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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Meeting One of Your Heroes

Photo Credit: Claudia Herrera
It's always a tricky thing, meeting one of your heroes. Mainly because you never know if that person will live up to the hype that you have established in your mind. Like if they are a jerk, that can totally ruin your perspective on them. It may even damage how you view their art. (It may cause you to no longer be a fan of theirs.)

On Friday, June 19th I met one of my heroes. William Elliott Whitmore. Not only did he live up to the hype in my head, but he exceed it. Whitmore, without a doubt, is one of the nicest, coolest guys, I have ever met. He was super chill. Answered all of the questions I asked, and even performed two songs live on the radio.

Sometimes you get moments like this, that when you are in it, you know it is special. For me, June 19th was that special day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band/Let It Be

I've completed my task. I have listened to every solo Beatles' album released in 1970, along with their "final" album release. Let's first begin with my observations of John Lennon's solo debut.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
1. This is by far the angriest album I have ever heard in my entire life. Lennon takes every single emotion and puts it on display for you to see. (The bell tolling sets the mood.) The listener hears him raging against his parents for their acts of abandonment. You hear him defending the working class, and finally you hear him talk about how he has lost faith in everything in his iconic song God.

Yet the last track is the real heartbreaker. Clocking in at under 1 minute, My Mummy's Dead is pure sadness. It's 17 year old Lennon screaming for his mother. And even though he is still mad at her, Lennon still misses her. Dare I say love her and need her. Every time I hear this song, it's a real struggle not to cry.

2. It's bare, and not in a bad way. Where All Things Must Pass is grandiose, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is intimate. Other than Lennon, the only other musicians are Ringo Starr on drums, Klaus Voormann on bass, Billy Preston on piano for God, and Yoko Ono as "wind". Because of this, I feel a closeness to the material. It's almost like you are included in on the secret.

3. Quite simply, there are some great songs on this album. In addition to the more famous tracks such as Mother, God, and Working Class Hero, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band includes hidden gem tracks such as Well, Well, Well, I Found Out, and Love. Like All Things Must Pass, this is an iconic record.
Let It Be
1. For the people that say this is the Beatles' worst album, I have one question. How? Out of the 12 songs on this album, 7 of them are iconic songs. I'm of course referring to: Two of Us, Dig a Pony, Across the Universe, Let it Be, I Got a Feeling, Get Back, and The Long and Winding Road. (Full disclosure, I despise The Long and Winding Road.)

2. I really like the talking between songs. Makes the album feel like a jam session.

3. Don't know what else I can say. Really the music speaks for itself.

I think my ultimate conclusion of my grand experiment was that 6 LPs were released in 1970 in which each were unique, catchy, and beyond enjoyable. For me, it is just further proof that The Beatles will always be the greatest rock n' roll band of all time.

Monday, June 8, 2015

All Things Must Pass: A Reflection
Well I just finished re-listening to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. Oh man, what can you say? It is a work of art in every sense of the word. Here are a few straw observations:

1. The album has a real mood to it. It's difficult for me to explain but whenever I listen to All Things Must Pass, I'm reminded of autumn. I feel like it should be cold, damp, and I should be next to a fire eating soup while listening to this album. I don't mean this in a negative way.

I fell like All Things Must Pass demands my attention and since autumn is my favorite season, this is a way to keep my ear attentive. (It's weird, I know.)

2. All Things Must Pass is like a prayer. There's a deep spirituality to this album that I love. It's like George is having a conversation with God, and is inviting us to join in. It's utterly beautiful. You can really get a sense of this with: My Sweet Lord, Awaiting on You All, and All Things Must Pass. Additionally this album does not apologize for having a spirituality to it. George is talking about the divine, and he isn't embarrassed. He wants the listener to know this is exactly what he is talking about.

3. If Not For You. One of my favorite songs of all time. You must listen to it immediately.

4. It's one of those rare triple albums that isn't boring. (In actuality it is only a double album. The third disc is a bonus disc of musical jams.) There is a lot of content on All Things Must Pass, but none of it sounds like filler. It's a smooth flowing album. For me personnally, the only other double LPs that are flawless like this are The Beatles White Album and System of a Down's Mesmerize/Hypnotize.

