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#150 – Santana (Santana)

In 150-125, Top 150 on December 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

Santana ablum cover (Santana, 1969)

Santana kicks ass. There, I said it.

Unlike Darkness (#150), I loved listening to this album. Number 149, ladies and gentlemen, is a great, energetic, seemingly legendary self-titled album by the band Santana, which at that time consisted of Carlos Santana on guitar (obviously) and vocals, Gregg Rolie on organ, piano, and vocals, David Brown on bass guitar, and on percussion, Michael Carabello and Jose Areas, and finally  Michael Shrieve on drums.

Santana’s debut album was released in 1969 when Carlos Santana was just 23 years old. Lucky for them, they had a chance to play at Woodstock before the album even released.  Check out this clip of ‘Soul Sacrifice’ live at Woodstock (the original recording is 11 minutes and 39 seconds, but this is a few minutes shorter), with a long and self-indulgent (but deserved) drum solo by Michael Shrieve.

I actually listened to the 1999 re-issue of this album, which contains three extra live tracks from their Woodstock performance at the end (Savor, Soul Sacrifice and Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries). Here’s the original track listing on the 1969 Colombia release.

Side one

  1. Waiting
  2. Evil Ways
  3. Shades of Time
  4. Savor
  5. Jingo

Side Two

  1. Persuasion
  2. Treat
  3. You Just Don’t Care
  4. Soul Sacrifice

So what to say about this album? Where to start, I guess. Watching the ‘Soul Sacrifice’ performance from the link above should give a pretty good idea of what this album is all about. The first record of Santana has heavy rock-influence, but you still hear the latin rhythms and influences in the percussion. The percussion drives the entire album, which starts with a lead-in on ‘Waiting’. It acts as a track that builds anticipation (much like the name of the track suggests…a feeling of waiting).

What surprised me is that I recognized quite a few of the tracks on the album without knowing that I knew them. I think this might happen more than I think as I listen to the next 148 albums. Anyway, ‘Evil Ways’, the second track on the album, I immediately recognized (and love). This song is a classic, and made it to the top 10 in the U.S. Billboard chart when it was released. The other track I recognized was ‘Jingo’, which was the first single released off the album, but never got a huge response, as far as I know.

The sound of Carlos Santana’s guitar is very distinct. If you hear it in any of his newer albums, or in a duo with Michelle Branch or Nickelback, or Rob Thomas,  you know its Santana. There’s a provocative, rock-latin-blues sound to his guitar that distinguishes him from many other guitarists. That sound is very clear on the 1969 album, too, and even if someone didn’t know who they were listening to, but was familiar with Santana, I think they would recognize the sound immediately.

Santana didn’t end up staying together very long after this album. My understanding is that they started to get pulled in different directions by the music, and also by different lifestyle choices, including substance abuse. Santana was fascinated by jazz and blues music and wanted to explore more, some of the other band members wanted to stick with a rock-influenced sound, since that was where they got their start. After their third album release, the band disintegrated. Still, what’s characteristic from the 1969 album and also today is Santana’s distinct guitar sound.

This album was a blast to listen to. Its got energy and drive, and also variety. A track like ‘Treat’ initially slows the album down so you can take a deep breath before it continues back into a high-energy jam with latin-infused beats and sexy guitar riffs. I love it. I have a new appreciation for Santana from listening to this album, that’s for sure. And how cool is it that they really got their start from performing at Woodstock in ’69? Awesome.

I think I’ll continue to this album for a while. I don’t think I’ll delete it (like I probably will with Darkness. Have I mentioned I don’t like that album yet? Okay, I’ll get off it.

Onto the next album! I don’t even know what it is. But I’ll check…and then I’ll listen.

Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen)

In albums on December 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm

1973 Album Cover, shot by Frank Stefanko.

What is it about The Boss? Seriously. I’m not bashing him, but the truth of the matter is I’ve never really found myself moved in any way by his music. And I don’t mean to say that I expect some deep spiritual awakening from The Boss’ full, whaling rock anthems. I guess  his music just doesn’t resonate with me.

Number 150 on the list is Bruce Springsteen’s fourth studio album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, which was released in Spring of 1973. I did a bit of digging to get a bit of context. I didn’t find much except that this album marked the end of a battle with Springsteen’s former manager, which lasted about three years.

In its original release, Darkness was a two-sided LP.

Side One

  1. Badlands
  2. Adam Raised a Cain
  3. Something in the Night
  4. Candy’s Room
  5. Racing in the Streets

Side Two

  1. The Promised Land
  2. Factory
  3. Streets of Fire
  4. Prove It All Night
  5. Darkness on the Edge of Town

I listened to the entire album,  both sides included, several times. Then, I listened to it in two parts (side one and side two). I noticed that there are two major stories on this album. One, of working hard and getting nowhere, and the other, of feeling free and feeling like there’s a clear road ahead of you. I’m guessing this has to do with the legal battles with their previous manager.

