1001 Albums: Wild is the Wind

#75

Album_75_Original

Artist: Nina Simone

Album: Wild is the Wind

Year: 1966

Length: 39:08

Genre: Jazz/RnB

“You’re life itself
Like a leaf clings to a tree
Oh my darling, cling to me
For we’re creatures of the wind
And wild is the wind”

Just last week I remember thinking to myself that I kind of missed the vibe of the 50s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving all the rock music especially as it starts to get heavier and more aggressive (I’m a big fan of punk and New Wave), but I did find myself missing a little variety in the music. I didn’t think I’d find myself actually missing jazz my old friend after listening to album after album after album of jazz and jazz related music, but I kind of did. I found something soothing about moving my way through the 50s, from Sinatra’s crooning to swing and piano, Billie Holiday’s raspy singing, Ella Fitzgerald’s beautiful tunes, Sarah Vaughn’s playful jazz stylings and trumpet master Miles Davis’ melodic and soothing jazz. There really was a particular feel to the whole decade that quickly dissipated once the mid 60s hit. It’s not that I wanted to suddenly go through a series of albums that would do that, but just getting one would have been really nice.

Thankfully, just as I thought that I found myself listening to Nina Simone. The answer to my wishes. If this isn’t a throwback to the jazz vocal and songwriting styles of the 50s than I don’t know what is. It came at the perfect time too. The past week has been really rough on me mentally. With final assignments, exams and no break between both semesters at school, on top of a crazy work day sunday and barely any sleep, I have felt mentally exhausted all week and needed to take a break to rest my mind today. As I lay on my couch relaxing I had the album playing in the background and boy was it the right type of music to just lose yourself in. The simplistic arrangements, specifically asked by Nina to only be piano and bass drone, really gives for a soothing experience as every piano chord is gently played. For the most part it would have been nice to see a little variety in the album itself as most songs sounded almost exactly the same, but that being said, it did what it had to do for what I wanted and needed at that specific moment, so credit is due for the album there.

Music aside, Nina Simone really seems to shine on this album. I don’t know her or ever been exposed to her, but here she seems to be heavily inspired by the spirits of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, finding a perfect blend of both those women. She manages to sing with the soul and emotion of Billie Holiday and the elegance of Ella Fitzgerald, while still managing to hold her own. I bet those women would e proud to hear what Nina had to offer, both acting as an extension of their styles and a throwback to the women Nina clearly idolised. She manages to recreate a sense of romance in her music that never crosses the line into cheesiness. It’s pure personal emotion being evoked through song that feels like it’s really coming from deep inside her and never feels artificial or shallow. It seems this album was put together from recordings that didn’t make it onto her last album, which is good because they seemed to save the best for here.

A few of her songs would go on to be covered by the likes of David Bowie and Jeff Buckley and one of the songs would even be banned due to some of it’s lyrical content (“Four Women”), which would only help garner attention to the album than anything. if you’re looking to set the mood for a romantic evening with your loved one, this would definitely be an album to put on.

Song of Choice: Four Women

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Otis Blue

#51

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Artist: Otis Redding

Album: Otis Blue/Otis Sings Soul

Year: 1965

Length: 32:22

Genre: Soul / RnB

 

“Do me wrong, honey, if you wanna to
You can do me wrong honey, while I’m gone
But all I’m asking
Is for a little respect when I come home, ooh, yeah now”

 

Exciting news. Today I’m leaving on vacation down to Florida for a good 10/11 days. It’s a much needed vacation I feel. I’ll finally get a week to just not think about anything and just enjoy myself. The de-stressing will do me good before I make my first steps into moving to a new city. I’ll be clear-minded and ready to go fresh and relaxed.

My dad and I have made the executive decision that we’ll drive straight through. For those who don’t know, Montreal to Florida is about a 23 hour drive. No stops, except to eat and pee, we’re determined to get there and get there ASAP. No time to waste. Don’t worry, we’ll be sharing the driving duties, wouldn’t be fair for one person to take it all, especially since we’ll be driving over night.

I’m debating whether I should just keep the albums playing as I drive down, It would be a perfect ooportunity to just listen to a whole bunch in a row and get through them quickly. The only problem is I won’t be able to take the time to write about them as I drive down, leaving me backed up with a ton of posts to crank out and no way of doing it. It’ll be hard to gather my thoughts for every single album if I’ve listened to a good chunk of them in a row, but at the same time, I really just want to listen to them. Who knows, we’ll see when I get there.

