Monday, February 20, 2017

The Other 100: 1-5

My friend Michael sent me a text.

"I want to see your list of best albums of all time that no one includes."

After a solid 20 text volley, we decided that the best approach was not for me to find 100 records that don't appear on the usual "100 Best Albums Of All Time" lists in Rolling Stone twice a year, or any of the other music rags. That list could end up being an unlistenable collection of oddball selections and ultra-hip choices that quite frankly, wouldn't be any fun at all.

One can assume that most have "Revolver," "Blonde On Blonde," "What's Going On?," etc., in our Top 100. But if fate would actually place us on a desert island with electrical power and a stereo, and a climate controlled storage area to keep these vinyl gems safe, what 100 records, in addition to that first 100, would absolutely need to be there?

I chose my 100 based on one thing. Heavy rotation. I won't claim any of these records are better than the usual Top 100, though some might very well be. For my purposes, these records are just as important, and in many cases, they get played as often, if not more, than anything else in my collection.

I will be sharing them in random groups of 5. I have gushed about many of these before, so forgive me if at some point I am repeating myself.

Again, these are being posted in random groups of 5, which means "Rough mix" is NOT #1 and The Darkness is NOT #5.

Next post will be titled, "The Other 100: 6-10."

1. Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane- Rough Mix

This record barely got made. If I remember correctly, it started out as a Ronnie Lane project and Pete Townshend was asked to help out, along with Eric Clapton. What it finally became, is a near-perfect collaboration of two friends, mixing up Lane's sweet country folk and Pete's legendary power chords and orchestrations.  The results are mostly gorgeous.

2. Willie Nelson- Teatro

I am not a fan of Daniel Lanois, but I think he created something truly magical and unique with Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris, who shares vocals with Nelson on many tracks, much like she did on Dylan's "Desire." I couldn't believe my ears when I first heard this record and played it to the point of almost never wanting to hear it again. Time passed, and the love affair has picked up nicely, with no regrets.

3. Black Sabbath- Heaven & Hell

The last two Black Sabbath records with Ozzy Osbourne were a far cry from their first groundbreaking three. The very last, "Never Say Die," is considered to be a mess, and I believe the band, especially Ozzy, had just about disowned it. Truth be told, I really love it, but that's not why I am here. The first with new singer, Ronnie James Dio, sounds nothing at all like the dark, evil riffing of the band before it. Instead, it is a true reinvention,  and "Heaven & Hell" remains one of the very best hard rock albums of all time. This is another I played to death when it was first released. My band at the time covered "Neon Knights." And today, it has not lost its sheen. (The album, not my band.)

4. Marshall Crenshaw- Life's Too Short

Many will claim Marshall Crenshaw did not live up to the potential of his critically-acclaimed debut. The sophomore slump had less to do with the material and more to do with Steve Lillywhite's bombastic production. By records three and four, the casual fan had moved on. But, in 1991, Marshall reappeared on a new label and gave us "Life's Too Short." I have no qualms about calling this record better than his debut. The songs are ten years more mature than those two minute pop gems of the debut, the sound has expanded, and though one could argue the production could have been toned down a touch, I don't think it is nearly as bad as "Field Day." This really is my fave MC record.

5. The Darkness- Hot Cakes

During the 70's, I listened to Queen, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Mott The Hoople and T.Rex almost exclusively. The Darkness magically takes the best of all those bands and serves up one hit after another on "Hot Cakes." It may sound like hyperbole, but every song on this record has a riff or chorus to die for. As a matter of fact, I'm going to listen to it now. One of the most played records in my collection since its release.


itsok2beright said...

Great topic, though, I don't read enough of BB Top 100 to be sure these aren't on there. I'll just assume that if they don't hit the radio playlists, there probably not on the top 100.

My first five, scrolling through my library alphabetically:

Al Dimeola, Elegant Gypsy (Definitely a must have when you want to hear nothing but Race With The Devil)
Angel, Helluva Band (At their best with so many great tunes on this one)
April Wine, Nature of the Beast (Not a week goes by that I don't want to hear, Sign of the Gypsy Queen)
Be Bop Deluxe, Axe Victim (Though, this might be a perennial top 100 already)
Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell (Sorry to copy you, but for an album that has been so slandered for not having Ozzy, it remains one of their best overall. And, Tony's lead on Lonely is the Word can't be missed)

Alan said...

Hi Sal. I love this idea. My friend Jonathan also has music blog (My Life in Analog) and he does a "best Rolling Stones album not called Exile on Main Street" listener call/write-in." I humbly submit these two of my desert island picks: Rancid's Out Come the Wolves, and the English Beat's Just Can't Stop It. (Would either of these make the "official" best 100 list? Who's to say?) Here's to the louder and faster side of things.

