It has been a few months two since I did one of these entries. I have been quite busy and not at the studio as much lately as usual, so that threw me behind. I’m back at it, now. A pretty good segment of Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time the last go around. I haven’t looked ahead so I don’t know what’s coming yet. I kind of like that mystery. So let’s see what we can get into. Ready? Set? Go!
#150 – Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen. So, Bruce starts this one off. This was the follow up to Born to Run which was pretty massive, I gather. What I recognize most from this album is the first two songs, “Badlands” and “Adam Raised a Cain. They remind me of my good friend Patrick from the band Vel Indica, who did both tunes for the Bruce Springsteen VSS shows last summer. He knocked it out of the park, for certain. When they needed both he and I to step up and take “Adam Raised a Cain” or “Spirit in the Night” I jumped on “Sprit” because I didn’t want to have to strain to do “Adam.” Patrick took it and ran with it. It was amazing watching him do that and “Badlands” (which usually started the whole show). I’ll admit this isn’t, overall, the early-Bruce I was expecting, which is to say I don’t feel he’s yelling at me as some of his stuff seemed to do to me. That, is a good thing. One thing Bruce can’t ever be called is a “bad” storyteller. Almost every song goes beyond just a premise and is an epic story, even the short songs. This album is no different. If I’m to understand correctly, there was a lot of turmoil in his life prior to this album and you can hear grief and pain throughout. I particularly like “Racing in the Street.” It’s a long, but laid back reflection and I like the way it’s put together. “Prove It All Night” was another VSS selection. I’m not sure who did that one. It may have been Clay Howard; not sure. I’d say if I was picking one that I didn’t care for, it would be “Factory.” I don’t know why it just turned me off. Other than that? I think the album is a mighty fine piece of work. Dug!
#149 – Santana by Santana. I may have mentioned this before but Eugene and I got to see Santana live a good bit of time ago. We saw them with Los Lonely Boys, who I thought were better live; more interesting to watch and put on a better show. A little Latin infused rock, here. “Evil Ways” has always been a good song, to me. It sounds like there are about 30 people playing on these songs. That could be because of all the percussion that Michael Carabello and “Chepito” Areas were both adding to Michael Shrieve’s drumming. I always wondered how hard it was for a drummer to play against all the percussion or vice versa to keep chaos to a minimum. Carlos’ guitar work is great and Gregg Rolie’s organ and lead vocals are fine. All the musicians are fantastic. I’ll say that whilst this kind of music isn’t usually my “thing,” I thought this record was pretty right on. Is it #149 out of 500 good? I don’t know, but I can’t really argue it. Not my favorite thing but it doesn’t suck. Luckily, the songs were fairly short. “Persuasion” was urgent and rocking. Though, oddly enough, much of it sounds a lot like a cross between “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va.” “You Just Don’t Care” is cool and has a lot of cool things going on, but I keep thinking it reminds me of “New Day Yesterday” by Jethro Tull. I still dug it; an easy listen.
#148 – Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin. The follow up to LZ IV, this song is chock-full of deliciousness. I’d say if I was picking one that I didn’t like from this album it would be the reggae-esque “D’yer Mak’er,” although I love the story about its title. It’s supposed to sound like reggae because the title is pronounced (almost) exactly like “Jamaica,” not “dire maker.” I’m sure this has been posted umpteen times already but the old joke goes like this: One friend said to another: “my wife went to the West Indies.” The friend replies, “Jamaica?” “No, she wanted to go.” I’m a huge fan of “The Rain Song.” The slide overdub stands out but fits so well. The song gets powerful and then pulls back to a very mellow ending. I’ll never say Jimmy Page was a “great lead player” but he was good. Where he stands out, to me, is his phrasings and rhythms. Those are great. What aspiring guitarist didn’t try to learn the intro to “Over the Hills and Far Away” at least once (I did)? John Paul Jones does his magic on “The Crunge” and he rocks it like there’s no tomorrow. They obviously never found that confounded bridge since the song is sans said bridge. “Dancing Days” has a bouncy groove and a catchy guitar lick. That’s kind of what you look for with a good rock record, eh? Then, let’s get crazy and do the long, dark and doom-impending tune “No Quarter.” There’s hope in there but you really have to look for it. Lots of effects and phenomenal tone; another favorite of mine from Zep. Then you end it with the oddly time-signatured “The Ocean,” yet another fave. I remember my buddies in the band Spank doing this song (and “The Song Remains the Same”) and it makes me think of Jody Blevins who lost his fight with cancer a year or so back. Cheers to you buddy. This album, I love.
