So, here we are. The Top 50. The Top 50 of The Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. I have about five weeks left in the year and that means I have about a post a week to get this done before January 1. I’m working on it. I’m not just flying through, either, I’m listening. But, there’s light at the end of this tunnel and I can see it. It’s but a small speck of light right now, but it will grow as the next few weeks pass. Last segment had three comps and truly awful album and one that I could take or leave. That left five that I liked or loved. Let’s hope this segment is more fruitful. But, first, we have some housekeeping to do: I purchased Prince’s Sign o’the Times on vinyl and I’m covering that first, since I couldn’t find it streaming and I didn’t own it.
#93 – Sign o’the Times by Prince. The album starts off mostly deep and depressing with the title track which covers a variety of not-untrue and telling social subjects such as AIDS, drug addiction, gangs, the Challenger explosion and the threat of impending doom, all which were certainly indicative “o’the times.” Prince had disbanded The Revolution at this point even though they all played on the tune “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night.” He pretty much handled the instruments the rest of the way. There are some guest spots but mostly, it’s him, his drum machines and his synth and sampling programming. I’m torn through much of it. I like the aggression that he displays in the songs but I feel it’s mostly lacking that whimsy that I felt most everything up to this had. Perhaps that’s not true, but I can’t put my finger on it. I still maintain the overall feel of the album is darker than usual. To me, the best region of this album is on Side 3: “U Got the Look,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” “Strange Relationship” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” While none of these are the best things Prince has done, it’s a decent side of music. I’d say that “U Got the Look” is the best song on this album, followed exactly by the title track. The album finishes with “Adore” which I was familiar with because it’s on the Hits double greatest album and I have that. This album is the bones of two separate projects. One was a new album for The Revolution and the other a solo piece played off as a platter for an alter-ego of his, Camille. Camille was to be sung by Prince and sped up to sound, well, sped up. You can hear remnants of Camille in a few of the songs, most prominently in “U Got the Look.” Well, he broke The Revolution up, and Camille’s album was not getting any traction, so instead of shelving the projects, he combined them into three separate LPs. Adding one more thing to his dislike of Warner Bros. Records, they made him whittle it down to one double album. He did; this is it. I have to say that with the exception of a few songs on this album, I’m not a fan and while I’m glad I have it on vinyl, I don’t expect to listen to it very much. The best tunes are on the previously mentioned greatest hits package. Meh, at best.
#50 – Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard. This is some old time rock and roll here. I’m not well versed in the ways of Richard Penniman. I really only know “Tutti Fruitti.” That’s the tune that starts the whole thing off. The album came out in 1957 and it was a bit of a head turner. It was raucous and boisterous and the kids loved it, of course. That was probably because their parents didn’t. It got in the way of their Bing Crosby and Frankie Blue Eyes. Yes, much of this had been released as singles before the album and could be misconstrued as a compilation album but it’s not. It wasn’t unusual for singles to be released before albums – it still happens to this day, all the time. Stood up next to today’s raucous and boisterous performers, yeah, it’s nothing, but for what it was then? Look out, Daddio! Probably considered one of the founders of this thing we call rock ‘n’ roll, Mr. Penniman was also very influential in the soul and funk genres. He pretty much yells at us the whole time but really, no more than what I’d consider his “white counterpart,” Jerry Lee Lewis. Both are flamboyant piano slammers that are loud, obnoxious and energetic with a flash of energy that few others would know in their era, even into today, I’d say. The boogie woogie piano stylings of Little Richard are some of the highlights of this album. I do believe the songs start to run together and sound similar but, for the time, I’m sure the objective was to keep pounding it into the teenagers’ heads. “Dumb them down,” if you will. That’s not really what happened, but it was a mindset, I’d venture to say. I love the voice cracks in “Slippin’ and Slidin’.” I can’t tell if I’d heard “Ready Teddy” before or if the tune was so formulaic that I thought that I had heard it before. I don’t mean that bad. I mean this is the foundation for that stuff, not that it sounds like everyone else that came later. I definitely see the importance of this album and for that reason, I’m going to say “dig” but it’s not something I’d want to hear much of that often. Good stuff: “Miss Ann,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Oh Why?,””True, Fine Mama” and the ones I mentioned before. So, yeah, dug.
