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The List – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – 1966

So here is 1966 and they can be heard on Spotify with the playlist that I have created for everyone to follow along.

Revolver The Beatles – Probably my favorite Beatles album. Definitely in my top 50. It’s the album that saw The Beatles come into their own as solid composers over songwriters. They are still great songwriters but the instrumentation grew, the production became more complex and their use of harmonic structure became much sweeter despite the darker content. It’s also the first album I felt The Beatles really stretching their celebrity muscle for change. “Taxman”, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Doctor Robert” were straight up social commentary at the very beginning of the hippie movement.

Pet Sounds The Beach Boys – What can be said about Pet Sounds that hasn’t already been said? Considered by most to be The Beach Boys and most specifically Brian Wilson’s “magnum opus”, it is undoubtedly the best representation of what The Beach Boys could manifest. The story is that Brian Wilson took over studio production for this album and it is often thought of as his solo album in all but name. He wrote, recorded and engineered all the backing tracks with The Wrecking Crew. When the boys came back from touring Today!, they were presented with a fully fleshed album that just required them to record the vocals. Regardless if you ever liked The Beach Boys, this is an album you should have in your collection.

Fred Neil Fred Neil – I only knew Fred Neil because he wrote “Everybody’s Talkin'” (included on this album) which was later covered by Harry Nilsson for the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. Couldn’t find the original album on Spotify but the songs on this album are available on a compilation album. So, not sure why this was included in this list. He’s a hipper Andy Williams, Perry Como, etc. He writes his own songs which are pretty good and he has a pleasant voice but not hearing anything earth shattering on this album. “That’s The Bag I’m In” sounds a lot like “The Season of the Witch” by The Zombies. “Green Rocky Road” is a pretty cool tune. However, this album wouldn’t make my list but it’s on this one.

Fifth Dimension The Byrds – I thought I was a fan of The Byrds but after doing this exercise, I realized that I’m only a fan of their hits. This album is no exception. Fifth Dimension contains the hit “Eight Miles High” which could have landed this album on my list but the rest of the album is just unappealing to me. I prefer the Jimi Hendrix version of “Hey Joe”. So this wouldn’t make my 1001 but “Eight Miles High” is a fantastic song.

Blonde on Blonde Bob Dylan – Love the way this album starts out! “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (often referred to as “Everybody Must Get Stoned!”) gets you swingy with a woozy brass band. I didn’t know until later that Robbie Robertson and Al Kooper played on this album. What can I say, “Visions of Johanna” is a great lyrical tune; “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” forces the listener to pay attention; “Just Like A Woman” is a great story ride and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” strikes a haunting familiarity with me. Great double album! Makes my list.

Black Monk Time The Monks – This album is cool! I thought it was like a “kooky” surfer like album (think “Beach Party Bingo”) but it was more like a pre-punk album. It’s just a raw punk garage band back beat with an organ (not you’re typical punk instrumentation) and a “loungey, boozy” lead singer with backing harmonies. Not sure how this slipped by me in past but I loved this record.

Face To Face The Kinks – Most of this album is good but nonetheless unremarkable. The whole album for me is one song, “Sunny Afternoon”. That song is in my top 500 songs of all time for me. It seems like Ray Davies – main songwriter for the Kinks – was really fascinated with the social structures around him. Songs like “Session Man”, “House In the Country” and “Most Exclusive Residence for Sale” have him playing around with characters in a whimsical yet stinging kind of way. I enjoyed revisiting this album but I wouldn’t put it in my 1001.

The Mamas & The Papas The Mama & The Papas – This is the followup album to their debut “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” and while the harmonies are stellar, their isn’t a “hit” on this record. The entire album is a great listen. Additionally, this album has nearly all the songs written in some part by John Phillips. “No Salt On Her Tail” and “Once Was A Time I Thought” are my favorite tunes here but all of these are really good but, for me, nothing left an imprint that I couldn’t live without.

