Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rock On Completely With Some Brand New Components

In addition to cracking voices a la Peter Brady, bad perms, braces, and arm pit hair, musical taste begins taking root during puberty – or at least it did for me. Fortunately, my uncles Tim and Tom gave me a rock music birds and the bees talk when I was around 12 or 13. Okay maybe it wasn’t an actual sit down but because I worshipped anything that they did or said, I began paying special attention to their bands. As teenagers during the 70s, their tastes were unsurprising in retrospect but absolutely solid nonetheless. I recall The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, etc.

Lucky for me at that time, Uncle Tom purchased what was known as a “compact disc player” and bequeathed many of his albums to my brother and me. During those lonely junior high nights, I’d place the needle on a record and wear enormous earphones that dug into the side of my head if I moved my neck. The A side of “Who’s Next” provided the soundtrack as I pondered whether Christine Idzelis would ever go out with me.

Apparently, the popularity of record albums is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. The trend, I imagine, is due in part to the “hipster” generation of pierced and tattooed bike courier-types who forego iPods in favor of the more classic LP players. However, I must admit a certain pleasure exists in hearing the crackling and hiss that accompany songs played on vinyl.

Nowadays, my musical appetite does not consist strictly of Rock. My need for variety has introduced me to music of all genres. Some days, I’ll nibble on rap, hip hop, soul, funk, and top-40. Other days, I’ll feast on classical, Cuban, bossa nova, or jazz. And I’m not scared by heavy metal, punk, or bluegrass. But then, of course, I get one of those cravings where all I want is some good old, guitar solo/air boards/white man’s overbite/head bopping/freak out by yourself in a car with no remorse rock n’ roll.

“Irregardless,” I am so excited for that day when G-love is ready for her own sit down about beats and tunes. If you forced me at this very moment to list the top 10 greatest albums of all time, I’d be happy to indulge. But before doing so, you should understand my criteria.

First, “alternative” and “rock” will be considered together. I was in high school during the “Grunge Era” so these styles of music are overlapping in my world of music. Second, the albums were considered as a whole to the extent that an album with one great song and the rest mediocre will not make this list. For example, “Heat of the Moment” by Asia on their self-titled debut album is a great song but the other songs are pretty lackluster. Thus, these albums deliver an overwhelming majority of “solid” to “off the charts”-level songs from start to finish. In other words, you are not inclined to fast forward over any of the songs. Lastly, “Greatest Hits” albums do not count. Without further ado:

10. “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles. I omitted “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from this list because there are too many songs that I fast forward – “Fixing a Hole”, “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Within You Without You.” Then I realized that I don’t FF any songs on “Rubber Soul.” I like to think this earlier album was a true harbinger of The Beatles’ future brilliance. “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), and “I’m Looking Through You” are my personal faves.

9. “Who’s Next?” by The Who. The boards that introduce “Baba O’Riley” trigger an eerie feeling of temporary escape in my brain as soon as I hear that opening “ding – ding, ding. ding – ding, ding.” Moon’s drums are appropriately splashy (thanks Ron Burgundy), Townsend’s guitar blazes, and Daltrey nails high notes on the same level as Robert Plant. That’s right. I went there. I fucking love that song.

Often overshadowed by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who was so effective at building an orgasmic crescendo in its anthem songs through effective repeating riff foreplay. (Besides “Baba,” think “Eminence Front.”) Anyway, don’t skip any songs on this album. Trust me. For the record, “Going Mobile” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” rock it out completely.
8. “Ten” by Pearl Jam. Think long hair, flannel shirts, and a voice that channeled the angst of high school kids everywhere in the early 90’s. “Release” is far and away the best song on this album. No argument. Hands down.

Unfortunately, Eddie Vedder developed a condition that my buddy Scott and I coined “E.V.S.” (Eddie Vedder Syndrome) where the band’s commercial success was such a strain on his artistic vision that he was unable to speak publicly in coherent sentences from about 1993 to 2000. You also write songs about “bugs in my head.” Fortunately, Eddie recovered and helped advocate an overthrow of the Bush Administration with Sean Penn.

(As an aside, The Killers currently have a serious case of E.V.S. I mean who the hell writes a song asking whether “are we human or are we dancer?” Give me a freaking break.)

7. “Motorcade of Generosity” by CAKE. The lead singer of this band would probably mock me just for writing a top ten list, but this is my favorite CAKE album start to finish. “Jolene” also happens to be my overall favorite song by this band, as well as my inspiration for the protagonist in my screenplay that will never complete. Anyways, I hope they give me permission to play the song when Jolene walks out on Jonas in Portsmouth.

