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Classic Albums

Born To Run & Nevermind

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Born To Run & Nevermind

It's been a big week for me--I received the shipment of CD's for my new album Held Momentarily.  This is my third album--which means it's my third shipment of CD's that I've received.  Each time it is an extremely fulfilling experience--to hold something tangible in your hands that started as an idea.  It's pretty cool. That means it's done-done.

Well, the album part of it is done.  Now comes all the other stuff.

The album will come out in January--meaning that's when I'll do the official release party, et al...and there's a lot to get done before that happens.

I filmed a conversation with my brother, Josiah, where we talked about the album.  I'm editing the video now in Final Cut Pro...and learning that I like editing videos too.  It's very similar to the process of recording an album actually...I hope to have that posted in the next couple of weeks.

Then I will revamp this here site in honor of the new album...and get the album ready for pre-orders on iTunes.  So, have your credit cards out...or your Apple Pay...or whatever you kids are using to support struggling artists these days.

18 Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

018: Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

I do not like Bruce Springsteen's music.

Wait.

Let my clarify--I have not historically liked his music.  It just seems that it's geared for some other population--and I say that as a (current) resident of New Jersey.  I also mean to say that without any hint of superiority...not every album is right for every person.  So I just assumed that was the case with good 'ole Bruce.

Some of my resolve was chipped away earlier this year when I listened to Born In The USA (and read the 33 1/3 book).  I cannot deny that Bruce is a great songwriter.   He also seems to be a really nice guy.

Then I watched a documentary (entitled "Wings For Wheels") about the making of this album--which is available in-full and for free on the tubes for yous.

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It's a great documentary that really digs deep into the making of this record--and a huge turning point for Bruce and the band.  I loved how it really showed what it's like to try different sounds, the adding and subtracting that happens when you record...and compares the final result to the work in progress.

This album was clearly ambitious for the young Bruce.  He was shooting for Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" and he definitely achieves a dense and powerful sound throughout.  The first cut they recorded, and one that set the bar for the rest of the album, Born To Run really displays this with its opening barrage.

It is yet another example of an album that for the first two listens I was resolutely like "I do not like this"...and then by the third listen, I found myself walking down the street humming Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out--a song I liked the least on the record (and now one I really do like).  Something similar happened with the song Meeting Across the River.  It seemed heavy-handed in its criminal imagery...but now it seems balanced and evocative.

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17 Nirvana - Nevermind

017: Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

I clearly remember this album coming out my first year of high school.  The world was changing for me--a descent into darker terrain; a perfect pairing with high school-grade angst.

I liked some of these songs...but was also scared of it to.  I had a similar relationship with Pretty Hate Machine by nine inch nails.

But I never really embraced this album completely--though it was ever present in those days.

I watched the Classic Albums episode for this record, and highly recommend it.  The producer, Butch Vig, said that Kurt was a huge John Lennon fan.  It's one of those details that once you hear it makes perfect sense.  That vocal on Lennon's Mother, where he's shredding his voice, is very compatible with Kurt's delivery on many songs here.  The video also highlights how Kurt's songs were really pop songs garnered with hard hitting drums, heavy guitars, and romping bass lines.

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Listening to it now, I'm surprised by how well it holds up.  I'm also intrigued by the balance that is stuck with the songs here.  There are the heavier tunes--but also some with a lighter touch (Polly--although perhaps you can't call that a light touch--and Something In The Way).  The latter song has my favorite lyric "it's OK to eat fish, 'cause they don't have any feelings".   Many of the lyrics here make little sense--yet somehow convey the emotion any way.

It's hard to listen to this album and not think about how things ended for Kurt Cobain (much like I mentioned about Michael Jackson last week).  I wonder what he'd be up to by now musically...What kind of father he would be to Frances (who is now 22).  How many songs we were neglected because of his early resignation...

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Verdict

I was surprised to like both of these records more than I thought I would.  My respect for Bruce as an artist definitely deepened this week...even if I'm not still his target demo.  As for Nevermind, I was surprised by how well it held up, and how near-perfect it is, song to song.  I'm also not the target demo for this album, and yet I'm right there...

