This Week in Music History (April 23rd-29th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

6384-large4/23- On this day in 1971, The Rolling Stones released their classic album Sticky Fingers in their native UK. The album, which was the band’s first release on their own label via Atlantic Records, featured art by Andy Warhol, whom the Stones hired for $15,000.

128999-large4/24- On this day in 1979, the state of Georgia made Ray Charles‘ “Georgia on My Mind” its official song. Charles, a Georgia native, recorded the track in 1960 as part of his album The Genius Hits the Road

146-large4/25- On this day in 1987, U2 began a five-week run atop the US album chart with their fifth studio album, The Joshua TreeThe album topped charts in over 20 countries and sold over 25 million copies. Bono and company also went on to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

4999-large4/26- On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin played their hit song “Whole Lotta Love” in front of a live audience for the first time. The show, which took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, was part of the band’s second North American tour.

35056-large4/27- On this day in 1976, David Bowie was detained by customs officers at the Russian/Polish border after attempting to board a train. The officers detained Bowie after finding Nazi books and memorabilia in his luggage, which he claimed were being used for research on a project about Nazi propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels. 

359561-large4/28- On this day in 1973, Pink Floyd‘s iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon hit No. 1 on the US album chart. The album went on to see a record-breaking 741 weeks atop the Billboard Chart, and now has sold over 45 million copies worldwide.

102762-large4/29- On this day in 1933, country music legend Willie Nelson was born. Nelson is one of country music’s most recognizable and influential singers and songwriters, and is also a poet, activist, actor and author. He has appeared in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and campaigned for numerous causes, including the use of biofuels.

All these pieces of music history are available in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.

Sounds Like Texas: The Best of the Lone Star State

We know everything is bigger in Texas, but is the music better? This week, check out reviews of three albums by The Lone Star State’s greatest!

PearlJanis Joplin
Pearl

Listening to Pearl feels a bit heavy, and there’s certainly reason for that: Janis Joplin’s last, the album was recorded near the very end of her life. After succumbing to an overdose at 27, she would never live to see it finished and released. Her tragic ending was a symbol of how she lived: erratically, but remarkably—an incredible voice and presence that belonged to a very troubled woman. Pearl is both a testament to her incredible talent and a hint of what could have been.

One of the album’s greatest strengths is Full Tilt Boogie, the backup band that’s with her through every track. Together with Janis’ big voice, they create a sound that lets her rock, but keeps her refined and smooth. She doesn’t overpower them, nor they her—it’s a harmonious combination. On tracks like “Cry Baby”, Janis is her full, belt-y self, brought down to earth with Full Tilt Boogie’s influence.

This album has an organization to it that other Joplin records lack, and it’s a refreshing and new take on her music. Previous albums like Cheap Thrills have essentially lacked structure; while letting Joplin’s trademark rawness show is great, the extra guidance in these songs lets her shine in a different way. Her intensity is kept in check just enough to let the songs fully develop, but not so much that she never has her big moment. This album has taken an already incredible talent and refined it into something that much more listenable.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cry Baby”, “Mercedes Benz”

 

370176-largeLos Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys are certainly true to their Texas roots—they call their musical style “Texas Rock n’ Roll”, a fusion of rock, soul, country, blues and Tejano. A group of three brothers, the band is forging those influences into a brand-new and extremely inspired sound. To cement their status as a true Texan band, the group recorded this album at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales recording studio.

At the heart of this album is their incredible music talent and creativity. Rather than making the album hard to follow, the group’s numerous musical influences instead work their way into a track list that is incredible varied and creative, yet cohesive. That variety turns out to be their greatest strength on Los Lonely Boys: “Crazy Dreams” is a masterpiece of guitar riffs, while “Dime Mi Amor” shifts effortlessly into a Latin-rock structure that echoes Carlos Santana.

Variety isn’t these brothers’ only talent, however: this album shines on instrumentals, vocals and songwriting. Rather than sticking to their Texas roots, their talent elevates them to what feels like a new genre: their songs are crafted with incredible nuance; they find a place in both your heart and your mind. Whether it becomes the soundtrack to your summer party or a quiet at-home listening session, this album deserves a place in any music collection.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Crazy Dreams”, “Senorita”

 

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Troubadour

It’s impossible to write a compilation of Texas music without at least one country album, and there is no country star more worthy of such a spot than the King of Country: George Strait. Texan-born, George Strait has released dozens of albums and had dozens of No. 1 hits. Twang is a testament to his signature sound and the solidifying of his status as country’s music supreme ruler.