Beyes said...

Great topic! How about a "Weekend Mix" or "Songs of the Week" series where you roll out a choice cut from each album in groups of 10? Just a thought.

richeye said...

I could not agree more about Marshall Crenshaw. The songs on that album are exactly as you say... a decade more mature. But to be fair, it's not like he was putting out crap in between. Albums Like 1985's Downtown are chock full of powerful songs, like The Distance Between Us and Little Wild One. Another great list, as always, Sal.

mauijim said...

I could not agree more about Willie, Daniel and Emmylou on Teatro. Am not so tough on Lanois as you are. I enjoyed his production on Neil's Le Noise. And of course Wrecking Ball. Wish the three would work together again.

Charlie Messing said...

Wonderful (as usual) and I certainly agree on the theory and basis - and on the ones I know (some I don't). My so long. My top 100 would have Little Richard's first, Bo Diddley's first, Howling Wolf's first, Procul Harum's first, Talking Heads' first, Tom Waits' Frank's Wild Years, Devo's Freedom of Choice, Big Star's #1 Record, and so many go, Sal!

Michael Giltz said...

I asked for it...and now I've got a long list of albums to revisit or check out for the first time. Huzzah! I am most intrigued by Teatro since I certainly heard it but it made no particular impression on me in those days of a new Willie Nelson album every nine months, often in a new genre just for kicks. Yes, I blame Willie, not me!

Great collection and let me echo those who believe tracks from your first 15 would make a great weekend mix.

Bill said...

Boy, only list that starts with Rough Mix is the right mix. That, along with Warren Zevon's first (legitimate) album, is probably my most played album. Really opened my eyes to the greatness of Pete Townshend as a songwriter and to Ronnie Lane altogether. Can't say enough good things about it.

daudder said...

great choice for #1. would add a personal fav - "Pussy cats', by Nilsson produced by John lennon.

Anonymous said...

Pete Townshend - Who Came First (Genius.)
The Morells - Shake and Push (R.I.P. Lloyd Hicks who we lost yesterday.)
R.E.O. Speedwagon - T.W.O. (I hate this band but I've always loved this... go figure.)
Jay Ferguson - All Alone In The Endzone (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, yeah!!)
Montrose - Montrose (Reminds me of The Who Live at Leeds original six-track in that it just rips it up from start to finish.)

Extra: Mountain - Climbing!


Sal Nunziato said...

At this point, let me say again, these posts will be in random groups of 5. As much as I adore The Darkness and Rough Mix, they would not fall at #'s 5 and 1 respectively. The next post will be titled, "The Other 100: 6-10."

For those sharing their list, I hope you continue to with 5 more on the next post.

Anonymous said...

First off, while I doubtlessly have many of the "Top 100 Records of all Time" as determined by RS or other abattoirs (sic) of good taste, I wouldn't necessarily put many of them in my Top 100; but, since I've never tried to compile a Top 100, I couldn't begin to compile an alternate Top 100. But I will enjoy seeing how this unfolds, as it will lead me to check out stuff (or recheck stuff that never grabbed me before, like The Darkness).
I have to make a couple comments: I REALLY REALLY don't get the hate for "Field Day's" production. I've had 5 MC albums in the past, but eventually culled "9 Volt Years", "Downtown" & "Mary Jean" (save for a few tracks); I like the debut, but absolutely love "Field Day", not just for the big pop, but the big pop production. But I've seen that same thing derided heartily on this blog, so it clearly did not work for others. T'each his own, I reckon! To Randy Anonymous: Very bummed to hear about Bobby Lloyd Hicks' death. I loved the Morells, too, and the Skeletons' "In The Flesh" is not only in my Top 100, it's in my Top 20. And while I am by no means a fan of REO, this icy midnight cover of one of their sappiest ballads is in my Top 20 favorite covers list ( And Charlie Messing may be onto something there: a list of favorite debut albums.
C in California

Sal Nunziato said...

Let's try looking at "Field Day" like this. It'd be like following Trout Almondine with a stuffed pig. I think for many, myself included, it was a bit more than we expected. I don't think the record itself has ever been put down. Certainly not the material. And certainly not the singles. "Whenever Youre On My Mind" is a damn pop standard. But it is a fact that there were dance remixes of all three singles. That says something about how the record was produced and sold.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Pretty rock-centric listings so far... how about: Cecil Taylor - Spring of 2 Blue J's, Idjah Hadidjah - Tonggeret, King Sunny Ade - Aura, Henry Threadgill - Too Much Sugar For A Dime, Kasey Chambers - Barricades & Brickwalls... the problem with the whole concept of "Desert Island Discs" is that most music lovers can't whittle down their collections to "essential" selections... it's ALL essential, especially in today's multi-terabyte hard-drive world!

