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10:40 a.m. - December 31, 2005
The Final 10 of the 150 (or so) Albums I Dig the Most
Oh, it just seemed like a short while ago that I started this project, on a prompting from Plop, but now, folks this is it. The final list of 10 of the 150 (or so) albums I dig the most.

Some of these albums may have surprised some people. But let me tell you, it was hard to come up with just 150.

These lists were gleaned from my ratings at Rate Your Music, which is a pretty good site if you want to rate music and somewhat organize a sprawling collection.

Because of my limitations, I could put the great Nuggets collections I own, which are all first rate, nor other large box sets.

What was album #151, you ask? Perhaps it was Let It Be by the Replacements or Waka / Jawaka by Frank Zappa, or Repeater by Fugazi or Bleach by Nirvana. Or maybe it was 11 by the Smithereens or Volume 4 by Joe Jackson. It’s hard to say for sure. In fact, one may say that on a given day, the 150 aren’t an absolute.

Anyway, enough babbling I’ve done. Let’s go!

Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

Summary: A true pop masterpiece. Brian Wilson creates the perfect album. The singing is impeccable and the arrangements are stunning.

Positives: Just listen to “God Only Knows” and “You Still Believe In Me” and you’ll understand.

Drawbacks: Musicians realized it was a great album, but not the public, as only charted at #10 and didn’t go gold for quite some time.

Verdict: It’s the best album, ever.

Random Trivia: Wilson recorded most of the music for this album while the band was off touring in Japan. Also, many of the recordings used in “Good Vibrations” were completed during these sessions.


Murmur - R. E. M.

Summary: Their first album sets the tone of an interesting and compelling career. The best band of the 80’s issue a debut filled with unique and compelling songs.

Positives: Out of the gate, “Radio Free Europe” gets the album started off right, and songs like “Pilgrimage”, “Catapult” and “Sitting Still” keep the momentum going. The unique sound, with Peter Buck’s guitar as a forefront, adds great atmosphere to the album.

Drawbacks: Yeah, you really can’t understand a word Michael Stipe mumbles.

Verdict: This is probably in my top five albums of all time.

Random Trivia: The booming ‘noise’ in “We Walk” was made from a pool table that was in the room underneath the studio.

Countdown To Ecstasy - Steely Dan

Summary: The second LP from Steely Dan eschews radio ready songs in favor of longer compositions that have a lot of jazzy elements in them.

Positives: People know “Bodhisattva” and “My Old School”, but “Razor Boy” and “Your Gold Teeth” also shine in this collection.

Drawbacks: There are only eight tracks, but they are all impeccably produced and recorded. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Steely Dan.

Verdict: Definitely worth exploring, especially if you like what you hear on the radio.

Random Trivia: Walter Becker and Donald Fagan played with Jay and the Americans for a while in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

The Cars - The Cars

Summary: What a debut! Coming out of Boston, the Cars blended arty, new wave sounds, great harmonies, rock guitars, and terrific songs into a winning combination.

Positives: People know the hits, but “Bye Bye Love”, “Don’t Cha Stop”, and “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” All you need to do is listen to the guitar work from Elliot Easton in “Best Friends Girl”, “Bye Bye Love” and “Just What I Needed”, as he’s truly underappreciated as a guitar player.

Drawbacks: “All Mixed Up” could have been edited a bit, but otherwise this is a seamless album.

Verdict: An almost perfect debut, with new wave meeting avant garde meeting rock and roll.

Random Trivia: “Moving In Stereo” was featured prominently in the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High, during the best Phoebe Cates sequence. You know the one I’m talking about. Heh!

In the Land Of Salvation and Sin - The Georgia Satellites

Summary: Known for their novelty hit “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”, the Satellites change direction a bit and turn in a winning album that was also their epitaph.

Positives: Songs like “Bottle O Tears”, “Six Years Gone”, “Sweet Blue Midnight” and “Another Chance” show that Dan Baird was maturing as a songwriter and the band was moving away from the novelty aspects that colored their earlier work.

