Category Archives: Music

ūü鼂ôę‚ô™ – Lieutenant Kij√© Suite by Sergei Prokofiev

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 25/501Title: Lieutenant Kijé Suite
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Nationality: Russian

Another classical piece so soon? And one that broke the streak of different blog entries? This should be a special piece of music! Well to me it is and, now that I have listened to the whole suite, it has become even more so.

To start of with, I picked¬†Lieutenant Kij√© Suite¬†as the next classical piece as it’s ‘little grey dove’ refrain from the Romance movement is the only piece of classical music that I was actually able to memorise during the mandatory school music lessons (I am not counting ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on the recorder as a classical piece’). Now that I hear this refrain within the context of this classical piece I love it all the more.

What I did¬†not¬†realise was that the¬†Lieutenant Kij√© Suite¬†also contained the classic ‘Troika’ movement. So when I first listened to this at work and this piece of ¬†Christmas classical music started to play I became a mess of goosebumps for a solid four minutes.

The whole suite itself has a rather weird history. Originally the¬†Lieutenant Kij√© Suite¬†was music to a 1934 film of the same name. So impressed with Prokofiev’s work on the soundtrack, the Moscow Opera Symphony Orchestra commissioned him to turn his fragmented musical pieces into a fully fledged piece for an orchestra. It was part of the Soviet Union happily welcoming¬†Prokofiev back into the fold after his return to his homeland after spending a lot of his time Paris.

As a suite of music it is split into five distinct movements, with the whole piece lasting 20 minutes. Since this being derived from different parts of a movie soundtrack it feels like an EP of 5 distinct tracks than a suite of music… or maybe I just need to start getting used to this terminology as I investigate more classical music.

In any case, for the merit that it gave me incredible goosebumps and it almost made me cry out of joy the¬†Lieutenant Kij√© Suite¬†is easily one of the best pieces that I have heard so far for this list. I’ll probably be back in the world of church music for the next classical piece… so someone please pray for me.


Acclaimed Albums – Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 140/250Title: Five Leaves Left
Artist: Nick Drake
Year: 1969
Position: #157

To go back and experience classic albums, films and TV shows is to come into contact with the many stories (both heroic and tragic) of their creators. Recently, the untimely death of Carole Lombard and depression of Rita Heyworth have formed the kick-off points of blog posts. Today, we’re keeping on with the tragedy with the music of Nick Drake – who died of an overdose at the tender age of 26 in what was a possible suicide (although this is still up for debate).

You would be forgiven for not knowing who Nick Drake is. He died in relative obscurity and has been subject to a re-evaluation. His debut album Five Leaves Left and follow-up Bryter Layter are now seen as classics of the folk rock genre. If you have even a toe in the water of contemporary folk musicians you can see how the music of Nick Drake has influenced the likes of Beck, Laura Marling, Jeff Buckley and Mount Eerie.

I don’t know if it is because I’m listening to the 2004 re-mastered edition or just the quality of the album itself, but this could have been released now. It’s difficult to find an album from the 1960s that feels truly timeless, usually there’s a contemporary trend or technological limitation that gives it away.¬†I am guessing that this was what prevented this from being noticed?

It sounds hyperbolic, but listening to this album on good headphones just transports you. The guitar is so ridiculously perfect that it doesn’t feel of this world. Similarly, the production on some songs (such as ‘Three Hours’) somehow creates this cavernous world where all the layers feel just out of reach. It’s similar to what The xx do.

Then you have the many tracks with incredibly vibrant strings. The tracks still feel as if they are being played in an observatory tower, but there’s more warmth to these thanks to the added complexity. Also, there’s sometimes a conga drum being played which is a bit unusual… then again it does fit in with the album.

Honestly, this is an album that surprised me. I was expecting something a bit melancholic (which this is) and folksy – that’s it. Instead I have an album with an emotional affect that makes you both want to reach out to Nick Drake and respect the level of detatchment that he is fostering. It isn’t a brooding album, it’s a profoundly beautiful one that really should have gotten some notice back in 1969. Maybe if it had… well we’ll never know.

