51/52- Elvis Costello- King Of America and Blood & Chocolate
Released within a little over six months of each other, Elvis Costello's 1986 one-two punch, remains to my ears, his finest hours. To go along with these two gems, were five nights on Broadway in October of that year. I attended all five with my friend and roommate, Rich, and each night seemed better than the night before. These two records contain some of Costello's smartest material, with K.O.A., perfectly mixing E.C's love of country music without abandoning the pop and new wave sound his fans needed to hear, and B&C, raging hard with some of the angriest material of his career. That week in October still feels fresh in my memory, with little details of every night, as vivid as yesterday's weather, and I think that has everything to do with the music found on these two records. Inspired, for sure.
53/54- Rolling Stones- Now and Black And Blue
The debate over early versus late Stones records will continue as long as there is dirt. While it seems we all can agree on "Beggars Banquet," "Let It Bleed," "Sticky Fingers," and for the most part, "Exile," there is a great disparity over much of the rest of the catalogue. As for an early favorite, the "Rolling Stones Now" is what I play the most. It's the most consistent, even though it was pieced together from U.K. album tracks and singles. with both the originals and the covers finally convincing me that these boys had something. The covers of Solomon Burke, Alvin Robinson, Otis, and Willie Dixon become all Stones. "Now" also contains two of my all time fave Jagger/Richards tunes, "Heart Of Stone" and "Surprise, Surprise." No cringeworthy moments, as far as I'm concerned. As for "Black And Blue," I believe the story was, it wasn't really supposed to be a record. These were jam sessions used to audition Ronnie Wood for Mick Taylor's job. Harvey Mandel, another contender for Taylor's job, also appears on two tracks. Whatever the intention, this record is a killer. The funky opener "Hot Stuff" really cooks. Both the ballads, "Fool To Cry" and "Memory Motel," and the rockers, "Hand Of Fate" and "Crazy Mama" are absolutely classic Mick and Keith. Not sure why this record gets tossed off.
55/56- Brian Eno- Here Come The Warm Jets and Another Green World
The two dozen songs (or whatever some of these mini-mindblowers might be) that comprise Eno's 1973 and 1975 releases, are nearly impossible to describe. They don't fall into any category or genre. Some of the melodies rival some of the most beautiful. Some of the rhythms will drive you to both dance or put your fist through a wall. Some of the lyrics are basic, while others will make you gasp or howl with laughter, or simply scratch your head and say, "Huh?" This is what Brian Eno does best. With help from Robert Fripp (two of his greatest guitar solos appear on each of these LPs- "Baby's On Fire" on "Warm Jets," and "St. Elmo's Fire," on "Green World,") Phil Collins and members of Roxy Music, Brian Eno has created two of the most unique records of the 70's and both continue to astound me, after almost 40 years of on and off, heavy rotation.
57/58- Syd Barrett- The Madcap Laughs and Barrett
My fascination with Syd Barrett begins with Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn," one of my ten favorite records of all time. Underneath, or maybe within...or possibly on top of...SOMEWHERE amidst the drugs and psychedelic sounds, you will find these one of a kind, and very British, folk and pop tunes. "The Madcap Laughs" and "Barrett," two solo records produced by David Gilmour and Roger Waters & David Gilmour and Richard Wright, respectively, bring those songs to the forefront. These records have layers, and need attention. It's not that they wouldn't work as pop records, they just might, on say, Planet Zogg. But with a real focused listen, you will find beauty, hooks and melodies. These two records are something truly special. Not quite as frenetic as "Piper," but no less genius.
59/60- The Who- The Who Sell Out and The Who By Numbers
It is no secret that "The Who Sell Out" is not only my favorite Who record, but one of my Top Three favorite records of all time, so you can imagine my disappointment while reading Townshend's memoir, finding little to no mention of the record. As a matter of fact, "The Who Sell Out" mostly gets mentioned as a curio, and rarely with reverance, other than by the real diehards. For me, it's a masterpiece. It keeps you on your toes. It contains some of Pete's poppiest work--"Our Love Was," "I Can't Reach You," and "Mary Ann With The Shaky Hands---as well as one of his most beautiful lyrics---"Sunrise." AND, it has "I Can See For Miles," one of the greatest singles of the 60's. The adverts and jingles only add to the excitement. Do I like "The Who By Numbers" more than "Who's Next?" Some days, yes. Yes I do. It's confessional. It's radio-friendly. It's Keith Moon going crazy. It's heartbreaking. And while it may not have hall of fame tracks like "Behind Blue Eyes," "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," it does have "Blue, Red & Gray," which depending on my mood, might be better than all. (Don't quote me. I just love it.)