I know I usually do these on Mondays but this coming Monday is a holiday and I may write about that, who knows, so let’s put this one in today… Okay? Okay! I worked my way through the first 250 of Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. I wrote my defense (not really, just a recap) of those and now I’m ready to move on. Hopefully, there’s stuff that will surprise me in a good way. I don’t like those unfortunate surprises so much. Anywhat! Let’s hit it!
#250 – Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z. Ok, a question, here. I know it’s because of the overall influence of what the album has done its affect on others and/or subsequent releases, but how is that an album that is advocating so much violence, especially gun violence against the “N” word, killing, shooting and such, on this list? Biggie is on here, and we know what happened to him. It’s one thing to put on a front but this isn’t WWE. This isn’t just an on-screen spat for entertainment purposes. This is potentially real life-and-death. The songs themselves aren’t really that bad. The subject matter is bad. I understand the posturing and I understand the “I overcame” but that’s one thing; provocation is another. The subject matter of this sickens me and I’m not just being a “bleeding heart liberal” (which sometimes I can be), it’s just way too much for me to pay attention to. Not a good start to “Side 2” of the list but I’m thinking I’m not going to rate it unless something really stands out to me. Some of the music is pretty cool, but nothing other than “Feelin’ It” and “Coming of Age” stick out, really, to me. No rating.
#249 – Automatic for the People by R.E.M. Now to rinse the taste of the Jay-Z album out of my ears, this is much more tame and much more listenable. Starting off with “Drive” it’s a eerie little tune that I happen to love. One of the sappiest, yet saddest, songs ever recorded, “Everybody Hurts,” is something that I’ll remember first and foremost from Taxicab Confessions on HBO and when I first heard it, I thought the singer (yes I know it’s Stipe, now) was awfully whiney. But, I also think that the song is wonderfully written and now I know better. Now, I’m not saying this is a great album from beginning to end, as some of it kind of falls short like fluffy filling but there is some fantastic stuff on here. “Man on the Moon” is a great tribute to the zany Andy Kaufman. I think that’s the first time I’ve really ever used the word “zany” on this blog and probably in real life outside of ZanyZappers that I had as kids. Anywhat! The story in the song is fun and a fitting tribute. And “Nightswimming.” My memories of that song had nothing directly to do with R.E.M.. Rather it’s more about a man named BB who sang it during the “R.E.M.: The Later Years” Vagabond Saints Society show, which happened to be my first show with VSS, ever. BB, whom I’m sorry to say I can’t remember his last name, did it and kind of got flustered during the performance and they restarted it. I felt bad for him, but he pulled it off like a champ. I didn’t really even know him but he seemed to be a very nervous person, although he was a singer for another band, of which escapes me right now. BB passed away a few years back, and when I hear that song, forevermore it reminds me of that night. Bittersweet. I dug the album, though.
#248 – The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. Whoa! Some very unique stuff, this. It’s not so much that Ornette is playing the saxophone but he’s talking through it. It’s like a personified being more than an inanimate object. And while Don Cherry makes the coronet/trumpet sing, and probably more so than any I’ve heard before, it’s still not as hot as Ornette’s playing. They’re both playing riffs with horns and wind instruments that is almost as fast as some Yngwie licks and that’s super fast. The complimentary conversation between the sax and trumpet throughout the album is amazing. Another unique thing about the album is that it is a quartet but without any traditional chordal instruments. I hear no piano or guitar on it at all. I hear drums, a double-bass and the sax and trumpet. In “Focus on the Sanity” the sax is like a kitten playing with a ball of string and having a grand old time. Another amazing thing about this album is that all thirty-eight minutes of it was recorded in one day back in 1959. Not that unheard of as Heavens Sake recorded the basic tracks for nine songs in one day, but still, out of six, five of these babies are over five minutes long; one at over nine. This was a joy to listen to and I’d say it was righteous! I dug it, for sure!!
