Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 350-341


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: Stevie Wonder
AlbumMusic of My Mind
Year: 1972
Label: Motown/Tamla
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:

  • “Love Having You Around”
  • “Happier Than the Morning Sun”
  • “Keep on Running”
  • “Evil”

Thoughts: It’s kind of unfair having a greatest albums list if Stevie Wonder is allowed to participate.  And Music of My Mind was only the prelude to Wonder’s mid-70s musical dominance. It’s a testament to Wonder’s talent that this album, as great as it is, has basically become one big deep cut in his catalog.

For more thoughts on this album check out my Stevie Wonder music discovery post.



Artist
: MC5
Album: Kick Out the Jams
Year: 1969
Label: Elektra
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:

  • “Kick Out the Jams”
  • “Motor City Is Burning”
  • “I Want You Right Now”

Thoughts: I’ve heard of MC5 as being a protopunk act.  This live set  recorded from Detroit’s Grand Ballroom at the end of October 1968 does sound like it’s from a decade in the future.  But it also sounds firmly within the countercultural and leftist political culture of the time.  Either way, it sounds like it rocks really hard.


Artist: Gillian Welch
Album: Time (The Revelator)
Year: 2001
Label: Acony
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:

  • “Dear Someone”
  • “Red Clay Halo”
  • “Ruination Day, Pt. 2”
  • “Everything Is Free”

Thoughts: It’s nice to see this list recognized contemporary folk/roots/Americana music.  I’d never listened to this album before, oddly enough, despite the fact that it was released right in the middle of my Folk Music Period of roughly 1998-2003. Listening to the sad and lonesome harmonies today, I have regrets.


Artist: GZA
Album: Liquid Swords
Year: 1995
Label: Geffen
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Only by reputation
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Liquid Swords”
  • “Cold World”
  • “I Gotcha Back”

Thoughts: I somehow missed the entire Wu-Tang Clan phenomenon, which is perhaps not surprising considering my general ignorance of hip hop from Nineties and Oughts.  Liquid Swords is particularly discussed about in reverent tones, so it’s about time I gave it a listen. Consider me initiated.


Artist: Arctic Monkeys
AlbumAM
Year: 2013
Label: Domino
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Vaguely
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Do I Wanna Know?”

Thoughts: I’m starting to feel like this project is just a series of confessions of me being too lazy to listen to different artists. I remember seeing Arctic Monkey performing “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. I thought that they sounded good but never followed up on listening to more of their music. This album came out a year later. AM is a nice mix of 70s classic rock sounds with 2010’s indie pop. It’s a perfectly cromulent album and I probably should’ve listened to it earlier.


Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
Year: 1973
Label: Columbia
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 E Street Shuffle”
  • “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”
  • “Incident on 57th Street”
  • “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”

Thoughts: Bruce Springsteen and I were born in the same town although I moved away as an infant so didn’t experience a full New Jersey childhood.  I’ve always appreciated Springsteen’s anthems for the common person, but I’m more of a “greatest hits” type of listener and haven’t listened to the vast majority of his albums. This is the first of five Springsteen albums on the list so I will be getting to experience the deep cuts. This album is funkier and jazzier than I’d ever expected of Springsteen. It’s epic and fun!


Artist:  Toots and the Maytals
Album: Funky Kingston
Year: 1973
Label: Island
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Ye
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Funky Kingston”
  • “Pomps & Pride”
  • “Country Road”
  • “Pressure Drop”

Thoughts: I love when this list does things like puts two completely different albums from the same year back-to-back. Toots and the Maytals were reggae pioneers and this American release of this album helped make Jamaica’s music famous worldwide.  The songs are a mix of original reggae tunes focused on the trials and joys of ordinary Americans mixed with covers of American songs like “Louie Louie” and “Country Roads.”


Artist: Sly and the Family Stone
Album: Greatest Hits
Year: 1970
Label: Epic
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:

  • “I Want to Take You Higher”
  • “Dance to the Music”
  • “Everyday People”
  • “Hot Fun in the Summertime”
  • “Sing a Simple Song”
  • “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

Thoughts: I continue to the object to the inclusion of greatest hits compilations on a greatest albums list, but I’ll make an exception for this one.  First, there are two other Sly & the Family Stone albums coming up on this list.  Second, there are only four songs that overlap with one of those albums and zero with the other.  And finally, Greatest Hits includes three tracks not available on other albums.  Thus, it makes a good primer for Sly and the Family Stone’s music, and also serves as my imaginary Sly and the Family Stone Broadway jukebox musical that really needs to exist.


