12 hours ago
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Last night I sat down between the speakers and turned it up to pretty loud and listened to vinyl records. After 2 1/2- 3 hours, here's what I'd listened to:
Johnny Cash Original Sun Singles '55-'58. A newly restored 2-LP set that includes all of Cash's singles on Sun Records. The sound is clean and in your face. It's well worth hearing, and Cash really sounds dangerous. I listened to Folsom Prison Blues, So Doggone Lonesome, I Walk The Line, Get Rhythm, and Train Of Love. Amazingly raw.
Speaking of raw, I then segued to Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around from 2002. One of Cash's last recordings, his voice is especially ragged, and sometimes he just can't make it do the right thing. But the performance is moving, covers of popular music that Cash does surprisingly well with. I listened to The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Personal Jesus, and In My Life. Personal Jesus was the best, the old guy can't really do the other two justice. It's painful to hear him try. Or it's poignant, at least that is what some writers think.
Next up I listened to the entire Laura Nyro and Labelle Gonna Take A Miracle from 1971. This is an amazingly well recorded and produced record. Nyro, the New York singer, hit songwriter, comes to Philly to be produced by Gamble and Huff. And the famous songwriter records an entire record of covers. This shouldn't work, but with the vocal power of Patti Labelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, it can't fail. The record is all covers of fifties and sixties girl group, doo-wop and Motown classics. The vocals are magnificent, the arrangements perfect.
Next up, a change of pace to side 8 of the four-LP release of Led Zeppelin's Mothership. Zep never sounded better than on these slabs of plastic. In The Evening and All My Love from the band's later work. Gotta rock sometime.
Frank Zappa Them Or Us from 1984 is hardly my favorite Zappa LP, but it does contain one of Frank's best doo-wop efforts ever, the hilarious Be In My Video. The lyrics poke fun at rock stars, groupies, and the music biz in general (a common Zappa theme), but the vocal arrangement is at once complex doo-wop styling and giggle inducing.
Next up, The Kinks! Yes, The Beatles, The Stones, and... It should be The Kinks, and there should be no hesitation. 1969's The Kinks Arthur, Or The Rise And Fall Of The British Empire has always been a favorite, and like most of the Kinks records, is available on beautiful new vinyl. I wore mine out from 1969 a long time ago. I listened to side 1, with Victoria, Yes Sir, No Sir, Some Mother's Son, Drivin', Brainwashed, and Australia. A great album side. Australia ends the side with a great melody and lyric and a fabulous jammed-out ending that may well be the best Dave Davies guitar lead ever.
Lucinda Williams Little Honey from 2008 is a pretty good Lucinda record, and Lost Highway does a good job with the sound of this 2 LP set. I just had to hear her version of AC/DC's It's A Long Way To The Top that concludes this record. Yes, that's right, Lucinda covering AC/DC. It's a killer song, and Lucinda and band rip it up.
Side two of Elton John The Captain And The Kid from 2006. Elton's been on a roll lately, and this sequel to 1975's Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy deserves it's sequel status. It's just plain solid Elton and Bernie. Great songcraft. Nigel and Davey are still going strong, and Elton can write where he can sing. If you lost faith in Elton in the 80s and 90s, he's back.
Side 1 of The Elvin Bishop Band Rock My Soul is another old gem from 1972. Jo Baker takes lead vocals on several smoldering R&B tracks, and the crack ace band is on fire. Rock My Soul does just that, with swinging R&B. Holler And Shout has a great horn chart, Let It Shine is a gospel tinged ballad that Jo Baker sings to the ground. It's all bluesy fun.
Across The Universe from David Bowie's Young Americans 1975 has always sat well with me. Bowie lays on the, well, the Bowie thing, and turns John Lennon's classic into a slow grind. I wouldn't think that would work, either. But It does.
And finally, there's a new The Best Of Sly And The Family Stone from 1999 that adds on some of the later material that escaped the otherwise excellent 1970 Greatest Hits. If You Want Me To Stay, from 1973's Fresh, is a great Sly tune, from what is arguably his last good record. Funky as you wanna be.
And then the evening was ended. A fun romp through the stacks completed.