1000 Recordings #7: All-Night Long Things Vigil
Back when Critical Masses was just a pocket of gas in my overworked intestines, I had a blog called Auscultated Sixfold where I chronicled my thoughts resulting from an ambitious project to listen to all one thousand albums in Tom Moon’s 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. I only got through 90 of them between April and November of 2009. By the time we started this site the following summer, I’d abandoned the attempt. While I’m not quite ready to say I’m going to begin listening to album number 91, I have decided to lightly edit my scribblings about the first 90 and post them here for posterity.
It seems this isn’t music for a sunny afternoon. Nor does it make for good background music. Kimbrough’s blues are best heard when you can allow them your full attention, follow the repetition of his guitar lines with your ears like you would follow a hypnotist’s watch with your eyes. It’s music for night.
Kimbrough was discovered when he was one of the musicians featured in the film Deep Blues in the 1990s. That led to this debut album, recorded when Kimbrough was in his sixties. This recording, as well as the others done between 1992 and Kimbrough’s death in 1998, are all intentionally raw: mistakes left in, etc. As a result, what technically is a studio recording sounds a bit more like a live album.
When it come to the blues, this is about as authentic as you can get. It’s not blues augmented with rock song structures, it’s not blues polished with studio musicians. And at the right moment, it’s a haunting listen.
I think this one’s a little overrated maybe. Naturally, it’s compared to McCartney and Plastic Ono Band, the other solo offerings by post-breakup Beatles. I’ve often seen it considered the best of the three, even sometimes the best of all Beatles solo albums. It’s kind of an unfair comparison, however, since Harrison was building up a backlog of songs that McCartney and Lennon were rejecting at least going back to 1966. Not his fault, really, of course, but most people attribute the reason this is a triple album (!) to the creative stifling to which he was subjected. Or was he? I mean, you can’t have it both ways, but some critics seem to want to; you can’t both praise the late 60s output of The Beatles as almost perfect album by album, but also say that Harrison was denied his rightful place because that would have changed the albums you’re praising. They must be pretty good as is…
Anyway, it might not sound like it, but I do like All Things Must Pass. Like it quite a bit, in fact. Triple album, well, really it’s a double album with a bunch of jamming thrown in. I basically see the jamming as a bonus. It’s not bad, but.. it’s.. jamming. Jamming by some rock “legends,” but jamming nonetheless. I’m sure there are people who really get into it, but not me really. There are quite a few good songs and Harrison draws influence from different periods of rock ‘n’ roll (a shorter history at that point, of course). “What Is Life” and “Awaiting On You All” have a 50s or Motown feel to them. Overall, though, this is the Beatles solo album that extends the sound of Abbey Road, which is kind of weird (you’d think maybe McCartney would have been the album to most closely resemble the last Beatles recording since his hand was so heavy on it), but I like that about it. I’ve always liked “My Sweet Lord” and have never really grown sick of it. “Let It Down” rocks.
“All-Night Vigil, Op. 37” by Sergey Rachmaninoff; Performed by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hiller, cond. (Composed – 1913; Recording – 2006/Harmonia Mundi)
Really, really beautiful. This composition has its origins in the Russian Orthodox Church. It features three different kinds of chant — Russian, Kiev, and Greek — but my ears aren’t attuned enough to really hear the difference. It’s A Capella and Rachmaninoff weaves the traditional chants together with a handful of original compositions very heavily inspired by the chants. I don’t really have much to say about this. This isn’t the Gregorian chant stuff that was all over ever Wal-Mart check-out line for a while. It was really wonderful to listen to…