Archive for June, 2012


I saw this album at Half Price Books for $3.99, but I passed because it was all scratched up.  So my next best option was to buy it new at Best Buy for $6.99.  Prior to getting this my only real experience with the Clash was teaching a little bit about them as part of a rock history lesson when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  But I used their first album for the lesson, not “London Calling”.  I remember though that my post-punk friend and former co-worker (and Homestar aficianado), the Fin, really loved the Clash and was really saddened when Joe Strummer died.

So digging into this album, I was surprised that most of the music was not your typical punk rock.  Instead, the album moves quickly from punk to reggae to ska to power pop.  But what is far more important than the music on this album is the message.  And, much like Marvin Gaye’s “Whats Going On”, the message is still relevant today.  Gambling, drug abuse, street violence, war, corporate greed…this is another album that could have been written in 2012 and would be just as poignant as it was in 1980.

Other lists: “London Calling” is #15 and “Train in Vain” is #298 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Also, the Clash is #28 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  Finally, the album “London Calling” is the #1 album of the eighties according to Rolling Stone (and it is the first album in this blog that was released after I was born :))

My favourite track: “Death or Glory” — sadly it could be the theme song of practically every band in Columbus

Honourable mention: “London Calling”

Quote: ” ‘N’ every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock ‘n roll grabs the mike to tell us he’ll die before he’s sold”

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This is another album that I didn’t have, so I paid $8.57 for it on Amazon, and of course, the day after it arrived I saw it in the $3 bin at Used Kids.  But hopefully this is a better copy…at least that is what I am telling myself.  Prior to owning this, I actually did not own a single Rolling Stones album.  It’s not that I don’t like the Rolling Stones, it’s just that I never got into them in a major way.  I guess I’ve always kind of wanted to get into the Stones, so this is a good excuse.  Their image as rock ‘n roll’s original bad boys has always appealed to me, and it really shines through on this record.  This album oozes sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, and even manages to make a couple social statements as well.  And it manages to be the first album on this list with some “colorful language”. 🙂

This is a very varied album stylistically.  It ranges from straight-up rock and roll to rockabilly to rhythm and blues, and even manages to throw in a bit of country western for good measure.  And the whole thing is very RAW.  Keith Richards called this the first grunge album, and it seems to be an accurate assessment.  It’s almost as if every instrument was crammed into a small room and recorded at the same time.  Apparently this was recorded at Keith Richard’s villa in France, so maybe that was the case.  Anyway, there seems to be very little balance or production, and at times Mick Jagger can barely be heard over the roar of the instruments.  Most bands probably couldn’t pull this off, but it works here for the Stones.

Other lists: “Tumbling Dice” is #433 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs.  Mick Jagger is #16 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers.  Keith Richards is #4 and Mick Taylor is #37 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.  Finally, the Rolling Stones are #4 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

My favourite track: “Shine a Light”

Honourable mention: “Sweet Virginia”

Quote: “Always took candy from strangers, didn’t wanna get me no trade.  Never want to be like papa, working for the boss every night and day.”

Yup, this is a masterpiece.  I bought this several years ago for a middle school general music lesson.  It’s one of the few CDs for which I paid full price, so I must not have been able to find it used.  In fact, I have some super-fancy special edition with a case cover and a lyric book.  I probably bought it at Target, and I doubt I paid more than $10 for it.  Anyway, I can’t remember the topic of the lesson I was teaching, but it probably had to do with social issues.  I remember playing “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me” in class, and honestly, I think the kids were actually into it.

This whole album is smooth.  From the way Marvin Gaye sings to the way the tracks flow into each other, the whole album just radiates smoothness.  But what is even more amazing to me than the music is the fact the timelessness of the lyrics.  In fact, this record could have been written today in 2012 and it would still be relevant.  Virtually every one of the social issues Marvin Gaye is addressing on this album are still problems today.  Inner city poverty, war, drug abuse, environmental damage…it’s all still happening.  I guess its kind of sad that we haven’t progressed any further than this in the 40+ years since this was written.  Well, at least we are trying to fix the environment…

Other lists: “What’s Going On” is #4 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Marvin Gaye is #6 on the 100 Greatest Singers list and he is #18 on the 100 Greatest Artists list.

