Friday, August 03, 2007

The 50 Music Project: Parts II and III

The next installment...

II. The Birth of Soul (Sam & Ray)

I Got A Woman, Ray Charles
Wonderful World, Sam Cooke
What'd I Say, Ray Charles
Twistin' the Night Away, Sam Cooke
The Night Time is the Right Time, Ray Charles
Somebody Have Mercy, Sam Cooke
Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles
Ain't That Good News, Sam Cooke
Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles
A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

The hardest part of this section was figuring out which Sam Cooke songs to include. "Somebody Have Mercy" and "Ain't That Good News" weren't the most obvious choices, but they represent Cooke at his best, stretching himself to the limit and reaching a frenzy that his more famous (and, admittedly great) songs couldn't quite match. As for Ray Charles...what can I say? Genius hardly seems to do his work justice.

III. One For the Road

I Get A Kick Out of You
Only the Lonely
You Make Me Feel So Young
One For My Baby
I've Got You Under My Skin

- Frank Sinatra

In 1980, I was listening to The Clash, The Pretenders, The Ramones, Gang of Four, Warren Zevon, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Robin Lane & the Chartbusters...the list goes on. Frank Sinatra was the furthest thing from my mind. And then, late that summer, the latest issue of Rolling Stone arrived, with a review of a Sinatra concert penned by Tom Carson, titled "The Majestic Artistry of Frank Sinatra." Sinatra in Rolling Stone? Surely that had to be a joke. And from Tom Carson, of all people? Fan of Lou Reed and The Ramones? Didn't make much sense. But the way that Carson laid it out - well, the idea of Frank Sinatra as a great artist sure sounded compelling.

It was a few more years before I bought my first Sinatra album, "Where Are You?," his greatest collaboration with Gordon Jenkins. But that was just scratching the surface. All of the songs above resulted from one of the greatest musical collaborations of all time, Sinatra's work with arranger and conductor Nelson Riddle. The importance of that collaboration really can't be overstated - from the exuberant Songs for Swingin' Lovers to the melancholy Frank Sinatra Sings For Only the Lonely, there was never anything less than a transcendent moment. These five songs represent the best of the best, and can stand against any music produced in the past 50 years, with head held proudly.

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