Drawbacks: A couple of cuts near the end could have been trimmed, but their not horrible.

Verdict: It’s a fine slab of down-home rock and roll; however, I do think it’s out of print. No, you can’t have my copy.

Random Trivia: You may have erased it from your memory, but Dan Baird had a hit in the 90’s with “I Love You Period”, which was an unfortunate return to his novelty song phase.

Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan

Summary: Dylan goes all-in for the rock and roll, hiring a great band featuring Michael Bloomfield on guitar and writing some of his best songs. Something was definitely happening here, Mr. Jones.

Positives: It’s got “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Tombstone Blues”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”. QED.

Drawbacks: Again, sometimes 11 minute songs just wear me out.

Verdict: It’s definitely one of the finest albums ever made. Just don’t get lost in the rain in Juarez in Eastertime, OK?

Random Trivia: Al Kooper played the organ on “Like A Rolling Stone”, and he had never played organ before the session. It worked out, didn’t it?

Badmotorfinger - Soundgarden

Summary: Among the first of the Seattle bands to gain a major label recoding contract, Soundgarden finally hits with a great combination of old school metal and punk attitude. From the opening cut “Rusty Cage” onward, you can tell that Soundgarden had realized its potential.

Positives: “Outshined” is an absolute classic, and “Rusty Cage” and “Jesus Christ Pose” also rock hard. Chris Cornell shreds his vocal cords during “Slaves And Bulldozers” like only he can.

Drawbacks: By the end, I’m worn out, so “New Damage” kind of gets lost for me.

Verdict: It was released the same year as Nevermind, and I liked this album better when it first came out. (In fact, I bought those two and Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies on the very same day – hooray me!)

Random Trivia: Remember that movie “Feeling Minnesota”? Yeah, they copped the title from a line in “Outshined”.

Rust Never Sleeps - Neil Young

Summary: Half acoustic – have electric. All Neil.

Positives: “My My Hey Hey” and “Hey Hey My My” bookend a great album. “Pocahontas” is a highlight of the acoustic side, while Crazy Horse and Neil anticipate grunge on the electric side of the album.

Drawbacks: “Sedan Delivery” is supposed to be sloppy, but at times it’s too sloppy.

Verdict: This is a vital release from a true rock godfather.

Random Trivia: Stephen Stills and Neil Young joined forces in 1976 and recorded an album, but during the tour Young just up and left right in the middle of it. Goodbye Stephen.

Safe As Milk - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Summary: They were allegedly a blues band, but Beefheart and the Magic Band have their own take of the blues on this album. Yes, there are some almost straight blues here, but Beefheart also shows his real avant garde side with many of the tracks.

Positives: “Electricity” sounded like nothing a blues band would ever do. “Zig Zag Wanderer” is heavy, and “Dropout Boogie” is a fascinating twist of classic blues.

Drawbacks: The version out now is expanded, and while some of the expanded cuts are interesting they also are somewhat extraneous.

Verdict: It’s not as out there as some Beefheart, but it’s not exactly a safe, white-bread album either.

Random Trivia: Famous guitarist Ry Cooder was a teenage wunderkind guitarist when he joined the Magic Band for this album. He quit the band after a disastrous performance that spooked Beefheart, leading him to cancel their appearance at Monterrey.

Anthology - Long Ryders

Summary: Originally part of the Paisley Underground scene, the Long Ryders ventured into a country-rock mode with punk underpinning. This compilation takes cuts from all of their albums and some neat demos. It’s a great look at an underappreciated band that was way ahead of its time.

Positives: There are too many great ones to name, but I really really really like “Ivory Tower”, “Looking For Lewis and Clark”, “Lights of Downtown” and “You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong.”

Drawbacks: A few of the unreleased tracks should have stayed that way, and there are a few tracks that I would have added, but I’ll take what I can get.

Verdict: Do yourself a favor and check them out if you are a fan of rootsy rock and roll, or just rock and roll in general.

Random Trivia: Gene Clark of the original Byrds is a guest vocalist on “Ivory Tower”.

 

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