The last segment of Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time started great, ended meh but was still a great segment. Again, we’re in the Top 100, more specifically, now, the Top 80 albums, it should be getting good. Per usual, I’ll reserve the right to question not that the albums are on the list but their placement. Okay, here goes:
#80 – Imagine by John Lennon. Probably the greatest call for harmony and peace in modern history, the title song is laid back but somewhat imploring. Lennon wants us to all get along, which is understandable: this is the heart of the Vietnam war and tensions are high, anxiety is amok and life is uncertain. It’s also asking for a departure from the usual religious grip that society allows itself to be bound to. A great song. “Jealous Guy” is fantastic, too. It seems to me much of Lennon’s songwriting is from a personal standpoint and not so much in the way of pure storytelling. So, it tells me that he really messed up in his possessiveness (hey John, imagine there’s no possessions), probably with Yoko and he’s having to swallow the pride and apologize. One thing that I’ve noticed about John’s stuff is that he was absolutely obsessed with reverb. On many occasions he’s standing in the back of a room so deep he’s practically swimming in it; not just this album but on much of his stuff. The last bit of the album, to me, seems like it’s just thrown together. I like “Oh My Love” and “How Do You Sleep?” isn’t bad, but the last two songs, I’m not a big fan of. Lennon wasn’t ever my favorite Beatle, or even my second favorite. I think he was a genius, but I feel he was an experimental genius and there’s something about his solo stuff that, while I like it, I can’t quite get into it. I like this, but, it’s just okay in the long run. I love the title track and a few other songs, though. I’m going with dig!
#79 – Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin. Powerhouse and masterpiece, this. 9 songs, 6 of which are Zep legacy (at least in my mind) are on here. I mean, “Whole Lotta Love,” “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Thank You,” “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She’s a Woman),” “Ramble On,” that’s impressive coming off one album. I call them legacy because it’s among local classic rock radio’s limited repertoire of Zep tunes. I know that many call Zeppelin a “rip off” but I don’t care. This is fantastic stuff. John Paul Jones is one of rock’s royalty when it comes to bass players. Listen to his work, especially, on “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “The Lemon Song.” You’ll hear what I’m talking about. It’s all over the place but so tasteful in doing so. I love listening to his work. And John Bonham? Probably the best rock drummer that ever lived, too bad we lost him like we did. I think “Moby Dick” is a bit of an indulgence but he’s still awesome on it. Once you get through the harmonica-laced crap at the beginning of “Bring It On Home,” the tune kicks in and closes the whole thing out. I love the entire album.
#78 – Otis Blue by Otis Redding. Otis is backed on this album Booker T & the MGs, and after watching the film The Wrecking Crew featuring the large group of musicians that played on countless albums in the 50s, 60s and early-70s, I pay more attention to the personnel credits on albums. I always did that, anyway, but now I really seek out the names I’m familiar with (especially when they are mixed-and-matched). I like Otis just fine, but there’s not a lot about him that excites me. No, I don’t have to be excited by everything I listen to, but, I’d like to; especially something that is in the top 80 albums of all time. Most of these tunes, too, are covers. There’s a couple of Redding originals, like “Respect,” “Ole Man Trouble” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” The latter, I really like, but the others, not so much. There’s also “Shake,” “Change Gonna Come” and “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke who had been killed the year prior to this being released. The Rolling Stones are also represented with “Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No).” All in all, it’s decent album, I suppose, but I certainly don’t think it belongs in the top 300, much less the top 80. Meh, at best.
#77 – Back in Black by AC/DC. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with AC/DC. I have always disliked the fact that all their songs sound the same, with the exception of which singer they have. The song structure is the same, the chord structures are a lot of the same, the tempo is mostly the same and so on. But, there are certain songs and albums that I have grown fond of over time, all that other stuff be damned. This album was a big transformation for the band. Most of all, I think it was a phoenix rising from the ashes of despair that was Bon Scott’s death. Not only were they back from mourning, they were back in full-force, with new life, new breath. They were back in, well, black. This album has some of my favorite AC/DC songs: “Back in Black,” “Hells Bells” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You.” It also contains my absolute most hated AC/DC song: “You Shook Me All Night Long.” That’s their “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Really, if you take that song off, it’s a near-perfect AC/DC album. With it, it’s a fantastic album. I realize I’m splitting hairs, here. Nothing on this album is groundbreaking, but nothing groundbreaking is expected. Other greats on this album: “Shoot to Thrill,” “Have a Drink on Me” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” It’s really a fantastic album. I dug it!
