Ella and Louis were accompanied by the Oscar Peterson Quartet for this 1956 release and it is primarily a vocal album, and a charming one. Having previously collaborated in the late 1940s for the Decca label, this was the first of three albums that Fitzgerald and Armstrong were to record together for Verve Records, later followed by 1957’s Ella and Louis Again and 1959’s Porgy and Bess.
Norman Granz, the founder of the Verve label, selected eleven ballads for Fitzgerald and Armstrong, all in a slow or moderate tempo, which gives this album an overall laid back feel and even though their voices are poles apart, they really do seem to work together quite beautifully.
This early Atlantic session in 1955 was one of the first of the bassist-composer’s workshop styled programmes. He felt that written music could not convey the true music of the composer as musicians would put their own invention on it. His method was to play each individual part to each musician on piano so that they fully understood the composer’s intention and would play it the way he “heard” it.
The title song was described by Mingus as a ten-minute tone poem, depicting the rise of man from his hominid roots (Pithecanthropus erectus) to an eventual downfall. A section of the piece was free improvisation, free of structure or theme.
I know that to many, Jazz is sometimes just noise but these recordings bridge the gap in some ways. There are random noises within the compositions but there is always a melody and Mingus tends to stick to chord structures.
I only discovered this album recently and I am simply astounded that it was recorded as far back as 1955. I love strange cut ups such as those one might hear from Prefuse 73 and all sorts of strnage ambient music appeals to me so to discover that these two people who I have never heard of were basically doing the same thing on what can be considered to be primative equipment 65 years ago is fantastic, and it reminds me just how much music there is still out there just waiting to be discovered.
I haven’t been able to find much information in relation to this project but what I do know is that American composer, conductor, composition teacher, and flutist Otto Luening and fellow composer Vladimir Ussachevsky helped to establish the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in the 1950’s where they created on a landmark series of collaborative compositions for magnetic tape and synthesizer, as well as works for acoustic instruments in combination with electronic sounds.
The music they created, “tape music,” was a uniquely American synthesis of the French musique concrète and the German pure electronic schools.It is a revelation to me.
I had originally discounted this album as I wrongly assumed it was included in the 1001 Albums To Hear Before You Die book. I’ve no idea why it wasn’t really, although the 50’s isn’t well represented and I can think of 30 albums that should be in there off the top of my head. Even the wikipedia page for this album is pretty short which I find suprising.
It has had various covers over the years and the one i’ve included is the one I remember seeing in family homes in the UK when I was a small boy. I’m pretty sure I played it at somebodys house back in the early 70’s and the whole thing was an energetic delight. There is more to this album than the two openers, and for many in the UK back in 1956 it was their first proper introduction to Rock and Roll. This is why I feel it is important but alos because it’s a really fun listen.
After 4 months working from home I returned to work for a day on Thursday for the first time. My office was empty and it was a peaceful and productive work day. While there I collected the four albums that had arrived from Rough Trade while I had been away. The album selections are unknown to me so I find out what they are as I open them. As things stand I’ve had a quick listen to all of them and I would say at this point that I really like one of them, the other three I’m not sure about at all, I know I wouldn’t have bought them if I was browsing at a store or online, but this is the music discovery aspect of the monthly subscription to Rough Trade.
Briefly, these are the 4 albums I received.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy
Dream Wife – So When You Gonna…
Ben Lukas Boysen – Mirage
This was the one I liked, the others may well grow on me, we’ll see.
This album from Sarah Vaughan is one of those albums where everything is just right, nothing seems out of place and it feels effortlessly crafted. Enhanced by the excellent trumpet playing of Clifford Brown each song follows into the next to create a wonderful atmosphere of late night jazz clubs.
Though it was not entirely without criticism on its release I really can’t see that any of the criticism was really deserved and it’s critical reception upon release was overwhelmingly poitive. A contemporaneous review in the music magazine Metronome lamented that “Sarah sounds like an imitation of herself, sloppy, affected and so concerned with sound that she forgets that she is a singer, forgets the lyric of the song itself to indulge in sounds that are meaningless.” To which I say, that’s bollocks.
Welcome to the oddness of Alt-folk and the world of Moondog. Louis Thomas Hardin, also known as Moondog, was an American musician, composer, theoretician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments. He was blind from the age of 16.
Hardin lived in New York City from the late 1940s until 1972, and during this time he could often be found on 6th Avenue, between 52nd and 55th Streets, wearing a cloak and a horned helmet sometimes busking or selling music, but often just standing silently on the sidewalk. He was widely recognized as “the Viking of 6th Avenue” by thousands of passersby and residents who were not aware of his musical career.
Moondog’s music from the 1940s and 1950s is said to have been a strong influence on many early minimalist composers. Philip Glass has written that he and Steve Reich took Moondog’s work “very seriously and understood and appreciated it much more than what we were exposed to at Juilliard”
When listening to this album today, it does not feel the weight of its almost 70 years at all and it doesn’t seem to me to fit in the decade at all. It still seems a little out there so in the 50’s it must have been almost copmpletly alien to most. It is a very short album at 28 minutes but this may have been as it was originally released as a 10“ rather than an LP (I haven’t checked this but it makes sense) and of the tracks on it, I would highly reccomend The whole of Suite No.1 and Suite No.2
It may seem odd to say it, but Black Coffee by Peggy Lee is a collection of songs that sound exactly as you would expect them to sound, which is exactly as they should sound. The mid fifties are preserved in amber in these songs that seem to contain the wholesome ideolised american dream and a hint of the reality of the seediness that existed but was hidden beneath the shimmering sheen presented to the world. America in the fifties was not the wholesome soda fountain world it now seems to be fondly remembered as the problems that still exist today where even deeper seated then and not even seen as being a problem.
