Lucille

Before we get started, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I adore the blues. You can reference my post on Aynsley Lister as well and you’ll see what I mean so I’ll try not to rhapsodize about the many virtues of Blues again. Wouldn’t want to be redundant.

On with the post…

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It is a well-known fact that B.B. King’s guitar is named Lucille.

B.B. King said Lucille was a reminder for him, both not to brawl over a woman and never to run into a burning building. There’s a great story there, and if you listen to his song “Lucille” you’ll hear it in his own words. Playing guitar was B.B. King’s life. It was such a part of him and his style seems to have a personality all it’s own, so I’m not surprised in the least that his guitar had a name. Lucille’s sound is very identifiable, and it was strongly linked to King’s singing voice as well. He would essentially sing duets with Lucille, trading off lyrics in his voice and soulful expression from Lucille.

B.B. King is the prototypical blues guitarist, and the way he plays that lovely guitar Lucille is something that guitarists have striven to emulate for decades. I myself am primarily a bass player, but one day I hope to be proficient enough on the guitar to play delta blues like B.B. King, though I know I’ll never achieve his level of skill.

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B.B. King (whose name was Riley, actually) was heralded as the King of the Blues, along with Freddie King and Albert King, and rightly so. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, and boy was B.B. an expert at the Blues. Something I don’t think a lot of people realize is how much work is involved in being a professional musician. B.B. King wasn’t a great guitar player because he was just naturally gifted. He wasn’t just “discovered” one day – he set out to make it happen. He was a phenomenal musician because he dedicated his life to being so, even at the cost of other things. For example, his two divorces have been attributed to his heavy work schedule, something like 250 performances a year. In fact, in 1956 alone he had 342 performances and three recording sessions. He played and performed until he died, just as he said in his song “Riding With The King”

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B.B. set the stage for blues artists for decades. And let’s be real, if your career is playing a genre of music spans 60-odd years, you probably have had some influence over a lot of musicians.

In fact, B.B. King has more albums on Spotify than Aretha Franklin, more than 70, and I’m not ashamed to admit I lost count. He led an incredibly long career, spanning from 1949 to 2015 when he died. He was a dedicated musician as well as a philanthropist. He was very public about being diagnosed with diabetes, and ultimately it was consequences from his diabetes that led to his death.

If you want to know more about B.B. King’s life and career, I really recommend the official BB King website, there’s a great article on the main page that gets into it a bit more.

I fell into a Youtube rabbit hole in getting ready for this post, and there were too many great videos for me to share. Please feel free to check out some of it, there are tons of amazing videos of him playing with other renowned guitarists. For this post, I’ll stick with this simple version of “Sweet Sixteen”

There are obviously a lot of great songs and albums in his repertoire, though a number of them have repeats and a number are live albums. If I were to suggest any of his Albums, I would first suggest his collaboration with Eric Clapton, Riding With The King, it is now one of my favorite albums ever. I would also suggest Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. B. B. King, as a fantastic collection of all his best tunes. Don’t disregard his earlier work either, I was jamming out even when I made it back to his albums from the 50’s and 60’s.

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As far as individual songs go, I now have 26 of his songs in my own music library, though I could easily add more. I’ll spare you the whole list and just give you my top 10 favorite tracks. This doesn’t include his collab. stuff, by the way, so feel free to check that out on your own if you’re interested, especially the album Deuces Wild.

Top 10 tracks:

“The Thrill Is Gone” – this song alone has something like 50 versions by B.B. King on Spotify.

“Lucille”

“How Blue Can You Get” It took me a while to realise this was a song sampled in a super chill song I know called “Standing Outside A Broken Phonebooth” by Primitive Radio Gods.

“Ghetto Woman”

“Caldonia”

“Alexis’ Boogie”

“To Know You Is To Love You”

“Sneakin’ Around”

“Is You Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby)”

“Sweet Sixteen”

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Seriously go listen to some B.B. King. Right now. Don’t let this important part of your personal music education get away from you!

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You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

For this post, I was delving into essential 1970’s rock. Seriously, Bachman-Turner Overdrive (hereafter referred to as BTO) is the epitome of classic rock.

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The one song I already had on my Spotify list before checkong out the rest of their library was “Takin’ Care Of Business”. It’s a great song, perfect for staying motivated and getting things done. It has an easy to find beat and it’s a fun song to sing along to. It even has a great breakdown halfway through the song with a rather distinct guitar solo and a great use of piano accenting everything throughout. A great song for the whole band to rock out to.

When I proceeded to dive further into BTO’s music, I realized I knew some of their other stuff already. Seriously, they have a bunch of classic songs people know really well, “Takin’ Care Of Business” being just one of many.

