Monday, August 22, 2016

The Best "Not Really Records" Of All Time



Having exhausted any possibility of new and interesting commentary on classic records like "Pet Sounds," "Blonde On Blonde" and "The White Album," I thought I'd offer this.

The Beach Boys' 1969 release, "20/20" would have been the perfect follow-up to the beloved "Pet Sounds." Even though it is a Frankenstein creation of singles and leftovers, it feels a hell of a lot more cohesive than "Smiley Smile" or "Wild Honey," has fewer weak spots than either of those records, and even has a few songs stronger than some of the weaker tracks on "Pet Sounds." For me, "20/20" is all about how it plays and at the risk of opening up that can of worms again, it plays with fewer speed bumps than "Pet Sounds," that is of course, if like me, you think tracks like "That's Not Me," "Pet Sounds" and "Sloop John B" are indeed, speed bumps.

Another record that comes to mind is The Who's "Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy." This is a collection of singles, yet it is so absolutely perfect, it plays better than the majority of The Who's catalogue. You might be thinking, "Well, don't all Greatest Hits" records play perfectly? It's all hits!" The answer is NO.  Two artists that immediately come to mind are Elton John and Cheap Trick, artists I love, with hits I do not. E.J.'s Greatest Hits might still be on the charts after 40 years, but you still have to suffer through "Daniel" "Honky Cat" and "Crocodile Rock." As for Cheap Trick, I think their hits set came in the CD age, so they may need to be disqualified, but still, "The Flame" anyone? "Can't Stop Falling Into Love?"


I am a stickler for sequencing. I think anyone who has ever made a mixtape feels the same way. While "20/20" has never been considered anything but the 20th Beach Boys record, it doesn't change the fact that the band did not go into the studio with the intention of creating it. Yet, it plays like they did. It plays really well. And with The Who's "Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy," having tracks like "I Can't Explain," "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," "Substitute," and "Pictures Of Lily" all in one place, (as opposed to filler like "Cobwebs & Strange,""Whiskey Man" and "The Ox," mucking up the playback of their first two records), makes that record as good as "Who's Next."

(As you may have read on these pages, I think "The Who Sell Out" is their best record and one of my top three records of all time. I am well aware of the filler of that record. I just don't care.)

So, dear friends, can we come up with other officially released albums that, while not proper releases, stand out as better records?



39 comments:

Dr Wu said...

The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour' album, where side two is a collection of singles, I feel is a very consistent, interesting, and enjoyable listen.

itsok2beright said...

Nirvana 'Incesticide'.

I'll throw in the obligatory 'Odds and Sods'.

Troy said...

Two that come to mind:
1. Elvis Costello - All This Useless Beauty (not sure if this fits your criteria, but IMO it hold together remarkably well)
2. NRBQ - Uncommon Denominators

Sal Nunziato said...

@Troy

I love All This Useless Beauty. Just a solid record, thru and thru. I was never sure though if it was "assembled" or if it was just old and new songs, newly recorded for release. Great pick, either way. Amazing pick if it was "assembled."

Charlie Messing said...

Tom Waits' "Orphans," 3 CDs (and there's an LP edition too) split into three types of tunes, and each of the 3 is better than several of his regular albums ("Real Gone", anyone?). Nick Cave's "B-Sides and Rarities," also a 3 CD set, each as good or better than some of his albums. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has a few (especially the one with "Blind Willie McTell"). Presley's "Sun Sessions" and Little Richard's "Specialty Sessions" and "Cash - the Complete Sun Masters" on Charly. That's enough. Good column! I have to hear that Beach Boys album sometime soon...

Chris Collins said...

I love this topic but can't really come up with a good answer except that I think that R.E.M's "In Time" is a really great "Best of" and makes me appreciate the latter stuff more. I just wish it included tracks from their last (and very good) album "Collapse Into Now".



Anonymous said...

"Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy" is my favorite Who album! For Elvis, even more than "All This Useless Beauty" what about "Taking Liberties"?

I enjoy Oasis's early odds and sods "The Masterplan" as much as any of their proper albums. I think Neil Young's "American Stars and Bars" is a bit of a grab bag, more along the lines of 20/20, and that's a great listen, IMHO.

I'm a big fan of "20/20" too, but Sal, you didn't mention "Friends"! That's probably my own personal fave post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys album.

I agree w/your take on Elton John's hits. "Crocodile Rock" is probably the worst thing he ever recorded, at least on an awfulness-to-how-many-times-in-one-lifetime-you're-likely-to-hear-it ratio. I added three more hearings to my own personal tally while driving through the Midwest last week...