#247 – Live/Dead by The Grateful Dead. I hang my head when I see The Grateful Dead. I’m very ungrateful that I have to be subjected to them. Listening to this is like listening to sporadic, chronic “tuners” (those who stand at the front of the stage constantly tuning their guitars/basses when they’re not really out of tune – it’s a nervous habit, nothing more) that are scoring some strange art-house film that while we hear the soundtrack/score we don’t get to see the crappy movie (caveat, I like art house films, most of the time). This is all criticism of just the first song, a 23-minute epic of a mess called “Dark Star.” After that it gets “better,” whatever that means. I can picture them standing on the stage and just twiddling around on some notes and such. Some of it gets a little dynamic, like “Turn on Your Love Light,” but most of it is b-o-r-i-n-g! I mean even trying to do other things while listening was making the things I was doing bad. I mean, even playing Cookie Jam was not taking my mind off of this garbage. Grateful that The Grateful Dead is over for now. I’m sure there’s more of this junk on here somewhere. This is like a shot of Clorox with a Drain-o chaser. I don’t care if I get flack for talking junk about “the Dead.” This outright sucks! I know I’m not being professional or proper in my critique but it’s not proper to have to listen to this, either.
#246 – Freak Out! by Mothers of Invention. I actually own this album, believe it or not. I don’t know why, but I do. And even if I don’t think this is great, it’s not the (expletive) Grateful Dead!! Now, that being said, I don’t not think this is good. I love Zappa’s satire and he leaves no one out. He’s an equal opportunity blaster. Everyone’s fair game here. “Motherly Love” I have heard before and I don’t know where. Seems like a movie or something but I can’t find a listing about it. “Wowie Zowie” is fun. The whole album is fun, and I think in some twisted way the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek, musically and lyrically. It takes a lot of aspects from doo-wop but the mid-Sixties are definitely threaded throughout. David Fricke of Rolling Stone says that this was a direct influence on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band from The Beatles (spoiler, it’s very high on this countdown). I don’t know that I hear that but I can’t deny it, either. “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” reminds me of something and I can not figure out what it is. Maybe it will come to me at a later date. I dunno. Anywhat! I dig it.
#245 – All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology by Jerry Lee Lewis. I want to listen to some of The Killer but not like this.
#244 – The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem. “Stan” is but one very disturbing account of the other side of celebrity; the bad side, the stalkers, paparazzi, tabloids, critics, etc. In fact, the whole album is like that. I’m more of a fan of this than I am of the Slim Shady LP (#275) that I reviewed earlier in the countdown. I think I just find this more accessible. At one end, he’s not as hungry as he was before he got “famous” but on the other side he can relax a little bit because he’s gotten where he needs to be – good or bad be the case. Then comes “Kim.” “Stan” was nothing compared to “Kim,” as far as songs go. His hatred for his wife and his account of how she prevented him from seeing their daughter rings through. It’s a murder ballad, or murder fantasy, where he kills her and stuffs her in his trunk. Presumably, this is a prequel to “97 Bonnie & Clyde” from the Slim Shady LP. It’s perhaps one of the most violent songs I’ve ever heard, at least in sense of actually “acting out” the violence. Eminem played both himself and Kim in the song and you can hear the demise, the duct tape and the stowing. Rough stuff, but overall, I dug the album.
