But the omission of lyrics and vocals on so much of this album feels truly like restraint rather than a cop-out.  There is so much emotional impact in the music, that I feel he didn't need to do anything more than he did.

Always Crashing In The Same Car is a great metaphor and song.

The last instrumental on side one (A New Career In A New Town) is clearly an influence for bands like Radiohead that came later.  He and Eno took two disparate ideas and merged them into one piece--the blippy and synthy mellow beginning section with the bluesy harmonica stomping section that trades off a couple times.  Both pieces still work as one.

Then we get to the darker second side of the album.  With Warszawa, we are taken to some droning otherworldly place.  When the melody comes in around 1:19, it is haunting and affecting.  It then gets a bit darker around 3:54, just before Bowie's vocals come in, using a made-up language.  His vocals, though nonsensical, deeply convey something large and emotionally impactful--a cry for help?  A desperate plea?

Weeping Wall is a track that Bowie worked on without Eno.  That it sits so perfectly with the other tracks proves that it was a true collaboration with Eno, rather than Bowie (sometimes) singing over Eno tracks.   Bowie recorded it in Berlin very close to the Berlin Wall.

Subterraneans closes out the album with a truly beautiful, mostly instrumental track.  I can definitely hear the influence this track had on Radiohead.  Bowie's low vocals give this track its human and emotional anchor.  I love Bowie's sax line that comes in around 3:16.  And, again, Bowie's nonsensical lyrics at 3:54 pack a serious punch, clearly communicating the emotion of the song...even if you don't know what that's "supposed to be".  You know.  This is the music of a star on the verge of collapse.

 

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1CXESdyGPEmrI4D9YGKEMS[/embed]

 

089 - Primal Scream – Screamadelica

089: Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

I know this album is supposed to be important for the way it brought club music into the rock world.  While there is some really cool production here, I'm just not feeling it.  Even as he's saying he was lost, now he's fine.  I don't believe it.  Maybe that's because I spent the week listening to someone who did sound lost.

Maybe it's also that I've heard a lot of rock and club hybrids that have come since--and feel like it's been done better since.

This album just has a distinctly early 90's sound for me.  I'm thinking KLF and Deee-lite, whom I loved very much at the time.  Deee-Lite was one of my first club shows back in 1994 at a club in Orlando (I think was) called Firestone.

So, it's not that I don't love this kind of music...I'm just not getting why this is exemplary.

What am I missing?

It isn't until Damaged (track 8) that I thought, oh wait, they may have something to say...and this is a decided shift back to rock stylings (a la The Stones) with little to no club influence.

I do like the song I'm Comin' Down.  I especially like the sax lines with the layered synth overtop at around 3:40.  But this song, like so many others on the record (in my opinion), overstays its welcome.  It goes on for about 2 minutes longer than it needs to.  I get it, you're drifting.

I can hear how Higher Than The Sun could have influenced trip hop bands like Portishead.  So, I appreciate that.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/36tOUfkczpdzBsJmHK5S7n[/embed]

 

Verdict

As I said, I loved Low--though feel a bit bad for that, knowing now how badly he felt during this time.  Perhaps because of the depths he was really in personally, he created a truly beautiful work that really makes me think differently about song craft.  His restraint was truly enlightened and enlightening.

I did not see the light with Primal Scream.  Again, maybe this is because I feel like I've heard this before.  Maybe if I'd heard this in 1991, I would have a whole different appreciation for it.  But it does beg the question, should an album be deemed a best of because it inspired a sea change in music?  Or should it have to hold up better than any of those bands that it inspired?

Up Next

Coming the first week of March:

087: Lou Reed – Transformer (1972) 086: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Raw Power & Fun House

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Raw Power & Fun House

It has been a busy week here. My new album, Held Momentarily, is now available.

You can find it at your favorite digital music spots (here are a few examples):

iTunes     Spotify     BandCamp     Amazon     SoundCloud

I also had my album release celebration show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3 on Thursday.  Thank you again to all of you that came out and showed your support.  It truly was the best show I've ever given, and that was in no small part to the love you were beaming up to the stage for the entire show.

I am so lucky.

I'm building out my site now for more information about the new album (including a new bio, lyrics, the making of the album, etc.).  Check back soon as the site evolves.

 

094 - Iggy And The Stooges - Raw Power

094: Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power (1973)

This is going to be a short post.

As I said, it was a busy week with the release of my album and my show.

To have two albums by the same artist in one week could be a blessing or a curse.

For me, it was the latter.

As I've said before, punk is not for me.  I have gotten to appreciate some of the records on the list (especially The Clash's London Calling).

Iggy scares the shit out of me.  I've heard the stories about how he rolled around on stage over broken glass.  Do an image search for "iggy pop broken glass shows" and you'll see what I mean.

Not the kind of guy you want to ride an elevator with late at night.

Many of those guys have mellowed or lost their edge.

Not him.  I'm still scared.

I get that he inspired a lot of musicians, like Kurt Cobain, Frank Black, The Smiths, and the Sex Pistols.

Penetration is interesting, for it's unexpected use of a celeste (the bell sound).  Shake Appeal sounds like a Beatles song on amphetamines.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0Ufdo97F5jw7HD37Gewsdi[/embed]

 

093 - The Stooges - Fun House

093: The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

This album is grittier.

You can hear it's influence on records and bands that came later.

The Doors.  Guns N Roses.  The Rolling Stones.  U2.

I especially hear Iggy's influence in the song Dirt.  I do like that song's insistent/incessant bass line.

And that's it.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/4woauX8cqkbERdmBcJLzo7[/embed]

 

Verdict

I have to be honest and say that I used my veto power this week.  I did not listen to these albums the mandated three times, because I honestly didn't have the time.  I thought about extending for a week and doubling back to give them their due, but I just don't think there's more here for me this time.  So, to be fair, if I'm ever asked, I heard both of these albums--but I did not listen.

Up Next

090: David Bowie - Low (1977) 089: Primal Scream - Screamadelica (1991)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Trans-Europe Express & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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Trans-Europe Express & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Held Momentarily will be released this week (on Tuesday, January 20th)!! If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!  You can get tickets to the show here.

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169243103&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"So Well Loved" is the second song on the album.  These chords have been with me for a while, and have been in other songs I'd written, but eventually discarded...but I could never get the chords out of my head.  I began strumming them again, and decided to write a new song with them.  To me, the song is about the hope that comes from the right love.  After having searched for it in many different forms, and being disappointed, it's easy to give up on the idea of love.  It's a gift to find that it is out there, if we keep ourselves open to the possibility--regardless of past failings.  I've been told that this song feels like a growth out of my second album "Rebirth".  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

098 - Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express

098: Kraftwerk - Trans-Europa Express/Trans Europe Express (1977)

I had never heard this album either--no surprise, I'm sure.

I have heard them referenced by many bands that I do love, and can hear Kraftwerk's definite influence now--Daft Punk, Air, Radiohead, etc.  While the synth sounds have progressed a lot from those used on this record...the moody and paranoid vibe of this record is a direct parent to these bands' sounds.

It's crazy that this album was created in 1977.  It's got an 80's sound--but one that endures, unlike much of the music of the 80's (in my humble opinion).  In fact, this album became a big hit in the UK almost 5 years after it's release.  It influenced so many bands of that time, especially Joy Division.  It is also considered a forefather of all electronica that has come since.

So that's the pedigree...what of the album?

I love the vibe of The Hall of Mirrors and Showroom Dummies.

My overall feeling, from the first listen on through listening to it now, all of the songs go a minute or two longer than they should.  If they were a little tighter, they would be more effective--or if they grew or modulated to a greater degree.  I get that this was the dawn of the sound, and much of the technology (specifically the custom-made step sequencer they used)...but the songs kind of stick in a repetitive groove for too long.

I can see how Metal on Metal probably influenced a lot of industrial music that came later--like Nine Inch Nails.

Trans-Europe Express was also sampled by Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force's Planet Rock (and later by Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and Lil Wayne).  So it's reach is truly impressive.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0QpkNeEinU19gxBhJNN9wP[/embed]

 

097 - Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

097: Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

I had heard this one, and was really blown away by it when I heard it back when it was released.

I liked Kanye's first few albums, but kind of lost interest after 808's and Heartbreaks.

Turns out he was having a nervous breakdown around the release of that album.  His mom died in 2007, of a cardiac arrest related to a plastic surgery operation.  He was working tirelessly and had his infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Music Awards where he interrupted Taylor Swift to give a shout-out to Beyonce's video.

So, he went to Hawaii to rejuvenate and work on a new album.  He brought with him a slew of musicians and producers (including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Justin Vernon [of Bon Iver fame], Drake, Dwele, Nicki Minaj, Rhianna, among many others).  He recorded at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu and booked three studios.  He kept each room working simultaneously.  He would leave one studio (even if they were in the zone) to work on a different song--following his muse from moment to moment.

When I first heard the album, I was blown away by two songs: Monster and Lost In The World.  Nicki Minaj's contribution to Monster blew my mind then, and still does.  She embodies several personas in one verse...from a baby-voiced Barbie to a truly terrifying roar by the end.  I was in to Bon Iver at the time, and really loved Lost In The World for his contribution...but Kanye makes it his own and the song goes from quiet reflection to bombastic dance thumper.

This album presents Kanye at his most despicable, but also as a truly vulnerable man.  The production is astounding...with absolutely no filler.  It is, at times, difficult to listen to while the album also worms its way into your brain.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0mrRY6x9wPCAqsQb8Zqhyj[/embed]

Verdict

I am glad I finally took the time to listen to Kraftwerk.  I don't think I'll add this record to my collection--though I certainly respect it.  I have to say I loved My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and will keep the album in my collection--and dig it up from time to time.

