1001 Albums: Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

#73

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Artist: John Mayall and the Blues Breakers

Album: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

Year: 1966

Length: 37:39

Genre: Blues Rock

“You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
I’m gonna give you a love, child,
Something you’ve never known.”

So, I’m basically 95% done with this semester. Have all my exams written and just have to complete one final assignment. Decided to kick it old school and do one of my Green Screen videos again. Haven’t done one in awhile but have been wanting to, so took advantage of this assignment to finally do another. With all that mostly done and new free-time being presented to me, I hope to go back to how I was and try cranking out one post at least every two days. I think it’s fairly do-able at the moment, at least until I hit mid-terms and finals of the next semester.

So… John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. They’re not kidding when they call themselves the Blues Breakers. This is one fine blues rock album. From the very first guitar riff to the final notes, I found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my toes to some upbeat and hard rocking blues music. I am actually willing to debate that the opening notes of the opening track, “All Your Love”, is some of the most iconic and memorable openings of any song (Not the most, that award goes to Van Halen’s “Jump”, but definitely up there). Since I first heard it up to this moment that I am writing about it, it still plays clearly in my head on a constant loop. Anybody familiar with it would recognize that song instantly just from the opening riff. There’s really no low points on this album and it succeeds in keeping you engaged the whole way through. However, I should note that this is mostly thanks to Eric Clapton’s guitar playing and the actual Blues breakers themselves (but to be fair to them, they are very talented and bust their ass to give you some rocking blues).

I can back up what I said. You see, before this album was created it was originally intended to be a Live Album. John Mayall wanted to show off the energy the Blues Breakers had on stage, but specifically, he also wanted to show Eric Clapton’s skills. After a botched recording of their live show, they decided to go into the studio to record an album with the sole purpose of recreating their high energy performances but once again, focusing on Eric Clapton’s guitar playing. Why else do you think Eric Clapton gets special mention in the title of the album? This is more his album than the rest of the band’s and boy does it show. His guitar work is at the forefront of every song and he doesn’t disappoint. If their goal was to show off their energy and his talent, they succeeded tremendously. A particular high is the instrumental track “Hideaway” that just lets Clapton go all out on his own, riffing and playing to his heart’s content. This album would become highly influential mostly due to Eric Clapton’s playing, which would set a standard for the development of rock guitar playing (although we really should credit Chuck Berry for revolutionizing the rock guitar, but he’s not on this list because he was more of a singles guy, so Clapton will take the honor for it for now) and he would become one of rock history’s first Guitar Heroes (around this time graffiti was appearing everywhere on the streets calling Clapton a god).

I have quite a number of friends who actually aren’t crazy about Eric Clapton and think he’s a highly overrated guitar player. I guess I can see why. Listening to it now, he might seem a little dated and in comparison to other guitar legends who would appear on the scene after him, he does sort of pale in comparison. So, I can understand where they’re coming from. Unfortunately for them I think differently and still believe Eric Clapton can hold his own weight in guitar playing even to today’s standards.

As a whole, there are some forgettable (yet really good) songs on the album and I wouldn’t say the album itself is really top 10 material. I mean, without Clapton this album would have probably fallen into obscurity as just another ok blues rock album. (In all fairness I should be giving credit to John Mayall as well for doing solid work). Before coming into this band, Clapton was part of the Yardbirds but had to leave due to creative differences. He felt they were too pop for his tastes and wanted to tackle more blues-inspired music with a mix of hard rock. The meeting of John Mayall and Eric Clapton was a stroke of luck for the two men, who thought identically about what they wanted to do. If it weren’t for that I don’t think this album would even exist as it does. Even though the rest of the band is talented, I feel a lot of it’s success did fall on the shoulders of Eric Clapton who gave it it’s blues-inspired energy and rock infused riffs.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop mentioning that. I realise I’m repeating myself about Clapton and the band, but that’s honestly what I feel about it. So instead of repeating myself once again I’ll leave you with some of my own blues-inspired lyrics:

I got out of bed
had me some lunch
It tasted real bad
So I took a cat nap
lasted three hours
Oh, little girl
I’m sorry I missed your show
But the fact of the matter is
I never wanted to go

*Harmonica blairs, guitar explodes, everyone cries*

Song of Choice: Hideaway

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Highway 61 Revisited

#58

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Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Highway 61 Revisited

Year: 1965

Length: 51:26

Genre: Rock and Roll/Folk Rock

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone”

Driving down the highway.