#147 – Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I think these boys may go somewhere. They have some right fine harmonies. Kidding aside, this is a fantastic album. The first two songs, “Carry On” and “Teach Your Children” are CSNY standards, for sure, as is “Woodstock” and “Our House.” It’s hard to believe that they can sound this good with Neil Young in there. I mean, c’mon, he’s a great songwriter but he’s not that great a singer. CS&N are wonderful singers. This is still Vietnam time and it reeks (in a most lovely way) of that era from one side and down the other. Young does hold his own on the songs he sings lead on (“Helpless,” “Country Girl”), but I just can’t imagine him singing harmonies, so I’m thinking that he’s actually not. It’s also strange to hear David Crosby doing his best Neil Young impression on “Almost Cut My Hair.” “Woodstock” rocks and “Our House” is a bouncy, happy classic. I think it stands out on the album as the tune. It’s the full Monty on there, I think. All-in-all, this is one fantastic album. I’d like to have it on vinyl and hear it in its full-bassy glory. I still think they could have done without Neil Young, but it’s still great! Dug!
#146 – Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. Lava lamps, LSD, psychedelia. All of that is here. More of the Vietnam era juiciness. It’s odd, though the contrasts that the album goes through within itself. “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” are heavier hitters while the other tunes are more laid back and folksy, more so than I think I was ready for, going in. I mean, this is some syrupy stuff. I can pour some of these songs over my pancakes. I’m just not sure how I feel about that. I’m not talking the quality of the songs here but the cohesiveness of the collection: I think it’s strange bedfellows with the two aforementioned heavier jams and songs like “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” which powers through. I think all the songs are great and work on their own, but I have to say the juxtaposition, or contrast, really, of the songs on this album, and probably more so considering the time frame (1967), is a bumpy ride. Again, not it’s not the music, that’s all good, it’s the identity crisis that I feel from the work as a whole. I dug it, though.
#145 – Aja by Steely Dan. This is absolutely my favorite Steely Dan album. I have it on CD and vinyl and I have the “Classic Albums” behind-the-scenes DVD. It has three of my favorite Steely Dan songs: “Deacon Blues,” “Peg” and “Josie.” There are more, but those three are right up there, especially “Josie.” I will say this, Chuck Rainey is one bad-arsed bass player. His work on this album is masterful, tasteful and outright phenomenal. Listen to “Peg” and “Josie” and tell me otherwise (Walter Becker played bass on “Deacon Blues). The first time I ever heard “Peg,” I picked out a voice that I thought I was hearing in the background. That was the voice of Michael McDonald. It stands out for sure on that track for certain but he is also on “I Got the News.” The immediate slam of the synth/clav on the opening track, “Black Cow,” sets the whole album off right and the piano work of Michael Omartian on the title track is jazzy and tasteful. I know I’ve used that term twice in this review, but Steely Dan, to be named after a sex toy, makes me feel like I should be listening while drinking a brandy out of a large snifter with the lights down low and pleated, plaid pants with a turtle neck and loafers along with some dark, red or blue colored glasses on my person. It’s always class with them. I love their jazzy approach to the rock vibe and this album juices it to the rind, even at only seven songs, it’s packed plumb full. To say I love this album is an understatement. Dug × infinity.
