Posts filed under “Friday Night Jazz”

A Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2010

Its that time: We present our annual “Different Kind of Music List” for 2010;  If you missed prior versions, then here’s the deal with what makes this list different:

There are lots of Best of Lists out there, but most of them aren’t relevant to real people, i.e. adults (a group I have only recently begrudgingly joined). Those of you with families, careers, hobbies, etc. do not have time listen to 200 new CDs each year.

Hence, this list. Rather than cranking out yet another list of music you never heard, this is a more useful list: What a relatively informed music fan’s “Most played” albums were this year (at least, according to my iTunes).

These albums are what was most frequently spinning in the car/ipod/computer this past year — my personal soundtrack for 2010.

Those are the ground rules. Let’s have at it:


Seasick Steve: Man From Another Time is a raucous, ferociously exciting collection of organic rock and blues. Home recorded, Steve displays a musical virtuosity and intensity that is belied by the simplicity of his approach. Never before has so much noise been coaxed forth from a single string. Seasick Steve cranks out solid, listenable rock and blues that will have you standing, clapping, tapping your feet.

2009′s Dog House Music is also worth a throw.

Bonus: Blues so good it makes George Thorogood weep.


Vampire Weekend Contra:

The sophomore effort was the disc I wanted to dislike for all too many reasons: At first listen, it sounded just like the debut disc, channeled Paul Simon constantly,  and sold out way too soon for a new band — their song Holiday seemed to be on every television commercial this year.

But the incessantly inventive, infectiously upbeat, constantly original music made this disc impossible to hate. Its catchy, jangling guitar runs layered with the immediately recognizable vocals are a sophisticated progression from the first album. The sound is immediately recognizable, yet remains fresh and interesting. In addition to the Graceland influence, you can hear bits of reggae, Brazilian funk, and ska.

The first disc had a great first four songs, then tailed off a bit. Contra is a consistently strong album — which probably accounts for why I played it constantly.


The Black Keys Brothers:

The Black Keys graced our very first “Best of” back in 2004. The reasons I liked it then — crunchy guitar riffs, soulful vocals over no nonsense drumming combining to sound like a lot more than two guys from Ohio — are the same reasons why this disc is on this year’s list.

Described as a “mysterious and heavy brew of seventies-vintage rock, classic R&B and timeless, downhearted blues,” the album poweres its way through track after a track til the very end.

The Black Keys have maturation as song writers and performers, and it shows in subtle ways on Brothers. For those of you who haven’t discovered this great power duo yet, this is their most approachable album.

Bonus: Tighten Up was produced by Danger Mouse


Ray LaMontagne God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise:

LaMontagne’s fourth album is funkier more upbeat and fun than any of his prior outings. Self-produced, recorded in two weeks at LaMontagne’s home, this album is full of pathos — stories of loss, desire and heartbreak.

Ray’s vocals perfectly suit his strong songwriting, with a killer band — the Pariah Dogs — providing excellent musical backing.

Steel guitars, jangly electrics, snare drums round out the sound to this album that falls somewhere in between Alt Country and Rock n roll.

The songs themselves are the stars here, and Ray’s gifts as a composer are on full display. A terrific outing.


Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back:

There are musicians and pop stars and rock and rollers. Then there is Peter Gabriel. From his early days as front man of Genesis to enormously successful solo career, from his use of new world instrumentation and musicians, his innovative videos and spectacular live shows, Peter Gabriel is a unique artist. It is not overstating things to say that he is one of the most influential musicians of the past 40 years.

Never one to play it safe, Gabriel decided to “re-listen to” some of his favorite songs from other artists — David Bowie, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Radiohead — and reinvent their melodies in a no drums, no guitars orchestral arrangement.

It takes more than a single listening to — seeing the show at Radio City also revealed how intricate and poised this music is — but it is worth the effort.

The result is a fascinating and eclectic mix of familiar yet weirdly new songs, revealing the essence of the original. Sadly beautiful, strange, full of tenderness and remorse, this is an album only Gabriel could have created.


