The last segment of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time was intense. Some great stuff in that. We’re now in the Top 60. I’m whittling them down one piece at a time and speaking of which… let’s hit it!
#60 – Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. Anyone want to guess what I know about Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band? Think about it for a second, I’ll wait. (whistles… taps foot… raps fingers on table)… That’s right I know absolutely nothing about them. In fact, other than maybe in passing, I’ve never even heard of them. Yes, I know that floors you, Dear Reader, and yet, comes as no surprise, whatsoever. All that said, I really wish I still didn’t know who it was and I really wish I hadn’t heard this. I remember being in high school, having only played the bass for about 2 years and getting together with a bunch of other high school musicians who also hadn’t played very long and never in a “band.” What we pulled out of our arses noodling around on instruments we barely knew our way around sounded 800x better than this. The mere fact that Frank Zappa had anything to do with it makes me question my respect for him and that was spotty to begin with. I did some research to find out more about the album before I passed harsh judgement but nothing in my readings made me feel any better about this. All I read was about how important it is and how the Magic Band was a “well-rehearsed” band for these recordings. The construction site across from the studio makes better music than this when they’re running the cement mixer, running a brick saw, riveting aluminum studs and hauling stuff around the building on heavy equipment. This is an hour+ that I will never get back. I don’t care about the “importance” of it, it sucks. Pure and simple. It’s gawd-awful. The fact that it’s on this list at all, much less Top 60? That is an atrocity. There’s no explaining to me how important or fantastic it is, because no matter the significance, there’s no changing that I got a headache from it and wanted to step in front of a passing city bus while and after listening to it. I hated this.
#59 – Chronicle by Creedence Clearwater Revival. 20 “greatest hits.”
#58 – Beggar’s Banquet by The Rolling Stones. With the exception of a few songs, this is certainly not my favorite Stones album. There are so many Stones albums that could have sat this high, in my opinion. I’ve never made it a secret that I don’t like the bluesier stuff. This was a return to their roots (read: more blues) than the nearest previous stuff. To ME, this is less Stones than I’m used to. I know, too, that it was the last album released while Brian Jones was alive. So, there’s some kind of creepiness there, although I’m used to hearing stuff from people who have passed on. I remember listening to Pearl, it was creepy knowing that Janis had died after recording it, even one song instrumental because she died mere days before the scheduled vocal session. Creepy. Okay, sorry. To me, this album drags, almost the whole time. I like “Sympathy for the Devil” (one of my favorite Stones songs) and “Street Fighting Man.” But, the rest, meh. I can look back on this entire list and find almost any other Stones album and put it before this one. I’m not saying it doesn’t belong on the list, I get its importance. I just think most of the other albums on this list should, could or would be higher. Even the last that we listened to, Sticky Fingers, much better album than this. Tattoo You, Some Girls, all should have been higher than this, certainly higher than they were. I don’t get it, other than that roots mess. Meh, at best.
#57 – Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. I’ll admit that this is what I listened to after Captain Beefheart and it was so refreshing to hear actual rhythms that made sense and notes that sounded like they belonged with each other. Again, the beauty you got with many of the Stevie Wonder albums is the fact that he played, not only his own instruments but most of the instrumentation was done by him. Of course, he had guest players and this there was a great deal of them: “Maniac” Mike Sambello, Nathan Watts, Raymond Pounds, George Benson, Minnie Riperton, Herbie Hancock, just to name a few. The guest list was extensive. It’s jazz, it’s rock, it’s R&B, it’s soul, it’s everything. Great ballads, jammy jazz riffs and swinging horn sections, oh yeah! “Sir Duke.” ‘Nuff said with that. Well, maybe not ’nuff said. This album would be worth it alone just for that tune. Luckily, there’s a shload more on here to enjoy in addition. How in the world did I not know that Coolio totally ripped off Stevie with “Pastime Paradise?” I was like what the heck is that!? And, Coolio had any room to get upset when ‘Weird Al’ used “Gangsta Paradise” as one of his parodies? Yeah, perhaps he had permission from Stevie to use it, but still, it was only partly his to complain about. This version is the best of all of them, I say. I have to say, too, that synth basses in 1976 were actually more advanced than I realized. Stevie plays the crap out of it, too. The runs are like someone actually playing bass. When it is bass, it’s Nathan Watts.”I Wish,” “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Joy Inside My Tears” are some of my faves on this album. I have the video for the Classic Albums series on this album. I’ll have to break that out and watch it again. Great album from a great artist! DUG!
#56 – Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley. The King. I’ve never been a fan, but I’ve never really disliked him, either. I’ve recognized his contributions but haven’t given him a fair shake, and I’ll fully admit that; I’m not proud of it. The one that started it all. To many, it’s what actually started the rock and roll movement, setting the tone and path that pretty much everything that has been released since has followed. Even the mighty Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones pretty much owe their existence to this album, in my opinion. I certainly recognize its importance. The funny thing about this album is there are no songs over 2:43 long. So much RnR history in 28 minutes. The legendary musicians that contributed to this album is also worth mentioning: Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, Shorty Long and D.J. Fontana along with Elvis’ backers, Bill Black and Scotty Moore make this album a good record. These aren’t my favorite Elvis tunes, by any means, but the album is well recorded and mixed even for 1956. Some of it, I can hear and picture that rushed, deliberate performances that was common and expected from that era. A culmination of rock, soul and country & western all on one album. That would be all but unheard of these days. It’s a really good album and I promise myself, and you, Dear Listener, I’ll try to get to more Elvis and give it that “fair shake” I mentioned earlier. Some of my faves: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “I Got a Woman,” “I Love You Because,” “I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’),” “Blue Moon” and “Money Honey.” This was the first rock and roll record to sell one million copies, which makes sense since it was one the first rock records. I dug it!
#55 – Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix. After the last Hendrix album I was apprehensive, especially since I’ve never really been a Hendrix fan. I don’t know what it was, but as luck would have it, it was a rare instance where I listened to one of the albums via headphones. That really has only happened on about four albums over the course of this entire countdown. No more than six. This is definitely what my buddy, Eug would call a “headphones album.” Lots of panning effects and not just sitting stationary in one position. Plus, the whole album is atmospheric and full “bodied.” The imagery of the subject matter is also vibrant. This is well, written and mostly well executed stuff. There are plenty of guest spots on this album, too: Brian Jones, Steven Winwood, Dave Mason, Buddy Miles, Al Kooper and the list goes on. One thing, I don’t want to hear anyone ever talk about how sloppy Jimmy Page’s playing is without at least acknowledging that Jimi was, too. I mean, c’mon… There’s part of this that it’s a mess, albeit a beautifully mastered mess. It’s a long album with two songs coming in over 10 minutes. On vinyl it was four sides. Some of my favorites were: “Crosstown Traffic,” “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland),” “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” even though it was almost 14 minutes long, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” “All Along the Watchtower” and, of course, “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” This was a good Hendrix album to listen to. Experimental but still rock and what I’d expect from him. I dug it!
#54 – The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Recordings 1952-1959 by Ray Charles. A long title. Maybe the longest of the countdown. And, it’s Ray Charles. But, not enough make me review a compilation.
#53 – Meet the Beatles by The Beatles. Talk about confusing. There’s US releases and UK releases and, generally, they’re not in the same “canon.” At least when it comes to other artists. With the Beatles (not a pun), it’s really hard to separate them. I had to piece this album together because the box set that I got was obviously the UK versions (the ones that I really want anyway) and what is offered on Rhapsody (Napster), are also the UK versions. I have all the albums and all the songs are scattered throughout them, in way or another. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is on Past Masters, as is “This Boy.” “I Saw Her Standing There” was on Please, Please Me. Everything else was on With the Beatles. I believe it was supposed to be the equivalent of Meet… but it’s not an exact match. I’ve not looked ahead but I wonder if With… is on the list? We’ll see. I’ve always thought of the earliest Beatles era as important but I’ve always been less excited about it. This was helping to establish rock and roll, I get that, but to me The Beatles really kicked in about A Hard Day’s Night, even though that wasn’t my fave either. It was Help! that really set me off on the Beatles-train. Rubber Soul/Revolver stepped it up and then all the experimental and fancy-schmancy stuff later was my absolute favorite. All that being said, some of my favorite tunes (covers or not) are on this album: “All I’ve Got To Do,” “Till There Was You,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “I Wanna Be Your Man.” I’d say if I was picking one to be my fave from here, it would be “Till There Was You.” As a collection goes, it’s fine, but I’d just as soon stick with With the Beatles. I dug it, though.
#52 – Greatest Hits by Al Green. A collection of 10 songs with an album cover showing
Reverend Al topless and looking all sexy and stuff. Still, it’s a compilation and it’s skipped.
#51 – Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel. Another album released in the year of my birth, 1970, this one is older, by 10 months. It’s the fifth album and is the swan song for the duo, each going their own way. I’m thinking it was a bit contentious, who’s with me? The album starts with the sweet “lean on me” themed title track. There were rumors that the song was about drugs (“silver girl”), but it wasn’t. Apparently, it’s about Peggy, Paul Simon’s then-wife. I love the overall feel of this album. There’s tension and there are times you can sense it but even with the deteriorating relationship of the duo going on they’re able to keep it together and make it work, even renting a house in L.A. while Art was filming Catch-22. They experimented with sounds and effects, much used during the song “Cecilia,” which is one of my favorite S&G tunes. “The Boxer,” another fave, is probably the one that took the longest to record. From what I understand, it started in 1968 and was recorded in several places over the course of almost two years. While he was the more prolific of the two, I think Paul Simon was jealous of the growing popularity of Art Garfunkel. “The Only Living Boy in New York” was the product of feeling lonely in NYC while Art was filming in Mexico. The last tune on the album, “Song for the Asking,” from what I’ve read, was like Simon and Garfunkel, each trying to reconcile and keep the channels open for future opportunities to work together. I believe they only did spot reunions after that. A landmark album that instead of boosting the duo was the sunset for them. Simon, of course, went on to monster success as a solo guy and Art didn’t do too bad, as far as I can tell. It’s a great album. Great, well-written tunes and it’s S&G, hard to go wrong with that, yeah? DUG!
So, this segment had three compilations. That sped things along, but I’d rather have heard something than skipping. Also, I was “treated” to pond water in that Captain Beefheart mess. The Stones album was a meh. Other than that, what I listened to was good and I dug them. It’s also a segment that had both a Stones and Beatles album on it. I thought that was neat. Next segment, I crack the top 50. I can’t wait, either! Thanks for reading along!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long year; stole many a man’s soul to waste.” – “Sympathy for the Devil” (Richards/Jagger)