#76 – Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution. Ah, I miss the Purple One. This is my absolute favorite Prince album. I wore out the cassette to the point that some of the music just disappeared from the tape. I’ve played a few of the songs in cover bands, either live or in practice. I had the soundtrack for a while before I saw the film and as cheesy as the film was (or is it just an 80s niche movie, in general?), I could watch it over and over. In fact, the first time I saw it was on HBO and it was with several excited teenaged boys (we ranged from 12-14 years old). Ma Mère had no clue what we were watching. We huddled around the TV in my bedroom eyes and mouth agape when Apollonia disrobed to jump into “not Lake Minnetonka.” Anywhat! Musically, it’s Prince’s genius on parade, well Parade was two albums later, but you know what I mean. The guitar work, which I figure is split with Wendy Melvoin, is great. Lots of noisy guitars and that was throughout. Also prevalent, a good bit of keyboards. It’s funny that the overall album doesn’t really have a lot of discernible melodies (there are some), but each song stands out. I also remember the adolescent elation I experienced when that same 13 year old kid heard the word “masturbating” in “Darling Nikki.” “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” you know… who am I kidding? There’s not a bad song on this album and I love every one of them. Some of it is just Prince (“The Beautiful Ones,” “Darling Nikki” and “When Doves Cry”) and that’s classic Prince. I can’t say anything bad about this. I LOVE this album. I wish it was higher in the list, actually.
#75 – Star Time by James Brown. It’s a four disc box set. An impressive 71-track collection. But, no.
#74 – After the Gold Rush by Neil Young. This was the “solo” album that Young released when all members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released them. KISS did that in 1978. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate, Neil Young is a horrible singer. His falsetto reminds me of the women characters played by the fellas from Monty Python. It pains me, at times. It’s like I’m expecting there to be a punchline at the end of a joke; it sounds like he’s putting on. Even with that, he’s a good songwriter. I’ve not heard a lot of covers of Neil Young, but I bet I’d like that better than his versions. It’s kind of like Bob Dylan. There’s a lot of country influence in these well-written tunes, but it maintains that crunchy demeanor you expect from Young. As with CSNY, when there’s harmonies, the singing is substantially better. And, there’s the backing band, they’re really good. I know Nils Lofgren is part of the group, as is the CSNY bassist, Greg Reeves. There’s good tunes on here; the best known is probably “Southern Man,” the other side of the “Sweet Home Alabama” call/response. I also liked “When You Dance I Can Really Love.” All in all, I thought it was decent but I really don’t see where it’s ‘top 80’ material. It’s good and all but I don’t see it this high. Meh, for me on this one.
#73 – Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin. Two Zep albums in one segment. I can dig it. This album is a bit of a departure from the raw energy that Zep II had earlier. There’s a lot of production on this album and I’ve stated before that I’m a sucker for production. I prefer polish and shine over raw energy any day. John Bonham is off the chain on this album. The lyrics, to me, also where in a different place. I can’t really describe it but it, to me anyway, is a bit more story telling than subjective study on this album. There are some epic songs on here, too. Three songs in the collection are over eight and a half minutes. It features a lot of the bluesy stuff that I typically don’t like, but I do dig it here, for whatever reason. I’ve never called myself a Led Zeppelin fan, but the more I listen to them lately, especially with the RS countdown, I find that I really, really enjoy them. Yes, Robert Plant is a bit whiny, as always, and Jimmy Page is bit sloppy, as always, but they’re consistently Led Zeppelin, as always. Forgive me for saying so, but there are few songs that give you a good ‘bedroom groove’ like “Kashmir.” There’s some serious production on that. It’s so full and rich and, yeah, you can ‘dance’ to it. It’s one of my favorite Zep tunes. and really is there any reason to mention, again, the pure unadulterated badarsery that is John Paul Jones? I mean, if it’s not lead vocals, drums or lead guitar (he played some rhythm) on this album, he did it. He even wrote the string arrangements. Again, bad arse! I also enjoy the band exploring some jazzier progressions. It’s good stuff. I LOVE this album.
