barondave: (Default)
[personal profile] barondave
What follows is a list of five capital-I-Important albums to me, not necessarily anyone else. And not even necessarily my favorite albums, though all are amongst my faves, but albums that influenced me in profound ways. These are more-or-less in chronological order when I encountered them.

A Child's Introduction to Jazz Bob Keeshan and the Honeydreamers. Yes, the actor who played Captain Kangaroo but not in in this song.

A Child's Introduction to Jazz, Zip file of mp3s. The recording is from 1958 or 1959, and it was a fave for many years until I was 9 or 10. This is a 78 (I think), and probably only contained only this one song story, starting on one side and continuing on to the next. I don't remember ever not having this record (and I may have it still, but I'm not going to dig through the vinyl) and always associate it with the other 78s, 45s and even 33 1/3rds heard on our multi-speed but plastic record player: Captain Kangaroo's Treasure House of Best Loved Songs (w/Mr. Greenjeans) explaining "Walzing Matilda" and "The Bear Went Over the Mountain", and even the Mickey Mouse Club Records with the March and Annette singing "Beauty is as beauty does". I'm throwing them all in as one record because that's how I played them when I was six: No covers, just put them on the turntable, lower the needle and play.

"A Child's Introduction to Jazz" was especially formative because it introduced me to the concept that music came from somewhere. My admiration for covers and fascination with the folk process probably had its genesis here. Despite being anti-semitic (they do the history of jazz including Dixieland without mentioning kelzmer), the journey from African rhythms to Negro Spirituals to French folk music and so on to American jazz is done really well by kid's standards. The Honeydreamers were harmonizing be-bop, sort of like Manhattan Transfer.

Wow, I'm listening to it for the first time in years, and it's still great.
They were coming from all over when America was young.
And they knew what they were doing when they picked this promising spot.
Oh they came across the sea
to the country of the free.
And the races got mixed in the (beat) melting pot.

America is a melting pot. (xylophone break)

When they settled here they all began to speak the English tongue
But it started sounding different 'cause they changed it rather a lot.
We speak English now a-days
in a lot of different ways.
'Cause the accents got mixed in the (beat) melting pot.
Well, sort of. The Africans didn't exactly come over "to the country of the free" and miscegenation was illegal in many states at the time. Still, for a child, this optimism and recognition of our heritage as a nation of immigrants was pretty powerful.

That Was The Year That Was Tom Lehrer

We had all three Lehrer albums, and in a different mood I might have picked An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, but I'm going with That Was The Year That Was because it's more political and also has my favorite Lehrer song, "Pollution". The 1965 album is the most recent of the three canonical Tom Lerher albums, and we probably acquired it around the release date, so I heard if from about age 10 onwards.

Politics were always serious in our house, as various local and state-wide office holders came in and out. My father's position as a center-left editor in a very conservative county was always precarious. And all of this bounced off us kids. We were exposed, first-hand, to the great issues of the day. Laughing at the foibles and hypocrisy of everyone, even those we agreed with, was part and parcel of the territory.

Tom Lehrer had three things going for him. First, he was a superb pianist and songwriter, and could play in almost any style or from any culture. Second, he was a great stand-up comedian (though he was sitting down) and was truly funny. And third, he had a razor-sharp wit that sliced through political buffoonery rarely matched even today.

Finding out that he did these songs on television, opened my eyes to the power of parody. I've never seen the show, which was before my time. I'm not surprised that TW3 started in Britain and wasn't a huge success here. Music could be funny and witty and political. Lehrer wasn't the first nor the last to produce successful political satire, but he was one of the best, and one of the first I was exposed to.

Calypso Harry Belafonte

I'm generally more song oriented than album oriented and found Calypso when searching for two of my favorite songs: "Day-O" and "Jamaica Farwell". Both on the same album! I got the album, probably sometime in college, which led to a greater appreciation of Harry Belafonte. Calypso was the first album to sell over a million copies; a big feat in 1956, during the height of McCarthyism. Despite the tremendous racism and political repression of the time, Belafonte was the first black man to win an Emmy. His association with Paul Robeson helped get him blacklisted.

By the time I encountered the album, I sort of knew all this, but really it's not why the album was an influence nor why it stands up today. Calypso is a great album and all the songs are strong. Covers of the songs continue to appear. Indeed, the writer of many of the songs, Lord Burgess (aka Irving Burgie) never got the acclaim that went to Belafonte for his marvelous singing but went on to write the national anthem of Barbados and even has his own book and CDs. I have Island In the Sun, which isn't all that good but makes a nice compliment to the Belafonte versions.

Calypso was my first major encounter with what some call "Worldbeat" that didn't sound like be-bop jazz.

Now We Are Six Steeleye Span

Now We Are Six is not my favorite Steeleye Span (SSpan) album, but was the current release in 1974 when I was slipping into science fiction fandom and hung out with the Albany State Science Fiction Society and my eventual roommate Frank Balazs. Frank had many SSpan and related albums, and between the two of us we got most of the available recordings. Starting with SSpan led us (or me, anyway) to related groups like Renaissance and Fairport Convention. And, later, groups like Boiled In Lead and The Chieftans.

I've talked about Steeleye Span in depth in many other places including my CD reviews and don't wish to go on here. Suffice to say that they remain my favorite group (though I haven't heard the most recent CD or two) and lead singer Maddy Prior remains my favorite singer.

Horses Patti Smith

I never liked punk, and still don't. It can be fun to watch angry adolescents rage against the machine, but with few exceptions the punk movement produced no music that survived that particular era of pissed off teens. The Dead Kennedy's are one exception, and possibly the Ramones. But as far as I'm concerned the only real artist to come out of the punk movement was Patti Smith.