So, before leaving I decided to give a listen to the next album on the list: Otis Blue (Or how I learned to stop worrying and had Otis Redding sing some soul to me). I knew of Otis before, so had an idea of what I might possibly be getting into. I wasn’t the most excited and was preparing myself for something that might have been a little underwhelming or forgettable (Solomon Burke comes to mind). I was never crazy about Otis Redding, so this was just going to be one of those albums that I get through and it’s done. Nothing to really think about, which made me nervous because that meant it’d be really difficult writing a post about.

I am so happy that I was so wrong. I did not expect what I got out of this album at all. I loved it way more than I thought I would. I loved it so much I played it a second time so my dad could listen to it with me. That’s how much I loved it.

This album is a powerhouse of an album. The backing band is filled with so much talent. I mean look at this: Booker T. and the MG’s, Issac Hayes, The Mar-keys and The Memphis Horns. They weren’t fooling around when it came to recording this. Otis Redding knew what he was doing and he was ready to put his all into this one. He was creating a record that would stand the test of time and he wanted to make sure that he delivered a soulful and ear-melting record.

He succeeded beautifully. The album is so cohesive and strong that you can’t even tell where the Originals begin and where the covers end. They’re blended together so well that it flows from one song to the other without you questioning the change and pace. He sings with so much soul on every song that the pop songs he covered (Particularly My Girl and Wonderful World) are stripped of their original pretence and changed and moulded into something that comes across as way more genuine and real. When The Temptations sang their way through My Girl, it felt cheesy and poppy, but when Otis does it it drops it down to a more realistic vibe that you believe Mr. Otis when he talks about his girl. It’s not just some idealised look at it, it’s truthful and honest.

Speaking of how strong his covers are, it actually becomes incredibly difficult to tell if he even is singing a cover or it’s an original piece of his. Every song that passed by I recognized and knew (especially since a lot of their original counterparts were sued in a lot of movies that take place in the 60s) and found myself questioning if this was the original or not. I did a little research and was surprised to find that Otis Redding is the original writer of the song Respect, which was made famous by Aretha Franklin who took it as her own and turned it into a Woman’s Anthem. I had absolutley no idea he did it first and he did it damn well (although I’ll be honest Aretha’s packs more of a punch than his. It sounds way more powerful when the woman is asking the man for respect rather than the other way around).

The one that threw me off the most was Satisfaction. When it came on and the iconic riff started to blast through my speakers, I had to do a double-take. Wait a minute… Satisfaction? But… didn’t the Rolling Stones do Satisfaction originally? Wait… was it a cover? Is this an Otis Redding Original? Are they both covers? This can’t be right. What threw me off was the time frame of it all. This album came out in 1965… I wasn’t sure when the Rolling Stones came out with it. A little research showed me that although the Rolling Stones are the original writers of the song, both versions came out so close together that people were actually accusing The Rolling Stones of taking it from Otis Redding, when the truth is the opposite. I can see why though. This cover is definitely way better than the original. I was never a fan of the original. It’s definitely the most iconic version of it, but I always found Mick Jagger’s singing to be way to cool for the subject matter he’s singing. It never felt honest. I mean, think about it… The Rolling Stones singing about not getting satisfaction? Really… you guys didn’t get any Satisfaction? You couldn’t get girls? You were paranoid about the media even though you were dominating it and setting the trends? Yeah… right. When Otis sings it he adds a whole new layer to it. I can believe he is dissatisfied with what’s going on around him and he sings with much more of a punch that adds that needed texture to the song. This was my second favourite version of Satisfaction I have heard to date (Devo’s being number 1) and I have to say Otis has tremendous talent if he makes you doubt The Rolling Stones.

All in all, I have to say this was a happy surprise for me. There wasn’t one song that fell flat for me and you can tell the time and energy was put into every single one to make sure they delivered the whole way through, instead of relying on filler to fit around they’re few singles. Any one of these could have easily been sold as a single and would have done just as well as the rest. The more I get through this list, the more I find myself loving Soul. Something about the genre just feels so great. Every singer really sings from deep within to belt out honest performances and Otis is no exception here. He really brings every song to life and adds new layers to otherwise lackluster songs, bringing them up to high standards.

