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Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now
A record-cum-story collection, some epic soloing, and the greatest Baroque album of 1968.
Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Colin Fleming, whose work appears in Rolling Stone, Spin, The Atlantic, JazzTimes, ESPN The Magazine, and The New Criterion. His first book, a story collection called Between Cloud and Horizon, is forthcoming.
1. The Arctic Monkeys, Suck It And See
People who have grown tired of the Arctic Monkeys hype will think the title is some kind of request for fellatio — so very déclassé. Fuck that. This is the best album I've heard in five or six years, and I didn't, for a second, think they had it in them. It might be the perfect summer disc, the kind of album you can listen to six or seven times a day. Plus, it works as well as a story collection as it does as an album. I know of maybe four songs that are more heartbreaking, charming, and touching than the title track, which marries the sacred and the profane in a way that would make Shane MacGowan take note. Generally I hate quoting lyrics, but I mean, come on: "You're rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock/And those other girls are just post-mix lemonade." I'm usually at least on the verge of tears by the end.
Listen: "Suck It And See"
2. Son House, The Complete Library Of Congress Sessions, 1941-1942
There's music that goes on around you while you're living, and there's music you live in. These hoary sessions by one of the masters of the Mississippi Delta fall into the latter category — you can crawl into this stuff. Son House's heyday was the late '20s/early '30s, when he tutored no less a luminary than Robert Johnson on guitar and cut some ageless sides of his own. Alan Lomax "rediscovered" him in 1941, learning, lo and behold, that House was even better than he had been before. On the resulting collection, you can feel the heat and the dust of the South coming out of the speakers. And the man's pain, too, and the joy he found in the music that transformed it.
Listen: "Walking Blues"
3. The Beatles, The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl
There is exactly one in-concert Beatles album, and, mind-blowingly, it is not on CD. You'd think it was rubbish, right? Actually, this album, sourced from shows in '64 and '65, is pretty kick-ass. The complete bootlegs of the gigs are good too, but the sound is nice and punchy here. Plus, George Harrison uncorks a solo on "Long Tall Sally" that goes into Yardbirds territory in terms of outright ballsiness.
Listen: "Ticket to Ride"
4. Duke Ellington, Ellington At Newport 1956 (Complete)
Even if you're not a fan of jazz, it would be unwise to die before hearing Paul Gonsalves' outrageously prolonged solo on "Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue." Not only did it save Ellington's career, it almost triggered a riot — albeit a happy one — with the way it fired up the punters with its dramatic intensity. You'd have to be strapped down not to dance to this piece of music. Gonsalves solos for twenty-seven choruses; listen for that moment around the eighth, when the crowd clocks on to what they're witnessing. It's like they all get it at once. And then the volume keeps going up and up and up. The rest of the set won't leave you wanting either.
Listen: "Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue"
5. The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle
Released after The Zombies broke up, this album is a Baroque wall of sound, with harpsichords, seraphic choirs, and pedal-point bass. The Zombies were always one of the more compositionally advanced beat groups, but no one could have seen this coming in 1968. Bach would have dug it. You still hear "Time of the Season" on the radio a lot, but everything else on the album is just as strong. Hugh Grundy, though no one has ever heard of him, drums like Keith Moon throughout, but with more decorum.
Listen: "Care of Cell 44"