Last segment was really good and I liked everything I listened to (take away the two compilations). So, sit back and let’s see what this segment of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time brings, shall we?
#160 – Electric Warrior by T-Rex. I’ve heard people talk about the “great” T-Rex for a long time and have always judged everything off of “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” and “Jeepster.” Yeah, that’s about all there is. I’m not putting this down, it’s just not my thing. I can be lumped into the “glam” thing all day but I don’t think that I am part of that because most glam stuff I hear, I don’t care about. KISS somehow got categorized in that and they sound nothing like most of the other bands. Their look, maybe. The sound – what really mattered – no way. It’s okay but nothing, even the hits, move me. Meh.
#159 – Alive! by KISS. Yes, KISS is my favorite band. But, I have to admit that whilst both of the KISS albums on this list (also Destroyer at #489) are probably closer to the “average music fan’s” expectations of influential, importance and intrigue, they’re only middle-of-the-road favorites of mine. I truly like Alive II better, even though it’s less genuinely a live album. It was the height of their popularity and mystique. This album, though, is truly what broke them into the spotlight, entirely on the coattails of “Rock and Roll All Nite” my second least favorite KISS song of all time (“Boomrerang” wins the honor of #1). And, I believe, completely, in my heart that all live albums that followed this is are judged on the comparison to this album. KISS, as a live show in general, is the standard by which live shows have shaped over the years. When the Vagabond Saints Society did Alive & Alive II back-to-back in November, I loved watching everyone’s interpretations of these tunes. If I was picking a favorite KISS tune of all time, it’s on here: “Black Diamond.” Although, I’m a huge a fan of everything on this album except “RNRAN.” Heavens Sake, the band that I am still “technically” in although we’ve not been in a band situation in about ten years, performed “Got to Choose,” live, almost more than any other KISS song. It was the first one we ever played together, all the way through. “C’mon and Love Me” and “Cold Gin” were others we did often. The HS song, “Cannibal” was basically written as an homage to “Watchin’ You.” So, by luck of the Doug Davis draw, when it came time to assign me songs for the VSS show, I drew “Got to Choose,” “Watchin’ You” (I asked for that one and “God of Thunder” from Alive II) and “Cold Gin.” I got to sing with Clay Howard on “Let Me Go Rock and Roll” to close out the night. Thanks, Clay. So, to sum this arse KISSing session up, this is definitely important in the KISS Kanon, but if you really want an experience in KISS, ask me and we’ll get you stuff you need (some of this will definitely be on there). Dug by default.
#158 – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John. This is some classic Bernie and Elton, right here. The mastering on EJ albums have historically been quite quiet. When I listen on my iPod or iTunes, I generally risk blowing out my speakers if I don’t turn it down because the mastering is lacking something; volume. I think this is a remaster that I heard on Rhapsody, though. You can hear everything perfectly. The musicianship, here, is fantastic. Elton is a “fantastic” tunesmith and Bernie has sometimes oddball lyrics but they’re still danged near genius. “Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” is an example of this great musicianship and songwriting. A great tune, upbeat and fun. Truly, the whole album is worth a listen from just one song: “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” That’s all you need to know about this album. The rest is cake and icing. Davey Johnstone’s guitar work, Dee Murray’s bass work and Nigel Olsson’s drumming are all what makes this album rock. The songs are there but without this component, the album would just be a collection of songs. And, doesn’t Nigel Olsson just sound like he should be a rock and roll drummer? Yes, his name fits him. This is a rockin’ album that reminds me a lot of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, or should I say the early- to mid-70s Elton/Bernie. That’s a fantastic thing, too. Not only that but several styles including some island inspiration in there, as well (“Writing”). I dug this album, fer sure…
#157 – Closer by Joy Division. Well, let me start off by saying that this is awful. To me, it’s just plain awful. Now, let me tell you why that’s not such a bad thing. This is an important album. It is important in the canon of the whole post-punk/early synthpop movement. Punk wasn’t about how good you could play and how much sugar you can pour into the lyrics. It was about being raw and emotional and standing out of the norm and flipping the bird to the “establishment.” All the things that I hate about it is what makes it so important and good (at least to those who like it). This came out in 1980, mere months after Ian Curtis decided he just couldn’t deal with the struggles of depression, which is always sad. I believe he definitely had some inspiration from Jim Morrison, what with the spoken lead vocals that are at times shouting and chanting and with the equally disturbing ignorance of tonality; that’s all here. But, again, it works for this. Musically, I think the album is pretty tight and I love some synth-driven music. My question, really, would be this: if Curtis hadn’t killed himself, would this album have mattered as much? I’m not being insensitive. I just think media, especially Rolling Stone (whose list this is) tend to latch on to the unfortunate circumstance and create mountains from proverbial molehills out of tragedy. Probably New Order wouldn’t have happened (it was created from the living members of Joy Division), sure, but would the rest of the world have cared so much if there wasn’t tragedy involved? The album didn’t chart. Their only true hit was “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which was released as a single after the album and isn’t even on the album. A lot of that era’s groups did that. I thought the idea of the single was to drive album sales? Apparently, not to many of the post-punk artists. Nevertheless, whether it would have done so well without his death, the fact is, he did die and it did drive the popularity of this album. Which, in the whole, if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s a great album. Truth is, I never cared about New Order either. The acts from that era/genre that I can halfway take in limited doses? Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo and Talking Heads. This album, whilst I certainly see the importance, won’t ever get another listen from me (at least not on purpose). Meh.
