(Warning: another phoned in post that shouldn’t reflect on the amazingness of the record being discussed.)
So, I’m not sure where this is going to go today. I’ve drunk half of my coffee, and yet the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet. So I’m just sort of sitting here staring at the screen wondering what I’m going to say about this record. That record being Chet Atkins and Les Paul’s 1976 collaboration ‘Chester and Lester’. I fantastic record featuring two world class guitarists. You don’t get much better than these two guys.
As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t much of a Chet Atkins fan most of my life. I was aware that he was an amazing guitarist in his field. But as you know, I’ve identified as a metal head and classic rock fan most my life. I recognize great players when I heard them, but I just didn’t spend much time with bluegrass and country most my life. Therefore, Chet Atkins has remained in my periphery most my life. Les Paul has a similar story for me. I first heard of him in 1988 or 1989 when HBO did a special on him. It showcased Paul jamming with many contemporary guitarists and was mind blowing to a 14 year Dave. But aside from that I never pursued his music. But I alway held both guitarists in high regard, even if I didn’t listen to their music.
I first became aware of this record existence in 2010 or 2011 when I first started subscribing to Netflix. There was this excellent documentary on Les Paul and they mentioned this record. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.
According to Chet Atkins, he had convinced Les Paul to come out of retirement to do this one record with him. So Les traveled to wherever the studio was and the two of them with the band set up and did a full day of rehearsals, which were recorded. At the end of the day, Les announced he was going home and whatever they had recorded that day was the record.
The result being a loose laid back record with a bit of banter between Atkins and Paul. It sounds more like a jam session than a recording session, what it essentially is. You can tell the two of them were having fun playing together. Throughout the songs the two guitarist are cracking jokes, teasing each other while trading guitar licks. In between songs you can hear the musicians laughing. I imagine this was a fun day in the studio for everyone one involved.
So that is it for this record. As I’ve said, I’m not feeling this whole writing thing this morning. I’m test driving Google docs this month to see whether I want to renew my subscription to Microsoft Office or not. If I can get everything I need out of Google docs, I might just stick with that. Anyway, I mention it because there is a plugin in Docs that analyzes your document and helps you fix your grammar and sentence structures. It also rates how readable and at what grade level your writing is. According to GradeProofs metrics, this document is at a 64% readability percentage and is written at 8th grade level. So it’s not my best effort.
I’ll leave you with that.
That moment when you realize that the last record you played was at 45 RPM and the one you just threw on is 33 RPM, Oops! That happens to me quite a bit, there is one artist who I listen to fairly often, whose record bounces between 33 and 45 and I always forget to switch it back after changing records. So, when I threw on today’s record, ‘Chet Atkins Pick on Jerry Reed’ it sounded all crazy, but still kind of cool.
You know what it sounded like? Have you ever listened to early Les Paul records when he first developed his sound on sound technology? If you haven’t you should check it out (I’ll try and see if I can some videos to link to). Anyway, Les Paul was possibly the first musician to develop sound on sound recording, and the first to really experiment with it, layering tons and tons of guitars on top of each other. Some of the early experiments he’d toy with a pitch, recording parts at different speeds, faster and slower, and when he played back at normal speed, some of the guitar parts sounded really fast and hi pitched. Anyway, that is what today’s record sounded like when I first started playing it before I figured out I was playing at the wrong speed.
So, as you may have guessed, I’m sort of just bullshitting my way throw today’s review because I really don’t have much to say about this record. That’s not to say I don’t like it, barely know it, or that it’s not any good. I really like, listen to somewhat frequently, and I think it’s really good. I just don’t have a big discovery story with it, and it wasn’t a major soundtrack of my life. It’s just a record I own and throw on time to time when I’m looking for something different to listen to.
In fact, I’m not sure when or where I bought this copy I’m listening to right now. Well I can ballpark when, somewhere in early 2013, but I have no idea where I picked it up. If memory serves me correctly I bought this record early in my vinyl collecting days, which started around spring of 2013 (I think). But I can’t nail it down beyond that. I’m not sure if I bought from this guy Phil’s who ran a store in his garage, off of my friend Rick, or at one of the shops in Antique World, which is usually where most of those early purchases were made. All I can tell you is I have it now.
In fact, I’m not even sure why I decided to buy it. Though I like finger picking guitar style, it’s never been very high on my list of favorite genres. Same with Chet Atkins, I have always been aware that he was a guitar god from the 70’s in the country/bluegrass world. But I never went out of my way to really dig into his music. In fact, this is the first of two records I own by him, and the only two I have ever listened to. So, I’m not sure what prompted me to buy it.
If I were to guess on why I bought this record, I would base in this weird desire I had for a long time where I thought I wanted to own as much music in as many different genres’s as possible, so as to have the perfect music on hand for whatever situation I ever happen to be in. Though I have always been a fan of many different types of music, and feel I’m open minded about music in general, I believe this desire to have a wide variety of music stems from my days of being a sound guy at the Z Lounge back in the mid 2000’s. I sort of prided myself on being able to pull up any record on my iPod that would fit what style music was playing that night.
