I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), Aretha Franklin

By Adam Blank:
There are artists and songs that you’ve heard so many times they are a part of you to the point you can’t describe life without them. Safe bet we all grew up hearing the same bands, courtesy of 60-something-year-old parents: the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan and the list grows in more or less the same direction. Then there’s the segment of soul; the R&B oldies, as you will. In my case, this is where my dad’s influence comes to play. I have cherished memories of riding around in his ’71 MGB listening to the oldies station. He knew every word, to every song, and we sang the shit out of ’em. Sometimes he’d share a story or memory. But I digress. Let’s talk about May’s album: Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. 
Released in 1967, this is Ms. Franklin’s eleventh album release. When it was recorded, FAME studios was just developing its groove. Muscle Shoals, everybody. (disclaimer: this album was part produced at FAME part Atlantic’s studios in NYC). The arrangements are hard to dismiss as anything short of superstar. But the approach to producing was simple: Ms. Franklin sat at her piano, and rhythm patterns were built on this base, and the horns and vocals answers filled in later.
First thought that comes to mind after hearing the record in its entirety: immediately smitten. You know the place she’s going to take you before the onset. But you also know it’s going to exceed that exact expectation and so the excitement consummately transcends you into that special space. You’re in your chair before the first note.
A hit beyond explanation. And I really should save myself any embarrassment and out of respect, move along to the next track.
You sneak back to your amp, and turn the volume up, a bit more, and back to your chair with a certain degree of charisma and satisfaction rarely obtained in your living room while the family sleeps soundly. How can someone’s tears sound so beautiful? Again, I’m not special by any degree nor will I begin to ponder or declare the origin of Aretha’s soulful capabilities. But I sure as shit feel good listening to her belt her heart out.
Self titled track. Organs. And Aretha. And then you get some horns. Your stereo is in perfect harmony. Oh snap, that guitar (Muscle Shoals doesn’t just have singers). I could hear this song on repeat, without dinner, for a week straight.
The soundstage on this track is off the charts. I dazingly (this has to be a real word?) stare at my needle. I watch the record groove. And before I know it we’re on the to the next track. And it’s time for another drink.
Not every track has to be perfect. I’m taking my time pouring that drink.
Classic sounding in every sense. You follow the words as your memory searches for the pictures. If you ever need a song to find the courage for an overdue apology, put this on.
If you can remember, you’re back at your amp, volume up. Drink in hand, patiently waiting to sing along.
I got up, moved around, and this is a good time to get a standup break. The song is awesome, the guitar is back, and I’m more or less floating in front of my speakers, enjoying that embodied richness.
You either have it or you don’t. If this song doesn’t make you float into 1960, into the body of one of Ms. Franklin’s backup singers, you don’t know. And I feel sorry for you. Maybe next life.
Rhythm guitars. And a steady drum. This is soulful rock ‘n roll. The riffs are simple, and Ms. Franklin isn’t toppling over anyone. The horns are balanced and fit perfect. It’s a short melody and easy to listen to. The horns and bass line will be mimicked for decades to come.
We’ve come to an end, and Ms. Franklin takes us to church. In her attempt to lift us emotionally, her producer puts the perfect touches, leaving a rich hum not so much in your face but into the depths of your soul. Perhaps this last track sums the record up perfectly: rejoice rejoice rejoice ya’ll Ms. Franklin just laid a perfect record. 
So in conclusion: If you don’t own this album. It isn’t going anywhere, you don’t need to beat the crowd. But your home isn’t quite complete without it, so there’s that. Disclaimer:
I know who sent me this album. This is one of this person’s “essential albums.” And I’d trust him with my last dollar if he told me how to spend it.

Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels: Live 1973

By: Shonxi
First I must explain my total undying love of Gram Parsons and even moreso Emmylou Harris.  To explain my credentials for Gram I own not one but two homemade fake Gram Nudie Suits.
As to the combination here is a picture in my music listening room.
Now my love for emmylou goes a little deeper.  Years ago a stupid sitcom or movie, I can’t remember exactly, had a couple who each had one person they were allowed to cheat on their spouse with.  Well when Sam and I got married 10 years ago I got one free pass and that person was the 60 year old Emmylou Harris. Her voice sounding to me like the great Music of the Ainur. We will not get into specifics of my plans just know that I am a total wimp because I sat next to her once following that and Sam just laughed and laughed that I couldnt even muster the ability to say a single word to her.  Just the feeling of her near me made my knees buckle and my face turn red.  (Imagine the feeling of a high school freshman sitting next to the prom queen)
On to Gram Parsons and The Grevious Angels: Live 1973
How does an album so amazing slip through my knowledge?   I chalk it up to the spectacular wormhole that is music fandom and its infinite possibilities. Upon first opening I got the feeling of I don’t believe this is real but here it is in my hands so it probably is.
The record is a recording of the touring version of the Fallen Angels on tour after the release of GP but before the release of Grevious Angel taped live in a radio studio on Long Island.   It is some of the earliest recordings of a featured Emmylou Harris and her first live recording.  As you would hope for from an “official” bootleg made in a studio the sonics are great.  There is also interview/banter, but unfortunately no Cook’s Pest Control commercials included.
Gram qualude-ily announces emmylou harris 2 minutes into the first song, We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning, as if to say hold on to your oh shit handles because this woman is going to blow your mind for the next 40+ years.
Country Baptizing, the second track makes me think that was what is was like when Cris Hillman discovered emmylou in Baltimore.  Also contains my kind of bass solo.
The whole album seems so fresh to me because though I knew many of the songs, the band is not the one that plays on Gram’s two solo albums.  So songs like drug store truck driving man have a whole new feel.  And as most live shows this is much more upbeat than Grams albums.
Oh, the banter from Gram, especially after New Soft Shoe.  “is it true you are a Harvard university scholar” “no, I am a Harvard drop out”
The Love Hurts on this album must be the one that floats around the radio and maxell XL-II mixtapes because it is so familiar to me.  Clearly the definitive version of one of the great covers of all time.  PS any covers mixes on spotify that do not contain this specific version of this song are not to be trusted.  CW
It’s so clear by the tempo, song choices and timing that Gram Parsons just had the most perfect taste.  Must be the orange juice.  Never more perfectly proven than the closing medley.
A big thank you to the person who sent me this album.  It was like a fortune cookie saying sometimes the most amazing things are hiding right in front of you.  So less research and spend more time opening your eyes.

Talk Talk, Laughing Stock 5\3\16

By: Will Sims

Let me start by saying that prior to this record showing up at my door, I didn’t know Talk Talk existed. I refrained from looking them up before listening and with zero expectations, I dropped the needle.

The album took me by surprise as I was expecting something at least slightly heavier. Instead I was taken on a dark melodic journey. On the first listen I heard various influences from an array of genres but didn’t quite feel like I got it. I pulled up the lyrics on my second listen and feel like I got a slightly clearer picture into the world of Talk Talk. Between reading lyrics and doing a little research on the album it began to come together for me.

This album is a cool journey into a dark, semi religious, improvisational mind fuck. I completely understand why this album has been so influential in the indie world. I’m listening to side one for the 4thtime as I type this and I’m hearing more each time. I personally love albums that I continue to get more from each time I sit down with it and Laughing Stock absolutely falls into this category. For me, the album requires focus and is definitely one of those albums you need to be in the mood for.

Overall, I love it and when that mood hits, it’s on my radar for sure. I totally get why this album has such a cult following and I can see myself getting closer to that bandwagon with every listen. I will definitely delve further into the world of Talk Talk. I have no doubt that it will take me to places I haven’t been before.

Thanks to whoever sent the album. It has definitely opened a door into a world I had yet to enter.

Greg Brown – “The Iowa Waltz”

By: Adam Blank

I received my April record today. I haven’t heard of this artist nor this album: Greg Brown, The Iowa Waltz. Although recorded in 1981, the opening track aptly titled The Iowa Waltz, delivers a sultry,  well-balanced Americana melody, with a studied and patient arrangement. Jumping across the album, each song has its own personality, but stays within that same classic singer-song writer mold. The second track, Mississippi Serenade, is a familiar tune, but after researching, and much to my surprise, it hasn’t been recorded by anyone else; it is a Greg Brown original.

And so my opinion of this record: soul-satisfying and above-average soundstage, even though it sounds like it was produced on a $300 budget in 1960.

I’m honestly not sure how the sender learned about this guy, but I’m glad I own this record. I’ll likely purchase another one of his records, especially now that I’ve read he produced an album titled Freak Flag, where the title-song ponders modern American values and when faced with inevitable doubts, Brown proclaims “let your freak flag fly.” Real shit.