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Monday, December 14, 2020
My Favorite Songs of 1970
Monday, November 16, 2020
Fifty Years of Music • November, 1970
This week is a cornucopia of something old and something old as I present two playlists this week.
First, fifty years ago today is a wonderful BBC Concert with James Taylor. James has gone into his music vault and has remastered the original British television broadcast into YouTube video clips. I was impressed by the audio quality and I think you will enjoy his playlist as he has recently been releasing a song a week from the concert. So far, he has released nine videos, and don't hesitate to come back here to see if he's added a few more.
Second, is the very impressive month of album releases from November, 1970. I couldn't believe how many great albums were all released in this moment in time. I put together a playlist of seventy-two songs rather quickly as you will see I basically lifted almost all the songs from several personal favorites.
A quick story. I'm fifteen and had a bunch of kids over from my church youth group. Being painfully shy, the thought of being a host for anything was terrifying. As the kids started coming into my family room and gathering, I was flummoxed, what to do to get this thing rolling? I had recently purchased Cat Stevens' Tea For The Tillerman and quickly retrieved it from my bedroom. I put the record on my parents stereo console in the family room and took a breath. Tommy Wishard, a couple of years older than me and a star basketball player at my high school, turned to me and said, "I love this album!" The evening went well, and another day saved by rock 'n' roll, not to mention my mom's French onion dip for the chips.
So I think I have you covered this week, enjoy, stay well and mask up!
James Taylor BBC in Concert • November 16, 1970
Monday, March 30, 2020
50 Years of Music • January - March, 1970
|Simon and Garfunkel at the 1971 13th Annual Grammy Awards | Bettmann/Getty Images|
Three weeks ago, I put together a playlist of "something new" music releases from January-March, 2020 thinking that might be popular with so many people home and online. It wasn't a dud but maybe not the #ComfortSongs to go along with maybe some of the #ComfortFoods you've been wanting or having at your #StayatHome. By the way, has cooking made a comeback at your house too?
Last week, I put together the 50th anniversary of CSN&Y's Déjà vu album, and Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon, and that got a pretty good bump of blog hits coming in. With that in mind, I'll continue the "something old" theme by highlighting albums released from January - March from 1970. It's an amazing collection of albums and the number of great songs within those albums are truly impressive.
Here are a few thoughts I strung together while putting this 100+ Playlist together derived from my Wikipedia source, 1970 in music.
I'll start with the Grammy album of the year for 1970,
Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. What's not to like on this entire album. If I have to pick one to start off the playlist, I'm going with Cecilia an all-time favorite which also reminds me of a quick story growing up in a Baptist Church. I remember when Love The One You're With was a hit by Stephen Stills in late 1970 and a girl in my youth group commented to me, "I just can't stand these dirty songs like Cecilia and Love The One You're With." About a year later, I came up to her at church and said, "Guess you'll have to add Change Partners to your dirty songs list."
The Magic Christian was a February 1970 movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. The soundtrack, Magic Christian Music is by the band Badfinger and features their first big hit written and produced by Paul McCartney, Come and Get It. I thought this was going to be a quick skip-through album, but I kept saying to myself, "wait a minute, this one's good...this one's good" and so on. Like so many albums I discover fifty years after their release, Magic Christian Music's a gem from a truly great band as most people only know their hits.
Last week I watched a 2011 documentary about George Martin (the 5th Beatle) on Amazon Prime called, Produced by George Martin (link here) that I highly recommend. George Martin produced Ringo's first solo album, Sentimental Journey and the two make a great team doing a complete album of "standards" that had not had been attempted by any rock star until Ringo did it. Ringo has always been maligned by the press over the years, but now most critics say he's not only a great drummer but a very good singer to boot. Listen to Ringo sing Night and Day by Cole Porter.
When I was fifteen, I would have never have listened to Frank Sinatra's Watertown, much less Ringo's Sentimental Journey. In Watertown, Sinatra takes a 1970 ride on the singer-songwriter wave with a themed-based album. All the songs were written by the same team of Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes which is something Frank had never done before. This indeed was a risky move as Watertown was Frank's worst selling album, but the critics loved it and I think it's a wonderful album too. It's a heartbreaking tale of a wife who leaves her husband and two children searching for stardom. Make sure you listen to, The Train.