A true Texas star, Strait’s collection not only contains nary a bad album, but manages to stay true to his Texas sound. After releasing so many albums, Strait still manages to find a new sound on Troubadour. The album finds him looking introspectively, creating a soft, mellow sound that is calm and soothing without ever slipping into melodramatic or depressing. On this album, he certainly sounds like a Troubadour—a singer who has had a long and varied career, but always manages to emerge that much better.

It would be easy to mistake Troubadour’s 12 songs for simple tracks, but his sound and songwriting prove otherwise. He’s enlisted a lot of outside songwriting help here, including Buddy Cannon and Monty Holmes, but the songs weave together into a calming, cohesive collection. Despite the number of people involved, the album keeps its attitude going all the way through: it’s a subdued, intimate album that sounds like the soundtrack to events you’ll want to remember. Strait stays true to his Texas roots for a reason: why mix it up when you do it so well?

Don’t Miss Tracks: “River of Love”, “It Was Me”

 

Staff Picks: Noah’s Pick

Last month, Neko Case released her first single in four years, called “Man.”  It’s a great new song, from her mouthful-titled album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.  This got me thinking about her last album, which came out in 2009: Middle Cyclone.

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I found Middle Cyclone when I was seventeen and a senior in high school.  I was drawn to the crazy cover art: Neko perched on a 1967 Mercury Cougar with a pointed sword.  Since I was a big Tori Amos fan at the time (like, massive—you don’t even understand), I figured a blind buy of a redheaded woman singer’s album with badass cover art couldn’t hurt.

I wasn’t quite prepared for how important this album was going to be in my life.  For the last four years, the poetic, symbolic lyrics of the songs written about animals and mythology have taken on meanings and new meanings in my psyche.  When life throws a curveball, when a relationship falls apart or falls together, the songs feel as if they seamlessly morph into fables tailor-made to my own experience.

“This Tornado Loves You” is, literally, about a tornado falling in love with a boy.  It’s also a great metaphor for every relationship in which you’ve felt like a bull in a china shop. “People Got a Lotta Nerve” is, literally, about a shark eating a man. It also describes that resigned feeling you get when someone is disappointed in the unrealistic expectations they have crafted for you. My personal favorite is “The Pharaohs,” which is written, again literally, about Egyptian pharaohs. The story Case tells of isolation and dissatisfaction is sometimes painfully modern.

The album is built of beautifully simple, yet breathtaking lines. Some of the best include “I miss how you’d sigh yourself to sleep when I’d rake the springtime across your sheets,” “Can’t scrape together quite enough to ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love,” “I lie ‘cross a path waiting just for a chance to be a spiderweb trapped in your lashes; for that, I would trade you my empire for ashes,” and, “You wandered the hall all the nighttime; my body burned, my legs ached, but you never came to bed, you just left me there awake; you kept me wanting like the wanting in the movies and the hymns.”

Right now you can pick up Middle Cyclone on Murfie for $5.  Who knows?  Maybe the songs will blend into your life as essentially as they have into mine.

Vote! Which Decades Would You Flash Back To?

We invented a time machine here at Murfie! (Okay, this is not 100% true—but stay with me here!)

This time machine lets you re-visit any decade you want (back to the 1940s—it’s our beta version), and it’ll take you on a tour of the best, most ground-breaking concerts ever to happen. If you got the chance, what decades would you re-visit? You can choose more than one!

Shopkeep of the Week

2013_0403_featuredshop_jOn the splendid day of August 29th, 2011, Jonathan made the wise choice to become a Murfie member. He’s only requested one kit…but that kit contained a whopping 1,100 discs, which traveled all the way from California to Wisconsin! We got to ask this fab Murfie member some more info about him and his shop.