David Gray White Ladder:

This is a new category: “new found appreciation.” Its the album I changed my mind the most about this year.

I first heard White Ladder a decade ago — and while the songwriting was worthwhile, I couldn’t get past David Gray’s less than impressive vocals.

Then I saw him live, and it changed my entire view of him.

He was on a double bill with Ray Lamontagne, and I was all set to leave after Ray’s set was over. But a funny thing happened: We listened to the first song, then the next, and the next, and soon we had stayed for the entire show. Days later, the songs were still running through my head. The disc played constantly late Summer and into the Fall. Once you look past the vibrato-laden voice, his gorgeous melodic compositions make for unforgettable songs.


Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone:

When 2010 began, I never expected to fall for a Gospel album. Then again, this is not your run-of-the mill Sunday church music, and Mavis Staples is not your run-of-the mill baritone.

She has been cranking out Gospel, Blues and R&B for four decades. Her resume boasts collaborations with Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan, Prince, Ry Cooder and on this album, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.

While this is not a traditional Gospel album, it manages to remain true to its roots by mixing both the secular and the sacred, with bluesy guitars, steel pedal, and upbeat hymns. The element that ties it all together is Staples world weary, smoldering voice.

Runner ups: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, I Learned The Hard Way and Robert Randolph and the Family Band, We Walk This Road.


Elvis Costello: National Ransom

I am always interested in anything Elvis Costello records, but this disc caught my attention for its cover art — a wolf in Banker’s top hat and tails, fleeing a crisis, the carpet bag he clutches trailing flaming cash the whole way. It is an arresting vision of the economic crisis, too close to the truth for most people’s comfort.

Costello is in fine form on the this album. He has always been idiosyncratic, and this eclectic disc is no different: Tasteful and lyrically sophisticated, it meanders through genres from hard edged rock,  New Orleans jazz, acoustic jazz, country, ballads, blues, with a little of the the old “Elvis Costello and the Attractions” thrown in for good measure. All the shifts in style and form are to further the narrative each song presents.

This is an album that rewards the patient listener — its not in your face (i.e., Vampire Weekend) but is filled with little subtleties. It gets better with subsequent listen.


1) Elvis’s home page is a wiki;

2) Courtesy of VF, you can stream the entire album here:


Sade Soldier of Love

From the file “music to listen to that won’t make your wife annoyed” –

I used to occasionally listen to Sade back in the day — it was pleasant enough, inoffensive “seduction pop.” Sade’s sensual voice was the highlight of their music, even if the song’s quickly became overplayed, even cliched.

Soldier of Love is Sade’s most mature, sophisticated album. It has less pop hooks, and more eclectic, quirky and even joyous melodies.


Favorite Mash Up:   Girl Talk All Day

Any hip hop album that begins with Black Sabbath’s War Pigs gets my attention.

Add to that the free download, and the killer graphic of all the artists used, and you have the making of an instant hip hop classic.

There are 372 samples in the album, all instantly recognizable hooks. The mega mash up serves as rehabilitation for disposable pop of days gone by, lovingly assembled in a stupendously danceable form.

Bonus: Your teenage kids will be impressed you even know this.


• Favorite Electronica: The Chill Lounge – 26 Chilled Euro Tracks (iTunes)

Follow this progression: A reader sends me an MP3 of LTJ Bukem’s Logical Progression (from the out of print disc of the same name). I go ahubting for it, can’t find it, but stumble across this chill mix of etheral beats, containing a song from LTJ Bukem.

Airy jazzy, euro synth driven tunes, good for a relaxing massage or bubble bath.


Box Set of the YearBruce Springsteen: The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge of Town Story

What do you do after a monster success like Born to Run? This set reveals not only how Darkness on the Edge of Town was made, but how Springteen was handling the challenge of new found super-stardom. “An unprecedented look into Springsteen’s creative process during a defining moment in his career.”

