Friday, April 9, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Bob Dylan (4/9/69) 41 Years!

Nashville Skyline wasn’t Bob Dylan’s best album by any stretch, but it did top out at #3 in the U.S. and a surprising #1 on the U.K. charts (find Bob in The Playlist Vault, here). Recorded in Nashville (where else?) with a cadre of local session musicians and released on April 9, 1969, the album includes a duet (a remake of “Girl From The North Country”) with Johnny Cash and reflects the emergence of the country-rock sub-genre and the early shift of pure country music toward the pop mainstream.

Nashville Skyline spun three singles onto the pop charts, with “Lay Lady Lay” the only one to see significant chart action. The other two (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and “I Threw It All Away”) were pretty decent slower country tunes, but Dylan wasn’t a country artist and Nashville Skyline was far from a rock album, so one shouldn’t be surprised that the singles didn’t hit. But that’s the whole point. The album was smack in the middle of the early development of country-rock, and Dylan was on the forefront along with the Byrds, Gram Parsons and Neil Young.

And Bob Dylan’s best? My money’s on Blonde On Blonde, with Highway 61 Revisited at #2 and Blood On The Tracks #3. Your bias can be registered on DrRock.com. Nashville Skyline can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads on Amazon or iPod files on iTunes.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Paul Simon (1/14/72) 38 Years!

So far, this second full week of January has been a week of debut albums. My past two posts have featured Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut and Aerosmith’s 1973 first LP. Today, January 14, Paul Simon’s eponymous first album is in the spotlight (and you can click here for Dr. Rock’s Rhymin’ Simon playlist).

Hot off his decade-long, multi-platinum gig with partner Art Garfunkel in the acclaimed 60s folk-pop duet Simon & Garfunkel (playlist here), Simon cooled off for two years to work on his debut album as a solo artist. When released 38 years ago today, Paul Simon became the first of three straight Top Ten, million-selling studio LPs for Simon (not including the 1974’s Live Rhymin’).

Paul Simon expands from the straightforward folk-pop music of his Simon & Garfunkel years and includes reggae influences (“Mother And Child Reunion,” a Top Ten hit), African rhythms and texture (“Duncan”), and Latin tinges (“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”). This subtle exploration of different musical genres continued with the R&B and gospel influences on 1974’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon and the jazzy sounds of 1975’s Still Crazy After All These Years, which hit #2 and #1 on the U.S. pop charts (Paul Simon made it to #4 in 1973). After a relatively quiet 10 year stretch, Simon returned in 1986 with Graceland, an album deftly mixing American folk-pop with South African mbaqanga music. Those four albums, plus the heavy Latin sounds of 1990’s The Rhythm Of The Saints are Paul Simon’s best five and an incomparable collection of world-pop from one of the best all-around folk-pop songwriters of all-time.

Paul Simon is available for download on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

 

Album of the Day: The Byrds (12/12/65) 44 Years!

Turn! Turn! Turn! was the Byrd's second album, a follow-up collection of folk-rock gems filled with tight harmonies and bandleader Roger McGuinn's distinctive, 12-string Rickenbacker jingle-jangle guitar work. Though not as successful as their debut from six months earlier, it nevertheless placed the Byrds directly out front of the burgeoning folk-rock scene and provided their earliest sampling (via "Satisfied Mind") of the country-rock music they'd delve into over their following five albums. Released on December 12, 1965, Turn! Turn! Turn! was propelled by the inspiring and timeless title track, a rendition of a Pete Seeger folk tune which came out as a single two months ahead of the album and drew heavily from the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible. Other notable tracks include two Dylan covers (a second single "The Times They Are A Changin" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune") and three originals by guitarist/vocalist Gene Clark (who would shortly leave the group for a semi-successful solo career in pure country-rock).

Turn! Turn! Turn! reached #17 in the U.S. and #11 in the U.K. It is available as a CD from Amazon (click here) and as download tracks from iTunes (click here).

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Monday, November 23, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Cat Stevens (11/23/70) 39 Years!

Cat Stevens had several singles and three mediocre albums during his attempt to launch his career as a folk-rock singer/songwriter in the late 60s. While he garnered some attention in his native England, he found virtually no audience in the U.S. and, out of frustration, considered ending his efforts. But he had a backlog of decent material, and so decided to give it one more shot. His fourth album, Tea For Tillerman, rang the bell upon its release on November 23, 1970, reaching #8 in the U.S., #11 in Canada, #20 in the U.K. and, eventually #206 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 albums.

Tea For Tillerman's push up the charts benefited from the big single “Wild World,” which was issued in advance of the album and created the buzz Stevens needed to break into the U.S. market. But the album carried its own weight beyond the single. Four songs in particular, “Father And Son,” “Longer Boats,” “Where Do The Children Play?” and “Hard Headed Woman” have become timeless favorites for Cat’s devotees and casual fans alike.

Tea For Tillerman was the first of five straight U.S. Top 10 albums for Stevens. It’s available as a CD from Amazon (click here) and as downloadable tracks from iTunes (click here).

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Monday, November 16, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Stephen Stills (11/16/70) 39 Years!

Stephen Stills had already attracted considerable attention to his songwriting and musicianship skills before his first solo album was released on November 16, 1972. As a founding member of Buffalo Springfield, Stills was a central figure in the highly-regarded and influential late 60s folk-rock and country-rock pioneers. He authored several of their important songs, including the hit “For What It’s Worth, “Blue Bird” and “Rock & Roll Woman.” Following the break-up of the band in 1968, Stills teamed up with Al Kooper (of Blood, Sweat & Tears) and Mike Bloomfield (Electric Flag and top session man) in a one-off project, Super Session (highly recommended album, buy here) in June 1968. Stills then joined with David Crosby (The Byrds) and Graham Nash (The Hollies) to form the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose 1969 debut LP (with the Stills-penned “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”) and its follow-up, 1970’s Déjà Vu (with Neil Young on the team) were instant and lasting classics.

Stephen Stills was Stills’ debut in the solo limelight. It’s a blend of different genres (all songs were his originals) with backing vocals by Crosby, Nash, Cass Elliott and others, plus guitar work from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix (to whom the album’s dedicated). Interestingly, it’s the only album in history on which Clapton and Hendrix appear simultaneously, although on different tracks. It also features the #14 pop-rock hit, “Love The One You’re With” and the #37 single “Sit Yourself Down.” Stephen Stills briefly hit the Billboard Top 5 in December 1970 and is available as download tracks from iTunes (click here) and as a CD from Amazon (click here).

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