Well, it’s time for me to start getting ready to head out. I still haven’t made up my mind about what I’m going to do yet in terms of the albums but I guess I’ll just play it by ear (Get it? music… listening… ears…? huh?)

Song of Choice: Satisfaction

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

# 38

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Artist: Sam Cooke

Album: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

Year: 1963

Length: 37:29

Genre: RnB Soul / Live

 

 

“Baby when the band is playin’
And that solid beat
Make you wanna move, make you wanna groove
Make you wanna pat your feet
Don’t fight it, don’t fight it, feel it.”

 

I was a little lonely for the past few days. Sandra had gone up to see her best friend in Toronto, leaving me alone with no one to annoy or bug. I mean sure I can annoy my parents, but it’s just not the same, you know? I figured I’d find ways to entertain myself while she was gone, write, read, maybe engage in conversation with other people. Lasted a day before I felt the need to bother her. With all the persistence I usually have, I downloaded about thirty pictures of Ham and Cheese sandwiches and posted every single one onto her timeline on Facebook.

Ham-cheese-ftr.jpg

mmmm… delicious.

I just wanted to share these delicious sandwiches with her, but the results were exactly what you’d expect. She was both laughing and just in utter astonishment at the ridiculousness of it all. That seems to be the emotion she has the most with me. Shaking her head in disbelief at something I’ve done, yet still finding it funny. Laughing in disbelief is what I’m looking for here. I keep her on her toes, she never knows what I’m going to do next. I know one day I might take it too far, but until then I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible.

As fun as it was, I needed to find ways to keep myself occupied and what better way than to keep listening to these albums? I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t going to to begin with, but at least it would keep me busy so I wouldn’t do something stupid again. Possibly…

I’m happy I did because I got to experience what I now consider my favourite album off the list so far (yeah, was wondering when that would change. What was the last album I said that on? Kenya? Yikes…). No joke, I fucking loved this album, every second and minute of it I was hooked. This is not what I thought would happen before going into it. In all honesty, I thought this was another live jazz album (yeah, yeah, I know it isn’t jazz at all, excuse my ignorance) and was already preparing myself for what would be thirty minutes of trying to find something to say that at least made it look like I sort of knew what I was talking about (which, let’s face it, rarely happens).

This was not the case, the complete opposite actually. My expectations took a complete 180 and completely blew me away. This album was everything a live album should be. It was raw, energized and heated. Sam Cooke delivers one of the greatest performances I have ever heard in my life. He doesn’t stop for one moment, going from one song to the next, barely taking a moment to catch his breath in between them. He exudes so much infectious energy, you can actually hear the crowd getting riled up from his performance and they can barely contain themselves. You know they’re going crazy once he busts into his twisting song “Twistin’ the Night Away”, reaching a climax that was so amazingly built up from his slower love medley, “It’s All Right/ For Sentimental Reasons”, right before.

That’s the funny thing. Even when he slows it down, it still feels energized. I can’t explain it, but throughout his whole medley, I felt out of breath even though it wasn’t a fast song at all. Somehow it was pumping me up and I felt every fibre of my body feeling it and ready to explode. It’s a little hard to explain this type of energy, but I’ll do my best. When I say energized I don’t mean in the same way that, say, speed metal is energized, fast and hyper, but in the sense that he puts his all into his performance. He doesn’t waste an ounce of his own power and keeps the turbines running on high even on a soulful song. It’s a level of intensity that he reaches that doesn’t require speed, but emotion and feeling. The same thing occurs when you’re watching a play and both actors are doing a heavily tense, dramatic moment. Nothing can be happening, but you in the audience can feel it and feel tense with them. The actors could just be standing there and looking at each other, but if they’re giving all their energy to the moment then you feel it. A low energy actor can take away all that tension and this applies to live music shows as well. There’s nothing worse than watching a band perform and they’re performing with such low energy. You can feel it and it really brings you down and takes away from the performance and the experience of watching it. Obviously, there’s exceptions (Bob Dylan is able to just sit there, chilled and still keep you engaged), but they’re really exceptions to the rule and few and far between. Sam Cooke delivers on the energy levels. I wouldn’t be surprised if he just passed out, right off stage, after this performance.

This is one high quality album, and I don’t mean in sound recording, but in performance. This has been widely considered to be one of the best live albums ever, and upon listening to it I can definitely see why. Can you believe this was almost never released? Yeah, the record label was afraid this album would tarnish his reputation… somehow. He was making a transition from gospel and soul into pop, this was one of his last ventures of his soul days and was predominantly enjoyed by black people (which I guess the label had a problem with because… of course they did it was 1963, white people wouldn’t like them black people music). Honestly, if this was how it was, I would choose to hang with the black crowd any day of the week. You can hear it on this record, they know how to fucking party. They know how to just let loose and enjoy themselves. There’s really a special feeling you get when you hear the whole crowd singing along with Sam Cooke. There’s no worries or cares, just a ton of people having the time of their lives. That’s everything you want for a concert and how it should be.

I’ve been to quite a few concerts that have had this feeling. It feels amazing to let out some stress by dancing and singing and getting pummeled in a mosh pit. I love going to concerts for this particular reason, I find it very therapeutic and it allows me to blow off some of that unnecessary steam I’ve been holding in. I always get excited when I’m on my way to a concert because I know for about four hours I’m going to be able to not be worried, not let anxiety get the best of me. I don’t have to think about my responsibilities, worries and pressures. You can just check your brain at the door and go buck wild. This is your moment, yours to just live and enjoy, even if it’s for a limited time. I always feel amazing leaving concerts because I finally feel what it’s like to just be happy. Pure happiness in all it’s glory. It truly is an amazing feeling. And as much as I can get this from all the shows I see, I feel it will never compare to how Sam Cooke’s show was back in 1963. If this recording says anything is that, and remember this does come down to personal taste and you might disagree due to many factors, this is debateably one of the greatest live shows to ever occur. If you disagree with that, at least you can’t deny that this is definitely one of the greatest performances to ever occur.

Damn it, Sam Cooke, where have you been all my life?

Song of Choice: Feel It

-Bosco

1001 Albums: Green Onions

# 32

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Artist: Booker T. and the M.G.’s

Album: Green Onions

Year: 1962

Length: 34: 55

Genre: RnB Soul

 

“Funky Soul Organ Melodies”

I’m back! After almost two weeks of not writing any posts or listening to any of the albums, I have finally returned. For the five people who read my posts I apologize for the delay and my disappearance. Can’t promise it won’t happen again. Things happen, life happens and it causes you to have to put certain things on hold (Even things you love more than anything). In this case there was a little delay with my album covers (The photoshopped ones), my buddy who does them suddenly got immensely clogged up with midterms and school and just couldn’t get around to doing them (Understandably). This was neither the break I needed nor the break I deserved. So, I decided to relieve some of his stress and let him focus his 100% on his school work and decided to take the reigns as photoshop master. That means the next batch of album covers were actually done by yours truly, sorry. But now I am back and better than ever (because I’m developing my photoshop skills). But… before I move on, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the unsung hero in my blog.

Julian.

This guy has been my buddy since we were twelve years old, met in first year of high school. Can you believe we’ve known each other for over ten years now? (Whoops my age is showing). When I first started this blog, literally right before I was going to start I had come up with the idea of photoshopping myself into every album. Great idea… but how the hell was I going to manage that when I work a full-time job? I had to do it, I couldn’t do the blog without it, I loved it too much.

In comes Julian. I knew he’d be able to do it, he had the skills and the capabilities. But would he? I pitched the idea to him, which he was reluctant to do, but we tested it out and he was in! Julian would be my photoshop master. And a master he was, cranking out every stupid, absurd idea I threw his way. He did it and delivered every single time with lightning speed and every time I was always so, so happy with the results.

If there’s ever someone I can call reliable, Julian would definitely be number 1 on my list. I mean there’s my parents too, but that just goes without saying. This dude is the most reliable and loyal person I have ever met in my life and I hope he sticks around until the end!

Thanks for all your hard work, dude!

Ok, now on to the album.

Green Onions. Fucking Green Onions, man. The name of the song is probably way more famous than the song itself (which I realise makes absolutely no sense, but let me explain). Everyone knows the name. You ask anyone if they know green onions and there’s a good chance they’ll say they do. Unless you ask my mom, then she’ll start talking about soup.

Green-Onion-Soup.jpg mmm… green onion soup.

But ask them to sing it and they might draw a blank, especially since the song doesn’t have any lyrics so that was a trick question and it was stupid of you to even ask it.

But seriously, most people I’ve talked to have all heard the song, but can’t seem to remember the melody at all. Everytime I go to sing it I struggle to remember how it goes, but I know it’s there, somewhere in the back of my head.