ūü鼂ôę‚ô™ – Motets by Crist√≥bal de Morales

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 24/501Title: Motets
Composer: Cristóbal de Morales
Nationality: Spanish

Okay, so I didn’t start out with the best frame of mind. I heard the harmonies and the phrase ‘oh more of this shit’ just flew out. This is exactly why I shouldn’t watch UNHhhh right before listening to choral music; I’m meant to be listening to something pious and I have Katya laughing at the back of my mind.

Yes people, this is how far I have come from my drag queen phobia, I now spend my time trolling the internet looking for the latest from my favourite Drag Race contestants. I am proud, horrified and marvelling at the lack of relevancy of this non-sequitur.

Seeing as how we are still in the world of 16th century motets, this is a purely choral offering. Layers of voices upon voices upon voices. At several points I was wondering whether they would switch gears and go into Mozart’s Requiem.

I cannot fathom how someone would go about writing this and then getting a group of people to actually sing it. In many of these you have the voices harmonizing, then cross-harmonizing and somehow it all still sounds effortless. It’s a lot down to who you get performing it (i.e. a professional choir, not your local church group) as this is something that would sound like a massacre in a henhouse if poorly done.

Since this blog is a place of honesty I will fully attest to the fact that I do not get these choral classical pieces. If it wasn’t for the hub wanting to alternate between listening chronologically and freeform… well I probably would never have gotten to come of these earlier pieces.

I can sit and appreciate the merits, but if I was to go after classical music to listen to it would be more along the lines of Water Music or The Planets. Maybe it’s because I cannot help but separate this style of music from it being church music whereas the others feel more like pieces that I can just have on whilst I am cooking the dinner or containing the rage as I answer work e-mails.

Still, this is all part of the journey.


1001 Songs – 1970: Part One

Holy hell, a new decade. It feels like it’s been an awful long time since I first entered the 1960s. How long will it be until I start on songs from the 1980s? Who knows, but I hope to start syncing up the songs and albums lists by the time I get there.

Up Around The Bend – Creedence Clearwater Revival

When I think of Creedence Clearwater Revival my mind goes to a line from “Him” by Lily Allen where she postulates that they’re God’s favourite band. From this I took it that the music would be rather tame. Compared to what I am expecting in two songs time, yes, this is going to seem a bit middle of the road.

I don’t know if it is me just looking back on how this contrasts with The Rolling Stones and The Who, but this feels a bit softer and more wholesome. I know I only listened to the eponymous album by The Band yesterday, but Creedence Clearwater Revival is in the same genre camp. It’s just that… compared to what follows it’s a bit blah.

Layla – Derek & The Dominos

I remember waiting through most of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs; that entire album just rests in the shadow of this seven minute behemoth of a song. A song that only appears at the end of an extremely long beginning sequence.

At the time of listening to that album I think I was so annoyed about the amount of time it took to get to ‘Layla’ that I wasn’t able to appreciate it. I also hadn’t expected the second half to be this long instrumental piece. Needless to say that I probably didn’t give that song a good enough go the first time around.

‘Layla’ is a song about unrequited heartbreak using a Persian fairytale as a touchstone for names and certain themes. That alone speaks to some of the grandiosity of the song. Add to that the fierce guitar riff, vocals that break with emotion and a long outro to give something truly special. We’ll gloss over the fact that their relationship did happen and ended in divorce…

War Pigs – Black Sabbath

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the arrival of metal. We previously had Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ almost reaching the point of metal (close, but I think that’s still hard rock rather than metal), but ‘War Pigs’ is probably the first song from this line that crosses the line. It is still very hard rock in places, which means the development into a completely separate genre hasn’t happened yet… but we’re basically there now.