This is no ordinary box set– it includes six hours of film, two hours of audio across 3 CDs and 3 DVDs, along with an 80-page notebook, It also features The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,‘ a ninety-minute documentary film directed by Grammy- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny.

The album itself shows Bruce’s talent for editing himself — no easy task for any artist. There are 22 unreleased songs in this package, and they could have easily slipped into The River or Born in the USA without disrupting much.

Fans of Springsteen will find this material fascinating; those of you who are unsure if this work will be to your liking should check out the outstanding reviews at the LATimes and especially Pitchfork.


Beatles Covers: And speaking of Box Sets: Forget the Beatles on iTunes — anyone who wanted the full digital Fab Four catalogue bought the Box Set and ripped it lossless in 2009. Thsi year, I’ve been getting my Liverpool fix from various Beatles cover albums.

Here are a few are worth mentioning:

-LJ Plays the Beatles (plus  Volume Two) Paul McCartney’s guitarist from his Wings period, Laurence Juber, recorded two albums of Lennon & McCartney music — all finger pickin, all acoustic guitar. Very mellow versions, that make for an interesting surprise when mixed into other playlists.

-Rubber Soulive:  Imagine the Beatles covered by a jazzy retro groove band, recorded live-in-the-studio, sounding both old school and fresh at the same time. The drumming is all over the place, with a thumping jazz bassline. The essence of the melodies are all here, but the band takes them off in different directions. A very different, surprisingly fun find.

(You can stream the album at their site here)

-Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band: From the band that brought you Dub Side of the Moon, comes this reworking of the Beatle’s classic album, infused with reggae rythms. Its an upbeat, joyously fun outing, one that reworks Sgt Pepper’s surprisingly well.

Guest appearances by Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, Michael Rose [Black Uhuru], Luciano, U Roy, Bunny Rugs [Third World], Ranking Roger [English Beat], Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, Max Romeo and The Mighty Diamonds.

Check out a few tunes here.

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Nite Jazz: Rickie Lee Jones


I went to a delightfully quirky pop/jazz  show last night — Rickie Lee Jones at Westbury, NYCB Theatre (12/09/10).

I say quirky because of The Duchess of Coolsville’s music is genre bending — bluesy, boozey, laid back, smokey, jazz pop songs of great beauty and delicacy, held improbably together by that distinctively different voice of hers. She sports a vocal range that careens from 10 year old girl to scat impresario to deep, powerful blues singer.

Jones has had a surprising run of hit singles, despite her eclectic jazz style. 1979′s “Chuck E.’s in Love,” hit #4 on the Billboard charts (Young Blood” was the other single from the first album, Rickie Lee Jones); Her next album, Pirates spawned 3 hit singles: “A Lucky Guy,” “Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue),” and “Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking.” Later singles include “The Real End” (1984), “Satellites” (1989), and “Old Enough” (2009)

Her music is lovely and complex, and they were performed loosely by a 7 piece ensemble. At the show I went to, Jones got her best known pop tune, Chuck E’s in Love, out of the way quickly, playing it first, then settled down to an evening of outstanding (albeit somewhat sedate) music. Alternating between an acoustic guitar and a grand piano, she proceeded to play the best of her first two albums (Rickie Lee Jones, and Pirates) practically in sequence.

If you like female jazz vocalists flavored with a dollop of pop, these first two discs are gems. I own nearly RLJ’s full catalog. I was pleasantly surprised by her most recent outing, Balm in Gilead.

Last night, I recall hearing: Chuck E’s In Love, On Saturday Afternoons In 1963,  Night Train, Young Blood, Easy Money, The Last Chance Texaco, Danny’s All-Star Joint, Coolsville, Weasel And The White Boys Cool, Company, After Hours, We Belong Together, Living It Up, Skeletons, Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking, Pirates (so long lonely avenue), A Lucky Guy, Traces of the Western Slopes, The Returns.

