1001 Albums 0030-0032

Published February 21, 2013

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

0030: Bill Evans: Sunday At The Village Vanguard (1961)

I have exactly one Bill Evans album in my collection: his collaboration with Monica Zetterlund, released on their 1964 album Waltz For Debby. Many, including Monica herself, feel that this was her greatest album, and I agree. Evans' delicate, sensitive and responsive piano playing was the perfect match for Monica's singing. This present album, however, is just him and his trio, recorded live. And while I can still appreciate that Evan's was an incredibly sensitive pianist and that he and his fellow musicians are highly accomplished, I feel my attention wandering. I guess I prefer him "duetting" with a vocalist like Monica Z.

Verdict: This certainly isn't bad, but the music doesn't mean very much to me.

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0031: Ray Charles: Modern Sounds In Country And Western (1962)

Now, here's something that was a novel approach when it was first released, more than 40 years ago: an entire album of an African-American soul singer tackling a music genre that, thus far, had been strongly associated with white Americans. But the results are great and perhaps indicates that there isn't necessarily that much difference between the two genres, or at least there wasn't back then.

The big hit here was "I Can't Stop Loving You", which topped the charts in both the United States and Great Britain, but there's plenty more to enjoy on this excellent album. With such an amazing singer as Ray Charles at the microphone, how could there not be?

Verdict: A truly great album from start to finish.

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0032: Booker T. And The M.G.s: Green Onions (1962)

A few albums ago in this blog, I listened to an LP by Jimmy Smith, who helped make the Hammond organ a cool instrument in the Fifties. But as I'm listening to this album, I'm wondering if Booker T. Jones didn't do more to bring the organ into the mainstream.

The only track I can remember hearing before is the title track, a Top Three hits in the U.S. back in 1962. And more than 50 years later it's still a really groovy and exciting recording. The rest of the album: well, I guess it's a staple of every self-respecting mod's record collection. To me it sounds very much like "generic Sixties pop music", the kind you will hear when there's a band playing or there's a scene at a discotheque in a Sixties movie. I also believe I'm hearing the sort of swing and feel that would be imitated by many British bands just a couple of years later.

It's a nice enough album, certainly, but however much I like Sixties instrumentals with the electric organ in the forefront, as a whole this collection of tunes don't excite me enough to actively seek it out.

Verdict: Groovy, but perhaps outstays its welcome after a few tracks.

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1001 Albums 0028-0029

Published February 17, 2013

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

0028: Jimmy Smith: Back At The Chicken Shack (1960)

Considering its ubiquity on recorded music throughout the Sixties, it's hard to understand that there was a time when the electric organ was regarded as anything but hip. But then along came Jimmy Smith, who is largely credited with making it a very cool instrument indeed.

This album is supposedly one of his very best, although I have to say that to my ears it sounds as if the Hammond organ takes a back seat to Stanley Turrentine's saxophone and guitarist Kenny Burrell.

I found this album a bit boring, to tell you the truth. I wouldn't mind it plyaing as background music in a bar or at a dinner party, but it's nothing I would listen to as "an album".

Verdict: Not enough Hammond organ.

0029: Muddy Waters: Muddy Waters At Newport (1960)

Full disclosure: I am not a blues fan. I do realise that it's the basis of much of modern popular music, but in it's purest, most rootsy form, it just doesn't speak to me most of the time. So Muddy Waters being something of a blues legend I approached this album - which inspired many of the names that went on to form some of the most famous names in Sixties and Seventies rock - with some trepidation.

I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed this a lot more than I had expected, and if nothing else it was interesting to hear some of the blues classics in the versions that inspired the many other recordings that followed. If you're a blues fan I can certainly understand that this album would appeal to you. The band is really, really tight, there's plenty of excitement and energy in the performance, and Muddy Waters is a great singer.

At the end of the day, however, this is not my cup of tea and it's not an album I will seek out again.

Verdict: A great recording, but of limited appeal to this particular listener.