Artist: The Beatles
AlbumLet It Be
Year: 1970
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?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Two of Us”
  • “Across the Universe”
  • “One After 909”
  • “For You Blue”
  • “Get Back”

Thoughts: This album shouldn’t be as good as it is.  By January 1969, The Beatles had spent a decade of constant togetherness: gigging, touring, recording two albums worth of material per year, making films, and even going on a transcendental meditation retreat together.  They should’ve made a new year’s resolution to take a year off and go to therapy or something. Instead the started an ambitious project to “get back” to their roots, record an album, and rehearse for a concert performance all while a camera crew documented their every move.  A month later the project was abandoned among acrimonious infighting.  Then The  Beatles got together three weeks later to start creating an entirely different brilliant album.  Let It Be was released shortly after The Beatles broke up in 1970 as a quasi-movie soundtrack/live album although with Phil Spector’s production it is not really either of those things.  And despite all of that it’s a solid and unique Beatles album with some of my favorite of the band’s songs.


Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Album: Siamese Dream
Year: 1993
Label: Virgin
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?: Just the hits
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Cherub Rock”
  • “Today”
  • “Disarm”

Thoughts: In the early 90s, there were a lot of innovative alternative rock bands who changed the face of music.  The Smashing Pumpkins were not one of them. I don’t say this as an insult, but to emphasize that The Smashing Pumpkins were craftsmen who used took the new alt-rock sounds (and a healthy dose of 70s bombast) to churn out songs that rocked.  I never felt strongly either way about the Pumpkins but was pleasantly surprised that their tunes held up so well over 30 years.


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
  • 380, Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378, Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375, Green Day, Dookie
  • 374, Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373, Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371, The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369, Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368, George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365, Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364, Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363, Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360, Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358, Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357, Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356, Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354, X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351, Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350, Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349, MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348, Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347, GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346, Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345, Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344, Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343, Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342, The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341, The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 7


I’ve let my podcasts pile up this week because I’ve been listening to audiobooks instead, but the one podcast I’ve singled out here for recognition is an absolutely fabulous podcast about a certified genius.

Hit Parade :: The Everybody Say YEAH! Edition

Hit Parade traces Stevie Wonder’s career from his first #1 single – ““Fingertips, Part 2” in 1963 – and his emergence as a song writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and recording artist into his imperial period of the 1970s.  Chris Molanphy’s description of “Little” Stevie Wonder improvising on the live performance recording of “Fingerpits” as a 12-year old doing everything he can to stay up later past bedtime, is absolutely perfect.

Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Music Discoveries: Stevie Wonder, 1970-1982


When I was a kid, on an occasion when my mother took me shopping at Bradlee’s, I wandered into the electronics department and heard a stereo system blasting “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. A young, slender African American man (I remember thinking he resembled Raj from “What’s Happening”) was dancing in front of the stereo, clapping his hands and shouting out “yeah” at intervals. And really what greater testament to the music of Stevie Wonder than to say it is the type of music that will make you dance, clap, and shout in Bradlee’s.

For this Music Discovery, I did not listen to every recording Stevie Wonder ever made, but focused on a dozen years or so during which he had his greatest artistic output and critical success. To warm up for this, I first listened to Wonder’s hit songs from the 1960s.

1 Fingertips Pts. 1 & 2
2 Hey Harmonica Man
3 Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
4 A Place In The Sun
5 I Was Made To Love Her
6 I’m Wondering
7 Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day
8 Alfie
9 For Once In My Life
10 I Don’t Know Why
11 Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday
12 My Cherie Amour

Of these songs, “Fingertips” never fails to wow me with its combination of raw talent and exuberance in performance. “My Cherie Amour” is kind of cheezy ballad but its always been a sentimental favorite of mine.

And now on to the 1970s.

AlbumSigned, Sealed & Delivered
Release Date: August 1970
Favorite Tracks: “Signed, Sealed & Delivered,” “Heaven Help Us All”,  & “Never Had a Dream Come True”
Thoughts: 20-year-old Stevie Wonder is beginning to make his own artistic choices and statements musically and lyrically while still in the standard Motown mold.  A consistent album with “Heaven Help Us All” offering gospel styles and socially conscious lyrics as the stand out track.
Rating: ***


AlbumWhere I’m Coming From
Release Date: April 1971
Favorite Tracks:”Do Yourself A Favor,” “If You Really Love Me,”  & “I Wanna Talk To You”
Thoughts: Wonder’s first fully-independent recording is compared to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On due to the focus on war and social issues but I’m also hearing similarities in musical experimentation to what Funkadelic was doing in the same period.  “Do Yourself A Favor” and “If You Really Love Me” are the standout tracks with “I Wanna Talk To You” and entertainingly weird dialogue between Wonder and a racist white person (also voiced by Wonder).  There’s a lot of inconsistency over the course of the album with ballads getting the “soft rock” treatment, and the finale “Sunshine in Their Eyes” gets an A-for-effort for experimentation but comes out sounding a bit of a mess.
Rating: ***


