Sunday, May 08, 2016

Blues Artists & The Rock Hall (Updated 2017 Eligibles)

Recent years have seen both Albert and Freddy King inducted. As well as Stevie Ray Vaughan.  But are there others?  The answer is a big yes, especially when you consider Early Influences.

So, I came up with some names that should be there.


In no particular order:

Charley Patton - He's the "Father of the Delta Blues".  So how did he slip by the Rock Hall.  An obvious choice for an Early Influence.  Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker were influenced by him.

Sonny Boy Williamson II - There were 2 Sonny Boy's, but Sonny II was the giant.  A powerful harmonica player, he also wrote and sang some of the genres greatest sides on Chess.  Another should-be Early Influence inductee.

Junior Wells - Yet another influential Harmonica player of Chicago Blues  Wells is best know for his recordings with Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters.  Could be Early Influence, but didn't his own recording stride until the mid-60's.

Son House - Along with Charley Patton, another master of Delta Blues.  His slide-guitar playing alone influenced many.  Early Influence category.

Skip James -  Another excellent guitarist whose songs have been covered by everyone from Cream to Lucinda Williams to Gregg Allman.  Not as well known as others on this list, but still a seminal Blues name.  Early Influence category.

Mississippi John Hurt -   I wouldn't call it mellow, but Hurt's Blues were not of the gut-bucket variety.  "Warmth" is the word others have used.  Couple that with the fact that he was one of the genres greatest guitar players and Hurt is a strong candidate.  Early Influence again.

Big Mama Thornton - One of the great Blues shouters who also had an influence just as Rock and Roll was at its infancy.  "Hound Dog" was her ticket, and many female Rock & Blues singers were influenced by her.   Early Influence category.

Memphis Minnie - One of the early Blues guitarists, and a pioneer in that category among many of the women who followed her.  Somewhat forgotten today, but she was a popular presence throughout her life.  Early Influence category.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Probably more Gospel than Blues, but she did cut some records in the latter category.  Regardless, she's one of the best vocalists and guitarists from the early years of Blues and Gospel.

Blind Willie Johnson - Often called the most powerful Gospel meets Blues artist. Rough voice added to the drama of his best records.  He was also one of the genres best slide guitarists.  Early Influence.

Otis Rush - One of the originators (with Buddy Guy) of the West Side Chicago Blues sound and big influence on Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and others.  His career didn't reach the legendary status of Buddy Guy, but among fellow players, his distinct playing was just as lauded.   

Slim Harpo - Harmonica (and guitar) player who also crossed over to the Pop charts.  His songs were covered by the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Grateful Dead, the Doors and others.   

Johnny Winter - Winter's death has definitely spawned an appreciation of his recorded output.  But most agree it was on stage that he excelled.  He was hyped early, and maybe he didn't live up to it on record, but his death convinces me that he was one of the best guitar slingers of his generation.  He'll go in first ballot.


Monday, May 02, 2016

Music Critics & The Rock Hall (Updated 2017 Eligibles)

Both the Baseball and Football Hall's have a writer's wing to honor journalists who have covered their sports.  Why shouldn't the Rock Hall?  There have been quite a few critics/journalists who have helped shape the way Rock music has been presented and perceived.

I actually thought of this back in 2006:
Music Critic Hall of Fame?

It's an interesting idea, and unless you count Jann Wenner, there are no music-related writers in the Rock Hall.

I'm also aware that just looking at some of these names will bring back bad memories if you can remember what artists (and their fans) they've ticked off over the years by a bad review.

Once again, I'm open to any suggestions on names that I missed.

Listed in no particular order:

Ralph J. Gleason - Co-founded Rolling Stone, and one of the first writers to cover Rock and Roll.

Dave Marsh -  Wrote for Creem, Rolling Stone and other magazines.  Has written many music books. One of the most controversial Rock critics.  Member of the Rock Hall Nominating Committee since its inception.