Up Next

094: Iggy and The Stooges - Raw Power (1973) 093: The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

 

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Surfer Rosa & Channel Orange

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Surfer Rosa & Channel Orange

Less than two weeks left!!!! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242086&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Already" is the third song on the album.  This was the last song I wrote for this album--on Valentine's Day in 2014.  The writing for this song was based on a very simple rhythmic riff--something different for me, as most of my songs start as (sometimes more complex) chord changes.  Then when I went to record it, I scrapped the rhythmic guitar riff and kept only a synth arpeggio, and built the production around that.  It's completely different than the rest of my work--and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.  To me, the song is really about how disaster can sometimes bring the right people even closer together (as Super Storm Sandy, and its havoc, did for us).  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.


This marks the first week that I am starting from the Acclaimed Music Top 100 list.  I will move through the new list, and skip over the albums I already covered during the 2014 project.  That leaves about 37 new albums to listen to.

Let's do this.

100 - Pixies - Surfer Rosa

100: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

Never heard this one.  Well, I had heard (and liked) Where Is My Mind, but nothing else.

How is that possible?

Watching the documentary below, I learned that they were a huge influence on Radiohead (one of my favorite bands).  The Pixies are also referenced and exalted by many other bands that I admire on this documentary.  The statement has been "Nirvana and Radiohead would not have existed had it not been for The Pixies."

That's huge.

[embed]http://youtu.be/UjAhm82v1es[/embed]

The first time I listened to this album, I was not sure how to feel.  It was dark and brooding.  It was strange.  I could instantly hear how bands that came later pulled from these sounds.

Once I soothed my fearful inner child, I began to really like these songs.

After about four listens this week, I wonder how this album is not on Rolling Stone's top 100 albums list?  It's certainly better than several of the albums I listened to last year from that list.

For me, the album is super strong up until Cactus.  The tracks after that are good, just not something I connect with as much.

I can definitely see why Kurt Cobain was so taken with the production of this album (by Steve Albini, who Cobain later hired for their album In Utero).  The deep reverb on the backing vocals is haunting, the guitar sounds are so dense.  The subtle production work is biting (like how that last syllable of To-ny, from Tony's Theme sounds almost like the bark of a rabid dog).

I don't mean to give too much credit to Albini.  From the documentary above, you can see from their live set filmed in 1989 that the band could easily replicate their sound in a live show with just the four of them.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/5zuD14oIlCqSfUKFhPE9eN[/embed]

 

 

 

099 - Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

099: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

I am proud to say that I had (finally) heard an album before I was slotted to listen to it for this project.  That's something that didn't happen very often over the past year.

I first learned of Frank Ocean when I heard his songs Novacane and Swim Good from his mix tape Nostalgia, ULTRA.  I especially loved the latter track--impressed by the his lyrics and melody.

http://youtu.be/PmN9rZW0HGo

So, when Channel Orange came out in 2012, I was looking for it.  Upon hearing it, I was deeply impressed by it--immediately aware that a bold new talent in alternative R&B had arrived.

There is so much in this album to reward repeated listening.  There are interludes between many of the songs that add to the dark and modern world he's creating here (with producer Malay).  The songs somehow deliver commercial appeal while also tucking in enough darkness to earn its alternative credibility.

In songs like Sweet Life, Ocean sings about California from the point of view of the young, wealthy, and black.  He talks about landscapers and housekeepers, and ocean views--privilege--and how that can prevent you from striving for something bigger, or to even identify your dreams.  This is something I hadn't heard represented before in R&B.

In Super Rich Kids, he continues this theme:

Too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce.

Too many bowls of that green, no lucky charms.

The maids come around too much.

Parents aint around enough.

Too many joy rides in daddy's jaguar.

Too many white lies and white lines.

Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends.

Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends.

In Crack Rock, he sings about less glamorous neighborhoods.  Toward the end of the song, he talks about crooked cops, and to paraphrase, he says when a crooked cop gets shot 300 men will search for the shooter, but when his brother gets shot "don't no one hear the sounds".  He says, "don't no one disturb the peace for riots--don't no one disrupt nirvana".  Just 2 years after he records this song, that lyric is no longer true.  People are disrupting nirvana for change--and I hope they will continue to.

On the back half of the near ten minute Pyramids, he tells a story of his girlfriend who strips at a club called The Pyramid, to keep his bills paid.  She comes back from work, and he wants to be with her, but her "love ain't free no more".

My point--he's covering some really dark content here.  Rock & Roll, right?  Sex.  Check.  Drugs.  Check.  But I wouldn't say he's glamorizing any of it.

Then, in Bad Religion and Forrest Gump, he talks about being in love with a him.  When has that really been done in commercial R&B?  Perhaps we could have thought he was just playing with pronouns to express his artistic vision.  Before the album dropped, he posted on tumblr, a confession of sorts that he was in love with a male friend (who didn't return his affection).  He had later been a bit dodgy about whether he is bi or gay.  He doesn't want to be beholden to any label or box.  He wants to be allowed to live a dynamic life.  In GQ, he said he shares what he shares as an artist because he wants people to connect with that aspect of himself.  Anything other personal details are his and his alone.

Good for him.  I love that we're in a time when someone can be that bold and vulnerable, and still have a wildly successful album launch.

One of my favorite tracks is the moody Pink Matter because it features one of my all-time favorites Andre 3000.

I love that there's a modern R&B album in the top 100.  It's the only R&B album in the top 100 from the past 25 years.  But I would be lying if I said I wasn't curious why some other modern (neo-soul) albums aren't higher on this list.  Or why Channel Orange ranks higher than them.  Some examples:

Lauren Hill's Miseducation is # 119. Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is #368. D'Angelo's Voodoo is # 521. Erykah Badu's Baduizm is # 594. Jill Scott's Who Is Jill Scott is # 1797. Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite is # 2163.

Don't get me wrong.  Channel Orange is an excellent album.  The issue with lists, is that there will always be question as to the specific rankings.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/41GFm8P4EuHi7a4TTpgKZP[/embed]

Verdict

I really liked both records this week.  I am interested to hear the next Pixies track further up this year's list.  As for Frank Ocean, I am curious where his career will go from here.  Even though we started back at the bottom of a new list, I still enjoyed this week's albums as much as I did last week's (Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper).  Blasphemy?  OK.

Up Next

098: Kraftwerk – Trans-Europa Express/Trans Europe Express (1977) 097: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

 

 

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Pet Sounds & Sgt Pepper

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Pet Sounds & Sgt Pepper

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here). If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242084&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Another Side" is the fourth song on the album.  I finished writing this song on Valentine's Day in 2012.  It represented a new style and direction for me.  The song is about the anxiety inherent in pursuing our dreams, and the need for some loving support.  The recording features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.


So this wraps up a year's blog project.  The original intent was to educate myself on the top albums of all time.  For years, I had felt deprived of a rich contemporary music upbringing.  I was raised in a home where the focus was more on religious music, and secular music was forbidden (but oddly some pop radio still made its way into our family car).  Since rebelling and running off to college, I became a new music addict--waiting like an addict for this Tuesday's new releases.  I built a good knowledge of music from 1995 on, but had a huge gap prior to that.  I guess I just got to a point in my life where I realized that we are in an age where all the tools I needed to educate myself are readily available.  No more excuses, no more blame.

I listened to each album three times (at least) and watched a ton of documentaries and read many 33 1/3 books (in addition to other sources).  Some weeks it was a total joy--others it was, honestly, a bit of a chore.  In the end, the project has helped to reignite my love of music.  At this point, my curiosity has grown exponentially.  I can't wait to continue my lifelong musical education, for as long as I'm fortunate enough to breathe.

 

2 The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

002: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

I had always kind of written The Beach Boys off as a sort of Monkees band that created the soundtrack for The Gidget set.  I hadn't ever heard their album (less surf-centric) tracks, and certainly hadn't heard Pet Sounds (save a couple unavoidable and beautiful tracks).

I read the 33 1/3 book written by Jim Fusilli, and highly recommend it.  I learned a lot about Brian Wilson specifically.  He was the son of a songwriter (Murry Wilson) and had access to many instruments as a child, and also to his father's contacts in the music industry.  Brian soon eclipsed his father's songwriting skills, and the competition never seems to have ended.  Though his father was the band's manager for a while, he was eventually fired for being erratic.  That he was also an abusive father in many ways (some truly horrible), perhaps speaks to Brian's extreme sensitivity as a young man.  That Brian then became an absent father to his own daughters is a sad truth.

[embed]http://youtu.be/pmexRESUl3c[/embed]

I also watched the Don Was documentary called Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Meant For These Times (clip above).  It's one of the best documentaries I've seen this year--because it presents the good, bad, and ugly.  So many films I watched really downplayed the emotional problems, drug-use, or bad behavior.  This one put it all out there, and makes the subject more understandable because of it.

It's interesting to note that Brian Wilson, during the making of this album, decided that he was no longer going to tour with The Beach Boys.  Instead, he would stay in LA, and write, produce, and arrange their future material--and the rest of the guys would promote it on the road.  Brian was having trouble being on the road, and being away from his wife and his mother.  Who does that??

Wilson was really inspired by The Beatles' Rubber Soul, and was challenged to outdo it in his own style.  The Beatles were then inspired so much by Pet Sounds that they recorded Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

A critic said that these are "sad songs about happiness".   I really missed that on my first listen.  The music is just so joyful--harkening back to Wilson's idol Phil Spector's production bombast.  But lyrically, the happy lines are co-mingled with introspective and more melancholic lines.