Traffic stops to a crawl.

25 minute drive is now almost an hour long.

No sight of change in the conditions.

Google maps doesn’t have a quicker route.

It’s getting hot in the car.

Air conditioning blasting.

Was a looooong day, fatigue kicking in hard.

Want to get home and lie down now.

Only solace in this time of need: Bobby Dylan.

That’s right, as I was stuck in traffic after driving Sandra to the bus station, the only thing keeping me awake and sane was this album. Originally I just thought it’d be a great opportunity to continue listening to the albums on the list, for once I might actually get to sit through one in one sitting rather than multiple listens. So far, I’ve really liked Bob Dylan and have been pleasantly surprised with every album that has been thrown my way by him. Each one getting better and better. And when I thought “There’s no way he can top Bringin’ It All Back Home, along comes this one.

Is it safe to call Bob Dylan a musical genius at this point? I never use this term ever, and there was a point in my life where I avoided Bob Dylan because I thought I’d hate it so much. But I was wrong, very wrong indeed. He only seems to get better and better with time, which is an incredible feat considering he started with a high. How does he keep doing it?

One word: Evolution.

Bob Dylan doesn’t stay the same. He evolves drastically with every album, trying new things but still keeping his Bobby Dylan flair. This time he decided to take even more steps to distance himself from his folk sounding roots that made him famous and went with a full studio band to record this album. This, obviously, didn’t go well with his big fans. He was even famously booed at The Newport Folk Festival just for even daring to do something different and evolve his musical stylings. Fucking shocking, I know. I mean, how dare he try and become a better musician and do new and exciting things? He should just be stuck in one place and create the same album over and over again to please the crazy fans. I can’t imagine what would have happened to Bob Dylan if he kept producing folk albums with just him and an acoustic guitar, I feel it just wouldn’t have had the same impact. I’m sure it would have been great, but seeing how Bob Dylan was getting bored with himself, I doubt he would have gone any further if he was stuck in the same place.

Did you know that? He was actually getting fed up with himself. He was doing so many shows that he couldn’t stand listening to himself sing. He felt like he was in a sort of rut and was losing his passion for the music. Because of this he puked out a super long poem of sorts that just spewed all his feelings into words. Apparently this was enough to get him back to enjoying his music once again. He would reduce this vomit into a smaller form and it would become the first song on the album: Like a Rolling Stone. I knew I felt a sense of deeper sadness within the song that was hard to point out. At first I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or mocking people who are feeling lost. But it seems sincere was the right mood (but I wouldn’t put it by him to make fun of himself while he’s at it).

 

It seems too that Dylan had a double meaning when he came up with the title for the album. It wasn’t just his own revisiting of the famous Highway that got him back in the mood to make music but was also his way of creating a throwback to the classic Blues musicians of older days. You see, Highway 61 actually passed by the birthplaces of many famous and influential musicians including Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley and Charley Patton. It was also, famously, where Bessie Smith died in a car crash and where Robert Johnson was believed to selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads of route 49 and Highway 61. To Dylan, this was more than just revisiting a place that he felt one with and that he described as being a part of him and running through his veins, this was an ode to those musicians and their music.