Murfie: How did you originally learn about Murfie?
Jonathan: I read an article in the Wall Street Journal in the summer of 2011 and it seemed too good to be true. I had just moved across the country, but I had left my rather large CD collection behind because I hadn’t touched the physical discs in years. My CD boxes were cluttering my friend’s garage on the other side of the country and he was asking me what my plan was. The timing was perfect and the rest is history.

M: When did you purchase your first CD? What was it?
J: It was in the mid- to late- 80’s and I think it was an early R.E.M. disc, but I can’t quite recall which one. Maybe Murmur or Life’s Rich Pageant? For some reason, I very clearly remember that the first vinyl I ever owned was Best of Blondie!

M: How many CDs do you own (or did you own at your peak)?
J: I stopped counting around 1,000. Maybe 1,200? I think I’ve sold about half through Murfie so far.

M: How tall are you?
J: I’m 6’1″, but “I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller.”

M: Tell us about your musical tastes.
J: My collection is about as eclectic as they come. Growing up, I gave a listen to anything I could get my hands on. There was a lot of classic rock (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin), ‘alternative’ (R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs), and 80’s rap is about as good as it gets (BDP, Beastie Boys, NWA). These days, I’m pretty broad in my tastes, but I tend to gravitate towards soulful music…anything from Bill Withers and Etta James to newer folks like The Black Keys and Amy Winehouse (the little bit that we got from her while she was here). Throughout the years, I’ve always had an unwavering appreciation for the blues (and in particular, Mississippi Delta blues) and that always tends to influence what I like in other genres.

M: What can folks expect to find in your store (if different than the above)?
J: I’ve got everything, but jazz and blues lovers should have a field day navigating my collection. What’s funny is that I have about 100 or so really random discs from an old roommate who moved out and didn’t want them. so if you see anything weird or embarrassing (e.g. Ren & Stimpy: You Eediot!), just assume it was his. OK, that sounds like a lie, but it isn’t (as far as you know).

M: If you could meet any musician or band in person, who would it be and why?
J: I know it’s probably totally expected that a guy is going to go with something cute like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, but I don’t care…I’m going with Lonely Island.

M: What is your favorite album at the moment?
J: I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to listening to mainstream music, but I’m finding it really hard to stop listening to The Head and the Heart or The Lumineers (both self-titled).

M: What do you plan to do with the millions of dollars you’re making from your Murfie shop?
J: I plan to buy you a fur coat, but not a real fur coat, that’s cruel! Just kidding, I am going to use it to fund my startup, www.MyVR.com!

M: Which Beatle was your favorite?
J: That’s a tough one, but I gotta go with Clarence.

Check out Jonathan’s shop on Murfie!

Shopkeep of the Week is a weekly feature that focuses on our most interesting Murfie shopkeepers. These are music lovers like you who have sold hundreds of pre-loved CDs on Murfie and have hundreds more at the ready to please your ears! If you’d like your Murfie Shop to be featured, or if you’d like to nominate a shop to be featured, please e-mail us at info@murfie.com and let us know.

Fresh Staff Picks in the Marketplace!

Hey all, are you itching for some music-shopping inspiration? So many albums, so many choices!

You can rest assured knowing our Murfie Staff will keep the staff picks coming. Check out the new additions in the Staff Picks section of our marketplace, which you can find anytime by clicking Staff Picks on the left sidebar.

Pick your favorite pick, peeps!

Pete’s Picks: An Introduction to John Martyn

Uncovering one of music’s sweet little mysteries…

For music lovers, one of the most exciting aspects is the discovery of a new artist or album and being able to share that excitement with others—something that Murfie members know plenty about! So when the opportunity to offer a recommendation for Murfie Staff Picks came along, for me it was not a difficult choice. The hardest part was choosing which album to recommend.

John Martyn was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist whose career spread across 40 years and 21 studio albums. He’s had contributions along the way from Eric Clapton, The Band’s Levon Helm, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Steve Winwood, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Phil Collins. John has also inspired a wide range of artists from Beck, The Cure’s Robert Smith, David Gray, Devendra Banhart, Snow Patrol and many more—yet John remains pretty much unknown to many.