On my first listen, I was also struck by how modern songs like You Still Believe In Me still sound.  The influence on bands like Vampire Weekend is unmistakable.  The melodies are adventurous, the harmonies confounding (in a good way).

In the documentary, Tom Petty made a really good point about Wilson's genius.  On this album, he is using so many odd instrument combinations.  This is easy enough to do now because most of the recording is done using virtual instruments.  Back then, he would have had to book the live musicians in advance and have them all come in and record--and only then could he experiment.  In other words, he had to know intuitively that a harpsichord, doubling a flute, and a bike whistle would give him the sound he wanted in order to hire those musicians to see if he was right.

Instead of saying which songs I like (which I've done most of the year), I will just list the ones I don't love as much.  OK, the one.

Because, let me be clear...I love this album.  Completely.

Sloop John B was recorded before the sessions for this album as a single, and was kind of tagged on to the album.  It's a fine song, but it doesn't really fit alongside the other songs.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0ckjlrqM8GfvnKefm05FJy[/embed]

 

 

1 The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band

001: The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

This project has a made me an irreversible Beatles fan.  I used to think I hated those kind of people--you're a fan of the most obvious band on the planet...great for you.  Maybe that's why I avoided really listening for so long.  But now I have listened...and I'm one of those annoying people.  Proudly.

I had never heard this album--just a couple of the tracks.  If I had a dollar for every time I said that this year, I would have $92.

With this album, The Beatles had decided they were going to record something that they would never play on tour.  It's also considered the last album where Lennon and McCartney were writing together.  McCartney had the idea of creating an alter-ego band--a construct that would allow them to shed the expectations that were starting to completely stifle them.  Because of this thin conceit, this album is considered one of the first concept albums.

I really like the songs here, but don't know if I could say that it's a better album than their others high on the list (Revolver or Rubber Soul)...

"A Day In The Life" is brilliant.  I really love "When I'm Sixty-Four" (mock me if you will).

I think "With A Little Help From My Friends", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "Getting Better", and "She's Leaving Home" are wonderful tracks...

Could I say that this album is the best I've ever heard...I don't know.  I don't think so.  At the end of the day, I'm glad I've heard it...the ranking of great albums is completely subjective and almost beside the point.  But without ranking, how could I have done this project at all??

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]
 

Verdict

I've kind of spoiled my thoughts on both.  I see why both are so high on the list...is Pet Sounds a lesser album (even marginally)?  Not to me.  Is Sgt Pepper the best Beatles record?  I don't know...it was certainly ambitious.  Either way, I am a newly converted fan of both bands, and will devour anything I come across from both of them for some time to come.

Up Next

100: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

099: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? You can see the completed Rolling Stone Top 100 here, or use the Acclaimed Music list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Highway 61 Revisited & Revolver

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Highway 61 Revisited & Revolver

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

If you're in the NYC area, I'll be playing my album release show on Thursday, January 22nd at 7PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.  I'd love to see you there!

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242077&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Homesick" is the sixth song on the album.  This song was also written back in 2010--and has gone through some subtle shifts before making its way onto the album.  I had to really struggle with myself not to add more sections or overwrite this one.  I'm happy with the results.  This was the first song I produced and recorded for this album.  The recording features Lior Magal on bass, and was also mixed by Lior.

 

4 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

004: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

I had never heard this album before this week.

We've worked through several Dylan albums to this point.  I've admitted some trouble connecting with those records--though I see their undeniable genius.

This one just feels different.

"How does it fee--ee--el?"

Good question.  It was the first Dylan record I've listened to this year where after my first listen, I immediately played the album again from the top.  Desolation Row just kind of left me breathless.

I read the 33 1/3 book about this album (by Mark Polizzotti, see here).   The book thoroughly documents the writing and recording of this album (including the instrumentalists, producers, etc.).  I really enjoyed it--my one complaint being that he wrote at length about some songs that didn't make the final album, and then did not touch on several of the songs that were on the album.  It's also written for the faithful--taking it as a given that you know the Dylan mythology and shorthand.  I do not.

I also watched the documentary he filmed (just before this album was worked on) called Dont Look Back.  It was so interesting to see this side of someone so young and at the peak of their fame.  He's at a very pivotal point in his career, doing a solo acoustic British tour just before he shifts gears and starts touring with a band, embracing his early love of rock.  Watching the way he interacts with (read: eviscerates) interviewers and interlopers is hard to watch at times.

http://youtu.be/C6y7AXw5U6w

It was interesting to learn that Dylan's writing was not only inspired by authors and poets, but also visual artists.  It makes such perfect sense that this was the case considering how abstract and dreamily evocative his lyrics are.  It really inspired me to expand my notion of just what can influence songwriting.

My favorites from the album are Like A Rolling Stone (which he considers his best song ever written); It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry; Ballad Of A Thin Man; and Desolation Row.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/6iFLhoZo6haUSEItIKkzdN[/embed]

 

3 The Beatles - Revolver

003: The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

Again--I had never heard this album before.  A few of the songs, sure.

The thing I love about this album is the mixture of sounds and vibes on a single album.  This record was written and recorded during a major creative shift for the band.  McCartney was becoming more of an equal with Lennon.  Harrison was proving himself a powerful writing contributor, and brought his newfound love of Indian instrumentation to the band.  To me, there are reflections of their earlier work (with added bite) intermingled with their more audacious material that was still to come.  It makes for a very satisfying and surprising listening experience--a near impossible balance to strike.

Tomorrow Never Knows.

Incredible.  It still sounds so fresh.  That this band was able to give us so many interesting songs of such diverse style in such a compact period of time is astounding.

As a writer, I hate them while I (and everyone else who knows the score) yearn to rip the seams and discover their pattern, fabric and stitching choices.

Or maybe a course in channeling is in order.

My favorite songs Eleanor Rigby; I'm Only Sleeping; Here, There and Everywhere; For No One; and Tomorrow Never Knows.

I struggle with Yellow Submarine.  I want to place it in the same category as Octopus's Garden (not a compliment)...and yet there's something so appealing and forward-leaning about it (that brass section after the second verse, all the weird sound design and production choices).  Brilliant.

I want to say that by writing only 2 minute songs, they're somehow cheating.  Seriously though, how the hell do they do that?  It's so hard to pack in all that interest, and complete ideas, into a single song at all...that they do it in 2 minutes is just maddening.

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]
 

Verdict

I want to be honest with you.

You have to promise not to judge me.

Agreed?

[If not, lie to me]

Both of these albums (and the artists who gifted them to us) deserve very, very deep study and scrutiny.  Anyone who studied either would doubtlessly be rewarded exponentially.  At the end of the day, though, this (as with all things in life) comes down to choice and predilections.  I would choose to study the songcraft of The Beatles--good melody, harmonic interest and production resonate with me.  Bob Dylan is (for shizzle) an amazing poet and one of the most brilliant minds of our age.  Lyrics are important to me, but the other things I've mentioned are primary for me...and those are things that just don't matter as much to Dylan.  The Beatles give us a variegated perfection and directness.  Bob gives us raw, aloof, sometimes intentionally imperfect recordings/songs that are about story first and everything else second.  I've heard that the divide is between The Rolling Stones and The Beatles...you love one or the other, but you can't love both.  I would say it's much more possible to love both of those packs...maybe the line really is more between Dylan and The Beatles??

Up Next

Could this be the end of a year's journey?

002: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966) 001: The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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What's Going On & Rubber Soul

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What's Going On & Rubber Soul

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah everyone! I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242074&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Vulnerary Love" is the seventh song on the album.  This was the first song I wrote for Jeanne--back in 2010.  The song was further inspired by a word-of-the-day entry I'd seen for the word "vulnerary".  Used heavily in the 1800's, and not much now, the word means "used for or useful in healing wounds".  As a songwriter, many times people will offer up "Oh, that would be a great song title".  You can see now that my idea of what makes a good song title is wildly different than what most would consider good.  This was the second song I produced and recorded for this album.  The recording features Lior Magal on bass, and was also mixed by Lior.

 

6 Marvin Gaye - What's Going On

006: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

I have listened to this album before, but it had been a while.

To get some context, I watched a documentary from the American Masters series about Marvin Gaye.

http://youtu.be/snc15-SuRWI

I found Marvin Gaye's story to be an complex and inspiring, if cautionary, tale.  If you don't know his story, I encourage you to watch.

He pushed through resistance from Motown to move away from his love-song-dense past work.  He was struggling with depression and drug dependency.  He wanted to reflect the world as he felt it was at the time.

Listening to the album now, it doesn't seem much has changed.  I wonder what the album would feel like if he worked on it now.  I sincerely hope someone is picking up his torch with half of the talent he possessed.

One of the more interesting things about this album is that it is structured like a song-cycle.  I've also seen it referred to as a quasi-classical suite.  Basically, most of the album blends from one song to the next.  I'm still on the fence about whether I like this effect.  It certainly makes the album seem more cohesive--but I wonder if it's not too much so.  Again, perhaps it aggravates our modern ADD for it to all stay in a similar groove for so long.  The album is only 35 minutes, but without that breathing room between songs, it seems much longer.  Especially because he is tackling some major themes.

From the documentary, I learned that Marvin Gaye was an incredibly personal lyricist.  He inserted his humanity and vulnerability into his songs.  I had listened to his "Here, My Dear" album about 15 years ago, but know that I would find more to relate to in the album now given my own, ahem, maturity.  That album is part of my blog project for next year.