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I did a bit of reading about the band and it’s line-up changes and such, but I really wasn’t interested in that. What I was interested in was the sound they made. I already mentioned they have an iconic ’70’s rock sound, and while all of their work firmly belongs to that genre, they didn’t let anything box them in. They have songs that are pure rock with driving rhythms and guitar solos, but they also have fun playing with different tones for their guitars, use drums to be dynamic as well as driving, balance multiple guitars and tones into a beautifully cohesive way, and throw in some extra elements (such as extra piano or cowbell) to add more flavor to a song.

Thanks to SNL and Christopher Walken, anytime I hear a cowbell I immediately notice it and it becomes all I can focus on during the rest of a song. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for me while listening to BTO, though I wouldn’t necessarily want more of it.

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Altogether, I have been impressed by this band. Great songs that stand the test of time and smooth grooves for me to rock out to are an excellent way to make me a fan. If I were to make a BTO top ten tracks list it would be as follows:

“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” – This has a great rhythm guitar pulling it along and an excellent hook as well as a fun lead guitar tone that pops up after the first verse. I’d karaoke the heck out of this one.

“Blue Collar” – Very different in tone than I expected, it has a handful of different guitar tones that really compliment the song beautifully. Seriously, sometimes a wah pedal just pulls me out of the song if it’s too strong or not suited to the rest of the instrumentation, but this was just right. And to pair it with at least 2 other guitar tones vastly different and have it match, plus the very jazzy drums/guitars and tempo change combo at the end, really sell it.

“Takin’ Care Of Business” – As mentioned above.

“Hey You” – A prime example of their overall style. Check it out.

“Roll On Down The Highway” – Great road trip song.

“Lookin Out For #1” – Smooth and chill, comparable to “Blue Collar”

“Not Fragile” – Heavier rock sound, power chord driven.

“It’s Over” – The beginning chord structure made me think of “American Woman” but it’s actually quite different. And pretty awesome.

“Quick Change Artist” – This one is just really fun. Classic BTO style

“Hold Back The Water” – Also awesome. Great use of chorus style vocals.

I guess that’s ten, but if you like those, here’s a bonus: “Welcome Home”

I’ve really enjoyed listening to BTO, and am so glad I know more of their music. I am especially a fan of their guitar work, though the rest of the band are no slouches! This is another group I want to thank our northern neighbors for. Thanks, Canada!

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Go check out this great classic rock band, and happy listening!

 

P.S. If this isn’t the most 70’s picture, I’ll eat my hat*.

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*I won’t actually eat my hat. That would be weird. And indigestible.

Sweet Soul Music

The only song by Arthur Conley I was familiar with, “Sweet Soul Music,” is likely the only song by him that many people are familiar with.

I bet most people don’t know who he was, so here’s a short bio for you.

Arthur Conley did not have an illustrious career, though he was active for about 30 years. Like many soul artists, he got into singing through gospel choirs and moved along from there to a group called The Corvettes and then to his solo career, and was mentored and produced by Otis Redding. Eventually, he ended up moving to England and then Amsterdam, changing his name so as to live in peace with his secret of being gay, though the Dutch didn’t seem to care about that. He had a Dutch band for a little while, toured briefly and passed away at home in 2008.

So there’s that for you. But what I would rather talk about is his music. Honestly, it all sounds pretty much exactly like what you expect of soul music of the early 70’s, but there are a couple of songs that stood out to me.

“Sweet Soul Music” is absolutely my number one favorite, and you should really check it out. In fact, here’s a video link for you:

It references a number of well known Soul artists such as James Brown, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, etc. and is very fun to sing along to. Plus, that trumpet refrain is just plain fun!

My second favorite is “Hearsay” and if you like that one, maybe take a listen to “You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy” and “Funky Street” as well.

Pretty good stuff, and if you are a fan of classic soul music, this is prime material to add to your library.

Thats all I really have for you today, so happy listening to that sweet soul music!

A Rose Is Still A Rose

First off, let it be said there is no shortage of Aretha Franklin music out there. I mean, holy crap, there are more than 40 albums on Spotify alone and that’s not counting the singles and compilations. Actually that’s why it took so long for me to post again; I was busy listening to that massive library of Aretha Franklin music.

And she’s still going, by the way. Her most recent album was in 2014, and she still tours and performs.

It was interesting listening to the different styles and recording qualities as I listened backwards through time. Current era Aretha’s voice shows her age just a little bit. If you want an example, listen to her cover album Sings the Great Diva Classics.

00’s and 90’s era Aretha left me a little tickled. It sounds just like the rest of the R&B/soul music of that time that I remember. Recommendation: listen to the songs “Wonderful” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose”

80’s Aretha was par for the course (but don’t be fooled, par on this course is fantastic) though I would note she recorded a jazz album in 1984 that stood out. It’s called Aretha’s Jazz, and it shows off her voice in a beautiful way.

