Lovely Recordings Hosted by Kenneth Wolf

I have been reading other Lovely Recording articles and thoroughly enjoying the mix of musical tastes in them, but after reading the Metal installment, I was inspired to write my own list of recordings that started my musical journey.

I realized that although the sound quality on some of my choices is only fair at best, all of my choices made a difference in my life. That sounds very melodramatic, but growing up in the 60’s in the NY/NJ metropolitan area, music was a major influence in my day-to-day life and turned me into a full-fledged music lover. There was so much going on musically in my teen years that, literally, there was something new and amazing almost every week. FM rock was a new and enlightening format that also played a big role in my musical development. WNEW-FM would play, a half hour at a time, some of the newest releases with only a station ID break, then go on with another half hour of awesome music.

Non-commercial FM radio, how I miss you! We have come full circle in a way with satellite radio now a daily pleasure for me; like the old days!

I will try to share my experiences and my reactions to some of the best that the 60’s and 70’s music had to offer. I will also try to explain the path I took through the many musical genres that I now enjoy. After compiling my list, I realized that 1967-68 was a watershed period for my musical tastes and ears. Some of the greatest music ever in my experience came from those years.

The Beatles: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone/Capitol, 1967)
Released in June, 1967, this LP changed everything for me. I was into AM rock, the Beatles and Stones, but this LP shook up my world and opened my ears to so many different things. The recording techniques they used were revolutionary for the time. I still enjoy this in all of its many formats that I own; stereo LP, CD, mono LP, but my favorite is a Parlaphone version that my parents had the foresight to buy for me on a vacation to Britain. The quality of the LP is simply sublime, and I still play this regularly on my system. Heavenly!

Available from Qobuz

The Doors (Elektra, 1967)
Talk about something different! Their sound was eerie and menacing and Jim Morrison’s voice fit right into that vibe. I became an instant Doors fan after hearing their first song on the radio. I went right down to my neighborhood record shop (remember those?) and purchased a copy. At that time, there were two versions for sale; mono and stereo, the stereo version being $1.00 more than the mono. Being a cash-strapped teen, I bought the mono version and I still have it. This started the new sound every week cycle that I mentioned earlier. Just imagine what it was like to hear new music from the Doors, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Cream in one year!

Available from HDtracks

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced (Track, 1967)
To my surprise, I found out that this LP was released before Sgt. Peppers, in May of 1967. Before this I was just another rock-loving kid in the neighborhood, but when this came out, I was just blown away with his amazing guitar work. I have a vivid memory of listening to this for the first time on my father’s Fisher console stereo (that was usually off limits to the children), at a very loud volume with a few friends over for the event. I don’t remember if recreational chemicals were part of the mix, but I doubt it. We were high on the music!

I eventually got to see Hendrix live in NYC, but my recollection is hazy at best. I thought the show was in Carnegie Hall, but it might have been at Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center. Either way, I remember the stage setup was basic; no light show or pyrotechnics needed. There were two huge stacks of speakers and amps (Marshall if I remember correctly), with the drum kit in the middle. When the first notes blasted out from the stage, we were mesmerized! I remember the subway ride home, smiles on all our faces and buzzing in our ears.

Available from Tidal

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (Decca/London, 1966)
I had discovered the bluesier Eric Clapton through his work on this LP. Until then, I was unfamiliar with the American Blues music that John Mayall’s group was playing. I discovered this album after hearing Clapton, and his work with Cream. This album started my journey into the blues which continues to this day. Many styles and genres of music have come and gone for me, but my love of the Blues is still strong. This album is one reason why.

Available from Tidal

Cream: Disraeli Gears (Reaction/Atco/Polydor, 1967)
I really got into Cream. The power trio style was very intriguing to me. For the first time I was able to focus on either Clapton’s guitar or Jack Bruce’s bass line or Ginger Baker’s drumming and follow the threads and interweaving of these master musicians. I am not a musician by any means, but I consider myself a good listener, and this record, and Wheels of Fire, taught me how to listen to distinct parts of a song as well as the whole, and to appreciate what was going on within the song structure. I got to see them live at Madison Square Garden during their Goodbye tour. They played on a moving turntable that slowly rotated so that everyone could see and hear them, but sound-wise it was a disaster. Either the sound was muffled and indistinct going away from you or blasting in your face. My one and only experience with a rotating stage was not a good one.

