It's funny how priorities become clear when they need to. As I've mentioned, I started the Media Studies Master's Program at The New School last week.  Against knowing counsel, I decided I would take 2 classes my first semester, instead of the wise single class approach.  Once I saw the syllabi, I saw how silly I had been.

What's more...I realized that I would maybe be able to continue listening to these albums--but with all of the required reading, I would definitely not be able to spend the time reading the 33 1/3 books or watching documentaries.  Gaining context has been one of the most important aspects of this project thus far.

It was then that I realized how important this little blog project has been for me.  I have come too far, and learned too much, to slack off now that I'm nearing the top 30 albums of all time.

So, I dropped one of the classes...and reasserted my devotion to this project.

I'll just have to be bored to tears by Media Theory next semester.

34 The Band - Music From Big Pink

034: The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968)

Aside from what I just declared about not being able to read or watch documentaries due to my grad work, that is only partly true.  I didn't get to read the 33 1/3 book for either record this week...but I did get to watch not one, but two documentaries about The Band.

The first was Martin Scorsese's very interesting The Last Waltz.  I loved seeing Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and, of course, The Band perform together--including many telling interview segments interspersed.  The calibre of talent that came out to support The Band's last official performance is staggering (Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, and more all came out).

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As the second in a double feature, I watched the equally interesting (if devastating) documentary about Levon Helm "Ain't In It For My Health".  This follows the drummer and singer (and multi-instrumentalist) in his later life as he struggles financially, with his health, and also with his bitterness about how Robbie Robertson treated his bandmates.  Watching how he continued to perform and collaborate was a true inspiration.  I hope I can keep singing and playing until my final days.

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Now the album.

I didn't love this album as much as I did their eponymous release.  But it's still a great album.

To me, that self-titled album had some more focused songwriting overall--and the lovely Whispering Pines.  This album has some great classics, like The Weight and I Shall Be Released.  I really love the album opener Tears Of Rage (one of three songs written or co-written by Dylan).

To Kingdom Come has an infectious quality about it--but it also sounds like the key is just outside of Rick and Robbie's vocal range.  Maybe this makes it seem more urgent?  The vocal tone definitely points to some hard living--and I find it oddly endearing.

I just can't understand the keyboard sounds that open the song In A Station.  I think Garth Hudson is a musical genius, but don't understand this choice.  Once you get past that though, this is a lovely song with an ever-shifting melody.

I love their cover of the Lefty Frizzell song Long Black Veil (also covered by Johnny Cash on At Folsom Prison), and Chest Fever shows these players' funky versatility.

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33 Ramones - Ramones

033: Ramones – Ramones (1976)

The first time I listened to this record, I heard Blitzkrieg Bop, and my attention was complete.  Punk rock that isn't angry--still managing to be raw and somehow fun.  Yes!

But then, the songs roll on, and I get lost within the repetition.

Awww...

When I heard the Sex Pistols, I was surprised by how lackluster their playing was.  Ramones are clearly tight, and produce a very raw vibe while the music is still clean and each part distinguishable.  It's maybe unfair to listen to them in the same week as The Band--a group of insanely talented and versatile musicians.

Loudmouth literally sounds like a continuation of I Don't Wanna Go Down The Basement.  And then Havana Affair sounds like a further continuation--this time adding non-sensical lyrics.

The tom solo in Let's Dance stands out as a different vibe--but when the music comes in, it's more of the same.  Yet, I like the song.

I really like the ooh-ooh parts in the song I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You.

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Verdict

Music From Big Pink is a great record.  It just didn't hit me as hard as their self-titled album.  I definitely want to look deeper into their catalog.

Ramones are cool, but ultimately not my bag.  I don't even really mean to be critical of them.  If I were more into the genre, I'm sure I would have a whole different respect for them, and what they did.

Up Next

032: The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)
031: Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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