If I didn't mention the band Mountain here, I'd probably get a concerning phone call from my old friend and childhood next door neighbor Ron Zieman wondering if I lost my mind. Ron introduced me to the best "heavy" rock bands over the years starting with Cream. Felix Pappalardi who produced some of Cream's albums started Mountain with Leslie West and their first album Climbing climbed the charts with their big hit, Mississippi Queen. When the group proceeded to record "Mississippi Queen", Pappalardi insisted on numerous takes. Growing weary, Corky Laing the drummer started using the cowbell to count off the song. Pappalardi liked it so much he left it in the mix, creating the song's recognizable intro (Wikipedia). And as Christopher Walken would say, "More Cowbell."
Moondance is simply one of the greatest albums of all time. As a teenager I really didn't appreciate Van Morrison until I got to San Diego State and started rooming with my buddy Mark Hunter. Mark was from Millbrae CA, just south of San Francisco and if you're from the Bay Area you know "Van the man." Every song on this album is fantastic. In the last several years, I've really taken a deeper dive into his music and loved seeing him in Las Vegas in February. Check out Into the Mystic, this song is right up there...
The personnel on Leon Russell's debut album is largely a who's who of rock 'n' roll royalty, not to mention half of England. Again, so many great songs on this album including the all-time, "A Song for You", written by Russell, is a slow, pained plea for forgiveness and understanding from an estranged lover, the tune is one of Russell's best-known compositions. It has been performed and recorded by over 200 artists, spanning many musical genres. Elton John has called the song an American classic (Wikipedia).
I purchased Nilsson Sings Newman in a used record shop after Harry Nilsson become really famous with his 1971 album, Nilsson Schmilsson. Again, this album is filled with great songs. Both albums followed me to college and I listened to them often in my dorm room and then in a series of forgettable apartments. In fact in my first forgettable apartment, my complete stereo system was stolen (a high school graduation present) with Harry Nilsson's 1974 Pussy Cats album on the turntable. I'll never forget coming home, opening the door and seeing a large empty space where the stereo system used to be with now the Pussy Cats empty album jacket laying in its place. My first thought was F***!!!!!, then I thought, well Pussy Cats was not Harry's finest hour on vinyl. But as long as I'm talking today about great "standards" albums like Sentimental Journey and Watertown today, check out Nilsson's 1973 A Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, a classic and one of Harry's finest hours.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Van Morrison, Keep Me Singing
My first thought about writing a blog about Van Morrison was that I was not going to include, Brown Eyed Girl or Moondance in my playlist this week. The reason, most people only know these two songs because they fall into a category I wrote about in a 2015 blog called, Great Songs Ruined by Radio. But, I also realized after spending a week on this week's playlist that the average Van Morrison song is over four minutes long and that's the round peg in the square hole known as AM/FM radio programming. For example the average current 'Classic Rock' radio listener doesn't know the 1972 Van Morrison hit, Tupelo Honey" because its 6 minutes and 55 seconds long.
Van Morrison is so much more than a prolific songwriter and musician, who at 74 has released 41 studio albums! His loyal fans know him as, "Van the Man" the master of many genres. Van Morrison born in 1945 is in the sweet spot of time of being a worthy representative of the greatest generation of songwriters and performers in the history of modern music. So putting the playlist together this week was a daunting exercise, as I should have started it before last week. So, if you are a loyal fan, let's just call this, "a good start mix" of 50+ songs. I have also included this screenshot from the Van Morrison Wikipedia of his very impressive discography.
This past Saturday night, I got to see Van Morrison live for the first time at his January 31 - February 8th residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The Colosseum is a fantastic venue and I picked it especially to see my first Van Morrison concert because of the theater's outstanding acoustics. The building and the man did not disappoint, not to mention Van's outstanding band which unfortunately (and a pet peeve of mine) did not get introduced.
