All Directions (1972) by The Temptations

Categories: 1972 and Music.

I don’t know what to do with vocal groups. Most of my music-listening life I have been more impressed with the ability to play an instrument well than sing well. So when I listen to a record where the vocalists are all credited but the players aren’t really, I already get muddled, regardless of the music I’m listening to. I just don’t understand the obsession with vocals above all other things. Read More

There It Is (1972) by James Brown

Categories: 1972 and Music.

This is the first studio album of Brown’s that wasn’t a compilation that I’ve ever heard and I have no idea what to do with it. This is Brown’s 38th studio album, which is insane. Brown’s output is just insane which is why most of us are just better off with the boxed set of singles. How does one view this record without having listening to at least some of those 37 previous records? how does one view this without a deep knowledge of where funk was in June of 1972. I don’t have the knowledge of the genre (beyond Read More

Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Otis is my favourite soul singer but I find him more restrained in the studio than live and generally prefer his live music. (Or maybe it’s just the mixes…) His final album is a strong set of covers and originals with an excellent backing band. I prefer Otis Blue in terms of content, but this is still a pretty good idea of what he did, and how well he did it. “Complete” it is not (the original record isn’t quite 25 minutes long). Nor is it some kind of encyclopedic overview of the genre. But it’s good stuff. 8/10 Read More

Destination Love: Live! At Cold Rice (1996) by The Make Up

Categories: 1996 and Music.

When I first listened to this faux-live album I thought “Holy MC5 Batman.” At least initially, this band sounded like they were just MC5 worshipers, albeit in the best of ways. But that’s a really superficial reading of this music and also a misunderstanding of both this band and the MC5, who may be inspired by some of the same things. On closer listening, this is much more than just the Garage Rock revival it appears to be. It’s right for them to call their style gospel, as this is firmly influenced by the same gospel tradition that influenced the Read More

Where I’m Coming From (1971) by Stevie Wonder

Categories: 1971 and Music.

I’m glad that Wonder was breaking away from the creative constraints of his label and his handlers. And maybe, if I’d heard those earlier albums, I’d see more daring in this record, in his freeing himself creatively. I’d like to hear that, but without listening to those earlier records, I can’t. Instead, I hear a precocious, bratty kid who has just discovered a whole lot of things including, it seems, some philosophy. And like anyone in their early twenties, he’s really obnoxious about it. (I mean, we can’t possibly know what he’s just learned, right?) His lyrics that aren’t about Read More

Al Green is Love (1975)

Categories: 1975 and Music.

I have heard so much about Al Green, I guess I was bound to be disappointed. This is very competent, able smooth soul. Green is undeniably a great performer. But I like my music with a little oomph behind it. As someone who values both grit and history, it’s hard for me to understand why this is considered such a classic (by critics anyway) when it glosses over and doesn’t appear to improve upon what went before it. Well, anyway, I’m definitely not the audience. Fine, but I’m not going to go out of my way to listen to more. Read More

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires Live at Nathan Phillip’s Square, July 21, 2015

Categories: 2015 and Music.

I came to James Brown – and soul, funk and so forth – rather late in life, compared to most other genres I have an interest in. And, regardless, I would have never been able to see the Godfather in his prime, had I even wanted to. But I think Charles Bradley probably gave me the closest taste I am going to get. Bradley’s band is a hilarious group of young, almost entirely white, hipsters who play ‘60s Stax-style soul, and ‘60s funk. Bradley himself does a bit of a James Brown thing, with his own spin, but you could Read More

Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2012) by Justin Townes Earle

Categories: 2012 and Music.

I don’t like the aesthetic. That wouldn’t matter if Earle was a great songwriter. However, he just an above-average songwriter. Everything is impeccably produced and arranged; although the different genre homages hit the right notes. And that’s probably the problem. Unless, those genres are your thing, it’s hard to love this: he doesn’t exactly bring anything knew to them. It would be nice if he had found a better, more consistent aesthetic to match his songs. Or, if he was truly committed to this genre-hoping aesthetic, it would be nice if he had written better songs. 6/10 Read More

Genius: the Ultimate Collection by Ray Charles (Concord 2009)

Categories: 2009 and Music.

Ray Charles was a very important musician in the history of soul music but you don’t really get that here. Instead you get many of his hits, some of which are in an altogether different genre (which is fine). But it’s really hard to tell he’s a great innovator from this selection. He sounds rather old-timey actually. Certainly it does a poor job of living up to its title. I’m sure there are better compilations out there. 7/10 Read More

The 50th Anniversary Collection by James Brown (Polydor 2003)

Categories: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 2003, and Music.

James Brown’s importance can not be understated. He is on The List of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century (along with Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Frank Zappa and maybe a few others). This compilation of his hit singles gives a very good idea of his progression and how he turned gritty soul and R and B into funk and thus got sampled more than any other band leader ever. The one downside is that this compilation of his hit singles is missing one of his biggest hits. Hard to understand that Read More