#49 – At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Ugh. Admit it. You knew that was coming, right? Yeah, me, too. But… (I bet you didn’t see that one coming), I wasn’t as completely turned off as I thought I was going to be. I even actually put to bed a long-time nemesis of mine in the process. I had always said that “Stormy Monday” was the direct catalyst of my hatred and loathing of this style of music we call “blues.” It was, I’ll admit. I saw it on the track listing (to make sure I had the right version, I didn’t, I fixed it) and for a lack of a better term, almost threw up in my mouth a little, literally. I had to saunter through the (thankfully) short “Statesboro Blues” and “Done Somebody Wrong” to get to the eight-minute scourge of my blues-hating being, “Stormy Monday.” I hadn’t heard that song in almost 25 years. I had forgotten what it sounded like and in those 25 years have praised countless non-existent beings that I haven’t been subjected to it; swearing I’d never listen to it again. I wasn’t at my computer when it was playing (through my home stereo system) and it started up. Yes, they announce it, but I wasn’t really paying attention, wanting the bad blues to go away; Mommy please make it go away… It started and I didn’t get nauseous. It was slow and melodic and not long-and-drawn out like some of the later songs on this album would be. Actually, I’ll say this version was pleasant and I didn’t mind it. I accepted it and welcomed it into my ears and mind, but not my heart. That’s still off limits. “Stormy Monday” will officially be stricken from my “worst-blues-song-ever” record and will be replaced by just about every other blues song ever written or recorded. Sail off, “Stormy Monday” and know Tuesday’s just as bad. Now, for the rest of this tripe. Jeez o’pete. How do people listen to this? Not the songs, per se, but the same continuous gargling of self-indulgent gunk, over and over and over again? “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” is over 13 minutes long. “You Don’t Love Me” is over 19 minutes and the worst, “Whipping Post,” which, sadly I am a fan of (just the song not the snotty drivel that goes with it) is a hair-pulliing, gut-wrenching TWENTY-THREE (expletive) minutes. I was pacing around my house, sweating because it was so excruciating. Overall, believe it or not, I see the merits of the songs – not the versions – and think for what it is, it’s okay. That being said, with the exception of the standard, much shorter version of “Whipping Post,” I don’t ever want to hear any of it… again. Ever. Did not dig. That’s not contradictory, either. I am not reviewing these albums and grading them, as I would a beer or a song. I’m simply saying whether I do or don’t like them. This, I don’t.
#48 – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. There are a few tracks on this album that I dig and can get behind but for the most part it’s just background element. I see its importance and I hear its influence. I think part of it for me is that there could be about 4-6 tracks left off and it would have been better for me. I’m not at all saying I don’t like it, I just didn’t get into it. I did really like “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” “Party for Your Right to Fight,” “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Prophets of Rage.” I know it was strong in social commentary with strong cases for black empowerment and the continued fight for civil equality. I respect that, too. I’m not exactly proud of the fact that sometimes that goes over my head. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I’ve never experienced it. I can’t help that. I can try to be more aware and do my part in the equality assurance of everyone, now. Overall, it’s a good album, and for what it is, I dig it. My now trademark phrase: “why is it so high on the list?” comes into play, now. Top 100 maybe, not top 50. In my opinion. I dug it.
#47 – A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. NC native John Coltrane was a beast. Recorded just a few years before his death, this album is the epitome of bebop style jazz. There’s a lot of pseudo-improvisation going on. I’m pretty sure that they knew about 90% of what was coming from the instruments before it even got started, no matter how jumbled and harried it sounds. I loved it, actually. The whole band gets their turns at some solo and highlight time. There’s only four songs on the album and it’s 33 minutes long. It’s as easy as that. It’s a fantastic piece of jazzy goodness and I’m glad I heard it. Is it my favorite thing? Nope, but it doesn’t have to be. I dug it.
#46 – Legend by Bob Marley & The Wailers. This is actually the first compilation that I’m going to miss doing. I have it on my iPod so I can listen whenever I want to. And, I may see The Wailers with Matt Troy and the Piedmont Wind Symphony in a week or so, but I listen to it enough.
#45 – The Band by The Band. *sigh* Okay, here we go. I recently backed out of performing with the Vagabond Saints Society doing The Last Waltz because I just can’t get into The Band. I can’t explain it, I just don’t like them. Perhaps it’s the jug band country where Levon Helm sounds like he’s singing from the back of his throat. I don’t know. There are a few tunes that I don’t mind, like “Up on Cripple Creek” (which is on this album) and “The Weight” and even that one is according to my mood. That throaty silliness is prevalent on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The jug band thing reminds me of the Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World and whilst I love that attraction, I’m not at WDW and don’t care for it. I didn’t mind “Jemima Surrender,” “Look Out Cleveland,” “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” or “Rockin’ Chair.” I’m not saying it’s a bad album, because it’s not. It’s just not something I care to hear again. Meh.
