1001 Albums – The 1950’s

For those not familiar with why I’m doing this; it’s because a few years ago I bought a book called ‘1001 albums you must hear before you die’, it’s one of a series of books covering; music, film, books & paintings. I saw it in a sale and thought why not, it then sat on a shelf where I would occasionally dip into it but that was about as far as it went.

One day I was having a tidy and a dust (a rare event!) and saw the book and opened it to the first album in the list which is Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours. I listened to the album and went onto the next one. Around the same time I had been listening to various albums and posting my thoughts on a forum, that got to the point where I was listening to too much music and not posting anything.

So I decided to listen to the albums in the book and add my thoughts to my blog, which was a bit barren at that time.

I started the challenge in February of this year. It was my intention to listen to a few albums a week before posting my thoughts.

That started to go wrong as a number of the albums are jazz albums, and I’m not keen on jazz which made it very heavy going. It turned from a challenge I’d set myself to hear more music, to one where I stopped listening to music.

Today I have finally finished the 1950’s.

There were 23 albums by 21 different artists. Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis both had two albums in this section.

Gary’s listening entertainment rating 5 – 0
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 4 – 11
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 3 – 7
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 2 – 3
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 1 – 2

My favourite album was Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Other favourites include:

The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets
Frank Sinatra – Songs For Swingin’ Lovers
Louis Prima – The Wildest!
Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley

When I started I had expected, Elvis or The Crickets or maybe Little Richard to come out on top, but it was the western stylings of Marty Robbins that won the decade for me. The combination of the music, the lyrics which I don’t normally go for and his voice/singing style just won me over and I’ve listened to it twice today, and I expect to do so again soon.

I haven’t particularly enjoyed listening to this section as a whole but I’ve listened to artists that I wouldn’t have even thought to listen to if not for this book, including; Marty Robbins, Louis Prima, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holliday.

I’m keeping a playlist track of all the tracks that I deem to be standouts, it’s a Spotify playlist and if you want to hear/see those I’ve picked then click on this link – 1001 Standout

Onwards to the Sixties!

1001 Albums #23 – The Dave Brubeck Quartet / Time Out

Year
1959

Spotify Link
The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
I was aware of two tracks.

Standout Tracks
Blue Rondo A La Turk
Take Five

Afterthoughts
Jazz again! Ah the 1950’s you trouble me so. This time though  wasn’t put off completely.

I was aware of two tracks going in, they have been in various films over the years and that’s probably where I heard them first, but they are also pretty much classic bits of music history.

Blue Rondo A La Turk has that great 1-2/1-2/1-2-3 thing going on, and yes I had to look that up. It uses a time signature not usually heard in Jazz which Dave Brubeck heard whilst on tour in Europe. The opening and closing using that tune are great, the middle section does drop into a more familiar jazz style but it was one I could just about cope with.

Take Five is very cool, an excellent piece of music; possibly my favourite bit of jazz – no wait I’ve just remembered the theme from Bullitt. Okay level favourite perhaps?

Anyway, the rest of the album is okay, it’s still not for me. Jazz in a different tempo like the two standouts here I can listen to, jazz in its everyday 4/4 time (I think that’s right) is not for me…just yet.

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
3 out of 5

1001 Albums #22 – Marty Robbins / Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Spotify link
Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
Big Iron
Billy the Kid
A Hundred and Sixty Acres
They’re Hanging Me Tonight
El Paso
Running Gun
The Little Green Valley

Afterthoughts
The track listing on Spotify is a bit different to the original album release. I listened to the tracks in the order that they were first released.

I had been looking forward to this one and I wasn’t disappointed. I knew nothing of Marty Robbins before listening and it was only that it wasn’t a jazz album that I was looking forward to it!

This as the title suggests, is an album of cowboy related songs. The first, Big Iron, is a cracker, it tells the story of a Ranger going up against a vicious killer in an old west gunfight. All the imagery is here, a stranger coming into town, a killer with 1 and 19 notches on his gun, the locals expecting the Ranger to die and the gunfight.

The songs are all short self-contained stories, but they are all fully formed and well written. Like Big Iron, you can listen to them and the images he is singing about can be imagined in your mind; that’s what happened when I listened anyway.

His voice is really nice too, very easy to listen to, with a hint of Elvis now and again.

In later life he appeared in a Clint Eastwood film ‘Honkytonk Man’ and raced cars in NASCAR.

