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Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble – Texas Flood (1983)

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Troubles debut album Texas Flood came roaring onto the music scene in 1983. The original recording was done in just 3 days time. These recordings were enough to convince the executives at Epic records to sign SRV and Double Trouble and give them the opportunity to re-record and master the tracks. If you listen closely to this album, you can hear the authenticity in the sound and the way it was recorded. There is a pocket of reverberation in Stevie’s guitar tone that echoes around you (especially listening to this album on headphones). Bassist Tommy Shannon recalls that they recorded it in a large warehouse with concrete floors, some carpets thrown on the floor, and playing in a circle listening to and watching each other play. Most of the amps and drums had one mic position three or four inches away at an angle. Stevie only used one effect being his signature Ibanez Tube Screamer.

Texas Flood single handedly brought the blues back alive during the 80’s. When synthesizers and power rock ballads dominated the charts, Texas Flood revived the back to blues basics with upbeat blues-shuffles and an unmatched tenacious guitar sound. The album peaked at #38 on the Billboard 200 chart following its release.

The opening track “Love Struck Baby” consists of a 12 bar blues chord progression that rocks you right into the album. The moderately fast drum beat Chris Layton lays down is the perfect landscape for Stevie to work with. “Pride and Joy” is SRV’s and Double Trouble’s first single and one of their most popularized songs. This song incorporates a classic Texas shuffle that showcases Stevie’s skills as a guitar player as well as his talent at creating catchy lyrics.

The self titled track “Texas Flood” was originally recorded by an old bluesman named Larry Davis. Stevie Ray Vaughan had always tipped his hat to the older bluesman and soaked up any guitar parts that he found intriguing. In this track he focus’s in on his soloing doubling the length of the original. If you are a guitar enthusiast like myself this is a must listen to.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble even managed to add the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and turn it into a cool groove for modern times. The closing track “Lenny” showed off the variety of Stevie’s guitar abilities. He utilizes jazz inflected chords and solo runs throughout the song. This is one of the most beautiful instrumental tracks to be played on a guitar.

There is no doubt that Stevie Ray Vaughan was and still is one of the greatest guitar players to ever live. His authentic and powerful guitar showmanship goes unparalleled even after his passing 24 years ago. The love and passion he put towards playing the guitar makes me wish I could only have half of that towards anything else.

Listen to Texas Flood on spotify.


Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again (2012)

Michael Kiwanuka is a British Soul Sing who has a distinct voice that gives me chills. His music has encapsulated Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, The Temptations, and Jimi Hendrix. That is just to name a few. Michael Kiwanuka’s album Home Again is musical masterpiece that won the BBC sound of 2012. His dreamy raspy vocals are accompanied by instruments like guitar, saxophone, flute, horns, drums, and organ. The music strides for a acoustic and folk sound. Michael Kiwanuka has captivated at least 101,300 (number of albums sold) people just in the UK.

Mr. Kiwanuka has been more of an international hit reaching all corners of the world. His peak positions on the charts have been quite impressive reaching number 1 in Dutch album charts, 3 on French album charts, 2 on Belgium charts, and number 4 on the UK album chart. That is only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to all of these other chart success he has had, but that is not what music is about. Michael Kiwanuka was able to create this atmosphere of warmth and honesty through Home Again. His lyrics are sincere and the music is simple yet elegantly composed. This album is a must listen.

The opening track “Tell Me A Tale” is a beautiful jazz number. It opens up with a fluttering flute that flows into a alluring acoustic melody. His music accompaniment are horns, flute,strings, and the chords used on the guitar. To paraphrase Michael during a concert “I had never written a song like this, so it was exciting when I did and it is now the opening track.”

The next track “I’m Getting Ready” was released as a single. Micheal Kiwanuka created a lovely number with his soulful voice and folk roots. This nice and easy track will be a perfect start to any day. “Any Day Will Do Fine” is a slow ballad that’s a desperate call to a girl who he wants to spend some time with. The strings on this track and throughout the album add a layer of sympathetic depth. Other must listen to tracks are “I’ll Get Along” (sounds like the temptations meet Otis Redding) and “Worry Walks Beside Me.”

