Turntable Thursdays 10/12/2017

I have spent the past few days listening to Chicago’s first album “Chicago Transit Authority.”

What a phenomenal record.

Chicago Transit Authority

Originally released in April of 1969 by Columbia Records, Chicago’s opening 12-cut sonic euphoria erupts in your ear, blowing your mind, and making memories from the first note to the last chord. The band’s self-described “rock-n-roll with horns” sound grabs the listener’s attention immediately. From the time the needle hits the vinyl (or when your mp3 player starts), you realize your ears are in for a new experience. Fusing brass and jazz with soulful rock and roll, Chicago Transit Authority (later Chicago) explodes on the music scene.

Almost 50 years later, Chicago is still one of rock’s most underrated, underappreciated, and underestimated bands. That may be due to the marked change in the band’s sound in the early 1980s. You only have to plug-in your earphones and crank up the volume to quickly uncover the band’s superb musicianship, dynamic songwriting, and ability to stretch its sound.

On their debut LP, the late Terry Kath unleashes some of the finest guitar work ever on record. Kath’s guitar licks were so strong that reportedly the late guitar icon Jimi Hendrix became a huge fan of Kath.

Originally called Chicago Transit Authority, the group had to change the band’s moniker to Chicago after the actual Chicago Transit Authority objected to the use of its name.

Their first record features the band’s most iconic lineup:

Terry Kath – electric and acoustic guitars, lead and backing vocals

Robert Lamm – grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, lead and backing vocals, Hammond organ, Hohner Pianet, maracas

Peter Cetera – bass, lead and backing vocals

Walter Parazaider – saxophones, backing vocals, tambourine

Lee Loughnane – trumpet, backing vocals, claves

James Pankow – trombone, cowbell, brass arrangements

Danny Seraphine – drums, percussion

Amid the soulful rock numbers, you’ll find a couple of experimental jams that highlight the band’s musicianship. The group pays tribute to the Beatles on ‘South California Purples’, quoting the opening lines of the Fab Four’s classic ‘I Am the Walrus’ (“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”) The band also pays homage to the Spencer Davis Group, with their rendition of ‘I’m A Man’.

Keyboardist Robert Lamm is credited with writing six of songs on the band’s inaugural project and is listed as a co-writer on an additional track. However, in recent interviews, Lamm says that many of the songs were only a framework in the making and weren’t really complete until the band played them, with each musician adding their personal touch on each cut. In the studio, the band would take each individual songwriter’s rough cut and transform into a gem. Perhaps that’s what makes this such a great record.

Track Listings:

Introduction (6:49); Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?(4:34); Beginnings (6:09);

Question 67 And 68 (4:46); Listen (3:24); Poem 58 (8:37); Free Form Guitar (6:49);

South California Purples (6:39); I’m a Man (6:56); Prologue, August 29, 1968 (0:57);

Someday (August 29, 1968) (4:13); Liberation (15:57)

Classic album. Do I what I did and rediscover it. It will be time well spent.

Speaking of Steve Winwood…

Steve Winwood GH Live cover

In a previous post, I mentioned that the legendary musician released a new Greatest Hits Live album at the beginning of September.

The 2 disc Live set features cuts from Winwood’s time with Traffic, Blind Faith, and the Spencer Davis Group in addition to Winwood’s considerable solo catalogue.

Track Listing:

CD 1:

I’m A Man; Them Changes; Fly; Can’t Find My Way Home; Had To Cry Today; Low Spark of High Heeled Boys; Empty Pages; Back In The High Life Again; Higher Love; Dear Mr. Fantasy; Gimme Some Lovin’.

CD 2:

Rainmaker; Pearly Queen; Glad; Why Can’t We Live Together; 40,000 Headmen; Walking In The Wind; Medicated Goo; John Barleycorn; While You See A Chance; Arc Of A Diver; Freedom Overspill; Roll With It.

Winwood is joined on the record by guitarist Jose Neto, drummer Richard Bailey, multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth, and percussionist Edson Silver. Together, Winwood’s ensemble provides fresh portraits of the singer/songwriter’s finest works, flush with imaginative improvisation, and a global, rhythmic pulse. As I mentioned in my previous post, this maybe one of the finest Greatest Hits/Live records I’ve heard. Ever. A big part of that is that Winwood sticks to the recipe but mixes up the ingredients, dishing out top-grade fare with a new flavor.

That’s a glimpse of what’s been playing on my favorite media player…what’s on yours?

Turntable Thursdays

Launching a new feature today called Turntable Thursdays. We will explore a variety of music; some new, some old. I have eclectic ears always searching for groovy sounds (Maybe that is why I like playing keyboards and synths?). As a worship musician, naturally I have spent a lot of time the last few years listening to faith-based, Christian music. But that is not all I listen to. At the end of the day, I love a good song, regardless of genre. I have found I do not have to agree with an artist on every aspect of their being to dig their music. Life simply does not work that way. There are lots of people who disagree with me about my points of view and likewise, a chunk of folks I disagree with in return. We are not all identical. We are the same, but different.

