A Masterpiece: “Hard Again” – Muddy Waters (1977)

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But, when I want to stomp my feet and groove like a madman’s madman, I give this a hearty listen.

So, this album kicks ass. A serious amount of it, in fact. I’ve listened to a good amount of Waters in the last couple of months. Sometimes, I enjoy his earlier, more primal and grittier tracks (primarily his late ’40s and ’50s catalogue). But, when I want to stomp my feet and groove like a madman’s madman, I give this a hearty listen. Candidly, I believe this is Waters at his absolute peak. Hearing the stellar band jam their hearts out moves me a whole helluva lot. Many blues albums try to capture the essence of the blues; i.e., the “lighting in the bottle” energy and raw power. “Hard Again” encapsulates these aspects phenomenally well.

My favorite tracks change per my mood. Tonight I’d go with “Bus Driver”; “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll”; and “Mannish Boy”.

Here’s the album in its entirety (a fun night ahead, people):

Yet another masterpiece of an album, “Again” exudes a sense of unbridled energy, enthusiasm and dynamic charisma that only Waters ‘N’ Co could uniquely produce and exude.

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A Masterpiece: “I Was Walking Through the Woods” – Buddy Guy (1970)

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Energy abounds throughout this.

 

I fucking love this album. Energy abounds throughout this. It’s an absolute gem in my musical library. Now, I love the blues due to the primal intensity that (should) pervade the best songs, albums and compilations of the genre. But, frankly, a whole lotta the blues can sound the same and inauthentic as hell. That’s why many blues albums and compilations turn me off entirely; and why it’s so tough for me to really enjoy an entire blues album nowadays.

This album. Holy shit, this album. “Woods” has breathed newfound joy and excitement into my musical listening with respect to the blues. As previously stated in an earlier post, I love the grittiness and candor found in earlier, scratchy and acoustic blues. But, with respect to the electrification of the blues, I find that I can’t enjoy the genre to the same extent; that’s just a personal quirk, I suppose. “I Was Walking Through the Woods“, however, is indubitably unique. Guy’s vocals soar: his intensity and forlornness is felt entirely through his primal and soul-expanding screams.

My favorite song changes every couple of weeks (whenever I give this masterpiece a listen). Right now, I’d go with “My Time After A While“. The vocals are infectious and jaw-dropping!

I haven’t reviewed an album in a long time. This is due to the fact that many albums that I’ve recently listened to haven’t left a lasting impression on me (I do, however, have a handful of albums that haven’t seen the light of day in a while that are quite good; maybe one day I’ll review ’em). Furthermore, I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m more of a “songs” man; that’s a bit of a stretch. I love albums and get excited as hell when I find a masterpiece. Guy’s 1970 release falls into that category. Big. Time.

Mind, Music & Soul: “Soul-Shakers”, or Songs That Move My Mind, Body & Soul

Simply put, these are songs that quench my musical soul ‘n’ spirit. 

So, I’ve been thinking about creating a list of my favorite songs of all time for a long time. I’ve been inspired by various blogs on here and different music websites to do this. However, I’ve found this an undeniably difficult and exhausting task because musical tastes are tentative. Plain and simple. That’s the essence of music, I believe. Now, don’t get me wrong: once you love a song, album or compilation, it imprints itself into your very mind and body. That’s the power innate of music.

Since I’ve made list after altered list of what I consider my “all-time” favorite songs (whatever ‘all-time’ means to a twenty-something), I’ve realized that it’s an endeavor that can’t possibly be fulfilled. So, I’ve decided to go in a different direction with my favorite songs; rather than talk about supposed favorites (which change from week to week; we music-lovers are a dynamic bunch), I’ve thought about talking about songs that move my soul. That is, songs that make me want to sing passionately, tap my feet and shake my head rhythmically (or at least as rhythmic as an engineering student can surmise). Simply put, these are songs that quench my musical soul ‘n’ spirit. 

Now, I’m no singer; not by a long shot. However, most of these songs make me want to absolutely belt to my heart’s content. Again, the power innate in music.

First up, is a song filled with passion, profundity and power. In this, we’re going to take a look at “The Soul of a Man” by Blind Willie Johnson. I love Tom Waits’ rugged and anthemic version; Larkin Poe’s is dynamic and riveting; and Tom Jones’ is eerie as hell. Nevertheless, Johnson’s take is unworldly. As with all great singers, Johnson sings as if his life is on the line; he’s a man stuck between the worlds of heaven and hell and he’s just trying to figure out what it means to be human. An essential song in anyone’s musical library, especially if you’re an old-time blues lover.

NOTE: Unfortunately, this YouTube user has mixed up Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell.

