Content tagged 'Blues'
Black & White (Album of the Day)
Elvis Presley and Dusty Springfield both knew a good song when they heard one, and each recorded a track from Tony Joe White's 1969 debut, BLACK & WHITE. As accomplished a composer as he is, Tony Joe is also a talented performer, and it was his guitar picking and hickory-smoked vocals that made “Polk Salad Annie” - recorded 50 years ago today – a Top 10 hit. That ode to hardscrabble life in the South is joined by such other originals as “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” and “Soul Francisco” on Side 1, while the flip gives White's distinctive bayou-based treatment to covers including “Little Green Apples” and “Scratch My Back.” Roots rock champion Billy Swan produced this fine set, and Louisiana swamp music never sounded sweeter than on BLACK & WHITE.
Paradise And Lunch (Album of the Day)
Truly a musician's musician, guitarist Ry Cooder has been a bridge connecting contemporary audiences to a dizzying variety of traditional musics for almost half a century. His ongoing career includes a string of acclaimed albums for Reprise, of which PARADISE AND LUNCH was his fourth - and one of his best. Produced by Russ Titelman and Lenny Waronker, the 1974 collection touches on blues, gospel, jazz and folk, with Ry applying his distinctive stamp to such highlights as “Jesus on the Mainline,” “Tattler” and “Ditty Wah Ditty,” which features Earl “Fatha” Hines on piano. Though there are other stellar instrumentalists (including saxophonist Plas Johnson and drummer Jim Keltner) supporting the headliner's faultless fretwork, Cooder's down-home vocals are just as important to the set's soulful appeal, and PARADISE AND LUNCH is heaven for roots rock fans.
Anutha Zone (Album of the Day)
New Orleans' musical traditions run deep, and few are more steeped in them than Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John. His ability to make the traditional sound contemporary dates back to the bayou psychedelia of his debut, and is strongly evident on ANUTHA ZONE. Half the 1998 collection was recorded in New York with the performer's regular touring band, but half was cut in London with leading U.K. alternative rockers including Paul Weller, Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and members of Supergrass, Primal Scream and Portishead. The combination works remarkably well; “John Gris,” “Sweet Home New Orleans,” “Party Hellfire” and others invoke the Night Tripper voodoo that made these Brits fans in the first place. Released 20 years ago this week, ANUTHA ZONE was a striking comeback for Dr. John, and still transports listeners to spooky twilight zones.
Mourning In The Morning (Album of the Day)
Otis Rush would be a legend if only for his 1950s Cobra recordings, but the Chicago-based singer-guitarist hit a couple more peaks later in his career including MOURNING IN THE MOURNING. Recorded at Muscle Shoals' Fame Studios with Electric Flag members Nick Gravenites and Mike Bloomfield handling production chores (and providing half the songs), the 1969 Cotillion collection adds a touch of soul and rock to Rush's razor-sharp performances. Highlights include Otis' own “It Takes Time,” B.B. King cover “Gambler's Blues” and “Reap What You Sow,” one of a few tracks featuring guest guitarist Duane Allman's masterful fretwork. Largely overlooked upon original release, the album's stock has risen in the years since - MOURNING IN THE MOURNING is cause for celebration for any blues fan.
Freddie King Is A Blues Master (Mono) (Album of the Day)
Born on this day in 1934, Freddie King was nicknamed “The Texas Cannonball,” and his powerful guitar playing could certainly knock you flat. In the late 1960s, a fan and fellow musical king – King Curtis – brought Freddie into the Atlantic Records fold for a pair of fine albums. FREDDIE KING IS A BLUES MASTER is the first of these, and demonstrated that the performer's blues mastery extended to singing as well as string bending. The dozen tracks delve into deep soul on a mix of strong originals (“Play It Cool”) and well-chosen covers (Curtis Lewis' “Today I Sing The Blues”). With sax accompaniment from Curtis and piano work by James Booker complementing the axeman's explosive solos, FREDDIE KING IS A BLUES MASTER shows the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer at the top of his game.
In Person at the Whiskey A Go Go (Album of the Day)
A little over a year before his breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Otis Redding was stunning audiences on the Sunset Strip. IN PERSON AT THE WHISKY A GO GO was drawn from three April 1966 shows at the legendary nightclub, and captures the King of Soul in peak form with his regular touring band. These 10 tracks include some of the most iconic songs in Redding's repertoire - “I Can't Turn You Loose,” “Pain in My Heart,” “Mr. Pitiful” and “Respect” among them – and the singer wrings every drop of emotion from them (the intimate setting also highlights Otis' rapport with the audience; any jaded L.A. hipster who entered the club that evening surely walked out a believer). Redding was born on this day in 1941, and in his honor, we'll cue up the titanic IN PERSON AT THE WHISKY A GO GO.
Bonnie Raitt (Album of the Day)
Though the daughter of a Broadway musical star, Bonnie Raitt's heart lay with the blues, a fact made abundantly clear on her eponymous 1971 debut. The Warner Bros. collection includes material by Robert Johnson and Sippie Wallace, and harmonica great Junior Wells provides a stamp of approval by playing on several tracks. But Raitt's take on the blues is more about feel than history - her strong vocal and guitar work bring a down-home, lived-in appeal to Stephen Stills and Marvelettes songs, too. The set's immediacy is partly due to its no-frills recording (at a remote campsite on Lake Minnetonka); as the singer noted, “we recorded live on four tracks because we wanted a more spontaneous and natural feeling in the music.” BONNIE RAITT was an auspicious start to the Grammy winner's career, and we'll give it another spin now to wish her a happy 70th birthday.
Sweet Baby James (Album of the Day)
The rise of singer-songwriters in the early 1970s produced some of that decade's greatest music, and among the movement's defining albums is James Taylor's SWEET BABY JAMES. The 1970 Warner Bros. collection may not have been the performer's first, but it arrived as a breath of fresh air to listeners eager for something simple, intimate and honest. Except for a take on Stephen Foster's “Oh, Susanna,” all 11 songs are originals, and over the years several have attained classic status including “Sunny Skies,” “Country Road,” the title track and the hit “Fire And Rain,” which reached #3 on the chart (as did the album). Taylor's resonant lyrics are paired with sympathetic backing from the likes of Carole King, guitarist Danny Kortchmar and future Eagle Randy Meisner, ensuring that the Grammy-nominated SWEET BABY JAMES still sounds sweet 50 years after its release.
Big Joe Is Here (Album of the Day)
Born in 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri, Joseph Vernon Turner Jr. started singing in his teens, and his booming voice helped shape blues, swing and rock 'n' roll across the decades. While performing in New York in 1951, Big Joe Turner was recruited by the then-new Atlantic Records label, for which he cut a string of R&B hits. The 1959 collection BIG JOE IS HERE gathers some of these popular singles (“The Chill Is On,” “Don't You Cry,” “Rock A While”), but the bulk of these 10 tracks emphasize the K.C. jazz of his youth. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer passed away 31 years ago; while his powerful presence is much missed behind the microphone, these passionate sides ensure BIG JOE IS HERE whenever you hit the play button.