The three singles gave Gaye three #1 singles on the R&B chart, a first at the time: What's Going On, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), and Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).  I love these songs, and also Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky) for its fierce introspection (and perhaps confession).  Also I love his spiritual exploration and exhortation on Wholy Holy.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/1KzVdOSEqV6udwLhUweVq0[/embed]

 

5 The Beatles - Rubber Soul

005: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

I had never heard this album before--though I had heard a few of the songs.  As with the previous Beatles' albums, I almost immediately loved this album--with one exception (more on that later).

What is it about their records that are so inherently likable?  I came across an article recently about an online group that claims The Beatles were actually much more than 4 (or 5, counting George Martin) people.  I can certainly understand that wish.  If these guys were that good, what does that say about the rest of us.  I understand it, but really love having such a lofty goal to aspire to.

This is their 6th album, the second album that featured their own songs, and the first that hinted at a new, post-Beatlemania artistic direction.

I really love McCartney's moody and sweet "Michelle", and also Lennon's "Girl".  "In My Life" has been heard many, many times, and yet its sustaining beauty is undeniable.

Run For Your Life is the album closer, and it almost spoils the whole album for me every time I hear it.

I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man

...

You better run for your life if you can, little girl

Hide your head in the sand little girl

Catch you with another man

That's the end ah little girl

That's some misogynist sh!t right there.  Apparently John Lennon later claimed that this was his least favorite Beatles song, and he regretted writing it.  I hated that first line when I heard it on the Elvis song "Baby, Let's Play House".  I overlooked Elvis's song because it was released in the 50's (thinking it was of its time)...but I have always thought Lennon (and the mid-60's in general) was far more evolved than this.  How naive of me, knowing now how long change really takes.

[ no Spotify player for The Beatles, sorry.]

 

Verdict

I have a renewed interest in Marvin Gaye from this album--though I didn't love this album per se.  I understand its importance, and think there are some beautiful songs here--not to mention an unprecedented artistic risk and reward.  Perhaps, given more time, its genius will continue to reveal itself to me.

While I love Rubber Soul, I couldn't say I liked it more than The White Album or Please, Please Me (or even Abbey Road).  I do like it very much though.

I guess we're at a point in the list where I'm thinking the albums are ranked so highly they're supposed to instantly change your life.  Again, change doesn't work that way.

Up Next

004: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965) 003: The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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London Calling & Exile On Main St

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London Calling & Exile On Main St

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242071&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"Jump Alone" is the eighth song on the album.  I wrote the core of this song back in 1999--just after I'd finished my second album Rebirth.  I had the first verse done, and all of the chords.  I played it over and over at the time, but was never able to find the thread that would allow me to complete it.  After a 12 year hiatus, I picked the song up again and finally finished it. The lyrics reflect the realization that you can spend time wishing that things had been different in your childhood--that you had been supported or nurtured better.  There comes a time when you have to just take a leap, and find the confidence and faith in yourself to do the things that scare you.  The song features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

 

8 The Clash - London Calling

008: The Clash – London Calling (1979)

I did not love the Sex Pistols.  I liked the self-titled debut of The Clash more than I thought I would.  That album showed a musicianship far superior to the Pistols' (and the other punks band in my limited exposure).

This album takes that idea and blows it out times a hundred.  They break out of the genre and explore so many others (reggae, rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock--per the album's wikipedia page) that they caught heat from punk purists.  The last song on the "post-punk" double album, Train In Vain, reminds me so much of a Fleetwood Mac song.  Now that's post-punk.

It's a lot more fun than I expected.  Once again, the album started growing on me the more I listened to it.

My favorite songs: London Calling, Lost In The Supermarket, The Guns of Brixton, Lover's Rock, and Train In Vain.  The Guns of Brixton is so modern, it still sounds fresh (with the possible exception of that spring "boing" sample that is repeated throughout, although that has grown on me too).  It sounds like a predecessor to some Gorillaz tracks.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/4WzhXzd3OeAJ3NidV6Ucfx[/embed]

 

7 Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

007: The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St (1972)

First, I need to vent about something I've learned over the course of this project.  Bonus tracks, especially in the case of classic albums, should not be part of one's initial experience of an album.  With many of the albums I've listened to this year that had bonus material, the added stuff was obviously of a lesser caliber than that of the original release.  Sure, if you already love the album, a few extra tracks recorded at the same time might be interesting.  But, otherwise, it's an unnecessary diversion.

I mention this because this album (or the re-released version on Spotify) had 10 extra tracks tacked on to the end.  That brought the total listening time close to an hour and 45 minutes.

The previous three Stones' albums on this list have been among my favorites of the year.  This album follows those 3 records chronologically, and was recorded while the band were in exile due to tax evasion.  Keith Richards was deep into his heroin addiction, and the band was not having an easy time working together while in France.  Mick Jagger did not like the direction the band was taking, and changed course on the albums that followed.

I've had a harder time with this, their most acclaimed, record.  None of the songs here grab me in the way their previous album's songs did (i.e. Wild Horses, You Can't Always Get...).  Also, I've already admitted that I don't love the Blues (which I know makes me a bad person)...and this album is very much rooted in American Blues.

I do love the production--horns and background vocals especially.

I do like the songs Rocks Off and Loving Cup.

That's something.  Right?

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/627Pew3FqQ49xmfWmnUauK[/embed]

 

 

Verdict

I didn't fall in love with either of these records this week.  London Calling surprised me, while Exile On Main St disappointed.  Critics didn't love Exile when it first came out, so perhaps it's a grower, not a shower?  I liked the other Rolling Stones albums earlier in the year so much that I'm sure I'll revisit this album again somewhere down the line.  Perhaps I'll be more open to receiving its gifts then.

Up Next

006: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971) 005: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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The White Album & Blonde On Blonde

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The White Album & Blonde On Blonde

I'm posting a track from my new album each week until the official release of "Held Momentarily" on January 20, 2015.   If you haven't already, check out the promotional video for the album on youtube (or here).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242068&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"So Now What?" is the ninth song on the album.  I wrote this song in 2012, the year I left the safety of my non-musical career in pursuit of writing and performing in NYC--the reason I moved here almost 12 years ago.  The lyrics reflect a moment of doubt that many of us wrestle with from time to time.  The effects on the opening piano parts were inspired by John Martyn--whose use of tape delay on some of his biggest work really surprised me when I was turned on to him a couple years ago.  The song features Jonathan Ahrens on bass, and was mixed by Igor Stolarsky.

 

10 The Beatles - The White Album

010: The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

This is the first Beatles record I ever gave a listen--back in the early aughts.  Until then, I had been reluctant to give them much of a chance.  A co-worker urged me to give this double-album a listen--and she was right.  I loved it.

This album was written during a time when The Beatles were in India studying Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi.  While there, according to the wiki page, they went without drugs (marijuana the exception--hey it was the 60's) and were able to write around 40 songs.  30 of them ended up on this record.  Much of this album was recorded via overdubs, with the full band rarely working together...apparently the rift that led to their break-up began during the recording of this album.

I loved it when I listened to it about 10 years ago...and for some reason, the first two times I listened to it now, I was having trouble remembering why that was. By the third time, again, I was shaking my head and loving every song (with a few exceptions).

This album is not available on Spotify, so no embedded player, but I'll comment on some of my favorites anyway.

To me, Rocky Raccoon, is the best song on the album--and one of the best songs ever written.  It's a perfect example of storytelling being central to a song--but the melody and production don't take a back seat.

11 songs were written by McCartney (including Rocky Raccoon), 10 by Lennon, and only 2 songs written by both (Birthday and Cry Baby Cry).  Harrison wrote four of the songs (including another favorite While My Guitar Gently Weeps).  Ringo wrote 2 songs (including Good Night, which I like so much that I've decided to forgive Octopus's Garden).  That leaves Revolution 9, which I'm not sure even gets songwriting credit.

During the past year, I've come to respect John Lennon for his artistic integrity and searching nature almost to the exclusion of any affection for Paul McCartney (as if it has to be one or the other).  Once I look at who wrote what, I realize that Paul is certainly John's equal, even if he was his own animal.  I've never explored their solo work much (beyond Lennon's entries on this list).  I look forward to exploring even more of their work--especially George Harrison's.

 During the coming weeks, I plan to watch the 9+ hours of their mid-nineties documentary Beatles Anthology (available here).

9 Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde

009: Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Before this project, this is the only Bob Dylan record I had ever listened to...and I honestly loved it.

I had trouble listening to it again (perhaps this is because I had a stomach virus that turned into a full-blown cold that has yet to exit my weakened body).  I just wasn't connecting.

This was one of the first double-albums in the Rock & Roll era.  It was recorded in Nashville with some of the top session musicians of the time.  You can tell too--focus on any backing instrument on any track and behold the mastery.   You want an example?  OK.  Check out the piano on One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later).  Or check out the guitar on I Want You.

I have to say that I still have trouble with the length of many of Dylan's songs...just too many verses.  That's probably more an indication of my ADD (face it, we all have it at this point).  I'm more partial to songs (like with The Beatles) where you get in, say what needs to be said, and get out.  Bob likes to pull that taffy as far as it will go, and he certainly gets at some beautiful things by doing so...but while the taffy doesn't break, my attention eventually does.  I'll work on it.

Who wouldn't love the energy on the opening track Rainy Day Women #12 & 35?  They sound like they're having a great time.

I love pulling and distorting syllables, doing my best Bob Dylan impersonation.  The best song to do this with is Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again.  It's just so perfectly Dylanesque (especially the titular line).  The song also has my favorite lyric:

Mona tried to tell me

To stay away from the train line.

She said that all the railroad men

just drink up your blood like wine.

And I said, Oh I didn't know that

but then again there's only one I've met.

And he just smoked my eyelids

and punched my cigarette.

