Friday, March 3, 2017

The Other 100: 26-30

26. Robert Palmer- Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

It wasn't the first time we heard Robert Palmer sing, having been on record with Vinegar Joe and The Alan Bown. But "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley" may have been the first time we noticed. A solo debut with members of both The Meters and Little Feat as your backing band, you will have no choice but to fall into its pocket from the opening seconds, and it is so deep, you will need to crawl your way out by the end of Side Two. Palmer continued to make solid records, each veering further away from the grooves of "Sally," though that is not to say his later records were anything to dismiss. Even his MTV hits had some seriously funky shit coming through the iconic but icy videos. But it's "Sally" that remains his best and my favorite.

27. Iggy Pop- The Idiot

Iggy produced by Bowie. How can you go wrong? Well, if you asked me when it was released in 1977, my ignorance and arrogance would have counted all the ways. What didn't stick 40 years ago, took hold some time in the 80's and never let go. "The Idiot" is Iggy's masterpiece. Cold, dark, grimy and groovy. It has become one of my favorite records of all time. "Sister Midnight," "Funtime," "Baby" and the superior, original version of "China Girl" all live here. Not enough is said about David Bowie as a producer, probably because there just isn't enough work. But for the trilogy of Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes," Lou Reed's "Transformer" and Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" alone, Bowie's genius behind the boards should be praised.

28. James Booker- Live At Montreux

Booker, the "Bayou Maharajah," the "New Orleans Piano Wizard," had his fans and followers for years, but it wasn't until Lily Keber's excellent documentary from a few years ago, that James Booker's otherworldly talents reached more than the handful of New Orleans disciples who had known all along. The album "Classified" is for sure, the definitive record. There aren't many to choose from, as Booker's behavior was so erratic, it was a miracle he stayed anywhere long enough to record a side's worth of music. But I'm choosing "Live At Montreux" for one reason. The performance of "True." It is quite simply, stunning. It has everything Booker could do that so many could not. It's not just the piano playing, which is ridiculous. Or, the heart shredding vocals. It's the effortless way he does both and that look on his face as if he knows, it ain't nothing. The whole set is fine. Maybe it's lacks a bit of the fire it could have had with better backing musicians. But, I cannot live without "True," so it goes in the coffin.

29. Queen- A Day At The Races

Hot off the heels of the mind-blowing success of "A Night At The Opera," Freddie and the boys return with, what at first, was hardly a bang.  Were we put off by the second Marx Brothers steal? By the similar album cover? Hard to say now why the reaction to "A Day At The Races" was lukewarm at best. But in many ways, I think this is a better record than "A Night At The Opera." It has all the pomp of a Queen record.  There is Brian May's signature guitar sound. Fantastic vocals from all involved. And, most important, tighter songs. "Races" is a bit more radio friendly, and for my money, that makes it a stronger listen. "The Millionare Waltz," is a mini-suite that gives "Bohemian Rhapsody" a run for its money. Brain May's "Long Away" is as beautiful as a pop song gets. Hell, it's almost power pop. "White Man" rocks hard with some of May's finest guitar work. And of course, there is a Freddie Mercury's masterwork, "Somebody To Love."

30. Todd Rundgren- Liars

In 1989, Todd Rundgren released "Nearly Human," a big sounding return to the pop and soul of his 70's work and one of my favorite Todd records. Then, for my ears, The Dark Ages came. From 1990-2003, Rundgren fans had to deal with experiments in interactive music, weak attempts at electronica and rap, remixes, fan club only songs, bossa nova reworkings of classic Rundgren material and live archival releases. It was a crappy time in the music industry and always the innovator, Rundgren tried to stay ahead of the game, or at the very least, keep up with the changing times. (That is my half-full glass.) But in 2004, we got "Liars," one of Rundgren's most-inspired records and one of my three fave Todd records of all time. He was still dabbling in dance and electronica, but what makes this work so well is that, there is soul underneath it all. The songs are there. Strong and topical. Heartbreaking and brilliant. His voice is as good as it was in 1977. The mellifluous harmonies are all over the place, as are the hooks. "Liars" was a return to form and a huge critical success.

Even Joe Jackson had to write about it:

"Liars is All Todd Plus Computers, and although I personally miss some of that old lo-fi messiness, it still couldn’t be anyone but him. The songs are consistently both soulful and clever, and need to be listened to a few times. Though this isn’t a ‘concept album’, there is a theme running through it: a search for truth and a frustration with all forms of dishonesty. Many of the songs have a searching, yearning quality; some are sad, some angry, and some funny (for instance Soul Brother and Stood Up, which are not only funny but wildly catchy, and would have been huge hits in a more righteous universe). The whole album sounds surprisingly contemporary, or rather, timeless; Rundgren’s distinctive and very cool harmonic tricks are all over it (the downward modulations in Stood Up, for instance, make me smile every time); and his voice hasn’t aged a day."