I have always thought of Peggy Lee as being old but she was 33 at the time of recording this album, 20 years younger than I am today and when I clear my own misguided pre-conceptions and listen to the songs as though it were a woman in her thirties singing them it all makes much more sense to me. This was her first album, having previously been part of the Benny Goodman Orchestr since 1941 and, as was the standard practice at the time, the songs are all written by somebody else, often having already been performed on record by many other artist with the Cole Porter song ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ being a good example.
interestingly, to me at least, Joni Mitchell declared the album one of her favorites, leading off her torch song album of 2000, Both Sides Now, with her version of Black Coffee.
What is certaibnly true is that there is much more to Lee than just the song Fever!
The Anthology of American Folk Music is a six-album compilation released in 1952 by Folkways Records comprising eighty-four American folk, blues and country music recordings that were originally issued from 1926 to 1933. Experimental film maker Harry Smith compiled the music from his personal collection of 78 rpm records. He had begun collecting these records around 1940 when many Americans considered 78’s almost disposable and his collection grew to around 7000 recordings which he felt should be preserved and curated.
As the rights to the recordings were held by many different record labels, many of whom were still in existence, the 1952 release was, technically, a bootleg and it was not until a re-issue in 1977 that all the rights were obtained by Folkways.
The music on the compilation is generally thought to have been enormously influential on the folk & blues revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and brought the works of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Dick Justice and many others to the attention of musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. The “Harry Smith Anthology,” as some call it, was the bible of folk music during the late 1950s and early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene.
Moving forward from there, all the artists influenced by Dylan etc. and the artists they subsequently influenced can be traced back to some of the songs in this collection, which is one of the reasons they are so important. They are also offer an alternative snapshot of a place and time where history was usually written from a white perspective.
Ritual of the Savage is an album by American composer Les Baxter, released in 1951 often cited as one of the most important exotica albums. The album features lush orchestral arrangements along with tribal rhythms and offered such classics as “Quiet Village”, “Jungle River Boat”, “Love Dance”, and “Stone God.”
Nowadays there may be some who would have issues with the general concept, which is understandable, the world has in many ways changed since 1951, and, unfortunatly in many ways hasn’t
Baxter described the album as a “tone poem of the sound and the struggle of the jungle.”The album’s liner notes requested the listener to imagine themselves transported to a tropical land. “Do the mysteries of native rituals intrigue you…does the haunting beat of savage drums fascinate you? Are you captivated by the forbidden ceremonies of primitive peoples in far-off Africa or deep in the interior of the Belgian Congo?”
So this is probabaly a rather leftfield choice and a difficult album to kick proceedings off with as parts of it sound rather odd 70 years after it’s release, but odd in a rather brilliant way. Voice of the Xtabay is the first studio album by Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac, released in 1950 by Capitol Records and produced and composed by Les Baxter, along with Moisés Vivanco (whom she later married I believe, then divorced when he sired twins with another partner then remarried and subsequently divorced) and John Rose. Sumac sings magnificently on the album, accompanied by ethnic percussion and musical variations influenced by the music of Peru.
Sumac’s vocal range of 5 octaves (some say 4 1/2) is quite startling at times, particularly when in the high register, the control she has over that voice is amazing as she moves from baritone to whistle register.
The more I listen th this album, and others of hers, the more I like them. I’ve only very recently discovered her work and amd very pleased that I did so.
Over a whatsapp video call, David showed me a new CD he had bought, I nodded politely as though I recognised the band and knew all about them and we moved on to the next one of three. The album was Black Pumas by Black Pumas and I thought little more of it until the very next day I somehow found myself in a record store for the first time in months since the lockdown started. I didn’t really have anything in mind to buy and was browsing around when I stumbled upon a vinyl copy of the album. I bought it, unheard, on a sort of recommendation by David. I think if I had gone to the store with a purpose, looking for something specific, I probably wouldn’t have, but apart from the recommendation it was on a nice splatter vinyl and came with a bonus CD, also it wasn’t particularly expensive.
I’ve played it several times since then and really do rather like it. If you haven’t heard them yet here is their track ‘Colours’ (which I’ve spelt correctly) for you to have a listen to before I go on:
So who are they? They are singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada who got together in 2017 and released their debut album, Black Pumas, on June 21, 2019. They performed at South by Southwest in 2019 and won a best new band trophy at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. On November 20, 2019, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. That’s quite a start.
Black Pumas performed “Colors” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! following their network TV debut on CBS This Morning along with a taping on season 45 of Austin City Limits. The band’s single “Colors” later reached number one on AAA radio. The single has been streamed over 60 million times across all platforms. Meanwhile, the official live video of “Colors” has been viewed over 25 million times on YouTube. Despite all this, nobody has pointed out that Colours has a U in it.
In their hometown of Austin, Texas, Black Pumas became the first band to sell out four consecutive shows at Stubbs, one of the city’s live venues, and on May 7, 2020, mayor Steve Adler proclaimed the date as Black Pumas Day.
The whole album is consistently good and doesn’t step outside it’s aesthtic with the production staying true troughout to a sort of modern 70’s feel that has been quite popular of late.
This is roughly what the vinyl looks like, not my picture but my copy is pretty similar:
Black Moon Rising
Know You Better
Touch The Sky
Black Moon Rising
I’ve yet to listen to the bonus CD, I’m not sure if they are demos or live or something else. I just checked, it’s a live session. SO that’s something to look forward to.
Shortly before Lockdown I saw a copy of ‘Inventions For Electric Guitar’ in my local record store and completely ignored it as, based on the cover, it was probabaly not my thing at all, soI flicked past it and pretty much forgot about it. Then, about a month ago I was reading an article on Krautrock and I realised that he was from Ash Ra Temple, which made me listen to them and then try and find this album on spotify and, to my suprise, it wasn’t there. I did find it on youtube and have put it down below if you would like a listen.
Although it is a solo album and all the instruments (Guitar) are played by Göttsching it was originally subtittled Ash Ra Tempel VI, technically making it the sixth and final album under the Ash Ra Tempel name.