Just Like A Woman is my ringtone for Jeanne.  She loves Dylan.  I love her.  So it seemed to make sense.  Another thing I love about this song is that it isn't verse, verse, verse, verse, verse like so many of his songs (again, this offends my ADD).  This song has a bridge to break up the song.

It definitely helps to have his lyrics in front of you as you listen to the album.  Some things take shape, while others stay in the misty middle space.  You almost have to study his songcraft--as many have.

I'm not sure that I'll ever be compelled to.

But I've been wrong so many times before.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/24qD0JZJXfKhyj75nltpx8[/embed]

Verdict

I had trouble with both of the double albums this weeks--even though I'd loved them both before this project.  It's a lot to absorb...especially while visiting family for Thanksgiving and then fighting off not one but two illnesses.  With The White album, my affection came back in full effect.  With Blonde On Blonde, I'm not sure it has.  I still love a hand full of those songs, but have trouble with the lengthier, more dense ones.  I am more than aware that the problem lies with me.  I'll keep trying.

Up Next

Two more double albums?  Fantastic.

008: The Clash – London Calling (1979) 007: The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St (1972)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Kind of Blue & The Sun Sessions

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Kind of Blue & The Sun Sessions

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).

[iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169242066&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"]

"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.

 

12 Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue

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.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/64gkOJlJBbLTw9aQEP3DEt[/embed]

11 Elvis Presley - The Sun Sessions

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.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/6HubsHFS2fmZZIQpH8g7if[/embed]

Verdict

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.

Up Next

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.

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Abbey Road & The Velvet Underground & Nico

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Abbey Road & The Velvet Underground & Nico

Another week down. I booked the Album Release Show for Held Momentarily.  The album will be released on January, 20, 2015.  The show will be at Rockwood Stage 3 on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 7PM.  I am excited to be playing Rockwood for my first time in over a year and  a half.  I'll post more information as it becomes available.

I also edited a promotional video of a conversation I had with my brother, Josiah Correll, about the making of my new album.  You can watch it here, and check out samples of each of the songs on my new album.  We filmed it on a rooftop in Jersey City.  The video includes clips of various locations around Jersey City--where I love and call home.

http://youtu.be/ihnscF2lGYY

14 The Beatles - Abbey Road

014: The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

First off--this album, as with all other Beatles' albums, is not available on any streaming service.  So, I can't very well embed a player for you...and I'm sorry.

I'm gearing up to spend a lot of time with The Beatles over the next several weeks--four albums in the top 10 alone.  I've meant to do this for over 15 years...now's as good a time as any.

I had bought this album a couple of years back when they did a tribute to the album on The 2012 Grammy's.

http://dai.ly/xom6rj

That was the year Paul McCartney led a medley of songs from Abbey Road: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, You Never Give Me Your Money, The End, [Extended Guitar Solo Pissing Contest].

I loved some of those bits and wanted to hear the full songs.  Normally when you hear a medley, it's an amalgamation of full-length songs that have been crammed together in a witty way to give you bits of what you love into a singular, tasty casserole.  I was disappointed to learn that those bits were the most ever committed to tape.  There are no full-length versions.

That's maybe not a fair way to introduce this album.  But it's the way I was exposed to it.

Thanks a lot, Grammy's.

Some of their best songs are from this album: Come Together, Something, I Want You (She's So Heavy), and Here Comes The Sun.  There are also the great tracks Oh! Darling, Because (which I first heard as an Elliott Smith cover on the American Beauty soundtrack), and You Never Give Me Your Money (perhaps my favorite here).  The left-field tracks--Maxwell's Silver Hammer and (Ringo's odd) Octopus's Garden--grew on me over repeated listens.

After 9 full-length songs, the album finishes with a "suite" of songs that were never finished, giving the album's second half an air of operatic proportions.  Paul and John had all of these song fragments that they couldn't finish.  George Martin, who produced this record, decided he would record what they had and weave them together into a synthesized whole.

For me, the "suite" is not as satisfying in a song sense.  But in a production sense, it is an impressive feat.

This is the last album The Beatles worked on.  Let It Be (not on this list) came out as their last album, but was mostly recorded before Abbey Road.

 

 

13 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

013: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

I was first exposed to The Velvet Underground and Nico on The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack.  I liked the songs (neither from this album), and yet for some reason I can't explain, it didn't lead me to check out this album.  I had never heard it until this week.

For some context, I turned to the 33 1/3 Series for their volume covering this album, written by Joe Harvard.  This was one of the more rewarding books I've read from the series. It perfectly covers the formation of the band, the making of this album, the societal context, song-specific reflections, the public response at the time, all the way to the long term importance of this album.  In short--everything you want and need to know about this album is covered in this short, short book.

This album was very controversial in its time.  Lou Reed wanted to bring to Rock & Roll songwriting some of the edgier subject matter he'd read in more pulpy novels he was in to.  He wanted to be sure not to write the kind of "moon-June" love songs that were popular at the time.  I think he achieved that.  Here he covers scoring 26 bucks worth of heroin in the upper west side, sado-masochism, to the drug scene in Union Square.

The band were embraced by Andy Warhol, who became their manager, had them play at his parties, and ultimately got them their record deal.  The label was not thrilled about Reed's voice--so Warhol encouraged them to add model, actress and singer Nico to the lineup.  She only stayed in the band for this record...but you can feel the balance she adds to this album--adding a sultry lightness to Lou's dark and gritty songs.

This album made me feel similarly to the way I felt with Horses earlier in this list.  It's very moody, dark, and scary--but also exciting to see what a different world an artist can create and explore.  Many people talk about boundary-pushing albums--but few actually have the way that these two records do (still).

My favorite tracks here are Venus In Furs, All Tomorrow's Parties, and I'll Be Your Mirror.  I have to admit the last two songs lost me.  I got so far though.  So far.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/36Y1HQIIz9Z5smE2NIzdGO[/embed]

 

Verdict

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about Abbey Road.  I thought that the song suite thing was just something they'd done to fulfill their album obligation to the record label.  It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized that there are 9 full-length tracks--more than enough for any album.  Would the album be better off without the medley of unfinished songs?  I don't think so.  But do I still wish some of those bits got the full attention of these three songwriting geniuses (sorry Ringo)?  You bet.  Especially Golden Slumbers.

Velvet Underground is not what I would typically seek out.  This album is cool on many layers...and opened up the content that songwriters could explore ever since.  There's also a beautiful blend of melody and noise.  A lot of times with edgy bands, the focus is all on noise--as if that's the heartbeat of edge.  It's more interesting to me how Lou Reed and John Cale (et al) establish that they know how to write and execute beautiful songs, filthy and voyeuristic content, and experimental noise.  I'm glad I finally got around to this album.

Up Next

012: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959) 011: Elvis Presley – The Complete Sun Sessions

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Blood On The Tracks & Are You Experienced?

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Blood On The Tracks & Are You Experienced?

We're in that time of the year when the weeks are just flying by... That means you must be 'ril busy too...so I'll get right to it.

16 Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks

016: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1974)

I may have mentioned this last time I covered a Bob Dylan album--Bob is my lady's favorite.

She's obsessed.

So I feel this pressure to also love everything Bob.  I acknowledge that this is an odd pressure to put on myself.

Adding to that, my younger brother, Josiah, bought me this very album on vinyl for my birthday this year.  It's his favorite, and he was really excited that I would be listening to it with this year's project.  I hadn't listened to it yet, because my listening plate has been full.

While I have respected Mr. Dylan's excellence on the past two albums on the list, especially a few of the songs (Don't Think Twice, It's Alright is a personal favorite now), I have not walked away with a newfound appreciation of the man, the legend.

So, I was a bit nervous that three would not be a charm.

I'm relieved to say it was.

I had read somewhere that this was an album recorded during a rough patch with his wife.  That factoid, coupled with the violent evocations of the title, I thought I would be in for a depressing doozy.

Then Tangled Up In Blue opens the album. Not depressing.

The beautiful Simple Twist of Fate--OK, a bit depressing...but it's so perfectly crafted. I especially love the lyrics on the final verse:

People tell me it’s a sin To know and feel too much within I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring She was born in spring, but I was born too late Blame it on a simple twist of fate

Bob's writing style really institutionalizes itself in this record.  Every verse of most song is pulled by the gravity of the title, nestled in the final line.  Also, I feel that Bob has come into his own here vocally.  Maybe I'm making this up, but whatever he's doing, it feels like he's more comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of his voice...and this somehow makes me like it more by extension.

All in, you see that some of the best songs ever written are on this album.

I have to be honest, though.  A couple of the songs (I'm talking about you Idiot Wind and Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts) are not favorites.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0tL3D2F1bmhPHuBd1cD098[/embed]

 

15 Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced

015: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)

I can see how this album would have shaken things up.

Not to mention it sounds like a classic rock collection or greatest hits package.

They had it.  No doubt.

Pot.  Manic Depression.  Murderous Domestic Violence.  Sex.  It's all there.

Another confession: I had no idea that May This Be Love--a wonderful song from Meshell Ndegeocello's amazing Bitter--was a Jimi Hendrix song.  It's amazing how many references I've been missing out on not having heard these albums before.

I love so many of these songs, but especially the album closer Are You Experienced?

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/27A17YFO49PxTPoZvzpEID[/embed]

 

Verdict

I still like Blonde On Blonde better than Blood On The Tracks...but I haven't heard Highway 61 Revisited yet...maybe Bob'll get me with his #4 entry on this great list.  I'm sure that would mean a lot to him.

Jimi Hendrix is a force for sure.  This album has many wonderful tracks.  I definitely enjoyed it more than their previous two entries.  I definitely see myself getting more into this album over time.