#44 – Horses by Patti Smith. When I was a kid, I always thought Patti Smith was a boy. I never paid attention to the text on the cover, just the picture. What she lacks in looks, though, she exudes via voice. It’s got power. She starts out with her own version of (sort of) Van Morrison’s classic “Gloria.” She wrote the first part and then went into the Morrison part of the tune. A lot of it seems like spoken word with a soundtrack. The longer she goes on “Birdland” (over nine minutes long) the more raspy her voice gets. It’s like she’s wearing herself out, on purpose. Really, she’s a good talent and what she’s doing is unique, I suppose for 1975. I know she’s like the godmother of punk and all that, but I’m not a fan of punk. I’m not not a fan of this. I’m just not big on it. Great musicianship from the session/band members. The sonic quality and production is also great. I think I don’t know what to think of it, is what is the problem. I think I like it but it got redundant the more it went. I will say, though, the last song on the album, “Elegie,” is a fantastic song. I really liked that one. Again, not denying it should be on the list, but why this high? I’ll say dug, but barely.
#43 – The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I don’t know if I ever paid attention to the article at the beginning of that title. I always just said “dark side of the moon.” My second or third favorite Pink Floyd album (jockeys between this and Wish You Were Here), there’s a slew of greatness happening on this album. I mean, there’s quite a few songs that people may think of when they think of ‘the Pink Floyd’ song. Take, for example, “Breathe,” “Time,” “Us and Them,” “Money,” “Brain Damage/Eclipse.” The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks; over 14 years. The album is ethereal, rich in texture, full, near perfect and always a pleasure to listen to. It seems this album made the band a shload of cash, a portion that went to the funding of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I find that quite interesting. I may have known it before but it was interesting reading about it again. The album cover has to be one of the most iconic, ever, in the history of album covers. And how genius? Black; a prism (implied) and light converted into a rainbow. I have no clue what that has to do with the moon, but George Hardie was great and Hipgnosis is a bunch of geniuses. I listen to this, either in part or in whole, about once a week. I LOVE this album.
#42 – The Doors by The Doors. I’m not the biggest The Doors fan, but I’m digging it. It’s many of the hits that you hear of when you’re a casual listener: “Light My Fire,” “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” “The End” and “Crystal Ship.” But, there’s other stuff like “Twentieth Century Fox” and “I Looked at You,” too. It always amazed me how Ray Manzarek played not only the keyboards but the bass parts on keyboard, too. I don’t know about subsequent albums but on this one, Larry Knechtel plays bass on several tunes. Knechtel was a member of the famous Wrecking Crew that I’ve talked about several times. I think it adds good dimension to the album. Robby Krieger hadn’t been playing guitar for very long when he joined The Doors. He learned pretty quick. He’s not playing anything that’s crazy technical but he’s playing pretty darn good. Of all the components of the album, though, the highlight of The Doors, at least with publicity, is and has always been the lyrics, ramblings and musings of Jim Morrison. I don’t begin to understand what he’s talking about half of the time. I figured he didn’t either, outside the drugged stupor he created for himself. But, you know what? He tells a story or two and it makes the songs what they are. Maybe the music would have been secondary in any other situation, no matter the lyricist/singer, maybe not. But, with Morrison, at least the controversy kept them in the spotlight. Even after his death. I did get to see the building in which he died in Paris when The BCPF and I were on our honeymoon. I want to visit his grave, too. Again, not really a fan of his or the band, but I’d like to see the grave. I find them fascinating. So, overall, I liked the album, there were a few slow spots but for the most part, it was a good album. Dug.
#41 – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols by The Sex Pistols. Well, it’s not as bad as I feared. I own this and listened once but never close enough to care. I listened in headphones this time and I’m actually enjoying it, at least a little. I don’t know that I realized that in all reality for the recording of this album (which was their only studio album) it was a three piece: Johnny Rotten (vox), Steve Jones (guitar, bass) and Paul Cook (drums). Sid Vicious, for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding this troubled troglodyte, only played on one tune. The original bassist, Glen Matlock, and the rest of the band had a falling out and even though he co-wrote most of the album only played on one tune and that’s probably the biggest on the album, “Anarchy in the UK.” Matlock was replaced with Vicious. Everything else is the trio. The songs are actually pretty well written for punk. It’s a little more textured than just throwing stuff in the ring and tromping on it. I will say that John Lydon (Rotten) gets on my nerves with his whiny vocals but he’s strong with it. I feel bad for bad mouthing them all this time. They only deserve about half of what I’ve given them. I like the tunes “Submission,” “Liar” and “Pretty Vacant.” This isn’t a bad album; it’s fairly good. I will even say I dug it.
We got 11 entries this segment, Dear Reader. A disappointing outing with Prince, the expected response from Allman Bros. and The Band, I suppose, and a few surprises with Sex Pistols and Public Enemy. It wasn’t a bad segment, but I’m behind. I’m going to have to do what Roger Miller said and knuckle down – buckle down, do it, do it, do it. Here’s hoping that the next is better as we hit the Top 40!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“And, if the dam breaks open many years too soon; and, if there is no room upon the hill. And, if your head explodes with dark forebodings, too, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” – “Brain Damage/Eclipse” (Waters)