Monday, March 30, 2009

Cover Me - Sandy Brown does Hair

by Joe Schwab

I'm almost sorry I'm posting this one up, so I apologize in advance. The distinguished Trad-Jazz clarinetist Sandy Brown pulled off one whopper of a "If you can't beat 'em, Join 'em" record. Sandy and his "Gentlemen Friends" put together a collection of tunes from Galt MacDermot's "Hair". This recording features a great band including Kenny Wheeler, George Chisolm, Lennie Bush, Bobby Orr and a young John McLaughlin. But this set of "Hair" recordings will best be remembered for Mr. Brown's exploitation of the word hair on the front and back covers. A wig certainly would have sufficed, in fact, the front cover was bad enough, but then we get the hairy back photo on the opposite side.

Local Spotlight Volume 4

Featuring the best and not-so-best that Saint Louis area music has to offer.

Brown and Langrehr "I Remember/Crazy Days" 1980

In the early years of the 1980s, the St. Louis original music scene was energetic yet tiny. Brown and Langrehr were about as popular as any of the bands playing around that time, and with good reason. A guitarist who knew the virtues of thick sound and infectious guitar riffs, Charlie Langrehr wrote simple yet unforgettable songs. Eschewing the idea of a bass player, he performed with only Kenny Brown banging the drum kit behind him. And we mean banging; Brown was an explosive fury on drums, matching Langrehr’s energy beat for beat. The duo left behind only this one 45 to document two of their greatest songs. Langrehr would go on to lead other bands, but he never topped the excitement of Brown and Langrehr.

"I Remember" mp3

"Crazy Days" mp3

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bloggers night at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra

by Jen Eide

I usually don't buy the party line about American innovation producing products that make your life better. Sure I'm fond of such things as electricity and plastic, but it's really the iPod that has a profound impact on my life on a daily basis. (Ok, I'm sure electricity and plastic have a much greater impact on my quality of life, but for whatever reason, the novelty of these things has worn off). In addition to the truly obscene amount of music that I can carry with me thanks to my credit card sized Nano, it's the ease of creating playlists that has me entranced. For me, it's always been about programming. Whether it's album sequencing, a carefully constructed set list or a playlist for a mix that's been labored over for weeks until perfected, this is how I prefer to listen to music. Shuffle? No thanks.

So Friday evening, while at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, programming was very much on my mind. Putting together a program of classical music must have additional challenges, since you are drawing from a tradition that spans several hundred years and has an array of disparate artistic trends. Factor in that you are trying to fill seats and please an audience with varied tastes adds another layer of complexity. Personally, I am a fan of the new music--the modern composers that are frequently dissonant, tinker with compositional structure and sometimes stray from traditional instrumentation. My guest for the evening was my old friend and former RFT music editor, Rene Spencer-Saller. Now, Rene knows a thing or two about classical music, but favors different composers--she was really looking forward to the Sibelius and Wagner. Although we were looking for different things from the evening, we both came away pleased with the entire program.

The unifying symbol used in the compositions was Spring and it's concomitant feelings of renewal, rebirth, hope. The program began with Wagner's Parsifal, which I'm quite sure I've never heard before, yet felt very familiar. Rene mentioned that Wagner always reminds her of film scores from the 40s and 50s, and that the composers of that time were deeply influenced by Wagner.

Next up was Bernd Alois Zimmerman's Canto di speranza (Song of Hope) scored for solo cello and performed by guest cellist Anssi Karttunen. I've always loved the sound of the cello, likely due to it's deep, rich tones and lower range (I envision it as the classical counterpart to jazz's tenor saxaphone). The piece appealed to my modern side, with it's unexpected (and a bit uncomfortable) flute blasts and batterie of percussion.

The remainder of the program featured Finnish composers. Sibelius' Luonnotar featured the renown soprano Karita Mattila, who also performed on the next piece, Mirage by modern composer Kaija Saariaho. The text of Mirage is taken from a chant of a Mexican shaman, who was under the influence of hallucinatory mushrooms. Mattila gave a dramatic interpretation, with her powerful voice accented by dramatic gesturing, at one point even appearing to tear out her hair. Cellist Karttunen returned to play alongside Mattila on the Saariaho piece--in fact, the composer wrote these parts for these two particular musicians.

The concert concluded with another Sibelius piece, Symphony No. 5 in E flat major.

I think the ability to put together a program of disparate pieces, combined with an artistic vision which makes the music flow cohesively, is the secret strength of the SLSO. Though, it is hard not to get blinded by the incredible musicianship. All of the SLSO's strengths were on good display Friday night.