Göttsching started his career in music at a young age, with various Berlin pop and blues bands in the late-1960’s, including the Steeple Chase Bluesband. He was the mainstay of Ash Ra Tempel and Ashra, and also worked with The Cosmic Jokers, and other Kosmische Kuriere projects. Later he established a project together with Michael Hoenig, and on numerous occasions he also played as a guest/collaborator along with Klaus Schulze.
I like repetitive music that I can get lost in, I also like complex music, this album is both, and at times it can get pretty heavy. I can identify with it too as I released a couple of albums of my own that utilised only one guitar and it is difficult to differentiate the tones and sounds when you have only a single instrument. While Manuel was decades before me and is much better at it than I could ever be, I’m going to put a track called ‘Firefly Dance’ from the album ‘Massive’ that was recorded using only one guitar and nothing else.
I get a lot of inspiration from artists like Göttsching and whenever I listen back to tracks I’ve done in the past I get the urge to set all the gear up again and have another go, then something mundane happens, like needing to take the recycling out, and that urge fades as quickly as it arrived, but maybe, one of these days, I will inflict further noise pollution on a world that really already has enough, the only thing I really need, is time.
I played my copy of Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan at the weekend and it had one of those inner sleeves that advertises other albums, that I like. I knew most of the artists on it, although there were a couple I didn’t know and some I don’t remember listening to ever, even though I knew of them.
Here are the inner sleeves:
I find these really interesting and I do wish that it was still a thing, or more of a thing as it does happen occasionally. It’s a good way to find other music that one might normally overlook. For my own listening pleasure I made a playlist of the artists on the inner sleeve, which you can listen to if you wish, although it is ‘Old Timey’ music.
I would also like to point out how far ahead of his time Dylan was. As far back as 1969 he included a youtube play button on the album cover which is extraordinary foresight.
Due to the global pandemic RSD 2020 was put on hold and re-designed so that instead of a single day there will be three ‘Drops’ over a period of three months begining in August. From a budgeting perspective this is actually rather advantageous and probabaly good for the stores as well, however, the majority of items will be on the first drop with the next two being mini drops really.
A full list of what is being released is available HERE but I am just going to talk about the records I’m interested in picking up. So, starting with August:
The Amorphous Androgynous – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
This is a project involving The Future Sound of London, who seem to always have something out for RSD recenty, and appear futher down. Not 100% on this one, it depends very much on the price.
Asha Puthli – Asha Puthli
I’ve been listening to this on Spotify and I really liked it so if I see a copy I will give serious consideration to picking it up.
The Cure – Bloodflowers
One to add to my very slowly expanding Cure collection. I think Disintergration was around where I stopped listening to new cure releases as much so anything after that is sort of new to me, which is nice.
Future Sound Of London – Cascade 2020
I already have the original 1993 release but this is a 2020 update, much as they previously did with Yage and My Kingdom.
Gary Numan with The Skaparis Orchestra – When the Sky Came Down (Live at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester)
I like GN and this seemed interesting, again, price will be the decider.
Gorillaz – D-Sides & G-Sides
So this is 2 albums and I’m on the fence, I suspect they will be £50 for the two, which is probabaly more than I want to pay.
Holger Czukay, Jaki Liebezeit, Jah Wobble – A Full Circle
If I see it and I have money left to spend then I’ll get it.
Ennio Morricone – Peur Sur La Ville OST
RSD Morricone releases have been very overpriced in my view, single albums being in the £38 range ( and then often discounted months later into the mid twenties, where thwy should have been in the first place).
I have had an entire movie going around and around in my head today, which is where it should stay as in there it is epic but if I wrote it down it would probably not be. One thing I did do was include, in my head, various bits of soundtrack, snippets from longer songs to help create atmosphere for the scenes appearing in my head. Then I made a playlist of them, which is below.
1967 was probabaly the greatest year ever, mainly because it was the year I came into this world. As a result of being 0 years old I don’t remember any of these at the time but so many of them have endured over the years that it doesn’t matter that much. As with all my lists they are my opinion and there are no doubt records missing that you may think should be included, if so please do say so, I may have just forgotten them. Let’s go.
30 – A Fistful of Dollars – Ennio Morricone
Well, I love the films, I love the music, iconic as it is and I love the composer so this was a must for me. Growing up in the 70’s these spaghetti westerns were the big Saturday night films that were on TV and were an event. We would have a bag of sweets and some pop and settle in for the film. Of course, back then I had no clue about Morricone but that’s probabaly for the best. I loved everything about the movies.
29 – Disraeli Gears – Cream
I know that many people would excpect this to be listed much higher up but it was a record I never quite managed to conect with. Other than the first two tracks I don’t have that much interest in it, and ‘Sunshine of your Love’ I know mostly from Hendrix playing it. Truth is I’m not the biggest Clapton fan and often wonder what all the fuss was/is about, not that I can’t appreciate what he has done I just don’t see it as earth shattering stuff.
28 – Straight, No Chaser – Thelonius Monk
Well I do love a bit of Jazz and I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of this for a while, perhaps now I actualy will. The album was recorded in New York City on November 14/15, 1966 & January 10, 1967 with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass) & Ben Riley(drums). I don’t think it is a particularly well known release from Monk, but it is well worth a listen.
27 – Scott – Scott Walker
I have always found the music of Scott Walker to be old fashioned, a throwback even, but I’ve recently been viewing that more as a positive than a negative and this album has grown on me with repeated listens. The music is beautifully produced and delivered. It makes me think that this is where Divine Comedy came from.
26 – Sings the Blues – Nina Simone
A brilliant album, of course it is, it’s Nina Simone, but in the context of 1967 there are many others that best represent the year and she had performed and released a number of these tracks before.
25 – Wave – Antonio Carlos Joabim
By the time this album was released, Antonio Carlos Jobim was already an international superstar. Having recently won a Grammy (1965) for “The Girl From Ipanema”, by 1967 all the big name stars from up north were breaking down his door to work with the new “Gershwin of Brazil.” In fact, Jobim had just finished working on an album with Frank Sinatra when he went into the studio to record this album. Recorded in 1967, Wave is actually one of the lesser known masterpieces of Brazilian music, and undoubtedly one of Jobim’s greatest. Here Jobim and the great Claus Ogerman lead a top-flight cast on hidden classics like Batidinha, Triste and Wave.