This is well worth a listen, and despite the 1950’s section of this challenge also containing, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley & Little Richard, this has been my favourite album.

Hear again
Yes

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5

1001 Albums #21 – Miles Davis / Kind of Blue

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
None

Afterthoughts
in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked this album at number 12 on their 500 greatest albums of all time list. So perhaps there is something wrong with me, when it was a form of torture to listen to this record.

Occasionally during the 46 minutes of this album, I found myself absentmindedly tapping my foot only to be interrupted by a piano break that seemed out of place, or a saxophone solo that wasn’t in time with anything else being played…then I remember this is Jaaaazzzzzz.

It’s still not for me. I’ll try again in 20 years,

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
2 out of 5

 

1001 Albums #20 – Ray Charles / The Genius of Ray Charles

Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles – 1959
Ray Charles – The Genius Of Ray Charles

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
Let The Good Times Roll
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
You Won’t Let Me Go
Am I Blue

Afterthoughts
My introduction to Ray Charles was The Blues Brothers; that Ray was 50, this Ray is 29.

From what I’ve read, Ray Charles at this time had only just ‘made it’ in the eyes of white folks. His song ‘What I’d Say’ had been a hit and he was finally accepted.

The first half of the album (side A if you will) is up tempo followed by a much slower ballad section for the second half. I’m still rubbish at pigeon holing music, but I would hazard a guess that this is R&B mixed with Jazz.

There are those Jazz elements that I’m not keen on, the song ‘Two Years of Torture’ features some wibbly wobbly Jazz, that I just don’t like at all.

I’ve only got a few Ray Charles songs in my music library and I think I need to listen to him a bit more. I’m familiar with ‘What I’d Say’, Georgia On My Mind’, ‘Hit The Road Jack’, ‘I Got a Woman’ & ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ – there’s so much more to him than those tracks.

I really enjoyed this album and will be listening again.

Hear again
Yes

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5

1001 Albums #19 – Ella Fitzgerald / Sings the Gershwin Song Book

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Gershwin Song Book – 1959
Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
Nice Work if You Can Get It
They All Laughed
Of Thee I Sing (Baby)
Slap That Bass
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
I Got Rhythm
Cheerful Little Earful

Afterthoughts
So. Many. Songs. 57 of them to be exact.

Working on an average of 12 songs to an album, that’s nearly 5 albums of songs.

This being a Gershwin album, there really isn’t a bad song among them. Lots have featured in musicals and films over the years.

Ella Fitzgerald has a really great voice, one that you can listen to and never get bored with, which is good as this album clocks in at over 3 hours.

I was familiar with some of the songs from films and just generally being alive for 36 years. The songs I selected as standouts reflect that.

The strangest song on the album is ‘Treat Me Rough’. It’s a song about a privileged girl who has had enough of the good life and wants a bit of fun, although the lyrics suggest that she wants a bit of the rough stuff.

The cushy sheltered way of life was really no fun
From now on, some manhandling must be done
So treat me rough, muss my hair, don’t you dare to handle me with care
I’m no innocent child

The songs finishes with this:

I’ve been pampered enough, baby
Keep on treatin’ me rough
Keep on beatin’ me
Keep on treatin’ me rough

Overall I enjoyed the process of listening to this album, it’s not one I would return to for a couple of reasons. Firstly this isn’t the kind of music I would listen to for fun, the occasional song yes but complete albums no. Secondly, it’s just too long!

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5

 

1001 Albums #18 – Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly’s – 1958
Sarah Vaughan – At Mister Kelly’s

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
None

Afterthoughts
Another artist I’d not heard of. It’s odd how some of the stars of 50 years ago survive in the modern conscience and some disappear and are only remembered by connoisseurs or hard core fans.

This is a live album recorded at the height of her fame, it’s a Jazz vocal album and despite my thoughts on Jazz (see previous albums) this was a good listen.

Vaughan’s voice is cool and chilled out, clear and crisp not like her contemporaries album that I heard a few posts ago. This is a woman at the top of her powers and in control, during the second song there is a noise that isn’t expected; it sounds like something gets knocked over but she isn’t fazed and about 40 seconds from the end she realises that the her lyrics have come to an end but the music hasn’t, so she adlibs over the remaining time – I’m making that sound dull, but it’s quite funny, go listen to it.

This isn’t one I’d listen to again but it’s definitely worth a listen, perhaps on a lazy Sunday.

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5