RIP Matt Murphy.
In 2013 Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day fame) with the help of Norah Jones released a remake of the 1958 Everly Brothers classic album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, titled Foreverly. It is a really good recording of a classic album, that stays as true as possible to the original Everly arrangements. There’s not much to complain about with the possible exception of the obvious: Why not just listen to the original? Its an excellent question, but kudos to Billie and Norah for bringing attention to this album to, perhaps, millions of listeners that may otherwise have never known about the album, or even the Everly Brothers for that matter.
But there’s another remake that is astounding, audacious, and brilliant. In 2003 the Los Angeles post-punk/americana/avant-garde(ish) indy artist, Carla Bozulich released a remake of another classic by another legend; Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Much like Billie Joe Armstrong after her, Carla was interested in paying tribute to a personal inspiration. But very unlike Armstrong she completely reimagined the musical arrangements of the 1975 original recording, which she performed with the Nels Cline Singers and Jenny Scheinman on violin. Through droning darkness and outbursts of modern jazz and spastic country boot scoot, Willie’s concept of the heartbroken murderous loner is given a new intensity.
The unexpected bonus of her remake is Willie himself. Apparently after Carla finished her recording, Willie got a copy and was so enthralled that he asked if he could make a contribution of his own. Obviously Carla jumped at the opportunity and went down to record some additional vocals and guitar with Willie in Texas. Its great! Her remake was recently released on vinyl by Folktale Records and it sounds fantastic. You should totally buy a copy.
What are some other remakes that you wish more people were aware of when you’re listening to records?
Obviously there are no surprises on this list. Not really. Although King Crimson, In the Court of the Krimson King is kind of a wild card.
But I was surprised that I no longer have any of these LPs in my collection. None. Over the years I’ve owned most of them, but they are long gone. If I was to listen to them again it would most likely be in a digital format. Maybe I’ll pick up Kind of Blue again.
Speaking of Miles Davis, why is KoB the only jazz album here? (actually the only non rock/pop album.) There is no questioning it’s massive greatness – its phenomenal! But its presence on this list suggests that almost everyone has a copy in their collection. Which would suggest to me that these music listeners would be compelled, by the greatness of KoB, to collect loads of other great jazz records too. Where are the huge sellers like Time Out by Dave Brubeck, or Getz/Gilberto?
Anyway, lists exist to drive people crazy. What albums are you surprised to see on the list, or missing from the list?
Once record companies grew cartoonish dollar signs in their eyeballs ($$) after Elvis became an instant mega star, the floodgates opened for overnight-sensation wannabes. Thousands of kids with the right hairdo, or a couple dance steps, or a guitar strapped on their shoulder were mashed into the record industry meat grinder with hopes of making it big. But it was nearly impossible for most to gain any traction. So, discarded by industry lowlifes, they and their broken dreams headed back home when their time was up.
But somehow, a few genuinely talented would-be-greats stepped through, if briefly, just enough to make a lasting mark on the history of rock n roll music.
My three favorite 2nd tier rock n roll legends are Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and Johnny Ace. (In truth, Ace’s story ended suddenly before Elvis broke big) The music they left behind, and their stories of gritty ambition and tragic paths are incredible. Even now it seems like the greatest rock n roll performers throughout the past 60 years have channeled these artists in important ways.
Do yourself a favor and listen to some of these records. What are some of your favorite 2nd tier legends?
I own three Hip Hop LPs.
NWA: Straight Outta Compton,
Dr Dre: The Chronic,
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly.
Two of them are 25 years old, the other is contemporary. I bought each one solely on their respective reputations as outstanding recordings. They do not disappoint – Really great albums!
And while these albums were not made with guys like me in mind, (Irish Americans over 50 years old from a suburban upbringing,) I like to think that I’m open to appreciating and enjoying any and all music when performed by creative artists with integrity in command of their tools of expression. I look forward to adding more Hip Hop albums to my collection.
And I hope I’m not being naive believing that I’m gaining some degree of insight into American experiences that I hold as personally valuable that are so different than my own, by working through the lyrical landscapes painted by these artists.
And as great as To Pump a Butterfly sounds on my deck fidelity-wise, (aside from being a beautiful, funky, intricate, and troubling artistic statement,) the older LPs, while sounding great, are possibly strictly digital artifacts…not sure they gain anything on vinyl format other that the larger physical artwork.
What are some other must-haves in this genre? What’s your experience with Hip Hop on vinyl?