Monthly Mixtape – February 2021


Danz CM :: “Something More”

Tele Novella :: It Won’t Be Long

Amythyst Kiah :: “Black Myself”

FPA :: “Untitled”

Nicola Cruz :: “Subtropique”

BICEP :: “Atlas”

El Michels Affair :: “Murkit Gem”

Previous Mixtapes:



Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 440-431


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

Artist: Loretta Lynn
Album: Coal Miner’s Daughter
Year: 1971
Label: Decca
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter”
  • “What Makes Me Tick”

Thoughts: Since my mother was a coal miner’s daughter, and I am the grandson/great-grandson of a coal miner (or at least a coal cracker), the title track has always resonated, even if my own family experience is very different.  The rest of the album are almost entirely songs about cheating, or being cheated on, but Lynn’s voice makes them all sound lovely.


Artist: James Brown
Album: Sex Machine
Year: 1970
Label: King
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Sex Machine”
  • “I Got The Feelin'”
  • “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Undubbed Mix)”
  • “Please, Please, Please”
  • “Mother Popcorn”

Thoughts: The title track of this album as long been a favorite of mine.  Turns out that this is a different, slower version of “Sex Machine” than I’m familiar with.  The album consists of a portion that Brown recorded with one backing band (including Bootsy and Catfish Collins) that he had produced with sound effects that make it sound like it was recorded in front of a live audience.  The other portion of the album is an actual concert performance with a different band from James Brown’s hometown of August, GA in 1969.  Both performances are blistering and blend together well.


Artist: Blur
Album: Parklife
Year: 1994
Label: Food
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Girls and Boys”
  • “Parklife”

Thoughts: Back in the 90s, I somehow got it into my head that Blur was another generic grunge band and didn’t give them much attention. This impression was probably due to the ubiquity of “Song 2” – admittedly great rally music in a hockey arena – but not representative of their work.  Instead, Blur are a pop band with with clever story songs in the tradition of The Kinks.  Despite learning this, I still hadn’t gotten around to giving Blur a fair listen (much like I haven’t done with The Kinks). It makes me question my poor decision-making skills in the 1990s regarding what I did and did not listen to. The only song I was familiar with is “Girls and Boys,” which I hated back in the 90s, but now I think it really slaps.


Artist: Primal Scream
Album: Screamadelica
Year: 1991
Label: Sire
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Slip Inside This House”
  • “Don’t Fight It, Feel It”
  • “Come Together”
  • “Loaded”

Thoughts: Scottish band Primal Scream kind of sound like if by the 90s the Rolling Stones had evolved to sound like an alt-rock band that took a great interest in the acid house scene.  Primal Scream were, of course, an alt-rock band that took a great interest in the acid house scene, and this album creates an undefinable mish-mash of 90s rock, funk, disco, psychedelia, and Madchester bands.  I’ve written about the song “Loaded” before on this blog, and I was familiar with some of the other songs, but overall listening to this album all the way through for the first time is a revelation I waited 30 years too long to have.


Artist: 2Pac
AlbumAll Eyez on Me
Year: Death Row
Label: 1996
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes, a little
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Heartz of Men”
  • “Life Goes On”
  • “Only God Can Judge Me”

Thoughts: As I’ve noted previously in this column, I did not pay much attention to rap and hip hop in the 1990s.  Nevertheless, I remember feeling sad when I learned about the murder of Tupac Shakur. From what little I knew about Shakur, he struck me as a talented and thoughtful young man who died way too young. Despite, 90s rap being in my blind spot, I was still surprised that I wasn’t familiar with any of the tracks on this album. I didn’t enjoy listening to the songs with lyrics about “bitches” and “hos” and the celebration “thug life” and the n-world sprinkled liberally about. Nevertheless, I could still see the genius and conscience of Tupac Shakur shine throw on a number of tracks.


Artist: Pet Shop Boys
AlbumActually
Year: 1987
Label: EMI Manhattan
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”
  • “It’s a Sin”

Thoughts: The Pet Shop Boys are an odd duck, a duo who made music unlike anything else at their time. You got a pair of men who look and sound bored all the time, singing wry satire about the failures of the Thatcher/Reagan era, over danceable synthpop.  And all those pieces work together.

Somehow, I was never aware until now that Dusty Springfield is the guest artist on “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” Did I know who Dusty Springfield was when I was 13? I do know that as a Catholic school boy the imagery of “It’s a Sin” made me laugh, and also made me feel guilty about polishing off a carton of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip.


