Friday, December 16, 2011

B.B. King - Live at the Regal

Last night my son was asleep by 7:15. It was amazing. Most nights I barely have enough energy to do anything more than crash on the couch next to my wife and watch a half hour of TV before going to sleep. That's not to complain; life is good right now. But every day seems to take every ounce of energy.

Last night though, I danced as I did the dishes. I was listening to my iPod on random when "Worry, Worry" by B.B. King popped up. My hips started to sway involuntarily, my shoulders slumped, head rolled back. King's guitar put me in a trance and I was just glad I had the blinds down, because I have the dancing skills of a Peanuts character. Usually if I listen to one of the 1000 Recordings while doing dishes, I listen to classical or opera; in fact, opera while doing dishes makes the job seem so IMPORTANT! But last night I put the whole B.B. King album on and shimmied through the rest of the dishes, finishing with a flourish and a smile.

Artist: B.B. King
Album: Live at the Regal
Recording #200ish
B.B. King - Live at the Regal by recordingtherecordings on Grooveshark

When did I first hear this album? I think I must have picked it up at the library in Jacksonville way back when I first got the book. The Jacksonville library had an incredible blues CD collection, and I really realized how much the blues matched my musical tastes by perusing their shelves. I knew nothing about B.B. King before I heard him on a collection I got out from the library. In fact, when I heard the song "How Blue Can You Get," I was shocked to realize it was the sample used in Primitive Radio Gods "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Change in My Pocket" (yes, I did that title from memory-- my brother was obsessed with that song when we were kids).

When this album starts, the first thing I think is "Damn, this is sexxy!" As Moon points out in the book, the crowd goes NUTS for King. "Sweet Little Angel" actually made me blush when it came on last night-- maybe that means I have a dirty mind for thinking the song is dirty, but I don't think so. Read between the lines; that song is dirty as hell.

King's voice alone is worthy of praise, but when he picks up a guitar it's game over. The thing about rock guitar is that it impresses with its speed and seeming impossibility. Blues guitar is sneakier. King's lines are so slow and organic that they seem simple. Go ahead and try to play along with him though, because it's maddeningly hard. His guitar sounds so smooth and clean and he doesn't even play with a slide, which is just awesome. If you aren't under his spell by the end of this album, check your pulse.

Read the book entry
Buy this at Amazon

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Led Zeppelin - How the West was Won

Ah, it's good to be back. With all the time I'm spending at work plus the hectic job of having an 18-month old, it's hard to listen to much new music. I write for the covers site, so really the only new music I hear are covers; in fact, I'm introduced to a lot of new music by hearing the cover first. So lately I have been catching up on stuff I wanted to hear before the end of the year as I make my 2011 Best Albums list, which is obviously not optional. Plus, it's Christmas season, which meant that the week after Thanksgiving I had already gone through my 10 hour playlist of Christmas music. So until I listened to this album, it had been over a month since I heard an entry from the 1000 Recordings. I knew I left off on a good one, though, and was excited to get back to it.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Album: How the West was Won
Recording #492

Everyone has heard of the Zep, but hearing a bunch of songs on the radio and being familiar with their music are two different things, and in the past couple of years I have gone back and listened to all of their albums. And holy crap, these guys are awesome! I mean, you probably already knew that, but I was shocked at the songs I didn't know and how good they were. Hit after hit after hit rolls off their records. So I was really looking forward to hearing more from them.

This one doesn't disappoint. In fact, by the time you get to the guitar solo on "Heartbreaker," the third track, you should be pretty well hooked for the rest of the 3 disc live recording. I heard Kyle Gass of Tenacious D play Bach and had no idea it was referencing Page's incredible solo work (maybe it goes even farther back than that, but I don't know). The whole band sounds great on this but Page plays guitar like a god! The most interesting fact to me is that this came out in 2003-- the recordings themselves are from two shows in 1972, but this was their first official release. It hit #1, but is one of the worst selling #1 albums of all time. I guess there is some sense to this; if you were a Led Zeppelin fan you obviously would have gone out and scooped this up right away, but the wider public wouldn't necessarily continue the buying trend.

My son's favorite track is "Moby Dick," which is mostly drum solo... for NINETEEN MINUTES! But you can't argue when an 18 month old is bobbing his head and drumming on stuff-- there is something primal in that. Anyways, if you are unfamiliar with Led Zeppelin's work, start with some of the self-titled albums (IV is probably your best bet), but if you are already a bit of a fan, I think this is going to be a must-have for you. Listen to the whole thing below, and let me know your thoughts.

Read Tom's entry
Buy it at Amazon


Today I continued to spread the word about Tom's amazing book, and as I sent the link to the book's site to a coworker, I noticed there was a new post (Tom's first in over 8 months). He linked to a couple guys doing a 1000 Recordings podcast, which I had considered, but didn't really have the time or resources to pull off. It's a pretty awesome idea, and I love that it's just two music nerds talking about the albums.

