Tag Archives: Greatest Hits

[15] Arthur Alexander – The Ultimate

19 Jul

I’m shocked I hadn’t encountered Arthur Alexander before.

In this career retrospective of his singles there are many things I love, all merged into one – Rock and Roll sensibilities, riveting vocals, and sometimes melancholy lyrics mixing upbeat Country with Rhythm and Blues instrumentation.

The Ultimate Arthur Alexander

The Ultimate Arthur Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander’s sound is akin to so many of the bands and artists I do know and love from the era and beyond, but with a sense that it is its own thing in itself.

The very first impression is of classic early 60s Rock and Roll records, if slightly more soulful, a little more mournful. And yes, there’s even a country twang, sometime more than just a hint. This is the retro stuff that filled the old fashioned juke box of my youth.  Yet I’ve never heard the name or voice before starting The List.

And I cannot fathom how “Shot of R & B” did not get rediscovered in the “Twist”, “Wipeout”, “Locomotion” revival of the 80s?

I love story songs, as many of these are, and Alexander’s voice is one which you can believe has lived the tales you hear. Perfect 2 and 3 minute explorations of love and loss, some of which strike painfully close to home.

There are so many fun walking bass line shuffles, honking saxophones, and riffing pianos behind the open and honest vocals. Plenty of strut and guitar picking, simple compositions all hanging on Alexander’s delivery that all adds up to bite sized bliss.

He has some Elvis Presley in his voice, and I mean this in the most flattering sense. It is a sound that crosses genres, blends lines.

I would like to have heard Patsy Cline sing some of these (like the straight Country ballad “I Hang My Head And Cry”) – in fact I am not certain she did not . . .

To the modern ear there is nothing new here. We’ve heard this all before – albeit rarely performed by a single artist – but everything is in its place, the pieces forming a pleasing whole.  There are also more than a few moments of genius and heartache.  For example, the twist of the knife in the final verse of “Anna”:

“Just one more thing, girl / Give back my ring to me
And, darling, you’ll be free / Go with him”

Ouch.

Finally, there is the human story that enhances the accomplished music – an almost star (the guy who first recorded at Muscle Shoals) rejecting the industry when true stardom didn’t come, and who late in life return to the spotlight and almost glory.

Turn it up, and file under “life ain’t fair” . . .

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 15.  7%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 15.  20%)
Recommend? Yes. (11 of 15.  73%)

Next Week:  Alice In Chains – Dirt

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[11] King Sunny Ade – Best of the Classic Years

21 Jun

This classic Juju recording is simply an all day long groove.

The Best of the Classic Years

The Best of the Classic Years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The layered percussion, the talking drums, the virtuoso steel guitar riffs all combine to have you bobbing your head and swaying your body for as long as these extended and upbeat jams are playing.

Moon categorizes this album as “World/Nigeria“, and this is consistent with how he describes the foreign recordings throughout, but this is Pop of the highest order. It is “poppy” in the sense that it is undeniably fun and accessible, as well as being “popular”, both in terms of sales and critical acclaim.

The rhythms are irresistible – hypnotic and uplifting – and evoke the heat and energy of a summer beach party as strongly as any Beach Boys record even if I don’t understand the melodic lyrics.

The fluid and technically impressive guitar work – by as many as four guitarists at a time – remind me of great rock instrumentalist like The Shadows or even Buddy Holly’s Crickets.

But it is the talking drums that anchor the rhythm and lead the tune, percussion and melody in one compact and compelling package.

The cheery, choral vocal harmonies are almost an afterthought across all of the syncopated tracks that make up the album.

In all, it feels like somebody found a way to capture effervescence on tape, to bottle fun . . .

There really is little more to say in this case. Here is an example of exactly what I was hoping to discover when I began my journey – an accomplished musician’s highly respected and massively enjoyable album that I was unaware of before cracking the spine on 1,000 Recordings.

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 11. 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (2 of 11. 18%)
Recommend?                 Yes. (7 of 11. 64%)

Next week:  Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

[1] Thank You For The Music? ABBA – Gold.

