Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guilty Pleasure Songs: ELO "Xanadu"

I love ELO.  The Electric Light Orchestra, to me, basically sounds like what The Beatles would've sounded like if they continued as a band into the 70's, with that orchestra-pop sound with a more 70's production.  There are so many songs that are among my favorites by ELO that it's hard to choose my favorite..."Sweet Talkin Women", "Mr. Blue Sky", "Shine A Little Love", and "10538 Overture", to name a few.  Among my favorite songs by ELO is the track "Xanadu".  No, not the version sung by Olivia Newton-John for that horrible 70's flick of the same name, but the actual version by the Electric Light Orchestra, sung by Jeff Lynne himself. There is an underlying sadness in the way it's sung, and I can't pinpoint why I feel it, but it's there.  It's a lovely tune, and yes, maybe the lyrics are a little cheesy.  However, it's a good pop song, sounding a little like a precursor to the Traveling Wilburys pop sound (the late 80's supergroup Lynne was in with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty) and as I said, I feel some sadness in the way Lynne sings it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

R.I.P. Etta James

Etta James passed away today at the age of 73, due to complications from leukemia.  She recorded some of soul and blues greatest music, from At Last! to my personal favorite Tell Mama, to her recordings in the 70's on Chess Records.  Her voice could melt hearts, truly.  As I've said in past postings, Etta's voice was one of my three favorite female vocalists of all-time, up there with Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline.  Her voice could be powerful and soothing, even within a single song.  Yet the emotion in her voice never changed. When you listen to Etta sing, you truly feel what she sings.  She was vocally blessed, yet she was one of those precious few that I feel were "connected" with something higher spiritually.   Etta James was a special talent.  The Tell Mama sessions that Etta recorded at Muscle Shoals in the late 60's are among my favorite recordings of anyone, ever.  Etta James will be missed!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's Your Sign?

If you ever want to learn the basic info of your Astrological sign, but aren't sure what book to pick up regarding Astrology, save the money and go for the cliff notes version...Cannonball Adderley's Soul Zodiac album.  Produced by David Axelrod, and featuring Astrology narrations by Rick Holmes, Soul Zodiac is spacey and funky all at once.  And, as I said, you also learn more about the basic traits of your sign while enjoying the ambient-spaciness from the wonderful team of Axelrod, Holmes, and the Adderley's (Cannonball and Nat).  Not my favorite Cannonball Adderley album (that would be either Something Else or Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), but definitely one of the most interesting albums Adderley was a part of.   I dig the track "Scorpio" (my sign), but honestly dig the album as a whole.  Good stuff! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You Waited Too Long

The Five Stairsteps originated from Chicago and were considered soul's first family band.  Pre-Jackson 5, The Five Stairsteps are known mainly from their big hit "Ooh Child", but they recorded many great songs in their time.  Curtis Mayfield produced most of their tracks, which is obvious in that the music and the harmonies sound very Impressions/Mayfield-esque.  I decided to feature "You Waited Too Long" today.   One of my favorites by The Five Stairsteps.  Enjoy!     

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hampton Hawes

Recently, it seems that I tend to favor Jazz releases that feature prominent Jazz pianists, like Horace Silver, Bill Evans, and Hampton Hawes.  I picked up his 1958 release For Real! and just love it.  It has that West Coast hard-bop swing that I really dig.  For Real! was his second to last album he recorded (Sermon being the final one, a recording of gospel songs on the piano) before he went to prison for five years for possession of heroin.  For Real! seriously cooks, greasy and soulful, and is highly recommended.  "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" is one of my favorites on this album.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Thought It Was You

Herbie's Toys
Eventually, I'm going to do a more lengthy post regarding Herbie Hancock, as he is one of my favorite musicians ever, jazz or otherwise. In the meantime, here's a nice jam off of his 1978 album Sunlight, a highly underrated album of Herbie's.  Though not as good as some of his other 70's albums like his Mwandishi Recordings (some of the best jazz-funk music ever put to vinyl), Sextant, or Headhunters, Sunlight is up there with Secrets though, and better than Thrust or Man-Child.  Herbie is heading into the disco era when he recorded this jam, which has a dancey feel to it.  Herbie was also experimenting with the vocoder, which put a lot of people off during this time, but personally I dig it.