Up Next

014: The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969) 013: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Born To Run & Nevermind

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Born To Run & Nevermind

It's been a big week for me--I received the shipment of CD's for my new album Held Momentarily.  This is my third album--which means it's my third shipment of CD's that I've received.  Each time it is an extremely fulfilling experience--to hold something tangible in your hands that started as an idea.  It's pretty cool. That means it's done-done.

Well, the album part of it is done.  Now comes all the other stuff.

The album will come out in January--meaning that's when I'll do the official release party, et al...and there's a lot to get done before that happens.

I filmed a conversation with my brother, Josiah, where we talked about the album.  I'm editing the video now in Final Cut Pro...and learning that I like editing videos too.  It's very similar to the process of recording an album actually...I hope to have that posted in the next couple of weeks.

Then I will revamp this here site in honor of the new album...and get the album ready for pre-orders on iTunes.  So, have your credit cards out...or your Apple Pay...or whatever you kids are using to support struggling artists these days.

18 Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

018: Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

I do not like Bruce Springsteen's music.

Wait.

Let my clarify--I have not historically liked his music.  It just seems that it's geared for some other population--and I say that as a (current) resident of New Jersey.  I also mean to say that without any hint of superiority...not every album is right for every person.  So I just assumed that was the case with good 'ole Bruce.

Some of my resolve was chipped away earlier this year when I listened to Born In The USA (and read the 33 1/3 book).  I cannot deny that Bruce is a great songwriter.   He also seems to be a really nice guy.

Then I watched a documentary (entitled "Wings For Wheels") about the making of this album--which is available in-full and for free on the tubes for yous.

[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Hwkt6L_vY-I?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen]

It's a great documentary that really digs deep into the making of this record--and a huge turning point for Bruce and the band.  I loved how it really showed what it's like to try different sounds, the adding and subtracting that happens when you record...and compares the final result to the work in progress.

This album was clearly ambitious for the young Bruce.  He was shooting for Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" and he definitely achieves a dense and powerful sound throughout.  The first cut they recorded, and one that set the bar for the rest of the album, Born To Run really displays this with its opening barrage.

It is yet another example of an album that for the first two listens I was resolutely like "I do not like this"...and then by the third listen, I found myself walking down the street humming Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out--a song I liked the least on the record (and now one I really do like).  Something similar happened with the song Meeting Across the River.  It seemed heavy-handed in its criminal imagery...but now it seems balanced and evocative.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/3eDYpBMyC3JAbF5dNjUTrd[/embed]

17 Nirvana - Nevermind

017: Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

I clearly remember this album coming out my first year of high school.  The world was changing for me--a descent into darker terrain; a perfect pairing with high school-grade angst.

I liked some of these songs...but was also scared of it to.  I had a similar relationship with Pretty Hate Machine by nine inch nails.

But I never really embraced this album completely--though it was ever present in those days.

I watched the Classic Albums episode for this record, and highly recommend it.  The producer, Butch Vig, said that Kurt was a huge John Lennon fan.  It's one of those details that once you hear it makes perfect sense.  That vocal on Lennon's Mother, where he's shredding his voice, is very compatible with Kurt's delivery on many songs here.  The video also highlights how Kurt's songs were really pop songs garnered with hard hitting drums, heavy guitars, and romping bass lines.

[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/2lu48P8dZTk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen]

Listening to it now, I'm surprised by how well it holds up.  I'm also intrigued by the balance that is stuck with the songs here.  There are the heavier tunes--but also some with a lighter touch (Polly--although perhaps you can't call that a light touch--and Something In The Way).  The latter song has my favorite lyric "it's OK to eat fish, 'cause they don't have any feelings".   Many of the lyrics here make little sense--yet somehow convey the emotion any way.

It's hard to listen to this album and not think about how things ended for Kurt Cobain (much like I mentioned about Michael Jackson last week).  I wonder what he'd be up to by now musically...What kind of father he would be to Frances (who is now 22).  How many songs we were neglected because of his early resignation...

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/725b24kK5Xnvr4cD8dnyd8[/embed]

Verdict

I was surprised to like both of these records more than I thought I would.  My respect for Bruce as an artist definitely deepened this week...even if I'm not still his target demo.  As for Nevermind, I was surprised by how well it held up, and how near-perfect it is, song to song.  I'm also not the target demo for this album, and yet I'm right there...

Up Next

016: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1974) 015: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Thriller & Astral Weeks

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Thriller & Astral Weeks

We have entered the Top 20.

That means I have listened to, and written about, 80 albums to this point.  That's crazy.  I'm surprised I have stuck with it this long.

Not to say I'm an undisciplined kind of guy...I started hot yoga 7 weeks ago, and have been going three days a week.  I wasn't sure if I would like it, because I don't do well with a lot of heat...but I'm loving it.  So that's a mark in the discipline column, right?

But there are so many things I want to do, but don't get around to (i.e. becoming a guitar god, meditating, etc.).  It's easy to focus on how "un-" disciplined I am...It's important to focus on the good is, I guess, what I'm saying.  I'm doing all right.

My dedication to this project speaks to how rewarding it has been for me.  In ways that I don't know if I could write about just yet, I feel like I've learned so much about music.  That's why I want to extend it in to next year.  Of course, I do have to be sure that I leave plenty of room for music creation to live in harmony with all of this music appreciation.

Quick note about the album--it is being produced as we speak.  A barcode has been assigned this afternoon.  The artwork has been printed and glued for Pete's sake.  It's happening.

Also, a friend of mine asked if I was going to include a PDF of the artwork for digital downloads.  I hadn't thought of it beforehand...but have decided that I will do that, maybe even extend the artwork for the digital release.  We'll see soon enough.

20 Michael Jackson - Thriller

020: Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

This is the best selling album of all time--selling more than 65M copies so far.

After feeling that Off The Wall wasn't successful enough, Michael was determined to make his next release an undeniable hit--striving to make every song good enough to be a possible single.

I don't think I had ever heard this album before this week.  But 7 of the songs here were released a singles (and became ubiquitous Top 10 hits).  So there were really only two songs that I hadn't heard before--two songs written by Rod Temperton: Baby Be Mine and The Lady In My Life.  These songs would have been, at least, modest hits for anyone else.  They were just eclipsed by the greatness of other songs here.

Michael wrote 4 of those hit songs Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', The Girl Is Mine, Beat It, and Billie Jean.

The only song that stands out to me as not really fitting is The Girl Is Mine.  It just straddles the line of corniness, doggone-it.  I will say that the more I listened to it, and got over myself, the more I liked it.  I especially like the part after the cheesy dialogue (right around 3:20), when Paul comes in with his "I don't believe it..." It sounds like the first part that was aiming for authentic emotion and not just cuteness, just as quickly gone after the fade-out.

With everything that Michael embodied, it's easy to to forget that he had it.  He had the whole package.  All of it.

First you're dazzled by his showmanship and dancing.  He's an amazing singer--not being hyperbolic at all--amazing.  He was a great songwriter--crafting perfect pop gems that could be University courses in and of themselves. We're not even getting into his marketing and showbiz genius.  I was always struck by his generous and humble humanity--coupled with a fierce determination and presence.

He wanted to be the biggest artist on the planet--and he was.  And yet the fairy tale does not have a happy ending.

But we are left with this truly wonderful and timeless music.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0VmzbJdEBPcmk8NKeU18sk[/embed]

 

 

 

 

19 Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

019: Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)

This is not the best selling album of all time.

In fact, it took 33 years for it to sell 500K albums.  But it sells roughly the same number of records per year now that it did when it came out in '68.  It's a grower, not a shower.

Van Morrison deconstructs song structure, painting images with his lyrics...with few choruses or hooks, and really loose song structure.

I had tried to get into this album about 10 years ago.  I liked it, but never listened to it again.

There is so much beauty here.

And yet, even with my second full attempt, I'm not completely overcome by it.  Perhaps I just haven't been in the right frame of mind for it yet.  I have the same feeling when I try to enjoy most jazz or blues records.  I don't hate it--but something holds me back, and gives me a mild headache.  Perhaps I'm just not smart enough for this.

That must be it.

I really enjoy Sweet Thing and Madame George.  Do I get any credit for that?

No?

Ahhhhh!!

I'm going to go get an Aleve now.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/0F1wPmN3naZLTi1jZhgRvS[/embed]

 

 

 

 

Verdict

Maybe I'm just more into Pop that I was ever able to admit before.  I can imagine sitting around in the office, and thinking I need to hear Thriller right now.  In fact, it happened today.   I put it on, and I felt better instantly.  I'm not sure that Astral Weeks will be the same kind of resource for me.  Clearly it's not trying to be the same animal.  I'm just not sure what kind of animal it is.  Or if I'm allergic to said animals.  I'll try again in 10 years time--with Benadryl just in case.

Up Next

018: Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975) 017: Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Robert Johnson & Chuck Berry

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Robert Johnson & Chuck Berry

Finalized the album artwork with graphic designer Jenn LaBelle this morning.  Should be ordering the pressing of the CD by the end of this week, and getting all of my digital assets in a row shortly.

I just hope no one from my record label leaks the record before the release date.

That would be terrible...

Keep your eyes out.

22 Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings

022: Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

I just need to come right out and admit it.

I need to take a class in The Blues...or have someone who loves it impress upon me why I should also love it.

I can't get there.

Maybe it's the standardization of it...the chord changes that give the style its distinctive sound, also make it very predictable to me.  It also makes it so that one song tends to bleed into the next (Sweet Home Chicago into Ramblin' On My Mind are good examples of this).  I am not saying this because I think I'm superior (not even a little).  I'm calling out what must be my personal block from appreciating the Blues.  And yet, knowing the block isn't the same as getting past it.

