Album of the Week: Spirituals by Santigold


Album:  Spirituals
ArtistSantigold
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label:  Little Jerk Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • High Priestess
  • No Paradise
  • Ain’t Ready
  • Fall First

Thoughts: Genre-defying Santigold’s new release reimagines the African American folk tradition with synths, electric guitar, and her own ethereal vocals.  Like many recent releases, the music grew out of the pandemic and addresses the feelings of grief, loneliness, and rage of our times.  It’s a short album, 10 tracks in just over 30 minutes, but it packs a punch.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Album of the Week:  2022

January

February

March

April

May

July

August

September

Favorite Albums of All Time: 70-61


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

70

Artist: Various
Title: Hamilton: An American Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Alexander Hamilton
  • My Shot
  • The Story of Tonight
  • Right Hand Man
  • Helpless
  • Wait For It
  • Guns & Ships
  • Dear Theodosia
  • Cabinet Battle #1
  • The Room Where It Happened
  • One Last Time
  • It’s Quiet Uptown

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: I never thought too highly of Alexander Hamilton the person (I’m a bit of an Aaron Burr buff) but I was transfixed by this musical that combines Broadway musical traditions with hip hop with American history.  I especially like how Hamilton’s story is adapted to that of the immigrant striver relating the story to modern day Black and Latin American people who don’t often get to see people who look like themselves in American history.

Bonus Sounds: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights was adapted into an excellent movie with a great soundtrack.


69

Artist: Billy Bragg & Wilco
Title: Mermaid Avenue
Year:  1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Walt Whitman’s Niece
  • California Stars
  • Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key
  • Ingrid Bergman
  • Christ for President
  • I Guess I Planted
  • The Unwelcome Guest

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 90s

Thoughts:  Billy Bragg is a folk/punk musicians and leftist activist from England whose music I like but I still need to listen to more of.  Wilco are a band from Chicago beloved by NPR hipsters whose music never interested me much.  But when they came together to put lyrics written by Woody Guthrie to music, it was magic.

Bonus Sounds:  The next step is to listen to actual recordings by Woody Guthrie.  Smithsonian Folkways has you covered.

Speaking of Folkways…


68

Artist: Various
Title: Anthology of American Folk Music
Year: 1952
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The House Carpenter” (1930) – Clarence Ashley
  • “The Butcher’s Boy” (1928) – Buell Kazee
  • “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O” (1928) – Chubby Parker
  • “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man” (1930) – The Carter Family
  • “White House Blues” (1926) – Charlie Poole w/ North Carolina Ramblers
  • “Frankie” (1928) – Mississippi John Hurt
  • “When That Great Ship Went Down” (1927) – William and Versey Smith
  • Mississippi Boweavil Blues” (1929) – Charlie Patton (under the pseudonym “The Masked Marvel”)
  • “Sail Away Lady” (1926) – Uncle Bunt Stephens
  • “Wake Up Jacob” (1929) – Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers
  • “Indian War Whoop” (1928) – Floyd Ming and his Pep-Steppers
  • “Saut Crapaud” (1929) – Columbus Fruge
  • “Moonshiner’s Dance Part One” (1927) – Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Cafe Orchestra
  • “John the Revelator” (1930) – Blind Willie Johnson
  • “Bob Lee Junior Blues” (1927) – The Memphis Jug Band
  • “Poor Boy Blues” (1929) – Ramblin’ Thomas
  • “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (1928) – Blind Lemon Jefferson
  • “Way Down the Old Plank Road” (1926) – Uncle Dave Macon
  • “Fishing Blues” (1928) Henry Thomas
  • “Black Jack David” — Carter Family
  • “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” (1929) — Blind Alfred Reed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: When I first got an iPod, around 2005 or so, I listened to a history of Folkways Records which prompted me to get this collection

Thoughts:

Experimental filmmaker Harry Smith pulled together this anthology in 1952 with selections from his collection of old 78 rpm records and it ended up becoming a major influence of the Folk Revival of the 50s and 60s.  Smith’s temerity in calling it “Anthology” instead of “An Anthology” and subsequent popularity skewed the real history of American folk music.  Nevertheless, as a compilation of recorded music enjoyed by ordinary Americans from 1927 to 1932, it is an excellent time capsule.  Selections include folk songs with roots in England, Scotland, and Ireland still enjoyed by rural Americans, Black American folk music (including blues and gospel), and old time music from a time when country and bluegrass are emerging.

The Internet Archive has the entire collection available to stream, including a fourth collection of folk songs chosen by Harry Smith that didn’t get a release until 2000.

Bonus Sounds:

There’s a 112 songs here, you want more?


67

Artist: Fugazi
Title: 13 Songs
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Room
  • Bulldog Front
  • Bad Mouth
  • Burning
  • Give Me The Cure
  • Burning Too
  • Promises

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991, because everyone in my Freshman dorm seemed to have this album

Thoughts: Speaking of leftist activism in music, the Washington, D.C. post-hardcore band took the DIY ethos to the limits making their shows as accessible as possible to all their fans.  Their debut album (actually a compilation of tracks from previously released EPs) was highly influential on the sound of the burgeoning alternative rock explosion.

