Man, I loved the last segment of Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. Some of my favorite albums on that segment. I kind of skimmed ahead so I know some of the stuff coming and I’m very excited! So, let’s just straight in!
#70 – The Stranger by Billy Joel. I’ll say, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it, I love Billy Joel. There are some exceptions but for the most part, I’m all about the “piano man.” I told you I was going to do it and here it is: the first album that I own and am listening on vinyl!! I’m excited! This album contains the first song I ever sang in karaoke and one that I have played in a band, on keyboards and singing, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” and it is one of my favorite songs of his, too. It’s all so very 70s NYC and as I have stated (even in the last segment), that I love that stuff. Here’s my obligatory arse kissing of the bass player: Doug Stegmeyer was a beast. So sad he left us so soon. Many of the songs on this album are what I’d call my “must hear” tunes: the aforementioned “Movin’ Out,” the title track, “Just the Way You Are,” “Vienna,” “She’s Always a Woman” and the one that I wish I had the chops (and, really, the cajones) to learn (and one of my top 3 BJ songs, in general), “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I love the story, the setup, the structure, the playing, everything about it is pure gold. I absolutely love that song. I truly get lost in this album. The one tune that was a moderate hit for him (reached #24) that I really don’t like is “Only the Good Die Young.” I love the piano intro and then that shuffle boogie beat hits in and I don’t really care for it. But, other than that, this album is fan-frickin’-tastic! I LOVE IT!
#69 – Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin. Okay, it may be cliche but this is my favorite Zep album. And, too, here I’ll explain the “believe it or not” moment of this album. I never heard anything from this album, yes, including “Stairway to Heaven” until 1988 or so. That’s 17 years after its release, I know. I had heard of “Stairway” but until someone sat me down and let me hear it, nada, zilch, zero, nothing. Again, it wasn’t something I was exposed to. Truthfully, I don’t even know if I got it or understood what it was I was even hearing at that point. I was 17-going-on-18. I was lost. Then the local classic rock station here in town became my go-to for a while and it turned me onto a lot of stuff. Just like last segment’s Back in Black, this contains some of my faves (“Stairway,” “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California,” “When the Levee Breaks”) but also my most hated Zep song, “Rock and Roll.” I have always hated that song. i don’t mind it when The Threadbare Trio does it slowed down and acoustic. That’s fun. I’m not too into “The Battle of Evermore,” either, to tell the truth. Upon listening to it this time, though, it’s not as sucky sucky as it used to be, to me. Now, do I think this is their best album? Not necessarily. There’s parameters and mood to consider in order for me to say which of them that would be. It’s my favorite because I wore it out (skipping from track 1 to track 4 and then a few on side 2) on the cassette. I can really tear into the album now, in its entirety. I just tune out “RnR.” In the US, it is certified as 23x platinum (23 million copies sold, well… shipped). When I think of power drumming and only part of why I think John Bonham is one of the greatest drummers to ever live, and what KISS based their drum sound on Creatures of the Night is “When the Levee Breaks.” Just power all around. The whole album has that. I really LOVE this one, too.
#68 – Off the Wall by Michael Jackson. MJ’s fifth solo effort. It was the first on Epic, though. Five singles were released on this album: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Rock With You,” “She’s Out Of My Life” (intended for Frank Sinatra, who never recorded it), “Girlfriend” (a Wings cover written by Sir Paul McCartney) and the title track, which to me sounds an awful lot like “Boogie Nights” from Heatwave. The bass line and sound are both very much like that. Speaking of which, it seems that I’m always going on about the bass players, but hey, I’m a bass player, and a fairly good one, I think, and can really get into being impressed with a really good bassist. This album is no different. Louis Johnson played all the tunes except for “Rock With You,” which is Bobby Watson. We lost Louis in 2015. He was part of the famous Brothers Johnson. RIP. “Girlfriend” was written for MJ but McCartney and Wings recorded it first. MJ wrote a few tunes on the album, himself. Stevie Wonder co-wrote “I Can’t Help It,” and Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster wrote “It’s The Falling In Love” which was recorded by several other artists around the same time, including Dionne Warwick. Overall, the vocals by MJ seem a bit strained and amateurish. They’re good songs and Quincy Jones does a fantastic job in the production, but it’s obviously not Thriller. I think it’s a decent album, but nothing that rocks my socks. It’s MJ so it’s going to be good, but it’s not world shaking, at least not to me. I know it was ground-breaking, and I recommend that you listen because it is iconic. Perhaps a Top 120 album, not Top 70. All that said? I dug it.
