THE LAST TEN ALBUMS I LISTENED TO (Spring 2020: Volume 2)

10) Rick Nelson Garden Party (1972)

A concept LP about the joys, perils, and traps of rock stardom from a man who had seen more sides of the story than anybody but Elvis and, like Elvis, would find the road ending in the trap of an early death. I suppose it was possible in 1972, with E and Chuck Berry also back at the top of the charts, to think there would be more hit singles like the title track and ho-hum. But there weren’t and Rick doesn’t sound like someone who took his “comeback” for granted, but suspected it was only a temporary bit of well-earned good fortune. One of the first LPs I bought, because I knew I loved the hit from the radio and because it was cheap in a cutout bin: When I found out, a few years later, that Christgau had given it a B- , it was the first sign that he and I were not exactly going to get along. And it’s greater now, when it’s no longer seemly or excusable to take it for granted, than it was then.

9) Various Artists Shagger’s Delight (1981)

A fabulous collection of “beach music,” a subset of 50’s R&B and light 60’s soul that Carolina college kids turned into their own little genre in the 70’s. This is heavy on the R&B, though the real keeper is the Kingpins’ “It Won’t Be This Way Always” from the early 60’s and a bridge to the future of a lot more than beach music.

8) Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club (1985)

 

Released 20 years after Cooke’s tawdry, untimely death, this is the LP that shocked everyone who hadn’t heard his gospel music. I’d heard his gospel. I wasn’t shocked. That’s probably why, although I bought it right away, it took me a long time to hear it for what it was: A sizzling live performance in front of a sympathetic black audience by one of soul’s greatest singers and master showmen. You want to know how and why his loss was felt so deeply by so many, this is the place to start.

7) Sam Cooke The Man and His Music (1986)

Which makes this the place to finish. If I just want to sing along to some Sam Cooke, I still pull 1962’s RCA Best of. But if I want to hear as much of the whole story as I can absorb in one sitting, this double-LP is better than similar length CD-only comps. His box set doesn’t have “A  Change Is Gonna Come.” I know it was a rights issue at the time…but any journey that long has to end there. This one does….without leaving off anything from “Touch the Hem of His Garment” to “Everybody Loves to Cha, Cha, Cha,” along the way.

6)  Various Artists A History of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues: Volume 1, 1950-1958 (1987)

Ya’ll know I like the democracy of the title–“a” not “the.” And this is the cream of that very large crop even it doesn’t have Fats Domino. The sound of his piano is all over this, even if he didn’t play a lick here (and it’s possible he played any number). What more do you need than that? Heck, the way Shirley and Lee start things off, you’d be halfway through a record of crickets chirping before you noticed anyway.

5) Cyndi Lauper True Colors (1986)

The version of “Iko, Iko” from the prior LP put me in mind of Cyndi’s brilliant use of it here so I listened to the whole thing….and was again reminded that it’s fine from beginning to end. There was a weird backlash at the time because it only had three hit singles instead of the five spun off She’s So Unusual. Because she had let the Rock side down by not becoming as popular as the Dance/Hip-Hop side’s Madonna at the last minute where those sides were anything like equal. And because it wasn’t the Greatest Album of the Decade! Funny, I thought there could only be one of those. Anyway, the singles were great, including her searing version of “What’s Going On,” (best heard here) which she fashioned as an answer record to Marvin Gaye’s where anyone else with her chops would have insisted on competing…and not even the Greatest Album of the Decade had a moment to match it segueing into an “Iko, Iko” to kill and die for.

4) Jackie Wilson The Jackie Wilson Story (1983)

My God he was great…”Reet Petite” and the rest of the early Berry Gordy-penned hits, which the Boss used to start Motown, right on through to the early 70’s. This beautifully chosen 2-LP set doesn’t miss a trick or slow down. It’s all great but my favorite is Side Two which kicks off with “Baby Workout” and then turns to his fabulous straight blues singing. The teenage Al Green got kicked out of his house because he couldn’t stop listening to this and Elvis and he redeemed himself by being the only man who could live up to either.