This is also the first song on this list that has anyone singing about a subject that is vaguely Satanic. The real name of this song, ‘Warpurgis’, is in reference to Walpurgis Night – which is pretty much Halloween in Spring. This is a harder anti-establishment message than the ‘Flower Power’ of the 1960s and I’m starting to see how punk will be starting to brew in the background.

When the Revolution Comes – The Last Poets

I thought I needed some time away from rock. I thought I needed a bit of a palate cleanser. What I got was a good laugh and I had to restart this song because I couldn’t hear it over my own snorting. This was not the song that I expected.

‘When the Revolution Comes’ is under the genre of jazz poetry, which is one of the precursors to rap. From the sentiment and the forcefulness of the lyrics you can see where the likes of Public Enemy will have spun off from. At this very moment, however, this is a poetry slam set to some very basic music.

What made me laugh so much? The backing vocalists. Everytime they chimed in I just lost it. As a piece it would have worked better as a solo.

Band of Gold – Freda Payne

It feels like a long time since I last listened to a good piece of female driven music on this 1001 songs list. I believe the last one was Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?’, but that’s not uplifting at all. Well, this song isn’t truly uplifting because it’s talking about a marriage breaking down… but it feels upbeat.

As a song ‘Band of Gold’ feels like a nice reaching back to the golden days of the Motown songstresses. After all the rock and… whatever that jazz poetry was, ‘Band of Gold’ feels comfortable and more in-keeping with what I’d enjoy hearing.

Love the One You’re With РStephen Stills

At last, we have a feel good song! A guitar driven upbeat folk song about loving. After songs of heartbreak, revolution and the devil it’s a nice change to have something so positive. Positive without being too cloying.

Not much else to say. The lush backing vocals was a nice surprise. Made me think of the closing song from A Mighty Wind.

Fire and Rain – James Taylor

Hands up if you’ve only heard of James Taylor because of his guest spot on the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to space. I thought I recognised the voice and then he got to the line about ‘sweet dreams and flying machines’ which clinched it for me.

As a folk rock song ‘Fire and Rain’ is the ultimate comedown from ‘Love the One You’re With’. It’s a song that deals with death, depression, drug addiction and failure. So far in 1970 there have been songs about heartbreak, but this is the first song that breaks your heart.

I just love that Carole King partially wrote ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ as a response to this. I love that woman.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough РDiana Ross

Let’s end on an empowering high, shall we? At this point Diana Ross needed to prove that a woman could strike out on her own after being part of a successful girl group – ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ formed part of the solo debut that catapulted her to iconic status.

The song mixes elements of soul, gospel and spoken word to create Diana Ross’ first solo hit. When you think of the song you are likely to only bring to mind that massive final minute. I had no idea that there was this huge build up to the gospel explosion that accompanies Bridget Jones running through the snow.

This won’t be the last we hear from Diana Ross, but it will be another six years.

Progress: 301/1021


Acclaimed Albums – The Band by The Band

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 139/250Title: The Band
Artist: The Band
Year: 1969
Position: #55

Am I the one who thinks there was an opportunity wasted with the title of this release? I mean, as a name for the group The Band was always a bit on the nose. So someone please tell me why they went for an eponymous release at this point rather than going for¬†The Album¬†or¬†The LP. ¬†Well, they didn’t so here we are with their second album:¬†The Band.

It’s been nearly a year since I listened to¬†Music From The Big Pink,¬†which is about the same time that passed between the releases. Where¬†their debut went between genres,¬†The Band¬†is far more fixated on being a roots rock/pre-Americana release. That isn’t by any means calling this album limited in genre; there’s enough variation to keep things interesting.

Let’s take ‘Rag Mama Rag’ for instance. It’s the song that made the most immediate impact on me on the first listen, which might be because it is the most upbeat. There is something about the relentlessly cheerful fiddle and mandolin that makes this song truly sing. Not entirely sure what the song is about, but it feels like it should be something borderline bawdy.

Compare this to ‘Whispering Pines’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ – both slower songs with the latter being one of the more powerful on the album and both having hints of ¬†Procal Harum every now and then.

