First Impressions: Amazing Grace – Mississippi Fred McDowell , et. al. (1966)


After such a terribly exhausting week, laden with late nights and all-encompassing stress, I needed some peace. Plain and simple. I found that in “Amazing Grace”. Thank god. Beautiful, emotional and, most importantly, candid, this is an album mired in profound inspirations. I’m not a religious man– not by any means– but this album lifts my oft-beaten spirit up and makes me love life. As such, “Grace” gets an A+.

Grade: A+


Call Me – Al Green (1973)


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An astonishingly beautiful album, “Call Me” is one of my favorite albums of all time. Period. An album entirely immersed feelings of love-stricken melancholy yet simultaneous yearning for something better, “Call Me” is indubitably Green’s best work. In all candor, I fucking love how breathtaking this album truly is.

Throughout “Me”‘s entire runtime, Green sets himself up as an entirely broken man,  absolutely ruined by a failed love. Rather than stew in his explicit loneliness, Green is able to expertly tell a narrative chiefly concerned with emotional resurgence; that is, although he’s depressed, he still hangs on to whatever modicum of hope that life can offer him. This two-element focus on melancholy and hope makes “Call Me” one of the greatest albums in my (ever-growing) collection.

Onto Green’s voice. WOW! His voice leave me totally speechless as it’s both undeniably poignant and unbelievably exuberant at the same time. His impassioned vocal deliveries, the luxurious arrangements padding this album’s runtime and Green’s stellar knack for storytelling puts this album in my pantheon of most-treasured desert island masterpieces. That’s for damn sure.

Now, let’s look at a couple of my favorite songs off “Call Me”. Much like “Astral Weeks” (by Van Morrison), I find this an exceedingly difficult task. However, it must be done and so, without further ado, here we go. My favorite song, without question, is his cover of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. I’ve heard Williams’ original, Cash’s cover, and even the Cowboy Junkies’ take; however, Green blows everyone out of the water. Such an emotionally resonant song sung with utter conviction and undeniable passion. It makes me feel as if I’m wandering in some pastoral area in some far-away dream. Such an awesome song.

Next is the intense album closer, “Jesus Is Waiting”. What a closer! Green’s voice might be at its best here. Just maybe. Love is the only answer and the only salvation, ladies and gentlemen (at least according to Mr. Green himself).

In conclusion, “Call Me” is without a doubt one of my most-treasured albums in my musical collection. What a pleasant and musically rich desert I’ve found myself on, at this moment in time.

My Grade: A+

Glad to be back, ladies and gentlemen!



Fun House – The Stooges (1970)

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As with “Raw Power”, “Fun House” is one of my most-listened-to albums, ever.

Going through quite a rough time during my final year in high school, I looked to music for some much-needed solace. At the time, my favorite bands were The Doors and Sweet Smoke (a relatively obscure psychedelic band from the end of the hippie era). Despite my listening to them, however, neither band could alleviate my plundered mind. Then. Then it all fell into place.

While working out, I stumbled upon The Stooges via their self-titled debut. I was absolutely blown away by the trifecta of “1969”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun” (and still am to some extent). I had never heard anything so carnal or impassioned before. Thus, it was easy to see why I fell in musical love with The Stooges.

That being said, “The Stooges” led me to “Fun House” (which later led me to their greatest work, “Raw Power”). Holy hell. This alum blows everything out of the water. HolyFuckingShit (HFS)!

“Fun House” isn’t simply just an album: it’s a synthesis of everything grimy, dirty, druggy and disgusting. That’s just how I enjoy my punk and proto-punk. Lucky for me.Acclaimed music critic Robert Christgau once called this album an “atom bomb” and a “wrecker’s ball”. Quite indicative of what’s lurking in the Stooges’ second studio release.

When I began partying in college, I always had this album in mind. Without question, “Fun House” is the preeminent party album. ‘Nuff said. That is due primarily to the album being entropy personified. Disorder, pure disorder. Isn’t it lovely?

Like I said, “Fun House” is one of my most-listened-to albums (at least on the order of 300 or so listens). As such, it’s quite easy for me to pick my favorite songs on here. Without further ado my friends…

“Looooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd!!!…Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!…Wooooooooo!!!” Of course “TV Eye” had to be on here. Of course.

Next on the list is “1970” which is ferocious and eerie. “1970” always reminds me of Iggy’s remarkable peanut butter fiasco during a live show from 1970 (funny enough). Simply put, this song refuses to be contained; it is boundless in its volatile nature.