Sal Nunziato said...

Pretty rock-centric listings so far...

Tough crowd! It was the first five of 100.

Shriner said...

My difficulty would be thinking of albums that wouldn't be on *somebody's* "Top 100" list. But going with "these records are just as important, and in many cases, they get played as often, if not more, than anything else in my collection"...

Off the top of my head in about 30 seconds of thought without looking through my iTunes library or my CD rack...:

1 -- The Knack -- Round Trip ("Get The Knack" would be in my Top 100, nay my TOP FIVE OF ALL TIME, but it's in the Top 20 of Borack's Power Pop book, IIRC, so I left it off and would bring their third album along with me in addition...)
2 -- Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
3 -- The Roches debut (Maggie's death made me dig this out and realized how exceptional it is, so it's probably on somebody's "best folk albums or some such list...)
4 -- XTC's Big Express (some people consider this 3rd Tier XTC, I consider it top tier)
5 -- Paul Stanley's solo KISS album (I fully expect to see this on your list of 100 at some point, Sal...)

I will *easily* -- easily -- be able to come up with at least 20 more off the top of my head for your next postings (and some more current albums, and somewhat less rock-centric too...) that are somewhat off the beaten track.

And, FWIW, "Field Day" is my go-to Crenshaw album. Better songs than the debut, IMO. Production be damned!

Ken D said...

I'll save my go-to's for another day. Just going to say that I love this idea—except for the fact that I will get too distracted (and poorer) tracking down album gems I overlooked all these years. Damn you...

Anonymous said...

My first five:
Jonathan Richman - Jonathan Sings
Loudon Wainwright III - Therapy
John Hiatt - Bring The Family
Steve Forbert - Alive On Arrival
Peter Case - Blue Guitar

Geoff Hoover said...

WELL I may have to go buy that Darkness album!!!

FYI ROUGH MIX: I believe what actually happened was that Ronnie asked Pete for some cash or a loan and Pete said lets make a record together and it can be an earner. Which it was. I also believe, if memory serves, that Pete would pay the accouting fees so that Ronnie could collect royalties off it in Ronnies later years when the MS had set in.

Dave said...

Another "Field Day" lover. And thank you, C in California, for the shout-out to the memory of the national treasure, Bobby Lloyd Hicks. My five that won't make RS's list, for sure:

Abandoned Luncheonette -- Hall & Oates
Don't Back Down -- The Queers
Make Way for Dionne Warwick
Friends -- Beach Boys
Jonathan Sings -- Jonathan Richman

Dave F.

Chris Collins said...

GREAT topic!! And I second both "Teatro" and "Heaven And Hell"

If I were to pick a late period (mid period? I dunno) Willie Nelson album I'd go with "Across the Borderline", which was a year or two before "Teatro". But i listened to it more than I can say.

My list:

1- Genesis- "Duke". Their masterpiece, to my mind.
2- Living Colour- "Time's Up". I love this record to death. Still do.
3. The Commitments- Soundtrack- yes, Staple of every Irish bar in NYC in the 90s. White men covering black soul classics. A SOUNDTRACK by a manufactured band. Should not work at all. But it does. I love Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and all the rest with all my heart. But the feeling I get is that these musicians loved them as much as I do. And had the irish balls to pull it off.
4. Alro Guthrie and Pete Seeger- "Precious Friend". A live album that has all the humor and joy that Arlo brings to a show, and Pete there for the great sing-alongs.
5. Mandy Moore- "Coverage". This is my biggest stretch. I know. I know I know. But Mandy was a teen-pop sensation at the time and released an album of XTC, Joan Armatrading and Waterboys covers. What??? And her versions are good!

Eric said...


guitar4799 said...

Long time reader, first time writer.
Thank you so much for putting together this list. I've always been more of a singles, playlists, put 10,000 tracks on shuffle kind of listener, but listening to the first 3 albums has been a lot of fun for me and I will continue listening to these albums one at a time. The Willie Nelson album was amazing. As a person who is constantly on the lookout for great tunes, I thank you for introducing me to this. These songs will be thrown on many future playlists and will be played by me for years to come.

Unknown said...

I believe Willie's "Teatro" was his last great album, and I'm glad to see you agree. I used to manage a Radio Shack in a small Georgia town, and I made a habit of loading up the multi-cd player on display with my personal collection, and letting it play all day. When I plugged this Willie record in, I almost always had customers ask me what was playing, as they loved it. AS far as Lanois goes, I think he did wonders for Willie(although Nelson was coming off "Across The Borderline" and "Spirit", two of the strongest recordings of his career), and Dylan, with "Time Out Of Mind", but his heavy hand doesn't always work. Personally, I think he could have just given Willie a bag of weed and EmmyLou, and it would have turned out okay.