Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#102: Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (2011)

Her sound can be quickly summarized as a female version of Mumford and Sons. Then again, it's not that easy to pinpoint her. One thing I was very shocked to learn was her age, she was 21 when she recorded this album. This record has so much depth and so much experience behind it, it's hard to believe someone so young could produce something this mature. Through this album, Marling received the Brit award for 'Best British Female' and 'Best Solo Artist'.

I Was Just a Card
I really enjoyed the beginning of this track, it's very fragile and broken. The guitar mimics the vocal, but when the drums kick in it has a really great vibe to it. The details really bring the song to life, little things like the horns in the background - they're so faint but they add so much to the picture. The song ends with just the instrumentals and it really lets you appreciate just how well woven the music is.

A lot of times when I write these reviews I try to stay away from using too generic of words to describe the music. Only because it's impossible to describe artists such as Marling with such a narrow view. She's not bluegrass, she's not pop, she's not country, but really it's a blend of these genres and more. Her vocal style is pop, yet the melodies she sings are slightly more country, and yet the lyrics are much more folk. The music can be bluegrass but it isn't shy to rock out a little bit. It's a really well crafted track with a lot of different ideas.

All My Rage
This is one of the brighter songs on the album, it speaks of leaving the rage behind and it's like the clouds opening up after a dark, scary storm. There are times on the album such as 'The Beast' where it's a lot darker and a lot angrier, not in only what is being said but how the music portrays it. Even inside Mumford and Sons' darkness there's an idea of redemption that never leaves the picture, we don't always get that with Marling. It's definitely the most radio friendly track on the album and it's a perfect way to finish up this very unique and intimate album.

All in all, it's an incredibly well written, produced, and recorded album. The first listen through the record, I really focused on the music because it absolutely sucked me in. She talks of deep subjects that are incredibly heartfelt but the way that she says these things creates an emotional response from the listener in which it doesn't matter what she says. I look forward to listening to it again very soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

#101: Otis Redding - Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)

I don't know why I'm surprised that Otis Redding was putting out this kind of music in 1965. Maybe it's because before listening to this album I used to peg him as the guy who sings "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" and I naively assumed that all his other tracks would be similar. While in this same year Dylan may have been changing landscapes in song writing, Redding provided a lot of maturity in soul music through this album.

Down in the Valley
As much as it pains me to give credit to Solomon Burke for co-writing this song, it's really quite a special track. The arrangement is absolutely perfect, it knows when to breathe, when to groove, when to stab the horns, and when to sprinkle just a little ivory on top. I'm only three tracks in and I must say that I need to get more Otis Redding records.
For most music lovers "My Girl" is the definitive song for the Temptations (written by Smokey Robinson). While that may be the version everyone thinks of - I absolutely have to it up to Otis. He brings so much more soul and emotion to the song. While the arrangement doesn't vary hardly at all from the Temptations - the vocals are just so much more personalized when Redding does it.

You know, if I didn't know better I'd say this is an Otis Redding song. It's kind of ironic that the Stones were popularized on the idea of taking blues and soul music and speeding it up. Then Otis Redding comes along and covers the Stones. I may be alone (and call me crazy) but I think I prefer this over the original. When the music dropped out and you just hear the drums chugging along - I got chills. It's such a departure from the original yet it's so true to it.

All in all, holy shit. It's a shame no one talks about Otis Redding any more. He's the 'King of Soul' for a reason: he's ridiculous. I may have spotlighted only cover songs on this album, but his originals are no slouch - for instance there's a little song called "Respect" that made it on the record. The album flows from song to song in a way I haven't heard in a long time - it's seamless. It's as perfect of a blend as you can get between moving your soul and moving your feet.

Tomorrow's album: Beach Boys' Today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Summary #4: 10/5/12 - 10/29/12

Album that left the biggest impression on me: 
Regina Spektor's 11:11

Album that I couldn't wait to play again: 
Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High

Album that I was the most disappointed in: 
Buck Owens and His Buckaroos' I've Got a Tiger By the Tail

88 The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (UK)
87 James Brown's Live At The Apollo
85 Regina Spektor's 11:11
82 Ben Folds Five's The Sound of the Life of the Mind
85 Jack White's Blunderbuss
83 Rob Thomas' Something to Be
83 Kenny Loggins' Leap of Faith
82 Mayer Hawthorne's How Do You Do?
82 KT Tunstall's Drastic Fantastic
82 Sara Bareillies' Little Voice
80 Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High
78 Bob Dylan 's Bringing it All Back Home
78 The Kooks' Inside In/Inside Out
77 Dusty Springfield's A Girl Called Dusty
75 The Sonics' Here Are the Sonics
74 Jerry Lee Lewis' Live at the Star Club, Hamburg
72 Ingrid Michaelson's Girls and Boys
71 John Mayer's Heavier Things
70 The Rolling Stones' The Rolling Stones
64 Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
64 Solomon Burke's Rock 'N Soul
63 Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto's Getz/Gilberto
43 NSYNC's Celebrity
40 Buck Owens' I've Got A Tiger By the Tail
32 Jacques Brel's Olympia

Want to read the review for one of these albums? Simply go to the top left corner and do a search!

#100: Kenny Loggins - Leap of Faith (1991)

It's an album that's deeply rooted in my childhood - I've heard it at least a hundred times, but I haven't heard it in probably ten years. My dad is a huge Kenny Loggins fan and that's the real reason I chose to review this album. 'Leap of Faith' deals with a lot bigger and more complex issues than Loggins' previous works (ex: divorce and the Environmental movement). While the meaning behind it all was surely lost upon me as a kid, I'm curious to see how well the music holds up as well as how I interpret the lyrics today.

Leap of Faith
Throughout this album the music finds a groove and then continually changes the ideas over the top. Loggins has one of my favorite falsettos, it's fragile yet expressive. I remembered a lot of the song but the bridge was completely new to me, it's very percussive, very tribal, and very big. While Loggins may draw out parts of the song much longer than I would in my own writing, some of the best moments come from this. For instance, the end of the bridge when Loggins sings with the guitar is just perfect to bring it back to the original groove.

The Real Thing
I've always considered this to be one of the best written songs I've ever heard. While the guitar is superb and sweet, the story is incredibly heart wrenching. Lyrically the song is just so heavy it's ridiculous, "I did it for you and the boys, because love should teach you joy and not the imitation that you're momma and daddy tried to show you." I think it's his best work.

Cody's Song
How did I forget about this song? Beautiful vocals, gorgeous guitar part, and just incredibly written. When the strings enter it becomes so much warmer, but you've already got chills from the first verse. The falsetto up to the bridge absolutely does it for me every time - it's money. One thing I forgot about was just how good Loggins' embellishments and ad-libs are, they add a whole other element to the song. One reason I really enjoy this track is because it's not afraid to get a little dark, a little dissonant. However, once it comes back to the chorus, it's like the skies are opening up and the brightness bursts back in.

All in all, part of the album is ridiculously solid. The other half is divided into really good and songs that hardly impacted me (See: Now or Never). Six of these tracks can be considered Loggins' best works. Lyrically the album is very much focused on the big picture but at times can be a little detached. Then again, I'm surprised how many songs I forgot and really enjoyed.

Tomorrow's album: Otis Redding's Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

#99: Bob Dylan - Bringing it All Back Home (1965)

It's always interesting to see overlapping story lines while writing these reviews. Dylan's cuff links on the album cover were a gift from Baez. Dylan wrote a portion of this album in Woodstock, New York and Baez stayed with him for a month. She described him as drinking red wine, smoking, and typing away on a typewriter in the corner. Even in the middle of the night he would grunt, roll over, and get back to typing. One of the most fascinating things about Dylan at this time was the controversy surrounding 'Dylan Goes Electric'.

Maggie's Farm
This song symbolizes the album (for me). It's about Dylan announcing his independence from the folk/protest scene. Although, in a sense - it's kind of his protest song about not writing protest songs any more... The song incorporates blues, a little rock and roll, and a whole lot of innuendo. I don't claim to fully understand the song on the first few listens, but that's part of the joy of Dylan's work. I also really enjoyed 'Rage Against the Machine's cover version.

Outlaw Blues
Half of this album experiments with Dylan's folk style mixed in with electric guitar, while the other half remains acoustic (but strays away from his protest type style such as "Blowin' in the Wind"). This song is gritty, quick, and of course dripping with the blues. Dylan's voice really works incredibly well in this setting.

Mr. Tambourine Man
I knew this song because of the cover version the Byrds put out that rocketed to #1. However, I prefer Dylan's version a billion times over. It has nothing to do with the "piety" of Dylan being the composer, it has everything to do with emotion. Dylan sells the song - it means something. I never cared for the Byrd's version, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this track.

All in all, I really enjoyed it. It didn't blow my mind quite like 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' did, but this is a completely different album and it spawned a lot of change in the music industry. Dylan has proven to me over two albums that he's one of the all time greats and while I'm not rushing out to buy a few more Dylan albums, I can assure you I will own them all sometime in the future.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

#98: The Kooks- Inside In/Inside Out (2006)

It's amazing to me that bands like this exist and somehow they aren't well known in the states. Englishman Luke Pritchard's lead vocals are distinct and blend perfectly with their style of indie rock. Their songs are incredibly catchy, fun to sing along with, and bursting with energy.

Ooh La
Their sound is similar to the Arctic Monkeys, which really isn't completely true. The Kooks are a little more pop and a little less intense.This song features acoustic riffs with big drums, it flows from one thought to another seamlessly. It's a song dedicated to the late model Audrey Lindvall.

She Moves in Her Own Way
It's the first track I had ever heard by the Kooks and it's also the best track on the album. If you've never heard the Kooks, I highly recommend checking out this track. They've got such a unique sound and it's framed perfectly here, Pritchard's vocals really carry the song, but the guitars are ridiculously catchy and the drums are right on point. It's their biggest hit to date for good reason.

The intro has the coolest guitar part on the album. This song feels like it's more of a group effort than the rest of the tracks. The drums play an integral part as does the bass, it's a much more complete feel. The only negative thing I can about this album is that the songs sounds like their written on the guitar and then adapted for a group setting. This song defies that - making it the best track on the album.

All in all, it's a really good album. I'm ashamed to say this is the only Kooks album I've heard but after listening to it again - I just may have to go out and grab another.

Tomorrow's album: Bob Dylan's Bringing it All Back Home.

Friday, October 26, 2012

#97: The Sonics - Here Are the Sonics (1965)

The Sonics are one of the first punk/grunge bands, and were part of the first grunge scene in Seattle that later produced a number of acts. They took old rock and roll songs and just made them louder and faster.

The Witch
This is probably the best track to listen to if you're trying to become familiar with what the Sonics were all about. The album is full of really simple chord progressions played very aggressively, but what I really like from this track is the lead vocalist. He reminds me a bit of early 70's rock singers (such as 3 Dog Night) and the music behind him is just plain dirty (in a good way).

Boss Hoss
The Sonics tend to be the best when they're doing originals over covers. The drums are relentless just pounding away, it's like he's got a personal vendetta against his kit. The sax solo is superb, it's such a perfect timbre to add to the grunge. To some the recording quality of this album may take away from the music, it was made on a two track recorder, the levels clips at times, and it's extremely condensed. I think it truly adds to the grunge feel, if it were cleaner - it'd just feel wrong.

Have Love, Will Travel
It's a cover but it's also the best track on the album. It's got both the grunge and yet doesn't lose out on pop sense-abilities. Also it features one of the coolest, yet simplest sax solos I've ever heard. There's not really much to the song and yet it works so incredibly well. While the guitars holds down the music with the fuzz, the drummer holds the beat by trying to beat it to death, the vocalist really shines with really well crafted interjections to the melody.

All in all, it's a really good album. It's both easy to forget and remember that it was recorded in 1965. It's not an album I can see myself going back for any time soon, but it's very well done. Had the album been more originals, I think I may have enjoyed it more. I'll definitely check out another album or two of theirs at some point in the future. Oh, and Gerry Roslie's vocals are pretty boss.

Tomorrow's album: The Kooks' Inside In/Inside Out.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

#96: KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic (2007)

I still think KT Tunstall is one of the biggest well known secrets in the music industry. Every once in a while her name pops up on the radar, but it's really a shame there's not more focus on her. She's just got one of those voices that's impossible to ignore. If she were making music in the 70's I think she'd be a superstar. For instance she was on Live at Daryl's House performing "Something to Talk About" and just absolutely kills it.

White Bird
Not only does she have killer vocals, she's an excellent songwriter. The acoustic guitar carries the song with a beautiful, fluid riff that's exceptionally complemented by the basic drums and synths. Throughout the album she's particularly good at switching styles in writing her lyrics. "White feathers dripped in tar, hard to tell how old you are, wondering how much you know, about all of us below."

Hold On
Such a cool riff, this is Tunstall at her best. A little bit of rock, a lot of attitude, and percussion that keeps you moving. I've still yet to see KT Tunstall live but she's among tops on my list, she brings the same passion to playing live into the studio. Instead of getting super polished vocals we get tracks like this, blues filled thoughts that would translate perfectly to a live setting.

Paper Aeroplane
This song debuted on KT Tunstall's 'Songs in July' album, and while I'm not normally a fan of pulling songs and reworking them - I make an exception when it's done incredibly well. The guitar picking still holds the song together but the light accompaniment really adds to the overall feel of the song. "And you're like a paper aeroplane, that never seems to land, flying blind through anything, straight into the hand that chokes you, each time you try to live." It's deep, it's profound, and it's eloquently put.

All in all, KT Tunstall is one of my all time favorites. She can take anything and just make it absolutely amazing. I've yet to hear a track or a cover of her's that I didn't instantly think about covering (see: Jackson 5's I Want You Back). It seems that being a musician is what she was born to do (lucky for us) so I see no reason not to expect another dozen well crafted albums from her before she's all said and done.

Tomorrow's album: The Sonic's Here Are the Sonics.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#95: Jerry Lee Lewis - Live at the Star Club, Hamburg (1965)

Lewis is also known as the Killer and his compilation "All Killer, No Filler" is one of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. However, he is widely known for marrying his young cousin, which put a giant kink in his career. The music that he made throughout his life has proven that despite any social context around which he lives his life - he's one of the best in his field.

Money (That's What I Want)
This track stands out as one of the better tracks on the album just because it's one of the best written songs. I still prefer the Beatles version to Lewis', but Lewis does a wonderful job with it putting his own spin on it. At some point, I'll definitely cover this song and this will be my blueprint.

What'd I Say
What this does is take Ray Charles' original and strip all of the blues away - filling it back in with more rock and roll. While there may have been sexual innuendo in the original, this does not mask it at all it's much more aggressive.

Great Balls of Fire
It's a great piano part, driving blues line, and lyrics that don't necessarily mean anything... but it's just got a ton of attitude. I'm sure you've heard it, but in a live setting it does incredibly well. It's Lewis at his finest. It feels like other songs on this album are trying to recreate the magic that this song provides and while I don't believe that is the case I think this is just the culmination of a perfect Jerry Lee Lewis song.

All in all, it's a good album, I enjoyed it. It's nothing I would listen to over and over, but it's good to hear Lewis in a live setting. Hearing other covers such as 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and 'Hound Dog' really expands his appeal to me. While he sticks in his style of rock and roll piano and doesn't stray too far away from it, he has truly mastered his style of playing. If there ever becomes a point for me to study early rock and roll piano, Jerry Lee Lewis will be the first guy I look towards.

Tomorrow's album: KT Tunstall's Drastic Fantastic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#94: Ingrid Michaelson - Girls and Boys (2006)

She's come a long way in a very short period of time, but this is the album that started it all. Her breakout song "The Way I Am" was featured on an Old Navy commercial and it launched Ingrid from obscure to... slightly less obscure. Immediately after seeing the commercial and listening to the entire song, I purchased her album. However, multiple more TV spots later she really gained traction and has slowly but surely made a big name for herself.

The Way I Am
A few bongos, some clapping, a bass, an acoustic guitar, and some beautiful vocals make for one of the best tracks on the album. It's short, it's sweet, and it's heartwarming. "I'll buy you rogaine when you start losing all your hair, sew on patches to all you tear..." She truly knows all of my problems.

Die Alone
Best track on the album, it shows a completely different side of Ingrid. It uses an electric guitar and even rocks out a little bit. Beautiful harmonies are in stark contrast to the guitar providing a perfect platform for Ingrid's fragile yet strong vocals to carry such a lyrically heavy track.

Far Away
This song is really about the story, the guitar provides a simple chord progression while Ingrid uses her perfect diction to explain herself, "I will live my life as a lobsterman's wife on an island in the blue bay. He will take care of me, he will smell like the sea, and close to my heart he'll always stay." Is it sappy? Perhaps. But when Michaelson sings it it just sounds beautiful.

There's a few tracks on the album that shows her inexperience in songwriting, but there's a few on there that really show what she's capable of. Some of the tracks use repetition to great extent well and others not so well. Sometimes it helps to reinforce thoughts or provides a basis in which to transition the music to another thought, however, at times it's used a crutch to move the music in a different direction without introducing anything truly new. That being said: I hope she records an album every year for the next thirty years - I'll probably buy them all.

Tomorrow's album: Jerry Lee Lewis' Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

Monday, October 22, 2012

#93: Buck Owens and His Buckaroos - I've Got A Tiger By The Tail (1965)

Buck Owens and His Buckaroos pioneered the Bakersfield sound which Owens preferred to call American music. He's a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tiger By The Tail
I like the harmonies a lot they're very distinct. The lyrics are incredibly predictable and it's being projected from a minute away. It's a little rock and roll but it's mostly a country track. The vocals definitely carry the track as there really isn't much to listen to otherwise.

Let the Sad Times Roll On
Maybe this is why I don't listen to country music. I would much prefer Ray Charles' 'Let the Good Times Roll'. This is your prototypical country song, steel guitar, country slang, and it has every component you've heard a billion times before.

A Maiden's Prayer
It's pretty much just like everything else on the record, it's written in 2/4 and the bass just hits quarter notes. However, this song features a lot more strings and has no vocal tracks. If you take away Buck Owens' voice from any of these tracks you're simply left with a whole lot of nothing. This track proudly parades that fact.

All in all, I was pretty bored while listening to this. There's a few tracks that hold my attention, but I don't know if they caught my ear because they were in such contrast to the songs I strongly disliked or if they actually can stand up on their own. Even if you like old country, I'm sure you can find a better album than this.

Tomorrow's album: Ingrid Michaelson's Girls and Boys.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#92: John Mayer - Heavier Things (2003)

It's hard to judge Mayer impartially since I've been a fan of his so long. This album shows the potential that he had early in his career and that potential grew up to put out one of the best albums I've ever heard: Continuum. This is Mayer before he really introduced the blues into his music, this is 100% pop radio music. This record propelled him into the public eye and he even had a hilarious TV show - for one episode...

It was the second single off the album and Mayer had described the song about the first few moments after you wake up when you don't remember all the problems and worries in your life. The song has very sparse drums provided by Questlove of the Roots. It's one of Mayer's best pop songs.

Come Back to Bed
I really enjoy the guitar on this track even though it really holds back in the verses. The music embodies the feel of the lyrics and vocals. "I'll take back what I said, just don't leave me alone here, it's cold baby - Come back to bed." Much like the rest of the album the content isn't incredibly deep, but it's something everyone can relate to and the stories are told quite specifically and with great depth.

It's one of his all time best songs and I still enjoy it every time I hear it (even though the radio still won't stop playing it all these years later). The guitar is eloquent, the lyrics are spot on, and Mayer's vocals seem like the only appropriate and acceptable tone for this song. It's one of those tracks where I'm not sure if I'd like any cover versions because the original is just so well done. The track is sung in a very honest, emotional way - it's captured beautifully.

All in all, it's a good album - nothing great. From this point in his career going forward I feel like he's continually gotten better and better. This isn't a bad album by any stretch and his later works should not diminish what he did in his past, but this album just falls short of the bar I've come to expect of him. There's plenty of really good tracks on here and a few that fail to grab me nine years later.

Tomorrow's album: Buck Owens and His Buckaroos' I've Got A Tiger By the Tail.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

#91: The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones (1964)

Much like the Beatles debut this album is full of covers with a few originals. It worked for Elvis, it worked for so many others, and it worked for them. However, the Stones do something that makes this one of the biggest precursors to rock music and that is they took the blues and simply sped it up. It's such a simple concept, but it makes this album sound much more modern than any other record on the list of '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' (save for the Beatles) up to this point.

Mona (I Need You Baby)
It's a Bo Diddley song and yet it's a very modern "Stones-esque" track. Jagger has a little more defined vocals and Richards has a very catchy lick on the guitar. It's also very interesting to listen to the guitar effects throughout the album. Prior to 1964 I've never heard guitars that sound quite like these on any album.

I'm a King Bee
If you don't believe this is a blues inspired album, listen to this song - especially for the lyrics because they're awesome. It's incredibly suggestive and at the same time, kind of innocent. I particularly like the harmonica, just because any harmonica makes the blues that much more legitimate. Best track on the album.

I struggled with this song, but ultimately I figured it all out. It sounds like a hundred other songs just like it (especially 'Roll Over Beethoven' and a little 'Johnny Be Goode'). Come to find out, it's a Chuck Berry song and he wrote all three. Jagger's voice really fits in this genre of music and it's amazing how much his voice changed over the next ten years.

All in all, I'm slightly disappointed - I thought I'd enjoy it more than I did. It's good it just doesn't do it for me. Some of it has some historical perspective, but then again I'm not a huge late Stones fan - so their roots don't grab me either. It is interesting to see another huge band also starting out with covers. It's good, just not my cup of tea.

Tomorrow's album: John Mayer's Heavier Things.

Friday, October 19, 2012

#90: Jack White - Blunderbuss (2012)

Jack White is the man. I have such deep and great respect for him. He does crazy stuff and makes it cool, he tries to get away with as much as he can. He's influenced by musicians all over the map and he's one of the most talented and bravest songwriters out there. What he does isn't always popular, but that's not the point now is it?

Sixteen Saltines
Sounds more of a Scorpions 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' type of lick to start, however, this song is a lot angrier (and cooler). The vocal technique he uses on this is something he's known for. He uses multiple takes and one is clearly heard than the other, but he doesn't try to sing it the same way on both takes. This creates a lot of depth on an otherwise thin vocal line (for higher notes).
Love Interruption
What I love about White is the fact that he has such an amazing range. He can rock so hard and then this is the next song. It features an acoustic guitar and a melodica speaking of what love should be. For most artists these type of songs don't transition well to the rest of the album, but the arrangement and the beautiful backup vocals really make this track shine. This isn't a collection of 'rock' songs, it's just a collection of really well written songs.

