A little early this week, because I’m leaving on Sunday afternoon to fly to DC for my job interview.
1) Billie Holiday – They Can’t Take That Away From Me (from Body and Soul)
By the time this album was recorded, Billie Holiday’s voice was pretty much shot (at least compared to her voice in the 30s and 40s) because of too much drug and liquor. But like Brian once said on Family Guy: no junk, no soul. And I think her voice here is extremely soulful, making up for her lost power. Personally, I think Billie Holiday’s interpretation of this standard song is more pessimistic than most interpretations, and that is refreshing. And the accompanying players are also very good: check out Ben Webster’s sax solo in the middle.
2) Duke Ellington – Prelude to a Kiss (from Duke’s Big 4)
Again, when this album was recorded, the Duke was already pretty old, but I am a fan of Duke’s small combo recordings just as much as his big band days. And his supporting cast is all excellent: Joe Pass on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums. Duke can obviously still play the keys, and I really love how the song starts with Joe Pass’ quiet guitar intro.
3) Ghostface Killah (featuring Raekwon) – Kilo (from Fishscale)
I never understood what Raewkon was rapping about in the last verse of this song when he’s talking about different kinds of colored tops. But after watching The Wire, it totally made sense. This song is hilarious, especially the chorus: all around the world today, the kilo is a measure. As two of the best MCs in the Wu Tang Clan, Ghost and Rae do not disappoint.
4) John Coltrane – I Want to Talk About You (from Live at Birdland)
The best part of this song is at the end, when ‘Trane is just going wild by himself, going up and down the scale, just blowing like a wild man. But before that, it starts out sounding like a ballad, but by the end, the fireworks are going off.
5) Miles Davis – Love Me or Leave Me (from Walkin’)
The last cut on the album is a good indication of Miles’ apparent move in the hard bop direction after this album. As always, a good Miles cut is probably worth more than whole lotta other shit combined.
6) Muddy Waters – I’m Ready (from Fathers and Sons)
In tongue-in-cheek fashion, let me advance a theory that says that all blues originate from not getting laid. Just listen to this song and tell me that you don’t think this is about Muddy Water’s singing that he can’t get any. Well, you can’t. Anyways, I love this song because it is so energetic, featuring Muddy Waters’ booming voice and an exciting electric guitar and harmonica solos at the end. This song makes me want to move to Chicago, drink too much gin for my own good, and start a fucking fight.
7) OutKast – B.O.B. (from Stankonia)
This week marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, so what better way to celebrate (or not) than a song whose abbreviation stands for Bombs over Baghad. Ostensibly, the song has nothing to do with Iraq or Baghad, but it just sounds cool. Listening to OutKast makes me lament the state of modern hip hop: just think, it wasn’t THAT long ago when creative hip hop like OutKast had commercial success and critical acclaim.
8) Philip Glass – The Grid (from Koyaanisqatsi)
Is there anyone who has not seen Koyaanisqatsi? Well if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. This song is matched to that part of the movie that captures the modern American city, with its people and cars going in extremely quick motion.
9) Pornosonic – Cramming for College (from Pornosonic: Unreleased 70s Porno Music)
Someone hipped me to this on a forum, and I have to say that this is hilarious shit. Apparently Pornosonic made a bunch of adult-film music in the 70s, but due to various copyright hurdles, they were not released till now. This album is so campy and cheesy that it’s good: after all, how could you not love the album cover? In this specific track, Ron Jeremy has a voice-over intro, which is campy enough on its own. As for the song itself, it sounds like a mixture of Sly and the Family Stone and music on the Stax label, what with the horns, scratchy guitar riffs and all.
10) Portishead – The Rip (from Third)
Portishead’s third album has been leaked, and I couldn’t resist. “The Rip” starts out with a theremin and gentle guitar plucking. Soon enough Beth Gibbon’s voice comes in, and it sounds like it’s been processed with some reverb. The song remains pretty minimalist until about halfway in, the percussion and the synthesizer come in. So there is both an element of lo-fi and more produced style mixed in this song, which I would say is emblematic of the album as a whole.