List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Yes, I am adding another of these books to my general consuming of all things list. In fact, I am going a bit nuts here and am taking the list from the original book from 2010 and tacking on the 20 entries that were added to the end of the 2013 and 2015 reissues.
Were some songs added further into the book? Maybe… I actually haven’t checked…
Anyway, I will be doing these songs in order of year (not complete chronological as I have not checked) in chunks of at least 10 songs. If I chose to listen to these non-stop I could get them all done in less than 3 days, but where’s the fun of that.
My looks at these songs will be done in microblog style since there will be a number of these songs that I don’t have much to say.
So, let’s get it started!
O sole mio – Enrico Caruso (1916)
World War One was raging and yet we were still attempting to create beauty. Obviously being 100 years old the quality is scratchy, but still amazingly clear considering the technology.
The music is not as clear as the voice – but it’s an operatic song so of course the voice is there to drive the car. Actually impressed with this.
St. Louis Blues – Bessie Smith (1925)
Fallout 3? Are you calling to me from the games shelf?
9 years later now, Louis Armstrong arming the cornet in the background. Well, fairly foreground as it did overpower her voice.
It’s a really old blues recording – a genre that is nowhere near as popular now in its pure form. Her voice is deep, soulful and melancholic. Wonder how it will sound in a later recording.
Allons a Lafayette – Joe & Cleoma Falcon (1928)
1001 showing its colours already. These lists are great as they will not be the 1001 best, but showcase a lot of different genres.
This has a genre of ‘cajun’. So I guess that means gumbo, swamps and Gambit exploding frogs with this explosive playing cards?
It feels like a really early version of country music in the construction, only that it is in French and sports an accordian. Already glad I’m doing this chronologically.
Lagrimas negras – Trio Matamoros (1928)
Whip out that Spanish guitar, it’s time for our first Latin song. Racistly, visions of mariachi bands are making their presence known in my head.
Black Tears it is called, a song that is based on seeing a woman crying in the streets and is a variation of bolero.
Already beginning to notice the improvement in the recordings.
Pokarekare – Ana Hato (with Deane Waretini) (1929)
Another song of lament, roaming across cultures and they are all lamenting their lost loves. Insight into the human condition there.
It’s a Maori song, but feels very conventional. In fact, it actually feels Irish in the same vein of ‘Oh Danny Boy’.
Hard to put the finger on this one.
St. James Infirmary Blues – Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (1929)
Being the strange person I am, I know this song from a Betty Boop cartoon.
Like many of these songs it is, again, sad. Sure it makes for great background listening and Louis Armstong’s vocals is like listening to velvet. It’s just death talk again and loud brass instruments.
Not a bad thing though! Just maudlin when you listen to it closely.
El manisero – Don Aspiazu & His Havana Casino Orchestra (1929)
Thank God, we’re back to something a bit more upbeat. Love the maracas in the beginning. Or is it a bag of peanuts? No, it’s maracas.
The sway of the percussion is really rather enjoyable in this song.
Apparently, this is a song that started a rumba craze. And… oh god I am swaying in my chair listening to this. The only Spanish word I could understand was ‘corazon’ as in heart. So, probably another love song.
And… I’m back to the swaying again. Shit.
Minnie the Moocher – Cab Calloway & his Orchestra (1931)
Oh lord it’s Betty Boop again in another racist cartoon. I can’t shake the images of skeletons and ghosts as Betty and her dog(?) friend Bimbo are roaming through a maudlin landscape.
Drugs, blues and scat music. I miss the peanut vendor.
Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl – Bessie Smith (1931)
First repeat performer and it’s on an old fashioned sex song. She needs a little hot dog between her rolls. Actual quote. Things never really change do they?
I know this more from the Nina Simone version of this dirty blues song. Although this feels a lot more explicit as she looks at a man’s snake and tells him to stop fooling. Okay then…
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? – Bing Crosby (1932)
The first of what is going to be a number of crooning numbers. Who better to start it off than the molasses-tones of Bing Crosby.
Years before White Christmas and the whistling postman (don’t ask) this song is a real relic of the Great Depression. It’s all about someone who has nothing because of the failure of capitalism and is looking for help.
Sadly, a sentiment that still applies to this day.