Midnight Ride Paul Revere & The Raiders – Everyone remembers the first track, “Kicks” and they do a remake of the Boyce/Hart hit “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” (best known for the version done by The Monkees. It’s worth a listen but I don’t see how it fits into the 1001 BYD.

Freak Out! Frank Zappa, The Mothers Of Invention – So much came out of this album! First off, I have tremendous respect for any artist who can convince a record company to allow the artist to produce a double album as their debut. It’s pretty rare. Secondly, this is Zappa – therefore not for the feint of heart. Zappa and the Mothers’ debut does slash out lyrically about many social and societal norms but the composition is just … insanely out of whack (yet in a good way). There was nothing like this before and other than Frank himself, very little like this afterwards. It defies genre and is equally appealing and appalling to the masses. It makes my 1001 but not sure I place it in the top 100.

Aftermath The Rolling Stones – The Stones’ 6th album and possibly their first great one. It is the first album that the Glimmer Twins wrote all the songs. Looking outside the hits, “Paint It Black” and “Under My Thumb”, the album is rock solid. It is an early glimpse into the way Jagger & Richards are working on being the great chameleons of rock music, making them relevant in every decade. Take “Stupid Girl” in contrast to “Lady Jane” offering the 1966 listener with dance-able track and a folky Elizabethan ballad next to each other. Still very rooted in the blues that came out of Chicago’s Chess records but definitely the band hitting it’s stride. I like this album very much but then I like most of the Stones albums.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Simon & Garfunkel – Probably the first Simon & Garfunkel album I latched onto. So many great songs on this album. “Scarborough Fair”, “Homeward Bound”, “The 59th Street Bridge Song” are the hits but “Patterns”, “The Dangling Conversation”. The whole album is really solid and showcases what Paul and Art could do with harmonies and the writing of Paul Simon. Absolutely in my 1001, probably in my top 500…maybe even higher.

The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators The 13th Floor Elevators – So first introduced to this band when watching the documentary, You’re Gonna Miss MeThis is a rock and roll JUG band. That’s right, Tommy Hall plays the jug on this album. This whole band is Roky Erickson for me. I heard Roky’s screaming as best described as “he opens his mouth and you could swear he’s going to shoot a tonsil on the back wall!” “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is the bona-fide hit on this album but this is a great example of some underground psychedelic music being produced at this time. Great stuff. I own it and couldn’t see myself giving it up. Definitely makes the 1001 but might not crack the 500.

Bluesbreakers John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – Otis Rush once said when asked about the strength and influence of this album alone, “If Eric Clapton never made another album, he would be in the blues hall of fame.” I have to agree. This album is straight up blues in the vein of Otis, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy and Howlin’ Wolf – great stuff. Just after the Yardbirds and right before the formation of Cream, “Beano” (as it’s known by Clapton fans) shows why Clapton left the Yardbirds in pursuit of a much more roots sound and songs. I could see this in my 1001.

Roger the Engineer The Yardbirds – So with the departure of Clapton, Jimmy Page (who was playing bass off and on with Paul Samwell-Smith in the Yardbirds at this time) quickly brought in Jeff Beck to step into the guitar role. As with the previous Yardbirds albums, this one doesn’t hold up to the success of the single “Over, Under, Sideways, Down”. It feels somewhat transitional as there are some very blues rooted songs (“Lost Woman”, “Rack My Mind”, “What Do You Want” & “He’s Always There”) and some others in the rock almost psychedelic genre (“Hot House of Omargarashid”, “Turn into Earth” and “The Nazz Are Blue”). Then there is “Jeff’s Boogie” which is pretty underwhelming having followed Beck throughout his career. Weird note, this apparently the first recording that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones recorded together (three years prior to the release of Led Zeppelin I. Cool album but it would be a stretch to include in my 1001 and probably not a deserted island album for me either.

