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1. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones
The best album ever, regardless of genre. It's teeming with blues, sweat,
alcohol, drugs, sex, church and everything else that's great but
really bad for you. The essence of Exile is contained in Just Wanna
See His Face, which clocks in at 2 minutes 55 seconds; a loose, semi-incoherent
jam about the saving power of religeous music on the non-religious
man. It's the resolution to the paranioa and tension of Ventilator Blues.
Catharsis; that's primarily what the blues is about is it not, dealing
with what you've been dealt? Also, it's classic status has as much
to do with the folklore that surrounds the record/band as it does
the music itself, just like yer man Robert Johnson. It's sacred stuff.
2. Halleluja, I Love Her So - Ray Charles
Listening to this reissue on cd, I'm immediately struck again by how tottaly down Ray Charles was. He had the voice, the hands and such great production. Containing defeninitive versions of some of his most well known songs this was released just after he left Atlantic in the early sixties. This is such a great selection of tracks - not a mediocre one here. If you think he's too soul for you, listen to his version of Eddie Boyd's Sinner's Prayer. You'll stand corrected even if your posture remains appalling.
3. First Blood - Mike Henderson & The Bluebloods
Country songwriter and mandolinist, Nashville's Mike Henderson happens
to play slide guitar and harmonica too, seemingly better than anyone else
on earth. I picked up this album in Virgin Megastore in Birmingham in
'96 or '97. It was an import (and therefore ludicrously expensive) so
I asked to listen to it at the counter first. I agreed to buy it within
hearing about four bars of opener When I Get Drunk. The whole album has
so much live energy and sound like it was recorded totally straight. Regardless,
for a four-piece band they make a lot of music.
4. Giant Step/De Old Folks At Home - Taj Mahal
Giant Steps features Taj's best vocal performances and harp playing, fine songwriting, and plenty of guitar from the often overlooked but influential Native American player Jesse Ed Davis (who inspired Duane Allman to play slide and has been cited by Jim Weider and Peter Green as personal faves). Frequently mixing acoustic and electric guitar - picked dobro and tasty, chiming leslie'd telecaster - with blues, country and gospel, Taj cemented the sound he'd been developing since his debut album. The all acoustic 'Old Folks' pays homage to his country blues roots and features originals along side Leadbelly and Mississippii John Hurt tunes. The seeds of todays 'upbeat' acoustic blues troubadors (Yes, you, Mr Bibb) was sewn here on this double album.
5. Houndog - Houndog (Mike Halby and David Hidalgo)
Nobody would tolerate Tom Waits' Bone Machine on here regardless of how loud I play them All Stripped Down. Waits himself cites this album by Houndog as one of his faves though and John Hamond has covered two tracks from here (I brought The Rain and No Chance), so I reckon it's a bit of a modern classic. Canned Heat's Halby and Los Lobos' Hidalgo take Bo Diddley beats and lo-fi to the extreme; this sounds more like it was dug up or distilled rather than recorded. Brooding electric violin, pounding beats and chugging guitar are served up with warped, slowed down vocals. By turns resolute and despairing, it's all good. Any album that's dedicated to the late Jessie Ed Davis is all right by me too.
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