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Welcome To My Blog!

Monday, April 2, 2012

3 Must Haves (Part 1 of 3)

There are 3 recordings that I feel every great music library has in them.  I could probably think of 20, but let’s stick with 3 for now.  These are all master, historic, must have, etc. recordings that are no doubt ★★★★★ recordings all with historic value.  If you are just starting as a music connoisseur or you already have a good start on your music library, these recordings should be added to your collection ASAP! One of these three recordings is, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," by The Beatles.

In January of 1967 The Beatles were in the EMI Studio Abbey Road working on a new album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “ which is considered by many to be the “Fab Fours” greatest masterpiece.  Most of the music for “Sgt. Pepper’s” was recoded in 1967, though the recording session actually began on 24 November 1966,  at a point in which The Beatles had stopped touring to focus or their studio recordings.  This was the first of many albums that were made at this point in their career.  “Sgt. Pepper’s” took 5 months, 40,000 pounds to make and with its release came almost instant critic and fan acclaim.  In the 13 tracks of “Sgt. Pepper’s,” The Beatles accomplishes something that only a hand full of recording artist in history have done and that is to make an album that is composed of all great tracks.  In other words “Sgt. Pepper’s” has no fluff or filler tracks.  However, this is different from any Beatles’ album that came before.  Though all of the songs could stand alone, it really listens like one big piece of art.  Like chapters in a book, a novel, or the entirety of a picture and not simply a single object within the picture; this is a concept album, but doesn’t have to be listened to in that manner.  It was Paul’s idea to do a concept album about the fictional band, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The concept can be felt throughout the album even in it’s original packaging, which up until this point had never been developed much.  This album gives the listener a 39 minute 50 second trip back into a time of flower power, hippies traveling around in vans and the sounds of the late 60’s.

I could talk in great detail about each of the tracks on this album, but that might be better for a course I might teach at a later date.  Here in this blog I would to just hit some high points to my ears, things that I have found that stick out to me after hundreds of listenings.  I most certainly will miss some things, that particularly if you already know this recording, you feel are very important or your favorite thing about the album or a track.  The purpose is not a detailed analysis, but rather my musings if you will, my thoughts in the moment of listening.

The opening track starts with audience noise and then bursts out into the rock in roll anthem with Paul McCartney’s legendary rock voice bellowing the title track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” One of the things I think that is over looked in this track is the tight harmonies that are sung on the chorus.  They are perfect and masterfully sung by the band.  Reminiscent of the psychedelic era that it was recoded in, this track sets the mood for this fictional band.

As I listen to “With a Little Help From My Friends,” I’m reminded how much can be done with so little.  The main theme, a 5 finger pattern on the piano in E major starting on G#, is so simple yet so hip.  And though this song was written by McCartney for Ringo, which John and Paul usually did on most albums, I think it’s Ringo’s over all performance of this tune that makes it really work.  Not only does Ringo turn in the best vocal I have ever heard him perform to date (I love the last note of the vocal), but his fills on drum set and percussion work are also, in my opinion his best performances to date.

“Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” has been one of my favorite Beatles’ songs from the first time I heard it.  The simple 12-note ostinato that can be heard throughout the song, sets the sparse mood.  This line to me is so beautiful and gets stuck in my head even when I haven’t listen to this recording in a while. Again, the setting, that this song paints, is the psychedelic, free love and peace movement.  FYI, this song has nothing to do with LSD.

“She’s Leaving Home,” is a song Paul wrote after reading a story in the paper about a run away girl.  I see this song as a 3-part narrative with the narrator, parents, and daughter’s voices all speaking simultaneously and individually throughout the song.  In just listening to the words you may only hear 2 of these people, but it is, in my opinion, the strings that makeup the third voice.  Why, you might ask?  It’s the subtlety, the almost over looked, sometimes missed part of this song that adds so much beauty, much like the daughter in the news paper article.  She felt overlooked, unheard and misunderstood.  She left home to find freedom, be noticed, and heard for who she was and not what someone wanted or thought she should be. Like “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” “She’s Leaving Home” is one of my favorite all-time Beatles songs.  And weather it be the psychedelic flower power of “Lucy In the Sky,” “She’s Leaving Home” or the song painting and circus atmosphere of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” the Beatles prove that music is all around us, and can come from anywhere.