Bonus Sounds:

Ian MacKaye of Fugazi maintains an archive of live performance recordings available for fans to download.


66

Artist: Cry Cry Cry
Title: Cry Cry Cry
Year: 1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fall On Me
  • Cold Missouri Waters
  • The Kid
  • Shades of Gray
  • By Way of Sorrow

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1998

Thoughts: Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams united to form a folk supergroup, recording this one album of cover songs.  They also had a very successful tour and I managed to see them twice on that tour including their end of tour performance at Somerville Theatre on New Year’s Day in 2000.

Bonus Sounds: Richard Shindell’s album Courier appeared earlier in this list, but my favorite Dar Williams’ albums are Mortal City (1996) and End of the  Summer (1997), and favorite Lucy Kaplansky album is Ten Year Night (1999).

Coincidentally, Cry Cry Cry was named after a song by …


65

Artist: Johnny Cash
Title: At Folsom Prison
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • I Still Miss Someone
  • 25 Minutes To Go
  • The Long Black Veil
  • Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart
  • Jackson
  • Green, Green Grass of Home”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: I came to this late  due to a general disinterest in country music, not knowing that Johnny Cash is really good country.  Not only was Cash a good musician, he was a good person when it came to following Christ’s teaching of visiting people in prison.  This album recorded in a prison contains songs about prison, by prisoners, and most importantly, to entertain prisoners. The enthusiastic response of the audience of imprisoned men complements the perfect performances of these songs by Cash along with June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three. You can feel the disappointment when the prisoners are dismissed at the end.

Bonus Sounds: Johnny Cash had a late career resurgence with the American Recordings series which included interpretations of songs by decidedly non-country artists such as Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”


64

Artist: The Beat
TitleI Just Can’t Stop It 
Year:1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mirror in the Bathroom
  • Twist & Crawl
  • The Tears of a Clown
  • Ranking Full Stop
  • Big Shot

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990s

Thoughts: Known as The English Beat in the USA, the band emerged from the  UK two-tone ska scene with a debut album that mixed ska with New Wave.  It was a new sound for a new decade and remains one of the best albums of the 80s.

Bonus Sounds:


63

Artist: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Title: Rabbit Fur Coat
Year: 2005
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rise Up With Fists!!
  • The Charging Sky
  • You Are What You Love
  • Rabbit Fur Coat
  • Handle With Care
  • Born Secular

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2005

Thoughts: A debut album for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley of sorts collaborating with Chandra and Leigh Watson, also making their debut.  The pop/alt-country sound with a gospel tinge contains impressive harmonies and thoughtful lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: Jenny Lewis has continued to release great music including 2014’s “Just One of the Guys.


62

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Title:The ArchAndroid
Year: 2010
Favorite Tracks:

  • Locked Inside
  • Cold War
  • Tightrope
  • Come Alive (War of the Roses)
  • 57821

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts:  Monáe’s first full-length album continues her on-going science fiction dystopia about a messiasiac android. Musically, it’s a tour de force jumping among genres from song to song and even within songs. Funk, soul, new wave, afrobeat, psychedelia, and even punk rock are in the mix.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Janelle Monáe to come in this list, but until then you can also read my Music Discovery on her work from 2016 or read her recently-released sci-fi story collection The Memory Librarian.


61

Artist: Adele
Title:21 
Year: 2011
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rolling in the Deep
  • Rumour Has It
  • Set Fire To The Rain
  • I’ll Be Waiting
  • Someone Like You

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2011

Thoughts: The first time I heard “Rolling in the Deep” it blew me away and I’ve been following Adele ever since (along with most of the rest of the world).  The weary wisdom of Adele’s voice belies her youthful age at the time it was recorded.

Bonus Sounds: Adele is still pretty young even though she’s now a veteran artists continuing to release great works like last year’s 30.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 80-71


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

80

Artist: Various
Title: This Are Two Tone
Year: 1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Specials – “Gangsters”
  • The Selecter – “On My Radio”
  • The (English) Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
  • The Specials – “A Message To You, Rudy”
  • The (English) Beat – “Ranking Full Stop”
  • The Specials – “Stereotype”
  • The Specials – “Do Nothing”
  • Rhoda Dakar with The Specials – “The Boiler”
  • The Specials – “Ghost Town”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: I was listening to the “Modern Rock” radio station and heard “Ghost Town” by The Specials and HAD TO HAVE that song.  The thing is that my suburban Connecticut home town’s record stores had limited selections.  I looked everywhere I could think of in the store where I might find The Specials. Finally, I did a last ditch look in the compilations section where I found This Are Two Tone.  Even though the songs were ~10 years old at this time, it is no exaggeration when I say that this album CHANGED MY LIFE!

