Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram (1971)

While some albums come close, I've never heard an "all killer, no filler" McCartney solo/Wings album. However, at the very least, every McCartney solo album contains a few fantastic pop songs. This one fits that description, to be sure. It's not a coherent album by any means and took a drubbing from critics because of it. And even though the influences are readily apparent, this thing really gets under your skin after a few listens then continually rewards repeated spins. It's no Band On The Run or Speed Of Sound, but that's a high mark. The fact that Linda plays such a big role doesn't bother me as much as it does some people. Sure, she wasn't in the same league as Paul as a musician, but he obviously loved her so powerfully that he didn't care and I find that sort of love to be a very admirable trait in a person.

Press of the time:
  • Record World: "The quality of the album will be debated around the world"
  • Billboard: "A good part of the fun is McCartney's light, clever arrangements and superb rhythm changes."
  • CashBox: "McCartney has written better material during his Beatle days."
  • Rolling Stone: "unbearably inept"
  • Stereo Review: "McCartney has some musical talent, but on this regrettable album it is clutching at straws, not knowing which way to go, and ends up going nowhere."
  • Robert Christgau (C+): "most of the songs are so lightweight they float away even as Paulie layers them down with caprices."

In its 2020 list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Rolling Stone ranked Ram at #450:
In its day, Paul McCartney’s second post-Beatles album was widely disliked; John Lennon dismissed it as 'muzak,' and Ringo Starr said the lack of good songs made him 'sad.' In retrospect, it’s a modest, goofy, loose-limbed outing about domestic pleasures, full of eccentric, pastorale tunes like 'Heart of the Country' and 'Munkberry Moon Delight.' The loopy pastiche of whimsical song fragments 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' became Paul’s first post-Beatles Number One hit. 'I was in a very free mood,' he said.

Album chart peaks:
  • US Billboard 200: #2
  • CashBox: #2

Tracks: let's rank 'em!
  1. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey: a #1 tune in the US, this track is a patented McCartney medley where he stitches a couple of songs together (see also: Band On The Run, Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun, and many others. Hell, see also the incomparable side two medley of Abbey Road) 
  2. Too Many People: this was the b-side to the Uncle Albert single and there must have been a radio programmer in Odessa that loved the b-side because I remember hearing it on the radio as a child. An early diss track, it takes a few shots at John Lennon. 
  3. Ram On/Dear Boy/Ram On (Reprise): these gotta be Paul's tribute/knockoff/homage to Brian Wilson, right?
  4. Eat At Home: a silly but fun rocker as if Buddy Holly was a country picker.
  5. The Back Seat Of My Car: a quality album closer, this thing starts of as typical McCartney piano ballad, moves to some orchestration (arranged by George Martin), has an upbeat section before returning to the orchestration with a little upbeat coda tacked on to the end.
  6. Heart Of The Country: a folk-pop tune with a touch of Carl Perkins in which the lyrics perfectly match the music. 
  7. Long Haired Lady: after a horrible start (which needlessly repeats itself mid-song), this thing eventually settles into a comfortable soft rock feel, including with an attempt to duplicate the sing-along playout of Hey Jude.
  8. Smile Away: a straight-ahead rocker with a noticeable '50s influence
  9. 3 Legs: a bluesy little number which completely works as a straight acoustic blues, but falls apart at the ending with an inexplicable change of feel.
  10. Monkberry Moon Delight: this raw stomper doesn't do much for me, although the chorus is miles better than the verse. Goes on a bit longer than it probably should.

From my personal collection

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Egypt Station (2018) All The Best! (1987)
New (2013) Press To Play (1986)
Memory Almost Full (2007)Give My Regards To Broad Street (1984)
Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (2005) Pipes of Peace (1983)
Wingspan: Hits and History (2001) Tug of War (1982)
Wingspan Sampler (2001) London Town (1978)
Flaming Pie (1997)Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976)
Unplugged: The Official Bootleg (1991)Band On The Run (1973)

Friday, May 3, 2024

Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon (1970)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 1996 reissue.

Joni Mitchell albums, to me, are becoming much like Beatles releases, in that whichever album I'm listening to at the time, I believe is the best release by that particular artist. This beautiful thing certainly qualifies. Comforting while simultaneously thought-provoking. Wow. And I'd rather listen than write, so I'm tapping out now.