My favorite song: “What’s Going On”

Honorable mention: “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”

Quote: “Everybody thinks we’re wrong, but who are they to judge us simply ’cause our hair is long?”

Wow.  Three of the top five albums are by the Beatles.  Mi madre gave me this album (along with a matching t-shirt :)) several years ago for Christmas.  She said it was one of her favorites.  Ma soeur also says this is one of her favorite Beatles records.  I remember “Michelle” being part of the Beatles medley we played in my high school marching band, but my most vivid memory of this record is singing “In My Life” at my friend Half-Witt’s wedding.  You see, Half-Witt was a co-worker of mine, and she decided in August that she was going to get married an Thanksgiving weekend that November.  She wanted a singer, but she wanted one free, so she asked me to do it and I said yes.  She  actually wanted the Bette Midler version (gag), but I told her I would only do the original version.  Since beggars can’t be choosers, she said that was fine.  So I asked my friend, the Reformed Preacher-Man (also a co-worker) to play acoustic guitar for me, and away we went to the strangest wedding I have ever seen.  But that is another story altogether.  We did a fine job on the song, if I do say so myself, but I’ll admit that I did not do John Lennon’s falsetto lick at the very end 😛

So I think I like this album a litter better than “Revolver”.  It is much softer overall, and the songs seem to be more well-crafted.  The vocal harmonies in particular seem to be more carefully developed, especially on “Nowhere Man” and “What Goes On” (the latter of which has a cool rockabilly/bluegrass feel).  The record has its rockers too, especially “Drive My Car” and “Think For Yourself”.  And I certain don’t mean to demean the Beatles when I say that the chorus of “I’m Looking Through You” seems to have influenced half of the Monkees’ song catalog.

Other lists: “In My Life” is #23 and “Norwegian Wood” is #83 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Eight songs from this album chart in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Beatles Songs, including “In My Life” at #5, “Norwegian Wood” at #12, “Drive My Car” at #43, “If I Needed Someone” at #51, “Girl” at #62, “Nowhere Man” at #66, “Think For Yourself” at #75, and “You Won’t See Me” at #94.

My favourite track: “In My Life”

Honourable Mention: “Girl”

Quote: “A man must break his back to earn his day of leisure”

 

Well, this is another one I had to buy from Amazon.  Fortunately, I got it for the bargain basement price of $3.97.  Quite a deal for such an excellent album.  Now, mi madre is a huge Bob Dylan fan, so I remember growing up listening to her play this album on the beautiful wood cabinet stereo in the living room.  The stereo had a turntable, a tuner, and an 8-track player (yes, apparently I am that old) in it, and I used to love watching the LPs spin and the lights on the 8-track light up.  I think she had this album on vinyl, as I vaguely remember the album cover, but I definitely remember her bellowing “How does it feeeel?” as she sang along to “Like a Rolling Stone”.  Despite her love of all things Bob Dylan, I never really caught the bug, even though Bob Dylan is technically my first rock concert: I was taken on a family trip to see Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead on a triple-bill at the Akron Rubber Bowl when I was 8 years old.  As awesome as that sounds now, I was sadly too young to appreciate it and I don’t remember much of it.

However, this album makes me want to listen to more Bob Dylan.  The lyrics are what sets it apart…Dylan is witty, satirical, philosophical, and sarcastic, sometimes all in the same stanza.  It seems one could literally spend years analyzing the myriad of historical and literary references present on this album.  Musically it is rather varied, with some tracks being very bluesy and others straight-forward rock.  Interestingly, several of the songs abandon the strophic (verse-chorus-verse-chorus) formula and are just basically lengthy narratives with harmonica or guitar fills in between the stanzas.

Other lists: “Like a Rolling Stone” is the #1 song on Rolling Stone’s list of the Top 500 Songs of All Time.  Also on the list are “Desolation Row” at #187 and “Highway 61 Revisited” at #373.  Bob Dylan is #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists, and is #7 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.

My favorite track: “Like a Rolling Stone”

Honorable mention: “Desolation Row”

Quote: “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose”

So this was one of the Beatles albums that I didn’t already have, but I managed to get a copy on Amazon for $6.41.  Once I saw the track listing, I immediately had a flashback to playing “Eleanor Rigby” as part of a Beatles medley in high school marching band.  Ah, those were the days!  I played alto saxophone in the band, and I think the Beatles medley was part of our competition show that year.  We probably played it a couple hundred times in practice.  I’m not 100% positive, but I think it was my freshman year, and the show was all classic rock songs, but the only other song I can remember off the top of my head is Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”.  And “Michelle” was also part of the Beatles medley.

