#244 – Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi
It’s a rare thing to be able to listen to a Christmas Album anytime of the year & thoroughly enjoy it, but that’s exactly what the Charlie Brown Christmas represents. Vince Guaraldi is rarely given the credit he deserves for being an amazing composer/piano player. Perhaps, because he died in 1976 at the age of 47 but his compositions and stylings are on par with Dave Brubeck who is considered one of the greats. This album is a testament to that greatness.
Vince Guaraldi – Christmas Time is Here
#243 – Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Before Bob Marley & the Wailers there was Desmond Dekker & the Aces. More ska than reggae, Desmond Dekker & the Aces popularized the “Rude Boy” scene with their eponymous album. 007 (Shanty Town) is a song that personifies that “Rude Boy” style with it’s Rock-Steady beat & it’s allusion to violence (Dem a loot, Dem a shoot, Dem a Wail A Shanty Town). This album speaks of apartheid before it was a popular topic. This album is the inspiration to bands such as Rancid, The Specials, Frank Black & even the Beatles who referenced Desmond in their classic song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (“Desmond has a barrow in the market place”).
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Israelites
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – 007 (Shanty Town)
#242 – The Kingston Trio – The Kingston Trio
The Debut album by the Kingston Trio from 1958 & yet it still holds up well to this day. Perfect harmonies illustrate a trend that was followed by Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds & The Beach Boys. This album is one of the main reasons for the folk explosion in the late 50s early 60s. “Tom Dooley” being the standout. It tells the story of a man who is about to be hung for murdering a woman.
I met her on the mountain, There I took her life. Met her on the mountain, stabbed her with my knife. Hang down your head, Tom Dooley. Hang down your head & cry. Hang down your head, Tom Dooley. Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
This is yet another example of one of the many themes in early music we discuss here, on The De Mello Theory, at length. That being the mysoginistic nature of early music & while made in a supposedly more conservative era, this album stayed on the charts for 4 years & peaked at #1 in 1959 a full year after it was released. Seen as the protagonist, he is referred to as “Poor Boy”, but in this song he is given his just desserts as he is “hung from a white oak tree”. Such a fascinating story.
The Kingston Trio – Coplas
#241 – The Ghost of Tom Joad – Bruce Springsteen
The Ghost of Tom Joad strikes a correlation between the plight of Mexicans trying to seek out a better life in America to that of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath as they leave Dust Bowl ravaged Oklahoma. The journey of decent, God fearing people trying to make it to the promised land so that they may escape the travails of poverty. Bruce Springsteen speaks of towns like Youngstown, Ohio across the “Rust Belt” that have suffered from harsh economic times. True in 1995 as it’s true of towns like Detroit today. With haunting tones throughout, this is not to be confused with a feel good album (is any Springsteen album?), but it does bring to light those that do not have anyone to speak for them. Much like Tom Joad, Springsteen says in this album:
A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.
Bruce Springsteen – Youngstown
#240 – Toussaint McCall – Nothing Takes the Place of You
Nothing Takes the Place of You did not make a splash on the charts until a favorite DJ of mine, Wolfman Jack, used it to end his show one night. It is an album drenched in organ sounds & soul. The song, “Nothing Takes the Place of You” is one of the more impassioned love songs with a heavy pipe organ sound to go along with a regular piano. The echoed voice of Toussaint McCall comes across as conveying the distance that stands between him & his love as the song is in fact a letter. Also, one the more upbeat versions of one of my favorite songs, that everyone has done, “Summertime“.