5. As a diehard John Lennon fan, I have no problem saying this. All Things Must Pass is the best solo Beatles album ever written. The word masterpiece is used a lot, however that word is the only appropriate adjective that can describe it. This is a must own for any music fan.

P.S. Blooger isn't letting me embed the music videos from YouTube. I'll try and embed them at a later date.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Findings Thus Far on the Solo Beatles' Releases of 1970

I feel like a kid who told the teacher I'd have the assignment done on time, and then doesn't. I originally intended to have published my thoughts on these early solo Beatles' releases, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I have not listened to all 6 albums yet. On the plus side though, I have listened to 3 out of the 6 of them. Here is what I have discovered thus far.
1. McCartney by Paul McCartney is a much more deeper album than I initially realized. Earlier this year, I read a fantastic book on McCartney's musical career during the 1970s called: Man on the Run. In it, author Tom Doyle discusses how McCartney was horribly depressed over the breakup of the Beatles while he recorded this album.

Boy was he correct. After reading the book and re-listening to this album, you can really pick up on McCartney's state of mind. I have been a McCartney fan for well over 20 years, but one of my "complaints" of his music is that you never really meet the "real" Paul McCartney. (One of the reasons why John Lennon is my favorite musician of all time, is he wrote music that utterly bears his soul on. You feel like you you meet the "real" John Lennon through his music. Warts and all. ) You don't get that personal connection with McCartney. There is always this veil that prevents you from seeing the real person.

However on McCartney, there is no veil. You get it all. The good, the bad. The warts, and all. It may be the most personal album Sir Paul has ever written. He takes you on a dark journey, that ultimately leads you to a light at the end of a tunnel, where he finds hope. I'm really grateful to have re-listened to this album, as I feel like I got a whole new appreciate for Paul McCartney's music. Which is a testament to his genius. The music can be over 45 years old, and you are still able to find new hidden jewels in them.
2. Sentimental Journey by Ringo Starr. In 1970 Ringo recorded two albums, the first being Sentimental Journey and the second being Beaucoups of Blues, which we will discuss next. Ringo did something pretty brave for his first solo releases which I feel he deserves more credit for. His first two solo albums are HUGE experiments.

First Sentimental Journey. It consists of 12 songs of old standards from the 1940s which literally had sentimental meaning for him. But the twist for the album was having each song arranged by a different producer/composer/artists. So some of the arrangers on this album include Sir George Martin, Quincy Jones, and Klaus Voormann. Hence each song has a unique feel to them. Yet they all sound familiar. Like a pleasant memory.

Sentimental Journey was never one of my favorite solo Beatles' albums but I must admit, just like with McCartney, I've found a whole new appreciation for it on this last listen. It's catchy, modern sounding, and a very solid debut for Ringo.
Next Beaucoups of Blues, Ringo's second solo release of 1970. While helping George Harrison record All Things Must Pass, Ringo took a short break to travel to Tennessee and record a country and western album. Which when you think about it, is a little weird. I mean, think about it.

The drummer of the biggest and greatest rock n' roll band ever, records a country and western album??? Isn't country and western music the complete opposite of rock n' roll? Yup. But let me tell you, it is a terrific album. And I'm saying this as a person who does not like country and western music.

This album of original songs written specifically for Ringo, showcases his voice like none other. As many musical critics have said before, Ringo's voice is a perfect fit for the country and western style, and you can really hear it on Beaucoups of Blues.

Well three down, three to go. And the final three are BIGGIES. George Harrison's masterpiece All Things Must Pass, The Beatles Let It Be, and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. Which in my opinion is the angriest album EVER recorded. But to end this article out the correct way, I've embedded three hidden gem tracks from the aforementioned albums above. Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Beatles in 1970

Recently I have found myself listening to the solo catalogs of the Beatles. To say that the selections I have to choose from is rich and engaging is an understatement to say the least. So I thought it would be fun for me to listen to all of the solo Beatle releases from 1970, (45 years ago. A nice "big" number) along with Let It Be, and just write out my thoughts on each of the LPs.

I'll be listening to a total of six albums:

Let It Be (The Beatles)
Sentimental Journey and Beaucoups of Blues (Ringo Starr)
McCartney (Paul McCartney)
All Things Must Pass (George Harrison)
Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon)

I hope to have this accomplished for my next posting. Wish me luck!!