Who remembers Stereo Review magazine???

Stereo Review Jan 1975

The way I listen to music certainly has changed over the years, starting with 45s, 33 1/3 rpm LPs, 8-track tapes, and cassettes. I even played back stuff I recorded on my Dad’s old reel-to-reel. Ah, the nostalgia. Now, I listen mostly to mp3s on my phone or laptop. Today, you will catch me listening to Spotify most days.

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The last couple of weeks I have been totally hooked on Spotify’s playlist “Songs To Test Headphones With.” It is an assorted mingle of genre-crossing music. And yes…it is best listened to wearing headphones. If you are on Spotify, check it out.

Put on the headphones and crank it up to 11!

I have also been keeping Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, particularly the solo work by Benmont Tench, in heavy rotation. It is hard to believe Petty has been around since the 70s. It seems like just yesterday that I heard “Refugee” and “Breakdown” for the first time.

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A lot of big name worship artists have recently released new material. Jeremy Camp, Matt Redman, Matthew West, and Mercy Me all have put out new worship albums in the past couple of months. Camp’s “The Answer” and Redman’s “All Glory” promise to be praise anthems the church will become familiar with on Sunday mornings. I also like Mercy Me’s “Even If”. It is a well-written, strong faith-based song.

Chris Thile, mandolin player extraordinaire, continues to put out imaginative, genre-bending material at every turn and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are making headlines as the hardest-working band on the planet. Check out Thile’s “Bach Trios” to gain a new appreciation for what can be done with a mandolin in the right hands. Earlier this year, Isbell and the 400 Unit put out a great record in “The Nashville Sound”.

On that note…we will call it a post.

Free photos courtesy of Pixabay and edited with AutoPixlr.

Exodus, Bob Marley, & Reggae

On June 3, 1977, Island Records released Bob Marley & the Wailers ninth studio LP “Exodus” and being both a music lover and the nostalgic sort, I’ve been revisiting this great album via my Spotify streaming service.

How we listen to music—mp3 versus vinyl—certainly has changed dramatically since 1977, a critical year in music, back before the world had seen it’s first MTV video. In general, 1977 was a wild year marked by the crazy events of the Summer of ’77.  While lots has happened in the 40 years since the sounds of Marley’s remarkable record first broke the audio barrier, great music is still great music.

Lyrics from “One Love”

One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One love)
So shall it be in the end (One heart)
Alright, “Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right.”
“Let’s get together and feel all right.”

Copyright with Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc..Written by BOB MARLEY, NEVILLE ORIL LIVINGSTON.

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With cuts featuring song titles like “Natural Mystic,” “Guiltiness,” “The Heathen,” “Exodus” and “One Love” it evident that Bob Marley & the Wailers 9th record covers soulful themes and flows from deep spiritual roots. The album incorporates elements of blues, soul, funk, and British rock.

The songs for the album were penned and created after an assassination attempt was made on Marley and his wife Rita in December of 1976, causing Marley to leave his lifelong home of Jamaica to spend exile in London. The mid-to-late 1970s were a turbulent political time in Jamaica and the title track “Exodus” was written by Marley in response to what was happening in his homeland.

The album is pure reggae and is exemplified by funky grooves and political overtones. It’s Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech or Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” with a reggae vibe and groovy beat.

Reggae is a Caribbean blend of musical elements culling from rhythm and blues, jazz, mento, calypso, African and Latin American music.

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What Makes Reggae Different?

Reggae is played in 4/4 time due to its symmetrical rhythmic pattern making it nearly impossible to do in other time signatures. Reggae mixes offbeat rhythms and staccato chords to create a unique sound.  Popular music typically center on beat One, also called the “downbeat”. By accenting the 2nd and 4th beats in each bar combined with the drum’s emphasis on the 3rd beat creates an infectious, groovy vibe.

The Wailers are a band of self-taught musicians that united their talents in 1963. The founding members included Hubert Winston McIntosh (Peter Tosh), Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley). The original members parted ways in 1976. Despite the breakup, Marley continued to make music under the “Bob Marley & the Wailers” name. “Exodus” was the first LP to feature the new Wailers lineup consisting of brothers Carlton(drums) and Aston Barrett (bass), Al Anderson, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Donald Kingsley, and Junior Marvin rotating out on lead guitar, Tyron Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin Patterson on percussion. The new band also featured the “I Threes” — Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Rita Marley— singing backup vocals.

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By the end of the 20th Century, Bob Marley and the Wailers “Exodus” was frequently featured among the lists compiling the “Greatest Albums of the Century.” In 1999, Time Magazine named “Exodus” the best record of the 20th Century.

So do yourself a favor and expand your musical horizons by checking out “Exodus,” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.