Favorite Albums of All Time: 60-51


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 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101

60

Artist: Pete Seeger
Title: Singalong
Year:  1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lonesome Valley
  • Amazing Grace
  • Old Time Religion (Filksong)
  • Abiyoyo
  • Cristo Ya Nacio
  • Homestead Strike Song
  • The Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie
  • If I Had A Hammer
  • The Water Is Wide
  • Old Devil Time

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

Thoughts: Pete Seeger wanted to record a demonstration album for song leaders, so naturally he chose to record it in Cambridge, Massachusetts where people join a sing-a-long in full harmony at the drop of a hat.  Recorded at Sanders Theatre (where I’ve also performed) the audience sings like angels, although if I recall correctly, Pete seeded the audience with a prepared choir.  Nevertheless, this is folk music as an experience rather than performance.

Bonus Sounds: Pete Seeger’s “folk music is for everyone” tradition has been kept alive by Bruce Springsteen and his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions recording.


59

Artist: Various
Title:Trainspotting Motion Picture Soundtrack
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop
  • “Deep Blue Day” – Brian Eno
  • “Temptation” – New Order
  • “Perfect Day” – Lou Reed
  • “Mile End” – Pulp
  • “For What You Dream Of” – Bedrock featuring KYO
  • “A Final Hit” – Leftfield
  • “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” – Underworld

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I saw the movie in 1997, but picked up the album when I was visiting Scotland in 1998

Thoughts: Some soundtracks feel as if they emerge whole cloth from the movie they’re associated with, and none more so than Trainspotting. The music perfectly captures the aimless lives of young, working class Scots who attempt to fill their emptiness with heroin and violence. Surprisingly, most of the songs were previously released and yet somehow form a seamless collection of Britpop, techno, and 70s glam/punk

Bonus Sounds: The initial soundtrack was so popular it prompted a second soundtrack with additional songs from the movie, remixes, and some songs that inspired the movie.


58

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Title: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Year:  2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fight Test
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
  • Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell
  • Are You a Hypnotist??
  • Do You Realize??

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I want to say 2005?  I think it was in a Pitchfork list of the best albums of the first five years of the century.

Thoughts: I knew of The Flaming Lips as the “She Don’t Use Jelly” band so this album surprised me with its spacey electronic sounds and ruminative lyrics.  The sort-of concept album about a Japanese girl fighting evil robots has been adapted into a musical.

Bonus Sounds: The Flaming Lips continue to release imaginative new music of varying quality including standouts like The Terror (2013) and American Head (2020).


57

Artist: The New Pornographers
Title: Challengers 
Year: 2007
Favorite Tracks:

  • My Rights Versus Yours
  • Challengers
  • Myriad Harbor
  • Unguided
  • Go Places
  • Mutiny, I Promise You

The First Time I Heard This Album …:Late 2000s, maybe a year or two after release?

Thoughts: This is peak Pornographers, featuring big bold sounds and provocative lyrics.  The title track is one of my all time favorite tunes.

Bonus Sounds: I did an in depth review of The New Pornographers in a Music Discovery in 2016.


56

Artist: Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin
Title: Hush
Year:  1992
Favorite Tracks:

  • Grace
  • Double Mandolin Concerto in G, RV 532: Andante
  • Stars
  • Musette for keyboard in D Major (AMN II/22; doubtful), BWV Anh. 126
  • Coyote
  • Hoedown!
  • Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: Air

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1992

Thoughts: Yo-Yo Ma is a celebrated cellist.  Bobby McFerrin is creative vocalist who is unfairly tagged as a one-hit wonder for “Don’t Worry Be Happy” (a song I nevertheless still love), but made an impressive variety of music with his voice and body.  Together they introduce children to classical music.  I knew a lot of big kids who loved this album too, back when I was in college.

Bonus Sounds: Bobby McFerrin’s Medicine Music (1990) is an excellent example of his solo work.  Yo-Yo Ma has excellent collaborations on Appalachia Waltz (1996) with Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor and The Goat Rodeo Sessions (2011) with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, among many others.


