His biggest hits came a little bit before my time as an awakened, information-seeking music fan. But I was thrilled to discover what a self-made career he had. A landmark in my realization that if you love the work, a terrific backstory only makes it better.
My picks are the obvious: Live at Carnegie Hall first and Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers as follow-up.
His boldest move: the “IknowIknowIknowIknowIknow” sequence in “Ain’t No Sunshine.” When he starts you’re like “Whut? Whut??” but by the end you’re going “Yeh — YEH!”
(Wrapping up some lockdown turntable series.)
Helen Merrill/Dick Katz, A Shade of Difference (Milestone, recorded 1968)
Hank Mobley, A Slice of the Top (Blue Note, recorded 1966)
Not the ’60s as I experienced them, but sure a comfort to Olde Me. Slice of the Top is both a hard-bop-roots grounded but waay-intelligent innovative session. My pick for those wanting to meet Mobley. A Shade of Difference (other players: Thad Jones, Elvin Jones, Jim Hall, Ron Carter) has exquisite tenderness and seductive ease, ending with a masterpiece “Where Do You Go?” and a superlative rendition of my Official Song of the Year: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
John Prine Live (Oh Boy, 1988)
As in Live!, goddammit, Live!
Metalwood, the recline (2001, Universal/Telarc)
You know, Mr. Argue, this band which you recommended to me quite some number of years ago sounds more intelligent, graceful and captivating every time I play it. Thanks.
I admit I do not know the reunited work.
(Faves from the beginning of the lockup, not today)
Joni Mitchell, back catalog on vinyl starting with Clouds. Gawd, “Woodstock” is such a visionary piece of work. And that voice, eternally skating down the river. Reminds me how much when these LPs were new I would play them and think that even if I was her peer Joni Mitchell would be waaaaaay too much woman for me: Royalty Hippie Chick, Sorceress, Poetic Master of multi-media — words, sounds, images. (Nothing has changed my opinion that the jazz-fusion moves were duds.) Best numbers utterly untouched by time.
Hank Mobley, back catalog of vinyl (in a series depending on my impulses). I was amazed to find I had no readily available Mobley on CD, but a nice little knot of vinyl in the archives. First up: Hank Mobley with Kenny Clark, Hard Bop (1979, Savoy Jazz/Arista). Original recordings from 1956. The ’50s as tough and pretty, reflecting and exploring in a quite hidden world.
Another pick from a couple years ago. Really stand by my judgement. Deeply dark humor a mordant plus.
Have to add that Re-Animator is a classic if only because it does a hotcha job of honoring H.P. Lovecraft while sending up and skewering his weird humorlessness.