That’s what he does best on this album, he blends good old blues styling with his poetic nuances and lyrical cynicism of the modern day america. This is really what sets this album apart from his previous efforts. He’s continuously trying to distance himself form his folk roots, which has alienated his fan base increasingly. But what’s great about him is he doesn’t care. He’s in it for the love of the music and doesn’t cater to what the fans want but what he feels will make him happiest. That being said, he still retains his dark sense of humour and cynical look of America as he continues to speak as the voice of the troubled youth (even if at this point he’ll never admit that’s what he’s doing). The themes of fear and anxiety of society are even grander in this album and he even gets a little more personal with it. Songs like Like A Rolling Stone, which captured his feelings of being lost at that point in time musically, and Ballad of a Thin Man, which was his response to the media’s expectations of him and not understanding who he was and what he was doing musically. Whereas before he would capture a moment in America and ramble on about the issues at hand, here we see him mixing in personal conflict in a more direct way, which not only adds an extra layer to his lyrics but also creates a sense that he is being more vulnerable than before and opening up in a bigger way. This creates music that is still protesting but a much more pure and innocent type of protest compared to his more punk attitude of earlier works.

We also find Dylan at his most incomprehensible so far. Here is the voice I knew him to have. The typical Dylan drawl that doesn’t sing but just sort of speaks with weird intonations and with a slur that makes it hard to actually understand what he’s saying half the time. The biggest show of this Dylan characteristic was most definitely his final song on the album, Desolation Row. 11 minutes of pure Bob Dylan rambling, where he stripped away the rest of the band and went for his old school-sound of pure folk. Just him and his guitar, riffing away and rambling on and on, creating a portrait of 1960’s america. Upon first listen this sounds like the most incomprehensible and non-nonsensical song ever. It’s constant references to famous figures, political and pop culture, and strung together with non-linear storytelling and often times pure non-sequiters. In the hands of anyone else this would have been terrible, random for the sake of being random, but in Bob Dylan’s hands he creates a somewhat non-sequiter masterpiece that definitely requires multiple listenings before you can even grasp what he’s getting at with it. I’m sure if I took the time to sit and really look at the lyrics, I mean take a long, hard look at them, I can take something away from it.

That’s really what’s remarkable about this album. It’s not a one-time listening album. It’s one you have to listen to multiple times to truly enjoy and get the most out of it. That’s always the sign of a great piece of art, one that gets better the more you experience it. It’s fine if you didn’t get something the first time around, you might notice something new the next time and the next and the next and hey maybe even the 20th time! That’s always a fun experience, when there’s something you’ve experienced so many damn times and you’re still experiencing new things, it’s really a magical sort of feeling. We all like that feeling of discovery, and I’m sure the next time I listen to this album (If I ever do… probably… maybe) I’m sure I’ll experience that as well.

 

Song of Choice: Tombstone Blues

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Live at the Regal

#54

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Artist: B.B. King

Album: Live at the Regal

Year: 1965

Length: 34: 46

Genre: Blues / Live

 

” So fellas…I SAID FELLAS! Fellas if you got a woman and the lady don’t do like
You think she should,
Don’t you be goin’ upside of her head now. You know what I’m talkin’ about, don’t you be
Beatin’ on her. The judgement’s much cheaper if you don’t beat her. And you see if you hurt
Her you only do one thing…I said if you hurt her you only do one thing! You make her a little
Smarter and she won’t let you catch her the next time. So the thing to do is THROW YOUR
ARMS around the pretty little thing! Now listen to me, listen to me…I don’t care if she
Weigh thirty-two and a half pounds wet or five hundred and fifty pounds on her feet. If she’s
Your lady and you dig her, than she’s your pretty little thing…AND THEN YOU TELL
HER! You say “Baby! Baby I don’t care what they say about you on the next block, your
My little lady and I dig you. Let em talk, let ’em say what they want to say””

 

Last night I saw Book of Mormon for the first time. It was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen in my life. Everything from the production to the musical numbers to the performances to the humour to the social commentary was banging on all cylinders. I was mesmerised the whole way through, on the edge of my seat, taking in every moment (which rarely happens to me, especially at shows). It really takes a lot for me to be invested in something this much, but Book of Mormon succeeded at a level I won’t even begin to try understanding.

What was truly amazing about the whole experience was the humour never distracted from the performances. It knew when to let the audience laugh and when to draw them in. Despite the content, the characters still had very real emotional moments. When Nicaragua/Neosporin/Nala, etc. has her Salt Lake City dream song moment, it is very much her strong emotional moment that she has to take the stage, and the performer did it outstandingly. Didn’t matter how dumb it was that her dream was to go to the paradise of Salt Lake City, she evoked every feeling of wanting and passion into that song that sold it the way it should have. Even Elder Price’s I Believe song, filled with tons of deliciously dumb lines that will make you laugh at this character’s blind faith, evokes that power of someone who truly believes what they’re saying, which is the perfect blend of comedy and emotional response.