Press of the time:
  • Robert Christgau (A-): "Joni's new dependence on piano implies a move from the open air to the drawing room--or at least living area--that's reflected in richer, more sophisticated songs."
  • Billboard: "a delightful set of 12 fine cuts"
  • CashBox: "sensitive, poetic lyrics, evocative melodies and fine voice and guitar playing"
  • Rolling Stone: "An album of departures, overheard conversations and unique triumphs for the hymnal lady who mingles the random with the particular so effectively."
  • RPM Weekly: "excellent MOR programming material"
  • Stereo Review: Recording of Special Merit
  • High Fidelity: "I can't recommend anyone more highly."

Album chart peaks:
  • US Billboard 200: #27
  • CashBox: #18

Tracks: 12 beautiful songs, delightfully delivered, perfectly sequenced.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: This was one of several early '70s Mitchell albums that helped me get through some emotionally tough spring/summer months in 2023.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)
Court And Spark (1974)
Blue (1971)

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement (1969)

Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, June 21, 1969.

The Downbeat magazine review of this album calls it "cliche-ridden, r&b-influenced jazz." Does that mean I'm not supposed to dig it? Too bad, because it certainly delivers and is an enjoyable way to spend 40 minutes. McCann is on top of his game as both performer and composer. The liner notes below explain the impromptu nature of this show and, maybe because of that spontaneity, it sounds like the band is having a great time grooving on the stage. The duo released a successful studio follow-up in 1971, appropriately titled Second Movement, which also topped the Billboard jazz album charts.

  • CashBox: "one of the most exciting jazz albums of the year"
  • Downbeat: ★★
  • Billboard: ★★★★
  • The Penguin Guide to Jazz (5th ed., 2000): ★★½
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999): ★★★★
  • The Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999): ★★★

Album chart peaks:
  • US Billboard Top 200: #29
  • Billboard Jazz: #1
  • Billboard R&B: #2
  • Record World Jazz: #1

Tracks: What was side one (tracks 1-3) is preferable to side two, but it's all good.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Probably through versions of the song by Roberta Flack and The Roots with John Legend, I was previously familiar with Compared To What (#85 pop, #35 R&B). But the album as a whole came to my attention as I was putting together a list of the Billboard Jazz Album charts and noticed this album was in the top ten from December 20, 1969 until November 21, 1970. That remarkable run includes thirteen consecutive weeks at #1. It had an almost identical run on the Record World Jazz LPs chart. That info, along with spreadsheets of other album charts, is available at our popular sister site:

Monday, April 29, 2024

Various Artists - Stax '68: A Memphis Story (2018)

This wonderful "book set" is described on the Stax website thusly:
The five-disc box set contains the A- and B-sides of every single released under the Stax banner in 1968, including the company's sub-labels. With a 56-page book including revelatory, in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg, as well as rare and previously unseen photos, the set presents more than 120 songs from this unprecedented creative period in American music.
And on the set's hype sticker:

More hype:

To be honest, I was initially weary about getting all the b-sides because I usually dismiss them completely, saying something like "b-sides are b-sides for a reason," but once I heard this entire set, I changed my mind. In many cases, the b-side is just as good or better than the a-side. In one case, it was the b-side that charted: Tribute To A King, a memorial to Otis Redding. I didn't do any research so I'm just guessing here, but I'd wager this box set was the first time some of these b-sides have appeared on a CD.

The book does a fantastic job of describing the included singles within the context of the Memphis culture of 1968: civil unrest, the sanitation strike, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The photo used on the cover is of the MLK memorial march down Main Street in Memphis on April 8.

Tracks, with just a few of my many favorites indicated with .

Sub-labels of Stax1 included in this set are Volt2, Enterprise3, Hip4, Magic Touch5, and Arch6.

26 tracks, 69 minutes
Released January - March

Artist Single R&B Pop
Otis Redding2(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay b/w Sweet Lorene11
Sam & Dave1I Thank You b/w Wrap It Up49
The Memphis Nomads1Don't Pass Your Judgement b/w I Wanna Be (Your Lover & Your Honey)

Shirley Walton3I Was Born To Love You b/w I'm So Glad You're Back

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas1Lovey Dovey b/w New Year's Resolution2160
Ollie & The Nightingales1I Got A Sure Thing b/w Girl, You Have My Heart Singing1673
Eddie Floyd1Big Bird b/w Holding On With Both Hands

The Bar-Kays2A Hard Day's Night b/w I Want Someone

Johnnie Taylor1Next Time b/w Sundown34

William Bell1Every Man Oughta Have A Woman b/w Tribute To A King1686
Mable John1Able Mable b/w Don't Get Caught

Rufus Thomas1The Memphis Train b/w I Think I Made A Boo Boo

Jeanne & The Darlings2What Will Later On Be Like b/w Hang Me Now

22 tracks, 60 minutes
Released March - May

Artist Single R&B Pop
Derek Martin2Soul Power b/w Sly Girl

Linda Lyndell2Bring Your Love Back To Me b/w Here I Am

Carla Thomas1A Dime A Dozen b/w I Want You Back

Kangaroo's4Groovy Day b/w Every Man Needs A Woman

Isaac Hayes3Precious Precious b/w Going To Chicago Blues

The Mad Lads2Whatever Hurts You b/w No Time Is Better Than Now31

Otis Redding2The Happy Song (Dum-Dum) b/w Open The Door1025
Albert King1(I Love) Lucy b/w You're Gonna Need Me46
Johnnie Taylor1I Ain't Particular b/w Where There's Smoke There's Fire45
Eddie Henderson Quintet3Georgy Girl b/w A Million Or More Times

Shirley Walton3Send Peace And Harmony Home b/w The One You Can't Have All By Yourself

29 tracks, 79 minutes
Released May - September

Artist Single R&B Pop
Booker T. & The MG's1Soul-Limbo b/w Heads Or Tails717
Eddie Floyd1I've Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do) b/w I'm Just The Kind Of Fool240
Delaney & Bonnie1It's Been A Long Time Coming b/w We've Just Been Feeling Bad

Linda Lyndel2What A Man b/w I Don't Know50
Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds5Broadway Freeze b/w I Can't Cry No More

Johnny Daye1Stay Baby Stay b/w I Love Love

Bobby Whitlock4Raspberry Ring b/w And I Love You

Judy Clay & William Bell1Private Number b/w Love-Eye-Tis1775
Jimmy Hughes2I Like Everything About You b/w What Side Of The Door21

The Delrays6Lollipop Lady b/w (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me

Lindell Hill6Remone b/w Used To Be Love

The Aardvarks6Subconcious Train Of Thought b/w Unicorn Man

Fresh Air6Somebody Stole My Gal b/w Somebody Stole My Gal (Instrumental)

Judy Clay1Bed Of Roses b/w Remove These Clouds

The Staple Singers1Long Walk To D.C. (b-side starts next CD)

29 tracks, 79 minutes
Released September - November

Artist Single R&B Pop
The Staple Singers1Stay With Us

The Soul Children1Give 'Em Love b/w Move Over40

Johnnie Taylor1Who's Making Love b/w I'm Trying15
Rufus Thomas1Funky Mississippi b/w So Hard To Get Along With

Carla Thomas1Where Do I Go b/w I've Fallen In Love3886
The Mad Lads2So Nice b/w Make Room35
Charmells2Lovin' Feeling b/w Sea Shell

Jeanne & The Darlings2It's Unbelievable (How You Control My Soul) b/w I Like What You're Doing To Me

Southwest F.O.B.4Smell Of Incense b/w Green Skies

The Village Sound4Sally's Got A Good Thing b/w The La La Song

Eddie Floyd1Bring It On Home To Me b/w Sweet Things You Do417
Booker T. & The MG's1Hang 'Em High b/w Over Easy359
Ollie &amp The Nightingales1You're Leaving Me b/w Showered With Love47

The Popcorn Generation4Kitchy Kitchy Koo b/w Shake It

The Bar-Kays2Copy Kat b/w In The Hole

28 tracks, 78 minutes
Released November & December

Artist Single R&B Pop
Dino & Doc2Mighty Cold Winter b/w A Woman Can't Do (What A Man Do)

William Bell1I Forgot To Be Your Lover b/w Bring The Curtain Down1045
The Goodees4Condition Red b/w Didn't Know Love Was So Good

