Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 390-381


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: Pixies
Album: Surfer Rosa
Year: 1988
Label: 1988
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: So many times
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Bone Machine”
  • “Broken Face”
  • “Gigantic”
  • “Where is My Mind?”
  • “Cactus”

Thoughts: Pixies weren’t on my radar in 1988, but when I discovered them in the 1990s, I went back to this album and it became one of my all-time favorites (#72 on my 2009 list). I could list every track on the album as a favorite, but “Gigantic” and “Where is My Mind?” are two of the greatest songs ever.


Artist: Mariah Carey
Album: The Emancipation of Mimi
Year: 2005
Label: Island
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: I remember Mariah Carey as ever present in the 1990s and not liking how squeaky her voice got on the high notes. But by the 2000s she was off my radar (except for a hilarious cameo in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), so I didn’t expect to recognize any of these songs. It’s a straightforward R&B/dance pop album with hip hop guest artists and only a little squeakiness. I keep saying this, and I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, that this kind of music is not my thing, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine.


Artist: Aretha Franklin
Album: Young, Gifted and Black
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?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Day Dreaming”
  • “Rock Steady”
  • “Young, Gifted, and Black”
  • “All the King’s Horses”
  • “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
  • “Border Song (Holy Moses)”

Thoughts: Aretha Franklin’s music is such a gift to the world and I should listen to it more. A lot of the songs on this album are covers (Nina Simone, Otis Redding, The Beatles, Elton John) but she redefines them and makes them her own as much as her original works.


Artist: Radiohead
Album: In Rainbows
Year: 2007
Label: XL
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:

  • “All I Need”
  • “Reckoner”
  • “House of Cards”

Thoughts: I remember when this album came out and it was for sale online on a pay-your-own price model. It felt like the wave of the future. It wasn’t. iTunes soon became dominant only to be shoved aside for streaming. I’ve always liked this album but didn’t think it was considered among Radiohead’s great albums so I’m pleasantly surprised. The band has only released two new albums in the intervening 14 years and they’re both ok, but not great, so it turns out that In Rainbows was the last Radiohead album to date worth getting really excited about. We’ll get to discuss Radiohead three more times as we work through the list.


Artist: J Dilla
Album: Donuts
Year: 2006
Label: Stones Throw
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: All of them

Thoughts: If you’ve been reading my RS 500 posts for a while, you’ll probably not be surprised that I am not at all familiar with J Dilla. The album was recorded as Detroit producer J Dilla contended with a blood disease and lupus and was released on his 32nd birthday. Tragically, he died three days later. It’s a hip hop album with no rap, a collection of short and largely instrumental tracks that mix together samples in creative ways. It’s yet another treat of this project to be introduced to this influential album.


Artist: The Ramones
Album: Rocket to Russia
Year: 1977
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?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Cretin Hop”
  • “Rockaway Beach”
  • “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”
  • “We’re a Happy Family”
  • “Teenage Lobotomy”

Thoughts: Some time in the late 80s, probably inspired by reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, I checked the compilation album Ramones Mania out of the library. It was nothing like any music I’d ever liked before, and it redefined my understanding of what punk music actually was, and I loved it. I remember feeling the need to keep the fact that I liked the Ramones secret and the first time I told another kid “I kind of like The Ramones,” and he said “Oh yeah, The Ramones are awesome!” it was such a relief. Anyhow, a lot of the songs from this album were on Ramones Mania, including my all-time favorite Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” It’s a great record of 1977, the peak year for punk rock.


Artist: The Kinks
Album: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
Year: 1969
Label: Reprise
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:

  • “The Village Green Preservation Society”
  • “Picture Book”
  • “Sitting by the Riverside”
  • “All of My Friends Were There”

Thoughts: This is the second of two albums by The Kinks and it is reaffirming that I should spend more time listening to The Kinks in the future. At the same time that rock & roll was embracing the counter-culture and change, The Kinks release a thematic album about the simplicity of old-fashioned English villages. This is not entirely contrary as the counter culture embraced a “back to the land” movement and Paul McCartney would soon move to a farm to create his first solo album. But the music on this album is both of its time, with touches of baroque pop and psychedelia, as well as entirely it’s own thing.


Artist: Massive Attack
Album: Mezzanine
Year: 1998
Label: Circa/Virgin
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:

  • “Angel”
  • “Teardrop”

Thoughts: I had a vague awareness that a 90s band named Massive Attack exists but just assumed that they were another grunge/hard rock band. I was wrong. They are a triphop and electronica band, more Portishead than Bush. I even recognize the song “Teardrop,” which I swear I heard in a movie soundtrack but can’t confirm that. The album starts strong but then peters out into repetitive blandness so I probably won’t be relistening to it anytime soon.


Artist: Tame Impala
Album: Currents
Year: 2015
Label: Interscope
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:

  • “Let It Happen”

Thoughts: Tame Impala (Australian producer Kevin Parker) is one of those artists I’ve heard about for years but never gave that much thought to. The lead track “Let It Happen” is definitely familiar to my ears. I appreciated the dense soundscapes of the songs but overall I find the music of Tame Impala to be fairly dull. Which is probably why I never paid much attention to it.


Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Album: (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)
Year: 1973
Label: MCA
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:

  • “Tuesday’s Gone”
  • “Mississipi Kid”

Thoughts: During my high school years I went through a 2-year classic rock phase where I listened to music from the 1960s and early 1970s exclusively. I dove into everything, including some fairly obscure bands, but I could not abide Southern Rock and would race to change the dial whenever it came on. Obviously, a lot of great rock music comes from the South (where the genre was born) but I specifically didn’t like bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band who announced their macho Southern heritage in their music and used Confederate symbols in their iconography. I am, however, listening to every album on this list with an open mind. I did find myself enjoying the bluesy soul of “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Mississippi Kid,” but the hits “Gimme Three Steps” and “Free Bird” just feel frozen in Klassik Rawk Self-parody, despite my efforts.


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?
  • 430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427, Al Green, Call Me
  • 426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424, Beck, Odelay
  • 423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422, Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421, M.I.A., Arular
  • 417, Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416, The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415, The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414, Chic, Risqué
  • 413, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409, Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408, Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406, Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405, Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403, Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402, Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401, Blondie, Blondie
  • 400, The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398, The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397, Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392, Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390, Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388, Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387, Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386, J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385, Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384, The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

Albums of the Month: July 2016


I’m adding to my stable of music criticism posts by introducing a new Albums of the Month feature.  The basic gist is that on the second Wednesday of the month (or, as is the case when I procrastinate, on Friday), I will write reviews of 3-5 albums released within the past three months (in this case May, June, and July of 2016).  If there’s an album you love that you’d like me to review, post a suggestion below.  Similarly, if there’s an album you hate that you want me to pillory, also let me know.  And if there’s an album you’re timid about listening to and want me to try first, I’m open to anything.

Ratings scale:

***** – An all-time classic album (highly recommended)

**** – Great album (recommended)

*** – Solid album (consider buying or streaming/downloading top tracks)

** – Weak album (only consider streaming/downloading top tracks)

* – Poor album (not recommended)


ARTISTJames Blake
ALBUMThe Colour in Anything
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS:  Blake’s gospel-style voice is paired with electronic sounds or sometimes a piano in this mournful album of love lost and a directionless life. This is a headphone album to hear the textures deep in the sounds in the often spare arrangements.  This is not something to put on when you’re already feeling blue.  Despite the title, this is a colourless, muted recording.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Points,” “Waves Know Shores,” “Always,” and “Meet You in the Maze.”


ARTISTTourist 
ALBUM: U
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: **1/2
COMMENTS: Reminiscent of Passion Pit and Jamie xx, this is electronic music that is danceable but introspective.  The standout tracks are excellent but overall it sounds repetitive and dull.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Run,” “To Have You Back,” and “Foolish.”


ARTISTRadiohead
ALBUMA Moon Shaped Pool
RELEASE DATE: 8 May 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS: Quiet and folky with orchestral flourishes, sometimes reminiscent of  Sigur Ros and early 70’s folk pop, This is not as innovative as I’m accustomed from Radiohead and while a worthy addition to their catalog, it’s not a vital one.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Burn the Witch” and “Desert Island Disk”


ARTISTFlume
ALBUMSkin
RELEASE DATE: 27 May 2016
RATING: **
COMMENTS:A downtempo electronic album feels the strains of anxiety and uncertainty, especially in the high register vocals of the many guest artists.  A few songs stand out, but overall this is kind of a drag.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Never Be Like You (featuring Kai)”, “Wall Fuck,” and “Tiny Cities (featuring Beck)”


ARTISTMoon Hooch
ALBUMRed Sky
RELEASE DATE: 10 June 2016
RATING: ****
COMMENTS: This is the latest collection of saxophone tunes with EDM arrangements. Mostly instrumental, but a few vocal tracks (with less sax because they’re singing – duh).  A great party record.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Sunken Ship,”  “That’s What They Say,” “Something Else,” and “Alien Invasion”


ARTISTBlood Orange
ALBUMFreetown Sound
RELEASE DATE: 18 June 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS: This album bridges 80s r&b rhythms and sounds (a definite Michael Jackson influence) with socially conscious lyrics.  I want to like it more than I do.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS:  “By Ourselves,” “Augustine,” “But You,” and “Hands Up”


Ten Favorite Songs of 2003


The project continues with my favorite songs of 2003.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Ten more years to go!

Cheers to the First Snow –  The Benders

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Coin-Operated Boy – The Dresden Dolls

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Hey Ya! – OutKast

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Juice & June – Kris Delmhorst

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Mix Tape –  Jim’s Big Ego

[This song could be between any two others]

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Plea From a Cat Named Virtute – The Weakerthans

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Quelqu’un m’a dit – Carla Bruni

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Saint Simon – The Shins

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There, There (The Boney King of Nowhere) – Radiohead

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Twisted Niche – Hum Machine

[a clip at Amazon ]

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And my song of shame for 2003: Milkshake –  Kelis

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What are your favorite songs of 2003?  Let me know in the comments!

Ten Favorite Songs of 1997


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1997.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Best Black Dress – The Nields

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Brimful Of Asha – Cornershop

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The Drunken Piper – Natalie MacMaster

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Moby Octopad – Yo La Tengo

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No Surprises – Radiohead

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Peace in the Valley –  Alabama 3

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Reunion Hill –  Richard Shindell

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Tubthumping –  Chumbawamba

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Waste Some Time – Paperboys

[The Internet does not have time to waste on this song. :( ]

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You Will Go to the Moon –  Moxy Fruvous

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And my song of shame for 1997: Doctor Jones – Aqua

You’re probably not talking to me after that one, but if you are let me know of a song you love from 1997.