Wild Is The Wind Nina Simone – Hadn’t heard of Nina Simone prior to this adventure but she became a bit of an obsession once I did. This album is as undefinable as her remarkable vocal ability. She sort of makes a “Nina Simone genre”. No one does what Nina could do and anyone who tries is usually falls short or becomes an imitator. I think this is due to her as a person as much as it has to do with her ability. As early as 1954, she set out to make a living as a musician (very difficult to do in anytime but especially hard in the late 50’s as a woman of color). Signed a contract with Colpix Records in 1959. By 1964, she was picked up by Philips and shifted her music from being jazz standard interpretations to focusing on the civil rights struggle. “Four Women”, “Wild Is The Wind”, “Break Down And Let It All Out” and “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair” are some of the examples on this record. Her ability to interpret songs and make them her own is uncanny. I own this record and would include it in the 1001 if for nothing else than everyone needs to be exposed to talent like this.

Beach Samba Astrud Gilberto – I love samba but rarely reach for it when I want to listen to something. Astrud Gilberto is, for me, the “female voice of samba.” She is best known for her vocals on “The Girl from Impanena” recorded on her husband’s album, Getz/Gilberto. Her vocal plays tricks in my mind, making think of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s – soft, sensual and inviting. This album isn’t particularly remarkable to me other than it was a fun listen. “Stay”, “Oba,Oba”, “Canoeiro” and “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” are the high points for me. Not one I would include in the 1001 but I might not have any samba albums in my 1001 despite my love for samba.

The List – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (the early 60’s)

So here is 1960-1964 and they can be heard on Spotify with the playlist that I have created for everyone to follow along.

 

1960 – A Date With the Everly Brothers The Everly Brothers – Never “got” the Everly Brothers. I still don’t but this was a good example of why people might. Hits “Cathy’s Clown”, “Love Hurts” and the cover of “Lucille” are the true highlights of this album and the quantity of sub-3 minute songs makes the album and easy purchase but not sure it fits in my 1001

1960 – Elvis Is Back! Elvis Presley – So the original album was rather sparse on hits. It was later reissued by RCA to include some other songs that were recorded at the same time but weren’t included with the original release. The first album by Elvis upon his return from the Army actually didn’t contain “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, “It’s Now or Never” or “Stuck on You” but the album still held up as a good album for the King. It does have “Fever”, “Such A Night”, “It’ Feels So Right” and the very cool “Dirty, Dirty Feeling”. Not one of my 1001 but still good album from E.

1960 – Joan BaezJoan Baez – Let me start off by saying, I am not a fan of Joan Baez. I have to admit that the rawness of this album is pretty stunning. According to the story, this was recorded with two microphones (one for vocals and one for guitar) in the ballroom of the Manhattan Tower Hotel. She apparently just did the set that she knew at the time, 13 traditional folk songs. This would not be in my top 1001 but it was a worthy listen. High point is her rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”

1960 – Miriam Makeba – Miriam Makeba – It took a long time for me to locate this album and since I was digging on African rhythms, I was looking forward to finding it. When I did, I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Miriam Makeba is a very prolific African singer that was introduced to the American public by Harry Belafonte. The album seemed a bit all over the map musically but the only high point for me was the song “Mbube” which is the original song that Robert Jon starts with in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

1960 – Muddy Waters at Newport Muddy Waters – Considered by some to be the very first live blues recording, it stands up every time I hear it. It absolutely kills with Muddy playing his Tele, Otis Spann tickling the ivories and James Cotten blowing the harp. Muddy is a poster child for the blues and it shows in this record. It contains some of the best stuff – “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Baby Please Don’t Go”, I Got My Mojo Working” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Feel So Good”. Not only in my 1001 but probably stretches into my Top 100

1961 – Sunday at the Village Vanguard Bill Evans – Amazingly powerful record! I love this album and have strong appreciation for the “The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961” which have all the takes made for the recording. If you haven’t heard this it belongs in my top 100 and probably in everyone’s 1001

1961 – Back at the Chicken ShackJimmy Smith – I love the Hammond B-3 and this is the best Hammond album. Jimmy Smith was to the Hammond what Eric Clapton and Duane Allman are to the guitar. He glides up and down both registers like the keys are puddles to skip in. Besides Smith’s originals “Back at the Chicken Shack” and “Messy Bessie”, it also showcases Jimmy on Hammerstein’s “When I Grow To Old to Dream” and Turrentine’s “Minor Chant”. Fits well in my 1001 but might fall short of the desert island 100.

