So, here we are with another segment of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. Hmm, the last few were pretty awesome, I thought. I did peek, just a bit, to what’s coming and this may be a rough segment, but hopefully not too bad. Let’s hit it, shall we?
#340 – Damaged by Black Flag. Um, ok. I feel like I’ve been punched in the ears – from within. This is a sonic assault on the aural senses and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything from Black Flag. I grew up looking at pictures of their album covers and t-shirts when I read Circus, Hit Parader or Metal Edge. I also only saw the t-shirts on pimply-faced punks that predated goths. Now, I’m not trying to stereotype, it is just how I remember it. Not lying, that’s how it was. I did know of Henry Rollins from some solo stuff, though, if that helps relieve the near head explosion that I know some of you are going through right now. There isn’t anything I can say about this album other than, dang! Angst wouldn’t really fit this as parts of it is actually kind of fun sounding. There aren’t many songs that are over three minutes and that’s probably a good thing. I think Rollins would have an aneurysm if they went on too long. Overall, I don’t really like anything about this album. I hope there aren’t any other Black Flag albums on this list, but something tells me the listerati are not on my side, here. It is Rolling Stone, after all. Did not dig, which I am sure doesn’t surprise anyone that knows me.
#339 – The Heart of Saturday Night by Tom Waits. Holy Smokes (pun intended)! Tom Waits is actually singing here. And he has a voice. A singing voice. The music is soothing and this is what I always expected when people talked about Tom Waits. “New Coat of Paint” and the followup, “San Diego Serenade” are honest, emotional and a delight to listen to. You can color me pleasantly pleased, indeed. Some great jazz crooner stuff mixed with folk troubadour-esque inflection. Some of the songs remind me of that era’s Billy Joel. Not comparing, just saying I hear similarities. I love that “Diamonds on My Windshield” has the phrase “colder than a well-digger’s ass.” I have always loved and have used it more than once. And Jim Hughart is one bad bassist. Great double work on this album. Some Springsteen-like sounds coming out of the speakers, too. That’s what I hear in “(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night,” Springsteen. A fun fact about this album, Jim Gordon, the drummer for this along with Imagine from John Lennon, All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, as well as albums from The Beach Boys, Randy Newman, Gordon Lightfoot and Alice Cooper, among others, was sentenced 16 years to life for the murder of his mother (hammer and stabbing) in 1984. He’s still there. Che ers. Oh, and I certainly, absolutely and vehemently DUG this album.
#338 – Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & The Holding Company. Yeah. Uh huh. Although I like some of the songs, I haven’t really ever gotten into Janis Joplin. I don’t see the big deal. She’s all scratchy and annoying. But, there’s some emotion. She has that. I once had someone tell me that they thought she was the greatest singer ever. I think they lost their mind. I’m not thrilled with this album, it doesn’t suck but nothing I ever care to hear again. Didn’t dig.
#337 – Aqualung by Jethro Tull. Ah, heavy metal. So it goes. Some hard rock in parts but some Celtic craziness in others. Fantastic, I say. In “My God” you can hear every breath that Ian Anderson is pushing through that flute. I love that solo. I saw local Winston-Salem musician, Audrey Fannin (Muck) do a fine job performing these wild flute musings. My absolute favorites are the hits, really. “Aqualung,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” Locomotive Breath.” But, as a whole, it’s a darn fine album. I’d like to hear it on vinyl. DUG!
#336 – In Rainbows by Radiohead. This is not my favorite Radiohead album. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do know this one isn’t it. I bought it when it first came out and with limited knowledge of Radiohead, at all, thought it was just a bunch of noise. Not like pollution or anything, just a lot of noise. I still feel that way mostly but it has some moments. “Nude” is one of those moments. Ethereal and flighty it’s a great listen. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is shoulder bouncy and fun. I love the synth ramblings of “All I Need.” It’s heavy and synthy, two things I like together. Perhaps like chocolate and chipotle? I don’t know where that came from but something like that. After further reflection, I do like this album. Leave off the first two tracks and I’m sold. Those aren’t bad just not my thing, I guess. But, yes, I dug it.