Mable John1Running Out b/w Shouldn't I Love Him

Billy Lee Riley4Family Portrait b/w Going Back To Memphis

William Bell & Judy Clay1My Baby Specializes b/w Left Over Love45104
The Soul Children1I'll Understand b/w Doing Our Thing29

The Staple Singers1The Ghetto b/w Got To Be Some Changes Made

Albert King1Blues Power b/w Night Stomp

The Epsilons1The Echo b/w Really Rockin'

Rufus Thomas1Funky Way b/w I Want To Hold You

This Generation4The Children Have Your Tongue b/w Give Her What She Wants

Daaron Lee4Who's Making Love b/w Long Black Train

Johnnie Taylor1Take Care Of Your Homework b/w Hold On This Time220

Personal Memory (Loosely) Associated with this CD: My favorite civil rights story comes from 1966, not 1968, but the writings in the included book reminded me of this story so here it goes: My father attended Union Theological Seminary (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in Richmond, Virginia and, upon graduation in 1962, was called to the Sardis Presbyterian Church in Sardis, Mississippi. Sardis is a small town on the edge of the Delta, about an hour's drive south of Memphis. A young preacher, 24 years old, dropped into a position of moral leadership in the Deep South, in the middle of the civil rights movement - I can't even imagine.

My parents in front of the church manse, 1962.

In June of 1966, James Meredith, who had integrated the nearby University of Mississippi in 1962, walked alone in the Meredith March Against Fear "to promote black voter registration and defy entrenched racism." Headed to Jackson, the march started at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis on June 5; Meredith was shot on June 6. Other organizations rallied to take Meredith's place and complete the march to Jackson. More on the march here or check out the 2014 book, Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear by Aram Goudsouzian.

The march eventually entered Sardis on Hwy 51 and passed directly in front of the Presbyterian church. Like many churches in rural small towns, the church didn't have any locks on the doors. In preparation for the incoming marchers, the church's (white, male) board of deacons had met without my father's knowledge and decided to have locks put on the doors of the church in order to keep out any marchers; I feel confident in saying the deacons used the N-word instead of the term "marchers." In any case, my father walked up to the church to work one morning and saw the local locksmith putting strong Yale locks on the doors of the church. I'm sure my father made some small talk with the locksmith and carried on with his morning. After lunch, when he was alone, Dad returned to the church and removed the new locks. He simply believed (as I do) that a church is no place for bigotry (sadly, a message that many churches still need to hear these many decades later). Dad then took the locks and placed them on the bookcase directly behind his desk in his office so that anyone who entered the office would know precisely who had removed the locks. He claims nobody ever said a word to him about it. I'll bet there was plenty of talk about it, though.

Within six months, Dad had wisely accepted a call to another congregation. In December 1966, the family, including an infant named Mark, moved from Mississippi to the oil fields of West Texas, where they lived until 1978. Here's a photo of that infant child taken in 1968, around the time the songs found on disc 3 were released:

Monday, April 22, 2024

Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign (1967)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2013 remaster with 5 previously unreleased bonus tracks.

If you've ever been hurt by your main squeeze, deceived by your best friend, or down to your last dime and ready to call it quits, Albert King has the solution if you have the time to listen.
-from the original album liner notes by Stax’s original Director of Publicity and Grammy award winner Deanie Parker.

My listening habits developed over many years, of course, so I can't pinpoint when I started listening to classical music almost exclusively in the fall/winter months and blues music almost exclusively in the spring/summer months, but it happened at some point, here we are in spring, so it's time to start spinning some blues discs. And here we've got a blues legend cutting tracks with the Stax house band a.k.a. Booker T & the MGs. What's not to like? Widely considered King's best (and breakthrough) album, these songs introduced many to both the note-bending guitar work and gritty vocals of Albert King, firmly establishing his place in the blues revival of the '60s. If you like your R&B with a heavy emphasis on the B, this album is highly recommended.

