Freegal: Five for Free (Connect the Dots Edition)

By Cameron M.

Each week, all Seattle Public Library card holders are entitled to five free MP3 downloads through Freegal. In this post, I’ll highlight five songs that are connected through the artists involved.

Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man

Bob Dylan’s scathing critique of rock journalists and their routinely inane questions, “Ballad of a Thin Man” (from the 1965 classic, Highway 61 Revisited) could’ve been an alternate soundtrack to Marshawn Lynch’s Super Bowl press conference. Featuring Mike Bloomfield from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band on lead guitar and Al Kooper contributing haunting, beautiful organ work, this record marked the completion of Dylan’s transition from acoustic to electric. Ultimately it culminated in one of the greatest rock albums ever, highlighted by this track. Visit Freegal now and get it.

Michael Bloomfield & Al Kooper – Stop

A few years after recording with Dylan, Bloomfield and Kooper found themselves between projects (The Electric Flag and Blood, Sweat & Tears, respectively) and got together in 1968 to jam in the studio. The result was side one of the legendary album Super Session. A post-Buffalo Springfield, pre-CSNY, Steven Stills stepped in for the absent Bloomfield on the second day of recording, to perform what would become side two with Kooper. On the song “Stop,” Bloomfield’s guitar prowess is fully on display, whilst Kooper’s driving organ line seamlessly blends with the grooving rhythm section.

Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis – Shuggie’s Shuffle

To follow up the smash hit that was Super Session, Kooper recruited a then 15-year-old guitar prodigy by the name of Shuggie Otis to record Kooper Session. Closing the album is “Shuggie’s Shuffle” on which the two primaries (Kooper on organ, Otis on guitar) deftly trade riffs, one-upping each other and at times pushing the song to the brink of insanity.

RJD2 – Ring Finger (samples Shuggie Otis’s “Oxford Gray”)

In my humble opinion, instrumental hip-hop producer RJD2’s 2004 album Since We Last Spoke ranks with DJ Shadow’s 1996 Endtroducing… and J Dilla’s 2006 Donuts as one of the greatest records in the sub-genre. The main riff of “Ring Finger” contains a sample of Shuggie Otis’ “Oxford Gray,” which was the opening track from Shuggie’s 1970 solo debut. The original cut employs an odd time signature and RJ remixes the song to a more standard 4/4 beat. Both tracks are fantastic, with Shuggie laying down a frenetic guitar solo to open the original and RJ turning out a slow burning, stand-out jam.

Icebird – Going and Going and Going (Feat. RJD2 & Aaron Livingston)

The final connection on this list is RJD2’s 2011 collaboration with vocalist Aaron Livingston, a project called Icebird. RJ’s rock ‘n roll beat is capably finessed by Livingston as he nimbly navigates the line between singing and rapping, soulfully crooning with a voice like a river rock – simultaneously gravelly and smooth. The song opens with the lyrics, “Like, this dinner would be a pain except it’s on the bosses’ dime, so it’s alright/That show was kinda lame man, but yo that sound check that was tight, so it’s alright.”
This song is most definitely all right. Visit Freegal now and get it!

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