55

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title:Songs in the Key of Life
Year:  1976
Favorite Tracks:

  • Love’s in Need of Love Today
  • Sir Duke
  • I Wish
  • Knock Me Off My Feet
  • Isn’t She Lovely
  • As
  • Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)

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

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.

Bonus Sounds: More Stevie coming up in this list since he is a classic album producing machine!


54

Artist: Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Title:Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Year:  1969
Favorite Tracks:

  • Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
  • Guinnevere
  • You Don’t Have to Cry
  • Pre-Road Downs
  • Long Time Gone
  • 49 Bye-Byes

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

Thoughts: One of the first rock supergroups brought together David Crosby of The Byrds, Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash of The Hollies.  Soon they would be one of the first bands playing arena tours as well. Before the band devolved into in-fighting, substance abuse, and various solo albums and side projects, they created this terrific collection of beautiful harmonies and thoughtful songwriting of the flower power era.

Bonus Sounds: A year later, Neil Young joined the firm and they recorded another excellent album called Déjà Vu.


53

Artist: The Beatles
Title: Rubber Soul
Year: 1965
Favorite Tracks:

  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Nowhere Man
  • Think for Yourself
  • The Word
  • Girl
  • I’m Looking Through You
  • In My Life
  • If I Needed Someone

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

Thoughts: It kind of boggles the mind that in the years 1963-1965, the Beatles averaged two new albums per year plus singles and eps, toured the world, and made two movies. And yet their 6th album, released at the end of 1965, shows no sign of exhaustion and decline. Instead the band were beginning their transition to a studio band with inventive new song stylings and production. One demerit for ending this album with “Run For Your Life,” a hateful stalker song.

Bonus Sounds: I was somehow able to winnow down The Beatles to three albums on this list (one more to come) even though they’re all great in their own ways.  The Beatles’ solo careers are more of a mixed bag.  Check out my Music Discovery on the first decade of the Beatles’ solo work for more of my thoughts on that.


52

Artist: Tom Waits
Title: Franks Wild Years
Year:  1987
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hang on St. Christopher
  • Straight to the Top (Rhumba)
  • Temptation
  • Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)
  • Yesterday Is Here
  • Way Down in the Hole
  • Cold Cold Ground
  • Innocent When You Dream (78)

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

Thoughts: I heard “Innocent When You Dream” on some random compilation I checked out from the library at a youthful age.  Later I got this entire album which sounds like something primal and yet entirely new at the same time.  The songs written by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan support a play of the same name which I’ve never seen.

Bonus Sounds: More Tom Waits to come, but in the meantime check out my Tom Waits Music Discovery.


51

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Title:  Lincoln 
Year:1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Ana Ng
  • Purple Toupee
  • Where Your Eyes Don’t Go
  • Pencil Rain
  • The World’s Address
  • They’ll Need a Crane
  • Shoehorn with Teeth
  • Kiss Me, Son of God

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 1990

Thoughts: They Might Be Giants’ second album was my introduction to the band and I was won over by the catchy hooks and clever lyrics.  Named for John Flansburgh and John Linnell’s hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, the songs at first appear comedic but on reflection contain a profound sadness.

Bonus Sounds: Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns is a documentary about the band and their loyal fanbase that’s worth watching.

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 360-351


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: Funkadelic
AlbumOne Nation Under a Groove
Year: 1978
Label: 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:

  • “One Nation Under a Groove”
  • “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?”
  • “Cholly”

Thoughts: Who says a funk band can’t play rock?  If it’s Funkadelic, Parliament, or anyone in the family of George Clinton bands and artists, who is to say they can’t play any damn style of music they like. From funk to soul to rock to disco to extremely long and juvenile poop jokes, this album has it all!

For more thoughts read my Parliament/Funkadelic Music Discoveries series.


Artist: Big Star
AlbumRadio City
Year: 1974
Label: Ardent
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:

  • “September Gurls”

Thoughts: This is the second album on this list from Big Star, a quintessential critics favorite band. The music here is Beatle-esque filter through a generic 70s Classik Rawk sound.  I don’t know, I’m just not feeling the power in this pop.