Available from PonoMusic

Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Steven Stills: Super Session (Columbia, 1968)
This LP is probably my all-time favorite. I have literally thousands of LPs, CDs, and digital FLACs, but I always come back to this in some form or another. I have worn out my original LP, found another one in good condition, own the SACD version, CD version and a remastered version with some extra cuts on it. In any format, this record satisfies my soul. It was recorded over two days right after RFK was assassinated, and you can feel the mood as the record opens. There is a blues side and a rock side. The blues side has some of the greatest blues guitar that I have ever heard before or since by Mike Bloomfield. Absolutely spine-tingling for me even after repeated playbacks. These songs will make you a blues lover. The rock side has some of the best use of a wah-wah pedal that I am aware of, by Steven Stills, on "Season of the Witch".

It was the first time I heard this pedal effect used in the way he did it, which seemed to be the opposite of the way other guitarists used it. Instead of a “wah-wah” effect, he managed to get a “ow-wa” sound with his. I felt it was very tasteful and fit the song just right.

One of my fondest memories of the many Fillmore East concerts I attended was seeing a Super Session set that was fairly mediocre in its own right, but having Mike Bloomfield come out into the audience after his set and sit one row in front of me so he could take in the headlining act of Sam and Dave. He was really into it and stayed for the entire set bopping up and down and yelling out encouragement from his seat. It sure was a thrill for me!

Available from PonoMusic

Santana (Columbia, 1971)
This LP took me in a totally different direction; Latino rock. Between the powerful rhythms and Carlos Santana’s searing guitar solos, I wore this one out too. They were a huge hit at Woodstock, which I was unable to attend due to my work schedule. I missed out on the biggest rock event in my lifetime because I had to stock grocery shelves!

Available from HDtracks

John Mayall: The Turning Point (Polydor, 1969)
Up until this release, John Mayall had been a blues crusader for me. With this LP, he showed me the power of acoustic music and acoustic blues. This led me in the direction of the older blues musicians that had recorded acoustically such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy. This LP is a joy to listen to and the musicianship is superb.

Available from PonoMusic

Muddy Waters: Folk Singer (Chess, 1964)
The quality of the recording on this LP is outstanding. This is an audiophile favorite for good reason, but the blues on here is so genuine and heartfelt, that for me, the sound quality takes a back seat to the vibe. It is an LP I play often to explain to people unfamiliar with the blues how the blues used to be at one time. I go on to show them the progression of the blues using other recordings, but this is usually my starting point.

Available from HDtracks

Albert King: Live Wire/Blues Power (Stax Records, 1968)
After hearing the acoustic set of Muddy Waters, I enjoy putting this LP on and enjoying the difference! Albert was the lesser known of the Kings’ clan of bluesmen, but I found his guitar work much more intense than BB’s, more visceral and emotional. He screamed where BB crooned. This LP demonstrated this very well for me.

Available from PonoMusic

The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971)
Another step on my musical journey occurred when I heard this LP. I had never heard a slide guitar played like Duane Allman played it. This LP began my lifelong love affair with the slide guitar. There are so many great guitarists that incorporate slide in their repertoire; Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, and Bonnie Raitt to name a few. This record introduced me to Duane Allman’s style of slide guitar, and he has been the gold standard for me ever since. Some of these songs are too long for my taste, but there is so much great playing on here that I can forgive some of the noodling and overlong drum solos that take up space on the record. Sound quality is pretty good for a live recording.

Available from PonoMusic

The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St (Rolling Stones, 1972)
I have been a Stones fan since their first LP came out, but if I had to pick one that is my favorite, it would be Exile. Sound quality isn’t great, and many of the songs are sloppy, but there is more soul and pure gut-bucket rock and blues on this LP than anything else that they have done before or since. I follow with amusement the controversy about the Exile master tapes and different versions that have been released and their relative quality. This LP is not about quality, it is about emotion and sex, drugs and rock n roll! I have a number of different versions of this, but my old beat up LP is just fine for listening to this. I get it.

Available from PonoMusic

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959)
My musical journey took a decided detour away from rock for a decade or so and went in the direction of jazz. My blues exploration led me to the jazz genre where I soon found this record.

I know nothing about what modal structure is, but I do know how this sounds to me. This LP is by far the most amazingly cool recording in my collection. It has been analyzed to death and there are enough versions out there for every man, woman and child to have one, but in whatever format you listen to, this recording is sublime. Doing some research on this, I discovered that Miles just had a basic theme for each song and told each player where he would fit into the structure he imagined, and they just improvised as they went. Everything was one take except for "Flamenco Sketches". There was almost no rehearsal and it was recorded in two days. From those minimal ideas came one of the most beautifully improvised records ever. I have this on audiophile quality LP, remastered CD, and hi-rez FLAC and I enjoy them all.