Bonus Sounds: 2 Tone Records didn’t release many albums as bands like The Beat and Madness moved on to other labels, but a stunning three albums from the label will be on my list.  One great song that’s not on any of these albums is “Nelson Mandela” by The Special A.K.A.


79

Artist: The Go-Go’s
Title:Beauty and the Beat
Year:  1981
Favorite Tracks:

  • Our Lips Are Sealed
  • How Much More
  • Tonite
  • This Town
  • We Got the Beat
  • You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  • Skidmarks On My Heart

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 80s, although it was my sister’s album

Thoughts: The most successful all-woman rock band of all time released this perfect collection of pop punk gems in 1981.  It seems to get better with each passing year.

Bonus Sounds: The Go-Go’s album discography is small but strong! Their 80s follow-up albums Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984) also have a lot of great tracks and Belinda Carlisle’s early solo work is also quite good.


78

Artist: Kris Delmhorst 
Title: Songs For a Hurricane
Year:  2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Under the Waves
  • East of the Mountains
  • Bobby Lee
  • Juice & June (NOT to be confused with Juice & Gin)
  • Hummingbird
  • Hurricane
  • Short Work
  • Mingalay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2003

Thoughts: Kris Delmhorst was already one of my favorite artists in the Boston folk scene, but this remarkable album saw her further incorporating old-time/Americana influences into music with a contemporary sensibility.  Since most of the songs work on meteorological themes, you could even say it’s a concept album.

Bonus Sounds: This is Kris Delmhorst’s 4th appearance in my countdown (two of her solo albums, one as member of a group, and one compilation).  I’d also recommend the 2005 album Redbird, the eponymous debut of a trio featuring Delmhorst with with Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault.


77

Artist: Jolie Holland 
Title: Escondida
Year:  2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sascha
  • Old Fashioned Morphine
  • Amen
  • Mad Tom of Bedlam
  • Darlin Ukelele
  • Damn Shame

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: A friend gave us this album and the Americana/alt-country/folk rock/je ne sais quoi sound blew my mind.  Jolie Holland was originally a member of The Be-Good Tanyas before going solo and it has the same old timey-goes-modern vibe with an extra kick.

Bonus Sounds: Despite loving Escondida, I never got any of the Holland’s other albums!  I need to address that.


76

Artist: R.E.M. 
TitleMurmur
Year:1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • Radio Free Europe
  • Pilgrimage
  • Talk About the Passion
  • Moral Kiosk
  • Perfect Circle
  • Sitting Still
  • We Walk

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 1980s

Thoughts: R.E.M. were already top ten artists by the time I learned of them, but I enjoyed going back to their debut album.  I can’t imagine what it was like for listeners trying make sense of Murmur in 1983. It’s too melodic for punk, too folk for New Wave, and too cryptic for pop. Despite not being of its time, the songs on Murmur have a timeless quality.

Bonus Sounds: There is one more R.E.M. album coming up, but I like everything the band released in the 1980s, and even have a soft spot for 1998’s Up.


75

Artist: Pixies
Title: Surfer Rosa
Year:  1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bone Machine
  • Gigantic
  • River Euphrates
  • Cactus
  • Oh My Golly!
  • Vamos
  • I’m Amazed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 80s

Thoughts: I kind of went backwards with the Pixies from Bossanova to Doolittle to Surfer Rosa.  It took me some time to become accustomed to the harder-edged sound of their debut album, but over a gazillion plays it became an all-time favorite.

Bonus Sounds: More Pixies to come!  The band’s post-80s releases are spotty, but I do like Frank Black’s second solo album Teenager of the Year.


74

Artist: The Muppets
Title: The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording
Year: 1978
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rainbow Connection
  • Movin’ Right Along
  • I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along
  • I’m Going To Go Back There Someday

The First Time I Heard This Album …: College, early 90s, but I knew the songs for much longer

Thoughts: Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher went hard in making the original songs from a movie about puppets road tripping across America some of the most memorable in Hollywood history.

Bonus Sounds:  The Muppets have a considerably lengthy discography including soundtracks from their tv shows and movies, Christmas albums, and various compilations.  I remember liking John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) as a kid but it’s been a long time since I’ve given it a listen.


73

Artist: Nirvana
Title: Nevermind 
Year: 1991
Favorite Tracks:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • In Bloom
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Endless, Nameless

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991

Thoughts: My opinion of Nevermind is colored by the fact that I was 17-years-old and a freshman at college when the album was released and seemingly changed the music industry overnight. Despite the nostalgia I might have for this album, I actually never owned a physical copy of the album, I just listened to it in other peoples’ dorm rooms. Thirty years later, this album still sounds fresh and different to me. Which is strange, because Nirvan were drawing on influences going back decades earlier and have inspired infinite soundalike bands since.

Bonus Sounds: Nirvana’s three original studio albums and the groundbreaking MTV Unplugged in New York live album are all worth a listen.