After I left that job I still wanted to have a wide variety of music on my iPod, one to make shuffles interesting, and two, to be able to play something for every situation. I had it in my head that somehow, I was going to be hosting parties or get together, and I would want to be able to provide fitting music that would please as wide of range of people’s tastes as possible. And when I started collecting records, I carried on that practice.
But here’s the thing, I never host any parties what’s so ever. Out of the small group of friends I was hanging out and collecting records with in New York, I was the only one that didn’t have nights where we gathered at my place and played my records. I was living with my parents at the time, I lived about 30 miles away from everyone, and it just never was a convenient place to gather. So, it never happened.
And as far as shuffling playlist goes, I never do that anymore. For the most part when I’m walking or driving around with my iPod, I’m listening to podcasts most the time. The only time I play music on my iPod is when I’m reading or when I’m writing a review and I’m not playing the vinyl. So, the idea that I want a wide range of music on my iPod for interesting shuffles and entertaining others doesn’t apply to me anymore.
All that said though, even though I’m not sure why I bought this record, I’m glad I did, because I do really like it. I may not play it all the time, but occasionally I get in a mood and throw it on. And I’m always glad when I do. Take that for whatever it is.
Today we wrap up the Aerosmith section of my collection with their 1977 effort ‘Draw the Line’. Again, I have the exact same thing so say about ‘Draw the Line’ as I did about ‘Rocks’ and ‘Toys in The Attic’. They’re great records with a few songs that have been a little overplayed, but the non-radio songs are stronger than most of the hits. Highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t heard it. (I am well that with most records I cover, if you had an interest in the band, then you are probably already familiar with all the music on it, I just needed a concluding sentence for that paragraph, and that’s the best I could come up with.)
Last night I was working on photographing and editing various covers for this project, I try to do at least 10 or 15 a day. While I was doing that, I played all four of my Aerosmith records back to back for the hell of it. I concluded that ‘Rocks’ and ‘Draw the Line’ are my favorites of the four. I think I like the both equally, with ‘Toys in The Attic’ just behind them. ‘Get Your Wings’ is good too, but they weren’t quite there yet. (Though one of my favorite Aerosmith songs, ‘Spaced’ comes from GYW.)
It seems it took them about three albums to truly get their groove, and from there they maintained it for at least a three-record stretch. My buddy Nick has a theory that any band that can put out three killer records in a row, usually established themselves of a classic band or something to that effect. I must say Aerosmith achieved that with ‘Toys in the Attic’, ‘Rocks’, and ‘Draw the Line’. (I really can’t comment on any of the records that came afterward, because I don’t own them and aren’t familiar with them.) If the band were to have broken up after these three records they would probably still be considered one of the greatest hard rock bands from the 1970’s.
The fact that they managed to survive the 1970’s and carry on until the 21st century is an amazingly impressive feat. And when I say survive, I don’t only mean their career. It’s well established that at one point they nearly drank themselves to death. So, the fact they could sober up, revive their career in the late 80’s, and keep it going for another 20 years is unheard of. I may not like anything they did in the last 27 years…Holy fuck I just realized ‘Permanent Vacation’ will be 30 years old this year!!! FUCK I’m old…Anyway, where was I? Oh Yeah, I may not like anything they’ve done in the last 27 years, But I can’t deny that they were very successful and managed to grow their audience to span several generations of music lovers. And it’s not how bands like them, Journey and even Metallica are now. Where people come to their shows because they’re a classic band and it’s just a thing to do and nobody cares about their current records. No from 1987 to at least 1997 Aerosmith were putting out new records that were selling insanely well and had a shit ton of hits on each one. They were just as relevant in the 1990’s as they were in the 1970’s. I can’t think of another band that can claim that.
Another thing I noticed during last night’s spins was that Aerosmith’s fondness for overproduced and overblown ballads did not start in the late 80’s as I always thought it did. It seemed to me through the 90’s Aerosmith keep rewriting and releasing the song ‘Angel’ from ‘Permanent Vacation’ repeatedly. What I realized was it wasn’t ‘Angel’ they were rewriting, no it was actually ‘Seasons of the Whither’ from 1975’s ‘Get Your Wings’. It seems it was with ‘Seasons’ that they stumbled across that formula of ballad writing and they somehow managed to milk that formula for the next 40 odd years with at one imitation of it after another on every album ever since. Hey if ain’t broke, don’t fix it…I guess.
And finally, after hearing all these early Aerosmith records over the last week, I realized that the 80’s hard rock and hair metal scene got its start with this band. Particularly Guns N Roses. Though GNR were their own band with their own sound, they were working off the template that Aerosmith created a decade earlier. When you consider this, it only makes sense that it would have been in the late 80’s that Aerosmith could make such a killer comeback and remain on the scene when all the other 80’s hair metal bands disappeared.
So, to sum this all up, Aerosmith was and is a great band, whose legendary status was earned back in the 1970’s. Whether you like them or not, you can’t deny their success and claim they didn’t work for it. They deserve their place as a pillar in the Pantheon of Rock N Roll. That said, radio has totally killed them for me and I probably won’t listen to these records anytime soon.