The ’59 2018 #062: 180303
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 10 – 1968.
Astral Weeks was the second studio album from Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was recorded at Century Sound Studios in New York City during three sessions in September and October 1968.
On its release, it did not receive promotion from the label and was not an immediate success with consumers or critics. But things did get better and Astral Weeks’ critical standing eventually to a point where the album is viewed as one of rock music’s greatest and most important records.Critics now laud the album’s arrangements and songwriting. Morrison’s lyrics are often described as impressionistic, hypnotic, and modernist. It was placed on numerous widely circulated lists of the best albums of all time and had an enduring effect on both listeners and musicians.
Forty years after the album’s release, Morrison performed all eight of its songs live for the first time during two Hollywood Bowl concerts in November 2008; this performance was later released as a live album.
The ’59 2018 #053: 180222
Donovan – Sunshine Superman (1966)
This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 8 – 1966.
Sunshine Superman was the third album from folk singer-songwriter Donovan. It was released in the US in September 1966, but was not released in the UK because of a contractual dispute.
In June 1967, Donovan’s management team found a way around this by releasing the album (under its original name) but this time comprising a compilation of the Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow albums.
Sunshine Superman was named after Donovan’s hit single released in the US in July 1966. The tracks from Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow were not mixed into stereo, with the exception of “Season of the Witch”, until the 2011 2-CD deluxe edition issued by UK EMI.
In 2017, Sunshine Superman was ranked the 199th greatest album of the 1960s by Pitchfork.
The ’59 2018 #047: 180216
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 7 – 1965.
Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album from Bob Dylan, released on August 30, 1965, by Columbia Records. Having until then recorded mostly acoustic music, Dylan used rock musicians as his backing band on every track of the album, except for the closing 11-minute ballad, “Desolation Row”. Critics have focused on the innovative way in which Dylan combined driving, blues-based music with the subtlety of poetry to create songs that captured the political and cultural chaos of contemporary America. Author Michael Gray has argued that in an important sense the 1960s “started” with this album.
Leading with the hit single “Like a Rolling Stone”, the album features songs that Dylan has continued to perform live over his long career, including “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Highway 61 Revisited”. He named the album after the major American highway which connected his birthplace, Duluth, Minnesota, to southern cities famed for their musical heritage, including St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta blues area of Mississippi.
Highway 61 Revisited peaked at No. 3 in the United States charts and No. 4 in the UK. The album was ranked No. 4 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. “Like a Rolling Stone” was a top-10 hit in several countries, and was listed at No. 1 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Two other songs, “Desolation Row” and “Highway 61 Revisited”, were listed at No. 187 and No. 373 respectively.
“The ’59” 2018 #014: 180114
Adam Faith – Adam (1960)
Adam Faith Terence (born Terrence Nelhams-Wright (23 June 1940 – 8 March 2003)), was a British teen idol, singer, actor and financial journalist. He was one of the most charted acts of the 1960s and became the first UK artist to lodge his initial seven hits in the Top 5. He was also one of the first UK acts to record original songs regularly
His self-titled debut was released in 1960 and got to No.6 in the UK charts.
“The ’59” 2018 #013: 180113
Cliff Richard – Me and my Shadows (1960)
This was Cliff’s third album. Recorded at Abbey Road studios with The Shadows and produced by Norrie Paramor, it was released through Columbia Records in October 1960 and reached No. 2 in the UK album chart.
No singles were to be officially released in the UK from the album but a pairing of album tracks “Gee Whiz It’s You” and “I Cannot Find a True Love” was pressed as an export single intended for continental Europe. However, high demand in the UK meant it charted in March 1961 and eventually reached No.4 in the UK singles chart. Although very popular for an import, this single broke what would have been a run of 15 consecutive top 3 singles in the UK, although it helped give Richard a record 16 back to back top 5 hits.
‘Me and my Shadows’ is the second of only 5 albums [Cliff, Me & my Shadows, 21 Today, Finders Keepers, Established 1958] recorded by Cliff with exclusive backing by the Shadows during the 1960s. On all the others the backing duties are shared between The Shadows and the Norrie Paramor Orchestra.
The Epic 2017 Project #354: 171220
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the key of life (1976)
Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth album from Stevie Wonder, released on September 28, 1976, by Motown Records, through its division Tamla Records. The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sound studio in Hollywood, with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood, the Record Plant in Sausalito, and The Hit Factory in New York City. Final mixing was performed at Crystal Sound.
An ambitious double LP with a four-song bonus EP, Songs in the Key of Life became the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of his career. In 2003, it was ranked number 57 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which called it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
In the summer of 2016 we had the really special privilege of seeing him perform the whole of the album live at London’s Hyde Park. Probably one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Over six hours of pure heaven.
The Epic 2017 Project #351: 171217
Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions (1973)
Innervisions was Stevie Wonder’s 16th studio album, released on 3rd August, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his “classic period”. The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in “Too High”, through inequality and systemic racism in “Living for the City”, to love in the ballads “All in Love Is Fair” and “Golden Lady”. The album’s closer, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder’s song a year later, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”.
As with many of Stevie Wonder’s albums, the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer used prominently throughout the album. The instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album’s nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band.