Artist: Sonic Youth
Album: Goo
Year: 1990
Label: Geffen
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:

  • “Tunic (Song for Karen)”
  • “Kool Thing”
  • “My Friend Goo”
  • “Disappearer”
  • “Cinderella’s Big Score”

Thoughts: Sonic Youth is a band I always wished I’d paid more attention to, even back in the 90s.  In my defense, albums were expensive and I was impecunious.  This whole RS 500 project would not exist without the magic of streaming putting the world of music at my fingertips. I guess it’s better late than never.


Artist: Tom Waits
Album: Rain Dogs
Year: 1985
Label: Island
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:

  • “Jockey Full of Bourbon”
  • “Hang Down Your Head”
  • “Time”
  • “Downtown Train”

Thoughts: This is the middle of a trilogy of albums that Tom Waits released in the 1980s that so far mark his creative peak as an artist. It’s weird and wonderful music, but somehow accessible enough for Rod Stewart to have a hit covering “Downtown Train.” I wrote more about this album and more in my Tom Waits Music Discovery.


Artist: Dr. John
Album: Gris-Gris
Year: 1968
Label: Atco
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:

  • “Gris Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya”
  • “Danse Kalinda Ba Doom”

Thoughts: You’ve got to imagine how weird this album must have sounded in 1968.  I mean, people were doing a lot of drugs, so a lot of stuff sounded weird in 1968.  But this was a time when different regions in the country were more isolated than they are now and here is Dr. John introducing an amalgamation of New Orleans culture through a psychedelic lens.  It’s still delightfully weird even in 2021.


Artist: Black Sabbath
Album: Black Sabbath
Year: 1970
Label: 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:

  • “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning”

Thoughts: Several years ago, a friend tried to give me a tutorial in Heavy Metal music.  We didn’t get far, but I did listen to the first four albums of Black Sabbath as the cornerstone albums of the genre.  I was surprised that there were several songs by Black Sabbath that I actually liked, although it appears that most of them will be on albums later in this list.  I do like the Zeppelin-esque suite of blues rock that finishes of this album, though.


Artist: X-Ray Spex
Album: Germfree Adolescents
Year: 1978
Label: EMI
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:

    • “Warrior in Woolworths”
    • “Let’s Submerge”
    • “I Can’t Do Anything”
    • “Identity”
    • “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”

Thoughts: I should know more about the iconic London punk rock act X-Ray Spex lead by vocalist Poly Styrene (how many punk/post-punk/alternative vocalists did she influence?), but I’d never before listened to the band’s only album. While the stereotype of punk rock is that it’s angry music, Poly Styrene sounds cheerful in embracing the slacker ethos a decade and a half before that became the defining characteristic of Generation X.


Artist: The Cars
AlbumThe Cars
Year: 1978
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?:
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: I’ve made my feelings about The Cars known before on this blog, so I went into listening to this album with great reluctance.  Nevertheless, I am determined as ever to give every album a fair shake. My hopes of finding a hidden nugget buried deep in this album vanished as I realized that almost every song on this album has been in constant rotation on classic rock radio for the past 4 decades.  One positive is that I didn’t find the songs to be physically irritating anymore, just not my thing.  So that’s a plus!


Artist: Eminem,
Album: The Slim Shady LP
Year: 1999
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?:
Favorite Tracks: NONE
Thoughts: Speaking of albums I don’t want to listen to, there’s this one by a loathsome artist whose music is built on misogyny, homophobia, and saying hateful things. Black hip hop artists were excoriated for much less, but Eminem received nothing but critical plaudits. Entering with low expectations, I found this album worse than I could possibly imagine.  I need a shower now.


Artist: Roxy Music
Album: For Your Pleasure
Year: 1973
Label: Warner Bros.
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:

  • “Do the Strand”

Thoughts: I’ve never given Roxy Music all that much thought.  On classic rock radio they were always represented by the pretty but boring “Avalon.”  This earlier work of there’s is classified as glam rock – and is at times Bowie-esque – but I also hear hints of New Wave.  Perhaps that’s because of Brian Eno and his synths.  I enjoyed listening to it and will check it out again.