What truly unites the songs on this album are the stories. It’s described as a loose concept album dealing with themes around the more traditional strand of Americana. It goes beyond a more surface treatment showcasing the different facets of a genre, but instead looks more at the people and tells stories of those who would normally be associated.

It’s a different sort of Americana/country rock take than¬†Sweetheart of the Rodeo.¬†Where The Byrds were experimenting and trying to drive this genre forward (essentially giving it a wider audience), The Band were embracing the history and trying to bring to life a genre that was in the process of shifting identities.

What’s the better album? Well I prefer¬†Sweetheart of the Rodeo,¬†but¬†The Band¬†is still a good album. I like this more than¬†Music From The Big Pink¬†though, which would agree with concensus.


Acclaimed Albums – Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 138/250Title: Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Artist: The Byrds
Year: 1968
Position: #194

It’s been an awfully long time since I last listened to a country album for this list… and I don’t think any of them have been so honky-tonk as¬†Sweetheart of the Rodeo. This country sound is down to the inclusion of Gram Parsons which, to be honest, doesn’t surprise me now that I’ve read it on Wikipedia.

This marks the third Gram Parsons album (and probably the last) that I have heard for this list Рthe others being his solo album Grievous Angel and The Gilded Palace of Sin which he recorded as part of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Now that I have listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo it feels like I have founded the starter Pokémon of the evolution line of alternative country music.

You have the close harmonies and blues piano that would be expected of a country album from this era, but the rock influences are starting to creep in with some of the choices. Closing track ‘Nothing Was Delivered’ works to show the subtleties of what was happening here. Other tracks feel more traditional, but there is a hint of rock here and in ‘One Hundred Years From Now’.

It feels like one of those albums where a well established singer “goes country”. Thing is, this was one of the first times that happened, and so this is a very early example of both that phenomena and of country rock on the whole as a genre. I can certainly see how this album was influential – plus it’s just fun to listen to.



Acclaimed Albums – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 137/250Title: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
Artist: The Kinks
Year: 1968
Position: #174

Can we take a moment to moment to appreciate, what might be, the most English album title ever. It’s one of those references that I don’t think many would necessarily understand outside of the UK. Then again we are listening to an album from a time where music still received separate UK and US releases. Also, I doubt the Kinks would have given too much of a damn if this reference was lost on people.

For whatever reason I have always somewhat discounted the Kinks. Maybe I thought of them being just another old band. Maybe young me just confused them with the Kooks. Who knows at this point. What I do know is that having listened to the Kinks as part of the 1001 songs list I should walk into this album with an open mind.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society¬†may be one of the best albums that I have heard for the Acclaimed Albums list in a long time. I think that the last time that I had such an immediate positive reaction would have been to another album with a similarly long name:¬†Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.¬†Interestingly, these albums have a fair bit in common.

Both albums contain a fairly lengthy track-list made up of short songs and both are written fairly tongue in cheek. There is a wit in Ray Davies’ songwriting that make these short, pithy songs a lot of fun to listen to. Sure this is an album dripping in Beatles influence, but when that’s done well that isn’t a bad thing. I mean that didn’t hurt Oasis, now did it?

At the time¬†The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society¬†barely made a dent. It had some critical appeal, but with the public had moved on from this safer rock sound. 1968 was the time where harder and bluesier rock was starting to take control of the charts. The year of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Born to be Wild’ so it’s possible that a gentler sound like this was going out of fashion. Sure, the Beatles still got a number one album that year… but they’re the Beatles and, by that point, were exempt from things like fashion.

However, this is what is great about critics and with many of them having the last word on this.¬†The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society¬†has outlasted a lot of the other albums from the same year. For a reason – it’s just good music, if only 18 months too late.



