Good news for music geeks! My favorite documentary series – Classic Albums – is back on television, if only for a limited run. What makes this series great is that you get the historical context of a “classic album,” but you also get to see the musicians and producers who made the music sitting behind a board and fading different tracks up and down, isolating things you might have missed the first time. They debuted the series last week with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, and continue tonight with Rush’s 2112 and Moving Pictures.
Here’s a some bonus material from the DVD edition of the Rush edition.
I watched the episodes featuring The Band’s second album and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes obsessively while I was preparing to record my album Blue Skies and Broken Arrows. It helped me figure out what I wanted (which was admittedly fairly simple) when I sat down with a recording engineer. I wrote about the Petty episode in one of the very first posts on this blog last year.
I originally caught the show on VH1 years ago. I remember being amazed as Paul Simon illustrated how the bass solo in “You Can Call Me Al” from Graceland was actually two parts – one part solo played live and then mirrored with that first part reversed. I would never have known, although it’s obvious now every time I hear it.
There are a lot of titles in the series, mostly rock albums, but they did also profile Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt. When I reached out to AXS TV, a representative told me they weren’t looking into updating the episodes, and there are no plans for new ones. But I’d love to see them not only return but expand and do more hip hop, jazz, and even musical comedy albums. I’d love to see Flight of the Conchords or Gorillaz or Jason Isbell sit down and break down their music. Who wouldn’t want to see Weird Al working the band through changes in “Trapped At the Drive Thru?”
Here’s the upcoming lineup:
- 5/24 – Rush: 2112 and Moving Pictures
- 5/31 – John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band
- 6/7 – Queen: A Night at the Opera
- 6/14 – The Doors: The Doors
- 6/21 – Black Sabbath: Paranoid
I reached out to AXS TV by e-mail to ask them why they picked up the series, and got this from VP of Programming Acquisitions Lucia McCalmont. “Classic Albums gives viewers an intimate look at the stories behind some of the most influential albums in music history, as told by the artists themselves,” she says. “Putting the spotlight on an eclectic roster of beloved bands ranging from Rush and Black Sabbath, to John Lennon and Fleetwood Mac, Classic Albums truly has something for everyone to enjoy, making this series a perfect fit for our lineup as AXS TV continues to bring viewers the ultimate in top-tier music programming.”
I’ve built up a collection of these on DVD, but some of them are tough to find. I finally tracked down the Graceland episode at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, and have yet to find a reasonably-priced copy of Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life. If AXS keeps this up, maybe I can end the search.