#335 – Superunknown by Soundgarden. If I was going to count the “Big Three” that came out during the grunge revolution, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and I was going to pick my favorite among those three, then Soundgarden would definitely win. Chris Cornell’s vocals and Kim Thayil’s masterful guitar work are the “chalk it up to awesome” in this band. And hey, as Don Jamieson said on That Metal Show, they have the balls to sing about a guy and spoons. There’s that. From the Leslie effect on “Black Hole Sun” to the talkbox on “My Wave,” the guitar antics continue. Intriguing lyrics and great song structure make this album (and pretty much all Soundgarden albums) a fantastic listen. “Mailman” just muddles along but it drags you with it and doesn’t let up on ya. There are various tunings happening along with some serious time signature craziness, which is certainly not out of the norm for Soundgarden. Am I the only one that sang “Butt Hole Sun?” The album is as solid as its predecessor, Badmotorfinger and I absolutely dug it!
#334 – Squeezing Out Sparks by Graham Parker. This is pure 1979/1980 record raucousness. It’s telling of the time and that’s not a bad thing. Solid recording and reminiscent of J. Giles or Rick Springfield with some Elvis Costello thrown in. It’s a good mixture. Something I could definitely hear Eugene listening to on his Zune. “Local Girls” is a good representation of music at the time and while I think there were no true “singles” on this album, this would have been the one to release. “You Can’t Be Too Strong” is an honest be-all-you-can ballad that through the bad stuff you have to stay strong. It’s an acoustic laden song that sits, perfectly, on the album. But, still, as much as I enjoyed listening to the album, I have to wonder, what was it that made it worthy of this list? I don’t hear anything that is absolutely noteworthy, just a good album. Is this better than Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell? No, so why is it ranked higher? Is it better than Let It Be, Honky Chateau, Stop Making Sense or Lou Reed’s Berlin? Heck no. So why is it ranked higher? Really, I don’t get that. But it’s a good album, nonetheless. Dug.
#333 – Wild Gift by X. First off, I am digging the gravelly vox from Exene Cervenka. I also like the short song times. Punk isn’t my strong suit and I like that it passes by quickly. Not that I don’t enjoy it. It’s a decent record, but I couldn’t listen to it twice. “We’re Desperate” is a strong song and “Adult Books” is a fun little flamenco kind of thingy. I could see Gomez and Morticia Addams dancing to it, even though I know they didn’t necessarily flamenco, it’s pretty goth in its own way. John Doe sounds a lot like a less-on-key David Byrne. There’s a garage band lo-fi element here that I think adds definite character; did I mention this is punk? The boogie of “In This House That I Call Come” is another fun ditty. I bet they were a hoot to see live. Still may be, their Wikipedia page lists them as still active with 2012 being the last (at least on there) documented show. Again, to me, not as good as the albums I listed above, so why this high? I dunno. Dug, for the most part.
#332 – Shoot Out the Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson. I think I’m starting to get annoyed trying to figure out why some of these are so high on this list, if even on it at all. There’s nothing wrong with this album, but there certainly isn’t anything special about it. I’m sure I’ll be voicing my frustration with this as time goes on, especially since we’ll be getting to the real grit and dirt of the list. “Walking on a Wire” is a decent song. I like the bend resolve at the end of the song. “A Man in Need” reminds me of Talking Heads sonically and even in some of the vocals from Richard. I’ll say that I enjoy Linda’s vocals much more than Richard’s. When he’s not sounding like David Byrne, he’s doing a fair Gordon Lightfoot impression with some Tom Petty mixed in there. I had never even heard of R&L before this list (they were at #471, too). Again, I’m not complaining about the album, but questioning the quality of placement, either in the list or where in the list. Meh.
#331 – Help! by The Beatles. I’m glad this list finished off strong. My confusion with this one is why it’s so low (high?) on the list. Why any Beatles album (even Yellow Submarine) would be outside the Top 20 is beyond me. Good from beginning to end. Great, even. Some of my favorite Beatles songs of all time are on this album: “Help!” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “You Like Me Too Much,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” For my money, The Beatles are the greatest and most influential musical geniuses in the history or rock/pop music. I’m not counting Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, etc. I mean in the “modern era” and the future. Twelve thumbs up, if I had them.
This segment had some ups and downs. In Rainbows, Aqualung, Superunknown, The Heart of Saturday Night and Help! were spectacular. I want to know your thoughts on these albums. Even if I don’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t. Actually, you probably will because my opinions are generally contrary to most. I’d like to hear it, though. Let me know, hit me up, tell me about it. Maybe the next segment will be better, overall? We’ll see.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away” – “Ticket to Ride” (Lennon/McCartney) from Help!