72

Artist: Portishead 
Title: Dummy
Year:  1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sour Times
  • Strangers
  • Wandering Star
  • Numb
  • Glory Box

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s

Thoughts:

Probably a perfect album.  Portishead combines a lot of things that were going on at the time in the 90s – hip-hop rhythms, creative samples, and ambience galore.  The music could be described as “chill-out” if only the tension were not constantly be ratcheting up.  The alluring vocals of Beth Gibbons carry the songs into an effervescent place.

Bonus Sounds: Portishead has three studio albums but I’ve only listened to this one.  I guess it’s about time to check out the other ones.  In the meantime, enjoy “6 Underground” by fellow trip hop artists Sneaker Pimps.


71

Artist: The Beach Boys 
Title: Pet Sounds
Year: 1966
Favorite Tracks:

  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Sloop John B.
  • God Only Knows
  • I Know There’s An Answer
  • I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
  • Caroline, No
  • Hang On To Your Ego

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: The Beach Boys, a band known for fun songs about surfing and fast cars, put out this album with mature and introspective lyrics and more complex musicality in 1966. It proved to be a stepping stone in the evolution of Rock to a more artistic form of music and the dawn of the Album Era. It took a long time for me to warm up to the Beach Boys were actually really good, serious artists (I grew up in the time of “Kokomo” after all) but this album really won me over.

Bonus Sounds: Good Vibrations.

 

Album of the Week: Silver Lining by Courtney Swain


 

Album: Silver Lining
Artist: Courtney Swain
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Label: Many Hats Distribution
Favorite Tracks:

  • Silver Lining (enough with the)
  • Camenti
  • Inanimate Object
  • Magic Mirror

Thoughts: Providence-based artist Courtney Swain released this album in the spring but I just learned about from WERS’ list of “Our Favorite Local Albums of 2022 So Far…” Their synopsis compares Swain to Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple, but I also see similarities to Laurie Anderson and oddly Norah Jones (at least in Swain’s unadorned singing voice).  The music draws from everything from jazz to electronica.  And the artiness of this album just sounds like something an alum of Berklee College of Music would create.
Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

March

April

May

July

August

Favorite Albums of All Time: 90-81


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

 

90

Artist: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
Title: A Spontaneous Performance Recording 
Year: 1961
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Moonshiner
  • The Whistling Gypsy
  • Brennan on the Moor
  • Tim Finnegan’s Wake
  • Haul Away Joe
  • Young Roddy McCorley

The First Time I Heard This Album …: childhood

Thoughts: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem were the icons of the Irish folk music revival and part of the soundtrack of my youth.  This album captures an unadorned concert performance with the energy of an audience singing along.

Bonus Sounds: I saw the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem in various permutations as a group or a duo as a kid with my parents (as well as seeing Liam Clancy solo as an adult) so the concert recordings resonate with me best.  Recorded Live in Ireland (1965) is an excellent companion to A Spontaneous Performance Recording and includes the ultimate pub singalong tune “The Wild Rover.” 


89

Artist: Debo Band
Title: Debo Band
Year: 2012
Favorite Tracks:

  • Akale Wube
  • Ney Ney Weleba
  • Asha Gedawo
  • And Lay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts: The Boston-based band plays jazz-inflected contemporary Ethiopian music.  I remember the Debo Band being the hit of many local dance parties about a decade ago.

Bonus Sounds: I wasn’t aware of this but the Debo Band released a second album in 2016 called Ere Gobez. Otherwise they do not appear to have been active since then.


88

Artist:Beyoncé
Title: Lemonade
Year: 2016
Favorite Tracks:

  • HOLD UP
  • SORRY
  • 6 INCH
  • FREEDOM
  • FORMATION

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: I was certainly aware of Beyoncé before 2016, but Lemonade made stand up and take notice.  The musically eclectic album is a statement on Black feminism in the era of Black Lives Matter and a tribute to Black history and culture.

Bonus Sounds: It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé didn’t follow up Lemonade until just a few weeks.  Renaissance is an exuberant party album.


87

Artist: Parliament
Title: Mothership Connection
Year:  1975
Favorite Tracks:

  • P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)
  • Mothership Connection (Star Child)
  • Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: The Mothership, an icon of George Clinton’s P-Funk collaborative, debuted with this album. The album is the pinnacle of Afro-Futurist funk with a collection of party tunes that celebrate the Black community and funk itself.

Bonus Sounds: Parliament’s discography is not as strong as Funkadelic’s but I do love Chocolate City (1975).


86

Artist: Paul Simon
Title: The Rhythm of the Saints
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Obvious Child
  • Can’t Run But
  • The Coast
  • She Moves On
  • Born at the Right Time
  • Spirit Voices

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: This was Simon’s long-awaited follow-up to Graceland.  Whereas the previous album incorporated South African styles of music, The Rhythm of the Saints draws upon musical Afro-Brazilian and West African musical traditions. The album particularly emphasizes percussion which is what made me fall in love with it as a kid, and why I still love it now.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s another solo album from Paul Simon coming up on the list (I bet you can guess which one!) but Simon continues to create interesting new music.  As recently as 2016 he released Stranger to Stranger which included the great track “The Werewolf.”