For the record, these guys blow the doors off live. I lost my mind at The Orpheum seeing them with T-bone, Skipzy, and Bree a couple years ago. And, the first time I saw them live, they played “Jolene.” I almost cried. Almost.

6. “Weezer” a/k/a “The Blue Album” by Weezer. COLLEGE!!!! The vibe on this album just totally resonated with me when I heard it for the first time. It’s rare that I can listen to a band for the first time and truly enjoy every song. That happened for me one special day in 1995 after a trip to Pure Pop in Burlington.

Surprise, surprise, Jonas’ inspiration came from here. However, “No One Else” and “Surf Wax America” also make me want to dance around in my underwear. The wife and I watched one of their concerts in Japan on TV and they brought up a fan from the audience to play guitar on “Say it Ain’t So.” She was bawling, but she pulled it off. Re-donk-a-donk.

Weezer still does it for me (their song “Jamie” is a tribute to their lawyer – how cool is that!?) but I’m not sure their future albums can ever eclipse “The Blue Album.” Footnote that Rivers Cuomo has apparently recovered from his bout with E.V.S.

5. “Siamese Dream” by Smashing Pumpkins. Whenever I hear “Cherub Rock,” I think of a road trip to Montreal during college in which our car averaged about 90 the minute we crossed Derby Line, Vermont. Just thought you should know.

I challenge you to find a bad song on this album. You will not succeed. I once asked Tooth to play “Mayonaise” at my funeral. I’ve subsequently changed my mind but that was how strongly I felt about this album. Also, please do not overlook “Sweet Sweet” and “Luna.” They are two very pretty songs.

Unfortunately, Billy Corgan still has not recovered from his infection with E.V.S.

4. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. If I was considering just Side B, we’re talking serious contender for Number One. That side starts with George’s masterpiece “Here Comes the Sun” and ends with possibly my favorite lead guitar solo ever (I think it’s John) on “The End” (well technically “Her Majesty” is the last song on but it’s kind of a mini-song only). Every song on Side B seamlessly flows into the next. By the way, I have no idea what “polythene” means but that song really does it for me.

3. “Achtung Baby” by U2. Back to high school again. Go to any party during the summer before my senior year in high school and this was playing either before or after “Check Your Head” by The Beastie Boys. The radio focused on “One” and “Mysterious Ways,” which are good songs. However, “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is far and away the best song on this brilliant album. “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” is a sleeper on this disc, too.

2. “The Beatles” a/k/a “The White Album” by The Beatles. I agonized about where to rank these last four albums, but I’m satisfied with their order now. This particular double album is like a Thanksgiving dinner of good songs. “Dear Prudence,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird,” “Revolution” (the slower version), and “Sexy Sadie” are my BFFs in this chapter of the Bible of Rock.

1. “The Joshua Tree” by U2. Heather Voigt let me listen to this cassette on her Walkman during a 7th grade summer camp overnight in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That night, blondes and “With or Without You” established themselves as my personal kryptonite. “Joshua Tree” never fails me. It’s like a security blanket you pull out for emergency purposes.

If your heart rate doesn’t increase slightly when you hear those opening notes in “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I question whether you are alive at all. And is there a better 1-2-3 punch than “Streets,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?” and “With or Without You.” It’s like Gehrig, Dimaggio, and Williams on the same team.

But don’t dare stop there. Please keep going. “Bullet the Blue Sky” is so purely dark and brilliant. “Running to Stand Still” and “In God’s Country” are off the charts, too. I thoroughly enjoy every single song on this album.

“The Joshua Tree” is just so absolutely perfect, I can’t handle it. I don’t want anything about it to change. Just perfect. I can’t say anything more.

So there it is. Take your best shot. What did I miss? Agree? Disagree? Has anyone even made it this far? Shout out.

8 comments:

TimK said...

One thing - I purchased Uncle Tom's first cd player for him asa a gift! I got it from my friend Stewie Fleischer who was working as a saleman at Crazy Eddie's on Old Country Road in Westbury at the time. The first cd I bought was Steely Dan's Greatest hits - the sound quality was unbelievable for the timie. I think Elvis Costello and the Attractions "Imperial Bedroom" is still my favorite album ever.

Yake Steed said...

As I sit here having gotten back from a 2 hr. walk to try and get my daughter to sleep who's been up all night, I enjoy sitting down to read the rants of a not-so-clairvoyant daddy de novo. It get's tougher...