I recently had somewhat related revelation re: The Boxtops. Years ago I bought a CD of their greatest hits. "The Letter" aside, I thought the rest of the record was only okay; didn't really get the reverence for them or Chilton. But recently I started listening to their original albums on spotify. Whole different experience. Those records are great. Even the tracks that sounded meh to me on the greatest hits disc sounded much better in the context of the original LPs. Whole different experience.

Bruce H

Chris Collins said...

OMG! What was I thinking?? The Dylan Bootleg series is a great example! So is the Presley "Sun Sessions"!

and disc 2 of "Tracks" is my most listened to Springsteen "album". "All This Useless Beauty" is a very good one.

I know "Tattoo You" WAS a proper album, but it was almost entirely outtakes. But that doesn't really fit the theme.


Alan said...

Hi Sal. I have two (I hope they fit your parameters): The Violent Femmes have a greatest hits album that is, song after song, definitive proof of what a great band they were -- rockin', defiant, funny. Add It Up should be the national anthem, always sung in tandem with Life During Wartime (but I digress...). The other is Bonnie Raitt's 20th Anniversary something something (I'm not sure I have that right). Angel from Montgomery with John Prine, Don't Advertise Your Man with Sippie Wallace, ... more beauty and heartbreak in any randomly selected couple of songs than many great artists create over the course their full careers. I have to ration how many times I listen to Love Has No Pride, because whether she's a 20-year-old ingenue singing like an angel or her sexy and majestic self croaking through it with Crosby and Nash at the RnRHOF, I start sobbing.

Shriner said...

"So Far" by CNSY? Greatest Hits plus the "Ohio" single? Flows really well...

Anonymous said...

Seconding Chris Collins on Dylan's Bootleg series! As much as I love Love & Theft, Tell-Tale Signs (bootleg vol 8) might be the best listen of Dylan's late-period releases.

Bruce H

Anonymous said...

Sly & The Family Stone - Greatest Hits. I don't know if there's a more perfect record track for track.

And I can't believe nobody mentioned any of the thrown-together Beatles Capitol albums. The Beatles' Second Album and Yesterday & Today, to name just two, hold up alongside any of their "real" albums IMO.

Pete

ken49 said...

The Rolling Stones' High Tides and Green Grass stands as a great Stones album from harder songs like Get Off My Cloud to even their ballads. Through the Past Darkly isn't far behind.

mauijim said...

Great topic Sal ! my choice is the Kinks GH on Reprise. like MBB&B not a loser on both sides. When we could create playlists on itunes, this was one of the first for me, adding on til we hit the 80 minute mark to burn the cd. Sides 1 and 2 of the Kink Kronikles is also near perfect. Dont know about you guys but there werent any Kink lps around growing up but they got played on the am radio.

Sal Nunziato said...

The Beatles' Second Album!!

Yes! Only just bought an original MONO of this, simply because I needed to hear these songs in this order. This is The Beatles rock record!

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm with you on both "20/20" and "Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy" which I only recently learned were nicknames.

The Kink Kronikles is better than any greatest hits.

The US release of "The Clash".

"The Beatles Yesterday And Today"

Dr Wu said...

Absolutely the US release of The Clash's first album!

Dr Wu said...

Not sure this is the audience for this, but what the heck! I humbly submit Morrissey's 'Bona Drag' and Depeche Mode's 'Catching Up with Depeche Mode' as excellent examples.

Mr. Baez said...

The Beatles "Again/Hey Jude" album is a great one.

Anonymous said...

May or may not fit in... But Concerts for the People of Kampuchea flowed so well. I miss my copy of that. Also, Hooligans by the Who.

Andy

Charlie Messing said...

I agree with a lot of these above choices! Kinks, Violent Femmes - "Taking Liberties". There are probably 100 of them. CCR's "Chronicle" maybe? Nice topic, Sal!

Anonymous said...

I remember my surprise that Columbia would backload a bunch of singles on Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends," but as great as the first side is, I look forward to that side just as much.

Everything But the Girl's first s/t US release was a chopped up version of their UK album "Eden," shuffling the tracks and substituting ep only songs and b-sides. Purists call "Eden" superior but the US version is my favorite of all their albums. And that's after they've repackaged their "hits" at least four different ways.

The Godfathers' "Hit By Hit" (collecting their first three 12-inchers) is probably stronger than the rest of their albums.

Ken D said...