The music of John Martyn captured my soul from the very first listen. Island Records was John’s musical home for 22 years. He recorded 12 studio albums during that time, none of which were of any real commercial success, so it is a testament to Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell who signed John (who was just twenty years old), making him the first white artist to join the otherwise Jamaican-based music label in 1967. Chris Blackwell stuck by John for over 20 years, purely because he liked John and the music he made.

John described himself as an incurable romantic, which is evident in his ability for writing and delivering perfect love songs, without sounding cheap or blatantly inauthentic. What is even more astounding is his guitar playing, considering he didn’t know one chord from the next, but knew the shapes and positions his fingers needed to make to produce the the sound he wanted.

Like so many treasured and talented artists, John’s life was not without controversy. He suffered with drug abuse and alcohol addiction. He was uncompromising, and could become quite violent at times. In 2003, John’s right leg was amputated below the right knee due to septicemia brought on by diabetes. This would not slow him down, however. He continued to tour, performing with his band from a wheelchair.

In 2008, John was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was included in the Queen’s New Years Honors list, receiving an O.B.E. (Order Of The British Empire). Sadly on January 29th, 2009, John died in a hospital in Ireland due to double pneumonia. Eric Clapton payed tribute to John claiming he was, “so far ahead of everything, it’s almost inconceivable.”

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Sweet Little Mysteries: The Island Anthology (1995)

This two disc collection highlights John’s most innovative and treasured moments during his time with Island Records, with a selection of tracks taken from eight studio albums from 1971-1986. This collection is certainly a great start in the discovery of the music of John Martyn, but is by no means the end of the journey. The tracks from each album represented on Sweet Little Mysteries are just a few from this golden period of John’s career. Below I have included a little background information relating to the albums that are featured in this collection.

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Bless The Weather (1971), Tracks 1-3

Bless The Weather is at times a delicate and beautiful album. It was recorded in just three days, as John preferred the spontaneous approach, and many of the songs were even written the day of recording. This album earned John some of the strongest reviews of his career. The album blends gentle yet complex acoustic guitar styles with John’s increasingly jazzy vocals. In 1999 (28 years after it’s original release), Q magazine suggested that Bless The Weather was one of the most essential folk albums of all time.

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Solid Air (1973), Tracks 4-8

Solid Air is considered to be John’s landmark album, which showed him move towards a more experimental folk, jazz and blues direction. Here John delivers his lyrics with a more slurred expression, almost using his voice as an instrument. From the first few opening notes of Solid Air, you are immediately seduced and on a journey into a real after-hours classic. The British music magazine Q listed Solid Air as the 67th Greatest British Album Ever and was also included in their list of Best Chill-Out Albums Of All Time—not bad for an album recorded in 1973.  The title track was written for and about John’s close friend and Island label mate Nick Drake. Also included from the Solid Air Album is the tender “May You Never”, a track that earned John the most royalty checks he ever received—not from his own version, but the version Eric Clapton recorded for his 1977 album Slowhand.

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Inside Out (1973), Tracks 9-11

Following the critical appeal brought by Solid Air, Inside Out was described by John as everything he ever wanted to do in music. It was his insides coming out. He began to experiment more with electric guitar, leaving the acoustic to take more of a backseat role. Experimentation with effects pedals also began to enter into the mix, and the introduction of the Echoplex tape delay machine was being used to try to make his guitar emulate a sustained sax sound, influenced by Pharoah Saunders‘ Karma album.

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Sunday’s Child (1975), Tracks 12-18

Having unleashed his experimental side through Inside Out, John appears a little more settled and content with the release of Sunday’s Child—and the Echoplex still makes an appearance, shaping some very interesting soundscapes to accompany his ever present messages of love. The songs within Sunday’s Child are of a more conventional structure, as demonstrated on the beautifully simple “You Can Discover” and “One Day Without You”. While promoting Sunday’s Child, John played support for Pink Floyd on their Wish You Were Here tour in the UK. As he took the stage with just his acoustic guitar in hand, he was met by a wall of abuse from the crowd, who made it perfectly clear that they were not prepared to sit and listen to a bunch of folk songs. Undeterred, John proceeded to plug his guitar into the Echoplex and blasted the audience with a performance that resulted in a standing ovation.

