Back at it again! The Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All-Time. A bit of a roller coaster, that last one. And here we go with the last 100 entries of the countdown. Hitting it and running it down, we’ll manage 401-410th and we’re starting with…
#100 – Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies. First thing, I’m not the one that spelled Odyssey wrong. Just so you know. Beautifully layered vocals and trippy psychedelia is smeared all over this gem. Keyboardist Rod Argent and bassist Chris White wrote all the tunes of this album, telling great stories. This album is well written and the sonic quality of it seems to be way ahead of its time. It sounds like it could have been written about 5 to 10 years later. All the musicians on the album are beyond competent and are masterful of their instruments. Usually, I’d pick out a few songs and say those are better than others or this one I didn’t like. I’m certainly not going to do that here. The entire album from front to back is great. I am going to pull one out and discuss that, though. One of my favorite tunes of the ’60s, the entire decade, is “Time of the Season.” I have always wanted to cover that in a band and I never turn it when it comes on. I have to look at this album as a complete, singular unit but that song stands out as a fantastic peak of the mountain. I don’t know why I thought one of the CSN boys was in this band. They weren’t and that’s okay. I still love the album. I want to find it on vinyl. I DUG this album. Great start of the segment.
#99 – There’s a Riot Going On by Sly & the Family Stone. You can’t go wrong with Sly and his (their) funkamentary sound. I know I’ve said this at least 100 times but I’m going to say it again: Larry Graham is a certified bad arse! He makes the bass lines sound effortless and rudimentary and there is nothing rudimentary about them. It’s smooth and velvety goodness at it’s finest. This one doesn’t seem to burst at the seams with energy. It’s a little more laid back, at least from what I’m hearing so far. That’s odd since the title of the album is talking about a “riot.” That doesn’t take away from anything, at all. No, noway, huh-uh, forget it. It’s great stuff. I believe the frontman, Sly, was on a “train” at the time. I’m not sure which drugs but I’ve heard cocaine and PCP. The title is a response to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album. Well, a riot, that’s what. The conventional Family Stone backing vocals are there, so you know it’s them. There’s a lot of weird mixings happening here. Some instruments are fading and coming back some are directly out front and never leave. I don’t know what it is… it’s just different. And that’s okay. The second half of the album, I’m a little less enthused about. Once they get to Side 2, it seems to lose every bit of luster it had. It was like Sly just threw something together. Best stuff? Of course “Family Affair,” as well as “Luv N’ Haight”and “Poet.” The ending tune is a rehashed version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” called “Thank You For Talkin’ to Me Africa.” Meh. While it’s not what I’m used to from Sly, it’s a darned fine album at least on Side 1. I don’t think it should be ranked higher than Stand! (#121) or FRESH (#186). I dug it until the midway point. Overall? Dug – it’s Sly and the Family Stone. A bit of kinship I have with this album is it was released on my first birthday. So I’m exactly one year older than it is.
#98 – This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello. This is Declan McManus, indeed. This is the first album with “The Attractions and his second overall. I’m sometimes confused with the US vs. UK versions of these albums. They’ll have singles released from them and then leave that single off of the other version. If it’s selling, why change it? I don’t get it. Anywhat! This is good Elvis. Some of it, to me is what I’d have guessed to be early 80s alternative, a little post punk era. I’ll admit that I’ve just recently (within the last 10 years) gotten into that genre and at that only focused on a certain handful of artists to find out more about. So, this was released in 1978 and, to me, sounds ahead of its time. I think because I was only 7 going on 8 at the time, and had my head stuck in KISS’ collective arses, sometimes that era I can’t get away from the Bread, Ambrosia and Abbas of the world. My loss, but now I’m finding it, I’m happy with that. Bruce Thomas’ bass playing is great, solid and tasteful. Great work and the production (thanks Nick Lowe) is spot on. Sometimes instruments get buried and there’s nothing that I can tell that is buried as all the instruments come through vibrantly. The stuff that I liked the most? That’s easy. Start from the beginning and go through the end. That’s the best part. If I was picking, “Pump It Up,” “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea,” “Lip Service,” “Living in Paradise” and “Radio, Radio.” Absolutely, I DUG it!
#97 – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that rhymes until I read it out loud in my “announcers voice.” I find it funny now. Also, I will again admit my horrifically skewed ignorance to a lot of music and say that I was one of the Dylan detractors that thought he was awful, how can people listen to this crap, what the heck is this, how did someone that sings that badly make it, and it goes on and on. Let me say up front, that I still he sings horribly, but it’s part of the charm and I get that, now. Let’s put aside the voice, as if it never happened and focus on the songs and the stories. That is where Dylan is a genius and that is where I kick myself often as to being a dumbarse about his talents. I also have to step back and think of the time when this came out, the popularity of it. For that time, it was more important to get the message across, to be that voice of a generation, however you can, than it was to be polished and pretty, be it in looks or voice. Thought provoking and meaningful, playing off social and foreign dissension and strife, this is some wonderfully dark themed music and it’s timeless. Most of the social and foreign policies that he was addressing are still standing like a giant in the streets of our society now. That and the songs have been recorded, beautifully, by other artists. The worst part of this album, for me, is why is it at #97 and not at least top 20? My absolute favorite song on this album and one of my favorites of all time is “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” I had never heard it until my now wife put it on a “mixtape” for me. It was basically the story of her exodus from her previous disaster of a marriage. Basically, I spent time trying to do right by and be what was needed for you and you didn’t appreciate it and just wasted my precious time. Don’t worry, it’s all right, don’t think twice about me, I’m out. The poetry of it all, that song and others like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Girl From North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” and so on, beyond the musical aspects, is eerily beautiful and deep. I have it on CD and would love to find it on vinyl. Didn’t “dig” it, I LOVED IT!
