3:07 p.m. - December 27, 2005
Due to the holidays, you may have missed a couple. Well, have no fear.
You should be! Let’s get busy, people…
Double Nickels On the Dime - The Minutemen
Summary: A sprawling, awe-inspiring two LP set by the Minutemen, who were a punk rock band only because no other genre would have them. They specialized in short, tight political songs that spanned several genres and moods. D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley played music for the folks left out of the Reagan Revolution, and were getting themselves heard, until D. Boon sadly passed away in 1985.
Positives: The songs are like dispatches from the front lines. They ‘jam econo’ for sure, with no extraneous words or notes.
Drawbacks: Due to CD issue, the CD version is short a couple of cuts from the vinyl. The one thing that’s missing and not somewhere else is “Mr. Robot’s Holy Orders”.
Verdict: It’s awe-inspiring to listen to it all at once, but it’s a worthwhile document of the discontent that was lingering in that era. Plus, the versatility of the Minutemen is staggering considering they played on cheap equipment.
Random Trivia: Of course, you know “Corona” from that stupid-ass TV show, Jackass.
Summary: This was Squeeze’s biggest hit, and it is easy to see why. The songs are a well written and well played, and are all quite diverse in mood and feel.
Positives: Difford and Tillbrook stretch themselves over many genres, but the main elements of Squeeze are here: women = trouble + drinking. “In Quintessence”, “Heaven”, “Is That Love” and “Piccadilly” are amongst the standouts.
Drawbacks: Sometimes, they stretch themselves out a bit too thin, like on “Vanity Fair”.
Verdict: It’s an album well worth owning. Those who know only that ONE SONG by Squeeze will be surprised at the depth of the record.
Random Trivia: “Tempted” (the song EVERYONE knows) was sung by Paul Carrack, but he didn’t write it. And it hit just 49 on the charts.
Fresh Fruits For Rotting Vegetables - The Dead Kennedys
Summary: Brash, snotty Bay-area punks score with their debut, frighten their record company, and never do anything nearly this good again. Jello Biafra sneers his statements and East Bay Ray’s demented surf guitar provides a classic complement to the lyrical chaos.
Positives: The first four cuts (“Kill the Poor”, “Forward to Death”, “When You Get Drafted”, and “Let’s Lynch the Landlord”) quite possibly is the best opening sequence in punk rock history. Plus there’s “California Uber Alles”, “Holiday In Cambodia” (be sure to pack a wife), and their twisted version of “Viva Las Vegas”.
Drawbacks: The middle of side two starts sounding same-old, same-old, but the end of the album reclaims it.
Verdict: So many people thought they were dangerous and subversive. They only were calling it like they saw it. This is a testament to radical punk rock and it does stand the test of time, unlike others of the genre.
Random Trivia: In 2000, the rest of the band sued Biafra because he refused to allow Levi’s to use “Holiday in Cambodia” for a TV commercial. I’ll be.
Greatest Hits Volume 2 - Bob Dylan
Summary: Dylan’s second compilation stretches throughout his catalog up until 1971, and adds enough unique songs and performances that it warrants inclusion here, even though a few of the albums that it draws from will also be represented.
Drawbacks: People may quibble on some omissions (like no “Masters of War”), but I think he covered all of his eras and personas (up until 1971) pretty well here.
Verdict: It’s probably as good a place to start listening to Dylan as any.
Random Trivia: In this version of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, Dylan changes the first verse to dig Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, who mixed up a couple of words on the Byrds’ version of the song.
The Ramones - The Ramones
Summary: Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! The classic debut by the Ramones delivers 14 songs in less than a half hour, and they all pack a punch that resonates to this day.
Positives: Every song is like a breath of fresh air, even to this day, because this has a spirit and vitality in it. And they got away with some stuff that they couldn’t get away with nowadays (like “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World”).
Drawbacks: Some may squirm at “Beat On the Brat”, but what would you do, with a brat like that?