Artist: Pavement
Album: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Year: 1994
Label: Matador
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: none

Thoughts: Prior to now, the only Pavement album I’d listened to before is Slanted & Enchanted,  which I liked well enough but wouldn’t consider it a favorite. This album strikes as me as sound like very generic 90s rock.  While Pavement is not a post-grunge band, I would consider their work on this album adjacent to a mid-to-late 90s genre I call “boring rock.” That is to say, it’s not bad, it’s just not very interesting.


Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: Sound of Silver
Year: 2007
Label: DFA/Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Get Innocuous!”
  • “North American Scum”
  • “Us V Them”
  • “Watch the Tapes”

Thoughts:  I’ve always liked LCD Soundsytem although I don’t think I’ve listened to a full album before. The album branches out beyond the definitive electronic music sounds LCD Soundsystem to punk, indie rock, and even a bit of folk. I also love the humor of the lyrics such as the title track “Sound of silver talk to me /Makes you want to feel like a teenager / Until you remember the feelings of / A real life emotional teenager / Then you think again.” Although maybe that’s not funny enough to be repeated the entire song.


Artist: Usher
AlbumConfessions
Year: 2004
Label: Arista
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Not intentionally
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Yeah!”

Thoughts: So, after years of hearing the song in the ether I finally found out that THAT song, which is “Yeah! (feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris),” is by Usher. It’s nice to put 2 and 2 together at last.  The rest of this album is down- and mid-tempo contemporary R&B with Usher crooning over the beats.  Too mellow for my tastes.


Artist: Los Lobos
AlbumHow Will the Wolf Survive?
Year: 1984
Label: Slash/Warner Bros.
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Don’t Worry Baby”
  • “A Matter of Time”
  • “Corrido #1”
  • “Will the Wolf Survive?”

Thoughts:  This is an album I’ve listened to before and liked but didn’t love.  Listening again I found myself enjoying the blues rock and tejano sounds mixed into a solid collection of 1980s rock & roll.  Los Lobos, a Mexican-American band from Los Angeles, made a big splash in Reagan’s America, which is as an impressive an accomplishment as this delightful album.


 

Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439, James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438, Blur, Parklife
  • 437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?

Album Review: Three Little Words by Dominique Fils-Aime


Album: Three Little Words
Artist: Dominique Fils-Aime
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Label: Ensoul Records
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: Dominique Fils-Aimé, a vocalist from Quebec, explores the sounds of soul music with hints of jazz on her third album.  The songs draw on influences from Do-Wop and classic Motown to more recent performers like Amy Winehouse.  Lyrically the songs celebrate Black history and music and the ongoing struggle for liberation. Everything seems to be arranged and produced to perfection.  Really the only flaw to the album is that it ends with an unnecessary cover of “Stand By Me.” If you like beautiful vocals and souljazz arrangements, this album is for you.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Good Woman by The Staves


AlbumGood Woman
Artist: The Staves
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Label: Atlantic
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Good Woman”
  • “Nothing’s Gonna Happen”
  • “Trying”

Thoughts:

The English folk trio of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor provide beautiful, close harmonies on this set of tunes.  But the sweetness of the songs does not prevent them from singing lyrics of defiance

Rating: ***

Album Review: Tell Me I’m Bad by Editrix


 

AlbumTell Me I’m Bad
Artist: Editrix
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Label: Exploding in Sound Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Tell Me I’m Bad”
  • “Chelsea”
  • “She Wants to Go and Party”

Thoughts: The Western Massachusetts trio Editrix combines sweet singsong vocals over shredding guitar. Both the vocals and guitar are provided by Wendy Eisenberg, while Steve Cameron plays bass and Josh Daniel plays drums.  The great punk/indie rock melodies support lyrics that are often political but also humorous.  I found a great piece online that breaks down each song, something I’d love to see more of: https://www.talkhouse.com/a-guide-to-editrixs-tell-me-im-bad/

Rating: ****

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 450-441


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:


Artist: Paul and Linda McCartney
AlbumRam
Year: 1971
Label: Apple
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Too Many People”

Thoughts: For the first time in this project, not only have I listened to the album before, but I’ve written about it on this blog. I’ve been consistent over the years in my dislike for the vast majority of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output. And the hit single from this album – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – is among his absolute worst work. But Paul and Linda were happy in their marriage and domestic life, so I can’t deny them that.