Enough about me.

Robert Johnson is said to be the greatest blues singer who ever lived.  He recorded these songs over a 2 year period, during 5 sessions between 1936 and 1937.  There was a time in my life when that would have seemed like an unthinkable distant past...but it's not even a hundred years ago.  It's crazy to think that music has done what it's done (insert your soap-box-spiel here) in that amount of time.

I admit, there's something about his voice that struck me as that of an older man.  I was shocked to learn that he was only 27 when he died.  That means he was only about 25 when he recorded this.

He is revered by many, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Robert Palmer, and Bob Dylan.  He is also considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  Listening to his playing on Terraplane Blues, I can certainly understand why.  There is mythology around his playing.  They say that he played as a young man, but was not good at all...He went away for about two years, studying with some local blues guitarists (perhaps even in graveyards), and came back a virtuoso.  Somewhere along the way, the belief came that Johnson made a deal with the devil--meeting him at midnight at The Crossroads (in Mississippi or Tennessee, depending on whom you believe).  The devil took Johnson's guitar, played a couple of tunes for him, handed it back--and he could play it better than anyone alive.

Good story.

I love They're Red Hot--which is not technically a blues song...I like it because it shows another side of him, and also conjures a different place and time.  I also really enjoy Love In Vain, which was later covered by The Rolling Stones.

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/25PSY5tHTTxa9UTckUoDry[/embed]

 

 

 

021: Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight

I have to admit.

The first time I heard this, I was not loving it either.  It's just not my bag.

But once I got past that...I realized how much fun he's having with this music.  And how this must have blown the mind of so many kids at the time.  This was the first wave.  So early that they didn't know what to call it.  He was a black man playing "country and western" songs.

I think the first thing that hooked me was his vocal delivery in his song Too Much Monkey Business.  So much confidence, and cool--not even getting to the fact that he wrote this (and the other 27 songs).

I love how the story of Rock & Roll is conveyed through the songs here--like the role of DJ's in Roll Over Beethoven, or the dancing around the Juke Box in School Day, teenage rebellion in Sweet Little Sixteen, or the necessity of serious guitar chops in Johnny B. Goode.  The music is selling the ideal, and the ideal (and lifestyle) sells the music.  A nice and tight eco-system.

I enjoy the device of calling out the time at the beginning of each verse on Reelin' and Rockin'--it's only one example of his songwriting mastery and versatility.  I never knew that The Beach Boys stole the music of Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen for their Surfin' USA.  That's one thing I'm most surprised by in this whole blog project--how many of the greats have "borrowed" or outright stolen songs from their idols, many times without even denying it.

Memphis, Tennessee sounds like an early Paul Simon song.  Around this point in the 1 hour plus playlist, I get lost in the songs in a similar way that I describe happening with the blues...they all sort of gel and blend, becoming mildly entertaining, but nondescript.  No Particular Place To Go kind of breaks the spell and wakes you up again...

[embed]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/7hjq5LRmLIsiDAkEXf4GzP[/embed]

 

 

 

Verdict

Though I've said it before, I've never meant it more...I'm glad I listened to both of these musical giants.  I think I would enjoy them much more, sprinkled in with other music.  Focusing too much on them, just doesn't work for me.  I don't think I'll come back to these collections...but I would love to hear many of the songs from either Robert Johnson or Chuck Berry pop up on a future playlist.

Up Next

020: Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982) 019: Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Innervisions & Plastic Ono Band

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Innervisions & Plastic Ono Band

It’s been a busy week. I bought my first electric guitar this week…an early prize for finishing the record (with hopes that it will inspire the next). Haven’t had a ton of time to actually play it, but am very excited. Surprisingly, it is a very different experience than playing an acoustic. So much to learn. Ahh, I’m resigned to being a music student for life. Speaking of which, with the end of this educational project in sight, I have decided how I will continue on next year. I am going to fill in all of the albums in the top 100 from the Acclaimed Music list (which is seen as more of an authority than the list I’ve used–Rolling Stone’s list). There are about 37 albums that I will not have covered this year. Covering those, two a week, will take us into May 2015. Then, I’ve decided to tackle Uncut Magazine’s Top 50 Singer-Songwriter Albums of All Time. For that list, it’s more chronological, choosing the seminal album from the 50 most influential songwriters starting with Tim Hardin through today. That takes us into October I believe…and we’ll see what happens from there…maybe by then I’ll be interested in taking my music studies elsewhere. There is something oddly satisfying about charting my musical course so far in advance. It does make it harder to keep up with what is popular at the moment…but I’ve done that all my life. So, I have to just be OK with not being aware of songs like “I’m All About The Bass”. Somewhere within that time span, I’ll be releasing my own album…and booking shows again, etc.

24 Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

024: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)

Now we’ve come to Stevie’s peak spot on this list. It’s an amazing album I had heard many, many times prior to this week.

When I was recording my last album, 15 years ago–back in my Berklee days, people kept saying that Stevie must have been a huge inspiration for me. I had heard his later career radio hits at that point, but had never heard any of his 70’s records. So, I relented and picked them up. I think I mentioned last time that I then had an enduring love for these albums for many years–though Fulfillingness’ First Finale is still my favorite of the whole lot.

Songs In The Key of Life is a masterwork for its scope and breadth.

This album is so impactful because it is succinct–not even 10 songs. It’s drenched in religious references, social commentary, visual metaphors–and brilliant music.

It is mixed and mastered in a way that encourages ingesting it as an album–not a collection of singles. Notice how one song bleeds into the next, or even how the transition from Living For The City has the beautiful, untitled piano interlude that joins it to Golden Lady.

Hearing Jesus Children Of America back in 1998 was the first time I had ever heard of Transcendental Meditation. It left such an impression on me that I went through the rather expensive training to learn how to do it. [As a side note, I can't recommend meditation highly enough at this point. I have trouble keeping up the practice and discipline now. But if you're looking for something to help with anxiety, I can say that nothing worked better for me during some supremely stressful times.]

Another thing that left a strong impression on me about this record is how Stevie blends a very powerful artistic expression throughout the record with a clear sense of his humor–see the intro to Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing. Who could resist this goofball? You see it again with his gruff vocal line that comes in at 3:00 of He’s Misstra Know-It-All. But he just as soon comes back and sings his butt off with some of the most beautiful and untouchable vocal add-libs.

23 John Lennon - Plastic Ono Band

023: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

This album is very similar in ways to Innervisions. Maybe it was just what the 70’s were like…but both of these guys are doing some serious personal work in order to arrive at the content of these albums.

For Lennon, it was through his famous Primal Scream therapy that yielded the most incredible rock vocal I’ve ever heard.

I had heard this record before, probably 15 years ago or so. I didn’t go back to it in the intervening years, and I can see why now.

It is difficult.

John Lennon is putting it ALL out here. Listen to the back half of the song Mother, starting at about 3:24. I watched the Classic Albums episode (of course). The engineer talks about how John would come in at the end of each session for the album and lay down these vocal takes. He would sing them so hard that he would go hoarse by the end. You can actually hear it in the recording–it’s almost too much for me to listen to.

It was an interesting choice to put that song as the opener–but I guess if being a Beatle doesn’t give you confidence to take some risks, you’re doing something wrong. On the next song comes Lennon’s goofball moment, where he gruffly says “cookie” for no apparent reason during Hold On (around 1:07). Working Class Hero and Isolation–such universal and timeless songs. He really mixes in his beautiful ballads with some aggressive romps–Hold On vs I Found Out; Remember vs Love; or Well Well Well vs Look At Me. It’s another interesting choice to keep interchanging between the softer ballads and the more harsh songs–perhaps that’s what keeps the listener a little off-balance. Maybe it’s just me. Anger is a difficult emotion for me…and he is very clearly working through some deep anger here. Maybe he was trying to temper the harshness by blending in the softer side? There’s so much to say about his song God. That first line is an interesting one: “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” He then goes on to list things he values from magic to the Beatles–but now he “don’t believe in”. I get that he’s working through ideas that were forced onto him–and choosing individuality instead. Especially because this was the final statement of his first solo album–which came as a shock to Beatles devotees. I don’t really understand why he chooses to list Jesus beside Hitler–or why Hitler is even in the list. Perhaps he was just trying to provoke–the primary job of an artist. He certainly achieves provocation by ending the song with “the dream is over”.

Verdict

Both of these albums are amazing. Stevie’s Innervisions is one that I will continue to go back to for as long as I’m lucky enough to have life or the sense of hearing. It’s an album that just has it all, for me. It’s funny that Plastic Ono Band has it all too…but leaves me feeling differently. To me, listening to this album is a lot like going to couple’s therapy–evoking that feeling you get when you leave a really heavy session. You’re glad you went, and you see the benefits–but that shit ain’t easy.

Up Next

022: Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings 021: Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Rumours & Live At The Apollo

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Rumours & Live At The Apollo

Another busy week with the new album. It should be completely finished in the next couple of weeks (artwork and all). I’m working with some really talented people as the final days approach.

I’m still hoping to, at least, soft release it this year…but am thinking more and more that an official release (with a release party and all) may have to wait for the new year. There are so many aspects to releasing an album, that I don’t want to rush the process now that it’s complete. I want to make a space for it to get the proper attention it deserves. I’m still learning what that really means…so I’ll share more as the ideas take shape.

26 Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

026: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

Now this is an album I had heard before. I fell in love with it in college…and hadn’t really listened to it again since.

To me, this album is perfect.

Aspirational.