Also, don’t get me going about the two best songs in the show “Hasa Diga Eebowai” and “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”. Both songs are done to perfection and go over the top enough to make you laugh and snort but still manage to be amazing pieces of orchestrated music. These songs alone were enough to get me to buy the CD. You know…

What?

What do you mean?

Oh… I’m not here to talk about Book of Mormon? Then…

oh… right… I’m here to talk about Live at the Regal

Oh.

Oh…

I’d rather talk about Book of Mormon though…

Ok… Ok… I understand… Fine…

So… Live at the Regal. B.B. King’s live album where he performed at, you guessed it, the Regal. Another live album that I couldn’t quite comprehend why I was sitting through it. I’m sure B.B. King had an extensive enough catalogue that they could have chosen any one of his albums. Maybe his other works were more single based while this one was more cohesive as a whole. I could agree with that. The album had really good flow to it, going from one song to another almost seamlessly. And it’s not because it’s a live album and that’s how live shows sound in general but because he had a really good set.

I find that’s something that some people always manage to forget talking about when it comes to live shows. A good show relies on a good set and it’s easy to just pick a ton of songs that you know the audience will love, but even harder to find a good order to your set. It’s not as much the songs you’re playing but which songs are you playing when. A good order to your set is vital to the audience’s enjoyment. You can’t just throw any old song out there to perform, there has to be a balance of varying paces and styles, there has to be a flow that works when moving form one song to another, it has to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end (but never actually have to be a story in itself, just the illusion of one). When this is done to perfection you get one hell of a concert.

I think that’s where B.B. King really shines here. He perfected his set. Knew which songs to play when and how to create a start to finish that works with his music. For the most part he’s a damn good guitar player, he sings with the emotional requirements for good blues vocals, lyrically it fits well into the genre and his backing band (which he thanks on two separate occasion for doing some damn fine work) supports him well. It’s nothing truly spectacular (although this is considered one of the greatest blues recordings ever… which I find hard to believe. I mean, it’s good, I thoroughly enjoyed it… but best? I’m sure there’s way better out there. But you know, B.B. King was one of the last greats of the old school Blues genre to leave an impact, so I guess that was factored in as a possible Farewell to an era).

Also, I’m not sure, but it seemed like this was two different sets put together as one album. I only say that because halfway through the song fades out and then he gets introduced again, as if he’s just starting, and goes on to do another set. I mean, that’s totally cool, I’m just curious if this was all on the same night and there was an intermission between both sets or was this two shows recorded to make one album? Not unheard of at all, but it says this was recorded on November 21, 1964. Only one date is given for it’s recording… so is the intermission a possibility? I’m guessing it is.

Who knows.

Song of Choice: It’s My Own Fault

-Bosco

P.s. I realise I chose an incredibly long quote this time around… whatever, fuck it.

 

 

 

1001 Albums: At Newport 1960

#29

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Artist: Muddy Waters

Album: At Newport 1960

Year: 1960

Length: 32:38

Genre: Chicago Blues/ Live

 

 

“Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you”

Once again the 1001 Album list throws a live album my way. I am still trying to figure out why they decided to include live albums and I swear I will figure it out… one day. For now it’s still speculation. Is it because they didn’t know which album to choose of that particular musician, so they chose a live album that just includes their best stuff? Is it because that particular performance was an incredible one that left a mark on music history? Was it a big moment in that musician’s career, thus being an important album for them?

… I think I may have answered my initial question because those all make sense. But why a live album over one of their studio albums? Why would this particular live album be more important to hear over any of his studio albums? I mean, if that’s the case, why didn’t they just choose the live albums of every band on this list?

