Beyond Tape: Album Of The Week (Part A)
In 2020 I started a new one-year project:
The idea is to concentrate on albums that I always wanted to hear (in-depth). Albums that, for example, have been recommended to me by friends, that I discovered by chance or that you just need to listen to but for unknown reasons never found the time to do so.
My plan is to focus on albums that are new and undiscovered to me, those albums that are inspiring and encouraging to listen to more of the music of the artist or the genre. Exactly one album per week the whole year 2020.
The article is arranged into five parts:
John Fahey: Blind Joe Death (1959)
John Aloysius Fahey (February 28, 1939 — February 22, 2001) was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who played the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument. His style has been enormously influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitive Guitar, a term borrowed from painting and referring mainly to the self-taught nature of the music and its minimalist style.
Blind Joe Death is his first album. There are three different versions of the album, and the original self-released edition of fewer than 100 copies is extremely rare.
The recording of steel-string acoustic guitar solos was “incredibly avant-garde” in 1959. It was released on Takoma Records, Fahey’s own label. It was not marketed and made no impression on the American record-buying public.
Ernest Ranglin: Below the Bassline (1996)
On my mission to find music where normally separate genres joyfully merge, I found this smooth album by hidden champion and now 88-year-old Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin.
Ranglin has worked with Theophilus Beckford, Jimmy Cliff, Monty Alexander, Prince Buster, the Skatalites or Bob Marley and was a key figure in shaping the sounds of ska — influenced by New Orleans jazz and R&B — in Jamaica in the late 1950s.
So let’s mix ska/reggae with jazz/blues and you get these super free-flowing musical riddims that just drift and glide along.
See him still playing at NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert:
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River (1969)
I think I know almost all of the songs on this album, but I never completely and solely listened to the third studio album Green River by CCR, which was released in August 1969. It was the second of three albums they released in that year.
Their unique mixture of country, blues, swamp rock, soul and rockabilly has always intrigued me.
I hear hurricanes a-blowin’
I know the end is comin’ soon
I fear rivers overflowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin
Fun Fact: The last line of the chorus from Bad Moon Rising, “there’s a bad moon on the rise”, is sometimes misheard as “there’s a bathroom on the right”. Fogerty occasionally sings the misheard lyric in concert.
Víkingur Ólafsson: Johann Sebastian Bach (2018)
I don’t know why it is that I constantly run into Icelandic artists and bands, in the last month alone there were three of them: Hildur Guðnadóttir (great soundscapes and film music), Kaleo (finest blues rock) and Víkingur Ólafsson.
The latter was with me the whole week with his award-winning album with works by Johann Sebastian Bach, I look forward seeing him live soon in Berlin.
The Stooges: The Stooges (1969)
The Stooges are unmistakably one of the later representatives of garage rock and pioneers of hard rock. Their aggressive style has strongly influenced punk rock and established Iggy Pop’s reputation as the godfather of punk.
This is their wonderful debut album and hopefully my first baby steps into the world of punk rock. My current favorite track is the hypnotic and psychedelically haunting song We Will Fail.
But also I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun are superb.
Ultramagnetic MCs: Critical Beatdown (1988)
I recently stumbled over this superb classic album of hip hop’s “golden age” and i just couldn’t stop listening.
Fun Fact: Out of Space and Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy used sampling material from this album and of course Ultramagnetic MCs heavily sampled from different Soul & Funk songs.
Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
Remain in Light is the fourth studio album by my favorite band Talking Heads, released on October 8, 1980.
This album has somehow slipped through completely over the years, which I can’t understand at all because it’s really amazing: The record uniquely blends funk and punk rock or new wave music.
The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East (1971)
There is a nice BBC review which sums it up:
…what they really represented at this point was a melting pot of styles welded together to produce something incredibly sophisticated while retaining the requisite ‘jamming’ looseness needed to entertain the free-thinking audiences of the time.
My favorite long-player track You Don’t Love Me actually starts as a classic blues song, moves to jazz, turns into hard rock and finally somehow touches soul and funk, but listen for yourself:
Jimmy Smith: Back at the Chicken Shack (1963)
I think I heard a song by Jimmy Smith for the first time on a cassette called Acid Jazz, which I bought on the streets of London when I was 18.
I still remember being extremely inspired by his Hammond organ skills. In fact, he helped popularise the instrument to such an extent that he brought forth the genre of soul jazz. In combination with Kenny Burrell on the guitar, this album has a tremendous fascination on me.
I think I’ll continue listening to this album this week to get more into the groove. Read more reviews at BBC or It’s Psychedelic Baby.
There will definitely be more albums from the incredible Blue Note label.
Tangerine Dream: Phaedra (1974)
Let’s start with an ambient and progressive rock album by a band that I didn’t know before but really appreciate since listening to their 1974 album Phaedra.
The band Tangerine Dream are one of the pioneers of electronic music. “Phaedra” was their fifth studio album and is generally quoted as one of their best albums.
The whole album feels like a long journey through space and sound, I like the ambient sounds, they just fit perfectly to the wintery atmosphere. Especially the sequencer driven sounds and the futuristic Moog and VCS3 synthesizer as well as the Mellotron give it a very unique touch.
The article is arranged into five parts:
- Part A: Week 01–10 (You are here)
- Part B: Week 11–20
- Part C: Week 21–30
- Part D: Week 31–40
- Part E: Week 41–53
Enjoy listening, share this one or our other articles with your music friends. Of course, you can also write your personal inspiration in the comments section if you like. Stay curious!