Up Next

016: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1974) 015: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)

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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Innervisions & Plastic Ono Band

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Innervisions & Plastic Ono Band

It’s been a busy week. I bought my first electric guitar this week…an early prize for finishing the record (with hopes that it will inspire the next). Haven’t had a ton of time to actually play it, but am very excited. Surprisingly, it is a very different experience than playing an acoustic. So much to learn. Ahh, I’m resigned to being a music student for life. Speaking of which, with the end of this educational project in sight, I have decided how I will continue on next year. I am going to fill in all of the albums in the top 100 from the Acclaimed Music list (which is seen as more of an authority than the list I’ve used–Rolling Stone’s list). There are about 37 albums that I will not have covered this year. Covering those, two a week, will take us into May 2015. Then, I’ve decided to tackle Uncut Magazine’s Top 50 Singer-Songwriter Albums of All Time. For that list, it’s more chronological, choosing the seminal album from the 50 most influential songwriters starting with Tim Hardin through today. That takes us into October I believe…and we’ll see what happens from there…maybe by then I’ll be interested in taking my music studies elsewhere. There is something oddly satisfying about charting my musical course so far in advance. It does make it harder to keep up with what is popular at the moment…but I’ve done that all my life. So, I have to just be OK with not being aware of songs like “I’m All About The Bass”. Somewhere within that time span, I’ll be releasing my own album…and booking shows again, etc.

24 Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

024: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)

Now we’ve come to Stevie’s peak spot on this list. It’s an amazing album I had heard many, many times prior to this week.

When I was recording my last album, 15 years ago–back in my Berklee days, people kept saying that Stevie must have been a huge inspiration for me. I had heard his later career radio hits at that point, but had never heard any of his 70’s records. So, I relented and picked them up. I think I mentioned last time that I then had an enduring love for these albums for many years–though Fulfillingness’ First Finale is still my favorite of the whole lot.

Songs In The Key of Life is a masterwork for its scope and breadth.

This album is so impactful because it is succinct–not even 10 songs. It’s drenched in religious references, social commentary, visual metaphors–and brilliant music.

It is mixed and mastered in a way that encourages ingesting it as an album–not a collection of singles. Notice how one song bleeds into the next, or even how the transition from Living For The City has the beautiful, untitled piano interlude that joins it to Golden Lady.

Hearing Jesus Children Of America back in 1998 was the first time I had ever heard of Transcendental Meditation. It left such an impression on me that I went through the rather expensive training to learn how to do it. [As a side note, I can't recommend meditation highly enough at this point. I have trouble keeping up the practice and discipline now. But if you're looking for something to help with anxiety, I can say that nothing worked better for me during some supremely stressful times.]

Another thing that left a strong impression on me about this record is how Stevie blends a very powerful artistic expression throughout the record with a clear sense of his humor–see the intro to Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing. Who could resist this goofball? You see it again with his gruff vocal line that comes in at 3:00 of He’s Misstra Know-It-All. But he just as soon comes back and sings his butt off with some of the most beautiful and untouchable vocal add-libs.

23 John Lennon - Plastic Ono Band

023: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

This album is very similar in ways to Innervisions. Maybe it was just what the 70’s were like…but both of these guys are doing some serious personal work in order to arrive at the content of these albums.

For Lennon, it was through his famous Primal Scream therapy that yielded the most incredible rock vocal I’ve ever heard.

I had heard this record before, probably 15 years ago or so. I didn’t go back to it in the intervening years, and I can see why now.

It is difficult.

John Lennon is putting it ALL out here. Listen to the back half of the song Mother, starting at about 3:24. I watched the Classic Albums episode (of course). The engineer talks about how John would come in at the end of each session for the album and lay down these vocal takes. He would sing them so hard that he would go hoarse by the end. You can actually hear it in the recording–it’s almost too much for me to listen to.

