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4:29 p.m. - December 19, 2005
Another 10 (or so) of the 150 (or so) Albums I Dig the Most
We are more than halfway home on this list of the 150 albums (or so) that I dig the most. Which many of you are either disappointed the fun will stop soon or exhaling a sigh of relief and want me to get back to such mundane matters are Patron Saints and KY Massage Oil commercials.

In due time, in due time!

Let’s count how many other essays there are in the series: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, , SEVEN, EIGHT! Eight essays, hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

(OK, it’s time to put the Count away…)

So here are another 10 (or so) records for you to groove yer schewerve:

#1 Record, Radio City - Big Star

Summary: The first two releases by the ill-fated power pop band illustrate why they are such a darling of rock critics and fans of tuneful pop music everywhere. This was a quite influential group whose acolytes have become quite famous. Alex Chilton and Chris Bell (on the first album) write and sing timeless songs.

Positives: Listen to “Feel” and “The Ballad of El Goodoo” and then you’ll be hooked forever.

Drawbacks: Being two full albums means it’s a long CD, but that also means there are more kernels of goodness here, though “Radio City” isn’t as consistent as their debut.

Verdict: It’s two fantastic albums on one CD by a great band, and it really lives up to the hype.

Random Trivia: Big Star fans Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (of the Posies) coaxed Chilton and Jody Stephens into reforming for a concert in Missouri about 12 years ago, and in 2005 they just released a new record as Big Star.


Armed Forces - Elvis Costello

Summary: Showing no signs of slowing down after a good debut and a fantastic follow-up, Costello comes through with another masterpiece in his third album.

Positives: “Accidents Will Happen”, “Oliver’s Army”, “Party Girl”, “Goon Squad”, etc. etc. All of the tracks are classic early Costello.

Drawbacks: Sometimes the songs can be a bit too busy, but that’s a minor quibble.

Verdict: It’s the first Costello album I owned, and it’s held up well over time. He’s angry, focused, and at times bitter.

Random Trivia: The closing cut, and one of Costello’s best known, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” was written by Nick Lowe, not Costello.


The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

Summary: A demo session turned into one of the great ‘lost’ albums of the 70’s. Well after the original Modern Lovers broke up, this came out, and revealed to the world Jonathan Richman’s unique talents.

Positives: Songs like “She Cracked” and “Roadrunner” have a certain power along with their at times silly veneer, while “Dignified and Old” and “Someone I Care About” are tender, if a bit skewed. Plus, the band really drives the songs home, with its organ-based engine.

Drawbacks: At times, Richman is a bit too cutesy-poo, like on “Government Center”

Verdict: You wonder what would have happened if these demo sessions had led to a signing. Richman moved away from this sound into a gentler, and sillier, mode.

Random Trivia: This band contained David Robinson, who later drummed for the Cars, and Jerry Harrison who became the organist / second guitarist for the Talking Heads.


Tim - The Replacements

Summary: The ‘Mats first foray into the major label wars is a success. Paul Westerberg writes a winning batch of songs and the sound isn’t that compromised, and any changes they have made are for the better.

Positives: One wonders, with tunes like “Kiss Me On the Bus”, “Bastards of Young”, “Little Mascara” and the show stopper “Here Comes A Regular”, why this album wasn’t a hit.

Drawbacks: “Dose of Thunder” gets skipped a lot.

Verdict: Probably the most consistent Replacements album, though there is no sense of true adventure. They’re only halfway teetering on the edge instead of holding on for dear life.

Random Trivia: This is the last Replacements album featuring Bob Stinson, RIP.


The Tigers Have Spoken - Neko Case

Summary: This was not a stop-gap live album; this was a major statement record for the alt-country chanteuse. She lends her pipes to some rollicking covers and some keen originals, while the Sadies provide excellent backing.

Positives: The title track is sad and poignant. The covers, especially “Train From Kansas City”, “Soulful Shade of Blue” and “Rated X” are perfect vehicles for her voice.

Drawbacks: It’s too short – it makes you want to hear the whole concert.

Verdict: It’s a great introduction to the power and majesty of Case’s voice.

Random Trivia: “Train From Kansas City” was a Shangr-La’s B-side, and was also covered by Superchunk, of all people.


Staring At The Sea: The Singles - The Cure

Summary: This collects all of the essential Cure singles from the late 70’s until 1986. It’s a great testament to a great singles band.

Positives: No matter what you feel of the cult that the Cure inspired (you know, the kids who wore all black and never smiled – I always wanted to give them a hug or sock them out of their pretensions) their singles were great. This collects them all.

Drawbacks: Some of the songs can get annoying, like “The Love Cats” and “Let’s Go To Bed”. A few of the b-sides included here aren’t anything special.

Verdict: I normally like to stick to regular releases, but this is the best place to enjoy the Cure.

Random Trivia: On vinyl and cassette, this was known as Standing On A Beach .


Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Summary: An earth-shattering and ear splitting debut by one of the most famous guitarists ever. It’s hard to put yourself back in 1967, listening to this for the first time. Some of the sounds on this album are still incredible to behold.

Positives: The current CD collects all of the tracks that were on the British and American releases, plus a b-side or two, so all of the essential early Hendrix is in one package.

Drawbacks: I’m not a huge Hendrix-as-bluesman fan and some songs find him in this milieu. I prefer Hendrix as far-out shaman of the guitar. And this is his weakest album in terms of songwriting.

Verdict: A stunning debut, with tracks like “Purple Haze”, “Foxey Lady” and “Manic Depression” you can’t miss.

Random Trivia: “Purple Haze” only hit #65 on the pop charts in the US!


Bricks Are Heavy - L7

Summary: Four tough rock chicks kick bootay and take names. They’re mad, and won’t take it anymore.

Positives: The sound is incredible, especially on “Wargasm and “Pretend We’re Dead”. It’s a perfect hard rock crunch that fits with the material and attitude.

Drawbacks: A couple tracks, like “Diet Pill”, drag and I lose interest in them.

Verdict: One of the best albums of the grunge era – it makes Pearl Jam sound like a bunch of sissy marys.

Random Trivia: Suzi Gardner is featured as the female voice on the classic Black Flag song “Slip It In”.


Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols

Summary: While it’s not as good as the hype (how could it be??) the lone true Sex Pistols album is a punk tour-de-force, with classic songs of alienation, frustration and rage at the British establishment and society.

Positives: “Holidays In the Sun” is a perfect opener, and while some songs are more famous, tunes like “Submission” and “Bodies” are great testaments to a long past era.

Drawbacks: The albums sequencing leaves a bit to be desired, as the middle of side one gets really samey.

Verdict: You have to have this, just because of what it is and who it is.

Random Trivia: All but two songs were written mostly by Glen Matlock, who was fired for various nebulous reasons, and Sid Vicious took his place. The rest, they say, is history.


Fair Warning - Van Halen

Summary: The first six Van Halen albums are all good to excellent, but this one is my favorite. It’s got the party-hearty tunes, the Eddie Van Halen showcases, and some depth to the material.

Positives: Every song, save “Push Comes To Shove” could make my Van Halen best-of collection (depending on what mood I’m in). And of course, the banter between Diamond Dave and producer Ted Templeman on “Unchained” is well worth the price of admission.

Drawbacks: It’s way too short – it’s certainly not a value purchase.

Verdict: “One break…COMING UP!” How can you argue with that?

Random Trivia: Ted Templeman, noted hard rock producer, was in wimpy pop harmony band The Harper’s Bizzare in the 60’s.

 

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