#156 – Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys. I love the use of the bass on this album. I listened on the speakers in the studio and it’s plenty of bottom end that rocks it. Still in the days of rap that weren’t filled with the same overworked themes you have today. For one, every Tom, Dick and Harry didn’t have a recording contract or YouTube channel to promote their crap. This was at a time when rap was still new to the majority of the public and there were but a few rap acts even around. I think the quality of it was better back then. I couldn’t tell you the difference in Jay-Z, Lil Wayne or any of the other modern day superstars, not to even mention the hundreds or thousands of others that are populating the radio/video channels these days. There’s no originality. Beastie Boys had that originality. Almost every song on here is sampling other songs but I’ll be honest I didn’t notice it until “High Plains Drifter” when “Those Shoes” by the Eagles showed up. I wasn’t ever big on song sampling as I like people to right their own stuff, but this isn’t bad. Perhaps I’ve grown out of that sampling-hating. And it’s not even hip hop stuff as much as it is some classic rock and funk. Serious use of The Beatles in “The Sounds of Silence.” The whole album is like a scavenger hunt for the samples. Not a bad thing. The album finishes with a twelve and a half minute pot of samples called “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.” The album wasn’t great but it was cool to listen through and pick out the sample and it was a good background soundtrack, too. Overall, I dug it.
#155 – Pretenders by The Pretenders. A little bit punk, a whole lot of rock. And, even though there’s a woman singer, this ain’t no chick-rock. This is straight, in-your-face man-rock here. The Pretenders’ debut album, it’s sharp and to the throat. These riffs are gritty and attitudinal. And, the fact that Chrissie Hynde has a potty mouth that would rival any Tarantino character, just adds to the overall yumminess of this album. “Space Invader” has a dirty, nasty bass groove (Pete Farndon rocks) and I like that, a lot. The clandestine feel of a song titled “Private Life” isn’t lost on me. It’s mysterious; it’s subtly powerful; it’s perfect. I’d say the only nick I’d give would be “Lovers of Today.” It seemed, at least to me, like it was forced and not what I’m used to from Chrissie and I just don’t like it. Even though “Mystery Achievement” wasn’t released as a single I know I’ve heard it a great number of times because of SiriusXM’s First Wave Channel. I think it would have been a better single than the Kinks’ song “Stop Your Sobbing” (their first single) or “Kid” (their second). Just my opinion. Overall, it was a great album and has many high spots and very few less-than-high. I would recommend this album, for sure. Dug!
#154 – Moanin’ in the Moonlight by Howlin’ Wolf. Well, there are two things I can say about this album that is positive. I like the way that it sounds so “period.” Meaning, it sounds like it’s from 1959. Well, it is. The other thing positive is that the longest any of the twelve songs are is 3:08. Okay, one more positive thing: it wasn’t vile. That’s all I got.
