11:44 a.m. - December 09, 2005
Oh, and one final note. Lobo was the name of a sensitive singer-songwriter in the 70’s that had some earnest, yet shallow hits. His most memorable song was “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.” Just in case you gave a hoot. (Now that I’ve bored y’all…)
The Beatles (also known as The White Album)- The Beatles
Summary: A sprawling, yet oft-brilliant double album that basically allowed each of the Beatles to do their own thing.
Positives: John really steps up to the plate, with several riveting numbers (especially “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and “Yer Blues”). Paul does his usual good work. George chips in with some strong songs as well, and even Ringo writes a decent song.
Drawbacks: Some songs seem tossed off (“Wild Honey Pie”), some are just blah (“Honey Pie”), and some are annoying (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”). But with so many songs, not all of them will be gems.
Verdict: The most interesting Beatles album, as each song really reveals something about the composer, if not the band itself.
Random Trivia: Due to some acrimony in the recording studio, Ringo left the band for a while, so Paul played drums on “Back In the USSR”. There were even two outtakes from this album (George’s “Not Guilty” and John’s “What’s The New Mary Jane”), and Paul had written “Junk” and recorded a demo before the album was recorded.
Summary: This is by far the most consistent ELO album. Jeff Lynne’s forced marriage of classical music with rock never sounded better, and the songs are varied and strong.
Positives: “Do Ya” absolutely cooks, and the other eight songs are all strong.
Drawbacks: The ending to “Shangri-La” goes on a bit long, but that’s about it really.
Verdict: I know ELO had other hits, but ignore the greatest hits records and buy this one. The album tracks are as special as the songs that you already know.
Random Trivia: “Do Ya” was originally recorded by the Move, which was the band Lynne was in before ELO. (In fact, the Move mutated into ELO back in 1971).
Flip Your Wig - Husker Du
Summary: The most consistent Husker Du album, the second release (!) by the band in 1985 is packed full of pop songs hiding under a fierce punk rock veneer. The opening salvo of the album knocks you off your feet, and by the time Grant Hart sings “Keep Hanging On” you’re down for the count.
Positives: Bob Mould stepped up his game, with winning songs like “Divide and Conquer”, “Makes No Sense At All”, and the title track.
Drawbacks: I never really liked Husker Du’s instrumentals. They seem like filler to me.
Verdict: A great album by a great band. I don’t think there’s anything more I can say about it.
Random Trivia: Bassist Greg Norton is now a chef in Red Wing, Minnesota.
Summary: Rock critics over use the world ‘seminal’ – but if there is one band that fits the definition, it’s Pere Ubu. Arising from Cleveland, this is a collection of their early singles that helped define the ‘new wave’ movement of the 70’s.
Positives: The first three songs (“Heart of Darkness”, “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” and “Final Solution”) may be all you need, but “My Dark Ages” and “Heaven” are also gripping works.
Drawbacks: They tend to get a bit arty, okay, way arty, and sometimes their avant-garde is way out there.
Verdict: Essential listening for students of alternative and new wave music, and those who like a little adventure in their tunes.
Random Trivia: This band evolved from Rocket From The Tombs, which spawned both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys.
Loaded - The Velvet Underground
Summary: The last throes (side note: Dick Cheney, this is what that phrase means!) of an influential, yet unpopular (at the time) band. This is their most bright and tuneful collection, as even a committed misanthrope like Lou Reed could see some sunshine and blue skies once in a while. It was poppy and clean, which make “White Light, White Heat” all the more curious.
Positives: The first side, with “Who Loves the Sun”, “Rock and Roll”, “Sweet Jane” and “New Age” may be the best album side of 1970.
Drawbacks: Doug Yule, not Lou Reed, sings some songs, and some may say he’s not the best interpreter of Reed’s work. “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” can just leave, now.
Verdict: If you want to dip your toe into the VU, dip it here. Be warned, though, that none of their other records sound like this.
