Content tagged '50s'
Soul Brothers/Soul Meeting (Album of the Day)
Sixty years ago today, Ray Charles and Modern Jazz Quartet vibraphonist Milt “Bags” Jackson convened in Atlantic Record's New York City studio to cut the title track to SOUL BROTHERS with producer Nesuhi Ertegun. The performers also teamed for 1961's SOUL MEETING, and this handy two-fer gathers all the recordings they made together. In spite of the titles, the music leans more toward jazz than R&B, but the smooth and relaxing sounds here are just as effective as Brother Ray's more raucous hits. The chemistry between the two men is strong on these 14 predominantly original tracks, and both prove versatile instrumentalists - keyboardist Charles blows a mean alto saxophone on "Soul Brothers” and Jackson lights up the frets on “Bag's Guitar Blues.” With stellar support (from such virtuosos as bassist Oscar Pettiford and guitarist Kenny Burrell), SOUL BROTHERS/SOUL MEETING is a great way to hear “the Genius” after hours...
The Ultimate Bobby Darin (Album of the Day)
Bobby Darin was the ultimate entertainer: a singer-songwriter who could cut hits in an amazing variety of styles and later an award-winning film and TV actor. Bobby got his big break in 1958 with the teen rocker “Splish Splash,” the first of several Top Ten singles for Atco Records. The 17-track THE ULTIMATE BOBBY DARIN collection paints a comprehensive picture of the performer's output for the label, including “Beyond The Sea,” Darin-penned hits like “Early In The Morning” and “Dream Lover,” and signature song “Mack The Knife” (which topped the U.K. singles chart on this day in 1959). A solid survey of the classic recordings that put Bobby Darin in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock It (Album of the Day)
Chuck Berry was part of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thanks to a string of classic singles for Chess in the 1950s, but his '70s output was pretty “goode” as well. Case in point: ROCK IT, cut for Atco in 1979. As you'd guess from the cover art, there's plenty of great guitar work here (along with some fine piano playing by Johnnie Johnson), but even more importantly, the man who practically invented rock 'n' roll songwriting has come up with several terrific originals. Highlights of the self-produced set include “California,” “Move It” and “Oh What A Thrill,” which was memorably covered by Rockpile a few years later. Until this year's posthumous CHUCK, ROCK IT was Berry's final studio album, and we'll give it another spin in honor of what would've been his 91st birthday.
The Clovers (Album of the Day)
Longtime members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, The Clovers came together in Washington, D.C. shortly after WWII. By 1951 the band had landed a contract with Atlantic Records; their self-titled debut album followed five years later and, like the label's other early longplayers, strung together existing single sides. Though cut with several different group lineups, THE CLOVERS is consistently strong, and all but three of the 14 tracks were Top 10 R&B hits, including “Devil Or Angel,” “Hey, Miss Fannie,” “Ting-A-Ling” and “Love, Love, Love.” Whether on ballads or uptempo cuts, the smooth harmonizing, rambunctious rhythms and bluesy guitar playing of Bill Harris rarely miss, and anyone interested in the roots of 1950s rock should pick up THE CLOVERS.
The Shape of Jazz to Come (Album of the Day)
THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME may have seemed a bold title for Ornette Coleman's Atlantic Records debut, but the music on the 1959 collection absolutely justifies it. With an emphasis on melody and improvisation over chords and harmony (Coleman called his approach “harmolodic”), these six originals introduce the standard “Lonely Woman,” and offer the quartet – which includes future stars Don Cherry on cornet and Charlie Haden on bass - plenty of room to strut their instrumental stuff. A cornerstone of the free jazz movement, the album was initially controversial, but its landmark status is now unquestioned, and it has been named to both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Ornette Coleman passed away on this day in 2015 and we'll remember the pioneering performer with THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME.
Ruth Brown (Album of the Day)
When Atlantic Records was called “the house that Ruth built,” it was not in tribute to the Yankee home-run hitter but to Ruth Brown, whose success was instrumental in establishing the New York-based label. The vocalist scored such R&B chart-toppers as “Teardrops from My Eyes,” “5-10-15 Hours,” “Oh What a Dream” and the immortal “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” - all of which can be heard on RUTH BROWN. The 1957 album gathers 14 single sides waxed by Brown over the preceding eight years, making it something of a greatest hits set. The performer's brassy and occasionally bawdy singing is complemented by the swingin' sounds of some of Atlantic's top instrumentalists (including pianist John Lewis and guitarist Mickey Baker), and this music still delivers a knockout punch. Today we turn to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer RUTH BROWN to help us celebrate African American Music Month.
SONG OF THE DAY - "Poison Ivy" (Album of the Day)
Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were among early rock 'n' roll's most reliable hitmakers, and few artists were better attuned to the duo's sense of humor and infectious rhythms than The Coasters. Recorded on this day in 1959, “Poison Ivy” topped the R&B chart and reached the Top 10 on Billboard's pop chart as well – along with “Charlie Brown” and “Along Came Jones,” it was the third Top 10 single from the group that year. About a girl who “will make you itch,” the song is a metaphor for STDs but was sufficiently discreet to pass muster with censors and be covered by countless artists from The Rolling Stones and The Hollies to Hanson and Meshell Ndegeocello. One of many highlights of The Coasters' Atco collection THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON, the infectiously enjoyable “Poison Ivy” is our Song of the Day.
Late Date With Ruth Brown (Album of the Day)
With a string of R&B hits whose playful energy also appealed to first-generation rock fans, Ruth Brown was one of Atlantic Records' biggest stars of the 1950s. Following a singles compilation, LATE DATE WITH RUTH BROWN was the singer's second album for the label but the first cut specifically for the LP market; recorded 60 years ago, it's aged remarkably well. Presenting a more sophisticated side of her sometimes-bawdy persona, the dozen tracks include classics by Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins and Irving Berlin, and Brown's sultry, after-hours vocals (and Richard Wess' big-band arrangements) fit the songs perfectly. We'll remember the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with another LATE DATE WITH RUTH BROWN.
Mourning In The Morning (Album of the Day)
Otis Rush would be a legend if only for his 1950s Cobra recordings, but the Chicago-based singer-guitarist hit a couple more peaks later in his career including MOURNING IN THE MOURNING. Recorded at Muscle Shoals' Fame Studios with Electric Flag members Nick Gravenites and Mike Bloomfield handling production chores (and providing half the songs), the 1969 Cotillion collection adds a touch of soul and rock to Rush's razor-sharp performances. Highlights include Otis' own “It Takes Time,” B.B. King cover “Gambler's Blues” and “Reap What You Sow,” one of a few tracks featuring guest guitarist Duane Allman's masterful fretwork. Largely overlooked upon original release, the album's stock has risen in the years since - MOURNING IN THE MOURNING is cause for celebration for any blues fan.