Robert Christgau - The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics", his monthly Consumer Guide changed the way records were reviewed by future critics and music magazines. Wrote for Village Voice, Rolling Stone and others.

Ellen Willis - From 1968-1975 was Pop music critic for the New Yorker.  One of the first women Rock critics and one of its more influential ones through her many writings on music, politics and culture.

Greil Marcus - Although he wrote for Creem and Rolling Stone, it is probably through books like 1975's Mystery Train that Marcus made his biggest impact.  His music books were almost scholarly takes that few at the time were writing on Rock music.

Peter Guralnick - His many books on music covering genres like Country, Soul and Rock not only garnered acclaim, but set a standard for numerous other authors to follow.

Robert Hilburn - As chief Pop Music critic of the LA Times, Hilburn gave a distinctive West Coast flavor to music criticism.

Joel Selvin - Longtime San Francisco Chronicle critic (from 1972-2009). Like Hilburn, gave a West Coast opinion when the East Coast seemed to dominate the discussion.

Robert Palmer - Author of the acclaimed Deep Blues and Rock & Roll: An Unruly History.  He also appeared in the NY Times, Rolling Stone.  Produced Blues albums and made his own, too.

Jon Pareles - Chief music critic for the NY Times.  Also wrote for Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Crawdaddy.

Lester Bangs - Probably the most famous music critic. His writings in Creem and Rolling Stone had a huge impact on future critics.

Gloria Stavers - One of the first women to write about Rock music during her tenure as Editor-In-Chief of 16 magazine.

Lillian Roxon - Her Rock Encyclopedia was the first of its kind.  And she was one of the first women to write about Rock music in the 60's.

Nelson George - Wrote columns in Billboard and The Village Voice, and his books covering R&B and Hip Hop are widely acclaimed.  Has branched out into film work as a Producer and Director on African-American issues.

Richard Meltzer - His 1970 book The Aesthetics of Rock was one of the first Rock books that became an influential bible to many future critics.

Jane Scott - For 40 years was music critic for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.  One of the first women to cover Rock and Roll during its early years.

Lisa Robinson - Started her career in 1969 and from there wrote for Creem, New York Post, New Musical Express, Vanity Fair.  Was one of the creators of Rock Scene from 73-82.

Kurt Loder -  A somewhat overlooked name from music critic's golden years, mostly because he is more well-known for his stint on MTV.  In the 70's/80's wrote for Circus before heading to Rolling Stone from 79-87.  Joined MTV in 1988.

Paul Williams - Created Crawdaddy, which was the first Rock magazine.

Nick Tosches - From the Lester Bangs school of Rock journalism, he wrote for Creem, Rolling Stone and others.  Also published great books on Country music and the Unsung Heroes of Rock.  His bio of Jerry Lee Lewis is an essential read.

Ben Fong-Torres - One of Rolling Stone magazines first writers.  Also appears in the San Francisco Chronicle.

John Rockwell -  Influential when he was the NY Times' chief Pop Music Critic.

David Fricke - Longtime critic for Rolling Stone, where he has written about a wide range of genres.

Nick Kent - One of England's most influential critics.  Wrote for the New Musical Express and then lots of freeelance work.

Jon Savage - Renown for being one of the first to write about Punk music in the 70's.  Wrote what is considered the definitive book on Punk, England's Dreaming.

Legs McNeil - Co-founder of Punk magazine, and author of music books on that genre as well as other music magazines.

Barney Hoskyns - British music critic who has written for tons of English magazines/newspapers as well as American ones.  Runs the website Rock's Backpages.

Ira Robbins - Co-founder of Trouser Press magazine, which was one of the first magazines to cover New Wave & Alternative Rock in the late 70's/early 80's.  Later on the Trouser Press books on those genres became essential for any music lover.

John Morthland - Worked at Rolling Stone and Creem. Writes about many genres.  His 1984 book, Best of Country Music is a definitive book on that genre.