It hits all the right notes. The songwriting is solid throughout. The production is interesting, varied, and timeless. The performances are amazing…Those background vocal harmonies alone would do it for me.

I watched the Classic Albums episode about this album to get some context.

It turns out the band (which formerly housed two relationships amidst its five members) was coming apart at the seams. Because of the success they’d seen with their previous album (the first of this new lineup), they worked through the pain…and wrote from where they were. Even in this episode, 21 years after recording the album, you can still see the pain, and lingering love, barely beneath the surface.

Songs of pain. Songs of defiance. Songs of new love. Of drug use.

All performed with their central object right there in the room. On the other side of a shared mic.

I can’t imagine how emotionally intense a time that must have been.

But the result of a year’s worth of pain is an album full of wonderful songs…not a single filler.

Coming back to it after so much time, I was impressed by some of the lesser known songs–particularly Songbird. The songwriting is simple–lyrically and harmonically. But so effective and affecting. Christine McVie has such a wonderful voice. I think Stevie Nicks gets so much attention for her voice–and with good reason. But there was so much talent here that it warrants shifting focus on repeated listens. The vocals. The bass, drums, guitar, keys…all on par with each other.

Sure, some of the songs here have been played to death–having become ubiquitous in political campaigns, commercials, grocery stores, and oldies stations. But when consumed as an album…it’s hard to hold that against it. It’s a beautiful collection of songs.

 

25 James Brown - Live At The Apollo

025: James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963)

And now for the second live album on this list. And the second appearance of the hardest working man in showbi’ness–James Brown.

I have a hard time seeing past James Brown the personality–and simply enjoying the music for what it is.

So to help gain some context, I read the 33 1/3 book on the album, written by Douglas Wolk. This book is densely written. There are some very interesting facts about what the show would have been like (covering who the openers would have been, what the general program would have been like, the vibe of the crowd, etc.). The book gets a little lost in trying to chart the origins of every song…detailing every note played by the band…the origins of every instrumental break…where, if you’re not intimately familiar with the songs (as I’m not), it’s a little alienating.

But with what I learned here, and what I learned from the Public Enemy book in the same series (which focuses quite about on JB), I had enough to get some valuable context.

Thinking a little more wouldn’t hurt, we watched the recent biopic Get On Up.

This is what ultimately gave me what I needed to imagine the intensity of the show…to imagine his showmanship, in addition to his undeniable musicianship. Chadwick Boseman did an incredible job as James Brown. He lip-synched most of the vocals–so effectively that I thought he’d actually sung the part.

James Brown recorded this show with his own money. His label didn’t believe in live recordings for his audience–they wanted him to stick to singles. His belief in the project probably saved his career…Can you imagine the loss if he’d given up at that point. The album shot his struggling career into high gear. He’d tasted fame (and certainly worked for it, playing 300 days a year, with several shows on many days), but this launched him into the stratosphere. He tried to recreate the magic again many times by releasing subsequent Live At The Apollo (LATA) volumes…but this is where the magic is. That initial burst.

One thing the 33 1/3 book does very well is explains what was happening in the country at the same time this show was recorded…the fears of nuclear war with Russia coinciding.

The crowd is right there with him…perhaps looking for some serious escapist good times. James Brown has them, especially the frenzied women, eating out of his hand.

I love the background vocals on I’ll Go Crazy…especially the “Leave me…oip” lines.

James Brown is singing his butt of on Try Me. In the absence of the theatrics, it’s easier to see how he really was the whole package. I love those intermittent hand claps. too

The band is tight. Is this because they’re afraid of Mr. Dynamite’s fines for any misstep? Or just that they’re some serious musicians?

When James comes in on Think…until he says “I think about the hard time…”, I have no idea what he’s saying for lines at a time. But it sounds good.

I Don’t Mind is another favorite–again with amazing background vocals, especially the rushed “I-doh-mine” lines.

Lost Someone is, arguably, the centerpiece of this album. You definitely get a sense of JB the impassioned preacher/lover both deprived and depraved. He can work a line, bending and twisting it until its meaning changes. The audience screams when they should, and he invites them to go further with him–with a few comical outbursts. And go with him, they do.

It’s not my favorite song here though…It goes on a bit too long for me. Perhaps because every other song is rushed through, with little time for a breath, or palate cleanser, in between. Maybe its length is necessary for that reason. But there’s very little song there. It’s mostly an underpinning for his impressive theatrics.

“Mr. Please Please” squeezes what must be 6 songs into the 6 minute “Medley”. I would love to hear a full version of the song “I Found Someone To Love Me”…but it doesn’t seem that one exists (not by James Brown anyway).

The midnight set closes with funky Night Train–a funked up roll call of American cities, which itself gives way to end the show with a rather anti-climactic organ-laced jazz.

 

Verdict

This week, for some reason, I was struck by how hard fame is on people. Both Fleetwood Mac and James Brown had massive doses of fame, and subsequently took excessive amounts of drugs to help cope with the incredible workload and pressure that that must have required.

In the Classic Albums episode, Stevie Nicks said that she’s asked all of her famous friends, and each of them has regretted the cost required, as James Brown said, to be the boss. For her, it meant no children, no marriage.

I really enjoyed both records…and hope to spend some time exploring the catalogs of both Fleetwood Mac and James Brown more.

Up Next

A first. A week for which I’ve already heard both records. I’m looking forward to spending a little more time with both, though.

024: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)

023: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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Who's Next & The Joshua Tree

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Who's Next & The Joshua Tree

It’s been another busy week here. I got the final master version of the album early in the week. Yesterday, I finished photography for the album with JA Caldwell. I’m really happy with the way the sessions turned out.

Now, Kayt Hester will work on a second piece for the album cover art–a portrait.

Then I’ll work with a graphic designer on the album artwork…and send it off to the manufacturer to make it all tangible.

It seems like I’ve been on the verge of completion for a while now…but there are so many pieces to fit together. I’m feeling really grateful that it’s all coming together that way it is. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really talented musicians and artists.

You’ll see what I mean soon enough. I have to keep stopping myself from just sending out links to let you listen. I’m that excited and proud.

28 The Who - Who's Next

The Who – Who’s Next (1971)

The last time I listened to The Who was early in the year for Tommy (96). I found that double-album difficult, interesting, but ultimately not a match for me.

I had never heard this album–unless you count the CSI Miami and CSI New York themes (Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley respectively). After Tommy, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for.

Both of this week’s episodes are featured in episodes of Classic Albums–and so I watched them both. For The Who, I am struck by how different Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are. Pete definitely seems like the artist and brains behind the whole operation. I loved watching him pogo around the stage, whipping his guitar hither, thither, and yon. But Roger is an undeniable front man–all power and mic cable swinging bravado. When Pete sings, there’s an emotionalism that Roger overshoots. Yin and yang.

Turns out this album, their follow-up to Tommy, was originally planned as another concept Rock Opera type piece called “Life House”. The conceptual phase never seemed to gel, so Pete Townshend had to scrap his ambitious plans. Some of the songs were retained, and plugged into a more traditional album format.

Without that conceptual layer, I found this album much more accessible, and successful, than Tommy. Many of the songs are now classics–Baba O’Riley, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, and Won’t Get Fooled Again.

They included one song from bassist John Entwistle–My Wife. To my ears, this is the one misstep of the album. It sounds like a Paul McCartney knock-off. It’s not a bad song. It’s just not on the level of the balance of the album–all written by Pete Townshend.

I really like the mellow section of the album with The Song Is Over and Getting In Tune.

Also, showing different layers of the band: the biggest surprise cut on this record is Going Mobile. Complete with it’s “beep beep” and lyrics like “I don’t care about pollution, I’m an air conditioned gypsy…that’s my solution” — this song shouldn’t work. But its energy is contagious. The message still seems relevant, conjuring up the “Tiny House Movement”–that I’m still somewhat fascinated by. I definitely romanticize the idea of pairing down, hitching my tiny house to the back of a pick-up (both of which I don’t own), and going mobile.

 

 

 

27 U2 - The Joshua Tree

U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

This is also our second look at U2, having last listened to them with Achtung Baby (63). I had never listened to any of their earlier records prior to this week.

I did not have high hopes.

I watched the Classic Albums episode for this record too. It seems U2 was in the midst of their own identity crisis after the success of their tour for The Unforgettable Fire. Meeting Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, they realized how little they knew about the roots of American rock.

So they took some time and educated themselves.

Watching that gave me some interesting context. Perhaps it also opened me up to listening to this album with fresh ears.

The first four tracks make up the strongest album opening I’ve heard in a long while–if ever. These songs were ubiquitous when they came out, so it’s hard to imagine that they were birthed at the same time. They’re perfect. Timeless. Universal.

Then it falls off a bit for me for the next 5 songs. They’re fine songs, but don’t speak to me in the same way.

Things get interesting again with the Patti Smith-like Exit. It’s mixed/mastered quieter than the preceding songs, so you have to really turn it up to hear it…perhaps to infect you with its darkness.

From that dark space comes the beautifully haunting Mothers Of The Disappeared. It’s a beautiful soundscape, with Bono’s falsetto oohs and The Edge’s spare descending melodic lines and the uncredited wonderfully lazy operatic vibrato that comes in around 3:39. I love it.

 

Verdict

I’m not sure if I can say that I’m now a fan of The Who–but I definitely want to learn more about, and hear more from, Pete Townshend. I’m eyeing his memoir and biography “Who I Am”.

The Joshua Tree is a great album–really makes me rethink where I file U2 internally. The album opens really strongly, loosens for a while, then finishes very strongly. Perhaps on additional listening I will find more to love about those middle cuts.

Up Next

026: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

025: James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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