Album Review #2: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (1955)

In the Wee Small Hours Sinatra Cover

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. As the oldest album on the list, it holds up incredibly well. The writing, instrumentals and vocals are all borderline perfect. It’s also a very sad and melancholy record, being mostly inspired by a particularly nasty breakup with his wife Ava Gardner.

The music itself is without a doubt my favorite part of this album. The strings, horns, and and occasional bells all work together to create a truly sublime score that sounds straight out of the most well-orchestrated classic Disney film you can imagine. Listening to this album is like having silk, milk and honey injected directly into your eardrums. …Actually, that sounds horrifying. Never mind, bad example.

This was a difficult and emotional album for Sinatra to make, and it shows. The lyrics are sad, the vocals are soulful and the album as a whole just gives off an incredible sorrowful vibe. Most of the songs are about loneliness, isolation and often unrequited love, which makes sense, as the album was mainly inspired by his recent separation with his wife, Ava. The emotions in this album are real and strong, and it’s easy to tell.

So overall, this was a very good album. The combination of absolutely incredible instrumentation, lyrics and vocal performances make this a truly unforgettable album A true masterpiece that you should absolutely listen to.

Next Up: Tragic Songs of Life by the Louvin Brothers (1956)

Book Review #2: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

Midnight's Children cover

This book was absolutely incredible. I’m not really even sure what to say. It consistently blew me away, and Rushdie’s writing is some of the best I’ve ever read.

First off, so much happens in these 450 pages that it feels at least twice as long as it actually is (and in this case, that is not a bad thing). Over the course of this book, you witness the history of an entire family tree over half a century, with the history of an entire subcontinent as the backdrop. It’s definitely a lot to swallow, but that’s probably the book’s strongest point. More than any other book I’ve ever read (possibly even more than the Lord of the Rings), when you read this book, you are truly immersed in the story’s world. A huge list of characters, a ton of detail, historical context… All of these work together to create a novel that truly sucks you in and completely wraps you up in the story.

Rushdie’s writing is great as well. His prose is the kind that’s enjoyable to read but incredibly intelligent at the same time. You can tell how smart he is just by reading a paragraph of his writing. And while there are some things that take getting used to, such as his tendency to omit commas when listing things and his frequent overuse of ellipsis, his prose is outstanding nonetheless.

Overall, I was very, very impressed by this book. Salman Rushdie is a true genius and one of the greatest writers of the last century. If you’re even slightly interested, I would absolutely recommend this book.

Next Up: Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Album Review #1: Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley (1956)

Elvis Self titled 1956

We start off this monster of an album list with a true classic: the world’s first taste of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I’ll have to admit, I was very surprised by this album. As my first taste of classic 50’s rock n’ roll, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it or if I would simply find myself uninterested. But this album really surpassed my expectations; the fast songs were incredibly catchy, the slow songs were incredibly well-performed, and altogether it was just a very solid album.

No album is without its flaws, however. I noticed several inconsistencies with volume and audio quality; on some tracks Elvis sounded almost like he decided to start singing away from the mic mid-song for no particular reason, and a couple tracks were of a noticeably lower audio quality than the rest. This didn’t really have much of an impact on the listening experience, though. The tracks were just too strong for something like that to have an impact on the album’s quality.

The opening track, “Blue Suede Shoes”, is a great kick-off, with an energetic performance and great guitar and drums to back it up. The album’s many slow ballads are heart-felt and and well-sung, and are split up with fast rocking tracks in between to keep up the pace. The best of these is definitely “Tutti Frutti”, an incredibly peppy and upbeat Little Richard cover that really bounds with energy (however, the original is still superior, in my opinion). “Blue Moon” is another highlight, but in a different way. It’s very minimalistic, stripped down and slow-moving, but great nonetheless.

Overall, I enjoyed this album very much, and would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in classic rock n’ roll.

Next Up: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (1955)