It was an interesting choice to put that song as the opener–but I guess if being a Beatle doesn’t give you confidence to take some risks, you’re doing something wrong. On the next song comes Lennon’s goofball moment, where he gruffly says “cookie” for no apparent reason during Hold On (around 1:07). Working Class Hero and Isolation–such universal and timeless songs. He really mixes in his beautiful ballads with some aggressive romps–Hold On vs I Found Out; Remember vs Love; or Well Well Well vs Look At Me. It’s another interesting choice to keep interchanging between the softer ballads and the more harsh songs–perhaps that’s what keeps the listener a little off-balance. Maybe it’s just me. Anger is a difficult emotion for me…and he is very clearly working through some deep anger here. Maybe he was trying to temper the harshness by blending in the softer side? There’s so much to say about his song God. That first line is an interesting one: “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” He then goes on to list things he values from magic to the Beatles–but now he “don’t believe in”. I get that he’s working through ideas that were forced onto him–and choosing individuality instead. Especially because this was the final statement of his first solo album–which came as a shock to Beatles devotees. I don’t really understand why he chooses to list Jesus beside Hitler–or why Hitler is even in the list. Perhaps he was just trying to provoke–the primary job of an artist. He certainly achieves provocation by ending the song with “the dream is over”.

Verdict

Both of these albums are amazing. Stevie’s Innervisions is one that I will continue to go back to for as long as I’m lucky enough to have life or the sense of hearing. It’s an album that just has it all, for me. It’s funny that Plastic Ono Band has it all too…but leaves me feeling differently. To me, listening to this album is a lot like going to couple’s therapy–evoking that feeling you get when you leave a really heavy session. You’re glad you went, and you see the benefits–but that shit ain’t easy.

Up Next

022: Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings 021: Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight 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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Rumours & Live At The Apollo

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Rumours & Live At The Apollo

Another busy week with the new album. It should be completely finished in the next couple of weeks (artwork and all). I’m working with some really talented people as the final days approach.

I’m still hoping to, at least, soft release it this year…but am thinking more and more that an official release (with a release party and all) may have to wait for the new year. There are so many aspects to releasing an album, that I don’t want to rush the process now that it’s complete. I want to make a space for it to get the proper attention it deserves. I’m still learning what that really means…so I’ll share more as the ideas take shape.

26 Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

026: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

Now this is an album I had heard before. I fell in love with it in college…and hadn’t really listened to it again since.

To me, this album is perfect.

Aspirational.

It hits all the right notes. The songwriting is solid throughout. The production is interesting, varied, and timeless. The performances are amazing…Those background vocal harmonies alone would do it for me.

I watched the Classic Albums episode about this album to get some context.

It turns out the band (which formerly housed two relationships amidst its five members) was coming apart at the seams. Because of the success they’d seen with their previous album (the first of this new lineup), they worked through the pain…and wrote from where they were. Even in this episode, 21 years after recording the album, you can still see the pain, and lingering love, barely beneath the surface.

Songs of pain. Songs of defiance. Songs of new love. Of drug use.

All performed with their central object right there in the room. On the other side of a shared mic.

I can’t imagine how emotionally intense a time that must have been.

But the result of a year’s worth of pain is an album full of wonderful songs…not a single filler.

Coming back to it after so much time, I was impressed by some of the lesser known songs–particularly Songbird. The songwriting is simple–lyrically and harmonically. But so effective and affecting. Christine McVie has such a wonderful voice. I think Stevie Nicks gets so much attention for her voice–and with good reason. But there was so much talent here that it warrants shifting focus on repeated listens. The vocals. The bass, drums, guitar, keys…all on par with each other.

Sure, some of the songs here have been played to death–having become ubiquitous in political campaigns, commercials, grocery stores, and oldies stations. But when consumed as an album…it’s hard to hold that against it. It’s a beautiful collection of songs.

 

25 James Brown - Live At The Apollo

025: James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963)

And now for the second live album on this list. And the second appearance of the hardest working man in showbi’ness–James Brown.

I have a hard time seeing past James Brown the personality–and simply enjoying the music for what it is.

