[ Background | Scope | Organization | Track Times | Liner Notes | Format | In Appreciation ]
I've been a huge fan of Les McCann since 1965, when I literally fell off my chair upon hearing him strum chords — on the piano strings! — in the final bars of the ballad, Yours Is My Heart Alone (on the album But Not Really). For nearly forty years thereafter, I've eagerly awaited the release of each new Les McCann album. In any record store I've ever visited, my first stop has been at the M bin in the Jazz section. When Les McCann's web page heralded the European release of Pacifique in 1997, I had a friend buy me a copy while vacationing in Berlin, Germany — a year before that CD became available in the United States. I might just be one of the world's most avid collectors of Les McCann recordings.
Unfortunately, I missed out on five years and twenty albums from Les McCann's early career prior to 1965. Not many of those albums remained in the record store bins when I was searching for them. Sadly, precious few of those (and subsequent) LP's were ever reissued in CD format. However, with the advent of the World Wide Web, I've been able to discover some of the more obscure albums; and, through online purchases, I've acquired nearly all of those that were missing from my collection.
While the Internet offers marvelous opportunities for expanding one's knowledge (as well as one's record collection), it can also be a source of misinformation. For example, I'm sure that Les McCann (like Mark Twain) would agree that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. Such erroneous information has the unfortunate tendency to propogate unchecked in cyberspace. [Note: It was Eddie Harris who passed away in November 1996.]
Accordingly, most of the online listings of Les McCann's albums are replete with mistakes and omissions. Even the "official" Discography on Les' own web site is woefully incomplete. And nowhere have I found the kind of detailed off-the-album information that interests me, including precise track times and liner notes. Thus I was motivated to create this Unofficial Discography, which is based primarily upon verifiable data from my personal holdings.
This work describes the contents of U.S.-issued LP and CD albums primarily. A small list of video formats is also included. It does not include cassette, 8-track, and reel-to-reel tapes; 45 rpm singles and EP jukebox records; or radio broadcasts (although I have some of these in my collection).
Note: This discography uses an album-oriented presentation, rather than the session-based structure preferred by professional discographers [see Why Session-Based Discography?]. While I understand the benefits of the latter organization, I do not have access to the requisite recording session details, which are provided inconsistently at best on the albums themselves.
Each album is described on a separate page. The albums are indexed (approximately) chronologically by issue date, within three groups:
Major Albums are those releases of original material in which Les McCann appears on (nearly) every track. Most of these feature Les (or his trio, Les McCann Ltd.) as the title artist. However, there are a number of albums on which Les shares lead billing with (or provides principle backup to) another artist, e.g., Teddy Edwards, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Stanley Turrentine, Lou Rawls, Clifford Scott, Joe Pass, The Jazz Crusaders, Gerald Wilson, Eddie Harris, Houston Person, and Joja Wendt. All of these can be considered "Les McCann Plus One" collaborations, and they belong in this list even if Les' name does not appear first on the album cover. [Note: Some liberties have been taken with chronological ordering in the major albums index, in order to keep these albums grouped together by record label.]
Reissues and Compilations are complete albums of Les McCann tracks (most of) which have appeared previously in the major albums category. In some cases, these include newly issued material as indicated (* or +) in the album and track lists. These do not include numerous LP reissues which are essentially identical to their original counterparts (particularly non-U.S. releases from the U.K., Europe, and Japan). However, label and catalog numbers of such duplicate reissues are listed on the original album page, if known. Also, in cases where multiple CD reissues of the same album have appeared, typically only one of these is described on its own page (i.e. the only one contained in my personal collection). Reissue album details (such as recording date and location, musicians, album credits, and liner notes) tend to be terse, since these are not duplicated if unchanged from the original album.
Other Appearances are releases by other artists (or various artists) on which Les McCann performs original material on less than all album tracks. Specifically not included are the multitude of compilation albums that have appeared in recent years, which contain collections of reissued material from multiple artists. Many such collections (e.g. Greatest Jazz Hits From Every Decade Imaginable and Jazz For Every Possible Mood Or Occasion) include a single Les McCann track from one of his original major albums (Compared To What is likely the most popular such track).
In addition, a small list of Videos featuring Les McCann is provided, along with a cross-referenced alphabetical listing of all Song Titles contained on listed albums.
I like to record onto cassette tapes and CD-R discs, and so I'm concerned about fitting music into restrictive media spaces. Hence my attention to listing track, side, and album timings.
For LP's, the track times shown are those listed on the album liner or record label. I.e., I haven't verified these with a stopwatch, and they are occasionally very inaccurate. These LP times usually do not include the pauses between tracks, so the listed side and album totals (computed by summing the track times) are typically 10-30 seconds shorter than actual playing times.
In the case of CD's, the track and total times are as recorded on the discs themselves, i.e., as displayed by a CD player or computer (which may differ from those printed on the album cover or insert). These do include the gap (typically two seconds) following a track, but total CD playing times are exact. (Note: Totals may not equal exact sums of listed track times due to roundoff of fractional seconds.)
I don't regret the advent of the Compact Disc, and I'll never miss the skips, pops, static, and inconvenience that were characteristic of the phonograph record. But during the forward march of technology, something was lost along the path — the art of the LP album cover itself, including the descriptive material usually found on its reverse side. Here was something you could hold in your hands and actually read while listening to the music. If the writer did a good job, you could learn details, e.g. of the artist's life or of the recording session, which served to enhance the listening experience.
Granted, some CD producers [thank you, Joel Dorn!] have made commendable attempts to duplicate the LP experience. Witness the 2002 Japanese CD reissue of my first Les McCann album, But Not Really (the one that got me hooked in the first place): This reproduces the beautiful Limelight Records format perfectly, even down to the 12-page booklet of text and photography on textured paper glued into the inside of the gatefold liner. It may be because my 50-plus year-old eyes are not what they once were, but it just doesn't grab me the way it used to, when it's all reduced to five inches across.
I really miss those old liner notes, and I've gone to the trouble of transcribing these from many of the albums. Some of these notes are quite lengthy (it's amazing what can fit into a 12-inch square with a tiny typeface), but don't be intimidated by their size; the content is often worthwhile reading. I direct you to the last half of Stanley Robertson's sermon on The Gospel Truth. His three points about Les McCann really struck a chord with me: There's someone who, back in 1963, clarified exactly what I've been thinking and feeling all these years.
By design, these web pages are not stylish. There are no pictures, no backgrounds, no colors, no unordinary fonts, no animations, no music, no sound effects, no scripts, no cookies, and no popups. Sorry, but I like it that way: i.e., no distractions. (Not to mention the advantages: rapid web page loading, universal browser compatibility, and it all fits easily in the limited disk space allotted by my Internet service provider.) Perhaps, when I get access to a scanner capable of handling 12-inch LP covers in a single pass, I'll add album cover art to spice things up a bit.
First, my heartfelt thanks to Sid Mark and Joel Dorn. They don't know me, but if not for their 1960's presence on the pioneering jazz radio station, WHAT-FM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I might never have discovered this music.
Second, I thank my wife Gaye, for her patience with my musical obsession and for tolerating the expenditures that made this work possible. Also, for her 1991 Father's Day gift: an evening at Sculler's Jazz Club for a rare Les McCann performance (his last to date) in the Boston area.
Foremost, I dedicate this web page to my late dad, Gene Freed. Since taking me to a Les McCann concert at the Red Hill Inn outside Camden, New Jersey, during the summer of '65, he shared with me a lifelong love of Les' music — especially that amazing piano-string chorded ending on Yours Is My Heart Alone!— Bob Freed
Newton, Massachusetts USA