#153 – The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. Back to hip hop basics. Or is that bass-ics? And I say back; really it’s at the front. This from the good ole days, before the hip hop and rap communities got so big they became completely irrelevant (at least to me), overly saturated and stereotypical. To me, the era from the mid-80s until the mid-90s are the best for hip hop. This was just vocals, heavy hip hop bass and drums with some samples and pads laid in for texture. Some references to Bell Biv Devoe and New Edition, I like that. But, in the end it became background music. Not that I was ignoring it or it wasn’t worth listening to, just that it became settled; as in it settled in and really didn’t take me anywhere. Or, it took me somewhere at the beginning but then dropped me off on the side of the road. But, hey, at least it wasn’t Quicksilver Messenger Service, right? Dug, sort of.
#152 – The B-52s by The B-52s. Okay, when I think B-52s, I don’t think “Love Shack” although, as overplayed and cheesy as that was, I still love it. And, by no means am I a B-52s “fan,” to make that clear up front. But, when I think of the B-52s I think of a time before I ever left La maison de mes ‘Rents (my parents’ house). A friend of mine, Shannon H. and I were hanging one evening, probably a weekend, although we hung almost every night, and in the time before satellite radio, internet for the common folk, music on cable and so on, we were looking for something to listen to whilst playing our video games. Something outside my mere 50 CDs or so. We somehow picked up on what I believe to be either WQFS or WUAG out of Greensboro (I know it wasn’t a WS station) and it was quite fuzzy as the signal was weak. We listened along through some things we’d never really knew about (something about REM or Sonic Youth or something) and then this crazy tune that sounded like we were watching The Munsters came on. They were talking about a rock lobster. We had to pause the game and look at each other, dying laughing. We thought this was the most ridiculous thing we’d ever heard before. Especially the “rock lah-ah-ahb-ster” parts. I mean, we were serious hair band musicians! I’ll pause whilst you laugh that one off, Dear Reader, it’s okay. But, that was my first exposure to something that wasn’t “Love Shack” from B-52s. The reason I told this story on this B-52s album was because “Rock Lobster” was on there! I love that surf-happy riff and, now, after learning the joys of classic alternative music, really dig this song. “Planet Claire” takes a while to get into the meat but that’s a great opener. The whole groove is surfish and the vocal contrast of Kate Pierson’s and Cindy Wilson’s surfer girl with Fred Schneider’s sauciness makes a very unique soup of cool. One song that really stood out to me was “Lava.” It was just a little heavier than usual for the band. I like heavy. But, it seemed like a more straight-forward rock song and I dug it. Great album. Dug!
#151 – Funeral by Arcade Fire. I hear shades of The Edge and Bono in here in style; touches of Talking Head’s “Life During Wartime;” homage American musical working class heroes. I looked it up (I knew but had forgotten), they’re Canadian. So, to take all of that and mix it together, that’s quite an eclectic mix, n’est-ce pas? Another thing I’m noticing is that many of the albums on this list are debuts. It’s like they come out firing and sometimes their subsequent albums fall slightly shy of the same greatness. I’m not saying that’s all the time but it happens. I hear some hints of Siouxsie and the Banshees as well. This band is all about some amalgamation of styles and there’s truly nothing wrong with that. However, the downside is that once I picked up on some of the influences, I spent more time trying to compare than I did listening to their merits. Don’t get caught in that trap, Dear Reader, just listen and enjoy. Because, whilst I did get in the rut of comparison, I thought the music was entertaining, as a whole. One funny thing is on the song “Wake Up” there are xylophones and one of the bars is the exact same tone and timbre of the Facebook Messenger alert tone. So, every time that played I kept looking to see who messaged me. I’m going back to an old adage that I (created?) have used this entire countdown from around 450 on: I think it’s a decent album but top five hundred of all time? That’s stretching it. I don’t see where it’s influential, groundbreaking or revolutionary. But, I can see that its enjoyable. I dug it, regardless of what half of this synopsis may indicate.
So, another segment down. Some really great albums on this list, including one from my favorite band of all time, even if it’s nowhere near my favorite album from them. Elton, Pretenders, Beasties, B-52s? Aye. None of them got a full-on dislike from me (Howlin’ Wolf, you got a pass on this one) and I think the two that got a “meh” from me was more disappointing because I wanted to like it for The BCPF’s and Eugene’s sake. But, I didn’t. Oh, well. So, it’s onward to the next segment and I’ll see you over there!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“You cry out in your sleep; all my failings exposed. And there’s a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold. Just that something so good just can’t function no more. But love, love will tear us apart again.” – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Curtis/Hook/Morris/Sumner) (not officially on this countdown)