24 – Big Brother & The Holding Company – Big Brother & the Holding Company
Recorded in three days in mid-December of 1966 on a shoestring budget in Los Angeles at United Studios, Big Brother & The Holding Company has a sincere garage band simplicity that pervades the entire album and gives it a certain do-it-yourself sincerity not found on breakthrough release Cheap Thrills. Later releases added “Featuring Janis Joplin” but at this point they were a band and she was yet to be the superstar she was to become.
23 – Their Satanic Majesties Request – The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards probabaly said it best, ““none of us wanted to make [Satanic Majesties], but it was time for another Stones album, and Sgt. Pepper’s was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on”
22 – Goodbye And Hello -Tim Buckley
I’m sure many people discovered Tim Buckley via Jeff, I didn’t, I discovered him through This Mortal Coil who covered ‘Song to the SIren’ with Elizabeth Fraser on vocals back in 1984. The Buckley album that was taken from was ‘Starsailor’ released in 1970. This album, his second, is less folkey I suppose but contains some great tracks such as ‘Pleasant Street’, which you can hear beow.
21 – Days Of Future Passed – The Moody Blues
Yes, it’s the one with ‘Nights in White Satin’ on it, ‘Days of Future’ Passed is their second album and first concept album it is a fusion of orchestral and rock elements and has been cited as one of the first examples of progressive rock. I’d never listened to it all the way through before, it’s pretty good.
20 – Easter Everywhere – 13th Floor Elevators
Hailing from Austin, Texas, the members of 13th Floor Elevators were quite possibly the first artists to describe their music as psychedelic. Their lyrics and sleeve notes openly and religiously endorsed the use of drugs (particularly LSD) to alter human consciousness for the better. I first came acccross them via the B-Side of ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ by Julian Cope, where he does a cover of the song ‘I’ve Got Levitation’.
19 – Smiley Smile – The Beach Boys
Following Pet Sounds, group songwriter and producer Brian Wilson attempted a more light-hearted approach for Smile, an album that was to be released in 1967, but instead would sit on the shelf for over 40 years, to eventually become The Beach Boys’ first Grammy-winning project as a box set. The grandiose productions of both Pet Sounds and Smile began to seem extraneous to Brian Wilson at the time, and despite the lead single, ‘Good Vibrations’, being the biggest hit in the band’s oeuvre, Wilson left its production ethic behind and moved toward minimalism in order to finish what would become Smiley Smile.
18 – Songs Of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen
Having just re-listened to this album I feel that I probabaly should have put it a little higher, songs like ‘Sisters Of Mercy’, ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So long, Marianne” really stand out, ahh well, maybe ill change it later when nobody is looking.
17 – Soul Men – Sam & Dave
I would expect almost everybody to know the track ‘Soul Man’ but there is more here than just the one song. With the help of Isaac Hayes and Booker T and the M.G.s here is an absolute scorcher of a record.
16 – Bee Gees – 1st Bee Gees
Long before the disco hits of Saturday Night Fever the Bee Gees were no strangers to the charts, although to be honest, before 1977 I’d never heard of them. Apparently, when played on US radio they were repeatedly mistaken for The Beatles, which is understandable I guess. I really enjoyed the songs on this album.
15 – John Wesley Harding – Bob Dylan
Tricky one this as on some days it would most likely be higher up, it does have I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, All Along The Watchtower and The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, I’m slightly regretting my decision.
14 – Miles Smiles – Miles Davis
At this point in his career, Davis had been through his number of hardships, from overcoming a destructive heroin addiction, to encountering the brutal effects of racism on the American music industry, to undergoing larynx surgery that left him with his characteristic raspy voice. Miles’ “prince of darkness” persona—his quick temper, his quiet intensity, his perceived existential aloofness—was perhaps a psychological defence mechanism to combat the plethora of troubles in his life.
The quintet embraced the liberating principles of post-bop, a subgenre that featured the virtuosity of bebop, the independence of free jazz and the unwavering commitment to rhythmic and melodic development that runs throughout the many tributaries of the music. It is quite an uplifting album.
13 – Strange Days – The Doors
The second studio album from The Doors that spawned two hit singles, ‘People Are Strange’ and ‘Love Me Two Times’. The album received high praise from the rock press but the listening public was not quite as convinced, particularly in the UK where the album was largely ignored. It is a consistently good set of songs, except ‘Horse Latitudes’ which is shit.
12 – Buffalo Springfield Again – Buffalo Springfield
This, their 2nd release, took notably longer to record than their debut, not least because Neil Young had quit and rejoined the group on several occasions, notably absent for the band’s appearance at the famed Monterey Pop Festival where David Crosby substituted in his place at the request of guitarist Stephen Stills. If you’ve never heard the albums opening track ‘Mr. Soul’ give it a listen and tell me if it reminds you of any other song (that was released the following year).
11 – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – Pink Floyd
There was a period in time when I couldn’t reconcile early Pink Floyd with later Pink Floyd and I do still tens to think of them as two different groups, although their earlier incarnation was necessary to inform what came later. Nowadays I really rather like all the experimental weirdness they were putting out, it is of its time, but that’s a good thing.
10 – Forever Changes – Love
when I first heard ‘Alone Again, Or’ I didn’t realise I’d heard it before or where I’d heard it, but I most certainly had. maybe it was on the radio as we drove through the valleys and across the mountains of Wales, but somewhere in my head it has sat waiting for me to find it again. Nowadays the album is lauded as one of the most perfect and influential albums of all-time, however, on its release it was a flop. Part of the reason for this may be that it is at times a little odd and it doesn’t really fit in with the other music that was being created in 60’s California.