Artist: The White Stripes
AlbumElephant
Year: 2003
Label: V2/XL/Third Man
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Seven Nation Army”

Thoughts: The White Stripes are one of those bands that music critics just love to dote on. I’ve never really heard what it is that they think is so great about the band’s music. And Jack White comes across as more than a little creepy.  “Seven Nation Army” is, no doubt, a great rally song at sporting events (with a mesmerizing video, to boot) but nothing else stands out for me. This album is a collection of “back to basics” rock and roll.  But this has been done before and since, as well or better than The White Stripes, so I’m not sure why this album is singled out for recognition.


Artist: Otis Redding
Album: Dictionary of Soul
Year: 1966
Label: Volt
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: YES
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)”
  • “Sweet Lorene”
  • “Try A Little Tenderness”
  • “You’re Still My Baby”
  • “Hawg For You”
  • But the whole damn album is great!

Thoughts: I’m a long time fan of Otis Redding, whom I consider one of the greatest vocalists of all time.  But I’ve mostly listened to compilations and box sets of his music and never listened to this album before, although I’m familiar with about half of it.  This was the last album released before Redding’s death, and features a good sampling of his trademark ballads and raveups.  But the album also shows that he can sing the Blues really well too.


Artist: Bad Bunny
Album: X 100pre
Year: 2018
Label: Rimas
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Not likely
Favorite Tracks:

  • “La Romana”
  • “Mia”

Thoughts: Here’s a fairly recent album from an artist, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, whose name has entered my consciousness despite my general ignorance of Latin trap and reggaeton.  In fact, it’s his debut album, which surprises me, because I thought I’d heard the name for longer. I appreciate that the album offers an eclectic mix of musical styles, tempos, and rhythms even as I know that this is not something I personally enjoy.


Artist: Alice Coltrane
Album: Journey in Satchidanada
Year: 1971
Label: Impulse!
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Journey in Satchidananda”
  • “Something About John Coltrane”
  • “Isis and Osiris”

Thoughts: I confess to never having heard about Alice Coltrane, and this album is a revelation. The music is a fusion of a experimental jazz and Indian classic music that draws upon her own spiritual journey and the work of her husband, John Coltrane, who died a few years earlier.  Alice Coltrane plays piano and harp, while Pharaoh Sanders provides the soprano saxophone and percussion. All of the tracks feature the Indian string instrument, the tanpura, except the final track which has the lute-like oud.


Artist: Yes
Album: Close to the Edge
Year: 1972
Label: Atlantic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: God forbid
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I’m on record for my dislike of 70s progressive rock. The excess, the pretentiousness, the boringness.  I was not looking forward to listening to Yes (although their 80s sellout hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” slaps). But like a good do-bee, I listened to all three gratuitously long songs on this album.  My brain checked out a few


Artist: Fiona Apple
Album: Extraordinary Machine
Year: 2005
Label: Epic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Extraordinary Machine”
  • “Get Him Back”
  • “O’ Sailor”
  • “Parting Gift”
  • “Not About Love”

Thoughts: The enthusiasm over the brilliant Fetch the Bolt Cutters last spring made me realize that I’d been missing out on Fiona Apple for all these years. The songs have a bouncy piano, confessional lyrics, and arrangements that make them sound like they’re for a Broadway show.  I like listening to Apple’s voice and regret denying myself of hearing it for so long.


Artist: David Bowie
AlbumScary Monsters
Year: 1980
Label: RCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Up the Hill Backwards”
  • “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”
  • “Ashes to Ashes”
  • “Fashion”
  • “Kingdome Come”

Thoughts: Once again, we’ve reached an album that I’ve written about before. Bowie’s first album of the 80s sounds like a synthesis of everything he did during the 70s.  It was less experimental than previous albums, but it seemed to be a marker for the end of the era, while clearing the decks for the next.


Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Beauty Behind the Madness
Year: 2015
Label: XO
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: Seems appropriate that The Weeknd comes up in this list, fresh off his Super Bowl appearance (which I didn’t watch).  I’m only slightly familiar with his work, so I was surprised that the topics of every song seemed to be bragging/regretting doing lots of drugs and sex.  Musically, the mid-tempo R&B doesn’t appeal to me either. I didn’t think I knew any of the songs on this album but in fact, I did know the hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”


Artist: Britney Spears
AlbumBlackout
Year: 2007
Label: Jive
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”
  • “Toy Soldier”

Thoughts: Britney Spears was pretty much off my radar by 2007, and I never heard anything by hear after the “…Baby One More Time”/”Oops!… I Did It Again.”  Stylistically it’s aggressive electronic dance pop with angrier and hornier lyrics than Spears’ earlier work, reflecting her well-publicized personal troubles. At least now I know the origin of the meme “It’s Britney, bitch!” It feels a little exploitative listening to it now, knowing the abuse and mockery Spears has suffered, and how she continues to suffer under a conservatorship.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 460-451


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:


Artist: Lorde
Album: Melodrama
Year: 2017
Label: Universal
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes/No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: no
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Green Light”
  • “Writer in the Dark”
  • “Supercut”

Thoughts: I knew Lorde for “Royals,” and that’s about it.  This album features Lorde’s distinctive gravely voice over dance tracks.  It’s fine but I don’t feel strongly about it either way.


Artist: Kid Cudi
Album: Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
Year: 2009
Label: Dream On
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Soundtrack 2 My Life”
  • “Make Her Say”
  • “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)”

Thoughts: Another artist that I’m not at all familiar with.  But I did enjoy Kid Cudi’s introspective lyrics over an indie-rock aesthetic.  Definitely something I’m going to want to look into more.


Artist: Jason Isbell
Album: Southeastern
Year: 2013
Label: Southeastern
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Live Oak”

Thoughts: Jason Isbell is one of those names I’ve heard floating in the ether but never really knew what it was he did.  Turns out he’s a singer-songwriter in the country-folk fusion style pioneered in the 1970s.  It’s just in my snooze zone of music I consider pretty boring, although I can appreciate that Isbell is a talented musician.  I’ll also note that his vocals are up too loud in the mix on this album.


Artist: Sinéad O’Connor
Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Year: 1990
Label: Ensign/Chrysalis
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”
  • “Three Babies”
  • “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
  • “Black Boys on Mopeds”
  • “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  • “Last Day of Our Acquaintance”

Thoughts: Despite her shaved head and radical for Reagan/Bush America opinions, Sinéad O’Connor managed to become a star loved by the cool alternative kids and their Boomer parents (especially if those parents were Irish-American).  I have not listened to I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got in a long time and I forgot just how great it is. O’Connor’s voice is timeless and the songs on this recording feel as fresh as they did 30 years.


Artist: Al Green
AlbumGreatest Hits
Year: 1975
Label: Hi/EMI
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Tired of Being Alone”
  • “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”
  • “Love and Happiness”
  • “Let’s Stay Together”

Thoughts: I’m beginning to feel that there is an unconscious bias in the selection of compilation albums for this list, because so far, almost every one of them is by Black artists (the exception is the Phil Spector box set where a white man is given top billing for producing the work of primarily Black and brown artists). I’ve peeked ahead at the RS 500 list and see that Al Green gets two more studio albums on the list, so the inclusion of a compilation is all the more befuddling.  Mind you, I own and love Al Green’s Greatest Hits, and it’s great to have a package of some of his best work from the early 70s, but 6 of the 10 songs on this compilation are also on the other two Al Green albums on this list.  Putting Greatest Hits on the list just seems to mark indecision between choosing Al Green Gets Next to You or Let’s Stay Together as the third album.


Artist: Bo Diddley
Album: Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
Year: 1958/1959
Label: Chess
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Bo Diddley”
  • “I’m A Man”
  • “Before You Accuse me (Take a Look at Yourself)”
  • “Hey! Bo Diddley”
  • “Diddley Daddy”
  • “You Don’t Love Me (You Don’t Care)”
  • “Say Man”
  • “The Clock Strikes Twelve”

Thoughts:  Okay, so now we’re doing two albums for the price of one. Bo Diddley was released in 1958 as a compilation of singles going back to 1955. 1959’s Go Bo Diddley is more of an intentional album with some material not previously released on singles. Of the two albums, the first is more has more of a Blues feel, features many examples of the Bo Diddley beat, and has most of Bo Diddley’s most famed songs.  The latter album is more musically diverse with a variety of rock & roll and R&B styles, and features the comical track “Say Man,” which was Diddley’s highest charting song.


