Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10. Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic

After I listened to the new Van Halen, a colleague asked me how it was. My answer was: "eh, just your basic cock rock."

In same ways, I feel the same way about Aerosmith. Calling it cock rock doesn't make it bad - heck, you could call Led Zeppelin cock rock - but much of the 80s hair metal can be put in this category.

So, when the most suggestive song title on an album *isn't* "Big Ten Inch Record" (that honor goes to "Uncle Salty") you know there's a lot of dick swinging going on.

Now that we're past all that, this is a pretty terrific album. Great blues-based rock with a continual love of the Beatles. Somehow, listening to the narcotic opening of "Sweet Emotion" sounds better in its true album context, and deeper songs like "You See Me Crying" really pack a punch.

Walk this way indeed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

9. King Sunny Ade - Gems from the Classic Years (1967-1974)

Years ago - probably sometime in the mid-90's, I saw King Sunny Ade and band at the now-defunct Tramps.  They were opening up for Poi Dog Pondering (one of my favorite bands of the 90's - I'll write about them another time).

I don't remember much about the King's set, but I do recall it was more like a party than a concert, and we were all attendees.  I also remember the guys from Poi Dog being in awe of having such a master open up for them.

If every artist who was indebted to King Sunny Ade sent him a fruit basket, he'd have quite an orchard.

The Talking Heads... Paul Simon... Vampire Weekend... the list could go on and on.  This music, led by great guitar and percussion, bounces along and puts you in a trance-like state, much as the Dead or Phish can do.

Party on, King!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

8. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet at the Lighthouse

This album is like jumping into a pool on a scorching hot day.

So crisp, so clean, so fresh - hard bop at its best.

Never saw Cannonball live, of course, but one of my first jazz concerts was seeing his brother Nat at Sweet Basil (I think).

Just love this album - it swings from start to finish - definitely check it out!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

7. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker

A few years ago, when I was living in Cincinnati, my colleague/friend Stephanie loaned me this CD to check out.  My reaction then was almost identical to the one I had in 2012.  I vividly remember driving on 275 when IT happened.

The album has one of the most bizarre openings ever - about 30 seconds of Ryan Adams and David Rawlings arguing about which album or albums a Morrissey song is on.  After that, it kicks into some good Americana that's feels like Bob Dylan and the Band.

Then Amy happens.

This song is so beautiful that it grabs you right by the throat and doesn't let you go.  Frankly, I think it's as good as anything written by the Beatles ("For No One" from Revolver has a similar simplicity and beauty).

After that comes a gorgeous duet with Emmylou Harris and the rest of the album never coasts from there.

An amazing album.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

6. Introduction to Johnny Adams

Well, as promised, I've gone rogue.

The book had a different Johnny Adams album listed, but it wasn't available on Spotify.  I listened to some snippets on Amazon, though - and loved the sound of his voice.  So I checked out this album and really liked it!

Great soulful voice, terrific R&B arrangements and searing blues guitar make up this collection.  It gets a little schmaltzy by the end, but I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

On another note, I'm thrilled to have been discovered by the "1000 Recordings" community - like-minded music nuts who are going through the book and blogging their listening experiences.  Check out Recording the Recordings, which includes a blogroll of others doing this.

Monday, January 30, 2012

5. The Death of Klinghoffer

... aka The Death of Sieger - when I tried making it through the entire recording.

First of all, I've had no success in becoming a fan of opera over the years (much to the dismay of my mother, who is as passionate about opera as I am about the music I love).  But, I just couldn't stomach this one.  First of all, it's sung in English which - news flash - isn't the prettiest language in the world.

Second, this strikes me as a very visual story - and there was no way I would get it without watching it at the same time.  And there was NO way I was going to sit through 130 minutes of this on YouTube.

So now I'm....

Here are my new rules:
  1. If it's terrible, I won't listen to it multiple times - and in extreme cases (like this one) I won't even listen to the whole thing.  If I feel I've given it a fair shake - I'll move on to the next one.  My job here is not to be a completest, it's just to enjoy some new music and write more.
  2. Likewise, if a recording sucks, I won't add it to my Spotify playlist
  3. Finally - if the recording in the book is not readily available on Spotify, but another album by that artist is - I may listen to that album instead.  Because I can.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

4. John Adams - Harmonium

Well, if I'm going to get into classical music, this won't be the album to do it.

I've always had a mild appreciation for classical and enjoyed its influence on rock (ELP) and jazz (Charlie Parker) and loved Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony in college - but choral classical music just doesn't do the trick for me.