#243 – Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. I can feel myself sinking from the weight of the metal, it’s heavy. If I’m stating my opinion (and I am), this is, especially in the title song’s breadth, where “heavy metal” was born. The earth cracked, gash wide open, up and from its head sprung forth Ozzy, Tommy, Bill and Geezer. You can almost feel the black clouds rolling in – and not slowly – bringing an impending doom which will swallow you and every ounce of good that was left in your decaying soul, whole; inch by inch. Wow, I don’t know if I could have made that any more delightfully dreadful but the title song is absolutely that. Although I dig “The Wizard,” I feel that the harmonica is watering down it’s weight and I could have done without that, but overall the song is powerful. There’s a bit of confusion on my part as to which version of this album I’m supposed to listen to. There’s the European LP version, the North American LP version, a reissue (which I try to stay away from because I want it to be as close to the original as possible) and bonus tracks, which while sometimes I do listen to, if they’re not on the original, then I don’t include them in the review. The version I decided on (and what was readily available on Rhapsody) is the North American LP version. So, you get as track number three: “Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically (yes I spelled that right)/N.I.B.” N.I.B. stand neither for “Nativity in Black” nor “Name in Blood.” It’s about the devil falling in love and becoming a decent entity. In an FAQ on their website, Geezer Butler stated that the song had no title so they just called it “Nib” after drummer Bill Ward’s beard which was shaped like a pen nib. I can relate as I have one of those. The end is one long song as well. It’s called “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning.” The “Bit of Finger” part is pretty but haunting. Then it goes back to punching you square in the teeth with a metallic fist whilst being a little jazzy and Zeppelin-like. There’s a bit of “Heartbreaker” in there if you listen close enough. And, after listening to the “Warning” part, I don’t want anyone else to say Page is a sloppy lead player without giving Iommi the same rub. He’s sloppy all through that. But, it doesn’t really take away from the over all. This album was a depressing delight and I most certainly dug it. Any fan of hard rock should like this. Although I really can’t stand the term “heavy metal,” I think this one does offer a great birth of it. Now, I await the hellmouth to swallow me whole.
#242 – Run-D.M.C. by Run-D.M.C. Back when rap was fresh and new not run-of-the-mill whack that it is now. This is some of the spread that caused people to notice rap. It’s elements of rock, pop, rap and hip-hop topped with a bit of awesome sauce rolled up into a fantastic rap dessert. I dig that they give Jam-Master Jay (RIP) some love. Two songs worth, actually. He’s perhaps the most famous of spinner DJs that the rap world has ever known. Other than “Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1),” I don’t think I’ve heard any of these songs before. That’s not a bad thing, I just mean that it’s this good without a powerhouse song. At the same time, there’s nothing really standout-ish about it either. I’m not taking away from it, it rocks. I really like “It’s Like That.” Rock on Jay! Dug!
#241 – Let It Be by The Replacements. The first thing I see on the track listing is a song called “Black Diamond.” What is this!? It can’t be!? It is! It’s a cover of the 1974 (more precisely it’s a cover of the 1975 Alive! version) debut album track from KISS. If nothing else, they get props for that! It’s a pretty horrible cover, but they did cover it and released it. It seems that this is a jumbled mess. But, that’s not exactly true. I think it’s a well-calculated mess, but a mess nonetheless. Is it punk? Not really. Is it crap? Not at all. Is it my thing? Nope. I know of other Replacements songs, namely “Alex Chilton,” and I know it’s better than this. This isn’t a dismissal, but a resignation that I really don’t care for it. “Unsatisfied,” “Sixteen Blue” and “Answering Machine” are along the lines I wish the rest of the album had been. Having heard good things about them and the “Alex Chilton” song, I was looking forward to this album. It pains me to say that I found it just “so-so.” Dug-ish.
This, the first segment past the halfway point, was a bit of a let down. Starting off with JAY-Z’s album (which I usually don’t mind him) and then eventually, The Grateful Dead. That’s just wrong. There was an anthology so I skipped that one. That’s almost a third of your segment, right there. There were some real highlights, though. I really liked the R.E.M. (which I own and have heard before), Black Sabbath (which surprised me), Run-D.M.C. and even Eminem albums. The “excited me” find, though, was Ornette Coleman. That really, really impressed me and I will have to find more from him, if there is any. What do you think, Dear Reader? Do you agree with my assessments or strongly (or even mildly) disagree with me? Let me know. Until we next meet on this Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All-Tim journey, this seg is done.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“When your day is long, and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on.
Don’t let yourself go ’cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.” – “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.