85

Artist: Courtney Barnett 
Title: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Pedestrian at Best
  • Small Poppies
  • Depreston
  • Kim’s Caravan

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: Australian singer/songwriter/musician delivers witty lyrics with a deadpan voice and a punk rock rage.

Bonus Sounds: Barnett’s follow-up albums Tell Me How You Really Feel and Things Take Time, Take Time are also worth a listen.


84

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Innervisions
Year: 1973
Favorite Tracks:

  • Living for the City
  • Higher Ground
  • All In Love Is Fair
  • He’s Misstra Know-It-All

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts:A jazzier sound for Stevie Wonder with some funk sound as well.  “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground” are examples of Wonder at his best, and “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” is a critique of a corrupt President that became all-too-relevant again in recent years.

Bonus Sounds: There’s so much Stevie Wonder to love as in my music discovery of his peak years.


83

Artist: Beck 
Title: Odelay
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Devil’s Haircut
  • Hotwax
  • The New Pollution
  • Novacane
  • Jack-Ass
  • Where It’s At
  • Minus
  • High 5 (Rock the Catskills)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1996

Thoughts: Not content to be a one-hit wonder with the quirky “Loser,” Beck made a statement with his first of many great albums in the late 90s/early 00s.

Bonus Sounds:  All of Beck’s albums from Odelay to Guero (which appeared earlier in this countdown) are excellent but I’m particularly fond of Mutations (1998), which shows more of Beck’s folk rock side.


82

Artist: Peter Mulvey 
Title: Ten Thousand Mornings
Year: 2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Stranded in a Limousine
  • Inner City Blues
  • Comes Love
  • Running Up the Stairs
  • Oliver’s Army
  • Rain and Snow
  • The Ocean

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2002

Thoughts: A lot of Boston-area musicians practice new songs by busking in the MBTA subway system.  Among them was Peter Mulvey a folk singer/songwriter who got his start in the biz in Boston back in the 90s.  In tribute, Mulvey recorded this album of cover songs live at various subway stations. This may be the only album I was present for the creation of since I saw Mulvey at Davis Square station in Somerville and he told me he was recording an album.

Bonus Sounds: Mulvey has released great albums from 1992 to earlier this month, but my favorites include Glencree (1998), The Trouble with Poets (2000), Kitchen Radio (2004), and The Knuckleball Suite (2006).


81

Artist: The Pogues 
Title: If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Year: 1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  • Turkish Song of the Damned
  • Fairytale of New York
  • Thousands Are Sailing
  • Fiesta
  • Medley: The Recruiting Sergeant/The Rocky Road to Dublin/The Galway Races
  • Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
  • The Broad Majestic Shannon

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  1988 or 89?

Thoughts: Remember Columbia House?  The catalog description for this album said “The Clancy Brothers meet Sex Pistols” and that was something I had to hear.  In the ensuing decades, Celtic Rock has become so ubiquitous it’s hard to recall how groundbreaking it was to hear fiddles and flutes with electric guitars and punk rock attitude.  But The Pogues have always done it the best.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Pogues to come, but in the meantime you may want to watch the documentary Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 100-91


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141
240-231 190-181 140-131
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

 

100

Artist: Joy Division
Title:Unknown Pleasures
Year: 1979
Favorite Tracks:

  • Disorder
  • New Dawn Fades
  • She’s Lost Control
  • Shadowplay
  • Interzone

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, although I think I’ve heard it in dribs & drabs going back to my college days

Thoughts: Before it was t-shirt, the cover of Unknown Pleasures contained one of the great albums of the Punk Rock era.  The album sounds like it could’ve been recorded by an indie band within the past decade, which is sign of either how far ahead of the time Joy Division was or how rock music has been frozen stylistically for some time

Bonus Sounds: Joy Division released only two albums and their follow-up from 1980, Closer, is also excellent.


99

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Fulfillingness’ First Finale 
Year: 1974
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman
  • You Haven’t Done Nothin’
  • It Ain’t No Use
  • They Won’t Go When I Go
  • Please Don’t Go

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: A somber and less-optimistic album for Stevie Wonder, both musically and lyrically, compared with its predecessors. A strong gospel influence runs through the album alongside funk, soul, and jazz improvisation.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s more Stevie Wonder to come in this countdown, but don’t sleep on Stevie’s early 70s albums Where I’m Coming From (1971) and Music of My Mind (1972).


98

Artist: RUN-DMC
Title: Raising Hell
Year: 1986
Favorite Tracks:

  • Peter Piper
  • It’s Tricky
  • Walk This Way
  • Raising Hell
  • Proud to be Black

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1986

Thoughts: This was the first rap album I ever owned and it’s still one of my favorites.  The funny thing is that I never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration with RUN-DMC on “Walk this Way.”