So to help gain some context, I read the 33 1/3 book on the album, written by Douglas Wolk. This book is densely written. There are some very interesting facts about what the show would have been like (covering who the openers would have been, what the general program would have been like, the vibe of the crowd, etc.). The book gets a little lost in trying to chart the origins of every song…detailing every note played by the band…the origins of every instrumental break…where, if you’re not intimately familiar with the songs (as I’m not), it’s a little alienating.

But with what I learned here, and what I learned from the Public Enemy book in the same series (which focuses quite about on JB), I had enough to get some valuable context.

Thinking a little more wouldn’t hurt, we watched the recent biopic Get On Up.

This is what ultimately gave me what I needed to imagine the intensity of the show…to imagine his showmanship, in addition to his undeniable musicianship. Chadwick Boseman did an incredible job as James Brown. He lip-synched most of the vocals–so effectively that I thought he’d actually sung the part.

James Brown recorded this show with his own money. His label didn’t believe in live recordings for his audience–they wanted him to stick to singles. His belief in the project probably saved his career…Can you imagine the loss if he’d given up at that point. The album shot his struggling career into high gear. He’d tasted fame (and certainly worked for it, playing 300 days a year, with several shows on many days), but this launched him into the stratosphere. He tried to recreate the magic again many times by releasing subsequent Live At The Apollo (LATA) volumes…but this is where the magic is. That initial burst.

One thing the 33 1/3 book does very well is explains what was happening in the country at the same time this show was recorded…the fears of nuclear war with Russia coinciding.

The crowd is right there with him…perhaps looking for some serious escapist good times. James Brown has them, especially the frenzied women, eating out of his hand.

I love the background vocals on I’ll Go Crazy…especially the “Leave me…oip” lines.

James Brown is singing his butt of on Try Me. In the absence of the theatrics, it’s easier to see how he really was the whole package. I love those intermittent hand claps. too

The band is tight. Is this because they’re afraid of Mr. Dynamite’s fines for any misstep? Or just that they’re some serious musicians?

When James comes in on Think…until he says “I think about the hard time…”, I have no idea what he’s saying for lines at a time. But it sounds good.

I Don’t Mind is another favorite–again with amazing background vocals, especially the rushed “I-doh-mine” lines.

Lost Someone is, arguably, the centerpiece of this album. You definitely get a sense of JB the impassioned preacher/lover both deprived and depraved. He can work a line, bending and twisting it until its meaning changes. The audience screams when they should, and he invites them to go further with him–with a few comical outbursts. And go with him, they do.

It’s not my favorite song here though…It goes on a bit too long for me. Perhaps because every other song is rushed through, with little time for a breath, or palate cleanser, in between. Maybe its length is necessary for that reason. But there’s very little song there. It’s mostly an underpinning for his impressive theatrics.

“Mr. Please Please” squeezes what must be 6 songs into the 6 minute “Medley”. I would love to hear a full version of the song “I Found Someone To Love Me”…but it doesn’t seem that one exists (not by James Brown anyway).

The midnight set closes with funky Night Train–a funked up roll call of American cities, which itself gives way to end the show with a rather anti-climactic organ-laced jazz.

 

Verdict

This week, for some reason, I was struck by how hard fame is on people. Both Fleetwood Mac and James Brown had massive doses of fame, and subsequently took excessive amounts of drugs to help cope with the incredible workload and pressure that that must have required.

In the Classic Albums episode, Stevie Nicks said that she’s asked all of her famous friends, and each of them has regretted the cost required, as James Brown said, to be the boss. For her, it meant no children, no marriage.

I really enjoyed both records…and hope to spend some time exploring the catalogs of both Fleetwood Mac and James Brown more.

Up Next

A first. A week for which I’ve already heard both records. I’m looking forward to spending a little more time with both, though.

024: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)

023: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

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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Who's Next & The Joshua Tree

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Who's Next & The Joshua Tree

It’s been another busy week here. I got the final master version of the album early in the week. Yesterday, I finished photography for the album with JA Caldwell. I’m really happy with the way the sessions turned out.