Oh well - they're not all going to be enjoyable - and the next album takes me even further down the rabbit hole - if I survive it...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

3. The Abyssinian Baptist Choir - Shakin' the Rafters

Ok - now we're certainly getting into some new areas!

Even though many of the artists that I love, from the Talking Heads to the Grateful Dead to Bruce Springsteen have incorporated gospel influences in the their music, I've never listened to a pure gospel album.

Overall, I really liked this live album, recorded in Newark, NJ in the 1960s - the energy was incredible. By the end, though - I pretty much had enough - but I definitely want to explore more gospel.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2. Muhal Richard Abrams - Blu Blu Blu

Number two dives into jazz - nice.  I'm definitely looking forward to reconnecting with some great jazz.  In the early 90's, I went through a phase where I listened to nothing for jazz for about three years - morning, noon and night.

It began innocuously enough - I joined the Columbia Jazz Club and got some classics in the mail - Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Errol Garner, Herbie Hancock.  But for a while it was just nice background or dinner music.

Then I discovered Joshua Redman and my ears just opened.  Here was this guy who was about my age playing an incredibly fresh and exciting form of jazz - and jazz versions of pop songs too.  We went to go see him in concert a few times and fell even deeper for it.  Joshua Redman was a gateway for me to start working backwards and listen passionately to all the greats - Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman.

Suddenly my radio had only two presets - WBGO and WKCR (home of the great Phil Schapp - if you want to read about my memorable encounter with him, click here).  I'd check the mailbox each day for a new issue of Downbeat.  I could listen to a recording by Miles or Monk and name every musician playing in the session.  Lunch hours were spent at HMV on 72 and Broadway with JK - one of the jazz buyers there - getting introduced to more and more great stuff.   At night, JK and I would hit the Vanguard or Iridium to see jazz guys old and young.

At some point, I faded away from jazz and moved back into folk, bluegrass (which has a lot more in common with jazz than you might think) and rock - but it was great to be so so so passionate about something.

Which brings me to Muhal Richard Abrams.  I'd never heard of him before listening to this album, and I really like a lot of it - it falls between traditional and free jazz.  I always liked free jazz in limited quantities.  It's like drinking a complex, bitter and hoppy beer - delicious and satisfying - but you wouldn't have more than one. (ok, maybe two)

If you want to check out a great track that starts out slow, but builds to an amazing kick-ass jam, give Bloodline a spin...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1. Abba - Gold

Well, this was a pretty easy way to start - nothing too challenging here.

Got lots of grief from several friends when Abba started to pop up in my Facebook feed via Spotify.  Fortunately, I have no shame when it comes to music.  As many of you know, I'm perfectly comfortable admitting I listen to Glee, Barry Manilow, Dan Fogelberg and other cheesy pop music.

That said, I don't think I've ever listened to an Abba album - my experiences have just been from the radio and that horrible Mamma Mia movie.

This stuff is FUN - great pop music.  Even the songs I'd never heard before were terrific.  Listen to Does Your Mother Know and tell me it doesn't sounds like a lost Nick Lowe song!

Also, I've created a playlist on Spotify for the 1000 Listens journey - after each album listen, I'll put one favorite in the playlist.

One down... many to go!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Welcome to the Machine!

For some time, I've been looking for a motivation to starting blogging again, and this weekend - during a run on a 60-degree January day - it hit me.

I just bought Tom Moon's well-respected book "1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die" and decided that while I have no plans to die in the near future, I sure as hell want to hear all 1000 of these albums.

So, that's what I'll be doing over the next several years - listening, writing, and then listening some more.  How long will it take?  Five years?  Ten years? Your guess is as good as mine.  I'm in no rush.

And while I'm not going to let this journey be governed by rules, I am following some principles along the way:

  • In a slight variance from the book title, I'm not going to just hear these recordings, I'm going to listen to them.  Several times for each - unless it's an album I'm very familiar with - in which case I'll probably only listen once.  That's why I'm thinking I won't listen to more than one or two each week.
  • I'm going to follow the book and go in alphabetical artist order.  This strikes me as fun because the musical styles I hear will bounce all over the place.  That will be one of the most interesting parts of this journey for me - getting to hear genres I generally haven't touched - classical, opera, world...
  • I'm going to listen to the recordings on Spotify (as many of you know, this is my new addiction).  If something is not on Spotify, I'll move on and come back sometime later.  I'm not going to spend hours scouring the Internet for a rare recording just for the sake of perfection.  It will actually be quite interesting to see how I'm digesting music when this journey is done - six months ago, I hadn't even heard of Spotify - what will music consumption be like in 2022?  Crazy thought.
OK - that's all for now - keep your eyes out for #1... soon!