musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Jack McDuff’

200 Reasons to be Happy!

There was a feature in Uncut magazine last month, listing the 200 Greatest Albums of All Time. Greatest, Best, Finest, Most Influential; no matter what how you want to define it, a selection like that is more than a bit subjective, isn’t it? Many of the Uncut selections were fairly predictable. Not that the albums themselves were boring —- most are pretty much classics that are guaranteed to please — it’s just that we’re all used to seeing familiar choices such as Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks, Forever Changes, Ziggy Stardust, Kind of Blue, Tapestry, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Love Supreme, Exile On Main Street, What’s Going On, Are You Experienced?, and After the Goldrush on these sorts of lists, so there weren’t many true surprises.


But the Uncut list got me to thinking about my own Top 200. By no means would I dare to label my choices as a “Best” or “Greatest” list, rather these are simply my favorite albums, those proverbial Desert Island Discs that I’ve played endless times over the years and ones that I could never willingly part with. In the realm of list compilers, I suppose I cheated a bit, picking some hits/best of packages, various artist collections, live albums, and even a couple of boxed sets. But hey, they are my favorites, so I won’t apologize.


Like most listeners, my taste in music was heavily influenced by the music that I heard when growing up, mostly songs on the radio. In my case, the “formative” years were in the 1960s when I started listening to the radio and in the early 1970s when I started buying music. But I’ve maintained a very heavy listening and buying habit in the ensuing decades, so you’ll see a smattering of more recent recordings on this list too. What can I say; I’m a music addict!


I own thousands of albums and I agonized over whittling this list down to “only” 200. I’m sure that I’ll kick myself for missing a few, but looking over the choices, I’m pretty satisfied with them. But confining the list to 200 meant leaving off many great albums, including ones by some of my very favorite recording artists, such as the Temptations, Drive-By Truckers, George Jackson, Allen Toussaint, Otis Redding, Sly & the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Go-Betweens, Booker T & the MGs, Glen Campbell, Isaac Hayes, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, the Byrds, and so many others.


These albums are not ranked in order of most favorite, just alphabetically by album title. I’m certain that there are more than a few picks that will strike you as odd or perplexing. My choices could be as obscure as the great Tom Foolery album or the fantastic debut recording by Love Tractor, or something as mainstream as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, or Agents of Fortune by Blue Oyster Cult, but these are the albums that remain the nearest and dearest to my heart.


The first pick on my list is a good example of my loose criteria: the first two albums by Big Star. I had both albums as a 2-LP import record back in the early 1980s, and now I own the 2-CD package, so in my mind these two albums are inseparable, just one complete blissful listening experience that can’t be divided.


Big Star #1 Record/Radio City
20/20 20/20
Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs
Jimmy Buffett A-1-A
Blue Oyster Cult Agents of Fortune
Richard Lloyd Alchemy




Crack the Sky                    Animal Notes

Marvin Gaye Anthology
Ramones Anthology
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Architecture and Morality
Squeeze Argy Bargy
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Cheap Trick At Budokan
Allman Brothers Band At the Fillmore East

NRBQ           At Yankee Stadium




Daryl Hall & John Oates Atlantic Collection
B-52’s B-52’s, the
Warren Zevon Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School
Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run
Band, the Band, the
Bob Dylan & the Band Basement Tapes, the


Various Artists                     Beat the Retreat: Songs By Richard Thompson




Hollies Best of the Hollies
Kimberley Rew Bible of Bop
XTC Black Sea
Bob Dylan Blood On the Tracks
Michael Murphey Blue Sky Night Thunder


Swimming Pool Q’s       Blue Tomorrow




Ry Cooder Bop Till You Drop
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
U2 Boy
John Hiatt Bring the Family


John Prine       Bruised Orange




Style Council Café Bleu
Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
David Byrne Catherine Wheel
Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle
Neil Diamond Classics: The Early Years
Jean-Michel Jarre Concerts in China


999      Concrete




Steely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Feelies Crazy Rhythms
Echo & the Bunnymen Crocodiles
Tom Petty Damn the Torpedoes
Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town
Dream Syndicate Days of Wine and Roses
R.E.M. Dead Letter Office
Neil Young Decade


Utopia       Deface the Music




Sade Diamond Life
King Crimson Discipline
Atlanta Rhythm Section Dog Days
Elton John Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player


Brother Jack McDuff        Down Home Style




Nektar Down To Earth
Waylon Jennings Dreaming My Dreams
Josh Rouse Dressed Up Like Nebraska
Bongos Drums Across the Hudson
Squeeze East Side Story
Wally Badarou Echoes


Glenn Phillips       Echoes: 1975-85




Everything But the Girl Eden
Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland
Pete Townshend Empty Glass
Gang of Four Entertainment


