Sunday, 16 July 2017

Playlist: Snapshots in Time - Volume III, 1960-1964

Same Cooke Bring It On Home To Me

Info: As we embark from a starting point of 1960, the spread of genres becomes more even, we still have some classic and famous jazz albums from the likes of the Bill Evans Trio and Stan Getz & João Gilberto, with the latters daughter Astrud chiming in on 'The Girl From Ipanema'. We also see two of my favourite genres, soul and blues move from the outside into the mainstream musical consciousness, my all-time favourite soul act Sam Cooke for example, and the rock n' roll we visited via Buddy Holly and Little Richard in our previous Snapshots go to the next level with the supremo Jerry Lee Lewis, who was by no means a spring chicken in 1964 when he recorded his live album in The Star Club in Hamburg (it wasn't released until '65 so we cheat a little here!).

We kick off with one of the masters of mixing jazz with blues guitar, Wes Montgomery and his track 'D-Natural Blues' from the album The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, an appropriate title for an album which consistently features in the top albums released in 1960. The free-form movement up and down his fret-board coupled with some of the laziest (in terms of the listeners mood upon hearing it) snare and bass action make it an absolute treat that must be heard. 

Excellent blues guitar and it's accompanying traits of pained story-telling can be, but are difficult to, replicate in any style of music. On 'Country Boy' by Otis Spann from his album Otis Spann Is The Blues, he is the blues, trickling piano playing, the lackadaisical flow of guitar and the Chicago artist's throwaway delivery of his tremolo vocals encapsulate the blues and what it stands for so well. There is no getting to know the blues without engaging with Spann's music, and with the below video we can see how he was starting to influence a new kind of music and star which we will visit later in this post.

16 years Spann's senior, Robert Pete Williams exemplifies the dirt blues that 
Spann had polished a little, although I'm equally it home with both, perhaps a bit keener on Pete Williams' particular brand. On his 1961 album, Free Again, he gave us a peep through the keyhole to where the blues began, one man, one story, one guitar, Louisiana swamp blues at its finest, keeping old world stories alive through music.

Otis Spann - Spann's Blues

There's no passing this period of the 60's by without including one of the 60's & 70's greatest pianinst, Bill Evans. Starting his career in the late 50's, Evans went on to become one of the most influential musicians via his trumpet playing on Miles Davis' most famous album Kind of Blue. Highlights from the Sunday At The Village Vanguard album include the featured 'Gloria's Step' and 'Alice In Wonderland'. 

It was by complete accident I stumbled across Slim Harpo, and his track 'King Bee', wow, what a number it is. It gives me the same joy that a track like 'Green Onions' by Booker T. & The MG's does, remarkably simple, but a track that will lodge itself in your head forever. Harpo's trembling but acute vocal is sharp and delivered with a subtle humour, the locomotive groove of the percussion and humming bass, hear that escalated v-voom tone (intended I'm sure) is pure magic.

I could write a single post about Sam Cooke and only scratch the surface, one of the prime voices of soul music, it seemingly poured out of every ounce of him. Restricted to pop covers on his studio albums, Cooke found the ultimate release on his 1963 album Live At The Harlem Square Club, no one was going to tell him how he should sing or perform here. When Cooke proffers; 'I said I could feel alright now...' at the songs opening, and rattles the world with his dialogue on a phonecall conversation; "I said who is this? Somebody says, this is the operator, I said I don't want no operator, I want MY BABY!!!!". Bang. It all takes off from there and scorches everything before it. Sadly within 12 months Cooke would be shot dead in a motel room in Los Angeles following a show, by the manager of the establishment with the coroner at the time judging it as a justifiable homicide. Cooke was only 33-years-old at the time.

There's also no slicing your way through the late 50's and 60's without acknowledging the impact of South American music, and in articular the bossa nova / jazz of Stan Getz and João Gilberto (and later on the Brazilian psychedelic rock of Os Mutantes). 'The Girl From Ipanema', originally written in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, became a hit for Getz and Gilberto. 

In the studio their producer supposedly insisted the entire track be sung in English, but with Getz and Gilberto unable to speak the language, the latter's daughter Astrud was brought in to deliver the lines; "Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes, each one she passes goes "ah", when she walks, she's like a samba, that swings so cool and sways so gentle that, when she passes, each one she passes goes..." After that the saxophone is nailed right on. 

Astrud Gilberto - 'Corcovado' - from Getz / Gilberto

The soul returns with one of the most powerful and sadly least recognised albums of the decade, Irma Thomas' magical Wish Someone Would Care. At the age of 25 Thomas recorded one of the finest homages to her genre, including a glorious cover of 'Time Is On My Side' which Thomas released as a B-Side a few months prior to the Rolling Stones' famous version. There isn't a single track on this rarity that won't leave its mark on soul fans, it's a must listen.

You may have come across the vocal style known as chanson, which translates to English as song, not singer! It's a powerhouse medium that might not be for everyone, but in this instance is provided via the mastery of Belgian Jacques Brel and his famous 1964 album Olympia '64. Here we have the opening track 'Amsterdam', Brel's vocal bellowing animatedly from the get go, his crude and cynical take on love and relationships in dramatic full flow, Scott Walker would become obsessed with Brel in the late 1960's and his influence on song-writers was widespread, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon summing Brel's impact in a nutshell as; "a wonderful example of the absolute need to be yourself and say exactly what you think, regardless of what the public seem to want"

Jacques Brel Olympia 64

Finally we come to the great Jerry Lee Lewis and another live album, the third to feature on this playlist, this time Live At The Star Club, Hamburg. After making his first recording in 1956 at the famous Sun Records studio in Memphis, following the success of 'Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On' in '57 Lewis' career stalled after he married his first cousin, Myra Gale Brown, who at the time was only 13 years old (Lewis was 22), they would remain married for 13 years, but the controversy led to cancelled shows in the UK and US and forced Lewis to go underground for many years. 

It was during this period that he focused primarily on developing his wild antics away from the public gaze. In 1964 Lewis joined Liverpudlian act The Nashville Teens for one night in Hamburg's Star Club and ended up recording one of the most brazen live rock n' roll albums ever made. The set was chaotic and the band were unable to keep up with Lewis for the first 20 minutes of his set so frenetic was the pace of his piano playing. He managed to recover his career and was still making hit albums up until the late 1970's, the 81 year-old is currently living in Louisiana. 

To listen and read about REMY's first Snapshots in Time series from 1950-1954, go here

Recommended Documentaries:

Bill Evans - The Universal Mind of Bill Evans (1966)
Sam Cooke: Legend (2003) 
Interview with Jerry Lee Lewis for the documentary I Am What I Am (1987)

Track Listing:

1. Wes Montgomery - 'D-Natural Blues'
2. Otis Spann - 'Country Boy'
3. Robert Pete Williams - 'Free Again'
4. Bill Evans Trio - 'Gloria's Step (Take 2)'
5. Slim Harpo - 'I'm A King Bee'
6. Sam Cooke - 'Bring It On Home To Me' (Live)
7. Stan Getz & João Gilberto - 'The Girl From Ipanema'
8. Irma Thomas - 'I Need Your Love So Bad'
9. Jacques Brel - 'Amsterdam' (Live)
10. Jerry Lee Lewis - 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' (Live)