To start, I goy my first "boom box" at the same "Crazy Eddie's" on Old Country Rd. in 1984 (which I got my first lesson in "hondeling" when my father asked to "give the kid a break and knock off the tax...he's paying with his own money." (lie))...which leads me to....1984. The greatest 80's hair band album of all time. Van Halen. Top 10, maybe...though it lacks the depth and introspection of puberty and post puberty emotion that's needed to get on the list.
I have to say, not having a Zep album on here isn't a crime. Listening all the way through is a major criteria and it's hard to find an LZ album that fits it. (Hit me Hammer of Gods). But let's pay homage to some of the greatest songs ever written: Rain Song, Ten Years Gone, Ramble On,That's The Way, Tangerine, Down By The Seaside, when the Levee Breaks, Going To California and...so on.
I'm not a huge U2 or Beatles fan though I love them nonetheless so I'll reserve negative feedback. The Who, I'm in agreement with though my Top 10 might include "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy"...Siamese Dream is perfect....Motorcade is on mine....Ten is on there....
We could go on, though I'd like to add...
Blood On The Tracks by Bobby D.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco
Oh Inverted World--The Shins.
Live albums count? Billy Joel Songs from the Attic, Nirvana Unplugged
HEAVY WEIGHTS: Dark Side Of the Moon-PF, Greetings from Asbury-Bruce Park...Tribe Called Quest-Low End Theory.....We could go on............

Scott said...

Outstanding call on The Who. Every time I try to come up with a list of the best bands ever I have 4 constants - The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, and The Who. I truly believe there is no argument on those four. Filling out slots 5-10 can get dicey. I always put U2 in there but some people fight it. I think that they are still together makes it hard for some people to include them.

Even though I hate Eddie Vedder's guts, Pearl Jam is a great band and Ten is an incredible album. I can't argue with any U2 or Beatles album being on the list. I am with you 100% on Joshua Tree being #1. Every song on that album is great. I don't know why but in recent years my favorite song on the album has changed from Running to Stand Still to Bullet the Blue Sky. I love the opening drum beat.

I like Cake and Weezer but I am not a huge fan of them being on this list. I understand your affection for them so I can't really argue the point. I don't have that Weezer Album, though. I have the Cake album. Jolene is a masterpiece.

I think Led Zeppelin II should be on here. I think they have a bunch of great albums but to me this is the one without a song to skip and it has a bunch of great songs. There aren't many three song runs better than What is and What Should Never Be, The Lemon Song, and Thank You.

Lastly, I hate to be a homer but I don't think you can fairly do a top 10 album list without Born To Run being on it. I am with Yake on Greetings but I think you need to be a true Bruce fan to appreciate that. Darkness on the Edge of Town is my favorite Bruce album but when you talk about albums where you never have to consider skipping a song (Springsteen fan or not) - Born to Run is a classic.

Megan Cullen said...

I love it!!! I was wondering when this conversation would come up. Just as music was handed to you by Tim and Tom, you and Hrex handed it to me. I thank you for that blessed gift!

So here are mine, in no particular order. (That's just waaaay too difficult)

10. Let it Bleed - Rolling Stones

Perhaps I am biased due to my claim of "Gimme Shelter" as one of rock's greatest songs, but this album is one of my favorites. I love the Stones sticking to country-ish routes - note: "Love in Vain" , "Let it Bleed" (why does every great song end up in a commercial). "Monkey Man" begins like a Temptations song...Then, "You Can't Always Get What you Want"...do I really need to discuss that? Well, okay besides "Another Brick in the Wall", the only other song that uses a choir of English children.

9. Post - Bjork

Although I was young when the wave of alternative music overwhlemed MTV, I fortunate enough to absorb some of it. This album simply rocks, with Bjork balancing out her random icelandic lyrics with heavier industrial type music. Note: "Army of Me". "It's Oh so Quiet" is a brilliant tribute to musical type songs. "I Miss You" remains one of my favorite dance tracks of all time, and "All if Full of Love" reminds me of falling asleep to this album on restless nights.

8. Abbey Road - The Beatles

Need I say more? In total agrreance with you. I always thought the second side was one song growing up.

7. Physical Graffitti - Zepp

Hmmm... Very difficult to narrow my favorites when it comes to the holy Zepp. It was released as a double album, so there are four sides of goodness, beginning with the popular "Custard Pie". The beginning of the "The Rover" is nasty and reminiscent of the guitars in this era changing music. "In My Time of Dying" is amazing, a great blues cover. I saw Lez Zeppelin cover it and even their version blew me away. Side two features "Houses of the Holy", a rally song to any Zeppelin listening day. "Kashmir". Amazing. I shudder in my attempt to extol its immensity. "in the Light" is a super personal song, because it talks about getting lifted out of darkness. And if you feel that you can't go on/and your will is sinking low/just believe and you can't go wrong/in the light you will find the road. The song is a hint of Zepp's future albums and how they began to get darker and tripper with their music. I've always wanted to cover "Down by the Seaside", I think it's so pretty and yet dark. "Ten Years Gone" - another amazing love song. Side Four in general is an awesome trribute to the blues and how Zepp made them their own.

