Blues Kingpins: Elmore James (2003)

Categories: 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, and Music.

This is a compilation of James’ recordings from the 1950s. It presents a relative variety of styles of blues and some of the music features a horn section. Listening to this, it’s easy to understand why James was dubbed “King of the Slide Guitar.” He shows off some pretty impressive traditional guitar playing as well and you can hear the reverberations of his style through so much rock and blues guitar playing since. The energy is also notable, comparable to the rock and roll and R and B of the time, which is a bit of a surprise. Because I Read More

Cross Country Tour: 1958-1961 (1998) by Ahmad Jamal

Categories: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1998, and Music.

This is an excellent survey of the live music of Ahmad Jamal and his trio in the late ’50s and very early ’60s. Jamal’s playing is so far from Monk – to my ears – that it’s rather incredible. His individuality in that sense is rather fantastic. Monk utterly changed piano playing and it must have been extremely tempting to play either in Monk’s shadow or to go back to pre-Monk playing. Jamal manages to do neither. And you can see the rather huge influence he’s had on other pianists, particularly cool jazz pianists. (And there’s an interesting chicken-or-egg question Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

The Buddy Holly Collection (1993)

Categories: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1993, and Music.

At the time of its release, this was, apparently, the closest thing a to “complete” edition of Holly’s work as existed. (So I have read.) So that alone makes it pretty good. Holly managed to bridge the gap between rock and roll and rockabilly on the one hand and respectable pop music on the other better than perhaps any other performer of his era. He brought a more sensitive side to rock and roll lyrics (befitting his spectacles, I guess) that was hugely influential – his influence on John Lennon in particular is immense – and wrote a number of Read More

The Twilight Zone (1999) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, and 1999.

Though not the composer of The Twilight Zone‘s most iconic theme, Herrmann composed music for both the overall show and individual episodes. This album collects the scores for seven of those episodes and includes a couple other pieces Herrmann did for the show. What Herrmann did here is remarkable. Much of this music is pretty typical of his science fiction music of the time, but it wasn’t typical for TV. (Remember, back then, American TV was indeed nothing like the movies: way lower production values, worse actors, usually, worse writing, etc.) Obviously The Twilight Zone helped change all that. But Read More

North by Northwest (1959, 1995) by Bernard Herrmann

Categories: 1959, 1995, and Music.

Unlike so much of what I’ve been listening to of Herrman’s music, this is actually the original performance of the score. This recording is rather short – 37 minutes – and it’s hard to know what happened to the rest of it, since I haven’t seen the movie in a really long time. Anyway, this is the “official” score. Though hardly as iconic as Psycho or Vertigo, this is still pretty strong stuff by Herrmann. Distinctive and memorable themes that take maybe a little more time to get in your head but, once there, produce a few more thoughts than Read More

Concerto funebre; Sonatas and Suites for Solo Violin (2007) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, peformed by Alina Ibragimova

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is an excellent collection of Hartmann’s violin music. The Concerto funebre is like a string quartet writ large, where the lead violin’s role is exaggerated and the other three instruments assume lesser roles than normal, only their sound is trebled (or what have you). The first movement lulls you into thinking this is some pretty conventional music, but it soon stands that on its ear. A good mix of tradition and forward thinking. And, like so much of the music inspired by what the Nazis were up to, it is truly stirring. The first of the suites for solo Read More

Things Fall Apart (1959) by Chinua Achebe

Categories: 1959, Books, and Fiction.

I love the slow burn of this. Putting aside its importance – isn’t it one of the first major novels by an actual African, if not the first? – I love how this unfolds: you have no idea the real crisis until well into the book. This is just begging for a movie adaptation. But anyway. I apologize for any SPOILERS. What begins as a story of a man who perhaps misunderstands his role in the traditional community – as he attempts to compensates for the perceived failings of father – and, as a result, does some things that cause Read More

Witches Brew (1959, 1964, 2008) by the New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by Alexander Gibson

Categories: 2008 and Music.

This is one of those “Spooky classical” things that is generally entertaining but hardly anything more. It’s a good (but obvious) selection of famous “spooky” pieces, primarily from the Romantic era. The wife and I attended one of these types of things with the TSO one Halloween a few years ago and the selection wasn’t all that different (they just included some Bernard Hermann). I am not really a fan of these types of collections, but at least this one has a clear, definite them to it, unlike so many others. The CD version adds two pieces from later recording Read More

House on Haunted Hill (1959, William Castle)

Categories: 1959 and Movies.

This is reasonably creepy for its era – my GF jumped once or twice! – but really it is only for fans of Price and Castle as most of the tricks are quite predictable to us and were even fairly transparent for a film of its vintage. It’s fun, but it’s certainly not on a classic level compared to some of the great suspense and horror films of the 1950s. 6/10 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