Oh, the snot has caked against my pants It has turned into crystal There’s a bluebird sitting on a branch I guess I’ll take my pistol I’ve got it in my hand Because he’s on my land
(From ‘Live and Let Live)
9 – Absolutely Free – The Mothers of Invention
More weirdness and an acquired taste. Usually, when Frank Zappa was involved the resulting music was at the very least left of centre and sometimes so far left it was right. The music is often complex but still rooted in R&B and the subject matter political and humorous at times. It’s good to be different.
8 – Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane
This album is so evocative of the time period that it had to be here, but not only becasue of that, but because it has really great songs from the well known ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ to the instrumental ‘Embryonic Jorney’, which has some really lovely guitar playing. and the blues of ‘In The Morning’. With different vocalists and styles it is a bit all over the place, but better for it.
7 – London Conversation – John Martyn
The first release from one of my faviourite artists ever and becasue it led to so many, many good later releases I have it here becasue I can, although it is still a good album. Folkier than later releases and with a cleaner vocal that pre-dates the more slurred later performances, it shows where he came from, but not really where he was going.
6 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
This may well be a contentious placing for some people, however, while I appreciate the importance of the album, I don’t like all of it. ‘When I’m Sixty Four and ‘Lovely Rita’ I can do without and I’m not that keen on ‘Getting Better’ or ‘Fixing a hole’ and don’t like their version of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ (I like Joe Cockers version better). I did put it at number 1 initially, because everybody does but then I got to thinking about which albums I would actually sit down and listen to, all they way through, and moved this down a few places becasue I never listen to it all the way through.
5 – Axis: Bold As Love – Jimi Hendrix Experience
The second album from Hendrix, and the second in the same year. He had a little more time to craft his own songs for this album but still much of the soloing was all first take. Songs like ‘Little Wing’ are beautifully crafted, ‘Castles Made of Sand’, ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ and ‘If 6 were 9’ are fablous tracks and the consistency of the entire album is good from staert to finish.
4 – Velvet Underground And Nico – The Velvet Underground
When I listen to this album it almost always comes as a suprise that there are so many tracks on it that are so very good. While I had heard many of the songs here and there it was in 1993 for what I remember as a Pireli advert, but that was actually Dunlop, where I first heard ‘Venus in Furs’ and just loved both the advert and the music, it was the weirdest advert on TV at the time and possibly ever.
Add to this the other tracks such as ‘Sunday Morning’, ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’, ‘Al Tommorrows Parties’ and more and you have a truly brillian set of songs.
3 – The Doors – The Doors
Here we are at the top 3 of 1967 and the Doors again. It used to be quite te norm to release a coupke of albums a year wheras today the money is not in pysical product so much but in playing live, at least until the current pandemic hit. Of the two album releases in ’67 it is this, the second, where I think they really it their stride with ‘Break on Through’ and ‘Light My Fire’ but add to that ‘The Crystal Ship’, ‘The End’ and the rest and you have an album that helped define the era.
2 – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Continuing the controversty, possibly, you may agree with me, but given a choice of sitting down and listening to Sgt. Peppers or Maical Mystery Tour I would choose the latter every time. There are less tracks that I would drop from the running order:
Magical Mystery Tour The Fool On The Hill Flying Blue Jay Way Your Mother Should Know I Am The Walrus Hello Goodbye Strawberry Fields Forever Penny Lane Baby You’re A Rich Man All You Need Is Love
Is it technically a soundtrack? I’m not sure but it has some of my favourite Beatles songs on it.
1 – Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Now it may be fair to say that if you aren’t a fan of Hendirx then this choice as the best album released in 1967 may not sit well with you, but I am a fan and this is a fantastic debut album, opening with ‘Foxy Lady’ and ending with the title track, everything inbetween is just brilliant, ‘Red House’, ‘Fire’, it is just, for me, the encapsulation of the music of the late 60’s.
I loved playing what I could of ‘Foxy Lady’ on the guitar, it is a joy to play and sounds great. As a guitarist who could only achieve average proficiancy there is so very much to admire in playing of Hendrix, but with the addition of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, what a three piece! An absolute powerhouse.
Here is a playlist that has a track from each of the albums above in descending order:
Quite why I start these almost impossible lists is something I probably need to speak quite earnestly to a therapist about, however, here I am, doing it again. As always it is just my opinion and sometimes I forget the odd track or two, so feel free to demand that anything I’ve excluded is included. I’m not going to write about all of them, but I will about some, just because I will have thought about something to say.
I fully appreciate the pointlessness of such lists having just listened to pretty much the entire back catalogue and again realising that I could probably choose any of 200 songs in any order and it would be just as valid, and I know the moment I finished this I got it wrong, but no matter, it is how I feel today, right now, in ten minutes or an hour it will change, but that’s OK.
40 – The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms) (Chalk Mark In a Rain Storm)
39 – Night of the Iguana (Shine)
38 – The Magdalene Laundries (Turbulent Indigo)
37 – The Last Time I Saw Richard (Travelogue version)
36 – Chelsea Morning (Clouds)
In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mitchell explained: “I wrote that in Philadelphia after some girls who worked in this club where I was playing found all this colored slag glass in an alley. We collected a lot of it and built these glass mobiles with copper wire and coat hangers. I took mine back to New York and put them in my window on West 16th Street in the Chelsea District. The sun would hit the mobile and send these moving colors all around the room. As a young girl, I found that to be a thing of beauty. There’s even a reference to the mobile in the song. It was a very young and lovely time… before I had a record deal. I think it’s a very sweet song, but I don’t think of it as part of my best work. To me, most of those early songs seem like the work of an ingenue.”
I bought a job lot of 5 Joni Mitchell albums from Ebay, one of which was Clouds and this song, track 2, was the one that grabbed me and drew me in to the album. Even songs she doesn’t think are all that good are, compared to a lot of other writers, quite wonderful.