Marshall Crenshaw put out two odds-and-ends/unreleased/assorted live versions collections: "The 9 Volt Years" and "My Truck Is My Home." Although not really coherent albums, both excellent.
And if anyone remembers the legendary Tonio K. (hey, thank you Mr Simels!), I'm pretty sure that the outstanding "Olé" and "Yugoslavia!" collections were released long after Mr K had called it a career.

Charlie Messing said...

Crenshaw is great (Tonio K, I didn't "get") but I do like his early albums, do love "My Truck" also. A Really tough call would be Jerry Lee Lewis - he has 50 albums and 100 compilations! Could anyone possibly have listened to all those compilations and be in a position to judge??? Pretty doubtful.
[Plastic Box by Public Image is better than any of their single albums (it's 4 disks, for one thing) BUT it's compressed to death so it's Not better than the albums.] Over and out.

Bombshelter Slim said...

I'm thinking that "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits" from 67 was pretty good, and even better to my way of thinking was "BD's Greatest Hits Vol.II" from 71. Of course, neither of these measured up to "Self Portrait" (I'm only partially joking here). As for the Stones, Hot Rocks and (slightly less successful) Hot Rocks II are right up there with High Tides & Thru the Past...

Brian Campbell said...

Hoy-Hoy! by Little Feat released after the death of Lowell George is a great collection of demos, alternate tracks, live cuts and previously unreleased songs.

David Witherington said...

Elvis Costello's "Taking Liberties" - as Rolling stone said in its 1980 review, "B-Sides, A-Material"! I considered it an album and still hear that perfect sequencing in my head for all of those tracks. Despite the diversity of sounds found in these 20 leftovers from his first four masterpieces (from the straight country of "Stranger in the House" to his crooning debut with "My Funny Valentine" to the brilliant rocker "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" - criminally left off the U.S version of THIS YEAR'S MODEL), it hangs together perfectly as an album. Even after the CD Bonus Track Age put these B-sides and rarities with their corresponding albums, I still prefer to hear them on "Taking Liberties." Kudos to you for a fun and challenging thread for record collectors! A lot of great records mentioned. :)

Bill said...

"Out of Our Idiot", the sequel to "Taking Liberties", is a pretty solid collection too. Maybe not as iconic as "the fifth album" but some really great songs there.

I'd second Kinks Kronikles and Bob Dylan Greatest Hits Vol 2.

Charlie Messing said...

I too like "Out of our Idiot." In the UK I believe it was named "Ten Bloody Marys and Ten How's Your Fathers".
Anyone else here know "Our Aim is True," the promo-only LP issued around the time of My Aim is True, featuring demos of Elvis with the Rumour?
Charlie

Sal Nunziato said...

"Ten Bloody Maries" was the U.K. "Taking Liberties." "Out Of Our Idiot" was U.K. only.

Lesley said...

Seconding Buzz Baby Jesus on The Kink Kronikles, which I still listen to to this day. Incredible collection.

Not sure if this qualifies, but the Capitol collection of Sinatra, where Disc 1 starts with "I've Got the World on a String" and has greatness after greatness (with a few I like less, granted), is a decades-long favorite.

Sorry I'm so lame on these titles, but there's an Ella sampler that begins with "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," that I have listened to over and over and over for the past 20 years.

A guy called Tak said...

The Byrds' Greatest Hits anyone? Even reissue 1999.
This is all you need from them (unless you like GP, Sweetheart is an essential).

Charlie Messing said...

Oopsie. Well, I never saw it - thanks for the clarification, Sal. And I guess you haven't seen Our Aim Is True?
C

Dr Wu said...

What about Dwight Yoakam's import only collection 'La Croix d'Amour'? With its concentration on the first three albums, plus numerous rarities (at the time), I feel it's an extremely entertaining way to spend an hour. Also, was thinking that Neu!'s second album, 'Neu!2', might also fit the bill as the band ran out of money before completing the album and was forced to 'manipulate' a previously released single as the album's entire second side. Definitive 'assembled'? Lol! Really enjoying this topic and everyone's input. Thanks again, Sal!

1001Songs said...

The Move's US only compilitaion Split Ends combines the best tracks from Message From the Country with singles like the opener "Do Ya", "Chinatown" and "Tonight".

Anonymous said...

I always loved the flow of R.E.M.'s B-sides comp "Dead Letter Office." It's a lot goofier than their real albums, but in some ways that's a good thing.

Pete

A walk in the woods said...

Really, all of Dylan's studio-oriented Bootleg Series Box Sets meet this criteria very, very well. Amazing collections of what he booted out the door.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Exile On Main St" and "Who's Next" are both kinda that but for very different reasons.

Jonathan F. King said...

What's wrong with "Cobwebs and Strange"? I love that track.