Garland Jeffreys       Escape Artist




Isley Brothers Essential
Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells a Story
Yo La Tengo Fakebook
Little Feat Feats Don’t Fail Me Now
Snow Patrol Final Straw


Heartsfield        Foolish Pleasures




Jackie Leven Forbidden Songs of the Dying West
Crosby Stills Nash & Young Four Way Street
Devo Freedom of Choice
New Musik From A to B
Nick Drake Fruit Tree (Boxed Set)


Elvis Costello       Get Happy




Gil Scott-Heron Glory: The Gil Scott-Heron Collection
Randy Newman Good Old Boys
World Party Goodbye Jumbo
Elton John Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
Gordon Lightfoot Gord’s Gold
Paul Simon Graceland
Green On Red Gravity Talks
Al Green Greatest Hits
Chi-Lites Greatest Hits


Wreckless Eric       Greatest Stiffs




Doll By Doll Gypsy Blood
Pylon Gyrate
Jimmy Cliff Harder They Come, the
Smiths Hatful of Hollow
Poco Head Over Heels


Fleetwood Mac       Heroes Are Hard To Find




Rolling Stones Hot Rocks
Stevie Wonder Hotter Than July
Richard & Linda Thompson I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight
Nada Surf If I Had a Hi-Fi
Eurythmics In the Garden
Velvet Crush In the Presence of Greatness
Van Morrison Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
Various Artists Indestructible Beat of Soweto, the
Stevie Wonder Innervisions


Ozark Mountain Daredevils

It’ll Shine When It Shines




Jonathan Richman Jonathan Goes Country
Steely Dan Katy Lied
Mink DeVille Le Chat Bleu
Wet Willie Left Coast Live
Replacements Let It Be
Elvin Bishop Let It Flow
Railway Children Listen On: The Best Of


Grover Washington, Jr.       Live At the Bijou




Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet
Bob Marley & the Wailers Live!
Clash, the London Calling


Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen

Lost in the Ozone




Kitchens of Distinction Love is Hell
Love Tractor Love Tractor
Horslips Man Who Built America, the
Television Marquee Moon
James Taylor Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon
R.E.M. Murmur


Long Ryders          Native Sons




Red Rider Neruda
Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment
Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience
Charlie Daniels Band Nightrider
Nils Lofgren Nils Lofgren
Ronnie Wood Now Look


Guy Clark        Old #1/Texas Cookin’




Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (3rd Album)
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
Knitters, the Poor Little Critter on the Road
Emmylou Harris Portraits (Boxed Set)
New Order Power Corruption & Lies
Shoes Present Tense/Tongue Twister
Pretenders Pretenders
Who, the Quadrophenia


Jacobites (Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth)

Ragged School




Tom Waits Rain Dogs
Deacon Blue Raintown
Jayhawks, the Rainy Day Music
R.E.M. Reckoning
Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger
Mekons Rock ‘n Roll


Various Reggae Artists

Rockers: Original Soundtrack




Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs
Tarney-Spencer Band Run For Your Life
Jackson Browne Running On Empty
Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps
Clash, the Sandinista!
David Bowie Scary Monsters
Marshall Tucker Band Searchin’ For a Rainbow


Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels




Lynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping
Rosanne Cash Seven Year Ache
O’Jays Ship Ahoy
Ry Cooder Show Time
UB40 Signing Off


Linn Linn       Sin Za Ba




Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady
Records, the Smashes, Crashes, and Near Misses
Interview Snakes & Lovers
Robert Palmer Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Todd Rundgren Something Anything
Jam, the Sound Effects
Dan Fogelberg Souvenirs


Spinners       Spinners




Graham Parker Squeezing Out Sparks
Grant Green Steet Funk & Jazz Groove
Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors
Curtis Mayfield Superfly Soundtrack
Camper Van Beethoven Telephone Free Landslide Victory


Atlanta Rhythm Section

Third Annual Pipe Dream




Moody Blues This is the Moody Blues
Replacements Tim
Tom Foolery Tom Foolery
Neil Young Tonight’s the Night


Amazing Rhythm Aces    Too Stuffed To Jump




Reivers, the Translate Slowly
Elvis Costello Trust
Fleetwood Mac Tusk
Pure Prairie League Two Lane Highway
U2 Unforgettable Fire


Pongsit Kampee & Lek Carabao

Unplugged (Plug Loot)




Fountains of Wayne Utopia Parkway
Durutti Column Valuable Passages
Ultravox Vienna
Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua
Joan Armatrading Walk Under Ladders


Joe Strummer       Walker Soundtrack




Guadalcanal Diary Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man
Ian Hunter Welcome To the Club
Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits


Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Whipped Cream & Other Delights




X Wild Gift
Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball
Vulgar Boatmen You and Your Sister
Tom Petty You’re Gonna Get It


Etta James & Johnny Otis

Last week saw the passing of two music legends, singer Etta James and songwriter-musician Johnny Otis, both of whom had long and successful recording careers and even worked together at one point.