Interesting fact, Bill and Hillary Clinton named their daughter Chelsea after this song. They got the idea for the name when they were walking through the Chelsea area of London and heard the Judy Collins version of the song. According to Hillary Clinton (stated in her book Living History), Bill said to her, “If we ever have a daughter, we should name her Chelsea.”
35 – The Boho Dance (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
Full disclosure, this is the first Joni Mitchell album I ever owned, bought when I was 16 I think, so 8 years after it was released, and I played it to death. Other than bits and pieces I heard here and there it was my proper introduction to her music and it has probably framed everything I have have listened to since. The album did not receive much acclaim upon its release (The online Rolling Stone review is particularly scathing, some reviewers did rate it highly though) but I’m happy to report that they critics who panned it are all wrong. The problem, I think, was that they wanted folky Mitchell, and this most certainly isn’t that. She was experimenting with a jazzier feel and new forms, which I happen to think she pulled off magnificently.
34 – In France they kiss on main street (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
33 – Amelia (Hejira)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it… the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”
A ghost of aviation She was swallowed by the sky Or by the sea like me she had a dream to fly Like Icarus ascending On beautiful foolish arms
32 – Man From Mars (Taming the Tiger)
This is a later album, 1998, and I don’t know it very well. All my Joni Mitchell albums are on vinyl and this was never released other than on CD and Cassette so it doesn’t get much play time but this particularly stood out for me.
I fall apart Everytime I think of you Swallowed by the dark There is no center to my life now No grace in my heart Man from Mars This time you went too far
31 – Come in from the Cold (Night Ride Home)
Another album I’m not that familiar with, from 1991, and one which I really must get a copy of. I’ve given it a good listen over the past few weeks and it was both the hook and the opening lyrics that really caught me on this track.
Back in 1957 We had to dance a foot apart And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines Holding their rulers without a heart And so with just a touch of our fingers I could make our circuitry explode All we ever wanted Was just to come in from the cold
30 – My Secret Place (Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm)
Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm is the 13th studio album, released in 1988. The album features various duets with guest artists such as Peter Gabriel on “My Secret Place”, Willie Nelson on “Cool Water”, Don Henley on “Snakes and Ladders”, Billy Idol and Tom Petty on the track “Dancin’ Clown”. Henley also performs backing vocals on “Lakota”, and Wendy and Lisa perform backing vocals on “The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)”. Obviously, I would pick the Gabriel track.
29 – Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody (Wild Things Run Fast)
There is an honesty that Mitchell sometimes conveys that, quite frankly, is painful, and it happens in this song where slipping into Unchained Melody seems the only way to end it.
Christmas is sparkling Out on Carol’s lawn This girl of my childhood games With kids nearly grown and gone Grown so fast Like the turn of a page We look like our mothers did now When we were those kids’ age Nothing lasts for long
28 – Talk to Me (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter)
So there are two reasons I love this song, one is the bass of Jaco Pastorius, the guy was quite brilliant. The second is the way that Mitchell’s opening lyrics paint such a vivid word picture, one that is, perhaps, rather unexpected.
There was a moon and a street lamp I didn’t know I drank such a lot ‘Till I pissed a tequila-anaconda The full length of the parking lot!
27- Song For Sharon (Hejira)
26 – Hejira (Hejira)
25 – Coyote (Hejira)
This song was written about the actor/writer/playwright Sam Shepard during Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Sam Shepard wrote The Rolling Thunder Logbook, which is an account of the tour.
The “woman at home” in this song is Patti Smith, who declined the invitation to join the musicians on the Rolling Thunder Revue.
I’ve included two videos as I like them both.
24 – Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
“Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow” is an acoustic guitar–based song with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, focused on women standing up to male dominance and proclaiming their own existence as individuals.
23 – The Jungle Line (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
22 – Big Yellow Taxi (Ladies of the Canyon)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.”
The line, “Took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum, charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” refers to Foster Gardens, a place in Waikiki which is basically a tree museum. It’s a huge garden full of trees so tall you feel like Alice in Wonderland.
The line, “Put away that DDT now, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees” refers to the insecticide DDT, which was used on crops. The deleterious effects of the chemical were in the news, as Americans learned that their food was being contaminated by its use – those spotless apples looked great but held hidden dangers. Also, birds were eating the insects and fish poisoned by DDT, which caused them to lay brittle eggs and put many species in danger, including the bald eagle. In 1972, DDT was banned for most uses.
The song holds a particularly poignant memory for me as it is one of three 45’s that I had as a child, left behind by my mother I think, and I would play it repeatedly. I think it was an original 1970 release with Woodstock on the B-Side.
21 – Free Man In Paris (Court & Spark)
The “Free Man” of the song is David Geffen, who was in charge of Mitchell’s record label. The song is about the pressures the music industry puts on their artists.
Mitchell and Geffen rose up the ranks together. In the late ’60s, he was establishing himself as an agent (an important early client was another mighty female songwriter: Laura Nyro) and she was making a name for herself with her music. They became good friends, and when Geffen started Asylum Records, Mitchell recorded for the label – her 1972 album For The Roses was her first on Asylum. The two confided in each other, and Geffen would often talk about the extraordinary pressures he faced as a high-powered music mogul. Mitchell wrote “Free Man in Paris” based on what he told her: Where Geffen felt most alive and unencumbered was in Paris, where nobody could call him up and ask for favours.
José Feliciano played guitar on this track. He was working on another project at the studios (A&M in Los Angeles) when he heard the song coming from Mitchell’s studio and offered to play.
20 – Same Situation (Court & Spark)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I don’t want to name names or kiss and tell, but basically it is a portrait of a Hollywood bachelor and the parade of women through his life, how he toys with yet another one. So many women have been in this position, being vulnerable at a time when you need affection or are searching for love, and you fall into the company of a Don Juan.”
19 – Help Me (Court & Spark)
In this song, Mitchell sings about a guy she’s falling in love with while at the same time knowing the relationship is doomed, as he is “a rambler and a gambler” who loves his freedom. Mitchell never revealed the identity of this person (if any – she says that not all her songs are autobiographical), but the two prime candidates would be Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, both of whom she dated in the early ’70s.
