1960 in Music

These are my music reviews for music originally released in 1960.

1. John Coltrane: Giant Steps (10/10)

For me this has always seemed like the last word in bop, even though plenty of great bop has been released since. But Coltrane takes it as far as it will go. If you are interested only in the evolution of jazz as an art form, and don’t care about music that sounds nice, there is no real reason I can think of to listen to any bop released after this album. I know that seems absurd but it feels true when you listen to it.

1. Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Sketches of Spain (10)

The greatest orchestrated jazz album of all time? I’d say it’s in the top 3, for sure.

1. Bernard Herrmann: Psycho Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (10/10)

The score to Psycho is one of the most iconic film scores ever and, at the film’s release, probably was the most iconic film score for a Hollywood or even English language-film. (Searching my memory, I can only think of The Third Man as an earlier English language-film that got this much attention for its score. There were, of course, plenty of non-English language-films with heralded scores prior to Psycho‘s release.) And it remains among the most famous to this day, only equaled in fame by Jaws, Halloween, Star Wars, Superman, maybe The Exorcist. Read the rest of the review.

4. Jimmy Smith: Back at the Chicken Shack (9/10)

5. The Bill Evans Trio: The 1960 Birdland Sessions (8/10)

Note: Not released until 1992.

As much as this contains some pretty great music from one of the era’s greatest piano players, I have to think it is only worthwhile for devotees. The music is great but the sets are short – and there is a great deal of repetition between them – and there is an absolute ton of background noise. It doesn’t really take away from the pretty awesome music, but it is distracting.

6. Bernard Herrmann: The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (6/10)

This is among the most traditional scores of Herrmann’s I’ve heard. It’s downright classical in its overture. I mean, shockingly traditional music for Herrmann. Not having seen this particular film, I don’t know how deliberate this is. (I assume, because it’s Gulliver’s Travels that the music is trying to sound like 18th century music.) But as a standalone score, it’s really conventional, even when it begins to resemble more of a score later on.

Don’t get me wrong, the music is fine, but it’s so conventional as to not be worth your time if you’re looking for landmark scores.

Singles

1. B.B. King: “Sweet Sixteen Part 1” / “Sweet Sixteen Part 2” (10/10)

Hearing “Sweet Sixteen Parts 1 and 2” after the barrage of other, non-traditional blues tracks on this collection is such a refreshing reminder that King is a blues musician. This is a traditional electric blues, but King owns it and his playing is stellar. This long track took up two sides of the single which is super cool.

2. Ray Charles: “Georgia on My Mind” (10/10)

Though this version has dated a lot – the syrupy strings, the super white backing vocals – this is the iconic version of the song and perhaps the greatest example of Charles’ taking a country standard and turning it into something so different from country. I generally prefer more blues in my soul, but this is a landmark single, opening up a whole new world of music to the burgeoning genre.

3. Ray Charles: “Sticks and Stones” (9/10)

This is a propulsive soul number with a “Latin” rhythm that is utterly insistent. Pretty great stuff.

4. Wanda Jackson: “Let’s Have a Party” / “Cool Love” (8/10)

Jackson’s version of the A-Side is considered the definitive version of the song and it’s easy to see why. I don’t know the Elvis version but it’s hard to deny this: this is her rawest vocal performance and makes the silly lyrics more acceptable. “Cool Love” is a re-used A-Side from earlier in her career.

5. B.B. King: “Got a Right to Love My Baby” (8/10)

This is a pretty standard paced blues with a strong horn section and a rare (for this collection) King guitar solo in the middle. It’s good stuff.

6. Buddy Holly: “True Love Ways” (7/10)

Holly as a crooner. It’s a weird idea but somehow he pulls it off. Recorded nearly 2 years before it was released. Hard to know what the idea was. I guess he was just trying out different things, which makes him interesting.

James Brown: “I’ll Go Crazy” (??/10)

James Brown: “Think” (??/10)

Bo Diddley: “Road Runner” (??/10)

Not Ranked: Various Artists: Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris; Concerto in F by George Gershwin

Read the review.

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