Verdict: It’s a must have for any true rock and roll fan as it reminds you of what rock and roll should be.
Random Trivia: This album cost less than $4000 to produce.
After The Gold Rush - Neil Young
Summary: Young moved away from his Crazy Horse sound (he’d go back) and returns to his folkie / country roots (except for a few cuts). This is a powerful album that shows Young’s breadth and depth as a songwriter and musician.
Positives: The title track may be amongst the best songs ever written, and is certainly a high point of Young’s career as a songwriter. “Southern Man” still stings, and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” aches.
Drawbacks: A couple of tracks seem like filler, but there’s enough great stuff here you don’t mind.
Verdict: It’s probably Young’s best album cover to cover.
Random Trivia: Nils Lofgren makes his recording debut here as a piano player!
Anthology - Chuck Berry
Summary: This has 50 cuts of prime Chuck Berry. You know the hits, but there’s a lot of great stuff among the lesser known slices of Berry, like “Nadine”, and “Come On”.
Positives: All of the familiar songs are here, and it also shows that Berry was still trying in 1970, as “Tulane” shows.
Drawbacks: You hear a lot of his songs in a row, you can’t help that there are a lot of similarities in a lot of them. Oh, and it still wastes everyone’s time with “My Ding-A-Ling”. Yeesh.
Random Trivia: The original title for “Maybelline” was “Ida Red”, and in reality it was an old country standard that Berry changed enough to make his own.
Amazing Disgrace - The Posies
Summary: The Posies mix it up a bit, with some genuine punk rock amongst the power pop gems. However, power pop rules the day and they have another winner here. Unfortunately, the record company dropped the ball and the album died a death.
Positives: The first half, with “Ontario”, “Hate Song” and “Everybody Is A ******* Liar” are the Posies at their best.
Drawbacks: No matter what some of my friends say, I think the part of second half of this is a bit lesser than the rest of it.
Verdict: There’s no shame in being the second best Posies albums. Buy it and you will be rewarded.
Random Trivia: Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen guested on “Hate Song”.
Steppenwolf - Steppenwolf
Summary: Sure, it’s easy to be happy to pick up a Steppenwolf compilation, but the first LP from the band is a more revealing testament to their talent and conscious. There’s “Born To Be Wild” and a bunch of other great tunes that utilize the signature Steppenwolf sound (loud guitar, heavy bass, and organ through a Leslie cabinet) to its utmost.
Positives: “The Ostrich”, “Your Wall’s Too High”, “Everybody’s Next One”, “The Pusher”, and “Desperation” rank right up there with the hit as classic songs from the late 60’s.
Drawbacks: They really didn’t need to do “Hootchie Kootchie Man”.
Verdict: It may sound a wee bit dated (I mean, a Leslie always sounds like the 60’s) but it’s a better overview of what Steppenwolf really was back in the day than the hits package (which really run out of steam when the band did in 1969).
Random Trivia: “Mars Bonfire” – who wrote “Born To Be Wild”- was actually former bandmate Dennis Edmondton. His brother Jerry was the drummer.
The Romantics - The Romantics
Summary: An energetic set of power-pop numbers by a Detroit combo. Again, everyone knows THAT ONE SONG but the rest of the album is it’s equal, and in some cases, surpasses “What I Like About You”.
Positives: Geez, you can sing along to every single one of the tracks, but “When I Look In Your Eyes”, “Tell It To Carrie”, “Keep In Touch”, “Hung On You”, and “Till I See You Again” just sizzle. Their cover of “She’s Got Everything” is great as well. Oh, and it has THAT song.
Drawbacks: It was hard to find for a while, but I found the whole thing online recently.
Verdict: If you like THAT song you’ll flip for this album, and you’ll try to see how good you look in red leather suits.
Random Trivia: “What I Like About You” only reached #49 on the charts, and didn’t really take off until MTV started playing the video two years later.