There’s not much I can add to the tributes pouring in for Etta James. She obviously had a productive singing career, one that was derailed at points by personal issues, but what an incredible voice! Etta James had dozens of hit singles, including “At Last” and “Tell Mama,” but my very favorite of all her songs was her achingly soulful version of “I’d Rather Go Blind.” That song has been covered by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of recording artists, but I’ve never heard anyone sing it better or with more feeling than Etta James. Even though she is best known for her hits in the 50s and 60s, and was nominated for awards several times, she didn’t win her first Grammy Award until 1995, for the album Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.

Etta’s final studio album, The Dreamer, was released this past year. I haven’t heard it yet but reviews I’ve read indicate that it’s a stirring group of songs, a fitting final chapter in her illustrious recording career. About two weeks ago I saw a CD copy of The Late Show, a live recording by Etta James and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, at the Gram shop in the Emporium in Bangkok. I love Etta James as a vocalist and was happy to see a version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” on this album, but what really sold me on getting the CD was the other musicians involved, namely keyboard wizard Jack McDuff and guitar ace Shuggie Otis. Hot stuff no doubt.

Shuggie Otis is the son of Johnny Otis, the famous band leader and musician who also passed away last week at the age of 90. Hailed as “The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues” in a New York Times obit, Johnny Otis wrote many songs, including “Willie and the Hand Jive” (which was later a hit for Eric Clapton) and “Every Beat of My Heart” (covered by Gladys Knight & the Pips). He also had a string of hit records under his own name on the R&B charts in the early 1950s. In addition to his own music, he mentored many recording artists, including Etta James, Esther Phillips, Jackie Wilson, and Big Mama Thornton (who had a hit with “Hound Dog” before some guy named Elvis got around to recording it).

His obituary revealed a few other facts that surprised me: had had written several books — including two about his music career — and he was white! I guess if I’d seen a photo of him, that would have been obvious, but having only “heard the name” and aware of the type of music he had written and performed, not to mention that his son was Shuggie, I always assumed he had at least some African-American blood too. But one sentence in the NYT obit explained:

“Genetically, I’m pure Greek,” he told The San Jose Mercury News in 1994. “Psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”

As for Shuggie Otis, he made his recording debut as a guitar prodigy at the tender young age of 15. Being the son of Johnny, stardom seemed destined for Shuggie, yet he has recorded only a handful of albums over the ensuing decades and never garnered the acclaim he deserved. Among his albums is the critically acclaimed Inspiration Information, which included “Strawberry Letter 23,” a song Shuggie wrote that was later a huge hit for the Brothers Johnson in the late 1970s.

Charles Earland

I’m a big fan of the funky organ sound of jazz musicians such as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Reuben Wilson, and Jimmy McGriff. I recently discovered another jazz organist that I like a lot; Charles Earland. I found a copy of his 1970 album, Black Talk!, in the bins at the Gram store in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon. It was reissued by Prestige Records in 2006, in a distribution agreement with the Concord Music Group, and remastered by the original engineer on the recordings, Rudy Van Gelder.


Earland isn’t as well known as most of the Blue Note and Verve organists who came to prominence in the 1960s and early 70s, but I think he should be. Based on Black Talk!, this guy is top shelf stuff. His versions of “Aquarius” and the eleven-minute workout on “More Today than Yesterday” are positively oozing with funky energy and dynamics. Earland first gained notice playing with Lou Donaldson in the late 60s, before he signed to Prestige and began recording his own albums. He continued to record for various labels in the following decades, before passing away in 1999 at the age of 58. His nickname was “The Mighty Burner,” which is also one of the tracks on Black Talk! I was so happy with Black Talk! that I recently ordered a copy of Anthology, a two-CD compilation that has 22 tracks from his 70s and 80s “jazz funk” period. My next mission is to find a copy of Intensity, an acclaimed album he recorded with Lee Morgan and Billy Cobham. Gotta be hot stuff.


My first introduction into the world of funky jazz Hammond B-3 organ players came in the early-80s when I first heard Jack McDuff’s Down Home Style album. And yes, that was back in the pre-digital days of vinyl records. Take a look at the cover and you’ll know why it caught my eye: a plateful of barbecued ribs, collard greens, beans, and corn on the cob. And the funky grooves on the album were just as greasy and tasty. I almost felt like licking my fingers when the record finished playing! McDuff (sometimes the credits listed him as “Brother Jack” and other times just “Jack McDuff”) recorded dozens of other fine albums, including some that featured other prominent musicians such as George Benson, Kenny Burrell, and Gene Harris.

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