13 songs, 1 hr 6 min, 11 min reading time.
Over the Easter weekend and the following week I should have been on a family holiday to California. Unfortunately this plan was curtailed by COVID-19. Instead I took a look into the music that has made California.
1) “I Love You, California” – Abraham Frankenstein
The official state song of California written by F. B. Silverwood and composed by Abraham F. Frankenstein of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. It was designated the state song in 1951. Personally I don’t think it’s that good but we had to start somewhere.
Single: “I Love You, California – California State Song” (2013)
Label: Baxter St.
2) “Oye Como Va” – Santana
Santana was formed in San Francisco in 1966 by one of the most celebrated Mexican American’s Carlos Santana. This is a classic and those guitar shreds are everything that embodies Santana.
Album: “Abraxas” (1970)
Label: Columbia Records
3) “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” – The Byrds
The only reason this made it over their other big hit “Mr. Tambourine Man” is the fiddly bit at the start which I think is the best bit of the song by quite a way. It does sound dated today but a good representation of folk rock which was pioneered by The Byrds in Los Angeles. Formed in 1964, they are said to have been inspired by the Beatles and other British Invasion bands and were influential in originating psychedelic rock and raga rock (rock music with Indian influence). Listen to “Eight Miles High”, but be warned it won’t be easy.
Album: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (1965)
Label: Sony Music Entertainment
4) “Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac
Bit of a contentious one here. Fleetwood Mac originally started out as a British band formed in London 1967. They began primarily as a blues band (see the album “Albatross”). However the California connection came in 1974: while Mick Fleetwood was scouting studios in Los Angeles, he was introduced to folk-rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The addition of Buckingham and Nicks gave the band a more pop rock sound. “Rumours” (1977), which this track features on, produced four U.S. Top 10 singles and remained at number one on the American albums chart for 31 weeks. “Rumours” has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, making it the eighth-highest-selling album in history. If I’m being honest I’m a bit up and down with Fleetwood Mac. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t…
Album: “Rumours (Super Deluxe)” (1977)
Label: Warner Records
5) “6 in the Mornin'” – Ice T
During the 1980s, hip hop music flourished in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. The earliest forms of Los Angeles hip hop were hardcore hip hop artists like Ice-T with this track which is arguably the first West Coast gangsta rap track.
Album: “Rhyme Pays” (1987)
Label: Sire Records Company
6) “Straight OuttaCompton” – N.W.A
In 1988, Dr. Dre, along with Eazy-E and Ice Cube, released “Straight Outta Compton” under the name N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). The album took many people by surprise, as it single-handedly placed West Coast hip hop on the map. They were from Compton, California.
Album: “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)
Label: Priority Records
7) “King Kunta” – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is perhaps the culmination of the work and influence of ICE T, N.W.A and countless others who fired West Coast hip hop into the mainstream. Lamar, also from Compton, had his major-label debut and breakout in 2012 with “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”. “To Pimp a Butterfly” (featuring this track) followed in 2015 to further acclaim. Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 2017 album “DAMN”. I think that speaks for itself with regards to how powerful his work has been. This track is my favourite of his as it’s funky, jazzy, poppy but empowered by his aggressive lyrics. There is something about the way it moves along that I just enjoy.
8) “Make It Wit Chu” – Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age is an American rock band formed in 1996 in Palm Desert, California. The band was founded by vocalist and guitarist Josh Homme. I was a very big fan of theirs as a kid/early teen. However, going back and listening to some of their tracks, I found them pretty annoying with this one being the only one I could put up with. Tastes change.
Album: “Era Vulgaris” (2007)
Label: Interscope Records
9) “Summer Girl” – HAIM
HAIM is an American pop rock band from Los Angeles. The band consists of three sisters: Este Haim, Danielle Haim and Alana Haim. They had a lot of success on both sides of the Atlantic with the release of their debut album “Days Are Gone” in 2013 (favourites of mine include “Falling” and “Forever”). This is a lovely, laidback, relatively recent single that will be part of their third album, “Women in Music Pt. III”, scheduled for release on August 21. I hope it gets you ready for the summer and release of that album which I’m sure will be great.
Single: “The Steps” (2020)
Label: Universal Music Operations
10) “Take 5” – The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Dave Brubeck was an American jazz pianist and composer, considered one of the foremost exponents of cool jazz. This track is often incorrectly attributed to Brubeck. “Take Five”, which has become a jazz standard, was composed by Brubeck’s long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. It has been sampled and covered countless times by too many artists to name. But I’m sure you recognise it.
Album: “Time Out” (1959)
Label: SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
11) “At Last” – Etta James
Prior to this research, this was one of those songs I knew but didn’t know who the artist was behind the classic. If you know what I mean? Etta James was born in Los Angeles and had a prolific career: she won six Grammy Awards, 17 Blues Music Awards, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.
Album: “At Last!” (1960)
Label: UMG Recordings
12) “A Night In Tunisia – Remastered ” – Dexter Gordan
Dexter Gordon was an American jazz tenor saxophonist born in Los Angeles. He was one of the first players of the instrument in the bebop idiom of musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Gordon’s height was 6 feet 6 inches, so he was also known as “Long Tall Dexter” and “Sophisticated Giant”. His talents didn’t stop at music, Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the Bertrand Tavernier film Round Midnight (previously mentioned in a RunPip Movie and TV Soundtracks post) (Warner Bros, 1986), and he won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist, for the soundtrack album “The Other Side of Round Midnight” (Blue Note Records, 1986).
Album: “Our Man In Paris (Rudy Van Gelder Edition)” (1963)
Label: The Blue Note Label Group
13) “Truth” – Kamasi Washington
This is just such a good song. An epic, that can be listened to over and over. It has previously featured on Jake 5. Washington was born in Los Angeles, California. He has played with numerous legends including Herbie Hancock, Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, Chaka Khan, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Mike Muir, Raphael Saadiq and many others. Washington played saxophone on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” (mentioned above).
EP: “Harmony of Difference” (2017)
Label: Dom Chi No