Finally, there’s “Fun House”, the namesake to this absolutely insane (yet all the while stunning) album. This was the song that made me want to party. Simply awesome. Hypnotic in all of its insanity.

In conclusion, “Fun House” attacks our mind and body, like some deplorable disease. In The Stooges’ case, though, that’s just how it is.  HFS!

My Grade: A-


Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – The Rolling Stones (1970)

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“Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” is my favorite  live album to date.

Mired in a sense of passion and excitement, “Ya-Ya’s” is an absolutely astonishing album. Along with a handful of other albums (which will be reviewed in due time), this carried me through the summer before my second year in college. Dealing with deeply troubling personal problems, I sought to simply relax and unwind during the summer. In this pursuit, I knew I needed some good, ole’-fashioned fan-fucking-tastic rock n roll. Luckily, that’s what I found in “Ya-Ya’s.

Jagger and Co are on top of their game throughout their entire live set from the end of ’69. They never sounded more alive or volatile. Actually, throughout “Ya-Ya’s”, they sound as wild and as unhinged as the Stooges. Quite the accomplishment, indeed. As such, it feels as if everything is going to implode throughout the album’s run time due to the very nature of the musical volatility of the Stones’ singing and playing.

Onto my favorites. Here, I’m looking at the Deluxe Edition (which has five previously unreleased cuts from the same live set).

Much like “Exile on Main St”, I’ve had a long winding history with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. I first grew to love it during my third year in high school, first hearing it off of the “Hot Rocks” compilation. On “Ya-Ya’s”, the Stones simply nailed the spirited essence of “Flash”; simply put, it sounds much better live than in the studio. Again, the “alive” factor seeps through.

With its dueling guitar work from Taylor and Richards, “Sympathy for the Devil” (one of the greatest songs ever recorded) invigorates as well as excites. Holy shit, does it sound so fucking great live!

“Prodigal Son”. Holy shit. Holy shit, this song. Powerful, moving and poignant, “Son” has been on repeat for the past three days seemingly nonstop. I loved “Son” on 1968’s “Beggars Banquet”, but like most of the songs here, sounds much better live. Definitely one of my favorite songs that I’ve heard in the last nineteen years of my life.

Thus, “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” is engaging, fiery and, above all, memorable. Much like James Brown’s “Live At the Apollo”, this is a hypnotic “wrecking ball” of an album. One of the few Stones albums that I keep coming back to, without fail.

My Grade: A

Exile On Main St – The Rolling Stones (1972)

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I have a long winding history with “Exile On Main St”. During my first year at college (which was an incredibly dark time), I stumbled upon this album. I’m glad I did. Although I very rarely give it a listen nowadays, at the time I played the ever-living hell out of “Exile”. Quite frankly, I loved every single second of it. However, times have changed. More on that later.

Succinctly put, “Exile” is a cathartic, troubling, genre-sweeping work. That is, although the Stones sound very cohesive and exude an undeniable sense of camaraderie, not all the songs work here (but I think the Stones knew that at the time of its recording).

Despite its uneven nature, I’ve probably listened to “Exile” near a 100 times. It was one of my favorite albums during freshman year as previously noted. Unto how times have changed. Gradually, I came to grow tired of its variable nature. That is, since it’s a double album, it unapologetically has several forgettable cuts (that is NOT to say, though, that it isn’t chock full of undeniable gems; it surely is). In preparation for this review, I listened to “Exile” in full and was pleasantly reminded of the atmospheric sense of passion in the majority of the songs present, which was sorely missing from the Stones’ later output. This passion leads us to the definitive driving forces behind it all: Jagger’s emphatic vocal performances and Richards’ and Co’s powerful and grueling efforts.

Due to its eclectic nature, I’ve chosen quite a few cuts off of “Exile” that I wholeheartedly enjoy. All of my favorite songs come later, near the end of the album. This works against its favor, overall. Unto my picks.

“Let It Loose” is a very quiet, almost reticent, soulful song. Despite its near-reticent nature, “Loose” still has an unshakable exuberance throughout.

Next up is the kinetic “All Down the Line”. Such a fiery and forceful rock song. Simply put, one of the best on “Exile”.

Furthermore, we have Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”, retitled “Stop Breaking Down”. The Stones nailed this cover: it kicks some serious ass! Although I enjoy Johnson’s much less theatric original, the Stones definitely honor his impenetrable legacy.

Bluesy, inspirational and, above all, stupefying, “Shine a Light”is one of the Stones’ best. Period.