Interesting fact, Prince gave this song a shout out on his Sign O’ The Times track The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, where he sings about a tryst with a waitress who tells him it’s her favourite song.
18 – For The Roses (For the Roses)
The whole album is new to me having picked up a copy only last year, which is great for me as it is like having new material even though it is nearly 40 years old.
17 – Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire (For the Roses)
16 – Edith and the Kingpin (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
This is the song that prompted me to buy the album having heard it on The Friday Rock Show.
“Edith” in this song was inspired by the famous French singer Edith Piaf. In an interview with Mojo magazine February 2008, Joni Mitchell was discussing her songwriting: “Sometimes you write about the exact thing you saw, but other times you take something that happened over here and put it with something over there. In ‘Edith And The Kingpin,’ part of it is from a Vancouver pimp I met and part of it is Edith Piaf. It’s a hybrid, but all together it makes a whole truth.”
15 – Cactus Tree (Song to the Seagull)
“Cactus Tree” is the final song on Joni Mitchell’s debut album, Song To A Seagull. It’s about several men who are in love with a woman, with each story tied together by the common theme of the unnamed woman’s need for freedom and resistance to romantic commitment. In every case, the woman “thinks she loves them all” but ultimately is always “too busy being free.”
The song is written in the third person, but Mitchell is an autobiographical songwriter and the female subject in the song is herself. The feeling is that Mitchell is torn over her simultaneous need for love and her need for freedom, with freedom always ultimately winning out. Every verse tells the story of a lover, or an overview of several lovers, identified with archetypal personas like “a jouster and a jester and a man who owns a store.”
Mitchell has called herself a “serial monogamist.” She carried the inner tension presented in this song throughout her life.
14 – Urge for Going (B-side of the “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” )
What I find great about this clip is how the guys either side of her look blown away by Mitchells performance as though they know she has something they never will.
13 – A Case of You (Blue)
The version found on Blue features Mitchell playing Appalachian dulcimer, accompanied by James Taylor on acoustic guitar and Russ Kunkel on drums. Kunkel is widely regarded as one of the top session drummers of the 1970s.
Joni Mitchell told Robert Hilburn in a 1994 interview regarding this song: “I think men write very dishonestly about breakups. I wanted to be capable of being responsible for my own errors. If there was friction between me and another person, I wanted to be able to see my participation in it so I could see what could be changed and what could not. That is part of the pursuit of happiness. You have to pull the weeds in your soul when you are young, when they are sprouting, otherwise they will choke you.”
12 – River (Blue)
At the start of 1970, Joni Mitchell’s relationship with her boyfriend Graham Nash was crumbling. On top of this, she was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the mass adulation her recordings were receiving. The songstress needed to get away, so she took off on a trip to Europe, metaphorically skating away on a river to escape the crazy scene. While Mitchell was in Crete, she sent Nash a telegram to tell him their romance was over. On “River,” the Canadian singer gives her perspective on the doomed relationship as she yearns to escape the emotional bonds. She admits to being “hard to handle” and blames herself for losing “the best baby I ever had.”
11- Court & Spark (Court & Spark)
The title track from what I think was her most commercially succesful release.
10 – California (Blue)
In this song, Mitchell sings of going home to her beloved California. She sings as though she’s been on a long journey – and indeed, she has. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash, Mitchell hoofed her way across Europe. It was during that journey when Mitchell penned many of the songs on her Blue album.
This song, and many of the songs on this album, were inspired by the jazz style of the great Miles Davis.
9 – Blue (Blue)
The title track on Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece 1971 album, the song touches on depression, general sadness and the ways people use to escape from them told over a beautiful piano melody.
Blue Songs are like tattoos You know I’ve been to sea before Crown and anchor me Or let me sail away
Hey, blue There is a song for you Ink on a pin Underneath the skin An empty space to fill in
8 – Carey (Blue)
Carey was a real person Joni met in Matala. He had flaming red hair and often wore a turban. They met, says Mitchell, when Carey “blew out of a restaurant in Greece, literally. Kaboom! I heard, facing the sunset. I turned around and this guy is blowing out the door of this restaurant. He was a cook; he lit a gas stove and it exploded. Burned all the red hair off himself right through hiswhite Indian turban. I went, ‘That was an interesting entrance-I’ll takenote of that.'”
The following transcript of the introduction to this song that Mitchell gave during a performance at the Troubadour is on this site devoted to Crete:
“I went to Greece a couple years ago and over there I met a very unforgettable character. I have a hard time remembering people’s names, like, so I have to remember things by association, even unforgettable characters I have to remember by association, so his name was ‘Carrot’ Raditz, Carey Raditz, and oh, he’s a great character. He’s got sort of a flaming red personality, and flaming red hair and a flaming red appetite for red wine and he fancied himself to be a gourmet cook, you know, if he could be a gourmet cook in a cave in Matala. And he announced to my girlfriend and I the day that we met him that he was the best cook in the area and he actually was working at the time I met him – he was working at this place called the Delphini restaurant – until it exploded, singed half of the hair off of his beard and his legs, and scorched his turban, melted down his golden earrings.
“Anyway, one day he decided he was going to cook up a feast, you know, so we had to go to market because, like, in the village of Matala there was one woman who kind of had a monopoly – well actually there were three grocery stores, but she really had a monopoly, and because of her success and her affluence, she had the only cold storage in the village, too. So she had all the fresh vegetables and all the cold soft drinks and she could make the yogurt last a lot longer than anyone else, and we didn’t feel like giving her any business that day. Rather than giving her our business we decided to walk ten miles to the nearest market.
