Monday, October 26, 2009

Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Joanna Newsom

Originally posted on December 26-28, 2007

Everybody knows Tina Turner and lots of people remember when it was Ike and Tina, but before there was all that, Ike Turner was an important leader-arranger and soloist in the blues and r&b genres. There is a CD of the recordings he made under his own name and with others for Modern Records in the ‘50s: Rhythm Rockin’ Blues (Ace). It’s filled with some gem cuts, and includes some great Ike guitar. “Rocket 88” will knock your socks off, as will his “Blues Medley.” “I Ain’t Drunk” is funny as hell. It is all worthwhile.

Let us all hope for a better new year—with some peace and understanding in the world. See you in 2008!

(December 27, 2007:) As we approach another new year I naturally seem to get into a reflective mode. It seems the further we go into the new Millennium, the more critical it is to keep alive the roots that make the music of today possible. I have been as guilty as anyone of sometimes discounting or neglecting the people who made concrete the idea of picking up a guitar or bass and playing a certain way. One of those artists certainly was Carl Perkins. He did get the recognition he deserved later in his career, but the original landmark Sun recordings he made in the ‘50s did not initially bring him worldwide acclaim. It was the covers that other artists made of his songs that helped introduce him to a larger audience, of course. “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Honey Don’t,” “Matchbox,” and “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” are perfect examples.

A CD came out a while ago featuring two Sun LP compilations: Blue Suede Shoes and Original Golden Hits on the Collectables/Sun Collectors Series. It is a good set. All the tunes mentioned above are on there, plus a good number of other ones. What strikes me as I listen to the CD is how much of his output had a country flair and how low his lead guitar was in the mix. His special way of guitar picking formed one of the main influences on the rockabilly style and of course his vocal approach was also widely influential. Nevertheless the heavy balance in favor of guitars his music inspired really wasn’t as present on his first recordings as was the case later. And the more country-inspired numbers are not often remembered. But everything still sounds fresh and inspiring to me, especially when contemplating the year to come.

(December 26, 2007:) Happy Boxing Day, for those countries that celebrate. Not here in the USA, alas. I am back after a brief respite and today perhaps it is time for some quieter music. Joanna Newsom would fit the bill. She sings and plays a stringed harp like an angel. A somwhat quirky angel she is. Joanna’s voice makes her sound like she is twelve years old, but I am sure she is not. A CD of hers, The Milk-Eyed Mender (DC), is about three years old or so, and that’s the one I have been playing. The songs are whimsical and somehow hearken to an unspecified previous time in this or some other world, or at least a less urban world of today. Acoustic folkies could learn something from her harp playing. This is folk music coming from another place. It is innocent sounding in a way, but more than that, it is honest.

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