Albums of My Life - 1965: Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited"

by Steve Pick

This is the eighth in an ongoing series of ruminations about one album from each year Steve Pick, music critic, Euclid clerk, KDHX dj, and bon vivant, has been alive.

I've always been a firm believer that in any given year, there is roughly the same proportion of great records to crap, just because talent is pretty evenly distributed across the world's population. Certainly, doing the research over at the Rate Your Music site, I can see that most every year I've discussed has had a lot more going for it than I might have imagined.

That said, there is something in the zeitgeist which seems to push music to greater heights every once in a while, and 1965 might be the poster boy for such a concept. Look at what came out that year - Dylan did Highway 61 Revisited after he'd already released Bringing It All Back Home; the Beatles had Help and Rubber Soul; Coltrane did A Love Supreme and Chim Chim Cheree; B.B. King was Live at the Regal; Horace Silver did Song For My Father; the Rolling Stones came up with "Satisfaction"; Otis Redding had Otis Blue; the Byrds had Mr. Tambourine Man; the Sonics, Wayne Shorter, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly & Wes Montgomery, Bert Jansch, the Yardbirds, the Who, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, on and on and on.

And yet, I am very comfortable saying Highway 61 Revisited topped them all. Dylan could do no wrong at this point - though clearly these records were the result of hard work in the studio, with numerous alternate versions of these songs before stumbling into the perfect approach for each one. But, he was singing with such confidence, nay, arrogance; it's that snarl, that spittle, that bite that makes "Like a Rolling Stone" such a vindictive masterpiece, and it's the ability to laugh in the face of accepted opinion that makes "Highway 61 Revisited" so powerful. I mean, come on, "God said to Abraham kill me a son"! Nobody else had the chutzpah to sing anything like that. Even John Lennon's remark that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus was more innocent (not to mention rescinded).

The sound of this record is enormous, still. Especially on "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Tombstone Blues," the one-two punch that gets things started. Mike Bloomfield is as powerful a force on these two songs as Dylan's vocals; the band is revved up and on fire, as if they knew they were creating a template from which everybody in rock (and beyond) would be working from then on. And Al Kooper on organ is a delight throughout the record; impossible to believe he was an afterthought in the sessions, because it's impossible to imagine these songs without him.

I know it's fashionable for people to bitch about Dylan's vocals, and if you're going to see him in concert these days, I'll pull you up on my shoulders so your complaints can be heard further. But, at this point in his career, he was stunning. He took the vernacular of blues and folk music, applied it to some rock approaches, and added his own peculiar rhythmic approach. Everything he does is effective, drawing you into his voice and the world of images he's throwing out so fast and furious.

This is getting long, so I'll leave with just two more points. Listening to "Desolation Row" this morning, I was suddenly struck by the thought that Van Morrison's career might have been entirely different without this song existing. And, I still want to know, as I have wondered for two decades since it first hit me, why Dylan's guitar is so badly out of tune on "Queen Jane Approximately."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hard Lessons "Gateway City" Release Party Wed. Mar. 25

Just a quick reminder that good friends of Euclid Records, the Hard Lessons will be celebrating the release of their Euclid Sessions 7" single, "Gateway City" b/w "Graveyard Shift" Wednesday night, Mar. 25, at Cicero's, 6691 Delmar. Also on the bill will be My Dear Disco, Great Lakes Myth Society, and Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocket Ship. We figure if you want to rock and roll all night, this might be your best opportunity.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Record Store Day Mach 2 - Bigger and Better and More Thrilling!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 18, as Euclid Records celebrates the second annual Record Store Day with live entertainment, barbecue and other food, a sidewalk sale, and storewide discounts. If you came last year, you know that Record Store Day is a time to honor the cultural contributions of shops like Euclid, where the staff is informed, the stock is rich, and the music is a part of life.

We've gotten permission to close off the portion of Sutton which runs alongside the store, and we're setting up an outdoor stage for the live music. Who's playing, you're wondering? Well, how about the Bottle Rockets, Jason Ringenberg, Troubadour Dali, Grace Basement, Bent (their first performance in years), Farshid Etniko, the Trip Daddys, and more? That sounds like a pretty darn good line-up.

We had our first big sidewalk sale last fall, and you may recall just how many bargains we laid out on tables and in boxes outdoors. There will be more great low-priced LPs and CDs, not to mention other assorted goodies. Our next door neighboor Cyrano's and our good friends at Highway 61 Roadhouse will have food and drink available, too.