It inspired me to kick start this blog, which I had abandoned due to a low hit count (wasn't sure it was worth writing when I was only getting 1 hit per article). When I pulled up my blog I noticed I had 3 new followers (thanks Dan, Hubert and Robyn!) and I thought, you know what, I just love to write about this stuff. I currently write for a great website called Cover Me, but that means all I get to write about is cover songs, and I think writing without a deadline or editor, mixing my own experiences with the music, is something I want to get back to. Sooooo... I guess what I'm saying is I'm back! A new music post will be coming soon.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Art of Evolution: Radiohead Continues to Lead the Way

Now that I am so far behind on my recording of the recordings, I realize I don't have to faithfully record them in the order I hear them. I am free to cherry pick whatever recording seems to work the best for the events of the world. For example, on Friday Radiohead released their new album, The King of Limbs, their first release since 2007's critically acclaimed In Rainbows. In fact, as they always seem to do, the band released this one with a twist-- the album was released a day early due to the fact that it was "a full moon." I won't get too into the new album except to say it's worth a listen if you have liked anything Radiohead has done since OK Computer, which is apropos considering that it's one of the 1000 Recordings.

Artist: Radiohead
Album: OK Computer
Recording #80ish

Back in 1997 I was only a few years removed from my discovery that the music I bought didn't have to come from what was being played on the radio. Experimentation was at an all-time high in my musical taste, yet somehow I missed this the first time around. Perhaps that's the reason my favorite Radiohead album is still Kid A (I understand that it is a very dangerous thing to list a favorite Radiohead album. People are as defensive about this opinion as they are about their favorite sports team or their religion. I will not defend my choice except to say that I can understand why you like better and I'm glad that works for you).

I won't get too far into reviewing this album because there are people with PhD's in Radiohead's music and a few seconds on Google will produce more than enough opinions (my friend John87 actually wrote a term paper on the discography of Radiohead about seven years ago, plus check out the Amazon stats). What I would like to say about this album is that it was the first of Radiohead's albums to really foretell their reign as rock's unlikely king. "Paranoid Android" seems as schizophrenic and dense today as it was at its release, and yet it is supremely listenable. The song takes about five unexpected right angle turns and yet the final destination still seems so obvious... once you get there. "Karma Police" was the radio favorite at the time of release, and I still don't understand how I didn't buy the album after hearing it, as "I lost myself" in it every time it came on the air. The rest of the album is full of strong tracks that take you to another world, full of darkness and beauty.

OK Computer led to Kid A, which was the real game-changer in alt-rock and it opened the door for electronic rock that actually, well, rocked. At the same time, OK's not a period piece: it truly is a great listen from start to finish. Whether it's the devastating "Exit Music (for a Film)" or the jarring riffage of "Electioneering," every note evokes distopia while sounding like paradise. And if that sounds like hyperbole, then you just haven't listened to enough Radiohead yet to appreciate it. I know after listening to the newest album I'm ready to return to the catalog and witness the evolution of music happen again.

Buy it at Amazon where you will find 2076 user reviews, 1799 of them 5-stars.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

...And We're Back

So it's been awhile since my last post. With grad school and baby duties and work I realized I just wasn't able to keep up. In fact, my obsessive desire to write about my project was slowing down the project itself. I couldn't listen to and write a post every single day, which is about how fast I was listening to the recordings. So the baby is getting bigger and (moderately) easier to take care of, grad school is out the window, and I have settled into a routine at work. The last part of the equation is that I just applied for and got a spot writing for the music blog Cover Me. I realize that if I'm spending time listening to and thinking about these recordings, I might as well keep writing about it. The problem is 156 recordings have gone by at this point since my last post. So for that reason, I'm going to make this more of a highlight reel than a play-by-play, talking about the recordings I find the most interesting. With that in mind, I will move on to the next most interesting recording:

Artist: John Coltrane
Album: Blue Train
Recording #262

I heard this recording back in August of last year. My son was only a couple of months old and my parents had just come out to visit. I remember putting this on at work and not finishing it, but when I got home I realized that it actually made great dinner music. I had heard of Coltrane, but really didn't know anything about the kind of jazz he did and I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Having recently slogging through avant garde noise entries, I found myself melting into the soothing, pulsating backbeat and stellar solos. This isn't exactly smooth jazz, but at the same time the dissonance of most of the modern jazz in this book is, thankfully, missing. I still enjoyed the next recording on the list, Coltrane's more challenging "A Love Supreme," but this just happened to be the perfect sound for a home cooked meal on a lazy summer night. If you need something sweet, but not saccharine, pick this one up.

Recordings I skipped:
#257: Joe Cocker- Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Overall impression was this sounded like a fun concert, similar to Van Morrison, had never heard him before, but I have a few songs now
#258: Codona- Codona 3: Genre hopping jazz. Free jazz to African/World. Final track is nice
#259: Leonard Cohen- Songs of Leonard Cohen: Another artist I knew a little about, but not much. Reminded me of Lou Reed and Simon & Garfunkel. Not real impressed overall
#260: Nat King Cole and His Trio- The Complete After Midnight Sessions: Very relaxed jazz, wonderful dinner/after dinner music
#261: Ornette Coleman- The Shape of Jazz to Come: Experimental, but listenable. Steady rhythm, lots of good, fast sax