Al Green, Tammy Wynette Songs Added to National Recording Registry
13. "At Sunset," Mort Sahl (1955)
"At Sunset" is an early live recording of the influential satirist and stand-up comedian Sahl. His comedy is typified by a conversational style, thoroughly grounded in up-to-the-minute topics and events, and is replete with satiric asides and smart, subtle punch lines. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce are among the many comics who were influenced by Sahl. His approach to comedy became a staple on television and at comedy clubs for decades. This album, Sahl's second release but earliest recording, had not been authorized and was later withdrawn. "At Sunset" nevertheless retains the distinction of being the first recording of modern stand-up comedy.
14. Interviews With Jazz Musicians for the Voice of America, Willis Conover (1956)
From 1954 until his death, Conover (1920-96) hosted thousands of jazz programs for the Voice of America radio service, broadcasting to countries where jazz was rarely heard or even allowed. Although Conover was barely known in his own country, American jazz musicians knew and appreciated his efforts on their behalf and were frequent guests on his programs. In 1956, Conover presented a series of interviews with some of the greatest jazz artists of the era, including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman and Art Tatum. The Tatum interview is the only known in-depth recorded interview with the pianist; he died that year. For many, these interviews were a first chance to hear the thoughts of great jazz artists who had come of age with the music itself as they shared their reflections, opinions and predictions with Conover.
15. The Music From Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini (1959)
The suave detective as lead character in a television program was novel when the Peter Gunnseries debuted in 1958. To emphasize the cool, sophisticated personality of the private eye, played by Craig Stevens, Mancini wrote jazz-inflected instrumental themes. The renowned opening theme features a driving and catchy jazz ostinato figure punctuated by big band blasts and throbs. The theme and album became popular in their own right, helping to make the television series a hit with audiences. This album was one of the first TV soundtracks to be issued commercially and was a favorite of the early stereo era.
16. United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Fyffe, Alabama; field recordings by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins (1959)
Folklorist Lomax characterized the folk polyphony that he and English folk singer Collins recorded at the annual United Sacred Harp Musical Convention as "choral music for a nation of individualists." About 150 Southern shape-note singers ranging in age from under 10 to over 90 participated, singing from "The Sacred Harp," a hymnal written in so-called "shape notes." This 19th-century notational system was originally devised to teach untrained singers to harmonize more fluently, but it also enabled the creation of invigorating and complex pieces sung in four parts by participants seated around a square, thus creating the multi-directional cascades of voices heard on these recordings. The future of the tradition was very much in doubt when these recordings were made. Lomax and others had earlier documented Sacred Harp singing on monophonic discs. These stereo tape recordings were the first to capture the music's full vigor and complexity. The dissemination of these recordings helped preserve and revitalize this uniquely American form both inside and outside of their original communities.
17. "Blind Joe Death," John Fahey (1959, 1964, 1967)
In 1959, solo guitarist Fahey self-published the first version of this album, pressing only 100 copies and distributing them locally in Washington and among his acquaintances. In subsequent years, he rerecorded selections of the album on different occasions, expressing a preference for the more technically demanding performances on the 1967 stereo release. Heavily influenced by classic blues and folk 78-rpm recordings he had collected since his youth, Fahey's solo guitar compositions also incorporate such surprising influences as the work of Charles Ives and Bela Bartok to forge uniquely personal statements.
18. "Stand by Your Man," Tammy Wynette (1968)
Of the many popular recordings made by country-music vocalist Wynette, none elicited the reactions -- pro and con -- of "Stand by Your Man." The song, written by Wynette and her producer Billy Sherrill, is an ode to the weakness of men, the strength of their women, love, loyalty and support. When it was released, the women's movement in the U.S. was on the ascendancy and interpretation of the song created dissent. Must a woman stand by her man and forgive his transgressions because "after all, he's just a man," or do such attitudes signify subservience? However interpreted, Wynette's artistry transcends any literal message in the song. Her performance ranges from quiet, pensive reflection to a soaring, full-voiced chorus of affirmation, contributing to a song that remains one of the most beloved in country music.
19. Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1969)
This unclassifiable melding of country, blues, folk and free jazz filtered through Captain Beefheart's feverishly inventive imagination remains without precedent in its striking sonic and lyrical originality. Captain Beefheart (the stage name of Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band -- Bill Harkleroad, Jeff Cotton, Victor Hayden, Mark Boston and John French -- had spent months sequestered in a house in Los Angeles foothills, rehearsing the compositions to meet Van Vliet's exacting standards before they entered the studio, to be recorded by Frank Zappa. Upon its release, the album, by no means universally embraced, nonetheless garnered raves from many influential critics. Scores of pop, new wave, punk and post-punk artists claim Beefheart as an influence, including the Gang of Four, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Minutemen, Pere Ubu, the Fall, Tom Waits, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the White Stripes.
20. "Songs of the Humpback Whale" (1970)
The use of underwater microphones called hydrophones showed that not only can whales communicate, but they do so with beauty and complexity. Frank Watlington and Roger Payne, among others, made these unique recordings. The haunting sounds on "Songs of the Humpback Whale," along with Payne's liner notes for CRM Records, helped turn the tide of U.S. public opinion against whaling. In addition to the album's aesthetic and political significance, it can also be considered historically valuable: whales change their songs over time so these recordings document a cetacean performance practice of a time gone by.
21. "Let's Stay Together," Al Green (1971)
Green's musical career began as a member of a gospel music vocal quartet. He found great commercial success when teamed with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, crafting a singing style that incorporates an understated delivery with occasional climbs to a casual, pure falsetto. Green's sleek delivery is complemented effectively by underlying brassy horns and funk rhythms played by the accomplished Hi Records studio band. At the height of his popularity in the mid-'70s, Green stopped performing secular music to pursue religious endeavors, singing gospel music and becoming an ordained minister. Since the mid-'80s, he has performed and recorded both secular and sacred music.
22. "Black Angels (Thirteen Images From the Dark Land)," George Crumb, CRI Recordings (1972)
Composers Recordings Inc. was established in 1954 by Otto Luening, Douglas Moore and Oliver Daniel. CRI was dedicated to the recording of contemporary classical music by American composers and, in doing so, helped to introduce hundreds of new musical works to audiences. American composer Crumb is noted for his challenging and often surreal, emotionally effective works that frequently incorporate new musical timbres and take complex forms. "Black Angels," one of Crumb's best-known pieces, was inspired by the Vietnam War. The piece is written for amplified electric string quartet and includes the playing of a number of percussion instruments, crystal goblets and chanting by the quartet members. The CRI recording of the New York String Quartet performing "Black Angels" creates an opportunity for listeners to appreciate this rich and dramatic work, as have the company's recordings of so many other new musical compositions.
23. Aja, Steely Dan (1977)
Aja is an apotheosis of jazz-pop, a seamless fusion of jazz, pop, and blues crafted with meticulous precision. Swimming against the tides of then-popular punk rock and disco, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan created an adult pop album, lyrically --
both cynical and cryptic -- melodically rich and musically dense. The impeccable playing by a number of world-class musicians helped to achieve a musical whole even greater than the sum of its impressive parts.
24. "3 Feet High and Rising," De La Soul (1989)
Bucking hip-hop's increasing turn toward stark urban naturalism in the late 1980s, De La Soul released this upbeat and often humorous album to widespread acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. The trio -- Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos), David Jolicoeur (Trugoy) and Vincent Mason (DJ Maseo) -- was ably assisted by producer Prince Paul (Paul Huston), who has reported that these were some of the most productive, creative and entertaining sessions he ever worked on. For the album, the group marshaled an astonishing range of samples that included not only soul and R&B classics by Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays but also Steely Dan's "Aja" and cuts by Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, Kraftwerk, Hall & Oates and Liberace. Perhaps the most far-flung sample is a snippet of New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the comics over the radio in 1945.
25. GOPAC Strategy and Instructional Tapes (1986-94)
GOPAC is a nonprofit organization established in 1978 to develop and educate conservative leaders in the U.S. and to provide support to Republican candidates running for local, state and national offices. Among the most effective and best-known tools developed by GOPAC are instructional tape recordings made by Republican leaders. The tapes inform the public and aspiring politicians of conservative positions and assist them in articulating and honing their language and message on a wide array of issues as well as providing "how-to" primers on everything involved in running an effective political campaign. The recordings have proved to be extremely influential in shaping political discourse from the 1980s to the present.
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