It’s 2012 and there is so much music out there to listen to. Some of it very odd, loud, hypnotic, seductive, grungy, electronic and anything else you can think of, but this album is a wonderful listen when you just need to kick back and slow things down. Do yourself a favor and fucking listen to it.

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Songs in the Key of Life is one of the greatest pieces of recorded music. By the grace of god and the luck of us being alive, the legendary Stevie Wonder released this album in 1976 and music was never the same again. Songs in the Key of Life is considered to be one of Stevie Wonder’s most critically acclaimed album. This album was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which called it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Songs in the Key of Life was released under Motown Records, but was recorded in various places like Hollywood and New York. I strongly advise anyone to go and listen to this album. You will be able to recognize the tunes immediately because of the popularity on the radio, a sampling track, movies, television shows, music awards, and etc. An instant classic when this album was released surpassing all expectations. Upon its release it went straight to the top ranking number 1 on the Billboard Pop Album Charts. These consecutive weeks on top of a competitive billboard (Earth, Wind and Fire, Led Zeppelin, and Boz Scaggs) showed that this album was not only popular for the time, but had longevity as well.

This album has a warmth of love, spirituality, faith, and social injustice for the poor. The opening track “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” creates the atmosphere of sincere honesty that Stevie Wonder wanted. With lyrics like “It’s that Love’s in need of love today / Don’t delay / Send yours in right away / Hate’s goin’ round / Breaking many hearts / Stop it please / Before it’s gone too far..”– through these lyrics Stevie Wonder’s voice croons for the love around the world as he plays his Fender Rhodes.

“Have A Talk With God” shows the funky and faithful side of Stevie Wonder. This song uses interesting synth tones intertwined with a harmonica riff the repeats. “Village Ghetto Land” is a mix of the old school with the new. Musically the composition seems like it Stevie took a page right from Johann Sebastian Bach’s book. “I Wish” focuses on an 8 note bass line played on a Fender Rhodes piano. This single hit number 1 on the 100 Billboard chart. “Pastime Paradise” is one of the first songs to use a synthesizer that created the sound of strings. This song has a gospel sound due to the choir singing and has been sampled by many musicians including Coolio and Mary J. Blidge.

“Isn’t She Lovely” is celebrating the birth of his daughter, Aisha. One of Stevie’s more popular song it takes on the thought of happiness and joy that one can feel from the music. My personal favorite is “Another Star” covering a wide range of genres including dance, disco, jazz, and pop. There are also varying types of instruments in this song including a flute during the last section, piano, sax, and trumpet. If you watched the 2014 Grammy’s and Stevie Wonder’s performance with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, this song makes an appearance.

I guess there isn’t much else to say other than listen to this fucking album.

Father John Misty – Fear Fun (2012)

Joshua Tillman (J.Tillman) is an american folk singer/songwriter/guitarist/drummer/talented musician. He is currently playing under the name Father John Misty. You may also know him as the drummer for Fleet Foxes. Another phenomenal band for another time in another blog post. Father John Misty released Fear Fun on April 20, 2012 on Sub Pop. For the longest time his name was J.Tillman until he found himself struggling with writing music. He wanted to leave that part of himself behind and so he started writing a novel. It was during this time that he was able to find his true voice. Looking for a new name he was searching for a real off-the-wall, crazy, nonsensical, and yet phonetically beautiful name. He was able to achieve all of this through the name Father John Misty.

Fear Fun has a lot of interesting sounds to it. This music isn’t what you hear on the radio, but what you would hear traveling the canyons out west or the mountains in the east. Through this album he really strides for funky fun tunes that rock out at the same time. His lyrics are very poetic and can sometimes be looked at as a narrators voice for a story.

“Funtimes in Babylon” is the opening track and is a slow tune with a darker side to it. If you watch the music video it shows Tillman waking up in a apocalyptic world and stumbling through the wreckage of humanity. The album goes through different moods jumping back from darker songs to lighter happier songs. “Nancy From Now On” is a beautiful song musically and yet  a darker song lyrically. To paraphrase Tillman, he said that the lyrics are about shedding the skin of who you used to be, but doing it in a way with lots of conflict that harms yourself.

