Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s article.
Déjà vu — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Coming off of the success of their self-titled debut, rock trio Crosby, Stills & Nash needed to hire another tour member. They chose Neil Young, ignoring his messy history with Stephen Stills from their days as Buffalo Springfield bandmates and his unfamiliarity with Graham Nash. Although the resulting tour — including their performance at Woodstock — lacked chemistry, CSNY grew massively in popularity, making their second album one of the most anticipated of all time.
Déjà vu displays an obsessive attention to detail, which CSNY achieved with over 800 hours in the studio. Except for the Joni Mitchell cover, “Woodstock,” the band members recorded each song individually, contributing what they saw fit. The album is a display of individual talents as each member increased his own level of songwriting and instrumental complexity. Once mixed together, the songs contribute to a dramatic and expansive album that feels more like reading a book of short stories than listening to a record.
Tracks to listen to: “Carry On,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Our House”
Misterioso — Thelonious Monk Quartet
Live albums are often an accurate representation of an artist’s influences and talents, and Misterioso is no exception.
Recorded on August 7, 1958 during a residency at the Five Spot Café in New York City, Misterioso is the perfect representation of jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk’s performance style — enigmatic, spontaneous and challenging.
Monk, along with drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and saxophonist Johnny Griffin, found a way to respond to every variety of the audience’s enthusiasm. Mid-performance, Monk reworked four of the album’s tracks, marking a true testament of his ability to compose — taking older numbers and presenting them from a new perspective. This instinctual capability blends perfectly with Griffin’s saxophone. Although his performance received mixed reviews upon the record’s initial release, Griffin has since found praise for his free-flowing improvisational solos.
Tracks to listen to: “Nutty,” “Blues Five Spot,” “In Walked Bud”