There will also be dozens of exclusive releases available only at participating Record Store Day shops. This is only a partial list, though we caution that not every store will get every title.

All that and everything in the store will be on sale. We want to see those who haven't been in Euclid Records for a long time, as well as all the regular customers who make our jobs so much fun every time they walk in the door. Record Store Day, Saturday, April 18, will be one to remember.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1964 The Beatles "A Hard Day's Night"

by Steve Pick

My five-year-old self didn't appreciate the Beatles. I always had a bit of an obstinate streak as a child, and I suppose I was very much the contrarian when faced with everybody else being so enraptured by this band of long-hairs who shook their head and shouted over screaming teenage girls on the TV. I'm sure I saw them on Ed Sullivan, but it didn't change my life.

Somewhere in there, most likely at Christmas 1964, my aunt gave me a 45 of "Can't Buy Me Love" b/w "You Can't Buy Me Love." I'm pretty sure I made a face - I really don't remember another present from that aunt ever - but I did wind up playing it quite a bit. Still, it was the only Beatles record I ever owned while they were together.

It would be many, many years later before I heard the entire album which contained those two songs. I never had the American editions of the early albums, just the CDs which restored the songs to their UK collections. Thus, I'm talking now about A Hard Day's Night as you can buy it now, and as it was in England back in 1964. 7 songs from the movie, and 6 more to round out the record.

It's impossible to imagine pop music without the Beatles, as virtually everybody to come along since has either been directly influenced by them or influenced by somebody who was. But, as much as this record (as, really, all their other ones) exists as a historic document which shaped the sound of the future, it holds up if you try to imagine yourself listening to it for the first time.

From that first glorious guitar chord (possibly the greatest chord ever played on guitar) to the promise at the end that "I'll Be Back," A Hard Day's Night bounces and thrills for the space of a half an hour. I think this was the first album for which Lennon and McCartney wrote every song, and you can hear their confidence in their skills, and their excitement at taking chances. It's all geek songwriter stuff - opening with a chorus for the hook, shifting keys when you're not expecting it, interpolating r'n'b tropes with tin pan alley ideas. But, while the Beatles were experimenting, they were incapable of putting together something that wasn't just in your guts brilliant.

I wish I could have loved them at five, because these songs are made to be appreciated the way I appreciated music then - singing, dancing, completely involved with the music without any hint of self-consciousness. But, I'm happy to love them at 50.

I don't know if other Beatles records can win out in their years the way this one does in 1964. Even here, they beat out one of my all-time favorite jazz records, Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, as well as two of the best live albums ever made, Jerry Lee Lewis Live at the Star Club and Etta James Rocks the House. But, consider that every year the Beatles were together, they were at least shadowing their competition. And, they always made the other musicians better merely by existing at the same time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Euclid's Dungeon Dig of the Week

Rarities and oddities that have reared their ugly heads from our 45 rpm dungeon.

Dick Hyman & His Electric Eclectics "Topless Dancers Of Corfu" Command Records

He's been Woody Allen's go-to guy for film scores for over 25 years now, but I've always though Dick Hyman was one of the better purveyors of the Moog genre as well, recording "Moog: Electric Eclectics" and "The Age Of Electronicus" for Command Records in the late 60s. I was very happy to find this one on a recent dig. Dig. - Rob Wagoner

Topless Dancers Of Corfu mp3

Monday, March 16, 2009

Euclid Sessions - Hard Lessons 45 Now Available

Do you remember what you were doing on Nov. 23? We do. We were rocking out here at Euclid Records to the ever-delightful sounds of the Hard Lessons, Detroit's hardest working band. If you were here too, or if you couldn't make it but know how good this band is, you've been waiting with baited breath for the 7" single recorded live at the in-store. "Gateway City" is the a-side, and a cover of Uncle Tupelo's "Graveyard Shift" is the b-side.

The Hard Lessons come to St. Louis regularly, and they wanted to pay homage to our town with their choices for this record. They'll be playing Cicero's in University City next Wednesday, Mar. 25, by the way, to celebrate the release of the single.

Each copy comes with a gorgeous silk screen print, individually signed and numbered by artist Craig Horky, who has created a whimsical yet reverent homage to St. Louis and its artistic heritage. There is also a delightful cardboard sleeve designed by the geniuses at Firecracker Press.