“I’m Writing a Novel” is more of a rocking tune that could be considered an ode to a old rodeo showdown, Buddy Holly, and Neil Young all shook up. The guitar riff that repeats is quite catchy, catchy enough to make me want to dance. Shit, maybe this will have the same effect on you. “Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” has a vibe of country rock to it. Through the lyrics he reminisces on his past love’s, “Now I’m watching you changing the mirror / And I’m unable to move / When all my girlfriends appear in the doorway / I don’t know how they got here /I don’t know what to say about this”–the perspective I have gained from these lyrics are that each woman he has dated has changed him and through all of these changes he is a different man from the first to the last.

“Well, You Can Do it With Me” and “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” are notable tracks as well. It is hard not to compare them to Fleet Foxes as well as Dr.Dog. The Album closes with “Everyman Needs a Companion”  which is a beautiful song about how a man needs an equal, someone to console. The lyrics “Like I’m hung up on religion / Though I know it’s a waste / I never liked the name Joshua / I got tired of J..”–they show that Tillman is a man who is constantly going through metamorphosis. He is always looking for something new.

Listen to the album on spotify.

Buy the album here.

Michael Franks – Tiger in the Rain (1979)

Just before the turn of a new decade, Michael Franks added a phenomenal album to the 70’s era best know for it’s funk, psychedelia, disco, and groovy tunes; and with the emergence of grunge and metal. A genre that has been around for a long time is jazz and Michael Franks nailed it on this album. Tiger in the Rain was released in 1979 as a jazz vocal album. The album incorporates many different instruments including strings, horns, organs, guitars, congas, and the list goes on and on. There is a large list of personnel who took part on this album. All of these musicians were very talented. This talent combined with a vision that Michael Franks had, helped create a consistent album filled with emotions that could all fit on a rainy lazy day.

Lately, Tiger in the Rain has been one of my favorite albums. The tone of guitars and the mellow feeling this album gives are nirvana. Not only are the musicians great, but Michael Franks does an extraordinary job with lyrics. “Sanpaku” is the opening track for this album and the melody of this song is very easy going. The keys on this song are soothing to the ear and the laid back vocals from Michael mix well. With lyrics like “I chewed the root until my brain was fried / I can’t remember all the highs I tried / I always crashed no matter where I flew / sinking in the sands of Sankapu…” -It is hard not to enjoy lyrics like that.

“Hideaway” is track that exemplifies the evolution of jazz. There are beautiful saxophone and jazz guitar parts that make the flow of this song very natural. Looking for a place to get away and find some recreation. To take a love out on the highway and take it all the way to a getaway.

The last song that I would recommend listening to is the self titled track “Tiger in the Rain.” The tone of this song is the epitome of what this album is about. The strings and saxophone sway you along through the song as Michael Franks sings the chorus  “He’s a tiger in the rain / It’s the thunder and lightning / He can’t explain / A tiger in the rain / Who’s frightened”- even those who are strong and courageous are unsure of the mad world out there.

The consistency of this album definitely makes it limited to times of listening. I recommend it during days of relaxtion and lounging around in your own comfort or an all day rainy day kind of album. If you are a fan of jazz you are definitely in for a treat with this album. This album may not be for everyone, but for those of you who like it will appreciate it.

Listen to the full album below on spotify.

2pac – Me Against The World (1995)

Tupac Shakur’s third album Me Against The World is an album that is very personal. Tupac said “It was like a blues record. It was down-home. It was all my fears, all the things I just couldn’t sleep about. Everybody thought I was living so well and doing so good that I wanted to explain it. And it took a whole album to get it all out. I get to tell my innermost, darkest secrets I tell my own personal problems.” Taking that statement and pairing it with this album gives an insight as to where this man was coming from; taking the problems that the ghetto life can bring, the fear it puts into people, and unfortunate circumstances that people are born into. Throughout this album you will find stories of paranoia, strength, fear, passion, love, and struggles.

In my opinion, Me Against The World is one of the best hip-hop albums to date. There is something that is to be found in all 15 tracks. There are profound lyrics throughout the album that are empowering to any human being. Tupac was gifted when it came to poetry utilizing skills like alliterations and couplets. The beats on this album are carefully placed, whether it’s the tempo or the hook that will catch your attention.

When this album was released, Shakur was serving time in prison. Some say that this helped boost sales of the album making it controversial. It is amazing to think about Tupac storming the charts, but he couldn’t publicize this or receive the recognition because he was behind bars. There is a broad spectrum of emotions covered throughout this album.Whether it is a love letter to his women or a salute to his thugs on the streets, Tupac gives a thorough introspective.