1962 – Green OnionsBooker T & the MGs – Another great example playing hte Hammond organ is right here in this record. With the fabulous MGs (Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg – later replaced the amazing Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn – and Al Jackson, Jr.), Booker T. Jones put together a sound that helped define the Memphis R&B genre for years to come. This is a fun album but only really shines on the title track and “Mo’ Onions”. It suffers from it’s own defining moments in that this was the groundwork on which so much music was written from – it sounds common, not in a bad way but in a “Kleenex is to tissue as Fedex is to overnight delivery” way. Still a great listen and falls squarely in my top 1001.

1962 – Modern Sounds in Country and Western MusicRay Charles – This just proves that Ray Charles could have done just about anything he wanted to do. He was an amazing artist and to take a different approach on so many of these classic C&W songs is still astounding. The hit Don Gibson‘s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” completely outsold the original despite the single being a B-side to “Oh, Lonesome Me”. The album as a whole stands the test of time and I think easily fits in the 1001 but might reach into the top 250 for me.

1962 – Jazz SambaStan Getz/Charlie Byrd – I kind of came late to the Stan Getz party but once I discovered his playing I was a strong reveler in his stuff. This album with the great Charlie Byrd is so much a Sunday afternoon, drinking mimosas and reading the paper kind of record. It is a great laid back feel and is very representative of his amazing talents. Definitely a 1001 choice for me and might make top 100 in Jazz albums.

1963 – The Black Saint and the Sinner LadyCharles Mingus – Wow!! This album is so frenetic at times it’s almost hard to follow. A casual listener will really struggle with what Mingus has laid out on this recording, a working musician will find it intriguing if for nothing else the scenes it paints. Once describe to me by a bar musician as “detective movie” music, Mingus pushes every musician on this recording to paint a musical landscape in which the listener can wrap themselves in. I absolutely love this album but can’t listen to it with my wife as she doesn’t get it and can’t fin much to appreciate in the score. It is complex and deep much like “Mingus Ah Um” but this has a flow that is rich and velvety. Definite 1001 material and could be in the Top 100.

1963 – Live at the ApolloJames Brown – Is there any place in the musical world that would have been better to be than the Apollo Theater in 1962 to see the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown? HE KILLS IT! Must have, must listen, wished I could have seen. He finishes with what I consider to be the best pieces “Medley: Please, Please, Please/You’ve Got The Power/I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad/I Love You, Yes I Do/Strange Things Happen/Bewildered/Please, Please, Please” and the finale of “Night Train” really bring it home. Fits well in the 1001.

1963 – A Christmas Gift to YouPhil Spector – This is a really cool Christmas album and just for being exactly that deserves to be on the list for the 1001. This contains Christmas standards by The Ronnettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans

1963 – Night LifeRay Price – The steel guitar playing of Jimmy Day and Buddy Emmons were probably the first things that grabbed me on this album. Expected this to be a straight up honky tonk album from the introduction but found Price’s voice to be unbelievably soothing and tranquil. Crazily truthful in his ability to express a story. While I wouldn’t have found it on my own I am glad that I listened to it and think of it as one of the better examples of honky tonk music.

1963 – Live at the Harlem Square ClubSam Cooke – Pretty stunning example of Sam Cooke at his best, live in 1963 in Harlem. He whips out “Cupid”, “Chain Gang”, “Twisting the Night Away” and “Having a Party”. It flows effortlessly for him. I would put this in my 1001 but it isn’t groundbreaking enough for me to stretch into the top 100.