I'm Shakin'
I know this is a cover and there's plenty of other original songs that also could be spotlighted, however this song is just so damn cool. It's got the best groove on the album, the vocals are phenomenal, it rocks, it's such a great recording. It's absolutely the best track on the album and I especially give him bonus points for pronouncing the word "nervous" as "nouy-vous". It's the best cover of an old school blues song put in a modern setting since the Black Crowes' 'Hard to Handle'.

All in all, this album is a reminder that commercial albums are dumb. Not that there's not good commercial music, there certainly is. I really tend to like records that aren't usually socially acceptable, but they're just so good they become acceptable. From a songwriter's point of view this album is a resounding success.

Tomorrow's album: The Rolling Stones' The Rolling Stones.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

#89: Dusty Springfield - A Girl Called Dusty (1964)

For those that don't understand why musicians take stage names look no further than Dusty Springfield. It's a cool name and it totally fits her sound - that - and her given name is Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. Usually your name has to fit on the album cover. However, her nickname 'Dusty' was given to her from being a tomboy and playing football with the boys in the street.

Momma Said
It's always been one of my favorite oldies. She stays true to the original and she's got a really unique and cool voice. Her vocal technique is a little shorter and stronger than what I'm used to by female artists from this genre, but it's perfect for this style of music.

When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes
I didn't expect Dusty to be a diva, but considering I knew her name (and that's it) before listening to this record I expected to hear what I normally hear from artists in this genre with top billing: a really special voice with little to no redeeming qualities from the other musicians. But while Dusty has a truly amazing voice, the songs are well written and the musicians behind her provide a full frame around Dusty. Best track on the album.

Can I Get a Witness
It's got the 'Sesame Street' piano part. One of these days I'm gonna write a medley of all the songs that have the same sound to it (see: Van Morrison's Blue Money). It's got a really cool feel to it, a lot of blues and soul. The band lays low but the backup vocals keep us hooked throughout the song.

All in all, it's really good. There's only a few exceptional tracks, but what I can take away from this is that Dusty just has a cool voice. She sounds like she's 5 foot and has a strong (not powerful) voice. I love the tone of her voice, and when she really projects it's not overbearing - it has a really amazing quality to it. I liked most of the songs, it's not a must hear album - but it's very, very good. I enjoyed it. However, she's such a talented vocalist, I look forward to listening to another Dusty Springfield album sometime very soon.

Tomorrow's album: Jack White's Blunderbuss.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#88: Ben Folds Five - The Sound and the Life of the Mind (2012)

Welcome back Ben Folds Five.

I'm officially old. I've finally reached the age where all my favorite bands from my past have reconciled and are putting out a new album (see: Matchbox Twenty). Ben Folds has absolutely matured since his BFF days, but it’s even more interesting to see how the other musicians have changed and how it ultimately affects their sound.

Erase Me
This song is BFF at their best. They were once dubbed “punk rock for pussies” and this song follows in that tradition.  What I’ve always admired about the trio is their transitions. This song goes through a number of them, from an eerie type beginning to a bouncy rock number. The harmonies are superb and the lyrics are sharp – one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.

Thank You For Breaking My Heart
The music is exquisite - the piano is soulful, simple, and sweet. It’s the depth of the music from track to track that really allows this record to hold your attention for its entirety. The song’s title isn’t a thinker, nor are the rest of the lyrics, but it has a universal appeal to it. It’s Ben’s most “thoughtful” song since ‘The Boxer’.

Draw A Crowd
While they have absolutely matured throughout the album, this song proves that their still kids at heart. What a cool, yet simple piano lick to hold it together. “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.” This song also contains the best lyric on the album, “I only wanted to be Stevie Wonder, but I got to settle for this vanilla thunder.”

All in all, it’s a solid return for a solid band. They do so many things right throughout the 45 minutes left and in terms of recording quality, it's their best album. They've been a big part of my musical development and they will hopefully continue putting out music for many years to come - I’d still like to think their best work is ahead of them. They mix rock, ballads, a capella, jazz, and blues all into the same pot and the results are truly special.