The opening track titled “Intro” gives the listener an eerie view into the speculations of Tupac’s first shooting. The song contains recordings of various new reporters talking about “Tupac News.” The next song “If I die Tonight” is a reflective song about the paranoia that fame and money has brought him.

The self titled track “Me Against The World” says it all about Tupac’s character. After being shot 5 times and then  sentenced to prison, he was a man who really was against the world. With lyrics like…
“Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address
Always do your best, don’t let the pressure make you panic
And when you get stranded
And things don’t go the way you planned it
Dreamin of riches, in a position of makin a difference
Politicians and hypocrites, they don’t wanna listen
If I’m insane, it’s the fame made a brother change
It wasn’t nuttin like the game
It’s just me against the world.”
Tupac explains that even through the roughest times where you feel powerless, there is always hope.
“Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that.” -Tupac Shakur

Some other notable tracks are “Lord Knows” and “Fuck The World.” “Lord Knows” paints a picture using dark tones of what living in the ghetto is like. He raps about the insanity the ghetto brings and the gloomy perspective of losing a homie to the streets.

“Dear Mama” is the most successful single of all the singles Tupac released. An emotional song that Tupac dedicated to his mother Afeni Shakur shows a loving side to Tupac. This song has been praised as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.

“Old School” all around has a nostalgic feel to it. Tupac raps about the lasting impressions the Old School left on him. He reminiscences about kicking with his homies, listening to De La Soul, and drinking some forty’s.

This album is not only for hip-hop lovers, but anyone who listens to music would appreciate this album. The message of this album is consistent and is a must listen front to back. I still remember the first time I listened to this album and the profound impact it has had on me. It has given me a perspective of life as a young black male in the streets. It has also given me the confidence and understanding that this is your only life and chance to do your best.

Listen to the full album on spotify.

Buy the album on amazon.

Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)

Approaching 20 years since the release of Grace, it hasn’t missed a note. Every time I listen to this album Jeff Buckley’s voice shakes me to the very core. If I could have anyone’s vocals Jeff Buckley’s would be my number 1 pick every time. Not only did he have an angelic voice of a thousand angels, he could absolutely play the guitar. At times with such grace and honest; other times he could rock you until you fell back on your ass. Jeff Buckley was a very educated musician studying music theory and coming from a family of musicians including his dad Tim Buckley. This musical knowledge shines through on Grace showing his ability to create harmonies and make interesting transitions.

Grace is 10 tracks long and each track has it’s own story musically and lyrically. Many of the tracks have abrupt shifts and this was exhibited on “Mojo Pin” his opening track for Grace. It starts out as a slow rock tune, but then takes a more psychedelic turn. These styles take turns switching throughout the song. Buckley once stated that this song was about obsessions for a drug or person with lyrics like “Don’t wanna weep for you /I don’t wanna know / I’m blind and tortured / the white horses flow  / The memories fire / the rhythms fall slow / Black beauty I love you so, so, so…”- it is clear that the rhythm of this love or obsession has captured his soul in someway.

“Last Goodbye” is another one of my favorites from this album. This song was the second released single on the album. It starts with feedback through a guitar and then the main bass line kicks in to set the tone for the song. Strings are added to give this song a more sympathetic sound. The lyrics are very heartfelt as well and I’m sure that anyone who has gone through a heartbreak will understand that.

Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah” is probably one of the best known. If you haven’t listened to this version I strongly advise that you stop what you are doing and listen to this version. So elegantly put together by Jeff Buckley you can hear the pain, beauty, love, and desperation in his voice. This version is Jeff Buckley singing only to be accompanied by his beautiful finger picking skills on the guitar.

My favorite song from this album “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” was inspired by a crumbling relationship Jeff Buckley went through. The lyrics give you the sense that as a growing man should understand the consequences of a relationship that is falling apart and yet the feelings of resentment always return. The music denotes an honesty and purity that Jeff Buckley brings.

All things considered, this is one of the best albums to be released in the 90’s. An album that is a capsule as to what beauty the human voice can achieve. No one will ever be able to reach the vocal range that Buckley had and for that his music will always be around.