Joel Whitburn - He's not a music critic, just the #1 record collector of chart records in the world.  But it's his Billboard chart books that every music critic and chart fan has to have on their shelf.  Before the Internet these books were a must have for radio stations, DJ's, Industry people and chart nuts like me.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Music Years of My Life: 1964-69.

Also known as the early years.  What was the first song you remember hearing?  Doing these posts on my music life had me going way back to my childhood for the answer.  My conclusion is that the first songs that I heard had to have come from sister's bedroom.  It was there that the radio and turntable were playing the latest hits.
And I'm convinced that the first sounds I heard were from the Beatles.  My sister had the 1966 album, Yesterday and Today, which was a collection of songs from the '65/'66.  The song that stuck with me was "We Can Work It Out", which topped the charts in early '66.  Is is the first?  Maybe.  But it's possible that I heard that album in 1967.  "Hello Goodbye" is  another Beatles contender.  Released in late '67 and getting lots of airplay through early '68.  But there was another song released earlier and discussed below.

Here's the story.  I was born in 1964. But I can still recall hearing certain records even at the age of 2 or 3.  My sister had a small collection of singles and very little albums.  But AM Top 40?  Always on.  Most of the records I remember are from '67-'69.  Her .45 of "Daydream Believer" ('67) was played a lot.
Other songs from that time frame that I never forgot:
"These Eyes" - Guess Who  ('69)
"Good Morning Starshine" - Oliver ('69)
"Love Is Blue" - Paul Mauriat  ('68)
"Like To Get To Know You" - Spanky and Our Gang  ('68)
"People Got To Be Free"  - Rascals  ('69)
"In The Ghetto" - Elvis Presley  ('69)
"Whiter Shade Of Pale" - Procol Harum  ('67)
There are others, but none would qualify as first heard.

But here's the surprise.  Is it possible to remember something when you're a year old.  The Beatles' "Eight Days A Week" always held a special place in their pantheon for me.  And I think the reason is pretty obvious.  Released in early '65, it has to be the song I heard first.  I'll never know for sure, and it's not something one discusses with their parents, but if it's a Beatles song that lodged into my brain first, and set me on my way to being the music nut I am today, then so be it.  Could have been something worse.  Right?


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Playlist for 4/28

South Texas Rhythm 'N' Soul Revue Vol. 1 & 2 - Various (Ace)
Pines -Above the Prarie
Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music/Ladies From The Canyon (Numero)
Teddy Pendergrass - TP/Teddy  (2016 reissue)
Maze - Live In New Orleans/Live In Los Angeles   (2016 reissue)
Anthony Hamilton - What I'm Feelin'
Mayer Hawthorne - Man About Town
Internet - Ego Death
Noel Ellis - s/t
Struts - Everybody Wants
Deep Purple - Burn

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince & Completism

The only other artist whose every recorded moment I had to have was Elvis Presley.  Prince was the second one.  Purple Rain set off my obsession.  And by the mid-80's Prince was already recording too much stuff to put out.  So, he relegated some of his newer songs to the B-side of hit singles.  Tracks like "Hello", "17 Days", "Another Lonely Christmas", "Erotic City".  All ended up being flipped over by Prince obsessed fans like me.  The best of these of course was "Erotic City".  Never a single, but did get airplay on Top 40 stations.

The biggest bootleg I ever tracked down was the infamous Black Album recorded in 1987, but not officially released until 1994.  An album that was supposed to be the followup to Sign "O" The Times, but shelved by Prince at the last minute.  But I had a CD of it before Prince, in an effort to fulfill his Warner contract, finally let go of it.

In 1998 another odd Prince project came out.  It was a 3CD set called Crystal Ball/Truth consisting of vault stuff and separate CD of newer acoustic songs.  Available only as a mail order or Internet only order, but eventually was sold in stores exclusively through Blockbuster, which is where I bought mine.