6. The White Album - The Beatles

Again, do I really need to discuss? You said it all. "Rocky Raccoon" remains my favorite sing- a-long song. Eric Clapton playing guitar on "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" is an added bonus. "Long, Long Long" is such a beautiful ove song. "Julia" reminds me of mom, maybe because it's about John's mom. "Why Don't We Do it in the Road", "I'm So Tired", "yer Blues" - Aaaaah!!! My brain hurts thinking of all the songs. I could seriously write something about every song and what it means to me.

5. Young, Gifted, and Black - Aretha Franklin

Shout out to Sweet Willy Jove for introducing this album to me. Aretha is no joke. She makes every song hers, like she was born to inject soul in all of them. "Oh Me Oh My" is the epitome of what love makes you do for someone. "Young, Gifted, and Black" still makes me choke up everytime I hear it. (Penned by Nina Simone btw)It makes me think of Shaun too. "All the King's Horses" reminds me of every failed relationship I've had. "Rock Steady" is just nasty. I also dig Aretha's cover of "I've Been Loving You too Long".

4. Pearl - Janis Joplin

Janis reminds me of all my highs and lows. While some loathe her voice, sheis hands down one of my favorite vocalists. Who knew white girls could sing the blues?

3. Good News for People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse
This album reminds me of my summer in Italy, and running on the beach every night after dinner. It sucks that it was a popular album, especially with "Float On", but I love the album nevertheless. I remember getting wasted at their concert in Radio City Hall and yelling at all the hipsters. "F-ing dance you stupid hipsters!" Good times.

2. The Bends - Radiohead
Again, a tough call when it comes to Radiohead, as I generally worship them. I respect and love the Bends because it is the foundation of Radiohead's evolution into experimenting with their music. The opening chords of "planet telex" sets the tone of the album. Pretty music with heavy sound. "Fake Plastic trees" is pretty much brilliance. Love the falsetto, Thom. "My Iron Lung" is a personal favorite, and I'm pretty sure I almost shit myself when they played it in New Jersey.

1. (feeling a lot of pressure - I don't want to leave out anyone)
Another agreement
Blue Album - Weezer
Maybe it's the memory of me and my friends getting wasted after Duke's and singing this at the top of our lungs at Cherry Tavern, but this an album I put on to rakky for a night out or for general happiness. "Surf Wax Song" for some reason reminds me of you banging into the front door at 2 Bert when you guys threw that rager in high school.
Ah, to be young....

xoxo

Megan Cullen said...

Apologies for typing errors

Especially to Sweet Willy JIVE

Melissa said...

music is my religion.. this is awesome! and a plus - i'm wearing my beatles shirt today!! sweet.

great criteria.. i would completely agree with your top 2 - no doubt. the white album and joshua tree - awesome! solid picks otherwise although they wouldn't make my list. umm and mayonaise is a GREAT song. not sure if ive listen to the whole album - i'll have to check it out.

here's mine (and even though i wanted to include NKOTB, i didn't..haha):
10. songs about jane - maroon 5
9. the miseducation of lauryn hill - lauryn hill
8. rites of passage - indigo girls
7. moondance - van morrison
6. tapestry - carole king
5. the white ablum - beatles
4. born to run - bruce springsteen
3. sheryl crow - sheryl crow
2. joshua tree - u2
1. under the table and dreaming - dave matthews band

what's next? top 10 favorite songs?!

Tom Kirk said...

i see tim's favorite album is Imperial Bedroom: oh yeahwent through about 3 lp's 4 tapes, and 2 cd's of that album, and many cartons of marlboro lights...love your list, hate to say, i don't really know "cake and weezer" very well, but nice list....i might have included "Some girls" by the stones...and i would ave reversed your U2 order, i think Acktung is better artistically, but again nice list, particularly smashing pumkins and pearl jam! its soo hard to lable so many great bands, but like your taste!

Britt said...

Love your list

Some of my favorite all time albums include(not in order of favorite):

Big Ones- Aerosmith
Storm Front- Billy Joel
Thriller- MJ
A Night at the Opera- Queen
The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
Sports- Huey Lewis and the News
Like a Prayer- Madonna
Jagged Little Pill-Alanis Morissette
Janet-Janet Jackson
Bookends -Simon & Garfunkel
Yellow Brick Road- Elton John
The Chronic-Dr. Dre
Good News for People Who Love Bad News- Modust Mouse
and of course:
Escape-Journey