“A Day In The Life…”  just listen and enjoy the geniuses of Lennon, McCartney!!  WOW what a tune!

Whether it be the technological experimenting of John Lennon and George Martin,  the interesting instrumentation chosen by the band, the eastern pop songs of George Harrison, or the alternating meter of “Good Morning, Good Morning,” “Sgt. Pepper’s” is a masterpiece! 

I was fortunate enough to see Paul McCartney in concert at Cowboy’s Stadium in August 2009.  McCartney gave one of the single greatest concert experiences that I have ever witnessed and I have seen many, many live shows.  On that August night he played a 3 hour show, with no intermission, a physical accomplishment as much as an artistic one.  The set list was made up of the best of the best Beatles and McCartney, many of which were from “Sgt Pepper’s,” in fact opening and closing with the title track.  I can honestly say that every song McCartney’s band played that night, from the Sgt. Pepper’s album was as fresh then as it was in 1968 and the album is no exception. The album received 7 Grammy nominations at the 1968 Grammy Awards, winning 4 of them.  In fact, “Sgt. Pepper’s” was voted, by Rolling Stone Magazine, as the most significant rock album of all-time and has sold over 32 million copies to date.  But as with all these recordings, there is so much more than the sales, gold records, copies sold and Grammys.  That’s not to say these things are unimportant, or meaningless.  No, all of these are huge accomplishments and should be view as such, but to me what ultimately has allowed the albums to stand the test of time is the music.  Music was what the each of these artists set out to make and ultimately should be what each listener takes into account when listening. 

In preparing to write this review, I sat down and listened to “Sgt. Pepper’s.” This recording inspired me as much during these listening as they did back in 1999 when I first heard them.  The creativity, melodies, orchestration, sound, and great writing make me want to play!  This is truly one of my desert island recordings.  June 1st will celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s,” so let me be the first to say, “Happy Birthday Sgt. Pepper’s." I can’t imagine my musical life without it.

PS…. I have included a couple of transcriptions of some of these tunes for free download.  Enjoy!

She's Leaving Home.pdf

Good Morning, Good Morning.pdf

©2012 Crestwood Publishing

Here We Go!

If you know me or if you don’t, you will soon find out that I am quite the music connoisseur. In fact, recorded music by other artists is one of the main sources of ideas, inspiration and learning for my own music. If you are a musician, listening is a must for your continual development. Across all genres of music the answer to all your musical questions can be found in the recordings of the masters. If you don’t listen you simply cannot learn the style and history of any genre of music. It is also important to explore artists both inside and outside of the genre, instrument or voice type in which you perform the most.

Listening is a life long adventure for any music lover. It never ceases to amaze me that the more music I play, artists I work with and students I teach, the more new music I find. I am in constant search of the next artist that I have never heard that will cause me to “binge out” on their music. I am also equally as intrigued by new genres on the increased respect for those I have not given a fair listen.

From Bach to Eminem, from Charlie Parker to Joni Mitchell, I have an opinion about almost every artist I’ve ever heard. After many late nights on the road with The Call, a band I direct at the University where I teach, listening to the over 14,000 songs on my iPod and talking music, a couple of students gave me the idea for this Blog.

The hardest part of this project was organizing how I wanted to structure and organize these posts. After many months of thought this is what I have come up with. I will start with simply writing about whatever album and artist I am listening to. I will give both my opinion and some technical analysis of individual songs, as well as, the album and artist as a whole. Second, I will rate the album on a scale of 1 () to 5 (★★★★★) stars, with 5 stars being reserved for those must have recordings. At the end of each post you will find a link to where you can purchase each recording.

So here we go! I hope these postings are informational as well as entertaining. I hope they provoke you to explore new artists and genres you have never listened to, but most of all I hope to keep you listening.

Happy Listening,

Crestwood Publishing © 2012