Sunday, 7 December 2008

Album 19. Sings the Gershwin Songbook - Ella Fitzgerald, 20. The Genius of Ray Charles - Ray Charles, 21. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis, 22. Marty Rob...

...bins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

I am finding that I'm faultering a little with this challenge. Listening to the albums is no problem, but I'm finding it quite difficult to write about anything that doesn't provoke any strong feelings. It's easy to write about stuff I really like and even easier with stuff I hate.

These 4 albums have inspired nothing in me at all. Not terrible, but not great either, they just are what they are.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Album 18. At Mister Kelly's - Sarah Vaughan

I'm not always convinced by live albums. The potential for them to be not very good is quite high, especially when taken from large outdoor shows.

Fortunatley this recording is from a small nightclub venue so the recording quality is quite high. Miss Vaughan has a great voice and not too bad a pianist to boot, but ultimatley it's just not my kind of thing really.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Album 17. Jack Takes the Floor - Jack Elliot

The cover of this album did bring about some concern that it was time for some more sad cowboy songs, thankfully, that was quite a long way from the truth.

His playing and singing style is very much cowboy by the campfire but the mixture of blues, country and folk songs are genrally quite jolly in nature and are performed with just the right amount of humour to really put a smile on your face.

Album 16. Lady in Satin - Billie Holiday

I didn't enjoy this album, but I don't think I ever expected to.

Musically I found the arrangments to be quite bland and uninteresting, while Holiday's vocals, though quite emotional, were rough, grumbly and lacked range.

Maybe if I was a woman struggling to find love the lyrics might speak to me, but I'm not so they didn't.

Next please.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Album 15. Dance Mania Vol.1 - Tito Puente & His Orchestra

Now Tito Puente is a name I recognized, but only from his guest slot in The Simpsons and sadly the track listing doesn't seem to feature a slanderous mambo to set Mr. Burn's soul afire.

Unfortunatley it didn't set my soul afire either. It's not a bad album by any stretch, but from the reputation I just expected something more.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Album 14. Here's Little Richard - Little Richard

Little Richard's debut was leap forward in rock 'n' roll.

Musically it combines elements of rhythm and blues, soul, boogie-woogie and funk. Add this to the flamboyance of the rasping almost shouted vocals, accentuated with screams, yelps and moans, you get a fresh new sound with a raw intensity that wasn't matched at the time.

The importance of Little Richard can't be overstated as his music inspired many of the greats of not only rock 'n' roll but also many soul and funk artists.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Album 13. Kenya - Machito

Afro-Cuban Jazz? I'm starting to think they're making these genres up, but then I listened to it and that's exactly what it is.

The very infectious Caribbean and Latino rhythms do make the over widdly North American jazz they are fused with more bearable. I'm sure if you were in Cuba enjoying a rum based cocktail on a hot and steamy evening this would suit you right down, but sat in my bedroom on a dark and gloomy winters eve it doesn't really work for me.

Album 12. Birth of the Cool - Miles Davis

This aptly titled album provides a great example of why I can actually listen to Miles Davis.

While being no less complex than the material of any other top jazz performers, the laid back "cool" style of playing makes it so much more accessible for the occasional listener. The playing has a loose feeling, but is never sloppy, that makes it very welcoming.

For anyone looking for an easy introduction to jazz this is a great place to start.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Album 11. Palo Congo - Sabu Martinez

Errm, drums. Lots and lots of drums. Then some more drums. Sometimes the rhythms are Latino, sometimes more african. There are a few moments where there is a tune, but not many.

Not sure what else I can really say about this one.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Album 10. Brilliant Corners - Thelonious Monk

And the jazz keeps coming, this time moving into more of an improvisational "bebop" style of playing.

My mother often said if you can't say anything nice then say nothing at all, but I just can't. The only thing stupider than this mans name is his music. I could hit random keys on a piano at odd time intervals and call it a tune, but I don't becasuse, quite frankly, it wouldn't be and it isn't when Monk does it either. Can he even play the instrument properly? I don't know because he never actually tries to.

This is musical masturbation of the highest order with lengthy, tuneless, directionless pieces that just leave your head screaming when will it fucking end!

Album 9. Atomic Mr. Basie - Count Basie

More Jazz, this time more of a big band swing based sound though.

Very easy to listen to compared with a lot of jazz that I've heard over the years, but this also means that it never really wows either.

It's very much the sort of thing you could picture 30 something couples of the 50's and 60's playing as background accompaniment to one of there cocktail parties.

Official score: Meh out of 10.

Album 8. The "Chirping" Crickets - The Crickets

One of the great rock 'n' roll debuts, the Crickets influence can be heard throught the early 60's as they provided the blueprint for "beat combos" on both sides of the atlantic.

No one knows for sure what would've happened if Buddy Holly hadn't taken that plane, but judging from the work he and the rest of The Crickets did before that faithful night it would have been good.

The Crickets did continue after the loss of Holly but never really reached the heights of the early work they did.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Album 7. Song for Swinging Lovers! - Frank Sinatra

A second outing from "Ol' Blue Eyes", this one is what I would call a ronseal album. It does exactly what it says on the sleeve. 15 love songs in a swing stlye.

It's the typical Sinatra stuff that we all associate with his name and contains a few of his more well known recordings, most notably "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "I've Got You Under My Skin".

I think this maybe down to familiarity of the material, but it failed to make a big impact on me. Good but not brilliant.

Album 6. Ellington at Newport - Duke Ellington

Mmmm, Jazz. Nice.

When it comes down to it I like my jazz how I like my women, fast and swinging! (Sorry).

I have a lot of respect for anyone that can play jazz well, because it's not easy, I just have a hard time listening to a lot of it. That's probably why the first half of this live recording, from the Newport Jazz Festival, past me by stirring very little interest. I don't think it was helped by the crowd which apart from a small smattering of applause here and there was mostly silent, so probably as bored as me.

It's at this point that Duke announces that they're going to play 2 older numbers bridge by a saxophone solo. The first of the 2 pieces from the off seems to have more energy than anything that has come before and I'm finding myself actually paying attention for the first time. Then comes the sax solo, and what a solo. It seems to go on forever, but it doesn't matter because you almost don't want it to end. The strangest thing is that as I'm becoming more engaged so it seems are the festival crowd, becoming audible in the background shouting and cheering. When the end of the second piece is reached the polite applause from the previous tunes is replaced by a raucous roar from a audience that knows they've just seen a great performance.

From here onwards the energy of neither band or crowd drops and while the best moment of the album has past the rest continues to be enjoyable right too the end.

Is this one of the best live albums that I've heard? No, I didn't like half of it. Should you listen to it? Yes, because this is one of the few places you will find both sides of the live music coin recorded, with the band misfiring a little as well as giving a great performance.

Album 5. This is Fats - Fats Domino

I think most people have encountered Fats Domino through his rendition of the song "Blueberry Hill". The rest of the material here follows a similar up tempo boogie-woogie rhythm and blues style. A particular highlight for me was the instrumental track "Fat Man's Hop" with Fats showing how good a pianist he is.

This is a good, solid album from one of the greats of the genre, but while it was well worth the listen it didn't blow me away.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Album 4. The Wildest - Louis Prima

This is just what I needed after the Louvins.

The easiest way to put across what you get from Louis Prima is to say he shares quite a similarity to another Louis of the Armstrong veriety.

This hi tempo fusion of New Orleans jazz, swing and blues is so easy to listen to and enjoy. An excellent job has been done on capturing the energy of a group of musicians having fun playing the music they love, I can only imagine what it must have been like to actually see them perferm but I doubt it would disappoint.

This album will put a smile on the face of any genuine music lover, I recomende you listen now.

Album 3. Tragic Songs of Life - The Louvin Brothers

Upon spying the title and cover of this album it wasn't difficult to deduce that the Louvin Brothers were going to give me a dose of country of somesort, and they certainly did.

The brothers, I'm assuming they are, seem to be a very accomplished close harmony duet, the vocals are set over a simple rhythm guitar and the songs are interspersed with what sounds like mandalin solos. It's a pretty usual formula in country and something I could easily listen to, if they offered something other than very depressing tunes about old dead cowboys.

Through the stories of each song on this album not a single character catches a single break, it's all dead dogs, heartbreak, quite often death and on a few occasions murder.

I just hope what comes next is a bit cheerier

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Album 2. Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

This one is pretty easy. I love early Elvis so know all the tracks on offer here quite well. It still impresses me at how it was possible to take what is quite an unusual vocal style and successfully apply it across so many musical genres. This debut, along with "Elvis", "Elvis is Back" and "From Elvis in Memphis" (Imaginative titles) represents what I believe to be his best work.

It's worth noting that I'm listening to the 1999 CD re-issue of the album which contains 6 extra tracks not on the original release as practice at the time was to not include singles on albums.

Album 1. In the Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra

My knowledge of Frank Sinatra's music comes entirely from various "best of" collections featuring mostly the well known up tempo swing numbers and not much else, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

What I found here are 16 ballads of a well written and performed quality, which wasn't all that shocking. What did come as a surprise was the selection of material. This isn't just a collection of popular hits, but an album of carefully selected numbers designed to complement each other, something I always thought was more of a revelation of the 60's.

All in all a pleasant start to my musical journey, I just hope that all the material I have little knowledge of is just as entertaining, although I fear it will not be.