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

A Song and a Story: Solve for X #AtoZChallenge


In algebra, the letter x is used to represent a number, so today I’m going to “solve for x” and write a song and a story about tunes with a number in the title.

First up,

1999

When I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I had a weekly appointment with my radio to listen to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.  For a time  in the spring of 1983, in order to get a bit of privacy for my Casey Kasem devotion, I would hang out in the garage.  It wasn’t quite warm enough to hang out outside, but the garage door blocked the winds, and with patio furniture in storage, I had a cozy place to recline. Obviously, the Billboard charts were not the place to find obscure music, but nevertheless I learned of artists that I didn’t hear anywhere else.  Among these were Prince and the Revolution and the breakout album 1999.  The title track was about nuclear apocalypse, but it still reminds me of chilling in my garage watching the sunlight filter through the dust in the air.

Ol’ 55

In 2000, I volunteered at the Falcon Ridge Music Festival in Hillsdale, NY.  One of my shifts was the overnight security shift at the main gate.  It seemed appropriate for me as an insomniac to work overnight, but it was lonely and it was cold.  Fortunately, nearby the main gate an artist named Terry Kitchen was leading an all-night campfire song circle.  When it was clear that absolutely no one was coming through that gate, he invited me over to the circle.  Among the songs they played were some early Tom Waits songs, which at the time I was not aware of.  “This was when his voice still sounded normal,” someone told me.  “Ol’ 55” forever reminds me of that overnight campfire song circle on the night when I wasn’t really needed to defend the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

 

Music Discoveries: Tom Waits


Tom Waits is a veteran singer-songwriter whose voice is a combination of sidewalk preacher, carnival barker, beat poet, and barstool philosopher. I first heard of Waits in the 80s when he was known as the guy with the crazy, gravely voice.  But then I heard the track “Innocent When You Dream” on a compilation album and fell in love with the heartfelt beauty underneath what sounded like a drunk guy crooning at a bar.  I got the album Franks Wild Years and it remains one of my all time favorites, and I’ve checked in and out on Waits’ career over the years.  This is the first time I’ve listened to all of Waits’ catalog from beginning to most current, and let me tell you it’s not easy to listen to all that Waits’ music back-to-back-to-back, although it is a worthwhile exercise.

Tom Waits’ career can be summed up into three basic eras:

  • 1970s – Waits was a little more eccentric than his contemporaries, but listening to his early recordings and he seems to fit in with the singer-songwriters of the era. You might even imagine an alternate universe where his career followed the paths of the likes of James Taylor, Elton John, or Randy Newman.  His trademark gravely voice didn’t even make its debut until the third album, and in the seventies it was more of an homage to Louis Armstrong or Doctor John as Waits recorded jazz and blues tinged tunes.
  • 1980s – This decade marked the emergence of the iconic Waits’ style, verging between lost recordings of American and avant guarde music with unusual instrumentation and tunings.  The decade is marked by the trilogy of albums he’s most remembered for: Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), and Franks Wild Years (1987).
  • 1992 to present – While Waits’ music in this period remains experimental by the standards of contemporary popular music, and inspiration for “alternative music,”  it doesn’t vary much from the template he established in the 1980s.  Similarly, while 1990s and 2000s recordings include numerous gems and good albums overall, Waits is own worst enemy as a producer in that he allows the albums to be bloated with excess tracks that should be judiciously trimmed.  In short, don’t do what I did and listen to everything, but definitely seek out the good stuff.

Tom Waits hasn’t released anything new since 2011 or toured since 2008, but hopefully he has some songs left in him and there will be another Tom Waits era to look back on in the future.

