ANALOG TO DIGITAL: PICKING THE HITS
Anyone who's spent any time in used record stores—and I'm speaking here as someone who's logged plenty of hours in them—knows that a few things are always true:
1) They all smell the same
2) They're always poorly lit
3) There's always plenty of Herb Alpert and Chet Atkins albums laying around for cheap.
I once decorated a small niche of an especially crappy apartment with copies of Alpert's Whipped Cream And Other Delights, but I'd never spent much time with Atkins until recently. Atkins ran RCA's Nashville division for years, pioneering the crossover "Nashville sound" that would help define country music in the '60s. Atkins also cut a lot of albums on his own, usually two or three a year. He'd typically lay down rhythm tracks at RCA's famed Studio B, a facility he'd put on the map, and record the leads at his home studio.
Atkins recorded many instrumental versions of contemporary hits, but even the renditions that border on easy-listening kitsch are usually redeemed by his distinctive playing. I picked up Solid Gold '69 in part because I simply couldn't imagine Atkins' versions of "Son Of A Preacher Man" or "Aquarius" and in part because I never pass up any rendition of "Hey Jude." But the standout tracks are the sensitive readings of "Both Sides Now" and "Blackbird" I've posted below.
One more thing: For some reason Donovan does the liner notes. There aren't any Donovan songs on it and if he appears on it somewhere, it eluded me. But the note is worth reproducing verbatim:
chet paul's tunes sensitive love for love young brownskin harp ear good for nice sounds but of fuzz great face beautiful guitar fondling country smooth like strings and cream joni's tune lovely classical box rewind once upon a time irish music went west and fiddles and jest country music came from the marriage of men's cultures under new suns and now c & w is very popular in ireland... and chet is very popular in america and i thank him for playing "our" new tune so beautifully. -- Donovan