1963 – With the Beatles – The Beatles – Just 7 months after the release of their debut album, “Please, Please Me“, the Fab Four start to really stretch their songwriting to create an amazing sequel. Packed with hit after hit, “It Won’t Be Long”, “All I’ve Got To Do”, “All My Loving” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” and great covers like The Supremes‘ “Please Mr. Postman”, Chuck Berry‘s “Roll Over Beethoven” and Smokey Robinson‘s “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”, this album is an absolute must have, must hear. In my top 100 easily.

1964 – Bert JanschBert Jansch – This album grabbed my attention like no other album from 1960 – 1964. First I had never heard it, secondly I had never realized I had heard Bert Jansch before. This guy was one of the guitar players in a group called Pentangle, a underrated folk-prog sort of band. So the story goes that this album was recorded in a single day in the engineer’s kitchen with a reel-to-reel. Jansch borrowed the guitar that he played and it was sold to Transatlantic Records for £100. It went on to become very sought after and sold over 150,000 units. This album is simply haunting and raw. Fantastic playing and visceral in it’s sparseness. I don’t own this because I can’t find it on vinyl but it should be listened to be everyone, in my top 100.

1964 – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Bob DylanBob Dylan has been called the great American poet for most of the time that I have been alive. This album seems to be the seminal Bob Dylan album. I think of Dylan as the great influencer. Everyone talks about how much Dylan influenced his or her music. This is a fantastic album and if one thinks of Dylan as a must have on a list, this would be the one I would recommend. “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” is all acoustic guitar and harmonica staunchly presenting Dylan as the folk artist taking over for Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. It starts out with “Blowin’ in the Wind” and works thru “The Girl from the North Country” – which is often considered to be more a traditional folk song that Dylan heavily borrowed from. “Masters of War” is a desperately haunting song. “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” are arguably the two best songs on the album.Fits nicely in the 1001 but could be something that cracks the top 100.

1964 – A Girl Called DustyDusty Springfield – I didn’t really know Dusty Springfield when this came into rotation. I knew “You Don’t Own Me” and “Wishin’ and Hopin”” which are on this album but she kills a number of cover tunes. She really is an amazing vocalist with great power in her voice. I kind of felt that the album was dated but it was defining for a time, so it isn’t really dated but classic. What I noticed was that she has a lot of soul in her voice as though she could have walked into Hitsville USA (Motown) and given any of those singers a run for their money. I actually laughed out loud at the raucously trampy “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”. This fits squarely in the 1001 and probably in the top half but not much higher.

1964 – Olympia ’64 Jacques Brel – Hated it! Not a fan of the style and Jacques Brel did nothing to change my mind. I found absolutely nothing redeeming about this album. Someone might, I didn’t.

1964 – A Love Supreme John Coltrane – Probably the second best jazz album in the history of jazz, given that Miles’ “Kind of Blue” is the first. This is Coltrane at perhaps his finest. This is a 4 song testament to where Coltrane was at this time – “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, Pursuance” & “Psalm”. He had come out of his addictions and he was finding his way to clarity of spirit and mind. The album has a prayer in the liner notes that was turned into a “wordless recitation” by ‘Trane using his amazing playing on his tenor sax. Elvin Jones, McCoy Turner and Jimmy Garrison all contribute to a real musical experience. In my top 100, maybe in my top 25.

1964 – Rock & SoulSolomon Burke – I didn’t recognize the name Solomon Burke but once I found the record I realized who Burke was and would never forget his name. He is a very large man with a persona that is bigger than life and I’ve seen him on a number of “all star” concerts and have always enjoyed his performance usually while seated on a throne. His vocals on this album are brash and buttery throughout. “Cry To Me” starts us off with a rough and tumble Burke hitting it like Ray Charles and then its followed directly by “Just Out of Reach” which if you didn’t know better you would think it was Elvis. Highlight of this whole album is “Can’t Nobody Love You” which is heart wrenching open letter for his woman to take him back. I hear Jackie Wilson and others in his voice. I understand why people would like him but for me he isn’t spectacularly remarkable to end up on a list like this. I liked it but scratched my head how this album ends up on here while others don’t. Wouldn’t make my 1001 but I liked it.

