Listen to this track by jazz piano innovator and famous eccentric Thelonious Monk along with his equally celebrated musical partner by the time this was recorded, John Coltrane. It’s “Monk’s Mood”, a cut that would appear on the bona fide buried treasure Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane Live At Carnegie Hall.
This rendition of the song was cut live at the famous venue (how do you get there? Practice, man, practice …) at the tail end of 1957 in two sets on the same night. During several months that same year, Monk and Coltrane collaborated in a quartet along with bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Shadow Wilson. Monk had cut this tune in trio form in the studio with Coltrane (along with bassist Wilbur Ware) on his otherwise-solo piano album Thelonious Himself earlier that same year in April.
By the time they recorded the Carnegie Hall date, the band had Monk’s famously idiosyncratic composition style down pat, with amazing clarity and precise musical alignment particularly between him and Coltrane. This piece is like a dance between sax and piano, with steps that may be odd in places, but are always elegant. The most amazing part of all of this was that this music was almost not heard at all outside of the live audience who attended the date, and certainly not because the music isn’t absolutely sublime. Before a wider audience could hear it, it needed to be found – literally. Read more
Listen to this track by future Fleetwood Mac stalwarts and Californian folk duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, AKA Buckingham Nicks. It’s “Frozen Love”, the closing track to their 1973 pre-Mac record called, appropriately Buckingham Nicks. It would be their sole (to date!) album together as a duo.
The record was created when the two young musicians were championed by producer and engineer Keith Olson, in turn helped by sessioner Waddy Wachtel who would be a frequent collaborator with Stevie Nicks in her solo career years later. Before they were signed as a duo, Buckingham and Nicks had both been a part of a rock band, Fritz, that had served as an opening act for some of the biggest acts of the late-60s, including Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Jefferson Airplane. Before that, the two had known each other in high school, and had informally collaborated since they were teens.
When Fritz broke up, the two splintered into a duo, and eventually were signed to Polydor, whereupon they’d recorded this debut album that established both musicians as unique and supremely gifted singer-songwriters. But, the record didn’t sell, thanks to the inattention of Polydor at the time.
Showbiz strikes again!
But, this track in particular would help to lead the two out of the pop music briar patch. Read more
Listen to this song by former alt-country turned eclectic pop band Whiskeytown. It’s ‘Mirror Mirror’, a shimmering anthem from an album that almost never was – Pneumonia, the third album bearing the band’s name and released in 2001, but recorded in 1999.
The recording of the album was under the circumstances of the end of the group, and the end of the band’s label. Songwriter and lead singer Ryan Adams was virtually the sole the motivating force. He would of course make his way as a solo artist by 2000, and a prolific one at that.
But, as for this album – it was shelved for over a year, its fate uncertain while two major labels merged. Yet, fans caught wind of the rumours of its existence, and it gained a reputation as something as a great lost album, something like a lower profile version of the Beach Boys SMiLE album, which was held in legendary esteem among pop fans in the 60s and beyond – lead Beach Boy and songwriter Brian Wilson’s ‘teenage symphony to God’.
Adams’ ambition wasn’t as lofty as Brian Wilson’s perhaps. Yet, it’s clear that Adams was coming into his own as a recording artist even if the record itself didn’t make as much headway as another album also released in 2001 – Ryan Adams’ Gold, his second album as a solo artist, and one that would make him a star.
And speaking of Brian Wilson, this tune ‘Mirror Mirror’ has something of Wilson’s influence on it, a chirpy, poppy gem of a song that contrasts the sentiments of loss in its lyrics to the sunshiny joy in the melody and arrangement. This song, and the album off of which it comes showed Adams to be a remarkable talent, and well beyond the confines of the alt-country genre in which Whiskeytown had established itself. Perhaps tellingly, Whiskeytown were no more when this record reached fans.