Random Trivia: Mo Tucker was pregnant during the recording of this album, so Yule’s brother Billy filled in on drums.
Summary: The bar band from Boston bursts through big time with this outstanding rock and roll collection of classics.
Positives: Everyone knows “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way”, but “Uncle Salty”, “Adam’s Apple”, and “No More No More” also pack quite the punch.
Drawbacks: “Big Ten Inch Record” is funny when you’re in elementary school, and that’s about it.
Verdict: Aerosmith never really made a lot of great albums. Sure, they had lots of great songs, but not a lot of consistent albums. This is the exception to that rule.
Random Trivia: The success of this album also made “Dream On” their first single from 1973, a major hit two years after its release.
Summary: After a winning debut and a so-so second album, Mark Knopfler rethinks Dire Straits. He adds keyboards to the mix and moves toward more long-form elaborate songs instead of straight ahead roots- rock.
Positives: “Romeo and Juliet”, “Skateaway” and “Expresso Love” showcase Knopfler at the peak of his songwriting prowess.
Drawbacks: “Les Boys” is an “it’s funny once but let’s never play it again” song that closes the album rather flaccidly.
Verdict: Mark Knopfler changes the Dire Straits formula, with winning results.
Random Trivia: Roy Bittan from the E-Street band plays keyboards on this album. Knopfler would later hire someone to play keyboards on a full-time basis.
No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith - Motorhead
Summary: You want it loud? You got it! This is the original trip at the peak of its power. Lemmy’s bass rumbles all parts of your body, and Fast Eddie Clarke is a riffing machine.
Positives: This is a well crafted set of the highlights from Motorhead’s early career. Not a bum cut in the bunch.
Drawbacks: Uh, just what are the words, Lemmy? Can you translate them for me? (Or does it really matter?)
Verdict: Normally, I prefer studio tracks to live albums, but this, this is just too powerful and furious to ignore. It’s a great place to understand what Motorhead was all about, and why they’re so important in rock history.
Random Trivia: Lemmy was in Hawkwind, but was thrown out of that band when he was busted for drugs in South Bend, Indiana.
Utopia - Utopia
Summary: Todd Rundgren’s side-career actually becomes a full-fledged independent entity. Sure, it sounds like a Todd Rundgren album, but the band dynamic forces him to rein in his ambitions and deliver a winning power pop album.
Positives: “Libertine” is a tremendous album starter. “Hammer In My Heart” is incessantly rocking, and “Princess of the Universe” will stick with you forever and a day.
Drawbacks: Considering that it was 15 tracks in the pre-CD era, none of the tracks stick out as one that could have been trimmed.
Verdict: Ever since Rundgren burst on the scene, he frustrated a lot of people with his tendency to go for the excess instead of the simple. Here, he’s simple for the most part and it works.
Random Trivia: On vinyl, this was a three-sided album, as side 3 was on both sides of the second album.
Lather - Frank Zappa
Summary: There are a lot of stories and legends about this collection. Ultimately, there were four albums constructed out of this set, Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. (It was to be a four-record set in its original form). However, it seems to work a lot better as Zappa intended it (allegedly) to sound and flow.
Positives: This has everything that a Zappa fan wants, impressive compositions like “RDNZL”, “Re-Gyptian Strut”, “The Purple Lagoon”, and “Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra”. He also has some ‘comedy’ numbers that the kids enjoy.
Drawbacks: At 30 tracks, sure there’s some flab here. Mostly in some of the live pieces that stretch a bit too long when the joke wears thin, like “The Illinois Enema Bandit” and “Punky’s Whips”.
Verdict: I love Zappa – I have every one of his albums and this is one of my favorites (that’s why it’s here). That being said, if you are unsure of your love for Zappa I’d start somewhere else. If you know you like him, then by all means this is a must have.
Random Trivia: It’s pronounced “leather” as there’s an umlaut over the "a" in the album title.