Sometimes it can be good to recharge your batteries with what I call “comfort music”. A rainy Saturday can spell new music adventures, well-worn paths, or both. The result is always rewarding, and opens up new avenues to explore, especially when starting my own compositions.
Starting off the day’s listening was Procul Harum’s 2003 “The Well’s on Fire”. Gary Brooker (Vocalist/Piano) is only remaining original member. The group was founded in London April, 1967. Their breakthrough hit, “Whiter Shade of Pale”, came out the next month to critical acclaim. It is an amazing song that holds up over fifty years since its release.
Procul Harum often utilized classical music infused into rock, featuring both piano and Hammond organ. Their 1972 album Procul Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is a masterpiece featuring the song “Conquistador”.
I saw one of their concerts in 1973 and can say Procul Harum was the finest ensemble I’ve witnessed. B.J. Wilson commanded drums like no one I’ve ever seen. They are a singular symphonic rock group that sounds strong to this day.
Next up on the listening list came the late, great Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher. Rory formed the band Taste in Cork, Ireland, 1966. They were an excellent three piece blues-rock group that broke up shortly after the huge 1970 Isle of Wight Festival .
Rory then formed his own band that featured his virtuosity on acoustic/electric guitar, slide, finger-picking, blistering leads; even mandolin! His performances were always first-rate and high energy. Additionally, he wrote some great songs (see “A Million Miles Away”).
Alas, we lost Rory Gallagher in March 1995 at only 47 years old from MRSA complications. His boundless enthusiasm lives on, however.
Comfort Music at its Finest
Just what is comfort music at its finest? For me it’s Percy Sledge. I listened to a ultimate greatest hits album that is a real soul-soother. What a voice!
From a humble hospital orderly who traveled with the Esquires Combo on weekends, he went on to sell millions of records- his first, a grand slam- “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966.
In 1965, Percy Sledge had just been laid off his construction job and his girlfriend left him to pursue a modeling career. He then wrote “When a Man Loves a Woman”-the first song he recorded! His organist and bassist helped him on the song, and the humble man gave them all of the songwriting credits!
Percy Sledge sang many great songs. I love them all. His voice was smooth as silk; and I’m convinced it has healing properties. He passed in 2015 at 74.
Last, But Not Least
Last, but not least, blues legend born McKinley Morganfield, but known world-wide as Muddy Waters. He grew up near Clarksdale, Mississippi and was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress there in 1941. He moved to Chicago in 1943 where he formed his own band. His first recordings were made in 1946.
Over the years, Muddy Waters recorded such classics as “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I’m Ready”, and many, many more classic blues songs. He had a deep, rich commanding voice that was instantly recognizable.
In 1977, Muddy teamed up with another blues rock legend for his “Hard Again” album. Johnny Winter (another great guitarist) produced this album. A couple of months later that same year, they would take the album’s band on tour in its support. A compilation of three live dates was released as Breakin’ It Up, Breakin’ It Down. Along with Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter were James Cotton – harmonica, vocals Bob Margolin – guitar, vocals Pinetop Perkins – piano, vocals Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – drums Charles Calmese – bass -masters all.
What a great album to wrap up this listening tutorial for now…
Comfort music, indeed!
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