Craig Cummings Music

Best Double Albums of All Time?

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Rolling recently posted the readers choices for top 10 double albums of all time ( I have to admit, the readers were pretty spot on with their choices. The White Album? In a class by itself. Quadrophenia? It’s always been my favorite Who album. The River? London Calling? I mean, these are can’t miss picks. And, I’m proud to say that I have them all in my collection.

There are a couple of other double albums that merit top 10 status – ones that I have always loved. So, I thought I’d throw them out there for readers’ comments, and because if you have not heard these double albums and you are a music lover, then you’ve got to pony up and get ahold of them.

Soul Of A Man

Soul Of A Man: Al Kooper Live
Soul OF a Man is a 1994 recording of a series of live performances at the Bottom Line in NYC. With standout songs such as I Can’t Quit Her, Somethin’ Goin’ On and My Days Are Numbered (all from the Child Is Father To The Man album),several tunes from Kooper’s Blues Project gathering, and a closing medley that includes the Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Donovan’s Season Of The Witch (see Kooper’s Super Sessions album with Stills and Bloomfield), this is an iconic recording that never grows old. Kooper deserves credit for being one of the earliest musicians to make horns an integral part of rock n’ roll. While many know him as the keyboard player on Dylan’s original version of Like A Rolling Stone, he was so much more than that. Kooper is an excellent vocalist, top notch keyboard player, and a fine songwriter. And the musicians that play on this recording…well, they are a veritable Who’s Who of terrific studio musicans, mostly playing out of New York. If you’re a Late Night with David Letterman watcher, bassist Will Lee and drummer Anton Fig are all over these songs. Even John Sebastian makes an appearance on harmonica as do Randy Brecker on sax, Lew Soloff on trumpet, and Jerry Douglas on lap steel. Jimmy Vivino’s guitar work shines throughout. This CD blends blues, jazz, and rock n’roll in a way that seldom happens anymore. It is still available here –

Its Too Late

Van Morrison – It’s Too Late To Stop Now
Listening to this live double album makes you sweat – in a good way. Recorded at the Troubadour and the Santa Monica Civic Center in California, and at the Rainbow Theater in London, this recording leaves no doubt that at the height of his powers, and before he grew increasingly melancholy and introspective, Van was probably the most compelling live performer around. Check out this version of Domino…you cannot sit still if there is blood running through your veins. The funky groove on I’ve Been Working rivals James Brown’s best work. A version of Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me, channels Otis Redding as much as Sam himself. Even the slower numbers reach out and grab you…deep down. On this album, Van shows that he is truly the king of blue-eyed soul. You can still find this in print but you’ll have to look around. It’s not on iTunes and Amazon can get it for you but it’s pricey.

LW Live

Lucinda Williams – Live At The Fillmore
I’ve seen Lucinda Williams perform many times. One of the things that strikes me about her live shows is her fearlessness… to perform any song at any given time in her set. I mean, she walks out on stage with a kick ass rock band (for this series of live shows it was Doug Pettibone on guitar, Jim Christie on drums, and Taras Prodaniuk on bass) and while the crowd is jumping out of their seats to hear Changed The Locks or Real Live Bleeding Fingers, she proceeds to play an absolutely beautiful, personal version of Ventura or Fruits of My Labor, without little to no band involvement. Anyone who performs regularly understands the importance of reading your audience and giving them what they want. Lucinda tells the audience what she’s giving them and then she delivers it, sometimes crooning, other times growling and cursing, but always cutting to the bone. With her reputation as one of the best songwriters in Americana music today, some may think that her shows are more on the conversational side of things, and she certainly provides that element to her fans on this recording. But make no mistake – this record rocks! If I could choose one guitar player to hire for my recordings (and if money were no object) Doug Pettibone would be my man. The guy can flat out play. He is a star on this album, but as bright as he may shine, Lucinda Williams is transcendent. Nobody around can write like her, no one sings like her, and this double album lays it out for all to see. This recording is available on iTunes, Amazon, and through her website.

So…what other double albums do you think could have made the top ten?


Songwriting – Alone or Together?
May 4, 2012, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Musical Notes | Tags: , , , ,

I was just reading an interview with Doug Pettibone, a pretty incredible session guitarist who spent many years as the music director and main guitarist for Lucinda Williams. At one point in the interview, he said that Lucinda told him that she didn’t value a songwriter unless he/she had “written a song by themselves.” This got me to thinking about my own approach to songwriting. I write alone…and the more alone I am the better I write. I believe this. I’ve attended songwriting workshops with other songwriters and I’ve learned some things and I’ve gotten suggestions about my songs that have made them…different, if not better.

In Nashville, there is a tendency to have people co-write. Maybe they think that 2 heads are better than one, or that each songwriter can help to squash the other’s indulgences. I don’t know for sure because I’m not in that scene. But I do know that there is something to be said for writing a song alone. As Joni Mitchell said on her For The Roses album, “..It’s just you out there, getting ’em to feel like that.” Performing a newly written original song is kind of like walking a tightrope with a crowd of people watching… strangely exhilarating with with possibility of complete failure or utter triumph.

I think I agree with Lucinda. It is one thing to write a good song with another songwriter. That has value, and if you don’t believe this, just think of all of the great songwriting teams that made their marks in the 20th century (King and Goffin; Lennon and McCartney). But there is nothing like writing a good or a great song by yourself. Your are bare, naked, and it’s just you out there, getting ’em to feel like that.

That’s a rush… and the mark of a good songwriter.

He Had A Reason To Get Back To Lake Charles…

Just got back from a trip to New Orleans. Rented a car and drove to Lake Charles, LA for the day. It’s a sleepy town. The downtown area isn’t much except for a 20 story (more or less) Capital One building and a few square blocks of stores, restaurants, and the like. The marina area is nicely designed for a brief visit but it doesn’t exactly make you feel like you could spend much time there. The Pujo St. Cafe has good food and a friendly bartender. Try the fried oyster appetizer.

I got around town and checked out the beach on Lake Charles that borders I-10 and then drove to Shell Beach Dr. where the mansions are located. Now this is an area where a person could stretch out and get comfortable. Big houses, big lawns, big trees, and the houses that border the lake also have mini houses that sit on stilts out in the water, accessible by long piers. Most of these mini houses also have small “garages” that house speed boats. Old money…

Lucinda Williams wrote a song about Lake Charles…it is my favorite song of all of the songs she has written, and that is saying a lot considering that I like it more than Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Essence, Right In Time, Ventura, and Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings. The Lake Charles song is about a guy who loves the town so much that he wants to return there to die (“Did an angel whisper in your ear/And hold you close/Take away your fears/In those long last moments.”)

Lake Charles is a beautiful little place in western Louisiana. It’s kind of like many other little (and larger) towns throughout the country. What makes it special? I guess the memories one associates with it. The guy in Lucinda’s song had enough of a connection to Lake Charles that he wanted to be there when he drew his last breath. I feel you.

I grew up in Baltimore. It’s grimy – like New Orleans. But I have a connection to it. I’m not planning to experience my “long last moment” anytime soon. But, when that time comes, I think I’ll have a reason to get back…

I should have born in the south. I have a southern soul. Baltimore is much more of a southern town than people think…but it’s not Texas or Louisiana. OK, I’m rambling now.

What I’m trying to say is I visited Lake Charles and I loved it’s charm. I can understand why one who was born there or lived there for some time might want to be there when it really counts. Baltimore, like Lake Charles, has it’s charm. So, if I never get back to Lake Charles again, spending my long last moments in Baltimore wouldn’t be too bad.

It’s more of a southern town than people realize…