#72 – Superfly by Curtis Mayfield. Now with more of the (believe it or not) all I know of this album or Curtis Mayfield, at all, is the title track and “Freddie’s Dead” from the TimeLife Sounds of the Seventies collection that I have. And, I’ve not seen the film, either. And, I love Blaxploitation films. Not because they’re Blaxploitation, but usually because they’re set in gritty, dirty New York City in the ’70s and I love that stuff. It would scare the bejeezus out of me to visit it, but it was so intriguing. I’ve never been to NYC and I know it’s a lot different, now, but I still want to go. The whole thing sounds seedy or rough and I really dig that. Curtis Mayfield has a great voice. I love his swing from natural tenor to falsetto at any given moment and still maintain power. “Pusherman” is a great story vehicle. Joseph Lucky Scott is an awesome bass player. It’s power pocket playing and flair without being fancy. The 70s if filled what those kind of player and this is an example of the work of a bass player that has been named in the Top 60 of all time, on numerous occasions. There’s also the jazzy and ethereal elements that make it so good. Craig McMullen’s and “Saint Anthony” Dalcoe’s tag team work on the guitars are the perfect companion pieces to the rhythm section that bassist Scott and drummer Morris Jennings provide. I really enjoyed this album from start to finish. My seal of approval is: I’d love to find it on vinyl. And, I will have my good buddy Jonathan at Underdog Records on the hunt. I can’t pick out any faves. If it’s on this album, it’s my favorite. LOVE!!
#71 – Graceland by Paul Simon. Holy smokes! Bakithi Kumalo is amazing! Who is Bakithi Kumalo? Well, he’d be the fella running amok with the flavorful and ingenious bass lines all through out this album. Just listen to the title track and you’ll understand. Or, to make it easier for you, the famous bass lines and that fantastic run in “You Can Call Me Al” is Bakithi Kumalo. ‘Nuff said. A fact about the bass run in “Al” is that only half of it is played. That effect is them copying it and playing it back, backward, on the other end. So it plays halfway through and it’s the same notes in reverse (playing the tape backward). I know that I talked badly about The Indestructible Beat of Soweto album (#388) because I didn’t understand what it was or why the heck it was even on this countdown. My very insightful buddy Eugene set me straight, as he’s wont (and I’m usually in need of) to do, and informed me that without that, at least without the release of it, we may never have gotten this album, which I’d consider a fave of mine and I know it’s a fave of The BCPF; she sighs when someone brings it up and she’s requested that for Vagabond Saints Society. But, it was a major influence on how the album came to be, how it came to be recorded and how it sounded, especially “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “Homeless.” Simon got a lot of flak about using South African musicians in the time of apartheid. Even with support from the UN, since he used the musicians and gave nothing in return to the South African government, there was a lot of heat from anti-apartheid groups and the African National Congress that he broke the worldwide boycott against the apartheid regime. Now, I won’t even begin to try and tell you that I have any clue what any of that means. I was out of the loop on that and I still am, really. The whole thing was over when I was around 17-18 (right after this album came out) and I didn’t know and didn’t care. I’m not necessarily proud of that, just a fact that I was ignorant to it, and really still am. I will even honestly say that most of the political commentary in the lyrics are beyond my pay scale and I’ve no clue what he’s talking about. I just know that I like the songs. Guest spots, not only by the South African musicians but Adrian Belew, the Everly Brothers and Linda Ronstadt among others. Again, Bakithi Kumalo. And, I want this on vinyl. And, I love it. And, that’s the end of this segment…
Even with two “meh”s and a compilation, this has been one of my favorite segments overall. Two of my fave Zep albums, my absolute favorite Prince album, my favorite AC/DC album, Superfly and Graceland. I mean, this is fantastic! I had a lot of fun listening to this one. Makes me excited for the next segment. We’re getting into the nitty gritty and I broke my rule about looking ahead. I didn’t study, just skimmed and it’s exciting. Stay tuned as I’m trying to get all of this list finished by the end of the year. I haven’t forgotten about Sign o’the Times, either.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“A man walks down the street. It’s a street in a strange world. Maybe it’s the Third World? Maybe it’s his first time around. He doesn’t speak the language. He holds no currency. He is a foreign man; he is surrounded by the sound, the sound. Cattle in the marketplace, scatterlings and orphanages. He looks around, around. He sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity. He says ‘Amen!’ and ‘Hallelujah!‘” – “You Can Call Me Al” (Simon)