Saturday, November 16, 2013

16. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream & Other Delights

Shagadelic, baby!

Of course, I knew this album from its so-famous cover (and various cover knock-offs, one of which I've included below).

Perhaps it was revolutionary in its time, but it didn't really age well in my opinion.  It sounds like one big episode of The Dating Game.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is A Taste of Honey, which makes me want to hear the Beatles version.

Friday, November 15, 2013

15. The Almanac Singers - State of Arkansas

Years ago, when I lived in Cincinnati, I was doing some volunteer writing for a Holocaust organization.  The head of the group introduced me to the political cartoons of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

It was a really eye-opener for me.  Courtesy of the wars of my lifetime, I had always been led to believe that the right was pro-war and the left was anti-war.  But these cartoons educated me to the fact that it was the LEFT that really wanted the U.S. to get involved in WWII, and the right wanted to stay out of it.

I was reminded of this when listening to the Almanac Singers 1941 recordings.  Admittedly, I had never heard of the Almanac Singers before this, but any group that includes Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger is worth checking out.

Most of the stuff on here is typical early folk music, with themes I was very familiar with from previous listening to Pete Seeger - unions good - bossman bad, etc.

But the mind-blowing song on here is Round and Around Hitler's Grave.  Over the music of a lilting children's nursery rhyme, the song hits the same themes as those Dr. Seuss cartoons I'd seen years earlier.  Definitely put a new perspective on early folk for me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

14. The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East


This was the first album in the 1000 Listens journey which really turned me around. First, let me explain that I did my "listen" to this many many months ago, before I took my hiatus from writing this blog.

The Allman Brothers Band were a group that I knew I should listen to, but never really got around to.  I guess I just put them in the blanket category of Southern Rock - and I knew a lot of the songs from the radio, but was never all that impressed.

When I began listening to Fillmore East for the first time, my opinion didn't change.  I even equated them in my head with - gasp! - .38 Special. (side note - I just Googled .38 Special to make sure I wrote their name correctly.  Did you know the band began in 1974?  I sure didn't).

But then I heard You Don't Love Me/Soul Serenade.


My mind was completely blow - and the Mountain Jam a few songs later further splattered my brains all over 34th Street.  Suddenly I went back and listened to everything else on the album and GOT it.

A few months later, I got to see the ABB on a double-bill with Santana. Although the 90 minutes they played wasn't nearly long enough, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks did the legacy of Duane Allman proud.

Down to the Whipping Post indeed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

13. Mose Allison - The Collection

Before listening to this album, I knew only two things about Mose Allison:
  1. The Pixies song "Allison" is about him
  2. He wrote two one of The Who's most kick-ass live songs - "Young Man Blues" and Tommy's "Eyesight to the Blind"
Now I know that he has an incredible jazz singing voice - he's like Nat 'King' Cole if Nat wrote about drinking and gambling.  Helluva piano player too.  The second half of this long collection is mostly instrumentals, and I found myself yearning for his voice again.  Don't know how I missed him during my jazz years, but he's someone I'm going to check out more.

I'll leave you with this gem:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

12. Alice in Chains - Dirt

I was definitely into grunge in the early 90s - watching 120 Minutes on MTV was a weekly staple, and I would tape it and watch it over and over throughout the week.  In 1991, we visited friends in Seattle, and saw our first Starbucks.  When we got home, I couldn't wait to tell people about this magical land of lattes.

But we never went out to see any music in Seattle, and to this day I regret that.  Who might we have seen in a small Seattle club?  Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam?  Oh well.

This is a long way of getting to the fact that Alice in Chains was never a band I listened to back then - other than a song here or there, or the Singles soundtrack (still one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever).

This album is raw like an open cut - but I mean that in a good way.  It's truly primal stuff - intense and a kick in the teeth.  You can feel the drugs and pain seeping through Lane Staley's voice.  This shit's real.

11. Mahmoud Ahmed - Ere Mela Mela

Not surprisingly, I don't understand one word sung on this album by Ethopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed, but I still kind of like it.

Listening to this album seemed to be a good excuse to write about music and lyrics.  We often hear the question: "Are you a music person or lyrics person?"  As someone who spends a good deal of his career writing, I would have assumed that I would fall in the lyrics category, but it's definitely not the case.

Oh sure, there are plenty of great lyrics that are always bouncing around my head:

Each of us – a cell of awareness - imperfect and incomplete.  Genetic blends with uncertain ends, on a fortune hunt that's far too fleet…

She sits on the porch of her Daddy's house, but all her pretty dreams are torn.  She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born…

They're a band beyond description - like Jehovah's favorite choir. People joining hand in hand, while the music plays the band - Lord they're setting us on fire…

But in general, the singer is just another instrument in the band and listening to his or her voice is part of the journey of a song.  If you asked me what as song was "about" I'd tend to have no clue whatsoever.

That being said, I really wish I understood what happens in the second half of the story told in "Racing in the Streets"