Now, Kayt Hester will work on a second piece for the album cover art–a portrait.

Then I’ll work with a graphic designer on the album artwork…and send it off to the manufacturer to make it all tangible.

It seems like I’ve been on the verge of completion for a while now…but there are so many pieces to fit together. I’m feeling really grateful that it’s all coming together that way it is. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really talented musicians and artists.

You’ll see what I mean soon enough. I have to keep stopping myself from just sending out links to let you listen. I’m that excited and proud.

28 The Who - Who's Next

The Who – Who’s Next (1971)

The last time I listened to The Who was early in the year for Tommy (96). I found that double-album difficult, interesting, but ultimately not a match for me.

I had never heard this album–unless you count the CSI Miami and CSI New York themes (Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley respectively). After Tommy, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for.

Both of this week’s episodes are featured in episodes of Classic Albums–and so I watched them both. For The Who, I am struck by how different Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are. Pete definitely seems like the artist and brains behind the whole operation. I loved watching him pogo around the stage, whipping his guitar hither, thither, and yon. But Roger is an undeniable front man–all power and mic cable swinging bravado. When Pete sings, there’s an emotionalism that Roger overshoots. Yin and yang.

Turns out this album, their follow-up to Tommy, was originally planned as another concept Rock Opera type piece called “Life House”. The conceptual phase never seemed to gel, so Pete Townshend had to scrap his ambitious plans. Some of the songs were retained, and plugged into a more traditional album format.

Without that conceptual layer, I found this album much more accessible, and successful, than Tommy. Many of the songs are now classics–Baba O’Riley, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, and Won’t Get Fooled Again.

They included one song from bassist John Entwistle–My Wife. To my ears, this is the one misstep of the album. It sounds like a Paul McCartney knock-off. It’s not a bad song. It’s just not on the level of the balance of the album–all written by Pete Townshend.

I really like the mellow section of the album with The Song Is Over and Getting In Tune.

Also, showing different layers of the band: the biggest surprise cut on this record is Going Mobile. Complete with it’s “beep beep” and lyrics like “I don’t care about pollution, I’m an air conditioned gypsy…that’s my solution” — this song shouldn’t work. But its energy is contagious. The message still seems relevant, conjuring up the “Tiny House Movement”–that I’m still somewhat fascinated by. I definitely romanticize the idea of pairing down, hitching my tiny house to the back of a pick-up (both of which I don’t own), and going mobile.

 

 

 

27 U2 - The Joshua Tree

U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

This is also our second look at U2, having last listened to them with Achtung Baby (63). I had never listened to any of their earlier records prior to this week.

I did not have high hopes.

I watched the Classic Albums episode for this record too. It seems U2 was in the midst of their own identity crisis after the success of their tour for The Unforgettable Fire. Meeting Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, they realized how little they knew about the roots of American rock.

So they took some time and educated themselves.

Watching that gave me some interesting context. Perhaps it also opened me up to listening to this album with fresh ears.

The first four tracks make up the strongest album opening I’ve heard in a long while–if ever. These songs were ubiquitous when they came out, so it’s hard to imagine that they were birthed at the same time. They’re perfect. Timeless. Universal.

Then it falls off a bit for me for the next 5 songs. They’re fine songs, but don’t speak to me in the same way.

Things get interesting again with the Patti Smith-like Exit. It’s mixed/mastered quieter than the preceding songs, so you have to really turn it up to hear it…perhaps to infect you with its darkness.

From that dark space comes the beautifully haunting Mothers Of The Disappeared. It’s a beautiful soundscape, with Bono’s falsetto oohs and The Edge’s spare descending melodic lines and the uncredited wonderfully lazy operatic vibrato that comes in around 3:39. I love it.

 

Verdict

I’m not sure if I can say that I’m now a fan of The Who–but I definitely want to learn more about, and hear more from, Pete Townshend. I’m eyeing his memoir and biography “Who I Am”.

The Joshua Tree is a great album–really makes me rethink where I file U2 internally. The album opens really strongly, loosens for a while, then finishes very strongly. Perhaps on additional listening I will find more to love about those middle cuts.