Bonus Sounds: RUN-DMC’s eponymous debut album from 1983 is also a milestone of hip hop.


97

Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Title: 100 Days, 100 Nights
Year:  2007
Favorite Tracks:

  • 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • Let Them Knock
  • Humble Me
  • Keep on Looking
  • Answer Me

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2010s

Thoughts: Sharon Jones’ confident voice brings retro-soul sounds into the present.

Bonus Sounds: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shined like a bright star in their brief career before Jones’ death in 2016.  Check out my thoughts on their discography here.


96

Artist: David Bowie
Title: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Year: 1972
Favorite Tracks:

  • Five Years
  • Moonage Daydream
  • Starman
  • Lady Stardust
  • Ziggy Stardust
  • Suffragette City

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: This concept album offers a lot to chew on regarding  aliens, fictional rock stars, and impending doom.  Musically it’s a compilation of rock and roll styles bridging rockabilly to punk rock.  Another classic.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Bowie to come although his discography is full of treasures.  Check out On Bowie by Rob Sheffield for a fan’s experience with Bowie’s music


95

Artist: Weezer
Title: Weezer
Year: 1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • My Name Is Jonas
  • The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
  • Buddy Holly
  • Undone – The Sweater Song
  • Say It Ain’t So
  • In the Garage
  • Only in Dreams

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1994

Thoughts: Weezer’s debut came toward the end of the peak of the alternative rock era and featured songs and lyrics that the nerds among us could relate to set to quasi-metal guitar riffs.  It still sounds fresh today.

Bonus Sounds: Weezer is notoriously hated for not being as good as they once were, but I’ve enjoyed listening to Pinkerton (1996), Weezer (Green Album) (2001), and Maladroit (2002).


94

Artist: St. Vincent
Title: St. Vincent
Year:  2014
Favorite Tracks:

  • Birth in Reverse
  • Huey Newton
  • Digital Witness
  • I Prefer Your Love
  • Severed Crossed Fingers

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2014

Thoughts: Annie Clark had released some great music prior to this eponymous album, but it really blue me away with it’s crunching guitars, catchy riffs, and esoteric lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: Actor (2009) and Strange Mercy (2011) are also excellent albums.


93

Artist: The Halluci Nation
Title:We Are the Halluci Nation
Year: 2016
Favorite Tracks:

  • R.E.D.
  • The Virus
  • Sila
  • Maima Koopi
  • How I Feel

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: The Halluci Nation, originally known as A Tribe Called Red, mix indigenous pow wow music with hip hop beats. This concept album is strong social justice statement on the effects of colonization on aboriginal peoples.

Bonus Sounds: A Tribe Called Red (2012), Nation II Nation (2013), and One More Saturday Night (2021) are also excellent collections


92

Artist: The B‐52’s
Title:The B‐52’s
Year:1979
Favorite Tracks:

  • Planet Claire
  • 52 Girls
  • Dance This Mess Around
  • Rock Lobster

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 1990s

Thoughts: I first listened to this album after The B-52s more commercial success with Cosmic Thing and it was mindblowing just how weird it was.  But it’s brilliantly weird.

Bonus Sounds: The B-52s’ follow-up album Wild Planet (1980) and of course, Cosmic Thing (1989), are also classic albums.


91

Artist: The Operators 
TitleCitizens Band
Year:2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bottle
  • Rock City
  • Running Late
  • The Tarpit
  • The Old Man Doesn’t Like It
  • Xxer
  • Parasite Rex
  • Victoria

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2002

Thoughts: This is another of my more obscure choices.  The members of the Operators were friends of a friend who participated in musical collective called Handstand Command based in Somerville, MA.  In fact, I was on an adult kickball team with one of The Operators. Anyway, I really loved this melodic postpunk collection and wish I’d picked up another one of their albums while I’d had the chance.

Bonus Sounds: I got nothin’!

Album of the Week: Baby by Petrol Girls


Album: Baby
Artist: Petrol Girls
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Label: Hassle Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Preachers
  • Feed My Fire
  • Baby, I Had An Abortion
  • Fight For Our Lives

Thoughts: London’s hardcore punk quartet, Petrol Girls, unleashes an absolutely necessary torrent of feminist rage on their latest release.  The stripped down sound is minimalist punk at its best.

 

Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

March

April

May

July

 

Album of the Week: Clouds by The Ballroom Thieves


Album: Clouds
Artist: The Ballroom Thieves
Release Date: July 15, 2022
Label: Nettwerk Music Group Inc.
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Lightning
  • Trodden
  • Harry Styles
  • Borderline

Thoughts: The Ballroom Thieves are Boston-based folk duo responsible for one of my favorite albums of 2020, Unlovely.  They were once a trio but have lost a member in the intervening years and are now Calin Peters (vocals, cello, bass) and Martin Earley (vocals, guitar).  Their sound has softened some and feels more meditative.  As one might expect, the lyrics deal with the isolation and disruption of the pandemic years and the hope to return to old habits like touring. In this summer when Harry Styles seems to be everywhere, they’re also thinking of him. What I like best is Peters’ sweet voice.