1001 Songs – 1969: Part Three

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Is It Because I’m Black? – Syl Johnson

It’s weird to think that if I’d split the songs a different way we could have had this following straight after after ‘Je t‚Äôaime‚Ķmoi non plus’. From a song banned for its explosion of sexuality to this slow funk lamenting the injustice of racism.

The thing is, at least for me, this isn’t a song, it’s a poem put to music. It’s a powerful poem about civil rights (and there are powerful lines in this) put to a slow funk backing. This music is on a loop, which means that there is little to no variation in the seven and a half minute run of the song.

It sounds harsh to say this, but this song is dull and would have been better with an impassioned reading and no music.

I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & The Family Stone

I have yet to listen to the Sly & The Family Stone album that this song came from, but I am going to venture that this song is a bit of a joyful explosion in an otherwise political album. It’s more than likely that I am going to be proven wrong on this one.

As with the previous song, there is that repetition in the backing music. I mean this is what I have come to expect from funk, that backing that doesn’t change too much between song parts (even modern songs with funk roots, such as Janelle Monae’s ‘Tightrope’ does this). However, there is enough riffing and energy in the music to keep this song moving forward.

The band themselves are an interesting part of music history since it contained a mix of race and gender – something that I don’t think I’ve seen so far on the song list. Did it really take until 1969 before we had such an integrated band? That, in itself, is shocking.

The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson

Oh hi progressive rock, how good it is to see you again. I signalled in a previous post¬†that we were seeing the morphing of psychedelic rock into progressive rock and I think ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ helps to provide a look at that jumping off point.

This is a song that could not have existed without The Beatles having previously experimented with songs like ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Similarly you have the trailblazing done by Brian Wilson and Frank Zappa which lead to bands being able to have that much more creative control in the studio. I cannot imagine King Crimson even dreaming of putting together this grandiose piece without those three artists coming before them.

As with a lot of the jazz and classical music that prog rock likes to emulate, ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ has parts/movements. It never stays too long on one section and yet everything is tied together by that Mellotron. Hearing this in proper context, this song is groundbreaking. I need to listen to this album again.

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

It’s says a lot about Led Zeppelin II where two songs off the album appear in the 1001 songs list. It speaks for the album’s variation and importance as even the Beatles didn’t manage that feat.

I find it hard to get past the fact that the main riff of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was the theme music to Top of the Pops… especially since this song is on the list because of that guitar riff and not the stolen lyrics.

As a song on Led Zeppelin II it stands out, but after ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ it starts to pale.

I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges

When I listened to The Stooges’ eponymous album I thought of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as being one of the standout tracks. Now that I listen to it again I marvel at my missing the sleigh bells that are constantly being played in the background.

It’s nice to be back to a shorter rock song again and get back to the world of proto-punk. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ feels so different to the music around it and, when you look at the massive list of cover versions on Wikipedia, really appears to have been a song that grabbed people. That distortion throughout also signposts the start of noise rock/pop… and considering that means the eventual path to Loveless it’s pretty exciting.

Kick Out the Jams – The MC5

The ‘motherfucker’ in the songs opening line might be the first swear word I have heard on the song list. It’s fairly normal to swear in songs now, but wow this instance must have courted controversy at the time. Then again this is from one of the most influential proto-punk albums of all time… so it was always going to be controversial.

One thing that’s interesting to note is that with this and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ we are moving away from bands just trying to make loud music. We’ve had a lot of that loud music as garage rock, but that was loud for the sake of loudness. These tracks are now moving towards loud and with power. We’re not quite at Panthera level, but it won’t be soon before long.

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

In the words of my husband, “are you ready for mood whiplash”. A 11-year old Michael Jackson and already he has all that charisma. Knowing what we know now about the goings on with the Jackson 5… well it just makes you wonder.

On the more pleasant side of things, ‘I Want You Back’ is an unusual example of soul crossing over into pop. With later releases by the Jacksons this line isn’t just crossed repeatedly, but is erased entirely.