Anyhow, this album is pretty noisy.  It almost has a garage rock kind of feel to it.  Of course, “Eleanor Rigby” is the opposite, with Paulie singing over a chamber orchestra, but the rest of the songs have some pretty raw guitar sounds.  And while the vocal harmonies are pretty simple on this record, the boys show what they can do on “And Your Bird Can Sing”.  Overall, pretty varied album, with a political statement in “Taxman” juxtaposed with the childish whimsy of “Yellow Submarine”.  Paulie really shines on this record with ballads like “Here, There and Everywhere” and rockers like “Got to Get You Into My Life”.

Other lists: Only one song from this album, “Eleanor Rigby”, ranks on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of All Time, coming in at #138.  However, 11 of the 14 tracks on “Revolver” are listed in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Beatles songs: #18 “Tomorrow Never Knows”, #22 “Eleanor Rigby”, #25 “Here, There and Everywhere”, #37 “She Said She Said”, #40 “For No One”, #50 “Got to Get You Into My Life”, #55 “Taxman”, #57 “I’m Only Sleeping”, #74 “Yellow Submarine”, #78 “And Your Bird Can Sing”, and #89 “Good Day Sunshine”.

My favourite song: “Eleanor Rigby” — I’m pretty sure the saxophones had the melody when I played it in high school 🙂

Honourable mention: “And Your Bird Can Sing”

Quote: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”

“Dogs were barking, cops were lurking, and my dancing was about to start!”…Eugene Hutz

So maybe I have been living under a rock for the past 36 years, but I had never heard of this album until recently, nor did I realize there was an eternal debate over this album and “Sgt. Pepper’s”.  So I bought this album for $7.83 on Amazon and gave it a listen.  This particular version has both the mono and stereo mixes of the album, and I decided to listen to the stereo mixes first without realizing that the album was originally mixed in mono.  Apparently Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear, and he preferred to mix everything in mono even though stereo technology was available at the time.  Who knew?  Anyway, the stereo mixes do not sound nearly as good as the mono mixes.  There were done fairly recently and they sound sort of fuzzy.  So the mono mixes are the way to go…they have a much more present sound and are probably more authentic to Brian Wilson’s artistic vision.

So I listened to the album again in mono, and as I write this I have probably listened to it 10 or 11 times, and to be honest, I just don’t get the debate between it and “Sgt. Pepper’s”.  Don’t get me wrong…I think “Pet Sounds” is a really good album, and I was surprised to hear that the Beach Boys, a group I had written off long ago as writing superficial radio candy, actually had an introspective side.  Well, at least Brian Wilson had an introspective side…apparently the rest of the group was not thrilled with this material.  Or maybe Brian Wilson’s lyricist Tony Asher had an introspective side, but I digress.  The point is it’s a good album with several interesting songs.  But I just don’t feel that it is a great album, at least not in the same way that “Sgt. Pepper’s” and the rest of the top 5 albums are great.

But still, it is a good album, and it does create an interesting dichotomy between the Beach Boys clean, wholesome image and psychedelic rock.  Actually, the lyrics seem to suggest that Brian Wilson is trying to hold on to his 1950s era moral values, despite the cultural change of the 1960s.  Furthermore, the songs seem to express a level of guilt and dissatisfaction with the experimentation of the 1960s and seem to express a longing for a return to the simpler life of the 1950s.

Musically, these guys could really harmonize.  In fact, that is the one place where they have got the Beatles beaten.  But most of the instrumental parts on the tracks were played by studio musicians and were designed to be “backing tracks” for the vocals.

At any rate, it is a good album, but it’s #2 ranking on the list is too high.

Other lists: “God Only Knows” appears at #25 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Also on the list are “Caroline, No” at #214 and “Sloop John B” at #276.  Brian Wilson is #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Top 100 Singers, and the Beach Boys are #12 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists.

My favorite track: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”…the only song I recognized from the radio from this album.  And a song that reminds me of Eddie’s Grill back home.