You can pick it up in Euclid Records, or at our website for only $7.99. We've also got copies left of the debut Euclid Sessions release, Steve Wynn's "John Coltrane Stereo Blues Pts. 1 & 2." Coming up on Apr. 18, celebrating Record Store Day, we'll have the Terry Adams 45 from his appearance in December, and as spring rolls into summer, we'll have releases from Chris Stamey & Peter Holsapple, Troubadour Dali, and Future Clouds and Radar.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1963 James Brown, "Live at the Apollo"

by Steve Pick

This is the sixth installment of a 51-part weekly series in which Steve Pick, music critic, radio host, and that tall guy behind the counter in Euclid Records, examines a single record representing each year in which he has been alive.

It just wasn't something people thought about. The possibility that soul (and other popular music purveyors) artists could actually be creating something entirely distinctive in their live performances that wasn't necessarily being heard on their records. Live performances were there to sell records; why would somebody want a record of the live performance?

And then came Live at the Apollo. James Brown and his Famous Flames tore through his biggest hits to date, and it all sounded more invigorating, more exciting, more real than it had before. Not that there was anything wrong with the studio versions - James Brown was stretching all the formulas of r'n'b and soul even in those early days before he got around to inventing funk. But, still, there was something special about the way he sang them when he could see the people who were listening to him.

In the epic ten-and-one-half-minute long version of "Lost Someone," Brown addresses specific members of the audience. "You don't have to tell me, I bet someone over here lost someone." This was an acknowledgement that his music reflected universal experiences - despite the specificity of Brown's first hit, "Please Please Please," he often found himself talking about general trials and tribulations of love, in an effort to create a catharsis his personal method of screaming and crying to the pain experienced by all his fans.

And the Famous Flames help him out. Brown was a dynamic singer, a far better one than he is usually credited as being. He got loud, he got soft, he proclaimed, he held back. In these early days of his career, he had the backing singers responding to his calls, working the tension between his powerful attack and their perfectly sedate answers.

Brown was famous for pushing his bands hard, creating the rigorously tight backing he required to let his vocals float right over the rhythm, to interject their own points of emphasis. I'm not actually sure who was in his band at the time, but I know that every guitar lick, every zippity bass line, every snip on the hi-hat is all in exactly the right place throughout the album.

Listen to the frenzy of Brown's fans. If there are men in the audience, you can't hear them - it's the screams of the women, all connecting with James Brown's cries of love lost, love desired, love denied. Even after all these years, there is no way to hear this record without imagining yourself somewhere in the front rows at the Apollo, knowing that James Brown understands your pain and somehow makes it all feel better.

By the way, check out the competition I had to choose from in '63 - my second favorite Mingus album, the greatest Christmas record ever made, a pretty damn great Sam Cooke record, lots more Coltrane, and on and on and on.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Euclid's Dungeon Dig of the Week

Rarities and oddities that have reared their ugly heads from our 45 rpm dungeon.

Melvin Van Peebles "Eyes On The Rabbit" Atlantic Records 1974

The 1970's inner city renaissance man struck with his first album of sung vocals in 1974, "What The...You Mean I Can't Sing?!" on Atlantic Records. This track was taken from that album, and though it later was said to have originally been "meant as a joke", I'd much rather like to think it was a sincere, though seriously misguided, lovelorn attempt to cash in on the success of "Seasons In The Sun" by Terry Jacks, released the same year. Soak it in.
- Rob Wagoner

"Eyes On The Rabbit" mp3

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pictures For Your Exhibition - Betty Carter

by Joe Schwab

B.B.'s Jazz, Blues and Soups (Mach I) brought some wonderful Jazz and Blues greats in for one week stands back in the very early 80's, including Gloria Lynne, James Moody and Earl Hines. Betty Carter took up residence for a full week in 1980. Although crowds were rather sparse, the place was packed on Friday night with the crowd abuzz over the potential that Miles Davis might be joining MS B.C. on stage for a song or two. Miles had played earlier that night at Keil Opera House on his comeback tour. The union never materialized but that night and the entire week was a treat for myself and the other Betty Carter fans here in St. Louis. Betty's trio that week included the talents of Khalib Moss on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass and drummer Louis Nash. Here's Ms. BC from that week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twangin - The History of Country Guitar in Three Minutes

by Joe Schwab

Phil Baugh was an extraordinary talent, underrated and under-recorded, but a major cult personality in the world of Country guitar pickers. This is a rare clip featuring Phil on the Ozark Mountain Jubilee doing his only hit, "Country Guitar". Here Phil shows off his chops and impersonation skills while taking a crack at the
finest Country guitarists of the day.

Below the Phil clip are the pickers themselves - Les Paul, Billy Byrd, Merle Travis,
Luther Perkins, Chet Atkins and Hank Garland. Phil's albums Country Guitar and Country Guitar II are two of the most sought after C & W records around. Fortunately our friends at Sundazed Music have released both recordings in a wonderful set called Live Wire. It's highly recommended to any fans of hot guitar picking, even if you've never considered yourself a country fan.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cover Me - You Won't Believe These

by Joe Schwab

These party records were so nasty that they didn't even contain a record. Yes, blank records to add to your collection just for the prestige of owning such classics as "Music for Half-Assed Fiends", "Music for Hangovers" and "Great Piano Pieces".

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Music of My Life - 1962 - The Music Man

by Steve Pick

Installment number 5 in the ongoing examination of one record to represent each year of our intrepid reporter's life. Interestingly enough, because of the way years work, Steve Pick didn't turn 5 until the 6th year he was alive. Ponder that.

Okay, I can see an argument that I'm taking leave of my senses here, picking a schmaltzy movie soundtrack instead of half a dozen more Coltrane classics, or the unbelievably great Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach Money Jungle, or the first Howlin' Wolf album, or even the first Bob Dylan album. But, 1962 is the first year I was alive with any kind of a conscious memory, and what I remember from that year pretty much all revolves around The Music Man.

I'm not gonna claim that my 3 or 4-year-old mind was aesthetically developed enough to really make a case for "76 Trombones" as the greatest piece of music ever written, though, really, how can you argue with a song trumpeting (tromboning?) the virtues of that ridiculously high number of brass instruments as not the sole sound of the band, but just the beginning of it. Remember there are 110 cornets right behind.

Of course, I've been pretty much waiting for the "Wells Fargo Wagon" to come ever since I first heard young Opie (Ron Howard, of course) spit out the lyrics, and while "Pick A Little Talk A Little" doesn't begin to address the then-current issues of Betty Friedan's "The Feminist Manifesto," I get chills just thinking of the cool way it wraps around the barbershop quartet version of "Good Night Ladies."

And, there's "Ya Got Trouble." Right here in River City! With a capitol T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool. I couldn't believe it when my cousins got a pool table in their basement a few years later - hadn't they been warned repeatedly of the sin and degradation this supposedly innocent pastime would invariably create?

I admit, you can't take my sentimental childhood memories away from me - I still remember the thrill of my mom agreeing to actually buy me my own copy of the LP in Shopper's Fair one day to replace her copy which had somehow (most likely in my own enthusiasm for playing it) been chipped badly enough that I didn't even know the first two songs on each side. But, believe it or don't, if you're the type who refuses to accept the joys of classic Broadway musicals, this Meredith Wilson joint hasn't got a dud song in it (which is especially astounding considering I've never heard note one of anything else the man ever did). "Til There Was You" was good enough for both the Beatles in 1964 and Cassandra Wilson last year, so that ought to tell you something.

The story of The Music Man is the triumph of imagination over conformity, and the triumph of intelligently constructed, unbeatably catchy tunes over pabulum. I'll celebrate either one of these ideas, even while acknowledging that Coltrane and Mingus owned the year if I only count records I've played after I was 20.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Euclid's Dungeon Dig of the Week

Rarities and oddities that have reared their ugly heads from our 45 rpm dungeon.

Emmanuel Lewis "City Connection" SMS Records Japan

The diminutive hamburger spokesman and star of Webster (City Connection?) apparently had a sizeable cult following in Japan, so what is the logical course of action? Fly him over and make a pop record. In partial Japanese. See if you can make it through to the maniacal laughter at the end.

"City Connection" mp3

If you can't get enough, here's the video:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Euclid Sessions - Steve Wynn 45 Can Be Yours

The first release of the Euclid Sessions series is now available. Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 - "John Coltrane Stereo Blues Pts. 1 & 2" can now be ordered through our Sessions web site and is available at Euclid Records.

Here's a snippet:

These 45's are limited to 300 and will sell out quickly, so act fast. Subscribers to the series will receive special colored vinyl version of each record. Each copy comes with a silk screen print, signed and numbered by artist Phil Huling. Part of the proceeds for each release goes to New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund.

Upcoming releases include:

The Hard Lessons - "Gateway City"/"Graveyard Shift" - Silk screen print signed and numbered by artist Craig Horkey. Release date March 17.

Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet with The Whole Wheat Horns - "Thedi"/"Eat That Pumpkin". Silk screen cover art design by Jim Flora. Release date April 18 - Record Store Day 2009.

Coming this Summer:

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey
Troubadour Dali
Future Clouds and Radar

Local Spotlight Volume 3

Featuring the best and not-so-best that Saint Louis area music has to offer.

Randy Mitchell "Tomorrow/Corner Of The Sky" Spot Records 1982

As anyone who was involved in the scene at the time can attest, Mr. Records on Schuetz Road in the early eighties was a veritable magnet for larger-than-life characters. Perhaps none were more memorable than Harley Rand Mitchell, better known as Randy, and that's saying a lot. Randy had always struggled with physical and emotional health problems, so in 1982, at the suggestion of his therapist, he bacame a recording artist in order to give a boost to his self-confidence. Always a fan of Broadway musicals, Randy chose to record "Tomorrow" from Annie and "Corner Of The Sky" from Pippin, 2 favorites of his that also have very positive and uplifting messages. A music production house in New York was hired for the backing tracks, which to make the story even more interesting, included Andy Shernoff of the Dictators and Tish and Snooky of the Sick F*#ks and Manic Panic fame. The vocals were added in Saint Louis later. I can still recall the day when Randy, who seemed bigger and more confident than ever, walked into Mr. Records with a handful of his new release, handing them to anyone that would take them. I have 3, and I still put it on the turntable some nights when I need a little cheering up. Harley Rand Mitchell passed away on May 4, 2002. This one's for you, Randy. - Rob Wagoner

"Tomorrow" mp3

"Corner Of The Sky" mp3

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1961 John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"

by Steve Pick

This is the fourth in a series of reviews as Steve Pick chooses one album to represent each of the fifty years he's walked the earth.

1961 was an unbelievably great year for album releases. A quick perusal of the top 100 over at the invaluable "Rate Your Music" site shows that 42 records I personally find outstanding came out, with another four dozen by artists working in the prime of their careers. And yet, though I nodded hard in the direction of the catchiest jazz record ever, Oliver Nelson's magnificent Blues and the Abstract Truth, and Ornette Coleman gave me pause with both Free Jazz and This Is Our Music, there was really no question but that My Favorite Things dominated the year.

There are but four cuts on the album, all standards written for non-jazz purposes. Two of them feature Coltrane on tenor saxophone, which he had been using pretty much exclusively throughout his career. The other two showcase the soprano saxophone he's holding on the cover - in 1961, the only other soprano players known were the recently deceased Sidney Bechet, and the brilliant, young, but far from massively popular Steve Lacy. After 1961, there was hardly a saxophone player working without at least dabbling on this instrument.

I've written before about Trane's version of "Summertime." That's one of the two tenor pieces; the other accompanies it on side 2 of the LP, a jaunty and highly conventional bop take on "But Not For Me." It's amazing to hear this band (three quarters of the soon-to-be-famous Coltrane Quartet: Trane himself, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, augmented by the bass playing of Steve Davis) go from the forward boiling steamroller of "Summertime" to the straight-ahead jazz of "But Not For Me." I say conventional and straight-ahead not to imply that there isn't creativity on display - they are playing some cool takes while hugging the chord changes.

As for side one, it ends with an exquisite version of "Everytime We Say Goodbye," with that soprano saxophone eloquently delving into the concepts inherent in the melody. And it begins with the first recorded version of "My Favorite Things," a tune which Trane and his mates would play hundreds of times before he died in 1967 (many of which, it seems, have turned up on live albums over the years).

It's hard to remember now, but in 1961, Broadway showtunes were considered legitimate claimants to pop status - many of the original cast albums would dominate the Billboard charts. So, we may laugh a little at taking seriously a song from The Sound of Music, but at the time, it was just a part of the zeitgeist, something everybody would recognize. Which meant Coltrane could use it as a springboard to a completely revolutionary approach to his music, a chuggling energetic sound built on Tyner's bubbling left hand chords, Jones's astonishingly complex rhythmic infusions, and the rolling throbs of the bass. He and Tyner played the basic melody enough times over 13 minutes to make sure anybody could sing along, but never feared soaring off into searching melodic queries removed from the original. And all while using modal harmonies.

You could have yourself a heck of a musical education and lots of good times by restricting yourself to the records that came out in 1961, but odds are, even as you would find dozens to fall in love with, it will be My Favorite Things which enthralls you and calls you back to it again and again and again.