Artist: Can
Album: Ege Bamyasi
Year: 1972
Label: United Artists
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts:  Here’s a band I never heard of at all. Can was a German band in the 1960s and 1970s.  The music sounds like a blend of psychedelia with the groove of funk and the vocals of early punk.  The official genre designation is “krautrock” which sounds derogatory to me.  Kudos to Rolling Stone for including albums outside the USA/UK.  But I didn’t find this album to be all that interesting.


Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: Pretty Hate Machine
Year: 1989
Label: TVT
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Head Like a Hole”
  • “Terrible Lie”
  • “Sin”
  • “That’s What I Get”
  • “The Only Time”

Thoughts: This album was my high school introduction to industrial music.  It’s been a long time since I listened to it, and I forgot that the tracks on this album have a total dance groove. Which makes sense, because one of my memories of a dance in the high school cafeteria was totally losing myself while dancing to “Head Like a Hole.”  It was such a release.


Artist: Diana Ross and the Supremes
AlbumAnthology
Year: 1974
Label: Tamla/Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Where Did Our Love Go”
  • “Baby Love”
  • “Come See About Me”
  • “Stop! In the Name of Love”
  • “Back in My Arms Again”
  • “I Hear a Symphony”
  • “My World is Empty Without You”
  • “Your Can’t Hurry Love”
  • “Reflections”
  • “Someday We’ll Be Together”
  • “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

Thoughts: Did you know that The Supremes’ 1966 album The Supremes A’ Go-Go was the first album by a girl group to hit number one in the US? Did you know it was one of seven albums by The Supremes that made it into the Top Ten on the Billboard 200? Did you know that The Supremes had six number one albums on the Hot R&B Album Chart and 18 albums altogether that hit Top Ten in the same chart? Did you know that The Supremes had profound influence on women artists, and on soul, R&B, and rock music, and made Motown a profitable and legendary record label, and rivaled The Beatles for widespread popularity in the 1960s?  Do you also find it a little offensive that the only recognition of The Supremes in this entire list is this compilation album?

Anyway, this album does show the versatility of The Supremes from their early days to their biggest hits to their interpretations of the works of others and collaborations with The Temptations.  I only regret the mindboggling omission of “Stoned Love.”


Artist: Roberta Flack
AlbumFirst Take
Year: 1969
Label: Atlantic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Compared to What”
  • “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”
  • “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

Thoughts: Roberta Flack’s debut album includes her most famous song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” a startling interpretation of a British folk song. I confess I’ve always had trouble listening to that song because it’s just so sad. The album show’s Flack’s versatility with her soulful vocals with  accompanied by jazz and gospel stylings to reinterpret folk and pop tunes.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take

Album Review: Long Day in the Milky Way by Kris Delmhorst


Album: Long Day in the Milky Way
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: August 14, 2020
Label: Big Bean Music
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Wind’s Gonna Find a Way”
  • “Nothing “Bout Nothing”

Thoughts:  I first learned of Kris Delmhorst when she was playing gigs in Somerville, MA just after I  moved there in the late 90s. Her albums Five Stories and Songs for a Hurricane area among my all-time favorites. But I totally missed it when her most recent album was released last August.

The album features Delmhorst’s typically well-crafted songs.  I particularly like the harmonies of Rose Polenzani, Rose Cousins, and Annie Lynch on back-up vocals.  But with very few exceptions the songs are all slow tempo, and just not as engaging as I’d expect. The music is pretty though, and the lyrics offer flashes of hope and healing in troubled times.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Self Worth by Mourn


Album: Self Worth
Artist: Mourn
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Label: Captured Tracks
Favorite Tracks:

  • “This Feeling is Disgusting”
  • “Gather, Really”
  • “It’s a Frog’s World”
  • “The Family’s Broke”

Thoughts: Mourn, a quartet from Barcelona, is a band that makes loud, energetic punk rock tracks with shouted lyrics.  I like that kind of thing. It feels like an album for “our COVID times” with the feelings of life’s many problems fully expressed, but also counterbalanced by a sense of resilience.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Sound Ancestors by Madlib


Album: Sound Ancestors
Artist: Madlib
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Label: Madlib Invazion
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Road of the Lonely One”
  • “Latino Negro”
  • “The New Normal”
  • “Duumbijay”

Thoughts:

Hip artist and producer Madlib collaborates with electronic music artists Four Tet on this collection that draws on both of their loves for music and record collecting. The music samples from a catalog of soul and R&B, Jazz, Latin, folk, and reggae to create  a tribute to ancestral music and something new at the same time.

Rating: ***1/2