Honorable Mention: “Sloop John B”

A word from the princess: It’s fun, fun, fun!

Quote: “I know perfectly well I’m not where I should be”

My copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s” still has the sticker from Used Kids Records on it from when I bought it on April 6th, 199something.  Actually, it was probably either 1995 or 1996, my freshman or sophomore year of college.  I paid $9 for it.  I tell most people I moved to this city for the Ohio State University, but really it was for Used Kids Records.  My first time coming down here, I remember ditching my college tour and taking the tour of the used record shops on High Street instead.  I came home that day with more used CDs than actual information about college.

I remember getting into the Beatles because my friend Lord Bacchus’ father, the Whiskey Saint, used to play Beatles and John Lennon tunes non-stop at the Great Ranch in Trumbull Township. For multiple summers back home, I would get off work and hang out at the Great Ranch with Lord Bacchus, Black Cloud, Lightning 101, and the other slaves of the Evil Empire, listening to the Beatles and drinking shots of butterscotch schnapps.  Ah, those were the days!

So in the fall I would go to college, and I would miss those days at the ranch, so I started buying up Beatles albums whenever I would see them at Used Kids.  This was one of the first ones I got, and it’s still one of the ones I like the best (although Abbey Road is probably my favorite Beatles record).  I can see why this album is the #1 all time record in Rolling Stone’s list.  All of the songs just seem to fit together, even though there isn’t any obvious connection between them.  A certain sense of carnival whimsy is pervasive throughout, especially on “Mr. Kite” and “When I’m Sixty-Four”.  However, this is balanced by the longing of “She’s Leaving Home” and the melancholy of “Fixing a Hole”.  The title track is a classic, and its reprise near the end of the album sports a beat and a rhythm ahead of its time.

The stand out track on the record is “A Day in the Life”.  Even in college, I connected with this song.  I have always seen it as a commentary on the repetitive and dull nature of the daily working man’s life, a subject which Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and I’m sure countless other bands have expounded upon.  I have always loved the melody of John Lennon’s “Ah” (a quite scream, perhaps?) as Paulie “goes into a dream”.  Amazing stuff.

Other lists: “A Day in the Life” is #28 and “With a Little Help From My Friends” is #311 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Also, several songs from this album are on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs: #1 “A Day in the Life”, #19 “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, #60 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, #61 “With a Little Help From My Friends”, #82 “She’s Leaving Home”, and ##96 “Within You Without You”.  Individual accolades include George Harrison being listed as #11 and John Lennon as #55 on Rolling Stones Top 100 Guitarists, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney coming in at #5 and #11 respectively on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Singers.  Finally, the Beatles are #1 and John Lennon is #38 on Rolling Stone’s lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

My favourite track: “A Day in the Life”

Honourable mention: “When I’m Sixty-Four”

A word from the Princess: Riveting!

Quote: “Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy”

Hello world!

Hiya.  This is my first ever attempt at a blog, so we will see how this goes.  A few weeks ago I was grocery shopping when I saw the special edition of Rolling Stone that listed the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  Now I have never been fond of Rolling Stone, but I have always been fond of music, so I bought the issue mainly out of curiosity to see how many of the top 500 albums I actually owned.  After reading the issue and discovering that I owned about 60 of the albums, I realized that I wanted to hear the other 440.  Thanks to the digital music revolution, CDs are now really inexpensive on Amazon, so I figured I could get most of them pretty cheap.  Also, I live in a city with some fantastic used record stores, so this project will give me an excuse to comb the bins at some local record shops.  It was just recently that I had the idea for this blog, and my plan is to write about each album after I listen to it.

Here’s a little bit about my background.  As I said above, I have always loved music.  In fact, I loved music so much that I majored in it in college.  After college I became a music teacher, and thus far I have had a fairly successful and rewarding career.  However, there has always been a huge disconnect between the music that I study and teach in school and the music that I listen to in my personal life.  I came of age in the nineties listening to the Seattle bands everyone else was listening to: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.  In my free time in college I got into some great classic rock like the Beatles and the Doors.  In the 2000s, I discovered some fantastic indie bands and I became of huge fan of Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello, and the Decemberists.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention my all time favorite band, Radiohead, whose music has been an inspiration to me for the last 20 years.

Well, thanks for reading, and I hope you check back in with me as I work my way through the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time!