#96 – Tommy by The Who. I had to reset my thoughts on this. At first I was going to pontificate on how it’s overrated and I don’t get it. Well, that may not be untrue, but after listening to it, I have gained a whole new respect for it. I watched the film and was just confused to why it was so hyped. It bored me to tears. But, listening to it without the distraction of the visual, I find it a lot more enjoyable than I originally thought. Musically, it’s brilliant and lyrically/storytelling, it’s really good. I don’t know that I actually like the story or if I even care about the story, I did like listening to the album once it got into the meat of it. The first little bit, I found myself answering emails, checking Facebook, etc. I think it was around “Christmas” and its “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me” parts, that I really started listening. I know that’s a central theme in the story and it really came into the forefront from there. I know they had a single by the name of “See Me, Feel Me” but I don’t know if it was just a single release or what. I like how they tied that and “Go To The Mirror!” and other various aspects into the last song, called, “We’re Not Going To Take It.” I suppose with a concept/rock opera that you need to revisit themes, or variations on a theme (or several themes) to make the story work. I like it and I get it. So, instead of my initial reaction of “blah blah blah blah” I actually enjoyed the album. I’d listen again, but when I can pick and choose what to listen to. Dug.
#95 – Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. If you’re looking for something quick and easy? This is not it. If you’re looking for something with short and to-the-point tunes, this is not it. If you’re looking for something with wicked and haunting melodies in the form of instrumental storytelling from one of the most innovative and influential horn players in the history, then this is it. It’s chilling, almost like you’re waiting for something bad to happen. The production is also amazing. It adds to the mystique of the album. The accompanying musicians, such as John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Larry Young, show virtuosity abounds and to witness it being recorded would have been beyond cool. I mean, this is Miles Davis, right? The embodiment of cool? I love the title, too. I believe some of his jazz fans felt betrayed by this album, as it seems to be a departure from what he was doing previously. But, it grabbed a new and sophisticated rock audience. He’s not laying back being cool here, though; he’s blasting the horn in dynamic, tempestuous phrasings. It does truly sounds like there are witches brewing evil concoctions and there’s an unsettling cloud approaching, slowly, menacingly. The first two tunes alone are over 47 minutes. They lull you in, immerse you in the dissonant sounds and then begin to bludgeon you violently before laying back, when you think you can’t take any more and giving you the false sense of “it’s all okay” before again irascibly assaulting you with a sonic strike. It’s a beautiful nightmare that you lovingly endure for 90 minutes wondering where you’ll end up next. It’s hard to say the best songs as I think they’re all hiding in plain sight waiting to pounce on you. There are two bass players playing, not only two different styles of basses (one electric and one double), but different rhythms. It creates a weird tension that is prevalent throughout much of the album. Sometimes it’s two electric basses playing different pieces at the same time. That’s innovation, brother! Then you have up to three electric pianos, pianos or keyboards playing at the same time, again, all different parts. They’re panned across the panned sonic spectrum.At times it sounds like chaos and at others it sounds as if you’re floating in an open sea. It’s a lot to take in at once and I actually thought my mind was going to blow out the side of my skull a few times. I’ve written all of this before I’ve gotten beyond the third tune, “Spanish Key.” Upon listening to the rest of it, it was par for the course, but still better than much of what came before it on this countdown. It’s reckless abandon is part of it’s indubitably perfect charm. Great stuff. I LOVED it.
#94 – 40 Greatest Hits by Hank Williams, Sr. Nope.
#93 – Sign o’the Times by Prince. I am looking for an accessible copy of this album. Again, it’s one that I don’t have and don’t know that I want to go out and purchase it new. I’m hoping to find it used. I checked with my buddy Jonathan down at Underdog Records, to see if he had a used copy on vinyl. That would have been cool. Chances are this will be released before that happens. I’ll report back on it in a future post, but don’t worry, I’m not abandoning it.
#92 – 20 Golden Greats by Buddy Holly & The Crickets. Nah.
#91 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. To me, it is the Elton John album. One of my all-time favorite EJ songs is on this album: “All the Girls Love Alice.” That in itself is worth a high rating. But, several of EJ’s biggest hits is on this album as well: the title track, “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting.” Great stuff, that. Again, the inclusion of those tracks, alone, would make this a high rating album. Then you have the peripheral “hits,” like: “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” “Alice” (that I mentioned before) and “Harmony.” There’s 17 songs on this double album and there’s no down-time whilst listening. It’s all worth every minute. Chasing reggae in “Jamaican Jerk-Off,” or the old-timey inspired “Grey Seal,” or the no nonsense ballad, “I’ve Seen that Movie Too,” there’s a bit of many styles all over this album…. Sorry, I had to break for a minute to sing along with “Alice.” Such a great song. Sad, but great! Anywhat! I really LOVE this album.
So, wow… with the exception of two compilations and one that is currently AWOL, that leaves 7, I actually LOVED 6 of them and still dug the last (Sly). We’ve crossed the starting line to the top 100, now and things should be getting hot and juicy on the way in to #1. I’m looking forward to what’s coming and am excited for the stuff that I’ve listened to on this segment. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up with the Prince album, much like I had to do with Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (#433), when I didn’t have access to it online but owned a copy of it. I gotcha, Dear Reader… I gotcha.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“All the young girls love Alice. Tender young Alice, they say, come over and see me. Come over and please me. Alice, it’s my turn today.” – “All the Girls Love Alice” (Taupin/John)