The last segment of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All-Time was fantastic and I’m hoping this one will be, too. I’m not going to waste time talking about it, let’s delve, shall we?
#90 – Talking Book by Stevie Wonder. One thing that I have always loved about Stevie, other than he’s just awesomely funky-n-groovy? That on many of his albums and tracks, he plays most of the instruments himself. Lots of clavinets happening on this album and other great keyboard spots. He plays the drums, synth basses, a bit of everything. That and guest spots from Ray Parker, Jr., Jeff Beck, Deneice Williams, “Buzz” Feiten make this album even more spectacular. Stevie’s use of melody and orchestration fills the cracks and holes (not in quality, just covers the speakers) with aural splendor. The ultra-powerful and urgent, “Superstition” is there and offset by the sweetness of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and “You and I” and “You’ve Got It Bad Girl.” There’s range and spread on this album and that’s a great thing. Groove and shuffle, intensity and tenderness, bits of it all. I dug this album and thought it was well composed.
#89 – Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield. Dusty Springfield has such a smooth, silky and sultry voice. It’s standard soul and R&B that breathes sexy life into some serious Carole King and Jerry Goffin music. The couple co-wrote four of the tunes. Randy Newman wrote two. Other writing credits belong to Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Eddie Hinton, Donnie Fritts, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Michel Legrand, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, the latter two co-wrote what was probably her signature song, “Son of a Preacher Man.” That song is one of the sexiest ever, in my opinion and holy smokes! Tony Cogbill is a heck of a bass player. He’s all over the place and that is a good thing! My favorite songs are, of course, “…Preacher…,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” “The Windmills of Your Mind” which reminds me of something from a James Bond film, sexy and dark. I love the gospel-like choir on “No Easy Way Down,” too. There’s so much power in her music and in these songs it’s easy to get lost in them. This is a fantastic album. I DUG it!
#88 – At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash. Johnny seems to have fun at this show as do the audience members. He messes up a few times and doesn’t let that stop him or slow him down. He entertains and they love it. Cash speaks to the “less desirables,” the down trodden, the working man and common folk; he always did. Energy unleashed, this is rock and roll goodness that’s honest and genuine; at least in the delivery. He’s not afraid to chuckle at things happening in the audience or at himself. He brings June Carter up to do a few songs with him and she sings backup on out. Now, I had to piece this together as I wanted to hear the original track listing as that’s what I’m listening to on this. There was a bunch of other songs that got rid of so I could keep the original in tact. I may go back and listen to the others soon, as I’m sure they’re worth it. I really liked the album. Dug.
#87 – The Wall by Pink Floyd. My favorite Pink Floyd album. For one, because I’m a sucker for concept albums, even if I don’t get the story the first time around. Another, and more importantly, I’d say, is that it was the first Pink Floyd I ever heard. Yes, we chalk it up as yet another check on the “I’m from West Virginia and my parents listened to country music” tally of life. Neither of those, by the way are knocks nor mock on the facts. We didn’t have radio stations that played Pink Floyd, or anything like that until around 1981 or 1982. Ma Mère listened to gospel or older pop stuffs like Leslie Gore or folksy stuff like Peter, Paul & Mary. Ma Père listened to country. Tears-in-beer country. Plus, none of my friends listened to Pink Floyd, so I had no exposure, at all. I do remember walking into a record store on Main Street in Welch, WV, looking for KISS’ Unmasked (1980) album and seeing a cardboard cutout of the album cover and Gerald Scarfe posters that were associated with the album. I moved to WSNC, as I’ve said countless times, in 1986 and there was a reissue of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” around 1987-88 or so and I bought it on 45. I had just started listening to the local classic rock station and got more familiar with some other Floyd songs. I decided, sometime later, to buy The Wall, but it was in or after 1990 because I didn’t buy my first CD player until December 27, 1989. I did have Delicate Sound of Thunder on cassette (it was released two days after my 18th birthday) and heard three of the songs that way. Anywhat! All that to say, I love the album and with the exception of a song or so (can we say “Bring the Boys Back Home?”). My faves are (all three) “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Goodbye Blue Sky,” “Young Lust,” “Hey You,” “Comfortably Numb” and “Run Like Hell.” I love the album.
#86 – Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen. I think this is the first time in a bit, if not the entire list, that I have two albums in a row that I actually own. It may have happened. But, I’m pretty positive that it is the first time that I own two in a row on vinyl. Sadly, I didn’t have time to listen to this on vinyl at home. I’ll try to do a vinyl listen soon, if I have something that is available on it. That’s something that I’ve not done since I’ve started this countdown. It’ll be fun. When I first heard the first single, “Dancing in the Dark,” believe it or not, that was the first time I heard of Bruce Springsteen. Yeah, yeah, I know, but it really was. Chalk it up to my total immersion into KISS and just breaking out of the mold. And, here’s the other thing, I hated it, every bit of it. I don’t know that I heard “Cover Me” (the second single until much later. If I did, I probably turned it off or went out to play or something. I’ve mostly come around to who I used to call Spruce Bedspring over the years. Most of that with the help of my friend Beth who is the biggest Springsteen fan I have ever met or even ever heard of. To me, though, at the time, the title track and to some extent “Dancing…” sounds like he’s just yelling the whole time. I just wanted to shout back “just shut up!” Now, fast forward to now. I don’t know how I feel about “Darlington County” but the rest of the album (if you take into account I like more laid-back and alternative versions of the title track) is fantastic. Of course, my favorite tune (since I asked for it and did it at the VSS Springsteen show) is “I’m on Fire.” It’s a sultry little number. I loved the video, too. “My Hometown” and “Glory Days” are also faves of mine. There are some throwaways, at least to me, such as “Working on the Highway” and the aforementioned “Darlington County.” “Downbound Train” and “I’m Goin’ Down” make up for both of those, though. There were seven singles released on this album. While none of the songs are virtuosity tunes or even particularly intrinsic or complex, that’s not what this album was about it, I don’t think. It was just putting out a good album. This is that. Great even. I really dug it.