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

March

April

May

July

 

Favorite Albums of All Time: 110-101


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141
240-231 190-181 140-131
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151

110

Artist: Various
Title: Camelot: 1982 Original London Cast
Year: 1982
Favorite Tracks:

  • Camelot
  • How To Handle A Woman
  • If Ever I Would Leave You
  • What Do The Simple Folks Do?

The First Time I Heard This Album …: mid-80s, sort of

Thoughts: Technically, the album I want to put in this spot does not exist.  As a child I watched and loved the HBO presentation of Camelot starring Richard Harris, filmed on Broadway as part of its 1981-1982 revival. While the movie exists there doesn’t seem to be a cast recording, so I go with this West End version which also stars Richard Harris but different actors in the other parts.

Bonus Sounds: Richard Harris’ most famous vocal performance, of course, is on “MacArthur Park,” one of the weirdest ballads ever composed.


109

Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Otis Blue 
Year: 1966
Favorite Tracks:

  • Ole Man Trouble
  • Respect
  • A Change Is Gonna Come
  • I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
  • Shake
  • Rock Me Baby
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  • You Don’t Miss Your Water

The First Time I Heard This Album …: ca. 1987

Thoughts: I can’t remember the first time I heard Otis Redding, but I know I began a lifelong obsession with Otis after watching Monterey Pop on television celebrating the the 20th-anniversary of the festival.  Like a lot of R&B artists of the time, Redding focused on singles but this album is a concerted effort to interpret the top soul songs of the era, including 3 songs by the recently deceased Sam Cooke.  There are three original songs, although even Redding would have to admit that Aretha Franklin took ownership of “Respect.” On the flip side, Keith Richards would praise Redding’s take on “Satisfaction” as being how he envisioned the song.

Bonus Sounds: If there’s one Otis Redding song everyone should know, it’s his posthumous hit “Dock of the Bay.”  But really, you can’t go wrong with any of Redding’s recordings.  If you want to learn more about his life and artistry, read Dreams to Remember by Mark Ribowsky.


108

The Clash UK.jpg

Artist: The Clash
Title: The Clash
Year: 1977
Favorite Tracks:

  • Remote Control
  • I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.
  • White Riot
  • Career Opportunities
  • Police & Thieves

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991

Thoughts: The debut album from The Clash is hands down one of the greatest statements of punk rock ever.

Bonus Sounds: There’s one more very obvious selection from The Clash coming up in this list, but I also consider Sandinista!, Combat Rock, and Live At Shea Stadium to be among my favorite albums. Read my Music Discovery on The Clash for more of my thoughts.


107

Artist: Traffic
Title: John Barleycorn Must Die 
Year: 1970
Favorite Tracks:

  • Glad
  • Freedom Rider
  • Empty Pages
  • John Barleycorn
  • Every Mother’s Son

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts:  A little bit jazz, a lit bit folk, a whole lot of fusion.  It’s really a feast for the ears.  I remember the tape I got back in high school had all six songs on both sides.  In the streaming era, the album has gained two songs but they’re not as good as the original 6.

Bonus Sounds: I never liked what I heard of Traffic’s other releases.  Steve Winwood, of course, participated in another of my favorite albums with Blind Faith.  I remember really liking is solo song “Higher Love” when I was a kid, and listening to it now, it’s still not so bad.


106

Artist:Pete Seeger
Title: We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert, June 8, 1963 
Year:  1963
Favorite Tracks:

  • Banjo Medley: Cripple Creek/Old Joe Clark/Leather Britches
  • Mail Myself to You
  • What Did You Learn In School Today?
  • Little Boxes
  • Farewell
  • Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
  • Oh Freedom!
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Oh, What a Beautiful City!
  • We Shall Overcome
  • Guantanamera

The First Time I Heard This Album …: mid-90s

Thoughts: A live concert recording of Pete Seeger at the height of his career.  As always he turned the spotlight off himself, dedicating an entire set to music of the Civil Rights Movement and another to the songs of new artists (specifically Bob Dylan, Malvina Reynolds, and Tom Paxton).  I also love the audience singalong aspect.

Bonus Sounds: There are so many Pete Seeger recordings to choose from, but a good starting point is his children’s albums American Folk Songs for Children, Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Little Fishes, and Folk Songs for Young People.


105

Artist: Stereolab
Title: Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night
Year:1999
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fuses
  • Blips Drips and Strips
  • Italian Shoes Continuum
  • Infinity Girl
  • The Spiracles
  • Blue Milk
  • Strobo Acceleration

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s

Thoughts: I was introduced to Stereolab by a co-worker in the early 2000s and associate listening to the their version of space-age bachelor pad music with the time I spent working in a windowless warehouse during a library renovation.  It’s good music to keep one’s sanity.