1964 – Getz/GilbertoStan Getz/Joao Gilberto – Samba/Bossa Nova music is the coolest ever. Great album for sitting back on Sunday morning and sipping mimosas when reading the paper with your favorite beautiful girl. The hit off this album is “The Girl From Impanema” which was sung by Joao Gilberto‘s wife, Astrud. Apparently, she didn’t even know that he wanted her to record the song until the day of the session. I find this album to be a great album that definitely belongs in the 1001, probably in the top 250.

1964 – A Hard Day’s NightThe Beatles – the third album by the Fab Four in an amazingly short time and finds the Liverpool lads writing every song on the album, no more covers. This is chock full of hits and great fillers – “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Anytime At All”, “If I Fell” and “And I Love Her” are timeless tunes. The associated film is amusing and great to see some action around the songs. This is in my top 50 albums of all time.

1964 – The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones – There are two versions of this album – the UK version which is simply called “The Rolling Stones” and is on Decca and the US version which is on London I believe and called “England’s Newest Hitmakers”. Both are pretty similar with a few different tracks and a different order. So I listened to both of them. What can you say, this is The Stones! “Not Fade Away” replaces “Mona” on the US release and therefore makes the US version my preference. This is the young, young Stones trying to be their idols in Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and they create a whole new genre of rock and roll in the process. Pretty amazing to listen to the early stuff by the Stones. I think this is easily in anyone’s 1001 but for me it does crack the top 200 and maybe even higher.

“I Listen to Everything”

When I first meet people I make every attempt to discover their taste in music.  More often than not, the conversation goes like this:

Me: What kind of music do you listen to?

Them: Oh, I listen to everything.

At about this point I internally roll my eyes and prevent my hands from forming fists.  I get a sudden urge to hit something.  I absolutely detest this answer because it’s simply untrue.  The worst part is the person saying it doesn’t realize their own untruth.  “I listen to everything.”  Bullshit.  No one listens to everything.  What people really mean is: “I listen to everything I listen to.”

Music diversity is only determined by one’s exposure.  So listening to everything is a way for the individual to give themselves props for listening to a little of everything to which they’ve been exposed… and, even then, this may not be the case.

When I hear the “listen to everything” answer, I appease my rising anger by proving this answer wrong.  My line of questioning sharpens.

Me: Really?  Do you listen to classical?  How about opera?  Do you partake of the polka?  How about Native American or Buddhist chants?  Ancient Chinese folk music?  American folk songs?  What about atonal music like John Cage or George Crumb?  Bollywood soundtracks, anyone?

I invariably lose people with opera, and then usually they offer some examples of what they really listen to.  Basically they let me know what’s on their iPod.

Now I realize proving someone wrong may be a dickish move, especially to someone you’ve just met.  However, I don’t really feel like I’ve met someone until I have a feeling of the music they enjoy.

A person’s listening taste reveals more about that person than a 2 hour dinner conversation ever could.  What is your image of someone who listens to Britney, Justin, and Mariah?  Contrast that with someone who listens to Beethoven, Bach, and Debussy.  What do you think someone who listens to Floyd, Zeppelin, and Zappa does late at night?   (On a side note, the people I tend to write off immediately are those that listen exclusively to “Indie Music.”  Ugh.  I’d rather share the company of someone who enjoys the vacuous vapid existence of Britney over the self-importance pretention of a wide-eyed twenty-something “Singer Songwriter.”)

Most of us feel music more than we listen to it; that is, we can’t really rationalize why we like some music over another.  We experience music on a carnal instinctive level.  Music moves our soul.  And because we listen with our soul, understanding a person’s music taste helps us understand that person.  It provides a glimpse to what moves them.  We begin to sense their aesthetic sensibilities.  We immediately realize some commonalities and differences to help shape our future interactions with this person.