Listen to the album on spotify.

Buy Grace on Amazon.

Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly: Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition

Super Fly is the third album by the legendary soul and funk artist Curtis Mayfield. Before listening to this album and doing some research, I didn’t know much about Mayfield other than songs like “Move On Up” and “Pusherman” as well as Mayfield having some influence on Jimi Hendrix. To my delightful surprise, I opened up pandora’s box of music that has influenced and changed the world. Super Fly was released as the soundtrack for the movie Super Fly. Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly  along with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On  were pioneering soul concept albums. Super Fly was originally released in 1972 and then rerelease in 1997 as the Deluxe 25th Anniversary collection.

In Super Fly Mayfield’s lyric’s are about deep affairs dealing with the ghetto, drugs, love, death, and the struggles of blacks during tumultuous times. Not only is the lyrical content of this album at a spectacular level, but the orchestration of the music is a masterpiece. Mayfield’s candor voice cuts deep to the core, the strings soothe you along, the horns bring a warmth, the guitar brings the funk, and all together comes the beauty of the painting. The creativity that is emitted through this album was a huge breakthrough for music.

“Little Child Runnin’ Wild” is the opening track for this album. It starts with an organ and percussion beat along with a gritty distorted guitar that give you a  broken sense of direction. Then Mayfield sings the lyrics “Little Child / Runnin’ wild / Watch a while / You see he never smiles / Broken Home / Father gone / Mama’s tired / So he’s all alone…” These lyrics set the tone for the rest of the album and struggles that victims of the ghetto go through.

“Pusherman” is a real groove to listen to. It sounds like Mayfield is almost rapping at the beginning about being that man with the drugs. This song shows he definitely laid out the groundwork for early hip hop. During “Give Me Your Love (Love Song)” Mayfield shows good work with the wah-wah pedal while adding beautiful strings to add depth.

The self titled track “Super Fly” exhibits the craftiness of Mayfield’s lyrical storytelling skills as well as the musicianship that was put into this album. The original soundtrack was 9 tracks long, but the rereleased version has a disc two with an additional 12 tracks.

This soundtrack was ranked number 69 on Rolling Stones 500 greatest albums of all time. If that isn’t a statement to you than you most likely have been living under a rock. Super Fly is a liberating piece of music that influenced everyone in the 70’s and continues to do so today.

Listen to the album here.

Buy the album here on amazon.

Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Wakin On A Pretty Daze is the fifth album recorded by Kurt Vile. This album is about the laughter, hardships, pensiveness, and an array of other feelings we all can go through day-to-day. He is able to capture this in 11 songs in a modest and humble manner. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Kurt Vile really pushes the envelope with this album composing lengthier tracks that seem like sagas within themselves. Each song is very accessible to any listener and that is what makes this album so popular. He isn’t searching for a new genre or sound, he is simply just moving with the evolution of rock and making his own in what seems to be an effortless way. The lyrical content is very direct and conveys his honest personality well.

The opening title track “Walkn’ On A Pretty Daze” is a 9 minute 31 second track that makes you feel as if you are walking the streets with Kurt Vile. This song really sets the tone for the rest of the album. A long melodic jam with personal lyrics like “wakin on a pretty day / don’t know why I ever go away / it’s hard to explain / my love, in this pretty daze.”

“Pure Pain” is a song that is a showmanship of Kurt Vile’s music skills. Throughout the song he is able to change tempos while making seamless transitions between these changes. “Too Hard” shows Kurt Vile coming for a very honest and sincere place with lyrics like “Take your time / so the say and that’s probably the best way to be / but what about those who are fathers / and what about their daughters? / I will promise to do my very best / …” This song has a pretty guitar picking style to it with electric riffs brushed throughout the song.

“Girl Called Alex” and “Never Run Away” are also must listen to as well. They are catchy songs that leave you whistling these melodies for the rest of the day.

Listen to the album on spotify below.

Buy the deluxe album here at Kurt Vile’s website.

Why Music Makes You Happy

Everyone has their music that they enjoy listening to. And of course, when you listen to it this makes you happy. I know that there are some songs that bring me more of a high than any drug, girl, or roller coaster can. Here is a discovery article that scientifically explains the reasoning and logic behind Why Music Makes you, me, and everyone else happy.