List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Okay I know I made a bit of a deal of going more modern but one of the first blogs I made was a failed attempt at listening to the entire in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book and I stalled in the mid-sixties. This means I have some write-ups pre-done for a number of albums in this Top 250 list and as such they provide a nice way for me to create a buffer for when I get busy.
This post, the seventh as part of Music Monday, marks the first time I am covering two different artists. The reason being that both artists only have one entry on this list and they are (as the title suggests) soul albums from the 1960s.
Why do girls scream at musicians they love? I ask this because it is something you hear rather often when listening to James Brown’s Live At The Apollo. I guess that the screaming of girls is just another one of those tell-tale signs that an artist has got charisma.
If Live At The Apollo were to be solely judged against other live albums I have listened to it still lies somewhere near the bottom of the pack, still some way above Ellington at Newport 1956 but doesn’t match the majesty of At Mister Kelly’s or the sheer wow-factor of Sam Cooke’s Live At The Harlem Square Club. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a good album, as it is. Ratings wise it places about the same as Sunday At The Village Vanguard which I did also enjoy.
The real highlight, aside from laughing at the reactions of the women in the audience, is the ten minute epic that is ‘Lost Someone‘. This is not a track to match the sheer energy of ‘Sex Machine‘ but this is James Brown raw and unplugged. It feels that all of the funk artifice has been stripped away leaving behind this man bearing his soul to a sparse orchestration. If it wasn’t for the sheer power of his voice it would fall flat on it’s face, but in the hands of this professional it is perfectly executed. That is not to say that the energy of the closer ‘Night Train‘ isn’t at all welcome.
In the end Live At The Apollo comes to symbolise a lot of the problems of a live recording for a lot has become lost in the process of transferring it from the performance onto vinyl and now to mp3. I am sure that if I were there in person with the magnetic personality of James Brown at the helm of this show’s ‘Night Train’ I would happily be in the snack cart buying a bag of pretzels as I enjoyed the ride of my life. However, without seeing him dancing around and without the atmosphere I am left a little bit cold which is a shame.
Title: Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul
Artist: Otis Redding
Position: #67 (Previously: #60)
For some unknown reason I actually had it in my head that he was one of those musicians who was still alive, or at least died in the last decade, so you can appreciate my shock when I discovered that he died at the tender age of 26 about two years after Otis Blue was released. Much like Buddy Holly, Otis Redding too died in a plane crash.
In all three attempts to listen to this album I got distracted by different things. The first attempt was the theme song to The Tudors which my mum was watching in the other room, the second by the sound of the torrential rain outside. By the third attempt I had had enough and forced myself to sit down and really listen to this. Sadly though this still left me cold.
Although there is no denying that Otis Redding had talent. This album is indeed a testament to this and in fact makes me wish that there was a live album of his on this list rather than this studio album. In this era I am not doubting that these live albums would be in short supply. In this way this is a bit annoying as in the entire album I can feel this shimmer that is constantly bubbling that makes me think that wills me onwards to try more of his back catalogue, but it somehow just remains there below the surface and never truly reveals itself. I guess this shows how far I have come from condemning the first live album I encountered on this list as being absolute refuse, but it serves a point. So, why is this album on here?
Aside from the multitude of 5-star reviews and Top 100 Albums Ever placements this has received there must be some reason. To represent a talent lost tragically soon? Maybe. But I think more likely is the sheer influence that this sound has had on music today. In fact if you listen to ‘I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long’ you can hear in the nuances of his voice and in the arrangement that there is something different going on here. This is resplendent throughout the album and really culminates in the cover of ‘Satisfaction’ (not as good as the original, but still very good). So in the end, at least in my opinion, this has owned a placement for being an album placed in the stages of music’s evolution rather than sheer merit.