12 Apr

“I’m a Rocker / I’m a Roller too.”

So said Phil Lynott right around the time I was born, and that sounds about right to me.  Of course I’m not *just* a rock ‘n’ roller, but I think it is fair to say that Europop Discoer doesn’t make the Top 20.

Which brings me to ABBA – Gold.

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album)

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thin Lizzy doesn’t make the list, but it starts with ABBA?

When I found 1kRTHBYD, I was dreaming of nights rediscovering Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, of afternoons finally polishing up my education in jazz and blues of all flavors, and of mornings listening to old favorites with new ears.

None of which applies to ABBA.

It’s not that I *dislike* ABBA.  I’ve bopped along to “Waterloo” often enough (although I believe I first discovered the song as a 1986 cover by Doctor and the Medics).  I’ve laughed out loud as Gerry Dieffenbach used Ulveaus and Anderson as a Piano Bar punchline while belting out a truly wonderful rendition of “Dancing Queen”.  I’ve even sung “Super Trouper” karaoke . . .

But it is absolutely *not* what I had in mind when thinking of the 1,000 as a “best” or “most important” list.  I wonder if it is fate or design that has Tom Moon list them first in the book.  It has to have come up in discussion as an argument against alphabetizing the list . . .

All of which is what is going through my mind as I sit, building up the courage to start my 2 decades long journey of musical discovery.  An hour or a week listening to music I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Seems like the whole point of the excercise in hindsight.

Starting with ABBA?

Maybe Steven Tyler was right.  “Just press play . . .”

Let’s give them their due as trailblazers.  Without ABBA, it is doubtful we have such ESL acts as A-ha and Roxette, who I enjoy in a fun, throwaway pop way.  Which is, I guess the way I’ve always heard ABBA – in passing, on the radio.  What happens when I listen with a musician’s ear, view with a scholar’s eye?  I close my eyes and try to do just that.

But it turns out that it is just impossible not to sing along!  Even if the lyrics are often essentially meaningless – a case for the universality of the language of music? – you know you remember every word.

And there’s more.  When actually paying attention, the a capella harmonies that open “Take A Chance”, for example,  are . . . genius?  That is the word I land on when a band like Queen produce a similar effect.

These melodies are simple, sweeping and ludicrously infectious, the harmonies tight and sweet.  If the lyrics are  for the most part trite they are also beyond catchy.

The biggest complaint I find is that there’s no heat, no passion captured in the delivery – it’s all so clean and safe.  Which is probably one reason for the huge sales and massive following, yet I wonder whether these well crafted songs could soar with a more accomplished delivery.  Has anyone “good” ever covered “Super Trouper”?  What would Paige and Dickson have done with “Money”?

But still, an unexpected smile splits my face each time “The Winner Takes It All” kicks up a gear.  And the nostalgic sense memory that comes with the sax riffs in “Waterloo” has a power that I feel bodily.  There are reasons that these thoroughly 70s  singles still resonate, that this collection of Greatest Hits still sells.

Speaking of “Waterloo” – the Eurovision Song Contest winner that started it all for ABBA – I’ve always been a fan of saxophone in pop / rock music – it adds a certain flair and fun whether it’s a blistering solo (RIP Clarence Clemons) or, as in this debut hit that closes the first of 1,000 recordings, merely a brush of color here and there.  There should be more sax in modern mainstream music . . .

Thank You for the Music

Thank You for the Music (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

“So I say thank you for the music /
The songs I’m singing /
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing /
Who could live without it /
I ask in all honesty what would life be /
Without a song or a dance what are we?”

 

 

It’s not Sondheim, but I am happy to admit there are worse sentiments, and worse ways to spend my listening time.

Owned before blogging?  No  (0/1, 0%)
Heard before blogging?  Yes (1/1, 100%)
Recommend? A surprised Yes  (1/1, 100%)

I like statistics, so will be tracking a few of them as I make my way through the list.  If there is something else you might be interested in tracking along the way, please let me know, and I’ll see about adding it.

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