Sunday, January 16, 2011

Desert Island Discs Part 2

During last year I selected the 5 albums that I'd most like to have on a desert island. I wanted the choices to reflect that music that I'd instinctively grab in a fire or suchlike. In order to place some pressure on myself, I originally selected 10 albums and then pared those 10 down to 5. What follows are the other 5 albums that didn't make the first cut.

Hard Again  Muddy Waters (1977)

Often regarded as the great man's comeback album, Muddy was 64 when he recorded this for Johnny Winter and Blue Sky Records. I love this disc and give it my own award for the most perfectly named album ever.
Johnny Winter produced, played and helped assemble a top band for this searing, rough as session. The first track, 'Mannish Boy', has never been played better or with more intensity. Like Ravel's Bolero, it maintains strict tempo whilst all the time growing in passion and ferocity. It marks Muddy's return to the studio and top form in the most emotionally decisive way. And the other players let you know that they know, too. The rest of the album is a master class in ensemble blues-playing.

Trout Mask Replica  Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1969)

I have to admit that when I first heard this album, I didn't get it at all. But people whose opinions I respected swore by it. Indeed, one really good friend insisted that all he needed to survive was a copy of Terry Sothern's The Magic Christian, The Captain's Trout Mask Replica and a constant supply of Jim Beam.
Often described as experimental music, Beefheart and his producer, Frank Zappa, drew on many sources for their material, Blues, Free Jazz, Folk - even Sea Shanties. I remember reading that the band had rehearsed for 9 months prior to going into the studio and I figured that if they'd taken that much trouble over it, then maybe a greater effort was needed from me to get to grips with this difficult music.
Since then, I think that this disc has been played more often than any other disc I own. Don Van Vliet was a genius who challenged us to re-imagine the diversity of our culture I believe. And this album stands as a lasting testament to him.

Loudon Wainwright III  Loudon Wainwright (1970)

I don't have too many discs like this one. It is, patently, folk music -  performed solo and acoustically by a young man who sings and plays guitar. Its themes are bleak and often ironic. But the keening voice has a stark beauty and he sings of things that matter to all young men with even a little poetry in their souls. In the spring I had great hunger. I was Keats, I was Blake, he recalls in School Days, the opening track. Later on, he confides that Movies are a Mother to Me and caustically observes that he's Glad to see You got Religion.
At the time this was released, I much preferred Loudon to Bob Dylan. He seemed to me to be more, well, honest.

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You   Aretha Franklin (1967)

Simply, one of the greatest soul records ever and, therefore, one of the greatest records ever. It was Aretha's breakthrough album and established her, rightly, as a superstar. The killer band includes King Curtis on Tenor Sax, Aretha's sister, Carolyn, on backing vocals and the whole thing was produced for Atlantic Records by Jerry Wexler.
The track list includes Respect, Dr Feelgood and the title track. The overall effect leaves Viagra a flaccid second. One of my few regrets is that I've never seen Aretha (or Otis Redding) live on stage. This disc is substantial compensation for that omission.

Funky Kingston  Toots and the Maytalls (1972)

This album has appeared in a number of different formats since its original release on Dragon Records in 1972. The best known version is probably the 1976 version released on Mango. The music is joy unconfined and is proof positive that even a John Devnver composition can sound great in the right hands. Take me Home, Country Roads, like everything else is a triumph of arrangement and performance. Even that old chestnut Louie, Louie receives a reading that makes you forget Animal House.
Funky Kingston helped to bring reggae to an international market and undoubtedly paved the way for The Wailers and others to reach that market.

So that's all ten accounted for. I hope the list may encourage you to dig out your own dusty copy and give it a whirl.

One good thing about music, it makes you feel all right.

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