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 #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

1001 Albums #17 – Jack Elliott

Jack Elliott – Jack Takes The Floor – 1958
Ramblin’ Jack Elliot – Jack Takes the Floor

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
Nothing stands out but the album is still worth a listen

Afterthoughts
Before starting this challenge and listening to this album I’d not heard of Jack Elliott. As soon as he started singing I felt as though I’d been listening to him for years; because he sounds like Bob Dylan does on his first album. Dylan voice was a little rougher but it is quite similar in style.

Of course this album was released four years before Dylan’s so it’s obvious who influenced who, also featured on this album is Woodie Guthrie a big influence on Dylan.

These are songs that tell stories and these are the kinds of songs that I like. Despite saying that and liking the album enormously I’m finding it hard to pick out individual songs to add to my standout list.

This is a proper slice of folk music, I’ve mentioned him more than the artist here but if you like early Dylan than you will enjoy this a lot. Even though I’ve found it hard to single out individual tracks, I shall definitely be listening to it again.

Hear again
Yes

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5

1001 Albums #16

Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin – 1958
Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin

First Listen
Yes

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
I’m a Fool To Want You

Afterthoughts
This is where I show my musical ignorance. I’ve heard of Billie Holiday of course but if pressed, I probably couldn’t name any songs, at least not with any confidence.

My first impressions were of her voice, it sounds like an old persons voice, you know when you watch/listen to a singer whose been around for 40 years and they’re still trying to sing the songs from their heyday? Well this is what it sounds like.

And then you find out that the singer was just 43 when it was recorded. Let’s give that some context; here’s a bunch of singers who are still singing and their ages:

Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day) 40
Damon Albarn (Blur) 44
Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) 47
Thom Yorke (Radiohead) 43
Anthony Kiedis (RHCP) 49

Now to me none of those, and yes I know they are all guys, don’t sound old when they sing. It can’t just be the songs, they are the from the great American songbook they’ve been sung for years and not everyone who sings them sounds old, do they?

And then I Googled her to see what was happening to her around the time of the recording, and wow was stuff happening! She had been addicted to hard drugs including Heroin for over 10 years, had a series of abusive boyfriends, was mixed up with the mafia and had dabbled unsuccessfully in the movies.

This album was released in June 1958 and she was dead by July 1959.

This is an album of great songs and she sings them very well (you don’t need me to tell you that) but knowing her backstory kinda makes it really sad too; this woman with an amazing voice when she started singing ends up on a record where he voice has lost its lustre and is essentially singing to feed her habit.

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
3 out of 5

1001 Albums #15

Tito Puente and His Orchestra – Dance Mania, Vol. 1Here’s Little Richard – 1958
Tito Puente – Dance Mania Vol.1

First Listen
Yes (I did listen to it twice though)

Prior knowledge of this album
None

Standout Tracks
None

Afterthoughts
I’m writing this after a second go through the album; the first was in March. I’ve left it this long because I was struggling with the music of the 1950’s. This challenge to go through all 1001 is one I want to and will do, I just didn’t expect to dislike a lot of the music straightaway!

This is a very happy album, each track bounces along for about three minutes and then ends. I didn’t dislike it, I just can’t conceive of a time where I would want or need to play it again.

Hear again
No

Album Entertainment Rating
3 out of 5