Random Album Generator #458

This, folks, is the first in hopefully many posts of this kind. I decided last night to download a random number generator app for my phone in order to play a little game, shake things up. You see, I have a number of pieces of vinyl staring out from a hefty, imposing shelf at me, begging to be played. Some days I’m good about it, I love my records. Other days, I’m ignoring them to dust-collecting and whimpering unheard desires to be played, instead relying so heavily on mp3’s and the portable music fiend’s lifestyle. Something had to give, because feeling so inconsistent drives me nuts. It displaces a certain sense of order that my brain craves, but that I have become accustomed to undermining this last year. Stumbling drunkenly and depressingly into my room in a pre-dawn haze of, “…oh shit, I have to set my fantasy baseball lineups before I go to bed…” leaves little room for the contemplative, sedentary practice of listening to music. Something I need and want, but find that ignoring the need can throw me out of whack. And when you arrive at the impetus to change increasingly sullen patterns, you have to get creative.
My inspiration, ironically, came from sitting at a bar watching some fellow regulars play a simple chance and dice game. They would pull out a sizable volume titled The Big Bad Ass Book of Shots and they would roll a ten-sided die a pre-ordained number of times correlating to the number of pages or entries in the book, consequently drinking the shot the numbers landed them on.
Well, seeing as that I am OCD enough to keep my record collection on an excel spreadsheet, I decided to utilize the random number generator app to select an album-a-day to listen to based on its numerical place on that list.
Today’s pick, #458, is Esther Phillips Confessin’ the Blues, Esther’s sixth album on Atlantic Records, but first in a stretch of six years. It would be her last on Atlantic.
Her familiar, piercing Southwestern nasal smoke taking center stage on Side 1 for a batch of ‘standards’ like “C.C. Rider”. For a 1976 release, this A-side is staunchly Jazz touched, almost flying in the face of the wave of Funk- or Soul-infused directions so many of her contemporaries were testing. The B-side, doesn’t buck that trend, save for the inclusion of Fender bass and a Rhodes electric piano on some tracks (the B-side is a live recording with a different group than A-side’s studio roster).
I may be decidedly influenced by the recording qualities and differences from side to side, but her voice sounds half as good on the B-side as it does the A. The mic for this live set in Los Angeles is a bit too flat and doesn’t open up certain tones and qualities of her voice. The room ‘appears’ (through its sound) to be small and laden with thick fabrics, for there is a lack of naturally positive reverb. It also lacks the equal levels that the studio tracks on the A-side possesses. Furthermore, the version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” just feels too jumpy and up-tempo to me, which drains it of its inherent melancholy.
Overall, this album is a pleasure to re-visit for probably the first time since I bought it, but I don’t feel guilty for that. Hopefully the random generator won’t force me back here too often…once a year or so would be cool. Or maybe I just need a fuckin’ girlfriend to play records like this for.

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