#85 – Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin. It’s like being in church, at least what I feel a southern African American church would sound like to be in. It’s almost like heaven (purposely not capitalized) was singing down on its people the whole time you listened to this. There’s some hefty love ambition and ooey-gooeiness, too. That’s good stuff. Now, my question is why does this deserve to be higher than say, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Giant Steps, The Bends, At Last! or Stand!? I thought this was a good album, great even, but it’s not better than those. I hear some iconic songs but they’re not so iconic to beat the stuff from those other albums. Top 500? Yes, Top 100? Not to me and just my opinion. Great stuff on this includes: “Chain of Fools,” “People Get Ready,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Groovin'” even though there’s not a bad song on the album. And, she co-wrote a couple of the tunes, at that. I dug it.
#84 – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You by Aretha Franklin. Yep, two in a row from the “queen of soul.” Like Lady Soul and I’m figuring a lot of her stuff, she co-wrote some of the tunes on this album, including “Dr. Feelgood (Love is Serious Business) and no, not the Mötley Crüe version. The song that I figure is most associated with Miss Franklin, “Respect” is on this album, as is “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” which I don’t think I ever knew the title of the song, but was well aware of it. It’s in a lot of movies and commercials. One thing I find with her, especially on this album, is how even at this age (she was 24 when she recorded this), she goes between a mighty young thing to sounding like she sounds now at the age of 74. The example of this is “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” I like Aretha, I really do. I think she truly is the queen of soul. However, her status and accolades notwithstanding, I just don’t get how this album, like the one before it on this countdown are any better than most of the albums that were in the top 200-100? Does it deserve to be on this list, absolutely and I dig it, but I still don’t think it’s Top 100 material. Not a knock on the album, I just think some stuff is better. Dug.
#83 – Axis: Bold as Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Um… “EXP” was a bit trippy. “Spanish Castle Magic” is heavy and is awesome. “Wait Until Tomorrow” is a fun little ride. I especially like “Little Wing.” I think the bell was a nicely added touch. In “If 6 Was 9” I believe I’m getting a bit of rebellion. Rebellion against the establishment. “White collared conservative flashing down the street. Pointing their plastic finger at me. They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die. But, I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high.
Wave on, wave on.” Speak it brother. I really think, though it was more about pushing individualism, not conforming to the status quo. That’s what I get anyway. I find that while some of it is in there, this album is missing a lot of the “Jimi Flair” that I expect with Hendrix albums. That does not mean that there aren’t great songs on the album. It’s just not what I expected. I’ve never been a fan of Hendrix, but was expecting a bit more from it. Now, I like this and think there’s great tunes happening on here. I liked it better than I thought I would. I just think it sounds like they were doing exactly what they set out to do: put something out because they were contractually obligated to do so. I think it was rushed and even though there’s some innovative things on here, it still sounds a bit rushed and the feel fabricated. Still, it was a Hendrix album that I liked. Dug.
#82 – Harvest by Neil Young. Yep. It’s Neil Young. Brilliant songwriter, horrible voice. The orchestrations and instrumentation on this album is out of sight. This was the immediate result after Young left Crosby Stills & Nash. He went country. “A Man Needs a Maid” is the first true bit of genius I get from this album. The first two tunes, “Out on the Weekend” and the title track are fine but “…Maid” is a fantastic song. I could (and did, listen to that a few times). “Heart of Gold” is Neil Young, to me. Crunchy, yet meaty. I like that tune. “Old Man” reminds me of something that CSN would have done but actually sing it better. Not taking away from Young, here. I’m just thinking it could have been done by CSN. There’s more of the fantastic orchestration (performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, by the way) on “There’s a World.” If he had made an album full of stuff like this and “…Maid,” I’d have been searching the world over for the vinyl version. “Alabama” is the precursor (along with “Southern Man” from After the Gold Rush) to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response in “Sweet Home Alabama.” Even though I don’t really hear the disparaging remarks in the song. I read the lyrics and it seemed there was truth, but I guess no one likes to be told they’re ugly (I know it was more than that, it’s metaphorical). “The Needle and the Damage Done” is a classic, sad and beautiful song, recorded live in January of 1971. All in all, this album is a good one, it’s a good jump from his days in CSN and a good direction for him. I like about 8 of the 10 songs. Good work, Mr. Young. I dug it!
#81 – The Clash by The Clash. This is the UK version of the album. The Clash have a way to make their angst sound fun. There’s 14 songs on this album and I don’t really care anything about any of them. “White Riot” is pretty good, but the rest of it was background as I wrote for The Man Who Walked the Town. It’s just not my bag. I will say, though, that I like The Clash tons more than The Ramones. I will never get that, at all. I really liked The Clash in their later years. The more poppy stuff was, to me, much better than this. Not saying it is bad, just saying it does nothing for me. But, as I said, even through the politics and angst, they have a weird poppy feel and is that reggae I hear in there? A little. Not a bad album, just nothing I care about. Meh.
I got through this segment pretty fast. Still wondering about those Aretha records being this high on the chart, but they are landmark ones for her. Great start of this round and it gradually got me less enthusiastic by the end, but, there’s not a bad album on this segment. Again, we must be in the top 90 with this. Can’t wait to see what the next segment brings.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
through the middle of my soul.” – “I’m on Fire” (Springsteen)