Here’s the amazing Larkin Poe version:

Lastly, here’s Tom Waits’ version off of an earlier Johnson tribute album:

Tell me which one moves you the most!

In continuing our dialogue, here’s another blues song that’s absolutely stark and brutally so. John Hammond’s cover of Blind Willie McTell’s dismal “Statesboro Blues”, namely “Statesborough Blues”. Hammond’s chilling and deeply moving voice brings us into his melancholic and forlorn world.

Truth be told, I like this cover more than McTell’s disheartening and bleak original. And I believe Hammond’s version captures the feeling and intensity found in the original better than anyone else’s that I’ve heard thus far. I tap my feet to this song whenever I listen to it.

Next is a song that’s been with me since my third year in high school. I’m talking about Status Quo’s “Spinning Wheel Blues”. God damn. This song grooves and kicks some serious ass!

I rarely ever tire of hearing this oft-forgotten gem.

Woo! I’m having an incredible night and time writing this post. Without a doubt, my favorite post to write thus far in my blogosphere-based journey. Let’s take a look at another song that’s been at my side since the end of high school: Free’s version of “Goin’ Down Slow”. These guys rocked…HARD! They knew what the blues was all about and how to convey its absolute, overarching power. Just give it a listen…

I love John Lee Hooker. Big time. He has a way of interpreting the blues: from the primordial beginnings of his harsh-sounding “Walkin’ the Boogie” (i.e., an early version of “Boogie Chillen”) to the astonishing, dynamic tour de France of “Boogie Chillen No. 2” (with the criminally underrated Canned Heat), the Hook makes it known to us that he’s lived the blues. And as you all know, I’m a HUGE Van Morrison fan. Thus, their powerhouse of a song titled “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” had to be on this list. It just had to be. This was one of the first songs I fell in love with because it was a song I understood: we’ve all felt the blues at one point or another. Quite frankly, I think this is Hooker’s greatest song. It just works for me.

Let’s now look at a man with one of the most unmistakable and earth-moving voices I’ve ever heard: Howlin’ Wolf. While it may not be my most favorite song by the Wolf, “How Many More Years” was one of the first songs that really shaped my musical tastes and got me into the blues. Such a gripping, high-octane song. Alive and cookin’ without a doubt!

This version stupefied me upon first listening to it in the ninth grade.

Swampy, miserable blues are a helluva to digest. That’s why the long version of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Goin’ Down to the River” works so well on here. As previously touched upon, sometimes I can’t get behind McDowell’s voice (I’m a strange man I know). But this song made its way into my life during a very troublesome time when I had graduated high school. Long blues songs are simply masterful and soul-quenching when done in a candid fashion.

R.L. Burnside’s first rendition of “Jumper on the Line” is murky and dreary. It’s beauty is showcased in the way Burnside delivers his verses. Currently, one of my favorite blues songs.

Next up is a song introduced to me by a very special person in my life. I had never heard of Willie Watson before (I had heard of The Fairfield Four though). “On The Road Again” is earthy, inspiring and ennui-inducing. It makes me love life, which is what many blues songs do for me.

My final two songs are from two of my favorite bluesmen of all time, Son House and Charley Patton. House’s “revival” album (courtesy of Canned Heat, Alan Wilson, et. al.) “Father of the Delta Blues” has been in my musical rotation for many years. He lets his voice loose and creates an unshakably soulful and rustic environment. I had a tough time choosing between “Death Letter Blues”, “Preachin’ Blues” and “Levee Camp Moan”, but I ended up choosing this version of “Death Letter Blues”.

“Death Letter Blues” was one of the first blues songs that was actually jaw-dropping to me upon first hearing it. It sums up the trials and tribulations inherent in life perfectly.

Now onto Patton. His music has touched my mind and body to such a high degree that it’s hard to effectively put into words (much like Van Morrison). I love most of Patton’s songs, but “Jesus Is a Dyin’ Bed Maker” moves me so fucking much. The “alive” factor in this is unparalleled: life and death form an intimate meshwork and bond throughout the runtime, as Jesus functions as the backbone that binds the two together. I’m not a religious man nor am I spiritual in any sense of the word, but this song is something special. As such, it’s probably my favorite blues song at this point in my life.

Quite the post. However, this gives you guys an idea of what music means to me overall and which songs make my musical soul ‘n’ spirit sing and jive! Take care, all!

Mind, Music & Soul: A Long Weekend, Filled With Awesome Music

As previously stated in my last post, this last week has been hellishly busy. Nevertheless, I had quite an eventful weekend, filled with socializing, a bit of studying for an upcoming midterm and a whole lotta listening to music. Specifically, some dirty, low-down and terrific blues.

