My Own Private Audio- Episode 10- Chuck Berry to the Beatles to Dylan and back again.
Hello Vinyl Friends,
What's are those sweet records surrounding our vinyl storage at Music Box Hq?Let's find out...
Wow! What an incredible past few weeks for amazing vinyl releases. Let's recap; Bob Dylan, "More Blood, More Tracks", The Rolling Stones blues compilation, "Confessin' the Blues Vol. 1 and Vol.2" and The Beatles, "The Beatles" aka The White album, remixed by Mr. Giles Martin.
It's as if my birthday, Christmas, and New Years, got together and decided to celebrate on the same day as part of an orgasmic audio festival. And you know what? I'm still at the party.
Now, I could focus on any one of these amazing releases and expound on the sonic virtues of each one in glorious detail, but a better thought occurred to me during a "My Own Private Whiskey and Vinyl" session. ( At least it seemed like it at the time) Each of these three releases speaks to the larger trajectory of recorded music. And for the sake of argument, I'll limit my thoughts to the genre of rock music.
What you have in these three albums are vital touchstones of the history of recording and the rock album itself.
Confessin' The Blues plays like the greatest K-Tel blues compilation you've ever heard, from Robert Johnson to Chuck Berry, the very seeds of inspiration of rock music jumps out of every well pressed groove.
Recordings back then were essentially like an autograph from the artist. A rudimentary facsimile of the live performance; functional and efficient. At the time, recording equipment and recording techniques were extremely basic as were the majority of home playback equipment, think heavy cartridges and one speaker. Recordings were not designed to take the listeners on a journey into sonic nirvana. They were meant to reproduce a song, plain and simple.
As I recall, it was probably about the time I was listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell doing, You Gotta Move, that I started forming this idea. I immediately put on Yer Blues and aside from being completely blown away by the powerful new mix, I began to see the cycle and connection these titans of music were entangled in.
Flash forward to the Beatles. They too began their recording career the same way as those legends of the blues. I believe their first album, "Please Please Me" was recorded and mixed in about 1 day. But they were the kids who grew up on the music of some revolutionary artists, Buddy Holly, who was an early pioneer of multitrack recording and other unconventional recording techniques. (Cardboard box drums, etc). And don't forget about Les Paul, another innovative recording pioneer (and guitar player as well). Of course I would be remiss if I didn't include the very man who made their journey possible, George Martin, who cultivated his experimental spirit by recording elaborate comedy albums in the 1950's. These artists and a handful of others were experimenting with sound recording as an art form onto itself, pushing and developing this uncharted medium into an unknown destination.
I must confess that I usually skip over Revolution 9, I feel it breaks up the flow of the White Album, but something about the new mix, actually makes it more enjoyable sonically. Like the whole remixed album, the scope of the recording are more clearly rendered. Its as if Giles removed a coat of grease from the tapes. And I was probably on my 3rd drink by now.
Sound for the sake of sound. By the time the Beatles got on to "Revolver", it didn't matter to them that actual live reproduction of their records could be achieved. (I will refer to Tomorrow Never Knows as a prime example). They were creating sounds that didn't exist in reality. (Naturally there were many influences that led them to this level of experimentation. And yes. They sort of out dueled the Beach Boys- but we're sticking to these 3 releases)
So, 2 years after recording "Revolver" and 1 year after the cultural touchstone that is, " Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band", they take a cue (as did many bands) from Mr. Bob Dylan's, "John Wesley Harding", and , excuse the pun, bring it all back home.
Yes. In the midst of psychedelia, and a burgeoning super heavy blues rock (a la Cream, Hendrix, and the beginning of Led Zeppelin), the Beatles recorded a rough and ready travelogue of material, ranging from plaintive acoustic ballads, Chuck Berry like rockers, and proto-metal freak outs. The recording themselves are fairly straightforward (with the exception of Revolution 9) almost as if they knew they had reached a certain level within the realms of recording and just focused their creativity solely on the songwriting.
At the tail end of my 3rd drink the entire connectedness of these artists was crystal clear. I immediately put on , More Blood, More Tracks, and listened to Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. The rich, austere and confident reading of the song, just shored up everything in my mind, and that's when I decided to lay it out for you.
Jump ahead to 1975 when Dylan released Blood on the Tracks ( one of his finest collection of songs) and look back at what is in between that release and the White Album, the ascendency of singer songwriters. A back to basics approach to recording that mirrors the earliest days of rock/blues recordings. Recording equipment and techniques had changed, but the goal of affording the public a document of the singer and the song had not.
These giants of 20th century music were/are eternally tied together, moving and pushing the boundaries of what is possible and beautiful in music. The bedrock of song, the catalyst for a great journey, but always returning to the one.
That's the way these albums connected with my brain. And yes. I realize how many incredibly talented artists I'm leaving out and how much I'm jumping around, but the circle these 3 albums make can't be denied and even if they can, so what? All three releases are fantastic and more importantly sound fantastic so you should buy all 3 and enjoy.
As always thank you for your time and Keep Spinning that Wax