3) Tanya Tucker Here’s Some Love (1976)

Tanya used to keep me up nights–and I mean until the sun came up–trying to figure her out. This was the LP that proved she didn’t need either Billy Sherill or Snuff Garrett to cut monster hits, her first really adult outing.  Her wild child image has been so enduring it’s easy to forget how much she contributed to the new style of Countrypolitan. This one contains a lot of hidden gems and, like many of her LPs from this period, is not on CD. Hey Bear Family, get with it. I wanna stay up all night again!

2) Gary “U.S.” Bonds Frank Guida Presents U.S. Bonds Greatest Hits (1981…I think)

If this wild ride through the swamp had been produced in New Orleans or Memphis or some other pre-qualified place it’s hard to imagine Guida, Bonds and Gene Barge not having higher profiles maybe even Hall of Fame profiles. Because it came from Norfolk, Virginia, no such luck. Too bad because it can make your day.

1) Raspberries Raspberries’ Best: Featuring Eric Carmen  (1976)

I swear I didn’t plan it this way, but this set ends where it began: with a 70’s-era concept LP about rock stardom. Only this time, it’s all about the dream of getting there, with “Overnight Sensation,” the consummate lyrical and emotional expression of the ideal, resting in the middle. It’s brilliantly programmed and every time I put it on the turntable and remember how close they came without quite making it, I have to laugh to keep from crying. Other people in my generation had “punk.” I had them. It was just enough. And this stops just short of Eric Carmen going solo and sending me into a black hole of depression!

If you want to know what it was like to live through the 70’s listen to War’s great albums If you want to know what the lost possibilities of the 70’s felt like, listen to this.

…Til next time!

2 thoughts on “THE LAST TEN ALBUMS I LISTENED TO (Spring 2020: Volume 2)

  1. The above ten certainly are a sagacious list of deserving albums. I’m not sure I have a accurately recounted my last ten, but here goes!

    Camel – The Snow Goose. A relatively unknown group on this side of the pond, but a devoted following over there. This is a beautiful instrumental album based a story for young readers. I really like it.

    Art ‘ N ‘ Zoot – The only live show these two giants of the saxophone ever performed together. Taken from concert sponsored by National Public Radio (let’s hear it for public broadcasting folks) in 1981 in LA. It was a one off and I’m glad it has been released on CD.

    Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me (from the cd Original Album Series box set). Everything that happened after the arrival of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks has overshadowed some pretty good music. I can listen to Hypnotized any time at all.

    Rock of Ages – The Band. There continues to be a fascination with a group that broke up over 40 years ago (I’m not counting the incarnation that toured sans Mr. Robertson). This is the double cd version with bonus tracks. A musical group with 4 Canadians and a guy from Arkansas has been canonized (by critics; rightly or wrongly) as the musical personification of Americana. I’m not that deep, but I like their music a lot, and this is a great live recording, with horns!

    Tony Rice – Sings Gordon Lightfoot. One of the greatest musicians I can think of, and my favourite interpretor of Gord’s material. This is a really good one folks.

    Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood – Live From Madison Square Gardens. I found this double cd at a thrift store. I didn’t even know these guys had toured together, but I’m glad they did and this recording is well worth seeking out. It’s great to hear some of those Blind Faith songs again.

    Ray Bryant – All Blues. One of my favourite pianists in a trio format. Wonderful interpretations of some blues classics.

    Rush – A Farewell To Kings (from the Sector 2 box set). 2112 is generally regarded as their breakthrough album, and this the followup. People generally love this band, or display that other emotion. I’m obviously with the former group.

    The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Tuff Enuff. Undoubtedely my fave blues band in their prime. Great rocking music from Texas. Jimmy Vaughan is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard.

    King Crimson – Discipline. Wow. I hadn’t heard this one in a while, and when I was thumbing through the record collection I put it on the turntable. Brough back some amazing memories. A killer band playing some really unique music.

    There it is!

  2. Hey Mike thanks for sharing…Keep hoping for more of that from my followers! I think between the two of us we just about covered the waterfront. Rock of
    Ages almost made my list too. I finally heard the old vinyl version about a month ago and it was so fantastic I decided to order the double cd you mention. It’s in my “stack” of stuff waiting to be heard (I’m sure you know how that goes).

    BTW sorry for the slow response. Site troubles the last few days which I hope are now cleared up., You’ve given me some good stuff to think about…I definitely will keep an eye out for the Art n Zoot cd which I wasn’t aware of at all!

    jwr

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