Music helps us understand each other.  It helps us understand ourselves.  When someone asks you what kind of music you listen to, give them a real answer.  It’s an easy and comfortable way to reveal some depth.

What kind of music do I listen to, you ask?

Me: I listen to everything except for polka, hardcore rap, and most new country.

In A Genre of Their Own

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on musical genres, I have listened to a fair share of music in my time and truly dig songs from all types of genres. Usually I stay within the same 4 or 5 genres (namely classic rock, jam bands, reggae, bluegrass, and folk) but can’t help but love when musicians mix genres, cross genres, or create new ones all of their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a huge success but when it does work, it is one awesome sound…take for example the Easy Star All-Stars reggae remake of Pink Floyds’ Dark Side of the Moon.  Even more appealing is when I come across a group with its’ own sound that really doesn’t fit into one of the traditional genres.  The three bands below have only been releasing albums for the past 5-10 years, but they are so unique and so good at what they do I believe they deserve a genre all of their own and therefore I have taken the liberty to create some new genres for them.

Artist: J.J. Grey & Mofro New Genre: “Swamp Rock Funk”
While it is hard to compare J.J. Grey & Mofro to any other artist I have ever listened to, they could arguably possess the smoothness of Marvin Gaye, the funk of Stevie Wonder, the jams of Curtis Mayfield, and the masterful organ playing of Gregg Allman. Add to these resemblances some amazing harmonica playing and a screaming slide guitar, and you have one of the best bands to surface this decade. When you first listen to Mofro, you might envision a rundown house on a dirt road in a small Mississippi town back in the 1960’s. You can imagine a couple of guys sitting on the front porch on a blistering hot summer day singing about the good times and the bad times. There’s no audience, just soulful sounds and heartfelt lyrics that make you feel like you were sitting on that same front porch. The brilliance of J.J. Grey & Mofro is that they are a couple of white guys from southern Florida who weren’t even born in the 1960’s, yet their songs tell stories that bring you back in time when things were simpler. Do yourself some justice and listen to everything these guys have released….it’s that damn good!

Artist: Xavier Rudd New Genre: “Didgie Jam”
Imagine a voice that resembles Paul Simon, rhythms that compare to Bob Marley & The Wailers, and slide guitar playing that would make Ben Harper jealous. Now add the unique and mesmerizing sounds of the didgeridoo and you”ll have a sound the echoes that of Australian native Xavier Rudd. The first time I heard Rudd was live at the 2004 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. A group of us were heading back to our campsite when we were stopped dead in our tracks by a gratifying sound coming from one of the side stages. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard a the striking vibrations of a didgeridoo before, it was the fact that on stage there was one guy sitting on a stool playing an unbelievable jam with 5 different didgeridoos, a slide guitar, and the drums…that’s right, one guy! Since then, Xavier Rudd has added a full band and has expanded his offerings with a darker sound that features more slide guitar and deeper jams (as evidenced in its latest album Darker Shades of Blue). Even though he has shown an impressive range in his sounds, Xavier still sticks to his island roots and produces the kind of music that can turn a bad day into a good one!

Artist: Railroad Earth New Genre: “Bluegrass Jam Rock”
One of the members of Railroad Earth classifies themselves as “an amplified string band with drums” while another member says they are “a Country & Eastern Band.” However, the resemblance that might be missing the most from the bands’ description of themselves is that they are also a “Rock and Roll Band”! Before the band ever released its first album, an organizer for the world famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival got a hold of one of Railroad Earth’s studio sessions and they were quickly added to the lineup. Listening to the voice of lead singer Todd Sheaffer might remind you of little bit of Jerry Garcia, but there is a range to his voice that will be sure to surprise you. The bands’ last album, Amen Corner, has a harmony and flow that will give you goose bumps. It is a beautiful collection of songs that all have a sense of optimism to them, making it hard not to tap your foot and wear a big smile. Whether you are a country fan, a jam band fan, or a bluegrass fan, Railroad Earth is sure not to disappoint.