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New Music Friday Videos: Frank Zappa, Ella Fitzgerald & Booker T. Jones

It’s been a long week but it’s time for new music Friday videos from Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Zappa and Booker T. Jones. A great way to start the weekend.

Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Zappa and Booker T. Jones

We still love music videos. You can blame the Cars, Michael Jackson, and Dire Straits for that weird obsession. We’ve been watching a lot of them during COVID-19 and realized that we’re discovering more and more great albums through YouTube. Every New Music Friday we’re going to share at least 3 new music videos that we’ve been watching all week.

Frank Zappa – Hot Rats

Trying to label Frank Zappa is next to impossible. The singer-songwriter, composer, guitar soloist, filmmaker, and controversial band leader recorded so much music in a span of only 30 years, that it’s hard to pick just one album and run with it. But we’re going to try. What made Zappa so unique was his intense love of classical modernism and it’s clear how that impacted his compositions both as a solo artist and with the Mothers of Invention.

He was a man of many contradictions; he supported the legalisation of drugs but refused to ever use them. He also thought that the American style of government was ripe for the picking by lobbyists (and he was correct) and special interest groups, but that Communism was far worse and that no sane person would support such a backwards political ideology.

Frank Zappa loved to experiment with his music; often with very mixed results. Hot Rats was always one of his most complex and focused albums and we’re glad to see it reissued in hi-res digital audio for the first time. His music was confusing and he did jump from genre to genre; often in the same album, but he was decidedly unique in the overall scheme of things. Buy at Amazon.

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes

The music on this live album was recorded in Berlin in 1962 when Ella Fitzgerald was near the peak of her career but this performance from 1968 demonstrates that she still had that magical voice that made her so powerful for decades. Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday dominated for so long, it’s almost impossible to think of another modern artist with the same level of talent and staying power.

Fitzgerald was indeed “The First Lady of Song” and she could back it up every single night on any stage in the world. Her tone, phrasing, and incredible sense of timing made her the dominant jazz vocalist of the 20th century and after selling 40 million records and winning 14 Grammy Awards, she was the greatest American jazz singer of all-time.

Nobody could sell a song like Ella; Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone possessed their own kind of mastery that made audiences melt, but when Ella hit her stride during a performance there was nothing holding her back. She could pivot from slow romantic ballads to explosive scat singing better than anyone and that has made her music endure. Buy at Amazon.

Booker T. & The M.G.’ s – Green Onions

Do you remember the first time you heard “Green Onions” and did you spend the better part of a summer trying to find a Hammond B-3 Organ? I did in 1980 after watching the Blues Brothers for the first time at the age of 10. My uncle gave me a copy of the record that featured Booker T. Jones and Steve “The Colonel” Cropper. Donald “Duck” Dunn did not join the band until 1965 but remained with the group until his death in 2012.

They were the official band of Stax Records and played on hundreds of albums with the likes Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Albert King, and Otis Redding. Cropper and Dunn became integral members of the Blues Brothers and gave Belushi and Dan Aykroyd a real backbone for both the film and their performances.

What’s utterly fascinating about “Green Onions” is that Booker T. Jones wrote and recorded the track at Stax when he was only 17 years old and it has endured as part of the Memphis soul sound for almost 60 years. Buy at Amazon.

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