I’ve actually been resisting writing this blog entry (and its the first one!!!) because I don’t really know what to say about the album. What I noticed is that its raw. My gut reaction was “this sounds like Meatloaf”…but less refined and with less pow. The album feels a bit sluggish too, and I’m not sure whether that’s because of Springsteen’s distinctly full, chest-sound or the tempo, or maybe just a combination of both.

So, what did I like about the album? The intro to ‘Badlands’, for one. Its got a great classic sound with a piano and guitar intro that starts the next 40 minutes with a bit of a fanfare. Kind of cool. With the next track, ‘Adam Raised a Cain’, I became really resistant to the music. I don’t like the sound, I don’t like the feeling, and I don’t think its exciting or interesting. Harsh? I don’t know. Its just my gut reaction. But I guess it’s supposed to have that sound, so maybe that’s what the band wanted.

Oh, also. Bruce likes to sing about cars. Six of the ten tracks contain a reference to owning a car, racing a car, or being in a car.

Here’s what I think is interesting. After saying all of this, I get why its an important album in music history. This album was on the charts for 97 weeks but had no number one singles, or even high-charting singles, for that matter. And still, its got a really great classic rock sound. So maybe the class rock-piano riffs, combined with a simple harmonica and the legendary voice of Bruce Springsteen is great just because the music (although not especially “pretty” or “great” sounding, in my opinon) is something that people can relate to? Stories of hard work and not feeling the reward, and stories of late nights and your parents car, et cetera et cetera.

Whether I like Bruce or not, the fact of the matter is, this is a top album in music history (according to Rolling Stone, and VH1 as well). And although I don’t necessarily like this album (and I don’t want to listen to it again), I can hear in the music why its a big record. Its raw, its got a very “stripped” feeling to it, and so I think people can relate to it.

Thoughts? I’m open for discussion about this album…and I’d love to hear why people love it. Please share.

Oh and also, Bruce Springsteen just released a reissue box set including some DVDs and unreleased material from this album. Its called The Promise and was released on November 16, 2010.

First Listen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen)

In musings on December 4, 2010 at 1:03 am

Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen, 1978)

I’ve never been a big fan of “The Boss”, from what I’ve heard at least. I just had my first listen to this album, and the first half didn’t blow me away, but by the end, it grew on me. Springsteen’s voice reminds me of Meatloaf, and all I could think about was “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (cue Christa and Dave dancing wildly…).

I’ll listen a few more times.

Beginning

In musings on December 2, 2010 at 1:52 am
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Tim...

Image via Wikipedia

In the past, I’ve been amazed at some of my friends’ knowledge about music. I am a passionate listener, but I couldn’t tell you much about records before the 90s. I don’t know much about the Stones, or Led Zeppelin, or Santana, or Otis Redding, or any of the great musicians from the past 60 years.

Yesterday, I was listening to my iPod and walking to the bus stop, on my way to work, and had an idea. In order to satisfy my own cravings to discover more about the evolution of music from the 50s onwards, I need to listen to the greatest albums of all time, sit with them, enjoy them, whatever…and then record my observations, whatever they end up being. My immediate response was excitement. The inspiration actually came from a few sources.

As many people know, and many people don’t, iTunes does not allow artists to request full album only sales of their music. In other words, they can’t restrict people from buying single tracks. Some musicians boycott iTunes for this reason, saying that their music is created as an album and not as singles. Two days ago, I listened to the new Arcade Fire album (The Suburbs) and was inspired. It struck me that their album had a sound that didn’t seem to sit quite right unless you listened to the record from start to finish. I don’t know what their intentions were, but that’s the way the record came across to me. So between The Suburbs, and being reminded about the idea of a complete album, I decided that for me to get a better understanding of music, I need to listen to as many ‘essential’ albums as possible from start to finish.

I checked online to find that Rolling Stone magazine has a list of the top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time posted on their website. Now, 500 seems insanely daunting. Especially if I want to be able to do a bit of research and have time to sit with each album, if I need, to let it digest. So I’ve decided that I will start at 150 and work my way down to the number 1 greatest album of all time.

I’m excited for this project and don’t want to shape it too much ahead of time. Instead, I want to get started and clarify the process as it happens, answering any questions from myself or others along the way. One of my questions right now is how Rolling Stone came up with this list, so I’ll work on figuring that out.

In the meantime, the first album I’m going to listen to is Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’, released in 1978 and also number 150 on the list of  Greatest Albums of All Time.

Here we go.

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