Horses is an astonishing album. If she had started 20 years earlier she would have been a Beat Poet, as it is she owes much to The Lost Generation and pissed off social commentators like Lenny Bruce.

I can't really understand much of the lyrics on Horses, but the emotion comes through. I consider Patti Smith a vocalist while Maddy Prior is a singer.

The centerpiece of Horses is the title song, "Land". I consider "Land" to be the best rock and roll song ever: Angry and danceable, it explores the themes of so many 50s and 60s songs: Sex and death among High School kids. Unlike "Teen Angel" or even "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", "Land" takes you up, then down, and finally inward. Like most punk, it isn't perfect and other performances of the song/poem are very different. Unlike most punk (at least to me), I can listen to it more than a few times. But not too often. Thanks to the internet I can read the lyrics, but even at the time the songs, especially "Land", were too powerful to be background.

Horses was followed by Easter with the remarkable combination of "Babelogue/Rock N Roll Nigger", which is not about race but is about being "outside of society, away from me" and screams for the acceptance of the outcast.

Which nicely takes me back to "A Child's Introduction To Jazz".


Date: 2009-04-01 09:46 pm (UTC)
ericcoleman: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ericcoleman
It's interesting that someone who is as intelligent as you can have such blinders on. Just because you are not aware of it doesn't mean that ... with few exceptions the punk movement produced no music that survived that particular era of pissed off teens.

There are bunches of first wave punk bands who continue to put out music to this day, the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers spring to mind. The first wave of punk continues to have an enormous influence on modern rock music. Not modern music, but modern ROCK music. Bands like the Ramones and the Clash are name checked every day by someone as a major influence. The Clash, in particular are a lot of the reason there is music that crosses genres. Their back catalog continues to sell a lot. Interesting for a band that ceased to exist 25 years ago. The Stooges toured and put out a new album just a couple years ago. Paul Weller of the Jam continues to put out albums of very fine music (I don't particularly like what he does, but it is very good). The Sex Pistols tour, and their one LP is still a stock item in record stores everywhere. Go into Best Buy and The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Stooges and many others are still there.

But the most important thing is that the form lives on. It's called rock and roll. The punks took a part of it, the part that comes down from Chuck Berry, with his lovingly sarcastic views of teenage life and Link Wray, with his "I cranked it up to 11 before 11 was cool" attitude and combined them into some of the best rock and roll.

The records from that era continue to sell, maybe not in the millions, deep catalog artists don't sell millions, but they continue to sell, and they continue to influence.

Re: Punk

Date: 2009-04-02 12:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pre-Disagreement Chuckle: I hope you, too, find it amusing that you're accusing me of "blinders" about punk when I've just named a punk recording as one of my five most influential albums. Here is my PDC: heh.

Post PDC Disagreement: Okay, I'll give you The Clash. They were and are influential. On the other hand, they came out of punk in roughly the same way that the Beatles came out of skiffle. Both The Clash and the Beatles are important not because of where they started but because they changed and grew over time.

Rock and Roll was a product of the transistor radio. As you note, it started in the Chuck Berry era. Pissed off teenagers have continued to be a major aspect of rock ever since. (And in music before, too; eg Mozart. But that's a different story.)

The capital-P-Punk movement succeeded in its stated goal of keeping wastrels on the dole in pre-Thatcher England. The music was a by-product of the larger movement, and I can't really get beyond the safety-pin-through-the-nose business. Ugh. The whole point of Punk was to be bad and undesirable... and ephemeral.

The music tried to be less ephemeral. Most of the punks claim older rockers as their influence, and I believe them. Current punk-influenced bands can cite who they want, but the roots are obvious to my ear. Where you hear The Stooges, The Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers, I hear Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rolling Stones and early Who. (Not that I've ever heard much of the first three; from what I've heard of the Stooges, I don't want to.)

Debbie Boone's deep catalog continues to sell. I'm happy for her.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-01 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Awesome blog Baron Dave.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-02 11:58 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-01 10:18 pm (UTC)
ext_18496: Me at work circa 2007 (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Not mentioning klezmer in the history of jazz was "anti-semitic"? I didn't know klezmer had anything to do with jazz, and I'm from the atate where jazz was born. If there were a track or two with lyrics explicitly attacking Jews, you might be able to say this; but simple exclusion, in and of itself, may indicate mere ignorance rather than hostility. Remember Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

What can you tell us about klezmer's part in jazz history? I'm sincerely interested.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-02 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What can you tell us about klezmer's part in jazz history? I'm sincerely interested.

Dixieland Jazz is straightforward klezmer with slightly different instrumentation. The best proof I can offer is to have you simply listen to a few songs of each. The Jewish influence on jazz and in New Orleans in general is not talked about but fairly obvious to the musicians. Louis Armstrong knew Yiddish and wore a Star of David most of his life in thanks for the family who helped him. Certainly by the time you got to the Big Band Era with Benny Goodman et al, it was even more obvious.

The Jewish Influence in Blues and Jazz (
Jewish musical influence explored :"From Shtetl to Swing," (
LOUIS ARMSTRONG. Jewish influence in his music. Go Down Moses, St. James Infirmary, any others? (

And that's just a quick Google search.

For some of the anti-semitism part, I'll include a link to biblelover's anti-semitic rant Jewish Jazz becomes our national music (, and several articles I looked at reference it. Not all hatemongering is up front. New Orleans krewes are notoriously racist, and don't (or didn't, last I looked) allow blacks or jews in the main Mardi Gras parades. One of the reasons I've never been so hot to go to Mardi Gras.

November 2012

    12 3

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags