Wow, it took a long time to get through this one. Then again, I did go through surgery, picked up a new podcast production gig and life, so it’s reasonable to say, it’s been hectic. A fairly balanced segment last time, I’m hoping for the same this time as I explore the next section of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. I don’t have anything really to pontificate on prior, so let’s get to it, shall we?
#270 – Some Girls by The Rolling Stones. One of, if not the favorite album of mine of the Rolling Stones. I think because I really love “Miss You,” “Far Away Eyes,” “Shattered” and “Beast of Burden,” I would say that about this album. I love when Doug Davis does it in his Mystery Dates shows. It’s right there in the disco time and “Miss You” does fit in that realm, but it’s not a disco album, although it is quite slick like one. It’s a full album that I have on my iPod from RS and was a big come back for them as they’d kind of fallen into a rut. My only complaint about this album is that it should be much higher on this list. I’d say it really needs to be Top 50 at least. I’ll admit that I don’t listen to a lot of the “filler” songs, usually, but I’m digging them during this session and with that, forty minutes is like the perfect length of album for me. I truly DIG this with extreme prejudice!
#269 – Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain. What the heck is this!? Let me clarify. I like the songwriting and songs and even the singing and stuff, but the production…? I don’t know if they were being “clever” or what but this is atrocious. It sounds like it’s in a cave and it’s hard for me to discern anything, really, about what is going on. The songs, like I said, are fine, but I really can’t handle listening to it. Is everything by them like this? I hope not. Did but didn’t dig it.
#268 – Paul Simon by Paul Simon. I’ve always like Paul but didn’t know much about him other than the “hits.” I do have Old Friends, the Simon and Garfunkel Box Set. The BCPF got me to really pay more attention to him. I am a huge fan of Graceland, too, which comes much later in the list. MUCH later. “Mother and Child Reunion” starts this off and it’s very much what I’d think would be the sound from early-1970s New York City. I have a fascination with that time and regional period that I just can’t explain. It’s a bit on the reggae side but that’s not a bad thing, here. Simon is a fantastic songwriter and he doesn’t disappoint with this. A lot of styles are in play here, from jazz to folk to Americana to the aforementioned reggae. The crowd favorite “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” is one that you’ll hear others play in acoustic solo shows. “Peace Like a River” and “Duncan” are more hints at Simon’s near-genius songwriting skills. He’s a great storyteller. “Papa Hobo” is a good example of such. And the NOLA-like Jazz ditty, “Hobo’s Blues” fun. I love the electric piano on “Congratulations,” the finale track. Larry Knechtel does great work on the e.p as well as the organ work on that song. A great finishe, I say. Quite a good listen. I’d listen, again. Dug.
#267 – Quadrophenia by The Who. This is not Tommy, is it? I’m thinking they’re trying too hard to redo that rock opera. This is good and I can totally get on board with catching your niche. I just think this pales to Tommy and Who’s Next. I think I may have heard “The Real Me” and I know I have “Love Reign O’er Me.” I had that on a greatest hits album. Yeah, I have greatest hits albums, I’m not against them, but I’m not going to review them. I’m just not… so stop trying to get me to. I digress! This isn’t moving me as much as I feel it should be. It’s Quadrophenia after all!? The album does rock and has a lot of feeling, I think I’m just disappointed with it. I know I’ll get flogged for that comment but that’s just how I feel about it. Dug-ish.
#266 – Child is Father to the Man by Blood, Sweat & Tears. After a nice (yet oddly placed), classical- or circus-like “Overture,” the album goes to “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” a blues-laden, prog love song that, in my opinion, is more enjoyable than anything that was on the Quadrophenia album before. It’s a beautifully written and executed tune that is full of life and luster. That’s not surprising since there’s only like forty-three people in the band. That’s an exaggeration… there’s only eight but whole orchestral sections involved in the recording. This album is so “summer of love”ish which is to say it sounds so “1967” (it really is from 1968) and the love is still flowing at this point. Oddly enough, after this album, Al Kooper, the founder and band leader, flew the “koop” if you will. While BS&T are still touring today, none of the founding members are in the band. It also reminds me of what I’d figure this-era Chicago would sound like with the horn and orchestral sections. I’m not too familiar with this era of prog rock, but I like what I’m hearing here. Great harmonies are on this album, too, along with great melodies and rhythm section work. “My Days are Numbered” is a great example of all that. And Jeez! I love the lounge stylings of “Without Her.” Even Donald Duck makes an appearance in “House in the Country.” I think that it may be a hair too long but at least all the songs are interesting; each a bit different than the next, all while maintaining a canon or uniformed “belonging.” I’d love to hear it on vinyl. I really, dug it.
#265 – The Genius of Ray Charles by Ray Charles. I don’t mind the blues aspect if it’s topped off with an icing of swing-pop and jazz. Plus, I’m a sucker for “standards.” Said standards include “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me.” What’s cool, too, is not only is Ray singing, he’s playing the piano for all of it as well. His voice is, in 1959, in top shape and he’s killing it here. Another cool thing is the first half (side one) is big band pop standards and the second half (side two) is orchestral pop standards. This was kind of critically-panned when it came out but, obviously since it’s on this list, more modern critics find it to be a classic and I would dare to say “masterpiece.” That’s what I’m going with, so there! Definitely, DUG!!!
#264 – Workingman’s Dead by Grateful Dead. Thank you Stephen Stills and David Crosby for teaching this band about harmonies. “Uncle John’s Band” could have been a CSN song. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what this song was called, even though I have it on a 70s collection. I skipped The Dead on principle; principle I don’t like the “culture.” Hey! I’m not proud of it, just the way it was. And, I already thought this was CSN. Now, I know. They go back to slightly off-key harmonies in the next song (“High Time” which is probably about right), but they gave us a good one to start off. I know that “Cumberland Blues” is a staple but I don’t really see why. Oddly enough, I do like “Black Peter” as it’s laid back and melodic. Reminds me of someone playing down in the bayou whilst others sip lemonade under a big weeping willow tree or something. I don’t know that’s just the imagery that I get from it. I like that one a lot, actually. And, the final song, “Casey Jones,” if I were going to pick a Dead song to say was my “favorite,” I’ve always considered that one it. All that being said, I think the band is just meh. I think this album is just meh as well. Exceptions being “Uncle John’s Band,” “Black Peter,” “Casey Jones.” Meh.
#263 – Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman. She has such a strong voice, not only the beautiful sound what comes from her face but for the awareness and support for her causes. She would have been just as “at home” in the late ’60s singing protest songs. At least she would have fit in, nicely. I have always loved “Fast Car” and had it on “Cassingle” in 1988, when it came out. Was fascinated by the imagery she portrayed and the songwriting itself. She’s so very talented. That song is probably the biggest hit of her career. Definitely until “Give Me One Reason” many years later. She wanes poetic a capella with “Behind the Wall” in a lament of wondering and worry. “Baby Can I Hold You” is a fantastic ballad that reached #19 on the charts in 1989 and was even covered by the champion songwriter, Neil Diamond in 1992. There are no clunkers on this album. It’s solid beginning to end. Loved it!
#262 – Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s funny that this is on the same segment as Workingman’s Dead since it was during the recording of this that Crosby and Stills stayed at the ranch where the Dead were hanging out and taught them the harmonies in “Uncle John’s Band” and this is followed by another Dead album. Weird. Anywhat! This is some of the most famous and unique (and best) harmonies in music. They set some standards in that department and it all started right here. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” starts it off and is the first intro to the casual album listener to what will become “that sound.” I also loved “Wooden Ships.” The rest of the album, by all means not ordinary, seemed to vanish into the background for me, though. It was all good, but nothing captured me. Am I becoming too desensitized to the process? I mean, I think I really should have felt better about this album. I dug it but am somewhat disappointed in myself for not liking it better.
#261 – American Beauty by Grateful Dead. *Sigh… Another Grateful Dead album. Other than “Truckin’,” I am not plussed by anything on here. I’m not putting it down and I’m not saying they’re not decent songwriters but it’s just not moving me. “Candyman” isn’t too bad, neither is “Operator.” I don’t hate it, though. I don’t really know what else to say. There’s just not a lot I feel I can say about it. Again, I’m not being critical. I think I’m being exactly the opposite. Meh.
So, two Grateful Dead albums in this segment and both were just “meh”s. I hope I’m done with them, although I figure they’ll sneak at least one more in here on me. Five really good ones, two that I was iffy about, two Grateful Deads and one really confusing (Jesus & Mary Chain). Half were really good so, I think this is a very fine segment, indeed. Four of these (Simon, CSN, BS&T, Chapman) were debut or debut solo albums. That’s pretty cool, I think. I would love to find the Ray Charles on vinyl and the BS&T, as well. My favorite Stones album (so far). Yep this was a fun, yet drawn out listen (it’s about three weeks in the making). So, here’s hoping the next segment of Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time is at least this good!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield, listening to gospel music on the colored radio station. And the preacher said, ‘You know you always have the Lord by your side.’ And, I was so pleased to be informed of this that I ran twenty red lights in his honor. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.” – “Far Away Eyes” by Rolling Stones (Richards/Jagger)