1. THIS VIDEO OF ARETHA
A year that saved the best ’til last: Aretha. A Carole King tribute. “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”. As Roger Hawkins, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s legendary drummer once said, when interviewed by Max Weinberg for his great book on drummers, The Big Beat [co-authored with Robert Santelli], “Aretha’s emotion made everything work; I played to her voice. On her sessions it was like the drums were playing themselves. I mean you’ve got Aretha Franklin doin’ what she does plus playing piano at the same time. There wasn’t any effort at all because of her – I hear that stuff today and it just destroys me…” The whoa after ’til his kiss helped me claim it will do that to you, too…
2. THIS VIDEO OF FRANK
“It was a Very Good Year”. Wow. The focus, the barest of smiles during the ‘thirty-five’ verse, the growing sense that he’s got a master take, the cushioned hands and swallow at the end. “What’s the time on that – how long? 3.20?” he asks at the song’s conclusion. “4.12? That’s longer than the first scene of Hamlet!”
3. FREE NME
4. A REALLY NICE BOZ SCAGGS COVER
Cover versions are everywhere nowadays, and few are any good, it seems, so it was nice to find this: Boz Scaggs covering Curtis Mayfield. It’s easy to screw up a Curtis cover – there’s an extraordinary mix of fragility and toughness in his songs, which is flattened out too easily. But here, sung with intense restraint and played with tamped-down guitars, is a winner. This is from the album A Fool to Care, which also has an interesting cover of Richard Manuel’s unique “Whispering Pines”, sung as a duet with Lucinda Williams.
5. GREAT ANSWER, MATTHEW!
Matthew Barzun, US Ambassador, ES Magazine
What do you collect? “Vinyl albums. I have them set up like in a record store – organised into three sections marked US, UK and United Nations”.
AND, FOR 2016, I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO…
Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts of Highway 20. “12 of the 14 songs were inspired by various periods and experiences throughout Williams’ life that all tie into Highway 20 (aka Interstate 20), which runs in part from Georgia to Texas. Whether it is cities she has resided in (Atlanta, GA, Macon, GA), has family ties to (Shreveport, LA, Monroe, LA) or previously written about (Jackson, LA, Vicksburg, MS), Williams’ personal experiences and connections to these areas inform the narratives as songs and stories inspired by people, place and time. Co-produced by Williams, Greg Leisz and Tom Overby and recorded with Williams’ rhythm section of Butch Norton (drums) and David Sutton (bass), it has revered guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz providing incredible sonic textures and ethereal tones that enhance Williams’ brilliant writing and wise and weathered vocals.” One track, “Dust” (such a Lucinda title), is available to preview on iTunes, with the album release date in late Jan.
Happy New Year to all 5 Things readers. Part two soon…