Ok… maybe it’s a problem I face, but my point stands. Everyone has heard about this song in some way for sure. It’s so much bigger than every song on this album that it eclipses the entire album. I didn’t even know it was part of an album and always thought it was just some stand alone single. If I had been told that I would have believed it. But nope, here it is in all it’s glory. Before starting it I was asked “How does the rest of the album stand in comparison to the title track?”. I Responded: “I don’t know, I haven’t listened to it yet.”

But now I have and can answer your question.

The album is pretty damn good. So good it came close to being my current favourite. Yeah, that hasn’t happened yet. Didn’t quite make it, but definitely in the current top 5. It’s a funky, soul-popping, dancy, cool freaking album. There’s never a low moment in it and manages to keep the listener engaged for the entire run.

What I liked, especially in comparison to the other instrumental albums I listened to, was how melodic it was. It was definitely the most out of all of them and had a catchy feel to it that can actually stick in your head. Compared to a lot of the free-form styles of previous instrumental albums, this one felt fresh. These were definitely some solid tracks that should get more recognition than they currently have, especially with the title track completely overshadowing them. Which is a real shame because they deliver on every aspect.

The tracks have a perfect blend of danceable beats (Twist and Shout), cool vibes (Green Onions) and funky chords (You can’t sit down). Just when you were relaxed, the album throws a jammin’ beat your way and you can’t help but get up and dance. You were right “You can’t sit down”, I couldn’t… mostly because I was waiting for the bus when you came on and there was nowhere to sit… but hey! I danced!

It’s really easy to see why this album was a big deal. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this played a major influence in developing the funk genre and groups like Herbie Hancock or even Earth, Wind and Fire borrowed a page from Booker T and the MG’s to create their sound. You can already hear it on this album, it may not be funk but there’s definitely funk elements to it that pioneered the would-be genre. If it didn’t pioneer it, it defintiely left an impression on the people who did.

To call this album soul is a bit of an understatement. There’s so much soul pouring out every single song that you can feel the band really connecting with not only themselves but their instruments as well. From Steve Cropper plucking away at his guitar to Al Jackson beating the drum with tremendous glee, you can see they were truly feeling the music throughout.

The real hero of the album is, of course, the organ. That freaking organ, bubbling and gurgling away, really brings the whole album together. The rest of the band is strong but it just wouldn’t be what it is without Booker T’s organ playing selling it all. The melodies he creates throughout are enough to leave a lasting impression on you. Even when he’s busting out an instrumental version of the vocal tracks from Twist and Shout ( a Beatles cover that they manage to make even more fun and danceable than the original) it really adds another level to the music itself. There’s not much else to say but damn that organ is fucking sweet.

This whole album really had a summer music feel to it for me. It’s the kind of album you play during a summer’s day as it compliments the feel to it so well. From getting up and dancing to cruising in the car with your sunglasses on because you’re a cool cat like that, to even just strutting your stuff down the street (people do that right? No… of course they don’t, but we all do it in our heads). The point is there’s a lot of warmth to this album, which is surprising seeing how damn cool it is. It’s hard not to have a swagger in your step when listening to it and even if you’re not walking, it definitely manges to have you toe-tapping.

If I had one problem with this album it was that sometimes the songs fade out way too soon. This album as a whole felt way too short. I was surprised when I saw I was on the last song and thought to myself “That’s it?”. I wanted more, way more. Even with certain songs I felt like they weren’t given enough time to truly be enjoyed. Right when you were getting into it, OH! It fades out and it’s over… what? WHY?! NO SONG COME BACK! COME BAAAAAACCCCCCCKKK!!! Thankfully every song was just as great as the last, so the feeling was there for merely seconds, but it could have been a little longer.

Just scrolled back up and saw the picture of soup… shouldn’t have done that because now I’m hungry. Did you know there’s actually a way to tell the difference between green onions and scallions? Yeah, the things you learn when searching the word green onions. Although, hat being said, the song is actually more popular than the vegetable as it appears number one on google search. That’s right, green onions the song is bigger than green onions the vegetable. Let that little tidbit keep you smiling when you’re blue.

Song of Choice: Twist and Shout

-Bosco

P.s. Here’s the link to that scallion and green onion difference thing, for your curiosity:

http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-spring-onions-scallions-and-green-onions-word-of-mouth-217111