  • Billboard: "a realistic, soulful style which hits the mark"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (★★★★★): "a blues monument"

While the album failed to chart upon release, it has since been given many accolades, including the following:
  • In the 2012 edition of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums list, the album ranked at #491 (in the 2003 edition, it ranked at #499): "King’s first album for the Stax label combines his hard, unflashy guitar playing with the sleek sound of the label’s house band, Booker T. and the MG’s. Hits such as 'Crosscut Saw' and 'Laundromat Blues' earned King a new rock & roll audience."
  • In 1985, the album was added to the Blues Hall of Fame as a Classic of Blues Recording.
  • In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance
  • In 2020, the album was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Tracks: Not a bad track to be found. My favorites are Crosscut Saw, Kansas City, Down Don't Bother Me, and Laundromat Blues.

Bonus tracks: alternate takes of Born Under A Bad Sign, Crosscut Saw, The Hunter, and Personal Manager along with an untitled instrumental which was certainly good enough for inclusion on the original album.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Several years ago I was visiting the Stax website, as one does, and they were having a sale: this CD plus a Stax t-shirt for $29.99. I was on that like gravy on biscuits.

I'm currently in the early stages of planning a trip next year that will not only include a trip to the Stax museum (again), but also take us to Clarksdale, Mississippi and as much of the Mississippi Blues Trail as we can possibly fit in. Hopefully, that will include a drive through Indianola to see the Albert King marker.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Joe Henderson - Mode For Joe (1966)

Note: the CD I listened to was the UK import 2003 Rudy Van Gelder Edition with a bonus track.

I'm not the biggest fan of Joe Henderson's playing, but I'm certainly a fan of the remainder of the band - in particular Lee Morgan, Bobby Hutcherson, and Ron Carter - plus the tunes here are well-written. While I don't like the album as much as the critics, it is still an enjoyable, worthwhile hard bop disc for me.

Original album liner notes by Leonard Feather.

Henderson - tenor saxophone
Lee Morgan - trumpet
Curtis Fuller - trombone
Bobby Hutcherson - vibes
Cedar Walton - piano
Ron Carter - bass
Joe Chambers - drums

  • Downbeat (★★★★): "Henderson is out on his own now; this record proves he is ready."
  • The Penguin Guide to Jazz (5th ed., 2000): ★★★½
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999): ★★★★
  • The Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999): ★★★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: My favorite cut today is the title track which is described in label press as "the standout of the set, a modal masterpiece where the leader summons one of his most transcendent and visceral solo statements." And don't sleep on the stellar solo turns from Hutcherson, Fuller, then Carter. Also track 3, Black, with great solos from Morgan and Walton. I like the Latin groove of Caribbean Fire Dance, but I think it has the least enjoyable soloing.

Bonus track: An alternate take of track 3, Black.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Sound Of Music Soundtrack (1965)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2015 reissue on the Craft label.

If you like Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals (I do) and are a fan of Julie Andrews (she's a treasure), you can't do any better than this album.

Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "outstanding soundtrack package"
  • CashBox: "an unforgettable experience"
  • High Fidelity: "much more palatable in its individual parts than as a whole"
  • Record World: "RCA Victor must have one of the all-time top-selling soundtrack albums"
  • Stereo Review: "The burden of the singing falls on Julie Andrews, and she almost succeeds in putting some spice into this overcooked stew of sentimentality."

For the record, the five Academy Awards won were Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Wise), Best Sound (James Corcoran & Fred Hynes), Best Film Editing (William Reynolds), and Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment (Irwin Kostal).

Album chart peaks:
  • US Billboard 200: #1
  • CashBox: #2 (kept out of the top spot by another Julie Andrews soundtrack, Mary Poppins)
In 2015, Billboard named this soundtrack album the second-best charting album of all time, behind Adele's 2011 album, 21.

Tracks: I know it's an easy cliché to claim that My Favorite Things is one of my favorite things, but it's true so I'm gonna go ahead and claim it. Other favorites include Sixteen Going On Seventeen, The Lonely Goatherd, and Edleweiss. But I'll happily listen to the whole thing.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I've seen both the stage musical and the 1965 movie multiple times; I always enjoy the show. I've never been in the cast of the show - my lone R&H cast experience was as Lt. Cable in South Pacific - but I once worked on the backstage crew of a touring company production when they passed through town back in the '90s.

When I was in high school, I received a Walkman knock-off for Christmas (probably 1983) and, for reasons unknown to me all these years later, opted to listen to my father's pre-recorded cassette of this album more than once that Christmas Day instead of any of my own tapes.