Classic 60’s and 70’s Aretha will probably always be my favorite. Her voice is and always has been incredibly beautiful and strong. There are so many amazing songs from this period, I would recommend all of it. Really, just check it out. If you want specific recommendations, I will include a list of some of my all time Aretha favorites at the end of this post.

When you get back into the early 60’s she was mostly recording Gospel tunes. As with many famous soul and gospel artists, religion was a huge part of her upbringing. Her father was a well known pastor and she had been singing in churches since she was a little girl. There are some excellent tunes there as well, a good collection of which can be found on the album Amazing Grace.

All in all, Aretha Franklin has earned her title as Queen of Soul ten times over. She is extremely talented and skilled. If you like soul music at all, you are probably already quite familiar with much of her music, but I would suggest checking out some of the deeper cuts.

However; if you want to just listen to a good sampling, there are many great compilation albums available that have the best of the best of her music.

Fun fact! She famously stepped in at the Grammys one year for an ill Luciano Pavarotti, singing the famous opera tenor piece “Nessun Dorma” and absolutely nailed it. Here’s a video clip: https://youtu.be/5PONptwUo-Y

She shaped a genre, her music moves people, and her legacy will last for a long time to come.

Happy Listening!

As promised, here is a short list of some of my favorite Aretha tunes:

“Today I Sing the Blues”

“Think” *

“See Saw” *

“I Say a Little Prayer”

“Chain Of Fools” *

“The Weight” *

“Fool On The Hill”

“Respect”

“I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You” *

“(You Made Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

“A Song For You”

“A Rose Is Still A Rose”

“Wonderful”

“Rock With Me”

“Son of a Preacher Man”

“Love For Sale”

Well, that turned out to be longer than I intended. I starred my top 5, if you want a shorter list. They are all great songs, though. And there are many more! Go check it out!

St. James Infirmary

So a couple of weeks ago I was searching Spotify for a good version of “St. James Infirmary”, a fun blues song I was introduced to a few years ago. I have heard a few versions of this song by artists such as Louis Armstrong and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, but I was immediately impressed by Allen Toussaint’s version when I stumbled across it. The simple instrumentation combined with the minor key and well-placed subtlety made it a very nice arrangement.

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The only problem here is I had never heard of Allen Toussaint and I knew nothing about him. The solution? Listen to all of his music! And I gotta tell you, he has a lot of it; this guy was making and producing music from the ’50’s up until his death in 2015.

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Not all of his music is jazz. In fact, he has done quite a bit of R&B, Soul, Funk, and Blues. Apparently he has been an extremely influential figure to New Orleans R&B and composed a number of well-known songs such as “Fortune Teller” “Ride Your Pony” “Southern Nights” (this one was featured in the recent movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and the frequently covered “Working In The Coal Mine” He also helped produce hundreds of fantastic songs such as “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John (one of my favorites for road trips) and the famous “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle.

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I am so glad I know all of this now! This guy has been a major player in 60’s and 70’s funk and R&B music, I can hardly believe I didn’t know him.

Of course, this does not mean I love everything he’s done. There was one particular album I listened to called Mr. Mardi Gras – I Love A Carnival Ball that was truly hard for me to sit through. Almost painful, really. I can’t even tell you exactly what I didn’t like about it, but I think it was probably a combination of musical style and instrumentation. It just sounded cheap to me, and I was glad when it was over.

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We all know I am a sucker for jazz and all of its varied forms. Jazz is at least a little bit present in or was an inspiration for many of today’s genres anyway, and I enjoy those for what they are, but there is still something special to me about listening to a small combo band playing bluesy or jazzy tunes like I would expect to find in some smoky underground bar downtown in a big city in the 50’s. Thus, the albums I enjoyed most on this journey were the ones that reflected style.

So if you are looking for a relaxing jazz album to listen to, check one of these out: The Bright Mississippi and American Tunes. There are some great tracks on those two albums such as “Singin The Blues” “Delores’ Boyfriend” “Viper’s Drag” and “Long, Long Journey”

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If you prefer to stick with R&B and Funk, check out the albums Southern Nights (really good) and Sweet Touch Of Love. As far as recommended tracks, I would have to go with “Last Train” “Victim Of The Darkness” “Sweet Touch Of Love” and “Southern Nights”

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I may have found Allen Toussaint for his jazz albums, but every time I listen to his Soul, R&B, and Funk I love it just a little bit more. He was truly a gifted composer, and I am so glad I got the chance to explore his music like this. After everything I have learned I am almost ashamed I didn’t know who he was, but then I suppose that’s kind of the point of this project, isn’t it?

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