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One World (1977), Tracks 1-6

After Sunday’s Child, John decided that he needed some time away from recording and his ever-skeptical view of the music business. He headed out to Jamaica, and while he was there, was introduced to the master of dub, Lee “Scratch” Perry. When John finally returned to the UK with the desire to re-enter the studio, he recorded One World, which saw John introduce some of the influences from his trip to Jamaica in tracks such as “Big Muff” (written with Lee Scratch Perry) and “Smiling Stranger”. The album was produced by Chris Blackwell, and is another example of John’s hunger for experimentation. The album also features Steve Winwood on Moog synthesizer. One of the many highlights from this album is the incredible and truly ambient track “Small Hours”, which was recorded around 3:00 in the morning, outside in the open air, next to a lake on a farm owned by Chris Blackwell. It features the sounds of nature’s very own session musicians, as the geese and the lapping water can be heard playing their part along with a passing mail train in the distance.

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Grace And Danger (1980), Tracks 7-12

Grace and Danger is a deep, painful and openly honest account of the breakdown of John’s relationship with his wife Beverley, a singer-songwriter in her own right, who he met and married in 1969. John was originally hired to be Beverley’s backing guitarist, which eventually lead to them releasing two albums (Stormbringer and The Road To Ruin) as John & Beverley Martyn for Island records. The songs on Grace and Danger are not in anyway spiteful or of a bitter naturein fact, they are quite the opposite. At times they are reflective, optimistic with false hope, a plea to be understood. Unlike a Hollywood movie, there is no happy ending here. The release of the album was delayed for over a year due to the fact that Chris Blackwell found the album too openly disturbing, given that he knew both parties so well. John eventually demanded that the album be released, telling Blackwell, “Please get it out! I don’t give a damn about how sad it makes you feel—it’s what I’m about: direct communication of emotion.” Rolling Stone described Grace and Danger as “a very strong outing, placing him in a class with such intelligent eclectics as Joan Armatrading and Joni Mitchell.”

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Sapphire (1984), Tracks 13-14

For a brief period after Grace and Danger, John Left Island Records and signed to Warner Brothers releasing two albums, Glorious Fool (1981), which was produced by Phil Collins and featured Eric Clapton on guitar, and Well Kept Secret (1982). Both releases saw John’s guitar playing taking more of a backseat role, with keyboards and  drum machines featured more prominently and s well as live shows with a full band. John rejoined Island in 1984 and headed for Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to record Sapphire with the help of Robert Palmer, who somewhat rescued the sessions as John was constantly falling out with the assigned production team. Again very little of John’s guitar playing is distinguishable from the now favored synth layers, as even his own guitar was now being fed through electronics, unfortunately with no real groundbreaking results.

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Piece By Piece (1986), Tracks 15-16

Piece By Piece was my introduction to the music of John Martyn and was played to me in 1987 on vinyl by a good friend of mine. I was 18 at the time and the thing that struck me on that very first listen was the honesty pouring out of John’s lyrics and the vocal delivery that convinced me that this guy means every word. The production and songwriting on Piece by Piece in my mind is far superior to that of the previous two records (Well Kept Secret and Sapphire) it indicates John on a more settled path once again, although it would not remain settled for long. Piece By Piece was John’s last studio album for Island as Chris Blackwell sold the company to the major label PolyGram, and John was later dropped and was without a record deal for the first time in over 20 years.

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Johnny Boy Would Love This! (2011)

In 1995, I met  and became friends with John and was fortunate to be in a position to help him sign a record deal with a label that I worked for in the UK. I worked with John on four albums before he sadly passed away in 2009. Later that same year, I was approached by John’s good friend and Chicago-based record Producer, Jim Tullio, to help coordinate and compile a tribute album to John that he was putting together. The album would contain brand new recordings of John’s classic songs performed by artists who had been influenced by John’s music. We secured thirty artists including: Beck, Snow Patrol, David Gray, Robert Smith (The Cure), Phil Collins, Joe Bonamassa, The Emperors of Wyoming (featuring Butch Vig) plus Academy Award winners, The Swell Season. Released in August 2011, the album titled Johnny Boy Would Love This: A Tribute to John Martyn received critical acclaim, helping music lovers to discover the sweet little mystery of John Martyn.