Earlier yesterday, I had a certain desire to listen to some blues songs that I remembered from my past. This led to re-listening to an old, extremely satisfying favorite, Son House’s melancholic yet vital “Death Letter Blues”. I’ve probably heard this song over hundreds of times in the last couple of years. Quite frankly, sometimes I do tired of it; sometimes real, candid rustic blues does that to me. Simply put, it’s sad as hell. But, the energy within “Death Letter” is gripping, as if you’re there with House, feeling his absolute pain and sorrow. Here’s a version that I absolutely love: Just let the music take you for a ride,

And, here’s the version I’ve been listening to a lot during this past weekend:

A raw, uncompromising journey into the blues.

Moreover, I’ve been listening to bits and pieces of a lengthy two-disc blues set, namelyBlues Roots”For some odd reason, I’ve never been a huge Mississippi Fred McDowell fan. Candidly, it seems like he’d fit my listening style: cathartic, authentic and gritty. Alas, he just doesn’t. But, this version of “Frisco Lines” is quite enjoyable. Swampy, muddy and opaque in a sense. Here’s the album in its entirety:

Here’s another track that kicks some serious ass: definitely a fun discovery from a band I’ve never heard of, Satan & Adam.

Now, I’ve heard Catfish Blues a number of times from a number of artists. Muddy’s version is great, as is Hendrix’s. But I really think Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ version wipes the floor:

 

Furthermore, I’ve been an R.L. Burnside fan on and off since this past summer. Looking through the Alan Lomax archives, I remembered why I love some of his songs. Especially. This. One. Dreary, hazy and suffocating (as if you’re in some bleak, damp and musty room dealing with the blues), Jumper On The Line is a masterpiece . This version is from his first recording sessions,

 

 

Lastly, as of today, I’ve been listening to a phenomenal electric blues rendition of Call It Stormy Monday by Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Truth be told, the electric blues can sometimes rub me the wrong way: although the musicians make their guitars sing, sometimes I don’t get that all-encompassing gripping “feeling” that I get with acoustic blues. However, his version definitely makes me groove and stomp my feet. As such, it’s probably my favorite find in the last couple of weeks. Let your mind and body drift into a bluesy, electrified and brilliant realm.

 

There ya have it, ladies and gentlemen! Just a collection of songs to hit you hard deep down in your soul. Here’s to a good week!

A MUST READ: HACK’S BACK PAGES’ “I must be strong, and carry on”

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/brucehackett/playlist/4VYojirEubmBTq5i4TXjmn

Ever since I was about 14, I’ve felt a strong bond with Eric Clapton, and that kinship has only increased over the years since. When I heard him play those amazing electric guitar passages on the great songs by Cream, I knew I wanted to learn guitar. I persuaded my parents to buy me a […]

via I must be strong, and carry on — Hack’s Back Pages

#7: Shine a Light – The Rolling Stones (1972)

So this week has been phenomenally busy. Probably one of the busiest weeks in my undergraduate career. Unfortunately, I’ve been sick for the last two weeks with a pretty nasty cough. Thus, I haven’t been able to keep up with the gym and I’ve been spending most of my time at the library studying. An engineering student’s life, I suppose. What all this means is that I haven’t had much time nor the desire to go through my “Mind, Music and Soul” playlist and listen to some songs off of there. However, this morning’s different. I just got back from writing an essay and I have some down time. Without further ado…

“Exile On Main Street” has been in my life for a couple of years now, since upon first hearing it. I absolutely loved it at first; although my interest in its entirety has diminished over the months, I still hold a select number of tracks in high regard. This morning, we’ll be looking at the excellent and lively “Shine a Light”. It’s an inspirational song, detailing the trials and tribulations of life, and how to deal with them. It starts of slow, in a passive kind of fashion. Then the song picks up pace, and the gospel-tinged chorus and spritely voice of Jagger fill the air. Ahhh, it’s such a great song. Definitely a song I’ve grown to appreciate more and more as I’ve gotten older.

#6: Green Rocky Road – Tim Hardin (1966)

“Green Rocky Road” is intoxicating, quite frankly.

Without any doubt in my mind, one of my favorite songs in my library. Hardin’s voice is so god damn smooth and emotive, that it effectively takes me on a journey each time I hear him sing. I love his first and second studio releases; post-Hardin 2, I haven’t really ventured further into his back catalogue. “Green Rocky Road” is intoxicating, quite frankly. As such, it has held its significance in my life since upon first listening to Tim Hardin 1.

Question: What’s one of your favorite mellow/soft-rock songs out there? Any Hardin fans out there?