1001 Albums 0006-0008
Published May 20, 2012
My continued journey through the albums featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
0006 Duke Ellington: Ellington At Newport (1956)
So, here’s the first pure jazz album in the book. I can’t say that I’m extremely knowledgeable about that particular genre, but my dad was a jazz fan and although he never played records very much at home, he watched a lot of jazz on TV and told me who was who etcetera, so I picked up quite a lot of information through him. As for Duke Ellington, I’m mostly familiar with classic tunes such as ‘Take The A Train’, ‘Mood Indigo’, ‘Caravan’ and ‘I Like The Sunrise’.
This album, which consists of three very long tracks (the first of which, ‘Newport Jazz Festival Suite’, takes up the entire side one), was apparently something of a comeback album for Duke Ellington, after his brand of jazz had fallen out of fashion for a while. The concert at Newport was a great success, but the recording made there apparently wasn’t up to scratch, so the original album actually features a studio recording made in New York, mixed with parts of the original concert and the sounds of the enthusiastic audience (the audience reaction is often the most exciting part of the recording).
This is not the kind of album I actively seek out. I listen to it and am able to appreciate that it is very sophisticated and expertly performed music. However, for the most part I don’t really connect with it emotionally. The great exception is the closing track, ‘Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue’, which swings so much that I’d have to be both cloth-eared and violently anti-jazz to be able to resist it.
Verdict: Interesting to hear in a “getting educated about music history” kind of way, and I’d definitely put ‘Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue’ on an Ellington compilation.
0007 Frank Sinatra: Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! (1956)
An album I’ve already heard
This is an absolutely flawless album, and one of the first Sinatra LPs I truly fell in love with. This was when Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle first created an album that was nothing less than magic. The recording of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ has to be one of the most amazing studio-recorded pieces of music ever made – because of Sinatra’s singing, of course, but even more so thanks to Nelson Riddle. Just listen to the break with the trombone solo. If that isn’t one of the most exhilarating pieces of music ever committed to tape I don’t know what is. And the song selection itself is top-notch: Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ has to be one of the best and most complete ‘pop songs’ ever written – a lesson in musical economy and cleverly-written (but not clever-clever) lyrics. I could go on, but I think I will stop here. Listen to the album instead.
Note: Frank Sinatra’s years with the Capitol label (1953–1961) are widely regarded as the most artistically rewarding of his recording career. I’d like to mention another personal favourite among the Sinatra/Riddle collaborations, which is not included in the book, namely 1960’s ballad album Nice ‘n’ Easy. If you have any taste at all for this kind of music, I advise you to check it out.
0008 The Crickets: The “Chirping” Crickets (1957)
Buddy Holly was perhaps the most “pop” of the early rock pioneers, and had a huge influence on the song writing of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and countless others. Before listening to this album I had only ever heard Buddy Holly’s hits and most famous songs: this LP features classics such as ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘Maybe Baby’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’. I have to say that those songs remain the standouts for me, and they are indeed incredible, as are many of the hits not featured on this album: 'Rave On', for example, which is my favourite Buddy Holly song. As for the rest of this particular LP (credited to The Crickets; it would take a couple of years before Holly received a separate credit on records), few of the other songs are anywhere near as catchy as those hits and many of them sound a bit samey.
Verdict: I already own a great Buddy Holly compilation CD and I think I’ll stick to that.