Also worth noting is that, at least on the recording, none of the instruments were played by the Jacksons. The label would only allow session musicians on the recordings – so the only thing Jackson about this song are the vocals. So this song is pretty much a Michael Jackson song…

The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King

And here we are, the final song of the 1960s. It has been a long time coming (and means we are nearly a third into this list) and we end with B.B. King whose last song on the list was from 1953. Talk about a long career.

As a song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ feels like a throwback to some of the earlier blues songs, which has made me feel nostalgic for two years ago. Why? Because that’s when I started with the very first songs of 1960. It’ll probably end up taking me as long to get through the seventies… so I probably should get on that.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax to end on as it’s not too dissimilar to blues songs that went before it. At least that’s how I feel… I probably don’t know enough about the blues to comment.

Progress: 293/1021


1001 Songs – 1969: Part Two

Wow that was a long break between songs. I guess that live and a re-emerging love of cinema got in the way… also RuPaul’s Drag Race. Man, I love those girls. So let’s continue on and finally get out of the 1960s!

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Sister Morphine – Marianne Faithfull

I am probably in the minority of people in my generation to have listened to a Marianne Faithfull album (Broken English) at some point. I’d forgotten just how haunting her vocals can be, that is until ‘Sister Morphine’ starts. I don’t know if I have ever heard such a frank song about drug addiction – granted we’ve had ‘Heroin’ by the Velvet Underground – where the singer is exposing her own dark dependencies… and at the time of recording her drug habits were just on the precipice of an even deeper addiction. In part, because the money she made from this song helped her to afford more drugs, like the titular morphine.

The huskiness in Faithfull’s voice is haunting and the history of this song make it one of those weird relics that won’t soon be forgotten.

Okie from Muskogee – Merle Haggard

Okay, so this is how I would imagine Hank Hill as a country singer. On the surface this is a song about a man in Middle America looking at the youth culture (the then hippies and the drugs that they took) and being glad to be the sort of man he is. It’s hard to go beyond the surface because Merle Haggard himself keeps changing his story as to what this song means i.e. is it a satire or is he playing it straight. He basically veers between those depending on the company.

Personally I didn’t read it as satire – it feels just like someone rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders and going “kids these days”.

Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin

I said previously that with Led Zeppelin II I finally found a Led Zeppelin album that I enjoyed. I wrote that two years ago and the moment ‘Heartbreaker’ started it took me right back to that sunny day when I was listening to this on the train.

With ‘Heartbreaker’ in a better context I can really appreciate how this fit into music at the time. Hard rock is becoming harder and you can see that metal is just around the corner. In fact, you might even call this and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (which will be in the next batch of songs) metal – just not heavy metal.

Is That All There Is? – Peggy Lee

Turning the dial right down from 11 here as we go for something completely different. Something utterly depressing. I’ve heard this song before, but never listened to this song before. I think that the character in the song is depressed and displaying some flat affect.

This is a woman who knows that despite being able to find any joy in love or the circus there is no point in ending it all… because death is it’s own type of disappointment. I mean, good God! Also, good on Peggy Lee for actually taking on a song like this in the twilight of her career. Her voice is sultry enough to pull this of despite the weirdly upbeat banjo in the background.

And wouldn’t you know, this helped Peggy Lee stage a comeback. Uttlerly brilliant.

Sweetness – Yes

Ladies and gentlemen, progressive rock has just arrived. If I hadn’t been so focused on the interplay between hard and soft rock in previous songs I probably would have noticed that prog-rock was quietly developing in the background – thanks in no small part to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. In the next post we’ll have a King Crimson song, which also signals the point where psychedelia is coming to an end and is mixing with the baroque rock/chamber pop of the Beach Boys to make prog-rock.

‘Sweetness’ is a song you could imagine the Beatles singing in their Sgt Pepper days, but I think it is better that this song belongs to Yes. Even if just for the sweeter vocals that the Beatles couldn’t really do.

Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley

You have to hand it to Elvis, he had a long career. He managed to jump genres and change with the times. Granted that this will have been a lot down to the management knowing what they are doing, but credit where credit is due.