#144 – Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. Tales of life living in predominately black or “urban” neighborhoods. I hate the term “urban” as it relates to the black community. It’s a community, no matter its inhabitants. Lots of cussing and the use of the “N” word, and as much as I hate that (and I’ve documented that here), somehow I don’t think this would be as powerful without it. I mean, N.W.A. doesn’t stand for Nice’uns With Attitudes, does it? So, you have to take the good with the bad, I guess. Clearly, the track on this album that really brought the most controversy was “F**k the Police.” This was where the reality of living in and around Compton, South Central Los Angeles and comparable neighborhoods and how even the black police were, to quote the song, “showing out for the white cops.” Racism, the fight thereof, I believe is the main subject. Some may find it a form of reverse racism. I’m not sure I agree. There’s some humor in here, so it’s not all straight hardcore in your face the whole time. This was their debut album. And now, they’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some people, including my idol, Gene Simmons, has a problem with that: it’s not rock and roll!! Well, by genre, no it isn’t. But, by attitude? Absolutely. Rock and roll isn’t a genre of music, it’s a state of mind. It’s about rebellion (it always has been), attitude and making a stand. Punk rock did it. 50s rock and roll groups had to withstand the onslaught of religious prudes. 60s rock carried that tradition and then protested one of the most atrocious wars, ever. 70s rock, 80s rock (beyond the hair) were all flipping the bird to the “establishment.” Rap, like it or not (and I generally don’t) has the same attitudes. Different flavors of attitude, sure, but attitude nonetheless. If you take that away from them and don’t want them in the HOF because their genre isn’t rock and roll, then take James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and any blues artists out of there, too. Don’t hand me the “that’s the basis of rock and roll” mess. The same way that rock and roll took from blues, rap took from rock and roll. James Brown and that ilk are, definitely, rock and roll but they’re classified as “soul.” It’s attitude not genre. This album and N.W.A. are definitely rock and roll and I’m not even a fan. For everything it became for the future of that genre, dug! Rock on, Ice Cube, Eazy (RIP), Dre, Ren.
#143 – Gris-Gris by Dr. John. I don’t really know what to say about this. It’s trippy, it’s psychadelic, it’s soulful. It’s also sounds like what I’d think voodoo would sound like if it had a sound. This. Is. Voodoo. I know the good “doctor” is from New Orleans and the bayou comes out of him here. He recorded it in California, but with New Orleans-based musicians. That counts, eh? Seven songs worth of trippy gooey stuffs. Did I like it? I don’t know. Did I not like it? Not exactly. Chalk this up to my now-infamous phrase: “It’s okay but why is it on this list? And if it belongs on this list, why this high on the list?” I don’t know what to rate it… dig?
#142 – A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector by Phil Spector. It says by Phil Spector but it’s various artists. I suppose, because of its nature and that it was all recorded for this particular album (as far as I know), that I can’t treat it like a compilation album and will listen through it. It’s funny to listen to Christmas songs in April, but hey, why not? I know my favorite song on here is Darlene Love’s “Marshmallow World.” I loved it when it was used in that Target commercial. I will say, too, that these are some great Xmas tunes and some of them are the iconic ones that you’ll hear on channels that play nothing but Jingly Bellsy music from before Thanksgiving until Valentine’s Day. Love’s aforementioned “Marshmallow World,” “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas,” The Ronettes “Sleigh Ride,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” The Crystals “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Parade of Wooden Soldiers” are all featured proudly on here. There’s more, but that’s the gist. Overall, a great album and it’s cool that a holiday treasure trove of tunes is on here, but again, why this high? Anywhat! I dug it.
#141 – Live at the Regal by B.B. King. B.B. is a legend, an icon. But, as much as I tried to sit and listen, after about 5 minutes (a song and a half), I started skimming Facebook looking for fodder for As Ardmore Turns. I get the importance and how people that like this kind of stuff can get excited or into it but it just became nothing more than background ambiance and therefore, I can’t really give any kind of judgement other than I don’t care. Meh.
Not the way I wanted to end the segment, but that’s how it is. One “meh;” one “whaaat?” and several digs! So, all in all, it’s not a bad segment at all. No, “did not digs” on here, so there’s that. Having Aja and Houses of the Holy on there together certainly was a treat. I apologize for taking so long between times. I think I got my schedule somewhat under control, now. So, here’s hoping we are but a few weeks from the next installment.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Many is a word that only leaves you guessing. Guessing ’bout a thing you really ought to know, ooh! You really ought to know…” – “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Page/Plant)