A word of advice for anyone thinking of endeavoring to listen to the greatest albums of all time: use the acclaimed music list here. I'm loving this project...but definitely think this list should be made up of actual albums--and not include collections of any sort. This week, the Rolling Stone list included a collection of 2.5 hours of Phil Spector's production oeuvre. While production is crucial to an album's success, I don't know if production merits inclusion in this list--but I would be interested in seeing the list of greatest producers of all time. I had planned on filling in records on the Acclaimed list that weren't listed here, but realized tonight that that amounts to an additional 33 albums. At this pace, that's an additional 4 months.
I was reading Uncut Magazine last week, and came across a list of the top 50 singer-songwriter albums of all time. When I saw it, I thought, maybe I'll make that my project for 2015. I would switch gears to one album per week...
Aside from my gripe above, I don't regret a second of this project. I've learned more about music (in some ways) than I have by merely listening to records in the past. It should be required for all aspiring musicians--especially anyone venturing to making an album of their own.
But I'm seeing now that it's an ongoing project...one that takes a lifetime. Even still, I'm all in.
66: Van Morrison -- Moondance (1970)
I've always had a respect for Van Morrison. I loved some of his songs, if I did not have a deep love of his catalog. We've all heard "Brown Eyed Girl" from his first solo record "Blowin' Your Mind" released in 1967. It's a classic, and staple on classic rock stations.
I remember hearing the song Crazy Love from this album for the first time in the movie "When A Man Loves A Woman" back in 1994. I haven't seen the film again since, but I remember thinking then that this was a perfect song. I listen to it now, and the impression remains.
I've listened to this album at least five times during the past week. It hasn't endeared itself to me in a way that I want to rush out and buy a collector's edition of the vinyl for $100 at Second Hand Rose...and yet, listening to it now, good vibes rush in from the first line of And It Stoned Me.
Half a mile from the county fair...
Moondance has a cool jazz vibe--even if it does toe the line of corny lounge-y-ness. He redeems himself with a single improvised line at 4:08 after "One moment dance with you, in the moonlight on a magic night"...followed by this epic la-la-la vibrational trill (I'm not sure what you'd call it) paired with a staccato piano line...perfection.
Into The Mystic opens with the line "We were born before the wind...also younger than the sun." The production throughout the record is virtuosic in its understatement.
There's something strange for me about this record. Listening back to it now, looking track by track, I realize that I do love this record. What is this rebellion in me that wants to hang onto the notion that I don't? Who can argue with these songs? I was going to argue that he's just not a great singer--and yet, his voice is perfect as-is.
I can't find a single track to point to and say it's anything less than classic.
Dammit. I might have to go to the Second Hand Rose record store after all.
65: Various Artists (Producer: Phil Spector) -- Back To Mono (1991)
When I do, one record I won't even look for is Back To Mono.
Don't get me entirely wrong. This collection sucks you back in time like few albums really can. I use the word "album" even though it is clearly not. Let's just say that it says a lot when music can evoke a time that was never your own. Many of these songs are great--yes, classics even.
Part of the issue is, like James Brown's Star Time before, two and a half hours is too much to ever really absorb--it's an exercise in overwhelm. I probably listened to this album for 5 hours this week (do the math, I didn't make it to the requisite third listen)...and yet I can't really point to a single song that I was blown away by. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah is very cool, as is Walking In The Rain or Puddin' N' Tain.
Phil Spector is known for his production technique creating a "Wall Of Sound". This was created by layering many players on top of each other (5 guitars, 2 basses, 7 horns, etc.), and then running that sound through an echo-chamber.
River Deep Mountain High is a great song for Tina Turner's performance...but for my ears the production--the wall of sound--is too much. I've never heard of The Checkmates Ltd., but loved their Love Is All I Have To Give--though the production at the end goes to crazy town and undercuts the sentiment of the song. I get that it's supposed to be so frenzied that it whips me into ecstasy, instead it just makes me lose interest.
Maybe it's just me--you can have your bombast, I will take subtlety instead any day. Clearly he's capable of that, given the cool songs I mentioned above, and that he co-produced the great "Imagine" by John Lennon.
I have to admit I'm changing my mind about Van Morrison against some inexplicable resistance. The Phil Spector joints have their share of greatness, but the production style gets pushed too far for me. If Moondance is virtuosic in its subtlety, Phil Spector at his most audacious is its shadow self.
64: The Rolling Stones -- Sticky Fingers (1971) 63: U2 -- Achtung Baby (1991)