Up Next

026: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

025: James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963)

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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The Doors & Never Mind the Bollocks...

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The Doors & Never Mind the Bollocks...

My album is taking shape more quickly now than it has in the six months I've been working on it.  Over the weekend, I finished principle recording sessions for all of the songs.  That leaves 2 more songs that need bass tracks from the talented Jonathan Ahrens, and 4 more tracks to be mixed by the equally on-point Igor Stolarsky.   Then the full 10 tracks will be mastered...and then it's time to focus on the artwork, and to start planning the release.  This independent musician thing is no joke.  But I've never been more proud of a project before... Pretty soon, I can stop talking about a new album, and start harping on you to actually listen to, and buy, it.

Ahh...soon.

42 The Doors - The Doors

042: The Doors – The Doors (1967)

It's funny the synchronicity of this list.  Last week, I listened to and read about Patti Smith--who had two songs on Horses that were in part about Jim Morrison.  Next week, I'll be listening to Love--a band whose lead singer, Arthur Lee, was responsible for getting an A&R guy to stick around and give The Doors a chance, which ultimately led to their record deal.

I have to admit that I wasn't really looking forward to either of this week's albums.  Here, once again, the rule of three listens proved itself.

During the first listen, I was distracted by the organs.  I haven't historically loved the sound of organs.  Perhaps it's a psychological reflex to my churchy upbringing.  My feelings about organ sounds has changed in the past year or so--I actually use organ sounds on several of my songs on the new album.  But, on this record, the organs are very much out front at times.  That was unsettling to me.

Another cool detail I learned from watching the Classic Albums episode about this album is that Jim Morrison was a huge fan of Frank Sinatra's.  It's one of those things that once you know, makes complete sense--but I don't know if I would have made that connection.

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Jim's crooner vibes are especially evident on songs like The Crystal Ship (which features a wonderfully infectious melody) as well as End Of The Night.

By the second listen, I was taking in the musicianship of this very talented band.  It's one of those rare examples of a band where each member is at the peak of their craft, and bring very different and complimentary styles to the table.  The classic rock grooves mixed with the psychedelia and latin beats, all underlaying a Floridian poet's ground-breaking lyrics.

By the third, I was convinced.  This was most true walking through Washington Square Park while listening to The End.  This spaced out, swirly, dreamscape of a song is Epic.  This song alone makes the album for me.

Break On Through (To The Other Side) is a song I'd heard many times prior to this week.  Listening to it in this context though, kicking off this album, I was really impressed with the tightness of the band.  I especially love the bass slide that spices up almost every bar of the verses.  It's so simple, but sweet.

I can't hear that intro organ to Soul Kitchen without thinking of Smash Mouth's Walking On The Sun...maybe it's just me.  Conversely, the organ intro to Light My Fire is perfect.   See, I can be open-minded about organs [editor's comment: omitted "that's what she said"].

Songs like Twentieth Century Fox and Back Door Man lack subtlety.  Though I don't think the Lizard King was going for subtle.

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41 Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols

041: The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)

I also watched the Classic Albums episode of this album.

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I have mentioned before that I don't love punk.  And the same goes for this album.

I listened three times.

I don't get it.

I can't think of a time I would ever think, oh, now's the perfect moment for some Sex Pistols (as great a band name as that is).

It makes me question why an album like this is up there with the greatest albums of all time.  Punk is the would-be soundtrack to the bratty and dangerous shit I did in my rebellious teen years.  If I had to create a defining list of the best moments of my life, I guess I would have to mention my punk moments...but were they really the best moments?  Are The Sex Pistols and The Clash up there with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, and Sly & The Family Stone?  For me, the answer is no.

I'm not saying I'm right, or that punk is shit.  It's just not anywhere on my list.  Working through this list has allowed me to now honestly declare that.

[embed light]http://open.spotify.com/user/jessecor/playlist/5IExaaZnEv7vMccgcravCz[/embed]

Verdict

I wasn't really looking forward to either album this week--even though I'd never listened to either before.  The Doors changed my mind to a large degree, yet I wasn't completely won over to a point where I would need to add this to my collection.