From 2000 until he died Prince's albums sold less and less but he was still dropping new product almost yearly.  I had to have them all, well the studio albums at least.  If you've heard of titles like Rainbow Children, N.E.W.S., Planet Earth, Lotus Flower3r/MPLSound, 20Ten (never released in U.S., but easily streamed), Plectrumelectrum, Art Official Age, HitnRun Phase One & 2, then you are as big a fan as me.  None of these sold and most were quickly reviewed and forgotten.  But there's good stuff scattered throughout them, just no classics.  Prince's focus was turning more to stage than records.

When Prince's death was announced I took a look at all his CD's that I accumulated and realized what a life of music he gave Prince nuts like me, and during his classic 80's period, all other Prince fans.
If they ever need someone to compile a Box Set of his career, I'd volunteer in a second.  Until then, let his unreleased vault do its magic.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"When Doves Cry"

"When Doves Cry" was iconic they moment it was released.  There simply wasn't anything out there before or after.  It's a Rock song, with funk elements.  In order to appreciate it, you have to devour the nearly 7 minute Purple Rain version (skip the truncated single version).

I first heard it when driving home from work, listening to my local Top 40 station.  The DJ announced it as Prince's brand new song.  The opening guitar riff had me intrigued, and then it took off.  What is this and when can I hear it again?  It was the first single off of Purple Rain.  Neither the film or album had been released.  So, this was our first look at what Prince had been up to since 1999 made him an MTV and Top 40 fixture.

Again, some songs announce themselves the moment you listen.  "Stayin' Alive" is another example.  I know people have other favorites off of Purple Rain, but I've never gotten over the initial thrill of "When Doves Cry".  I think it's Prince's ultimate masterpiece.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince: His Best Albums

Prince's albums up until the mid-90's are uniformly strong.  As the 2000's were ushered in, Prince's records all had a few good cuts, but were lacking the originality we came to expect from his early days.  I hope someone will release a compilation of Prince's late 00's work.

So, my own list is top heavy with the classic stuff.

Dirty Mind
Purple Rain
Sign O' The Times

Every music fan should have the above 4 in their collection.  These are Prince's best albums and show his depth better than anything:  Funk, Rock, Pop, Soul, Gospel and any other genre he was inventing.

Very Good
Around The World In A Day
Diamonds and Pearls
Love Symbol Album
Gold Experience
Black Album

Controversy followed Dirty Mind in 1981 and was seen as being less daring than that album, but still has some great moments.  Same fate for Around The World In A Day which followed Purple Rain. But today it stands as a neat stylistic departure.   Lovesexy from 1988, had a great, overlooked hit "Alphabet Street".  Diamonds and Pearls (1991) was sort of a comeback album chartwise, as it was released after the terrible movie Graffiti Bridge.  It has Prince's last #1 single, "Cream". The Love Symbol Album followed and was one of his funkiest albums. Gold Experience contains Prince's last big Top 40 hit, the #3 "Most Beautiful Girl In The World".   Both it and Emancipation released in the mid-90's and kind of forgotten today. Finally, the Black Album, recorded in 1987 but not released until 1994 was to be the followup to Sign O' The Times but shelved at the last minute.  It became a big bootleg album for years.  It's a good album, not a classic, but full of odd songs.

Graffiti Bridge
Prince (1979)
Crystal Ball
Chaos and Disorder
Art Official Age

If some of the titles don't seem obscure to you, then you are as much a die-hard as me.  For most, a lot of these were completely forgotten by even curious Prince fans. The latest album on this list is 2014's Art Official Age.  I'm kind of fond of the Batman album.  All have their moments, and again I hope someone compiles a latter day Prince compilation.

Greatest Hits Sets
Hits/B-Sides  (1993)
Very Best Of  (2001)
Ultimate  (2006)

Right, no other Prince compilations have been released post-2006.  And all of them only contain material up from his Warner Brothers year through 1993. All three are worth buying, but contain many duplicates.  Ultimate has some 12" singles that are worth checking out.  But stick with the first two.

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