“So I had ruined the pair of boots that I’d brought with me from the city, because they were really ‘citified,’ kind of slick city boots that were meant to walk on flat surfaces. The first night there we drank some Raki and I tried to climb the mountain and that was the end of those shoes. So he lent me these boots of his which were like Li’l Abner boots – like those big lace-up walking boots – and a pair of Afghani socks, which made my feet all purple at the end of the day. And I laced them up around my ankles and I couldn’t touch any – the only place my foot touched was on the bottom, you know, there was nothing rubbing in the back or the sides – they were huge – and he wasn’t very tall, either, come to think of it, was kind of strange – I guess he had sort of webbed feet or something. But we started off on this long trek to the village, I forget the name of it now, between Matala and Iraklion – and started off in the cool of the morning. And by the time we got halfway there we were just sweltering, me in these thick Afghani socks and heavy woolens and everything. So we went into the ruins of King Phestos’ palace to sit down and have a little bit of a rest, and while we were there these two tourist buses pulled up and everybody got off the buses in kind of an unusual symmetry, you know, they all sort of walked alike and talked alike and they all kind of looked alike. And they all filed over to a series of rubble-y rocks- a wall that was beginning to crumble – lined themselves up in a row and took out their viewing glasses, overgrown opera glasses, and they started looking at the sky. And suddenly this little speck appeared on the horizon that came closer and closer, this little black speck.
“Carey was standing behind all of this leaning on his cane, and as it came into view he suddenly broke the silence of this big crowd and he yells out, ‘it’s ah MAAGPIE’ in his best North Carolina drawl. And suddenly all the glasses went down in symmetry and everybody’s heads turned around to reveal that they were all very birdlike looking people. They had long skinny noses – really – they had been watching birds so long that they looked like them, you know – and this one woman turned around and she says to him (in British accent) “it’s NOT a magpie – it’s a crooked crow.” Then she very slowly and distinctly turned her head back, picked up her glasses, and so did everybody else, and we kept on walking. Bought two kilos of fish which would have rotted in the cave hadn’t it been for the cats.
“When we got back from that walk, Stelios, who was the guy who ran the Mermaid Cafe, had decided to put an addition on his kitchen, which turned out to be really illegal and it was so illegal, as a matter of fact, that the Junta dragged him off to jail. And torture was legal over there – they burnt his hands and his feet with cigarette butts mainly because they hated, you know, all of the Canadians and Americans and wandering Germans living in the caves, but they couldn’t get them out of there because it was controlled by the same archaeologist that controlled the ruins of King Phestos’ palace, and he didn’t mind you living there as long as you didn’t Day-Glo all of the caves. And everyone was, like, putting all of their psychedelia over all this ancient writing. So they carted him off to jail.”
7 – The Circle Game (Ladies of the Canyon)
In this song, Mitchell tells the story of a child’s journey to adulthood, using a carousel as a metaphor for the years that go by, pointing out how we can look back, but we can’t return to our past.
The song opens with the young boy enjoying the wonder of youth, but looking forward to getting older. In the second verse, he is 16 and driving. The final verse finds him at 20, with his dreams tempered a bit, but still with high hopes for his future.
6 – Woodstock (Ladies of the Canyon)
Mitchell most likely could have, and would have, performed at Woodstock but her manager, David Geffen, made the decision that she would not join her peers on stage in Bethel, N.Y., where the officially titled Woodstock Music and Arts Fair was being held. Mitchell was booked to appear on The Dick Cavett Show the day after the festival, and Geffen took the calculated risk that it was more important for the singer-songwriter to get the exposure the popular national TV program would bring her than to sing for the hippies upstate, who might not even pay attention. Getting stuck in a traffic jam would not do her any good either, Geffen reasoned.
Geffen and Mitchell instead holed up in a hotel room in New York, watching news reports on the festival as friends like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (also Geffen clients) played to hundreds of thousands of rock fans.
After the festival, Graham Nash, involved in a romantic relationship with Mitchell at the time, excitedly regaled her with the details of the event: how it truly felt like a turning point, a sea change, how the crowd was “half a million strong and everywhere there was a song and a celebration.” Mitchell grabbed a pen and paper and started to write.
5 – My Old Man (Blue)
My old man, he’s a singer in the park He’s a walker in the rain He’s a dancer in the dark We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall Keeping us tied and true no, my old man Keeping away my blues
4 – Willy (Ladies of the Canyon)
Graham Nash, whose nickname was Willy, left his crumbling marriage, moved in with Mitchell and they lived together in her house for two years. She eventually split from him with a telegram from Greece stating, ‘If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.’
3 – Little Green (Blue)
A song to the daughter she gave up. If you do not know the story it is worth looking up and reading, it is a tragic tale that initially seemed to have a happy ending, but things started to go wrong a few years after mother and daughter were reunited.
2 – Morning Morgantown (Ladies of the Canyon)
I would very much like to give a solid and reasoned account of why this song has ended up at number 2, but I can’t. It just says something to me that I really connect with and I’m not even sure what that is, more of a feeling than anything. It may have something to do with growing up in a village and the feeling of belonging which, through circumstance, had to be left behind and was never really found again.
1 – Both Sides, Now (Clouds)
This was the first hit song written by Joni Mitchell, whose version appeared on her 1969 album Clouds. Mitchell recalled: “I was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”
Mitchell had been through a very difficult time when she wrote the lyrics. In 1965, she gave birth to a baby girl, but struggled as a single mom (the father was an old boyfriend who left soon after Mitchell got pregnant). She married a musician named Chuck Mitchell that year, but soon after the marriage, gave up the child for adoption. Soon, her marriage was on the rocks, and in 1967 they split up.
Judy Collins was the first to record the song and it provided her first hit, and also brought exposure to Mitchell. With this song Collins won the 1968 Grammy for Best Folk Performance.
This is Joni Mitchell’s most-covered song; with over 1000 versions recorded, it could be considered a standard. Some of the luminaries to record it include Frank Sinatra (on his 1968 album Cycles), Bing Crosby, and Ronan bloody Keating, a version I haven’t and won’t listen to. .
And that is my imperfect list, which I already want to change havng not included anything from Dog Eat Dog or Mingus, ah well, maybe another day I will make it top 45!