Five Favorite Albums

  • Closing Time (1973) – definitely one of the great all-time debut albums, and the first three tracks are a strong start to any album.
  • Rain Dogs (1985) – Waits’ masterpiece and one of the great albums of the 1980s.
  • Franks Wild Years (1987) – the soundtrack to a play I’ve never seen, it remains a sentimental favorite
  • Bone Machine (1992) – Waits charges into the 1990s showing the alt-rockers how things are done with haunting lyrics and aural soundscape
  • Blood Money (2002) – these are songs from another play, but also reflect the misanthropy and pessimism of the post-Sept. 11th world under George W. Bush

Twenty-Five Favorite Songs

 

1. “Ol’ 55”

2. “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You”

3. “Virginia Avenue”

4. “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)”

5. “Jersey Girl”

6. “16 Shells from A Thirty-Ought-Six”

7. “In the Neighbourhood”

8. “Jockey Full of Bourbon”

9. “Hang Down Your Head”

10. “Downtown Train”

11. “Hang on St. Christopher”

12. “Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)”

13. “Yesterday is Here”

14. “Way Down in the Hole”

15. “Cold Cold Ground”

16. “Jesus Gonna Be Here”

17. “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”

18. “T’ Ain’t No Sin”

19. “Hold On”

20. “House Where Nobody Lives”

21. “Misery is the River of the World”

22. “God’s Away on Business”

23. “Flowers Grave”

24. “Hoist That Rag”

25. “Chicago”

2013 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


With the top ten or so songs listed for every year of my existence, it’s time for the year-end review of my favorite songs of 2013.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 2012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

San Francisco – Foxygen

That’s ok, I was bored anyway

.

.

GMF – John Grant

You could be laughing 65% more of the time

.

.

.Number 9 – Moon Hooch

Please stand away from the platform edge

.

.

A Tattered Line of String – The Postal Service

In the glow of the nights golden hue

.

.

Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) – Shad

Now when you’re Third World born, but First World formed/
Sometimes you feel pride, sometimes you feel torn

.

.

White Foxes – Susanne Sundfør 

For the gravy of your soul

.

.

Indians From All Directions – A Tribe Called Red feat. Das Racist

To the L to the L to the L to the Ella

.

.

Delicate Cycle – The Uncluded

And my heart started with a quarter

.

.

Step – Vampire Weekend

The truth is she doesn’t need me to protect her

.

.

Slyd – !!!

No, that’s weird

.

.

Honorable Mentions:

Song Most Often Played at the Request of My 5 y.o. Son:

Feel this Moment – Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera

.

.

Funniest Viral Song that You Can Dance To:

The Fox – Ylvis

.

.

Best Boston History Lesson Set to Music:

The Great Boston Molasses Flood – The Dead Milkmen

[Listen on The Dead Milkmen website]

.

.

Best Drunken Barroom Sing-a-Long of a Traditional American Folk Song:

Shenandoah – Tom Waits w/ Keith Richards

.

.

Scariest Song You Can Dance To:

The Terror – Flaming Lips

.

.

Best Song That I Was A Part Of Creating With a Video That’s Not Safe For Work:

The Wolf is on the Hill – Beck (arranged by Krissy Skare, performed by a 50 voice chorus, choreography by Sugar Dish)

.

.

Let me know what you think of these songs in the comments, and of course, let me know you’re favorites for 2013

Ten Favorite Songs of 2002


And now the top ten songs of 2002.

Learn more about this project in the first post.

Banjo in the Rain – The Benders

[clip from CD Baby]

.

.

Bob Hope & Charity – The Mekons

[clip from Amazon]

.

.

Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips

.

.

Losing My Edge–  LCD Soundsystem

.

.

Misery is the River of the World –  Tom Waits

.

.

Nuclear War (Version 2) – Yo La Tengo

.

.

NYC – Interpol

.

.
The Old Man Doesn’t Like It – The Operators

[listen here]

.

.

Oliver’s Army – Peter Mulvey

[clip on Amazon]

.

.

Stop Foolin’ Around –  Quicksound feat. Isabelle Rajotte

.

.

And my song of shame for 2002: Whenever, Wherever – Shakira

.

.

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!

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!

Song of the Week: “Shenandoah” by Tom Waits and Keith Richards


Tom Waits and Keith Richards pair up to sing the classic sea shanty “Shenandoah” with predictable results.  They sound like a bunch of  drunk guys in a bar, and it’s awesome.  This is the best pairing of two unique artists on a standard since Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan joined to sing “What a Wonderful World.”