#67 – Kid A by Radiohead. I believe Thom Yorke started to develop a complex about the success of OK Computer and needed a release. Or, at least, needed a different direction. I think prior to this album he was okay with the band being an alternative “rock” band. This is what became the Radiohead that I didn’t care for and didn’t like. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of artists such as Enigma and other “chill” and electronic-based music but not when I’m expecting the ethereal rock stylings I’m mostly used to with Radiohead. There are times that it seems like some of the Yellow Submarine/Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles albums, which I liked those, too. But, again, something isn’t right about Radiohead doing it. There are a few tunes that I like, though: “Optimistic,” “How to Disappear Completely,””Morning Bell” are all decent tunes. The rest of it isn’t bad, just not my thing. If I were rating this like a beer, on how well they pulled off what they were trying to convey, I’d probably rate this fairly high. However, this is more if I liked it or not and as a whole, I didn’t. As I said, it’s not bad, just not my thing. I see its importance, but don’t see how it rates higher than OK Computer and The Bends. Both are far superior albums in my opinion. Even Pablo Honey is better than this. Didn’t dig.
#66 – Moondance by Van Morrison. I know I’m in the deep dark abyss with this, but the only songs that I know I know by Van Morrison is the title track of this album and “Brown Eyed Girl.” I heard Doug Davis doing a tune the other day and Clay Howard was singing along. I asked who it was and he said it was Van Morrison. I don’t know what song it was, just that it was Morrison. It may be on here, I don’t know. I also know that Vagabond Saints Society did Van Morrison before I was ever a part of the group. I saw one of the shows at Corpening Plaza. I love the title track of this, even though I like Michael Bublè’s version better.”Crazy Love” is a bit different from the rest of the album, but it’s a sweet song. Morrison has a powerful, yet smooth, voice. There are songs that I don’t care for, “These Dreams of You” reminds me of that shag-crazy beach music that I really could never hear again. Yes, some of it is bluesier or jazzier than that, but it’s very beach music-esque. There’s good stuff on here but my favorite is “Moondance.” I love that ‘standards’ style and this is good in that vein. It’s hippy and I’m good with that. “Brand New Day” is late-60s/early-70s rock that I enjoy a good bit. It does sound a lot like other things that were out at the same time, but that’s okay. It’s still good. “Everyone” is definitely a trip back to Morrison’s Northern Irish roots. It’s flutey and cool Gaelic feel makes me happy. History and all that. Moondance was released in the same year I was born, but it’s about eight months older than I. Overall, I dug it.
#65 – Back to Mono (1958-1969) by Phil Spector. I’m sure it’s a fine box set compilation, but it’s a compilation, nonetheless, skipped.
#64 – Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones. Some of my favorite Stones songs are on this album: “Brown Sugar,” “Bitch,” “Sister Morphine,” “Dead Flowers” and one of my absolute favorites, “Wild Horses.” To me, this is timeless. Even though the album was released in April, 1973, it seemed quite full in production, more like a late-70s era album in so many ways, at least to me. I don’t claim to be a Stones fan, I’m Beatles all the way, but, I can’t deny this album’s firm grasp on the rock and roll canon; it’s good stuff. The history and stories behind the tunes are equally compelling. There are a few songs that I’m less excited about but I think they’re still great and completely fill out the holes quite nicely. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “I Got the Blues” and “You Gotta Move” are three of those. I’ve mentioned how I don’t like that blues stuff, but there’s something endearing about it here. I know they’re not, but I choose to hear it as if they’re poking light, playful fun at it. “Bitch” is extra special to me not as a song itself but for what it inspired. Gene Simmons always said that the main riff in “Deuce” came from playing the “Bitch” riff backward. It was the kicker to Alive and was and is prominent in KISS’ “Kisstory.” I’ve grown used to thinking about Doug Davis when I hear many of these tunes because he has performed a few of them in his cover band/solo shows and on more than one occasion, I’ve gotten up to do some backup vox with him on them. He lets me do that, for whatever reason. I thank him. Mick Jagger is extra sassy on this album. Keith Richards is lucid and the parts are clean and, truly, ingenious. Charlie Watts is one of the most solid drummers to ever grace a set of skins and because you know I dig ’em, Bill Wyman is one of the most underrated bass players in rock and roll history. I will have to admit that I am not very familiar with Mick Taylor’s work except for here. It sounds like he’s pretty up on his chops. And, finally, when I hear the saxophone, I know who it is; it’s Bobby Keys, whom I had the pleasure of meeting after and during one of the Mediocre Bad Guys collaborations with him doing an extended Rolling Stone show. All in all, I dig this album a lot!!!
