12:47 a.m. - December 23, 2005
Well, consider these tunes.
Yep, it’s another installment of 10 of the 150 (or so) albums I dig the most.
Remember, if you missed an installment, check out my older essays and I’m sure you’ll be able to spot them all.
This one is definitely an *interesting* mix of styles and genres. And away we go…
Summary: After years of exploring the darker side of rock and roll and life, Young comes back with another country / acoustic set that seemed anomalous for 1978, yet holds up well to this day. It’s a pleasant, gentle, and reflective record.
Positives: Young is at his most tuneful, and his voice is strong. The songs are pretty strong and there’s a good pacing to the record.
Drawbacks: “Lotta Love” was a hit for Nicolette Larson – Young’s version isn’t as good.
Verdict: If you liked Harvest, you’ll love this album.
Random Trivia: Crazy Horse, his long time grungy backup band, played on two tracks of this gentle album.
Summary: The debut album from the Bangles shows off their Paisley Underground roots, and is a power-pop classic. Of course, it was pretty much ignored by the public, Susannah Hoffs’ eyelashes be damned.
Positives: All of the Bangles show their strengths in this collection – which is well played and well sung. The band is tight and the arrangements are great. They also show great taste in covers. Tracks like “James” and “Restless” are on my permanent mix CD rotation.
Drawbacks: The only drawback is that we were all idiots and didn’t buy this when it came out.
Verdict: You may as well forget about “Manic Monday” and (ick!) “Eternal Flame” as THIS is the Bangles album to own.
Random Trivia: They were originally “The Bangs” when they were deep in the Paisley Underground scene, and released a fine single under that moniker.
Sound Affects - The Jam
Summary: The Jam move farther and farther away from punk rock and the Who and into a very sophisticated sound, consolidating the sonic gains they made over the previous recordings. This album is full of poignant, direct, and powerful songs. Some tracks hearken back to that old sound, but many move beyond.
Positives: “Man In the Corner Shop”, “Pretty Green”, “Start!”, “That’s Entertainment” for starters. And then we get into “Boy About Town” and “But I’m Different Now”.
Drawbacks: “Music For the Last Couple” is something that doesn’t really work.
Verdict: In my humble opinion, it’s the strongest Jam album and it’s a good place to start with them if you are curious, and I know you are.
Random Trivia: Yeah, the bass line from “Start!” was copped from “Taxman” – it happens.
Dark Side Of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Summary: The Floyd release their masterwork, and everyone’s bong is happier for it.
Drawbacks: I do have some quibbles about this record. But I think the main quibble is that Dave Gilmour and Richard Wright don’t get enough credit for their fine work on this album. Roger Waters, it ain’t all about you, son. Besides, your whiny nasally creepy voice ain’t on this record.
Verdict: Do I need to tell you? Doesn’t everyone already have this album?
Random Trivia: In the film “Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii”, one of the very non-Pompeii scenes shows Waters recording the main synth part for “On The Run” and Gilmour laying down guitar tracks for the record as well.
Rocket To Russia - The Ramones
Summary: The best album from the classic punk rock band. It’s got “Rockaway Beach” and that’s all you need to know.
Positives: 14 tracks, just like an old Beatles album. And it’s just as rockin’, Sheena!
Drawbacks: I prefer the original version of “Surfin’ Bird”. So sue me.
Verdict: LOBOTOMY! LOBOTOMY! PJ Soles (meee-ow!) wants you to own this album.
Random Trivia: Because of legal issues, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” is also available on the Ramones Leave Home album as well. (They had to replace a track because of said difficulties with da judge).
I Just Can’t Stop It - The English Beat
Summary: A brilliant debut for the neo-ska (70’s version) band.
Positives: All 12 tracks will have you dancing, moving, grooving. All of them. Ok, “Mirror In The Bathroom”, “Best Friend”, “Hands Off She’s Mine”, etc. etc.
Drawbacks: It’s only 12 tracks long.
Verdict: Go. Buy. This. Album! Now!
Random Trivia: Saxa, the saxophone player, didn’t tour. Of course, he was in his 50’s and didn’t need the hassle. He also played in the original ska bands down in Jamaica.
Summary: The Beatles were album artists. The Stones were ultimately a singles band. And what singles they had. This collects all of their important singles in that time frame, which makes this a vital historical document as well as a heck of a 2-CD set.
Positives: Well, it’s the best of the Rolling Stones from 1964-71. Do you need a road map?
Drawbacks: I could always do without “Wild Horses”, sorry Gram.
Verdict: A vital collection for any rock and roll fan. And sorry I’m cranky. It’s the Holidays, you know.
Random Trivia: Well, when I was in college, I learned how to say “Let’s Spend the Night Together” in German in hopes of impressing the ladies. Did it work? Uhh…..no.
Marquee Moon - Television
Summary: An original CBGB band makes a guitar-lovers dream album. The interplay between Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine is stunning, and the songs they surround are all worthy.
Positives: The title track causes me, at times, to stop what I’m doing to listen, intently. It’s a rare 10 minute plus song that commands your attention throughout. The whole first side is great.
Drawbacks: Some may say Tom Verlaine’s voice is a drawback. Your mileage may vary. I’m concentrating on the guitar myself.
Verdict: Though they were in the punk rock era and played in the punk rock club, this isn’t punk rock, per se. It’s intelligent guitar rock that spans genres and leaves a mark on all listeners.
Random Trivia: Richard Hell, noted new wave poet and leader of the Voidoids (who had a couple of noted tracks in the NYC scene “Blank Generation” and “Love Comes In Spurts” was the original bassist in this band, and he at one point was married to new-wave pop tart Patty Smyth of Scandal. (Meee-ow! “Goodbye To You” is a classic!)
Summary: The epitome of glam rock, this album is the pinnacle of Bowie’s career. Even though he’s done a lot of great work after this record, everything is going to be compared to this.
Positives: It’s a concept album that works, and every song is not only a good song, but crucial to the storyline.
Drawbacks: The only drawback it that this has been a millstone around Bowie’s career for over 30 years.
Verdict: Bowie’s albums are inconsistent, and I believe that’s due to his chronic chameleonistic tendencies. This one is not.
Random Trivia: He recorded some early singles using his real name – Davey Jones. He changed it when the Monkee became famous.
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo - Devo
Summary: The first album from this bunch of misfits from Akron features their famous deconstruction of “Satisfaction” as well as a slew of other off-kilter de-evolutionary songs.
Positives: “Uncontrollable Urge” is one of the most perfect album openers, ever.
Drawbacks: As with any avant-garde recording, sometimes the experiments can wear thin. Those moments are rare here.
Verdict: Are we not men? WE ARE DEVO! And you are too!
Random Trivia: Before the days of MTV, they already made short films for many of their songs, including one that was featured on Saturday Night Live before their performance of “Jocko Homo”.