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?

Movie Review: The Night James Brown Saved Boston (2008)


Title: The Night James Brown Saved Boston
Release Date: 2008
Director: David Leaf
Summary/Review:

April 5, 1968. Cities across the United States are in turmoil as grief and anger over the murder of Martin Luther King leads too violence and rioting. In Boston, city officials considered canceling a scheduled concert by James Brown, but instead Mayor Kevin White is convinced to allow the show go on as a memorial to Dr. King and broadcast it live on WGBH.  The documentary begins with a good background on Brown, King, and Boston leading into 1968. Then there’s extensive concert footage intercut with interviews with people who were there that night (including Mayor White but sadly not James Brown) as well as commentators like Cornel West and Al Sharpton. The biggest moment of tension is when some concert-goers rush the stage and Brown himself asks the police to stand down and the fans to return to the floor. Other than that, the music is spectacular and reports come in that people in Boston are staying home to watch the live broadcast and then the immediate rebroadcast.  And by the way, the WGBH crew having no idea how to produce a pop concert for television is pretty hilarious, but they end up doing a decent job. The film concludes with the effect on James Brown becoming a more vocal leader of the Black American community in the ensuing years. This an excellent document of a moment in Boston history as well as a fantastic concert film. 

Rating: ****

Favorite Songs Of 1974


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1974.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

1974 is an extremely challenging year.  I have hardly any songs from this year and I’m not really crazy about many of them.  Apparently, I’m not alone.

Autobahn – Kraftwerk

Boogie on Reggae Woman – Stevie Wonder

Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe – Barry White

Cat’s In the Cradle – Harry Chapin

(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night – Tom Waits

No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Nothing from Nothing – Billy Preston

The Payback – James Brown

Syl-O-Gism – Mary Lou Williams

Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Aretha Franklin

And the song of shame for 1974 is “Band on the Run” by Wings

What are your favorite songs from 1974?  Let me know in the comments!