Who knows… but until then I got to enjoy some Chicago Blues. I was wondering when I’d get some blues on this list, was a little disappointed with the lack of blues in the 50s, especially since both Blues and Jazz were the two big genres in the black community. But doesn’t matter because it finally arrived and what better way to experience the blues than through Muddy Waters himself. Muddy Waters a master of the blues guitar.

If you don’t believe me (I keep saying this) check it out. He plays that electric son of a bitch with so much soul that it’s as if the guitar itself is a member of the band. It’s hard to make a guitar sing, but Muddy sure knows how. I think that was part of the beauty of Blues, though. The musician didn’t just feel the emotion, he had it seep through the instrument itself. If a guitar could cry it would definitely be done in the blues. Songs usually have the power to make the listener feel emotions, but it’s not everyday that you hear the emotions being felt by the instrument itself. But when you do, it’s something quite special.

I haven’t listened to much Muddy Waters in my life, but if he’s half as good as his performance on this album than there’s no reason to not enjoy any of it. He comes across as energized and just having the time of his life (I can only speculate since it’s purely audio and I can’t actually see the performance). I would be surprised if I found out that the spectators weren’t dancing by the end of it. He starts off the set with some cooler playing but slowly builds up into a fun, upbeat performance that is hard not to get into. Although, why he did a part 1 and 2 of Got My Mojo Working is beyond me, especially since it just sounded like he played the exact same song, but a little shorter, a second time. The crowd was really loving it and he felt it would be best to play it again? I don’t know, but thankfully it kept the feeling going, so maybe Muddy knew exactly what he was doing.

I have to say, and this is an observation I’ve made, but there’s something about these black musicians. Every time I had an album by one, they always came off as really cool. The white musicians, for the most part, were great, but never cool like this. I had a conversation with a friend of mine about this and we both came to the conclusion that Black People are just inherently the coolest people ever. That seems like a bold statement, but really think about it. Think about every black person you’ve met. For the most part, they walk around with this confident swagger not seen in most people. Say what you will about their experiences with racism, but black people are amongst the most confident people I know, especially when it comes to music. Think about it, every white friend I have who does music, when asked about their projects always say “Well, I’m working on a few things at the moment. Got some ideas brewing around.” Ask your black friend and he’ll probably say “Already got me and my buddies in the studio and recorded the shit out of our newest album. check it out, here it is.” No joke. When I was in New York, strolling down the crowded streets in the main center of the city, who were the ones lining the sidewalks getting every passerby to grab their newest rap CD? That’s right, Black dudes. No white dude in sight, just a ton of black guys pushing and pushing to get everyone to grab their art. One even managed to get 50 bucks off of my friend just because he kept pushing.

I know it may seem negative, but what I’m saying is very positive. I admire that confidence and coolness they have. Heck, I wish I was that confident and cool. Who do you usually find complaining about their insecurities and being weak and fragile as people? White people. If you don’t believe me, compare a skinny white girl to a fat black chick. It makes a world of difference. I dare you to find me someone more confident than a fat, black chick, especially if she’s incredibly sassy. It’s almost impossible.

Musicians like Muddy Waters, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington are proof of that. Most musicians wish they could be as cool as they were. Heck, flash forward to 1989 and you’ll find yourself amidst Black Hip-hop groups standing together, speaking out and having their voices heard. Do you think punk groups like The Clash had the same amount of confidence that those groups had? Hell no. Took a lot of balls for NWA to start a riot about the police after strictly being told not too… by the police. All the white groups did was sort of go “Our government kind of sucks and society kind of sucks” (not giving the punk genre nearly enough credit here), doesn’t take much confidence to do that, I could do that.

Ok, so I don’t know if any of what I said really is true. But what I do know is that so far all my experiences with black people have been that they’re just really cool and confident people. This was definitely no exception to that feeling and I even found myself a little sad when the album ended, feeling it was much shorter than I expected. I found myself surprised when I realised I was on the last song, feeling like I had just zoomed right through the album. I was so immersed into the album that I was hoping there’d be way more than there was. That’s usually a good sign… time to listen to more Muddy Waters.

Song of Choice: Tiger in your Tank

-Bosco

Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco