Posts filed under “Friday Night Jazz”
Two months ago, I asked a simple question: What are the 5 best unknown, unheard Rock albums ?
The question generated 100s of comments overnight; anyone looking to discover some great new music is advised to sift thru the laundry list of suggestions.
As promised, I am going to share my list this evening. Before my reveal, a quick note about those qualifiers: In order to make this exercise have some resonance, we had to limit the musical universe:
-Rock/Pop was the standard idiom. Jazz, Classical, World, Folk Hip Hop and Electronica are so diverse and have so many back waters and eddies, huge swaths of it seem unknown (I say that as a serious Jazz fan).
-Modern era (1985 to 2010) We could have gone further back in time, but that ran the risk of simply being unknown due to age, versus true obscurity. (We saw examples of that in comments).
-I kept it to 5 for simple reasons of focus (and crowd control).
There are lots great bands that have relatively unheard great albums, but have a major hit single. These are usually so well known that they didn’t qualify. Examples include the Fountains of Wayne album Welcome Interstate Managers — “Stacy’s Mom” was a huge hit, but the rest of the album was overlooked; so to with Dada‘s debut disc Puzzle — they had a giant single in “Dizz Knee Land,” the rest of the album was just as strong, but overlooked. I had a hard time omitting a few Reggae discs, like One Tree or Yell Fire!. Jazz albums that could qualify as Pop are fine — think Jamie Cullum‘s breakout album Twentysomething, but it was too popular to not qualify.
Indeed, figuring out was too popular or too unknown was the biggest challenge. Few people ever heard of my first choice, but the last disc on the list is very well known — it just sold poorly and was heard even less.
In 2005, I wrote: Roman Candle’s debut is a joyful assortment of finely crafted pop tunes. If FM Radio didn’t suck, this is the sort of music you would be hearing on it right now. Finely crafted lyrics mated to delightful melodies delivered by a tight power pop five-some in a surprisingly slick production.
Like nearly all the discs on this list, this one is really good from start to finish.
Why didn’t you ever hear of these guys? Roman Candle hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and signed with an independent label. No payola, no Clearchannel — and no radio play.
Note: This was released under a new label as “The Wee Hours Review” but its mostly the same disc.
How to describe the well crafted, heartfelt songs on this album? Start with infectious melodies, slide reflective lyrics over that, mix in a little effervescent joy. The tunes range from melancholy ballads to joyous rock to pop perfection.
The band has 3 outstanding albums, but After the Party is my absolute favorite. I cannot figure out why the song “Drunk Is Better Than Dead” was not a huge radio smash (but as noted earlier, radio sucks).
This is a spectacular album, released as Steve McQueen in the UK, where it is well known. In the US, this Thomas Dolby-produced album is mostly unknown, hardly heard. And that is a shame, as it is a tour de force of song writing chops, clever lyrics, and brilliant music.
I don’t even know where to begin describing this. Paddy McAloon’s songwriting has been compared to Brian Wilson, and justly so. Each heart rending song of love and loss is harrowing, gorgeous, lovely. The lyrics are sly, full of wry irony. They grab you, and refuse to let go.
On the song Appetite:
Here she is with two small problems
And the best part of the blame
Wishing she could call him heartache
But it’s not a boy’s name
On Horsin’ Around, a song about unfaithfulness:
It’s me again; Your worthless friend (or foe)
I somehow let that lovely creature down
Horsin’ around, horsin’ around
Some things we check and double check (and lose)
I guess I let that little vow get lost
Forgettin’ the cost, forgettin’ the cost
On the song He’ll Have To Go, these lyrics always stood out:
Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you
He’ll have to go (go, go go)
Every song is a brilliant combination of musical arrangement, melody, and lyrical genius. I cannot listen to this disc without thinking about loves lost in college, grad school and beyond.
Note: Faron, The opening song, is atypical of the rest of the disc. I always start with the 2nd song, Bonnie, and play it straight through, ending with Faron.
The Philosopher Kings mix soulful tunes with rock, jazz and R&B. Gerald Eaton’s distinctive vocals fit the original lyrics/Some people have called this disc urban jazz, I prefer to think of as an amalgam of pop, rock, soul, fink, layered with jazz instrumentation. Call it smoky vocal jazz with a rock sensibility.
Its wildly original, and every song on the album packs a punch.
The album earned the group a Juno Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
• Freedy Johnston This Perfect World: Johnston’s gravelly soprano voice is perfectly suited to his bittersweet lyrics of heartbreak and loneliness. The music belies the lyrical angst, with bouncy chords and jangling guitars serving as the backdrop for exquisite melodies.
Johnston is known for the craftsmanship of his songs, and has been described as a “songwriter’s songwriter; In 1994, Rolling Stone named him “songwriter of the year”. A reviewer “Marries perfectly realized power-pop sensibility to skilled, literary writing chops” — and I see nothing to disagree with there.
This Album never broke into the Billboard charts, and the song Bad Reputation was a minor hit. Why this wasn’t a monster is beyond me: Every song is a perfectly crafted, radio friendly, little story.
I thought the band’s debut disc, The Magic Numbers, was the best new rock and roll release of 2005. I was astonished to learn the CD sold a mere 44,000 copies in the US. That’s astonishing to me, considering what a great CD it is.
The band is an amalgam of all sorts of oddities, but
the entire assemblage works surprisingly well. Two pairs of brother/sister teams (from Trinidad/New York/London), best described as “an unfashionable blend of soft country pop with Fifties and Sixties inflections.”
What I liked about it was the strong mix of rock and roll, summery guitars, laid over skiffle and country pop structures. It is spare and at the same time complex, flavored with an inflection of a1960s guitar band. Somehow, it all sounds very modern, via classic rock instruments — simply guitar bass drums — no synth. The songs are jangly, melodic and hook laden; the writing is outstanding. Lyrics and vocals reveal a tender vulnerability. I found the album very addictive — with each listen, you want to hear more . . .
OK, so my top 5 slipped to 6 – but I couldn’t leave out the last disc.
Runners Up after the jump . . .
“(Do The) Push and Pull (Part 1)” is a 1970 single by Rufus Thomas. This was the only number-one song for Thomas — Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart for two weeks in February 1971 — who hit the R&B chart in 1953.
Thomas also found some success with the Do The Funky Chicken, and Walking The Dog.
Recently, Stax came out with a new album, Stax Number Ones (which Amazon sells for $7.97). I was surprised that this Rufus Thomas single was not in the prior Stax collection. Its a perfect groove for getting ready to go out on a rainy Friday night:
(Do the) Push and Pull (Part 1) Rufus Thomas, Stax Number Ones
Lyrics, live performance, and full video after the jump . . .
I had an interesting discussion with a music buddy about some of the least popular, best discs of the past few decades. The challenge: Name 5 outstanding Rock and Roll albums that 90% of the music buying/downloading public are unfamiliar with. 3 rules: 1. Rock and Roll (including Pop)! No jazz, classical or world music…Read More
I mentioned the 40th anniversary of the remastered version of Exile on Main Street a few weeks ago. Lately, I have been listening to an awesome selection of Rolling Stone Cover albums. Having heard these songs over the course of 4 decades, a little freshening up can go a long way. These 4 albums present…Read More
Don Was has been the Rolling Stones record producer since Voodoo Lounge in 1994. He discusses the remastered version of Exile on Main Street Remastered version. NPR: “When Exile on Main Street was first released nearly 40 years ago, few expected it to gain recognition as a masterpiece. Though the album was a commercial success,…Read More
“I’m really looking forward to checking out the new Jimi Hendrix album.”
As it turns out . . . come March 1, there will be a new Hendrix disc of some unreleased material — Valleys Of Neptune.
For you young ‘uns out there who might not be familiar with Jimi — he was the genius guitar player who combined R&B, psychedelia distortion/feedback-laden electric leads. You can still hear his influence in music today.
Hendrix released but 3 albums during his short lifetime: Are You Experienced (1967) is probably the greatest debut rock albums of all time (Rolling Stone ranked it #15 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). The next disc was Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968).
He was 27 when he died in London on September 18, 1970.
Valleys Of Neptune track by track listing (with descriptions) after the jump . . .
Wow, terrific comments. I put the full run of reader suggested Hendrix videos here.
Amazon is running an excellent selection of $5 albums in DRM free MP3s , (if you like that sort of thing).
I prefer my music mostly in the form of cold shiny discs. However, Amazon selected over 800 albums, about 50 per genre across rock, jazz, country, new age, 2009 discs you misses, etc. at the bargain (legal) price of $5 bucks per.
These 2 dozen caught my eye:
More after the jump . . .
Over the course of seeing concerts the past 3+ decades, I have had the good fortune to attend shows that were recorded and later distributed on CD/DVD a handful of times. Up until recently, the most memorable was Aimee Mann’s Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse. But this summer, I was lucky enough to attend Paul…Read More
I will be incommunicado today, winging my way back from Berlin for acht und halben stunden (8 1/2 hours). I wrote this back in 2005, but never published it widely. Enjoy: > What sort of crap do you have lurking hidden on your iPod? That’s the question I stumbled across from my old essays &…Read More
Some of the recordings will blow you away — I suggest the Count Basie concert, but all 3 are excellent (free registration required).
Thank me after you’ve listened to some of these gems . . . more stuff after the jump
Historic Sounds of Newport, Newly Online
NYT, November 10, 2009