I'm glad I listened to Never Mind The Bollocks...and I'm glad I never have to, ever again.

Up Next

040: Love – Forever Changes (1967)
039: The Beatles – Please Please Me (1963)

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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Bob Marley & THE Band

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Bob Marley & THE Band

This week gave me the chance to discover two more albums I had never heard before... Perhaps his almost mythic status is what kept me away from Bob Marley previously.   I have only ignorance to cite for my lack of knowledge of The Band.  I had heard of Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, but had never heard this album.  Whatever preconceptions I had about both of these records was dashed when I gave them my full attention.

46 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Legend

046: Bob Marley and the Wailers – Legend (1984)

I can't claim that I never heard these songs before.  Really, who could?

I would have to admit that I had heard almost every song here (if not all).  It was always just atmospheric, or background music--never something I had taken the time to sit down and digest.

Everything here is beautiful--I know I'm most likely preaching to the long-since converted.  I watched the Marley (2012) documentary to get more of a sense for the historical context of Bob Marley's music (currently available on Netflix streaming).  After having watched several music bio-documentaries this year, I would have to say this is one of the better ones I've seen thus far.  Many of these documentaries eulogize the subject and minimize any detail that might tarnish their legacy.  This one seemed to present the good, bad, and ugly.

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I never knew that Bob Marley was of mixed race--a German father and Jamaican mother--or the alienation he felt his whole life.  For me, this gave so much more depth and added layers to his over-arching message of unification, peace, and positivity.  The documentary presented the complex fact that he was a less than perfect father and husband.  I love seeing an honest humanity in documentaries like this.

What does one even say about the songs on this record?

I had heard every song here before for good reason.  They're amazing.  Every one.

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45 The Band - The Band

045: The Band – The Band (1969)

This is one of those albums that gets better every time I've listened to it.  I watched the Classic Albums episode about this record before even listening to the album once.  From it I definitely got a sense of how gifted each of these musicians is.  I was especially blown away by Garth Hudson--the keyboard player.  How he can play like that, I do not know.

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The first time I listened to the record, I was my typically guarded self.  I was like, meh, it's good, I guess.

Then I heard Whispering Pines.  That song is perfect.  I could listen to it a million times I still not be able to put a finger on why it's so magical for me.  I guess that's the power of songwriting.

On subsequent listens, I realized how much I was getting into other songs, like When You Awake (even though I may never understand why the song fades out during the middle of a lyric--"If I thought it would do any good, I'd stand on a rock with" ????), JawboneThe Unfaithful Servant (those horn lines, damn), King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (that bass line is sick).

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Verdict

Both of these albums are going to be added to my collection.  I want to delve deeper into Bob Marley's catalog.  Which full-length record should I focus on if I wanted to get deeper into his catalog?  Also, I'm looking forward to listening to Music From The Big Pink (#34)--reading the 33 1/3 book and finally watching The Last Waltz.  Who's coming with me?

Up Next

044: Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
043: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

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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Elvis Presley & Electric Ladyland

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Elvis Presley & Electric Ladyland

I worked a lot on my new album Held Momentarily this week.  A new version of Another Side is almost ready to be mixed.  No Longer Alone, proving a tough nut to crack (who uses this phrase anymore?) is coming together with a new version as well.  I am recording and producing this album myself--so needless to say it's been a lot of hair pulling and learning, but also deeply satisfying.  In the coming weeks I will reach the halfway point for the production of the album, and I'm excited to start sharing some of it.

Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

56: Elvis Presley -- Elvis Presley (1956)

I'm going to say it again--I never heard this record before this week.  Sure, I heard Blue Suede Shoes, Tutti Frutti, and Blue Moon before, but never in the form of this album, nor the rest of the tracks here.

I was hoping to be converted.  I am honestly sorry to say that I have not been.