AlbumMusic of My Mind
Release Date: March 1972
Favorite Tracks: “Love Having You Around,” “Happier than the Morning Sun,” and “Keep On Running”
Thoughts: Alternately funky and silky-smooth soulful, the first of the classic period albums displays Wonder’s versatile vocal abilities and experiments with keyboards.  For such a  notable album I was surprised that I wasn’t familiar with any of these tracks but there’s a remarkable consistency through the album.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumTalking Book
Release Date:  October 1972
Favorite Tracks: “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “Big Brother,” and “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)”
Thoughts: This album has a timeless quality, it sounds like it could’ve been released this year.  It must’ve been revelatory when people first heard it in 1972.  Wonder experiments with numerous keyboards, synthesizers, and drums, continuing as a one-man band on many tracks, but also has numerous guest artists including Jim Gilstrap, Lani Groves, David Sandborn, Deniece Williams, Ray Parker, Jr., and Jeff Beck.  Also, “Superstition” is one of the all-time great songs.  It never fails to amaze me.
Rating: ****


AlbumInnervisions
Release Date: August 1973
Favorite Tracks: “Living for the City,” “Higher Ground,” and “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”
Thoughts: Overall a more jazzy disc with some funk overtones.  Not at as consistent as previous albums with some valleys and peaks, but when the peaks are “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground” they are some mighty fine peaks!  Also, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” is all too relevant for our times.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumFulfillingness’ First Finale
Release Date:  July 1974
Favorite Tracks:  “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away,” “Boogie On Reggae Woman,”  “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” and “They Won’t Go When I Go”
Thoughts: A somber and less-optimistic album, both musically and lyrically, compared with its predecessors.  A strong gospel influence runs through the album alongside funk, soul, and jazz improvisation.
Rating: ****

 

AlbumSongs in the Key of Life
Release Date:  September 1976
Favorite Tracks: “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” “Sir Duke,” “I Wish” and “Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)”
Thoughts: A sprawling album of 21 tracks, many of them over 5 minutes long, that originally was released as a two LPs with a bonus  EP.  It’s reminiscent of the Beatles’ “white album” both in the exploration of musical styles and the thought that maybe this could be trimmed down to a solid single album, but which tracks would you cut?  Nevermind, splendor in the surplus of sound.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumHotter than July
Release Date: September 1980
Favorite Tracks: “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for it” and “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”
Thoughts:  After averaging more than 1 studio album per year from 1962 to 1976, Stevie Wonder took a long break after Songs in the Key of Life (itself a double album).  He recorded a soundtrack Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants” in 1979, and finally returned to a traditional studio album with this recording in 1980.  He shows of his musical versatility with the contemporary country sound of “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” and the reggae homage to Bob Marley of “Master Blaster (Jammin’).”  All in all, a solid album with a mix of funk, disco, and jazz-inspired improvisation.
Rating: ***

To finish things up, I listened to  the compilation album Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I, which includes 16 of the great songs from the 1970s and four new tracks:    “Front Line”, “Ribbon in the Sky”, “That Girl”, and “Do I Do.” Of these “Front Line” is a great funk number telling a still relevant story about a man sent to war, disabled, and returns to the poverty and desperation of his family and neighborhood.  The middle two songs are forgetable ballads, but I do remember “Do I Do” getting a ton of airplay as a kid, albeit lacking the Dizzy Gillespie trumpet solo, and Stevie Wonder’s rap that turns into scatting on the fadeout.  They must’ve played a radio edit, which is a shame.

If you wish to enjoy all the favorite tracks cited above, I’ve put them together in a Tidal playlist. You can’t go to Bradlee’s anymore, but wherever you are you can crank up the music, dance, clap, and shout “yeah!”

 

 

Favorite Songs Of 1976


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1976.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Beat On The Brat – The Ramones

Final Solution – Pere Ubu

Give Up The Funk – Parliament

Legalize It – Peter Tosh

Neat Neat Neat – The Damned

Peace Prayer – St. Louis Jesuits

Roadrunner (Twice) – Modern Lovers

Shake Some Action – Flaming Groovies

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

X Offender – Blondie

And the song of shame for 1976 is More Than a Feeling – Boston

What are your favorite songs from 1976?  Let me know in the comments!

Favorite Songs Of 1973


In celebration of forty years on this planet, I’m going to post my favorite songs from every year since I was born until now. There will be one list per day every day for next 40 days.  And yes, if you’re a long-time reader, I did try this project before but dropped the ball about halfway through.

The basic gist is that I will make a list in alphabetical order of 10 songs that I love from a particular year.  An artist or band may appear only once per year.  Since this is a retrospective exercise and I’ve learned about many songs and artists long after their work was release, I’m also going to list one song that charted that year that I loved at that time that it shames me to admit (although in some cases I may still listen to it as a guilty pleasure).

And so, for my first list, my favorite songs of 1973:

Baby We Got a Date (Rock It Baby) – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – The Spinners

Here I Am (Come and Take Me) – Al Green

I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You – Tom Waits

Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye

Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Over The Hills And Far Away – Led Zeppelin

Prisencolinensinainciusol – Adriano Celentano

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

Two Steps from the Blues – Bobby “Blue” Bland

And the song of shame for 1973 is Piano Man – Billy Joel

What are your favorite songs from 1973?  Let me know in the comments!