As a total music nerd, one of the things I love about the world of music is how it has its own legends, tales, myths and conquering heroes. Along with books and film, popular music is part of our modern mythology. As with any mythology, there are certain figures that tower over the rest and these become our legends. It's always a matter of taste as to which cults we choose to follow. For this, the last of my themed Weekend Roundups that I have planned, I picked newly acquired albums by some of the legends I believe in. Next weekend I will return to the usual hodgepodge of random sounds that has made up the list in the past. Until then, here's the summer semester's listening list for Music History (probably a three hundred level course).
Roky Erickson with Okkervil River - True Love Cast Out All Evil: One of my all time favorite rock figures, Roky Erickson returned to the studio for the first time in over a decade to make this album with one of my favorite current bands Okkervil River. This album consists mostly of songs that appear on the Roky Approved series a few years back, but all are rerecorded with new music by Okkervil River. This record is actually quite beautiful, but I would say it's probably more for aficionados of Roky's catalog. As always, Roky sounds as if channeling a past journey through Purgatory while Okkervil River creates swirling storms of sound. I saw them in concert two weeks ago with Roky and it definitely gave me a new appreciation for the album. As intense as Black Sabbath at moments; as soft as a campfire song at others. Again, quite beautiful.
Wu-Tang Clan - Return of the Wu: Another DJ Mathematics mix compilation of Wu rhymes with fresh beats that follows a flurry of mix tapes from the group recently. Living in NYC in the mid-to-late '90s, it was all Wu in the streets. Wu banging out the headphones as I walked down the avenues. Wu rattling the windows of my no-sunlight apartment. No one ever did hip hop like the Clan - either before or after. Though certainly not essential, any fan would not go wrong to pick this up. The rhymes are just as tight as they ever were and the beats definitely get them heads bobbing.
The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards: Hands down, Jack White is the most important figure in music of the last decade in my opinion. Besides bringing back garage rock, guitar rock, blues riffs, and a whole host of great bands with him, he's also lead 3 bands to huge success. The Dead Weather is the newest, and this their second album, follows up last years debut with more blues rock numbers. Alison Mosshart (of the Kills) is in many ways the perfect partner for Jack White. She's like the female version of him vocally and they meet somewhere perfectly in the middle. I think this album is slightly better than the debut, which I also enjoyed. This one goes a little beyond the straightforward blues rock of the debut. It's harder, more experimental in parts and the results are something slightly more memorable. Great stuff.
Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune: The latest in a seemingly never-ending flood of releases from the vaults, this Hendrix album is, well, a Hendrix album. I'm certainly a fan of Jimi, however with such a short career, it's impossible to believe all the compilations that come out are worthwhile. This is a very solid set of songs and Jimi as always is electrifying, but how many times can I hear the same tunes. Honestly, I feel if there were Jimi recordings worth releasing, they would have been released long before now.
Buddy Holly - Down the Line Rarities: This two-disc compilation came out two years ago, and I've searched for it in every big record store since with no luck of finding it. Of course, I could have ordered it, but that's no fun. I finally found it in a small store Brooklyn last week and it was definitely treats. Over the last few years, I've been a Buddy Holly nutter of sorts. His songs are such simple works of genius. There are a bunch of undubbed gems on this collection. It only suffers from being too long with some unnecessary false-start tracks. Still great for fans who want to hear some of the earliest recordings.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Music Hall, Cincinnati Feb. 25th 1970: This double album bootleg concert is pretty awesome. The thing about Neil concert bootlegs is that it doesn't matter how many you've heard, there's always something that makes them worthwhile. He's the kind of performer that brings his current state into every song. Half acoustic, half electric, this is great set with some unforgettable songs. Versions of "Broken Arrow", "Everybody Knows this is Nowhere" and "Down by the River" are musts.
Brenda Lee - All the Way: Yet another early Brenda Lee album that I recently picked up on vinyl at a flea market and it turns out to be audio gold. As with Buddy Holly, Brenda was on the Decca label and in many ways, I think the two of them are very similar. Their songs are crafted in the same simple short bursts of genius. I know I keep bringing her albums up on here, that's not only because she's one of my favorites, but I feel she deserves a wider appreciation from music fans of today. "Dum Dum" is on this album and is one of my favorite Brenda songs.
Fleetwood Mac - The Original Fleetwood Mac: Now I have a rule when it comes to this band and that is, No Peter Green=Be Wary. This original Peter Green led line-up consisted of figures that had been around on the British Blues scene of the '60s and they played that sound. I picked up this collection on vinyl thinking there would be some interesting tracks and ended up being pretty blown away. Easily one of the best British Blues albums I've heard (and I've heard tons). Highly recommended.
Jethro Tull - Minstrel in the Gallery: This 1975 album follows two weaker ones, in my opinion. After the first five albums (This Was, Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick) which might be the best 5 album stretch of any band ever, Tull did two lesser albums before returning, if not to the top of their game, at least to a level expected from those first five masterpieces. Minstrel in many ways is a slightly lesser Aqualung or Thick as a Brick, following the sort of blueprint set out by those albums. Though not the genius of those two, this is a very solid album and I highly recommend including it in any Jethro Tull collection.
Black Sabbath - Paranoid: Easily considered the best of the original line-ups releases, with classics such as "War Pigs", "Iron Man", "Fairies Wear Boots" and the title track. I never owned this album before because I had the hits collection We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'N Roll (possibly the best greatest hits collection ever). But the lesser known songs on here also rock hard. "Electric Funeral" "Rat Salad" etc, etc. Pure mayhem from 1970...a must own.