Van is an interesting (okay, eccentric) guy. From the show's promotional picture above, you'd think he had just come from his best friend's funeral. As his legend of fans will attest, when you go to a Van Morrison concert don't expect him to be smiling and interacting with the audience. Van is all work, and man this guy loves his work. His "Celtic Soul" is a thing of beauty to listen and watch live. Van literally takes two seconds between songs and motors through 16 songs in a hour and a half. For most artists this would normally be a two hour show. During the show, Morrison reminded me of Bob Gibson, the master on the baseball mound and one of the fastest working pitchers, moving from one pitch to the next within seconds.
In doing the playlist this week, I was struck by the YouTube comments because usually that's something best avoided by those that actually take the time to push 'thumbs down' on a song. But, the comments for Van are almost 100% positive. Van Morrison simply touches people deeply. His music has such a spiritual quality in lyric, melody and beat that people have written how a song literally saved their life during a very dark time.
Oh, and I decided to include Brown Eyed Girl and Moondance in the playlist because of course he had to include them in the show. The crowd went absolutely crazy on these two songs and on the encore, Gloria. Really what do I know, nothing... but you'll get the jazz versions here because Van's sax and voice did the soulful talking last Saturday night. Enjoy my friends!
Monday, October 16, 2017
New music July-September, 2017
Monday, December 26, 2016
My Favorite Songs of 2016
Now I don't claim to have listened to every album recorded this past year, but I've listened to at least 50+ different albums as they were either released, or started to appear on lists like Rolling Stone, etc. If you follow Monday Monday Music, you're going to get a young and old mix of rock 'n roll, Blues and Americana music, so this list should sound familiar if not flipping fantastic!
With the wonderful world of YouTube, I usually can listen (and watch) an artist's entire new album of songs. This kind of gets me back to my roots of listening to entire albums and then naturally experiencing which songs will be short or long-term favorites.
Here is my short list of my top five favorite albums of 2016.
1. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Let Me Get By
This album didn't make any music critics list that I found, so I guess I'm doing something right or at least different. Derek Trucks is my current guitar hero (Gary Clark Jr. too). I got to see Susan, Derek and their wonderful band this year in San Diego and what a show! These guys have the old school rockin' blues full sound of, shall I say, Derek and the Dominoes or a Leon Russell ensemble. I start the playlist with the 2016 Anyhow song/video from Derek Trucks and the band. I end the playlist with Derek Trucks playing with Eric Clapton in 2007 in the 2016 release of Eric Clapton Live in San Diego!
2. Mudcrutch 2
If you love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a twist of old school country rock, welcome back to 1970. Mudcrutch is the early terrible name for the original Tom Petty band before the Heartbreakers. Tom brings together the original line up with all the band members that started together in Gainesville, Florida. This is a fantastic album with the best album cover of 2016!
Also, If you love Tom Petty and are doing some holiday couch surfing, catch - Runnin' Down a Dream (4 hour Documentary) on Netflix.
3. Colvin and Earle - When two of your favorite musician's get together and make an album, you want it to be as good as this album. I wasn't disappointed and the first time I heard it, (thanks Ken Forman) I couldn't believe how all the originals and covers sounded. This is an Americana dream album made in heaven, well probably, somewhere around Tennessee.
4. Van Morrison - Keep Me Singing
Again, the first time I heard this album, I keep saying to myself, that's a really good song, hey that's a good song too, on and on. Let It Rhyme is as fine a song as Van Morrison has ever written. This album is so well-crafted as the master continues to produce a batch of fresh songs.
5. Jack White - Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016
Jack is one of those musicians that just grow on you. So what better album to get as your first Jack White than this one. I just loved how Jack White strips everything down to the raw essential heart of the matter. His song writing and playing is pure storytelling in the finest tradition. We're Going to Be Friends is in my opinion, one of the purest songs ever written and he delivers it here in singular clarity.
Go buy this album, hell go buy all five of these albums.
Okay, now that was just the warm up. From good albums, come really good songs. I've picked my favorite 50 from 2016 to share with you today.
Happy New Year!!! I'll be back in 2017 on consecutive or random Mondays, whatever strikes me to put something down in this little blog. Enjoy my friends.