Monday, July 26, 2010


94. Charlie Mingus

Of the great jazz musicians Mingus' reputation hangs, for most, on the incredible Mingus Ah Um. This is a bit unfair, for Mingus could be very diverse. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady released three years later is a jazz ballet.

His work is mostly in the bop and post-bop field, but therein he excels. His songs are emotionally charged and grounded in time and place. This doesn't date the work, but instead adds authenticity.

Key track: Goodbye Porkpie Hat, 1959, which captures jazz at a crossroads.

93. Stevie Ray Vaughn

Vaughn's musical career was cut short with a premature death at the age of 35. This was a great loss for in the 1980s it seemed to many that Vaughn was the new guitarist standard-bearer. And boy, could he play.

Rolling Stone places him as the 7th greatest guitarist of all time. He was the only other guitarist Albert King would share a stage with (King had been Vaughn's idol as a 'skinny kid'). It would have been interesting to see where his prodigious talent would have taken him.

Key track: Life By the Drop, 1989(?), which shows how good Stevie could be even in acoustic territory.

92. Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons created country rock. He called it 'Cosmic American Music'. Compared to the country rock of today, Parsons' work is easily identified as the fore-runner, and miles away in sound.

Given that Parsons was fusing two very divided camps the sound works well. The 'country' elements are very Hank Williams, and the rock is very late-1960s psychedelic-influenced. The latter is the reason why Parsons sounds so different with his 'Cosmic American Music' from the poseurs of country rock today. At the time there were immediate imitators.

Key track: Christine's Tune, 1969, which epitomizes the initial country-rock crossover with his band The Flying Burrito Brothers.

91. R.E.M.

As far as alternative rockers go R.E.M. are probably the most successful. Not, perhaps, in terms of album sales, but definitely in terms of longevity and influence.

Starting in the 1980s with albums like Murmur which showcased singer Michael Stipe's inaccessible lyrics they slowly warmed up to the public. Then they crossed-over into the mainstream, charted hits, and helped usher in the rock sound of the 1990s that would succeed Grunge. These later albums, such as Automatic for the People, had huge hits that still retained Stipe's ambiguity and sly humor of his early songs.

Key track: The One I Love, 1987, which was one of the least-understood hits ever, in perfect fitting with intentions.

90. Santana

"Carlos Santana's music is a family thing for Chicanos. It's what listen to when you're all hanging out: Drinking some beers, listening to 'Oye Como Va' and cooking some barbecue is the best thing in the world."

Santana's pioneering Latin rock, however, need not be an exclusively Chicano enjoyment. His electric Latin sound was the first major breakthrough since Ritchie Valens. It came at the right time: the late 1960s era of experimentation, gaining him a performing ticket at Woodstock and quick-selling albums. His late 90s Supernatural showed that he was still relevant and creative thirty years on.

Key track: Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, 1970, which blends splendidly electric guitar and Latin beats.

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