Tomorrow's album: Dusty Springfield's A Girl Called Dusty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

#87: Solomon Burke - Rock 'N Soul (1964)

Ray Charles called himself a genius because he's a bad ass and because he is. Solomon Burke is the self proclaimed King of Rock N' Soul. Which... even if this was an actual genre - he wouldn't be the King. If that were the case then I'd like to be officially known as the King of SoundsNowhereNearAsGoodAsTheBeatles, and at least I'd be truthful.

Won't You Give Him (One More Chance)
This is the first song on the album that has a more modern feel to it. The vocals are quite good, but the instrumentation that goes along with it makes it feel like it could be revamped and made today. There's so much pull back to the chorus it's ridiculous, and the vocals only amplify this - it's why the song works.

Can't Nobody Love You
The previous tracks are early rock n' roll with blues vocals, but this song features a little more blues in the instrumentation. However, at times it feels as if he's forcing the blend of genres. Like he's trying to find the mathematical equations of each genre and then working it out so they technically work together. At times, it works but at times it falls flat. This song could have carried a lot more weight if it was just the blues and he wasn't trying to fit other parts into it.

You're Good for Me
It's got a 3/4 feel to it with this simple bass line to push it along, while the vocals sing some soulful words about a relationship. It's like 'Bring it On Home to Me' but not quite as good. This album is full of songs that sound like other songs that you've heard before. Despite the album's title indicating that we're going to hear a new genre, it doesn't feel like anything new. If James Brown and Sam Cooke not been on the scene as of yet, I think this would have a little more merit to me.

All in all, it's not a bad album. My issue is that it just feels to forced. It takes a bass part from one genre, a drum part from another, a vocal from another, and all together it just doesn't feel genuine. It sounds "technically" fine, but this album isn't any more special than any other album that came out in this year. There's no real big take away's, it's just kinda blah.

Tomorrow's album: Ben Folds Five's The Sound and the Life of the Mind.

Monday, October 15, 2012

#86: Mayer Hawthorne – How Do You Do? (2011)

Hawthorne got a lot of attention for his debut album, ‘A Strange Arrangement’. A big fan of his throwback style was Snoop Dogg, who even collaborated with Hawthorne for a track. This album seems to be a little more modern than his debut but still carries the same overall feel. It’s amazing to think that these are original songs and not covers taken from the era.

A Long Time
The man has style both musically and in the clothes he wears. This song has a little more Hall and Oates in it than Motown; however, it still completely rocks. With Mayer’s trademarked falsetto he can really sing anything and make it sound amazing. He’s hails from Detroit, “Welcome to the motor town, buckle up ‘cause here we go.”

The Walk
I love this track so much I want to burst into a thousand pieces. Not only is absolutely the best track on the album, it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. There’s something about throwback music that’s just awesome, and when there’s cursing in it – it gets bonus points. Not many times have I listened to a track over and over for hours after first hearing it, however this was one. “From the moment I met you, I thought you were fine, but your shitty, fucking attitude has got me changing my mind.” The horns are spot on, the vocals and melody is amazing, the feel is butter, and the lyrics are expertly crafted. It’s a must listen if there’s ever been one. The video’s pretty stellar as well; it’s shot in the style of the A-Team.

No Strings
It’s fluff but it’s got such a groove. Anyone who says, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” clearly hasn’t heard of Mayer Hawthorne. Lyrically (again) Hawthorne doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but it’s really, really fun music. If there’s any question if Mayer can pull of his sound live, here’s a video: he can. The breakdown to the ending vocals is perfect, it’s such a wonderful cap to such a well written song.

All in all, Mayer Hawthorne is a stud. There’s no doubt in my mind that the best is yet to come. He’s the real deal because he’s got depth. He understands both pop sensibilities as well as the genres he’s putting himself into. Sophomore slumps are for chumps. Mayer Hawthorne ain’t no chump.

Tomorrow's album: Solomon Burke's Rock 'N Soul.