I would love to get the actual concert set list . . .


See also:
The official Rickie Lee Jones Website



Videos – including a few from last night’s show — are after the jump

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Night Jazz Keith Richards Life

I have no idea how a magazine subscription to Rolling Stone started coming to the house — probably a freebie associated with something else I bought on Amazon. (It goes straight to the bathroom magazine rack).

The cover this month has Keith Richards on the cover, discussing his new autobiography, Life.

Last weekend, I started thumbing through the excerpt . . . and I was completely engrossed, reading until my legs fell asleep. I immediately ordered it in hardcover.

I can’t wait to read it . . .

“It’s funny, gossipy, profane and moving and by the time you finish it you feel like you’re friends with Keith Richards.”

Interview with Richards on NPR Radio and on CBS TV after the jump.


David Fricke, Rolling Stone: “One of the greatest rock memoirs ever….The title of Richards’ book is a simple, accurate description on the contents: the 66-year-old guitarist’s highs, lows and death-defying excesses, from birth to now, vividly related in his natural pirate-hipster cadence and syntax….Life is ultimately two stories: one of music, misbehaviour and survival; the other a fond, perplexed, sometimes outraged telling of Richards’ life with Jagger, including their battles over control and the destiny of their band.”


Here’s from NYT review:

“For legions of Rolling Stones fans, Keith Richards is not only the heart and soul of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, he’s also the very avatar of rebellion: the desperado, the buccaneer, the poète maudit, the soul survivor and main offender, the torn and frayed outlaw, and the coolest dude on the planet, named both No. 1 on the rock stars most-likely-to-die list and the one life form (besides the cockroach) capable of surviving nuclear war.

Halfway through his electrifying new memoir, “Life,” Keith Richards writes about the consequences of fame: the nearly complete loss of privacy and the weirdness of being mythologized by fans as a sort of folk-hero renegade.

“I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me,” he says. “I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.”

By turns earnest and wicked, sweet and sarcastic and unsparing, Mr. Richards, now 66, writes with uncommon candor and immediacy. He’s decided that he’s going to tell it as he remembers it, and helped along with notebooks, letters and a diary he once kept, he remembers almost everything. He gives us an indelible, time-capsule feel for the madness that was life on the road with the Stones in the years before and after Altamont; harrowing accounts of his many close shaves and narrow escapes (from the police, prison time, drug hell); and a heap of sharp-edged snapshots of friends and colleagues — most notably, his longtime musical partner and sometime bête noire, Mick Jagger.”



Additional Sources:
Rolling Stone Photos

Life By Keith Richards with James Fox
Illustrated. 564 pages. Little, Brown & Company.

Keith Richards Website

The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards Looks Back At ‘Life’
NPR, A October 25, 2010

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Category: Books, Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Nite Jazz Floyd: Roger Waters’ The Wall

I saw the original Pink Floyd The Wall concert at Nassau Coliseum back in 1980. Floyd played something like 8 shows between Nassau Coliseum and Los Angeles. I always assumed that The Wall would show its age over time, and surprisingly, that isn’t really the case. What was an quasi-autobiographical discussion of a single person’s…Read More

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Nite Jazz Rock: 5 Best Unknown/Unheard Albums

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.


Roman CandleSays Pop (2002)

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.


The Push Stars After the Party

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).

The other two favorites are meet me at the fair and Opening Time.


PreFab Sprout Two Wheels Good

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 The Philosopher Kings

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.


The Magic Numbers The Magic Numbers

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 . . .

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Night Jazz Funk: Do the Push and Pull

This song has been stuck in my head for weeks now:

“(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.

I previously mentioned the Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration back in 2007.

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 . . .

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

5 Best Unknown Rock Albums ?

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

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Night Jazz Rolling Stones Covers

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

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Nite Jazz Stones: ‘Exile On Main Street’

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

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Friday Night Jazz Hendrix

Here’s something I haven’t been able to say for 40 years –

“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.

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music