Top 100 Album Review: #50 – Here’s Little Richard, Little Richard (1957)

Wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bom-bom!

Little Richard screams, wails and whoops his way through this juke-box-jam of a debut album.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #50/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I have no idea what the onomatopoeia should be for the Little Richard wail he does in every song. It deserves to have it’s own spelling — it’s infectious and oozes with energy. This whole album is rockin’, making you want to Bop and Jitterbug your night away.

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Top 100 Album Review: #53- The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Recordings, Ray Charles (1952 – 1959)

I Thought I Knew Ray

But this collection of his early songs shows the moment where “The Genius” decided to crossover multiple worlds: gospel, jazz, and blues to make the new sound of soul. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #53/100
My Rating:smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I’ve been listening to Ray Charles forever. I won music trivia buzz-in at a bar for his version of America the Beautiful with it only playing for one second. I know this man, or so I thought. The CDs of Ray Charles I owned were geared to his career post 1960, where he did covers of Hank Williams or had people writing him material that he performed in his style.

This Atlantic Rhythm and Blues collection shows where he ironed out what that style  — he was the main writer and producer of this material. These songs are gritty, southern and full of beautiful textures combining different styles of music into a whole new genre; when you listen to this album, you get to listen to the birth of soul.

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Top 100 Album Review: #6 – What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye (1971)

A Fascinating Album & Undefinable Genre

An album that faithfully conveys the feelings and spirit of the never named Vietnam veteran returning home with a varied collection of soul, gospel, funk, R&B, and pop that can only be categorized as Marvin Gaye. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #6/100
My Rating:smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Marvin Gaye had to fight for this one.

Tired of having Motown dictate his creative direction, Gaye wanted to create an album that was more personal and less hit-oriented. Barry Gordon wasn’t having it, but after threatening to never record again, Gordon allowed Gay to have full creative direction.

This is a masterpiece of an album: nine songs that freely float into one another, recall motifs of previous tracks, and the most interesting story arc in concept album story telling. Following an African-American, Vietnam veteran after his return from war, the subject matter risks being too preachy, but by having an actual character as the vessel to experience everything, the album becomes a prescient bit of social consciousness. Instead of being hung up on politics, we get to experience and FEEL this unnamed protagonist’s plight.

“Don’t punish me with brutality,
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on.”

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