It’s still very much an Elvis song though and it could belong on his Memphis album if it had been recorded earlier. He sounds so good on this song and it’s just a pity that it has that weird fade out-fade in thing going on around the 3.5 minute mark. I guess that’s the producer wanting to put his mark on the song or something like that… but that’s probably just when the song should have ended.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills, & Nash

Bonus marks for this song for doing something very different. Structured more like a classical piece ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ is formed of four distinct parts to make one contiguous piece of music. It’s always an upbeat song, but it goes through variations in harmony, orchestration and (for the final section) language.

I think most people would find themselves recognising the final part of ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ and not being sure exactly how – but it’s pretty recognisable for its unintelligability.

Pinball Wizard – The Who

We close this group of songs with two incredibly famous entries. Whilst I have not seen Tommy the movie, I have listened to the rock opera. Within the story of¬†Tommy ‘Pinball Wizard’ is a song about the deaf-blind protagonist becoming a world class pinball player (is player the word for pinball) just through sensing the vibrations.

I mean this is drug-fuelled rock we’re talking about so it doesn’t have to make that much sense as it veers between rock and pop.

Je t’aime… moi non plus РJane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg

So the story goes that there is a generation of people that have been conceived to this song. I love this idea. It’s bizarre, but I’m going to run with it. The other story goes that the heavy breathing is because of Birkin and Gainsbourg having sex during the recording. Again I love this idea if just for the logistics that would need to be involved.

Okay so both of those stories are baloney, but isn’t it great when a 4 and a half minute song can develop such a rich mythology. Especially a breathy erotic song like this one. I was about to go into how stupid it is that a song like this was banned from radio in a number of countries… but now that I’ve listened to it all the way it makes sense. There is a lot of heavy breathing in this and I can just imagine the kids in the playground mimicing this without knowing why.

Got to say that this is a weird song to end the post on…

Progress: 285/1021


Acclaimed Albums – At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 136/250Title: At Folsom Prison
Artist: Johnny Cash
Year: 1968
Position: #153

I think it speaks for either the number or general quality of live albums that so few of them are within the Top 250 list on Acclaimed Music. You could count the entries on your hands, possibly even just one of them. It’s also worth noting that these acclaimed albums are amongst the older ones on the list.

At Folsom Prison¬†is probably the most interesting one of the live albums on this list because of the location of its recording. It goes without saying that most live albums tend to be in clubs, stadiums or some other regular concert venue rather than a prison. Full praise should therefore be given to Johnny Cash’s desire to do so – even if it just meant the chance to play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in an actual prison.

The album is made up of recordings of two shows he did in one day, with most of it originating from the first show. You can’t tell that they’ve pieced these together in anyway as the audiences are pretty much the on same level. I can only imagine how much joy these shows brought to the inmates – even if a large amount of the songs are about prisons, being in prison, committing crimes etc. I guess that’s what you get from having an outlaw country singer doing a show in a prison?

What makes¬†At Folsom Prison¬†a good listen is the same reason as for all good live albums: the energy. Music on an album is great, music performed well live is better. It’s because of going to gigs that I finally got Sufjan Steven’s¬†The Age of Adz¬†album (especially that final 20+ minute track). But that’s not the only thing that makes¬†At Folsom Prison.

It might be an odd thing to think, but it feels like there is such an empathetic and emotional connection between Cash and the prisoners in his audience. This wasn’t just another gig, this was special to him and this is what shines.

Now this old style of country and rockabilly doesn’t to be my cup of tea. There are tracks on the second side which began to really drag for me, but that was probably because the first half was the more outlaw section (including the famous lines of “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”).

On the whole, however, this was a great chance to hear an icon doing what he does best and that’s worth the time even if you don’t enjoy the music too much. Or you could watch Joaquin Phoenix in¬†Walk The Line,¬†not quite the same but still a good experience.