Elvis is credited with revolutionizing music, bringing Rock & Roll to the masses (admittedly co-opting black music and commercializing it).  As an artist that loves R&B, Soul, and Funk myself, I was hoping to hear something of a luminary in Elvis.  Instead I hear a lot of that hiccupy, gimmicky vocal trickery that seemed popular in the fifties (and skewered in 'Inside Llewyn Davis').  I guess it's hard to look back and see how truly revolutionary something was--when it influences everything that comes afterward.

I watched the Classic Albums episode about this album, and enjoyed it very much.  You can see how attractive and charismatic Elvis was, and how his growing audience loved him.  I was surprised by the analysis of Tutti Frutti--I had no idea how suggestive those lyrics were until I saw this.  You hear a song like this so many times, the lyrics can become like wallpaper that you never focus on.

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A few songs I did enjoy were I Got A Woman and Trying To Get To You.  I love the haunted simplicity of I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') and Blue Moon (had I ever really heard his version of this song, or just a million bad versions that came afterward?).

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55 Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland

55: Jimi Hendrix  -- Electric Ladyland (1968)

This is my second Jimi Hendrix experience...and I like the essence of what he was about, even if I don't buy the whole thing part and parcel.

I read the 33 1/3 book about the album.  It is one of the best in the series I've read thus far (up there with Sign O' The Times, Court and Spark, and There's A Riot Going On).  It delivers on the promise of the series: it is a thorough examination of this album; its creation (complete with song-by-song analysis), reception and its legacy.  It's a quick and worthy read.

For bonus points, I also watched the Classic Albums episode of this album.  The book and documentary have a LOT of overlap, so you could do with one or the other.

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I have a hard time connecting to Jimi as a lyricist.  I mostly don't know what he's talking about--so much is mystical and psychedelic.

Crosstown Traffic is growing on me more and more, as I found myself humming it several times this week.  Voodoo Chile is a great groove--but I don't have the patience to stick with it for 15 minutes to see if it's going somewhere.

My favorite track here has to be Burning Of The Midnight Lamp.  Loneliness IS such a drag.  I love those otherworldly background vocals (as sung by Aretha's background singers) and the harpsichord melody.

Rainy Day, Dream Away would be right up there too, though.  That talking guitar part is very cool (at 3:12, it's said that he's making the guitar say "Wow!  Thank You.  Thank you very much".  Hear it or not--it's cool.  So nice he used it twice--it actually begins the track Still Raining, Still Dreaming too.

All of the sounds Jimi gets out of his guitar on 1983 is impressive (birds, waves, fog horns, buoys)--as is that laid back yet still epic guitar theme before the verse.  Ultimately, though, I again don't have patience for a near 14 minute track.  I do like the chill instrumental section in the middle (mostly atmospherics from about 4:55, the guitar coming in at 5:47, but it seems to lose its way around 7:50 as more dissonance comes in, leading to a dreaded drum solo).

The Bob Dylan cover All Along The Watchtower is certainly the most famous of the songs on this album.  Dylan has since agreed that this version has become the definitive version of his song.  Since Hendrix was a huge Dylan fan, having come up in the village around the same time, this would have meant a lot to Jimi--had he lived to hear the posthumous praise.  The 33 1/3 book pointed out the 4 section guitar solo which I had never really taken notice of--four solos with distinct stylistic personalities strung together.  It's not hard to see why he's considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

The album ends with a reprise of Voodoo Chile, now Voodoo Child (Slight Return).  You can hear the influence of this song alone on many recent tracks by Jack White, Gary Clark Jr, or The Black Keys.

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Verdict

I am happy that I took the time to listen to both albums, and learn more about Elvis and Jimi through the Classic Albums episodes and 33 1/3 book.  I will have one more attempt with both artists as we get further up the list.  Elvis's Sun Sessions is #11 and The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced is #15.  I like the idea of Jimi Hendrix.  With Elvis I don't know what all the fuss is about.  Maybe these next albums with be the tipping point.

Up Next

54: Ray Charles -- The Birth Of Soul (1991) 53: The Beatles -- Meet The Beatles (1964)

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