Lastly, is the excellently explosive closer, “Soul Survivor”. Wild, unhinged and intense, “Survivor” is a stellar album closer.

All in all, “Exile” is a fine album. It’s not as great as I once thought it was; however, it has so many absolutely beautiful songs on it (listed above, of course). As we can see, it doesn’t start picking up steam until much later. Nevertheless, “Exile” is a wonderfully lived-in (albeit severely flawed) work.

My Grade: B



King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol 2 – Robert Johnson (1970)


A perfect, absolutely essential follow up to “Vol 1”, “King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol 2” is fully lived-in and wildly cathartic. Each song here is, in all candor, breathtaking and very, very “alive”. That is, Johnson doesn’t let himself hide behind any artistic or musical mirrors. Rather, he’s here to do one thing and do it with total conviction and passion: sing his fucking heart out. And, lucky enough for us, he’s able to do so commandingly and effortlessly.

“Vol 2” is as riveting and as authentic as “Vol 1”. Not that that surprised me since Johnson is an absolute master at his craft. That is, his utter conviction towards the blues and overarching craftsmanship towards music shine brightly in every single song on this compilation.

Although most songs on here are short, brevity works astonishingly well for Johnson. He’s able to put forth excellent storytelling and exude an undying, magnetic air of charisma into such small musical encapsulations. Essential blues. Simply essential. Onto my top picks.

I first heard “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” off of the Stones bloated double album “Exile on Main Street”. Much like “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”, I thought that version was perfect. However, much like Skip James’ original (see: my review of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”), Johnson’s version is blues personified. With its chugging guitar and fiery vocal performance, “Down” is a rock and blues masterpiece.



Furthermore, a little background is necessary about my relationship with “Love In Vain”. My initial exposure to Johnson was from the Stones’ dismal catharsis of an album “Let It Bleed”. I was a freshman in high school and I thought their version of “Love In Vain” was boring; it wasn’t what I was used to. Fortunately enough, I grew musically as I grew physically (and mentally, let’s hope). As such, I grew to love “Let It Bleed”, especially “Love In Vain”. Realizing it was a cover, I frantically searched the internet for the original and was blown away by Johnson’s original. Ahhhhhhh, this song is so goddamn good! One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, I hold this song in incredibly high regard.


As such, I hold this compilation in astonishingly high regard. “Vol 2” is a genre-defying masterpiece (much like “Vol 1”). Bluesy, soulful, folksy and rock n roll-laden, this compilation certainly paved the way for many, many incredibly talented artists down the road. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen!

My Grade: A+

At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968)

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Although “At Folsom Prison” has its fun, rather light moments, it’s an utterly affecting and devastating album. Quite frankly, “At Folsom Prison” makes me think very deeply and introspectively about my life; that is, it makes me think about who I am and where I’m going in life. Hence, this is indeed a special album to me. Undoubtedly raw and emotive, “Folsom” is monumentally beautiful. This is its appeal, at least for me personally.

Onto the man himself, Johnny Cash. Cash has such a commanding presence and candid mien throughout the album’s entire runtime that it simply makes it a joy to listen to. Specifically, his voice is melancholy-laden and that is his immense skill: singing in an entirely unwavering and magnetic way, such that we’re wholly immersed into his lonesome, somber world.

This is a near perfect masterpiece: from the very first words of “Folsom Prison Blues” to the very ending notes of “Grey Stone Chapel”, we realize how immersive and special this album truly is. Interestingly, I have several favorite tracks from here; yes, several. You read correctly fellow reader. Several because this album is so goddamn good. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

“Dark As a Dungeon” is a wholly depressing and dismal cover: the dreariness that pervades throughout the song’s runtime affects the mind rather deeply and poignantly. That is, we live through Cash’s woes and laments rather vividly.


Eerily enthralling, “The Long Black Veil” capitalizes on the element of melancholy pervading this album; and it does so expertly. Incredibly sad and sung with such candid and bare passion, “Veil” is extraordinarily dense.


“Green, Green Grass of Home” is one of the saddest, most poignant songs I’ve ever heard. With that, please give it a listen.


Closing the album is a bluesy, soul-tinged country masterpiece. In that, we find ourselves attentively listening to the entirely lived-in and wondrously poignant “Greystone Chapel”. Such a kinetic, monumental album closer: “Inside the walls of prison my body may be. But the lord has set my soul freeeeee”. Exquisite. Simply exquisite.


All in all, “At Folsom Prison” is a cathartic, nonpareil country masterpiece. Certainly one of the best live albums I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.

My Grade: B-