Yay! Back to a Monday! The last segment of Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time had some cheers and jeers from me; some good, some really bad. I’m hoping that this segment is better and I’m not going to keep you waiting any longer. Let’s do it!
#240 – Can’t Buy a Thrill by Steely Dan. I’m a “fan of the Dan.” Without even listening through this (which I have on vinyl, I believe), it has three of my faves on it. “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ in the Years” and my new/for now favorite Steely Dan song, “Dirty Work,” which isn’t even Donald Fagen singing. I think early on, they let others do some singing. I like Fagen and his voice but I don’t know how I’d feel about “Dirty Work” if it was him singing. This was when Steely Dan was actually a full band and not just Fagen and Walter Becker with a lot of session backup. That’s later and when you hear some Michael McDonald in there, but not on here. I love the jazz and Latin styles mixed with rock elements which is what made the Dan famous. The album is wrought with such good songwriting that it’s hard to believe that this album was the band’s debut. Although I list “Reelin’ in the Years” as a favorite, I have to say that I really don’t get the repetition of the choruses. At least the first and second choruses. There is a slight different harmony in the repeat of each but I think that could have been saved for the end. It’s not my song and I have no say and really it doesn’t take away from the song overall, but it’s just unnecessary, I think. Still a great song. Overall, this is a great jazz rock album. Heck, just a great album, in general. Good stuff. I dug it! (And I did listen through it…)
#239 – Like a Prayer by Madonna. This album came out just as I was preparing to graduate high school. There’s a lot of memories on this. It’s not the album as a whole, by the way, as much as it is the time that this came out. The big hits, “Cherish,” “Express Yourself” and the title track are the ones I really remember. “Dear Jessie” was released as a single but I don’t remember it at all. It’s not a bad song, though. I just don’t think it was single material. “Oh Father” and “Keep It Together” are both singles that gained some modest success and, truthfully, I had forgotten about them. I was glad to be able to revisit them, especially “Oh Father.” Over all the album is pretty good, even featuring a song with, and co-written and co-produced by, Prince (“Love Song”). It’s not Like a Virgin or even True Blue but it was good. I’d listen again. Dug.
#238 – Howlin’ Wolf by Howlin’ Wolf.
#237 – My Generation by The Who. Maybe I’m becoming desensitized. Or, perhaps I don’t get The Who. I don’t know. This isn’t bad, but I don’t see the big deal. I like the title cut and the rest of it is certainly makes for good music but I’m not moved by it. I will say that Entwhistle is a beast on bass. I knew that before this but I thought I’d reiterate the point, in case you may have missed it. There are some songs to really dig, though. The title track, “The Kids are Alright,” “It’s Not True,” “A Legal Matter.” The latter is Pete Townshend’s turn for lead vox. I wonder if I’m actually hearing some influence of that song in Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light?” I don’t know but I do hear some similarities in there. “The Ox” is an assault on the piano, the bass, the piano (thanks to Nicky Hopkins) and the guitar. I really liked that one. Overall, it was okay, not great and didn’t suck. I dug it.
#236 – Mr. Excitement! by Jackie Wilson. Comp.
#235 – The Ultimate Collection by Patsy Cline. RS is making this segment easy on me. But, I would rather see albums here. I don’t like wasting the entries, but I am not going to do compilations. At least not right now.
#234 – Bookends! by Simon & Garfunkel. What is this!? Synths and such on a S&G album!? Nice! I love how it starts softly with “Bookends Theme” and then beats you in the face with “Save the Life of My Child.” Same awesome harmonies that they’re known for but with some depth. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with the acoustic stuff, but this was (at least so far) a little bit of a departure and I really like that. I am a huge fan of “America” and I didn’t mind when it was used in the American Express commercials. Truthfully, I had never heard it until then and it made me go back and find the song. The BCPF, who is a fan of a lot of ’60s folkie stuff knew it and told me about it. I liked it. I still like it. “Overs” is a great jazzy acoustic number. “Voices of the Old People” is basically a recording by Art Garfunkel as captured at two rest homes. It’s kind of sweet and kind of sad. I have the S&G three-disc box set called Old Friends and the song of the same name is quite awesome. It, combined with “Bookends Theme (Reprise)” closes out the “Side One” with a little closure. Bookends, if you will. We’re back to some unexpected mellow rock with “Fakin’ It” to start what would be “Side Two.” S&G’s harmonies are out of this world; simple yet oddly complex. It’s hard to discern who is singing or what’s going on with the harmony but only that it works like a satin overlay of the music in the background. “Mrs. Robinson,” I’d venture to say, is probably their best known song, widely due to The Graduate soundtrack. I’m sure that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “The Boxer” fights for that top spot, but that’s what I think. That’s another place where the harmonies blend to make one voice so well. I still am more a fan of the Bangles version of “A Hazy Shade of Winter” than I am of the S&G version but, still, it’s a great version. It seems that Art is belting it on this song, which is opposite of what I’m used to from them but that’s okay, I like it. What’s amazing to me is that while Side One has some awesome tunes, including “America,” there were only four singles released and all of those were on the second side: “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” “Fakin’ It” and “Mrs. Robinson.” Was that a conscience decision or by chance? I don’t know, but I’m not complaining. This is one outstanding album and I’m glad I heard it. I will say that I had to listen to it on YouTube because it wasn’t available on Rhapsody and having to go through the ads every other (and sometimes every single) song was quite annoying. It disrupts the continuity of the album, but what can you do? I LOVED this one. Three thumbs up.
#233 – Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds. A Bob Dylan cover band! I’m kidding. But, out of twelve songs, four of them are Dylan songs. That’s a third of the album. It’s not a bad thing, I just know there were a few other Dylan songs they covered. Then again, most everyone from that era was, in some way or another. One thing about Dylan, he’s a great storyteller and songwriter, even if I think he’s a horrible singer. I don’t think I’ve really known a bad Dylan song, just badly done Dylan songs (most of them by him). The title track, “Spanish Harlem Incident,” “All I Really Want to Do” and “Chimes of Freedom” are his on this album. Now, as I was saying, none of the songs are bad and, hey, it wasn’t him singing here. Anywhat! Great instrumentation. But, those harmonies, though! It’s hard to beat them even though The Beatles, CSN and at one point Grateful Dead tried, really hard. This was their debut album and while I think this is great, it gets slicker as they go on in their recordings. I’d say of the songs on this album, the Dylan songs stand out the most and probably the ones that people would associate or remember the most about this album. I dug it but it doesn’t contain my favorite Byrds’ tunes.
#232 – The Kink Kronikles by The Kinks. Yet. Another. Anthology.
#231 – A Night at the Opera by Queen. Omagosh! I love this album. Then again, I love Queen, so… There is a lot of of the classic old music hall style of theatrical music here and the effects and trickery they use in the recording but a few of the things that makes me love this band so. The songs flow from one to another almost like a concept album, but without actually being one, that I can tell. It’s pointed, it’s funny, it’s nonsensical, it’s witty, it’s serious, it’s hateful. It’s magic. Brian May and Roger Taylor get their turn at some lead vocals but that doesn’t dilute Freddie Mercury’s role, not in the slightest. It shows diversity and humility. From the aforementioned music hall, Queen also does folk shuffle (“’39”), hard rock (“I’m in Love with My Car”), rock and roll (“Sweet Lady”) radio-friendly (“You’re My Best Friend”), Dixieland jazz (“Good Company”) and of course, what I’d consider the Queen song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That song is just masterfully executed. Not a flaw in it that I can tell. It peaked at number 9 in 1975, yet it peaked at number 2 in 1992 after being featured in the (I thought it was) funny film, Wayne’s World. I could probably write a whole blog post on this song; heck this whole album, really. “The Prophet’s Song” is an epic demonstration in the magic of tape delays. And when I say epic, I mean all 8:20 of it. There’s a lot of biblical references about floods and all that. When I hear “Love of My Life,” I can’t help but think of Freddie’s tribute show after he died. Extreme, the hard funk band did an eerily creepy (and somewhat off-key) version of it for that show. There are plenty of Queen albums that I like but this has to be one of my two or three faves. To say I dug it would be an understatement.
This segment was excruciating, mostly due to the excessive greatest hits inclusions. In my personal listening and collection, I have plenty of them, but that’s because I didn’t want whole albums. This is a different situation. Four of the ten albums were greatest hits, anthologies, collections. Nah. Thankfully, the ones that weren’t were all good to great to excellent albums. And, hey! There were no Grateful Dead or Velvet Underground on this leg. Thank (enter deity here)! I’m going to leave you here, Dear Reader and move on to the next segment. Go listen to A Night at the Opera and Bookends!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together. I’ve got some real estate here in my bag. So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies and walked off to look for America.” – “America” by Simon and Garfunkel (Simon)