Bonus Sounds: There’s another Stereolab album coming up on this list, but in the meantime you can read my Stereolab Music Discovery.


104

Artist: Various
Title: Free to Be … You and Me
Year: 1972
Favorite Tracks:

  • The New Seekers – “Free to Be … You and Me”
  • Rosey Grier – “It’s Alright to Cry”
  • The Voices of East Harlem – “Sisters and Brothers”
  • Alan Alda & Marlo Thomas – “William’s Doll”
  • Marlo Thomas – “Glad to Have a Friend Like You”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Infancy?

Thoughts: I didn’t have many records of children’s music when I was a kid, but I did have this album that Marlo Thomas made with the Ms. Foundation. The songs and stories focus on ideas of gender equality, growing up, friendship, feeling emotions, and compassion, but done in a way that makes it fun and funny (or terrifying, in the case of “Girl Land” which creeped me out as a child).  Surprisingly, my father (who voted for Nixon) loved this album and was the one who bought it for me and my sister!  A lot of great celebrities participated in making the album including Alan Alda, Harry Belafonte, Mel Brooks, Diana Ross, Tom Smothers, Carol Channing, Diana Sands, and Rosey Grier.  A couple of years after the album came out they made it into a tv special, but I never saw that.

Bonus Sounds: When my own kids were young we listened to a lot of the locals superstar of the preschool set Wayne Potash.  We even saw him at Club Passim!


103

Artist: Dimitri From Paris
Title: Sacrebleu
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sacre Francais
  • Reveries
  • Dirty Larry
  • Une Very Stylish Fille
  • Un Woman’s Paradis
  • Le Rythme et le Cadence
  • Le Moogy Reggae

The First Time I Heard This Album …: around the turn of the century

Thoughts: DJ Dimitri From Paris’ tribute to his adopted city is a collection of electronic beats with samples from lounge and bossa nova tunes and classic movies.  It’s a very French vibe with a midcentury twist.

Bonus Sounds:


102

Artist: Carl Stalling
Title: The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons, 1936–1958
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Good Egg (1939) – A Vintage Merrie Melodie
  • There They Go Go Go (1956) – A Complete Road Runner
  • Anxiety Montage (1952-1955)
  • Porky In Wackyland (1938) / Dough For The Do Do (1949)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: Film composer Carl Stalling created over 600 tiny symphonies to score the Warner Bros. cartoon shorts from the 1930s to the 1950s.  His genius lay in drawing on his knowledge of classical music and the latest pop tunes and working them into his scores.  If you’ve ever watched a Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon, you will know how essential the music score is to the comedy.  This album allows one to appreciate Stalling’s work without the visuals and most of the dialogue. The album includes collections of Stalling’s best musical cues tropes as well as full cartoon scores.

Bonus Sounds: If this album doesn’t fulfill your needs for cartoon music, a sequel album was released in 1995: The Carl Stalling Project Volume 2: More Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons, 1939–1957.


101

Artist:Yo La Tengo
Title: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Out 
Year: 2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • Everyday
  • Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House
  • Last Days of Disco

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 2000

Thoughts:

New Jersey indie rock trio Yo La Tengo took a turn for slower and more atmospheric.  Pitchfork even declared it one of the 30 Best Dream Pop Albums.  As slow as it gets, it’s never boring and it’s sonically rich.

Bonus Sounds: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Out came at the end of a streak of five albums that define Yo La Tengo’s best work (including one album we’ll see later on this list).  There output since 2000 hasn’t been as good, with the exception of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006), although a friend of mine described that as sounding like a greatest hits album of the their 1990s work.

Album of the Week: Special by Lizzo


By https://open.spotify.com/album/1NgFBv1PxMG1zhFDW1OrRr, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71313872

Album: Special
Artist: Lizzo
Release Date: July 14, 2022
Label: Nice Life Recording Company
Favorite Tracks:

  • About Damn Time
  • Grrrls
  • 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)
  • Naked
  • If You Love Me

Thoughts: Lizzo returns with her follow-up to the instant classic Cuz I Love You.  As the first single from the album (which has already become the Song of Summer) says, it’s “About Damn Time.”  I have to confess that I don’t like the songs as much as on the predecessor but it’s Lizzo, so it’s still irresistible.  She’s definitely feeling knowledge for the time of her infancy and before with the songs incorporating disco and 80s synth-dance sounds.  Makes me wonder what a Lizzo cover of “Let the Music Play” would sound like. Lizzo’s tireless positivity fills this album with joy and it can get a bit cheezy at times.  But it’s also a political at a time when the personal is deeply political.  Lizzo is also finding new ways of sharing her deepest self and discovering she loves what she’s found.

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week 2022

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March

April

May

July