1001 Albums 0015-0017

Published June 23, 2012

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0015 Tito Puente & His Orchestra: Dance Mania, Vol. 1 (1958)

Quite enjoyable, this, in a Fifties night-clubby kind of way. Tito Puente, sometimes known as “The King of Latin Music”, knows how to perform a mambo, and as every decent person knows the mambo is one of the greatest human inventions. But while this album is nice to have on in the background, I wouldn’t rate it as essential listening.

Verdict: Fun and lively, but not so much for close listening.

0016 Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin (1958)

Oooh, this is where I have to make a confession: I’m actually not particularly fond of Billie Holiday. I’m aware that she’s regarded as one of the greats, but all I hear, at least on this album, is a heroin addict croaking her way through song after song without very much in the way of interpretation. And since I find the notion of the artist bound for self-destruction neither romantic nor intriguing, there's very little left here for me. The arrangements, by Ray Ellis, are nice, but cannot save the album. Sorry, Holiday fans.

Verdict: Not my cup of tea.

0017 Jack Elliott: Jack Takes The Floor (1958)

“This release is still engaging as it was in 1958,” it says here. Well, I wasn’t around in 1958 so I can’t really say how engaging it was back then, but I do know that it fails to engage me very much now. I understand that this kind of folky Americana (vocals and guitar only) sparks something in certain listeners, and I’m sure Mr. Elliott has been very influential. It’s just that this particular album makes this particular listener feel restless and bored.

Verdict: I have no wish to hear this album again.

Note: This album is currently unavailable.

1001 Albums 0012-0014

Published June 08, 2012

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0012 Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool (1957)

This, strictly speaking, is a compilation album, since all the recordings were made in 1949–1950. Miles Davis is, of course, one of the jazz greats, and these were the recordings where he and his musicians invented cool jazz. According to Wikipedia, cool jazz “is characterized by its relaxed tempos and lighter tone, in contrast to the bebop style that preceded it”, and also “often employs formal arrangements and incorporates elements of classical music.”

I’ve heard about this album for decades, but never got around to listening to it until now. As with so many of the other jazz albums in this blog, my ears tell me that this is great music, yet my heart is never really in it for real. The music doesn’t annoy me, and I’m glad that I’ve finally heard this classic album, but it fails to spark a love affair.

Discographical note: The closing track, ‘Darn That Dream’ – the only song to feature vocals – was added to the album in 1971. The vocal interpretation, by one Kenny Hagood, wants too much and achieves too little, jarring against the mood of the rest of the album, so they should have left it off.

Verdict: A true jazz classic, but I don’t think I’ll revisit it any time soon.


0013 Machito: Kenya (1957)

I can just imagine myself sitting in some cool club somewhere in the United States in the late Fifties, sipping a cocktail and grooving away to this wonderful slice of Latin big band jazz. According to the 1001 Albums book, “In the 1940s, Machito and his orchestra brewed a hot cup of mambo-mania, blending Afro-Cuban beats with American jazz”. The music heard on this album was apparently the result of the band’s musical director, Mario Bauza, wanting to create “a Latin big band that fused the fire of early Cuban orchestras he heard growing up in Havana with the hipness of Duke Ellington”. If so I’m all for it.

Verdict: Great, the music triggers my imagination – might even buy the album.


0014 Little Richard: Here’s Little Richard (1957)

An album I’ve already heard.

My mother’s cousin was something of a record collector, and since I loved pop and rock music even as a small child, I inherited many of the albums and singles he decided to rid himself of. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for introducing me to many great artists, for example Little Richard – and this very album was the one he gave me, along with the follow-up album simply entitled Little Richard; those two albums taken together pretty much constitute a collection of every essential recording Mr Penniman made in the Fifties.

What can I say? For sheer rock’n’roll energy, Little Richard is pretty much unmatched, and there are no weak tracks on this album. I loved this music as a kid and I still love it today.

An additional note: I just realised that Little Richard will be 80 this December, Chuck Berry will be 86 in October, and Fats Domino is already 84. Dear me, rock’n’roll really is VERY old now.