Available from HDtracks

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out (Columbia, 1959)
After learning a little about modal jazz, I was drawn to this classic because of its emphasis on timing. Again, not being a musician I had to learn some of the subtleties of time in the musical context to appreciate this LP. Besides being a beautiful recording, each song has an unusual time structure that fits into the overall theme of time. The more I listened to this, the more I realized how difficult some of these songs were to play, yet these musicians made them sound like it was no big deal. Musicianship on this LP is top notch.

Available from HDtracks

My music system is fairly modest; HK 990 integrated amp, Vandersteen 2 CE speakers, VPI Scout/Benz Micro analog and a Marantz CD/SACD player. I have a dedicated laptop for my digital files using an Audioquest Dragonfly ver1.2 DAC and J River software. I am blessed with a simpatico spouse who gave me our living room/dining room for a dedicated music room.

My musical journey continues to this day. I recently started exploring the Electronica genre, which I find extremely creative and diverse. I still listen to many different musical styles, from the electronics of the groupTosca, Brazilian jazz, fusion jazz to Babymetal,(Japanese heavy metal girl group ) but find little quality in much of today’s popular music. I continue to be amazed at the creativity that is music, and I hope to keep discovering new paths to take and enjoying the pleasure of listening for many years to come.

Share your Lovely Recordings with us!

Fetuso's picture

Hi there. I'm the guy who did the "metal installment." First of all, what you said about my entry inspiring you was quite flattering. Thanks, it made my day. I own several of the albums you wrote about, and now you've inspired me to check out the ones I dont. I've been flirting with buying that Muddy Waters album for some time.

JoeWhip's picture

the need to insult someone's taste in music, especially someone who takes the time to complete a Lovely a Recordings installment. Well done Ken.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
There is no need and we can all see from the first comment, some people will discover new music from Ken's list.
Dewey2's picture

... jump in and show us some new tunes. We promise to be nice.

tulysses's picture

I enjoy discovering new music on this site. I also enjoy hearing what thoughtful people think about recordings, why they are meaningful and especially how and when they discovered them. That's true even if the music is already familiar to me, as are several albums in this article. Nice job Ken.

Mr Quiet's picture

I have increased my musical collection with many suggestions from this site. I have some of these on vinyl, (last century) some on CD so I will be adding two or three to my "Check these out" list, Muddy Waters in particular. I love this sight as a resource as I love various genres that don't make sense, like Black Sabbath and Dominican Sisters of Mary for example.
Thank you, Michael, for your persistence in civility. It keeps me coming back along with your knowledge of electronics in audio, both great and affordable.

tulysses's picture

Muddy Waters' "Folk Singer" is one of the few recordings that is a stone cold audiophile lock while rating a 10 for musical content- at least on my scale. While it is a commercial recording, the sound quality is excellent and the musical content is Mt. Rushmore-esque. Highest recommendation if you are a blues fan, but then you probably already know about it, and also an incredible place to start if you want to see what this genre is all about.

Kwolf's picture

I am very thankful for all the considerate comments left about my Lovely Recordings article. I am also very appreciative of Michael Lavorgna's positive feedback while I worked on this. If I have inspired anyone to explore some of these recordings,I feel that I have accomplished something.
As far as the criticism; he is also entitled to his opinion, but remember there are a lot of folks that are too young to remember some of these recordings, or were not born yet. They are searching for something new to listen to, and my post was meant to help old and new rediscover music that they had either forgotten about or never heard before, and what those choices meant to me back in the "old days".
I was instrumental (sorry) in turning my stepchildren into Led Zeppelin and Doors fans when they heard their music played on my stereo. My eldest went on to become a metal maniac and still is to this day. The point is, there will always be a new generation of listeners who will discover music that to us old folks is "obvious" and are already very familiar with. To them it's a whole new world!
I hope that my descriptions of what these recordings did for me back then will help some of our younger readers explore new musical genres out of curiosity.
Happy listening!!

Kwolf's picture

I neglected to mention in my post that I am a 63 year old semi-retired dentist living in Nashville, TN. This was my first attempt at writing for a blog or a magazine. It was quite a learning experience and one that I enjoyed and hope to do again sometime soon.
Are you listening Sterophile?