2:47 p.m. - December 21, 2005
This is essay #10 of the “10 (or so) Of the 150 (or so) Albums I Dig the Most” series.
This one is no different. In fact, this may be another foray in the depths of rock and pop music that could be quite ‘shy’ to the general public. But this music deserves to be heard – alas probably not all of it is still in print. Ok, I think one of these records is out of print, but still that’s a tragedy.
Perhaps writing your Congressman will help. I dunno.
Anyway, if you are so inclined, you may look in my older essay files to find the other installments of the series.
So with no more ado impeding our progress, shall we?
Summary: The only legitimate solo recordings by the more legendary than famous country-rock pioneer. These two albums are contained on one CD, which is mighty convenient. He uses a crack team of players that can evoke the right feeling for each song, and Parsons sings his heart out (which he admittedly didn’t do on the second Flying Burrito Brothers album).
Positives: Parsons shows his strength as both a songwriter (“$1000 Wedding”, “Return Of the Grievous Angel”) and an interpreter (“Streets Of Baltimore”, “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes In the Morning”).
Drawbacks: It is two records on one CD, so if you’re not 100% into it at the time it gets a bit old – and the only other drawback is that we’ll never know what else he had in him.
Verdict: The Godfather of alt-country – if you have heard ‘about’ him then this is a great place to start.
Random Trivia: Gram discovered Emmylou Harris, whose sweet harmonies are found all over this disc.
Summary: The quintessential ‘paisley underground’ band shines on this combo CD of their first full length album as The Three O’Clock and on an earlier EP. The songs are colored with poppy, psychedelic tones, and they are inherently catchy and fun.
Positives: The first half of the disc gallops out strong, and the EP is solid. “Stupid Einstein” and “With A Cantaloupe Girlfriend” will make you scratch your head with their imagery (or maybe not). This is a power pop delight.
Drawbacks: The middle of the disc (side two of Sixteen Tambourines) isn’t as strong as the rest of the album. Oh, and on the import copy of Baroque Hoedown there are three additional tracks that I have never ever seen or heard again.
Verdict: It may be out of print – seek ye and purchase this. It’s good for the soul.
Random Trivia: They were originally named “The Salvation Army” and put out an album using that moniker. For some reason, the real Salvation Army didn’t like that idea.
Summary: The debut album by an ill-fated band, this is a great testament to the songwriting strengths of Ryan Adams, and shows that having a band of ‘peers’ tends to rein in his more outlandish tendencies and forces him to focus on the product at hand. This now comes with a whole kitten caboodle of bonus tracks which are quite tasty.
Positives: Adams writes songs about heartache, drinking, and love, like a real country star. Caitlin Cary adds her two cents as well in a winning way.
Drawbacks: At 21 songs its long, but that includes the bonus tracks of some songs they re-recorded for Stranger’s Almanac. The versions here are a little rougher, but better. So I guess that’s not a drawback. I’ll shut it now.
Verdict: I don’t know if Adams has released a better album, track for track, than this one.
Random Trivia: This was released in 1996. By the end of 1997, only Adams and Cary were left of the original five piece, and Whiskeytown soon gave up the ghost in 1999 after a brutal fight to release their final album Pneumonia, which wasn’t released until 2001.
Summary: The last gasp, the swan song, etc. etc. Whatever you call it, it’s a masterpiece from start to finish (well, except for ONE little hiccup).
Positives: It’s a Beatles stew! They experiment with a Moog. George writes two of his best songs ever. Ringo writes a good song (even if the Muppets did it on Sesame Street as well). John shows both sides of his personality (“Come Together” and “Because”), and Paul constructs a memorable medley along with “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which should have a gold record all by itself.
Drawbacks: When I was a kid, I loved “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. Those days are long long gone (though the synth line George plays is pretty neat).
Verdict: You don’t have this? Shame on you.
Random Trivia: The ending of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” ended abruptly because when they were mixing the track John told George Martin “Cut it there! Right there!”
Summary: It looked like the start of a brilliant career, but I guess it didn’t work out that way. In retrospect, how the heck could they really follow this up? (Oh, I know, the chicks really dug Axl the balladeer, but man, those other records are bloated.)
Positives: “Mr. Brownstone”, are you kidding me? How killer is THAT? The first nine tracks absolutely cook, and then to end with “Rocket Queen”. That’s hot, baby.
Drawbacks: Oh, there’s misogyny galore. Two tracks near the end sound like filler.
Verdict: This probably is the best record of its kind made in the 80’s, and amongst the best records of its kind in the history of rock and roll. Is it metal? Nah, it’s too polished, but its real hard rock.
Random Trivia: Axl Rose is originally from Lafayette (just 27 miles north of where I’m from) and used to work in the record store that I frequented. (Though I never saw him, and he was fired for stealing. Ah, well.) (Izzy’s from Lafayette, too.)
Summary: Eighteen classic early tracks from the Kinks, starting with “You Really Got Me” and ending with “Sunny Afternoon”. It’s a great primer for the early Kinks and it really shows their best sides.
Positives: Well, it’s early Kinks singles. You can’t go wrong with that!
Drawbacks: It doesn’t have “See My Friend” and has a couple of early, early singles that are rather blah.
Verdict: Any rock fan worth his salt has this collection.
Random Trivia: At the end of 1965, the Kinks were banned from touring in the States until 1970.
Frosting On the Beater - The Posies
Summary: The Posies marry grungy guitars and airy harmonies to create a perfect power pop album.
Positives: When you start with “Dream All Day” and continue with “Solar Sister” and “Flavor Of the Month”, and then keep going from there, how can you miss?
Drawbacks: None, nada, zip.
Verdict: This is the best Posies albums, a criminally underrated band of the 90’s.
Random Trivia: Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow convinced Alex Chilton to reform Big Star with them in tow.
Summary: A solo album released at a time when the original Mothers of Invention were falling apart, Hot Rats is a stunning display of Zappa’s musical acumen and influences.
Positives: “Willie The Pimp”, “Peaches en Regalia”, and “Son of Mister Green Genes” are the standouts.
Drawbacks: “Gumbo Variations” is nice, but it is a jam session and sounds like it.
Verdict: A great place to investigate Zappa as a musician.
Random Trivia: This is the seventh album Zappa released in four years. He released three others in 1970, and continued at two a year until 1976.
Sunflower - The Beach Boys
Summary: Their best post Pet Sounds record features a forgotten Brian Wilson classic, typical Beach Boys production, those harmonies, and good contributions from Bruce Johnston and Dennis Wilson (!)
Positives: “This Whole World” is one of Brian Wilson’s best compositions and you weep when you hear it, because it’s just so stunning.
Drawbacks: The single was “Add Some Music To Your Day”, which I think is the most trite and predictable song on here.
Verdict: It’s a pleasant, gentle album that will bring a smile to your face.
Random Trivia: This album was rejected twice by Warner Brothers before they finally assembled this collection of recordings spanning almost 15 months of studio work. Believe it or not, this album hit just #151 in the charts, though it did well in the U. K.
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Summary: The debut album finds all of the Zeppelin elements fully formed. You got your hard rock, you got your blues, and you even have your folky elements.
Positives: “Communication Breakdown” is punk rock. “How Many More Times” and “Good Times, Bad Times” bring the riffs.
Drawbacks: I may be in the minority, but at times “Dazed and Confused” just bores me. GET ON WITH IT! Wanker.
Verdict: These songs don’t get on the radio, much, so they’re refreshing to hear.
Random Trivia: They were originally billed as The New Yardbirds, as Page and the management needed to fulfill some contractual obligations to promoters.