#63 – Achtung Baby by U2. One of my two favorite U2 albums (the other, of course, is The Joshua Tree) and I love a lot of U2 albums. I don’t get turned off by Bono’s political and social platform screaming. I can easily not pay attention to the likes of him and his ilk. I don’t get caught up in their views, just their songs. That’s not true of every aspect of my life but it is with music. The exception to the rule is Ted Nugent. That’s not because I dislike his politics so much (which I do), that’s just a byproduct of how much I can’t stand his music, his playing or anything about him. The mere sight or sound of him turns my stomach; but I digress. Two of my absolute favorite U2 songs are on this album: “One” and “Mysterious Ways.” I am in love with that tone The Edge gets on “Mysterious Ways” and the riff itself is pretty cool, too. The “echo plex” sound that The Edge is pigeonholed into is prevalent on this album. There, of course, was hints and varying degrees of the delay usage from the early stuff, but after Rattle & Hum and its predecessor, The Joshua Tree, it got more pronounced. I, myself, don’t mind that. I can still make out the riffs and notes that are underneath the effect and I think it’s cool. If nothing else, it’s their signature sound. Really, as far back as I have paid attention, U2 has had an ethereal feel and the echoey, delayed and reverbed depth has been part of that. There were plenty of tunes on this album that would constitute ‘hits.’ Many would go on to be concert staples or radio mainstays, like “Even Better Than the Real Thing” – which Richard Branson wanted to use in ads for his Virgin Cola to compete with Coke or, “the real thing;” the band declined -, “Until the End of the World,” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?” Bono, being the showman that he is, took on the persona of “The Fly” which he developed in the recording process of this record. U2 wanted to make the most un-U2 album they could; to reinvent themselves and go in new directions. Co-producer Brian Eno said his job on this album was to undo anything that sounded too much like U2. It’s standard to what U2 sounds like now, but it was absolutely different when it came out. As much as I love U2 now, then Joshua Tree was the stuff, I couldn’t stand them. It wasn’t what I was used to and I’ve documented how I rebelled when I dealt with that. I’ve changed obviously, but when this album came out, I was actually into “Mysterious Ways” and “One.” I didn’t buy the album until much, much later, though. I’m glad I did. I believe even Eugene gave this a good review when he, Brian and I covered it as an album of the week. I more than dig it, I love it!
#62 – Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘N’ Roses. A real game changer when “Welcome to the Jungle” arrived on the scene. L.A. knew what was up but we had no idea what we were getting into when a then-poofy-haired Axl Rose was getting off that bus and into a straight jacket in the video. Hard rock and metal was getting a bit ‘hairy’ and poppy at the time so this was the savior for those who were becoming disenfranchised with the ‘Strip scene’ norms. It was, and still is, pure hard rock with a cocksure and unrelenting arse as a lead singer, who didn’t hold back on anyone, even his own band mates. Axl was something different. After that one video, the bouffant hairdo disappeared and was replaced with stringy locks covered in a bandanna but still with leather and flannel, an odd, but somehow perfect, combo. He also incorporated a vast span of vocal styles and range. One minute he’s grunting deep, the next screaming a few octaves higher, belting out the woes of drug use, women, lost relationships, outrunning the law and how f’ed up life is, in general. But, while Axl was the front man and basically overshadowed all that was good in GnR, I felt the real stars were the other members of the band. Yes, Axl was what you saw because he’s like a little chihuahua jilting about in a frenzy and barking incessantly because someone rang the door bell, but Slash, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin were the powerhouse players that made the band what it was. Slash’s blues-infused riffing and educated leads were only a compliment to Izzy’s rhythmic powerplaying. Duff and Adler held the rhythm section down to some tight beats. Duff wasn’t a slouch on the bass, either, he is really a guitar player in a bass player’s body. The album starts five-fingered paintbrushing your face from the onset of “…Jungle” and lets up only when the tape ran out on side 2. Over the years, for whatever reason, I’ve basically avoided “Think About You,” and “Anything Goes” and I can’t explain why. They just weren’t my thing, I guess; not bad tunes. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like them, just didn’t care. Now, one song that I don’t like and never did, and again, I don’t know why, is “Paradise City.” I really dislike that song. Maybe because it was just totally overplayed? I dunno. On the converse of that, I rarely turn “Sweet Child o’Mine” when it comes on and it’s overplayed more than “Paradise City.” I still giddy when I hear it, especially the album version (radio cuts it down too much). Who knows. All I do know is this album changed the face of music for the last quarter of the 1980s music scene and never really released its stranglehold on the both the top 40 and hard rock charts alike. I’m okay with that. I’m very much okay with that. I love this album.
#61 – Greatest Hits by Sly & The Family Stone. I will note that while I’ve heard most of these songs on the Sly/Family albums on the list, I do feel a little kinship to the album. It was released on November 21, 1970, the day after I was born. I’m one day older than it. Woot.
So, this was a powerful segment, I think. Two comps, yes, but c’mon… The Stranger, Zoso, Achtung Baby, Appetite, Sticky Fingers…!? The only one I didn’t really care for was the Radiohead mess. Not a bad overall score, I don’t think. Can’t wait to do the next segment. Their cranking down little by little but at a good speed. I’m trying to do all this while concentrating on my normal routine. I want it done by January 1st. I’m working on it! I’m working on it! See you next segment folks…
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“A bottle of red, a bottle of white – it all depends on your appetite. I’ll meet you any time you want, in our Italian Restaurant.” – “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (Joel)