Dave said...

This series is nothing less than fantastic, Sal. After being a huge fan of early Todd Rundgren, I gave up too soon. Love "Sweet" and now I'm off to buy "Liars." Thanks, Sal.

Dave F

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with Liars. Also,

F. Mac - Bare Trees
Grand Funk - Closer To Home
Slade - Slayed?
David Sylvian - Gone To Earth
Myracle Brah - Life On Planet Eartsnop

By the way, Sal, many thanks for the heads up on A Band Of Bees. Truly phenomenal!! I owe you one. Randy

cmealha said...

I first heard "Sneaking' Sally" playing in a record store on 6th Ave. I immediately bought the album and took it home to listen immediately. It was the first time I was made aware of Allen Toussaint and I became a lifelong Robert Palmer fan.

buzzbabyjesus said...

There is nothing like "The Idiot". A perfect record from beginning to end. One of my favorites since it came out. It goes with "Low", and "Heroes".

"Funtime" is always on my set list. All Aboard!

"Sneakin Sally" is another slice of perfection.

Shriner said...

Keeping mine going as well. In no particular order as usual, but jumping around a bit between decades...

26) New Pornographers -- Electric Version. This was a tossup between this and Twin Cinema as I was drafting this, but I looked back and EV would be the one I'd take.

27) Adrian Belew -- Young Lions. I've loved his guitar work for ages, but this extremely-accessible album has always been in my rotation more than any.

28) ELO -- A New World Record. IMO, the only ELO album anybody needs. "OK, so no one's answering..." brings me the feels every time I hear it..

29) Brendan Benson -- My Old, Familiar Friend. There are hooks upon hooks on this album. I think it's his best and can only hope he tops it some day (as if it does, whatever that is would only be a new classic for all time...) If there's a better pop/rock song than "A Whole Lot Better" -- which has *two* awesome hooks in one song (!) -- released in the last decade I'm not sure I've heard it...

30) The Darkness -- Permission To Land. This is a possible Top 100. If not, it certainly makes the next 100. I consider this the "Appetite for Destruction" for the 2000s. It's that good.

Charlie Messing said...

Another great selection. Except for Lust for Life and The Passenger on "Lust for Life", the sequel, The Idiot is the height in so many ways. Iggy had a great stage show at many points, but no album as great ever, as a whole. The Robert Palmer is great too, and all you say about James Booker and "True" is true. It's the top tune on a top album of his. RIP Booker, Palmer, Bowie, and more. I'll have to hear the couple of tunes/albums I don't know. Thanks again, Sal! I too have my Favorites which seem to be different from any I've ever seen listed. Even my favorite Beatles songs (You Won't See Me, No Reply, I'll Get You, I'll Be Back, Yes It Is)! Super.

Sal Nunziato said...

27) Adrian Belew -- Young Lions.

I just mentioned this record to a friend the other day. Bowie is on three tracks. Really solid from top to bottom.

"28) ELO -- A New World Record. IMO, the only ELO album anybody needs."

Harsh words on a blog where I just raved about "Zoom" and Jeff Lynne in general.

29) Brendan Benson -- My Old, Familiar Friend.
"A Whole Lot Better" -- which has *two* awesome hooks in one song"

It sure does! Definitely his best. Might need to take this one out today. And maybe ELO's "On The Third Day" and "ZOOM!!"

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when Todd would make an appearance. if I had to choose, I'm probably most emotionally connected to "The Ballad of Todd."

Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne
Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around
Boo Radleys - Giant Steps
Free - Free at Last
Talk Talk - Laughing Stock

Shriner said...

"The Ballad of Todd Rundgren" is coming on my list later as well. I'm just sort of randomly picking from the list I made when I feel I have something to write about my choices. I'll probably put it on 31-35 just to get it out there. ;-)

As for ELO -- I'm not dissing their other albums (I like Zoom a lot). But if it came down to *one* album (and you didn't want a Greatest Hits comp) -- all you *need* is ANWR because you get Telephone Line, Rockaria, Do Ya, Shangri-La, etc...

Michael Giltz said...

I've got some catching up to do. Forgive me.

16. Richard and Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver Between the two “Lights” albums by this duo – “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight” and “Shoot Out The Lights” and the solo peaks by both talents, it’s no surprise some of their other brilliant work gets overshadowed. This gorgeous hymn to their newfound faith (the Sufi strand of Islam) haunts me and I’ve played it endlessly over the years. “Dimming of the Day” is one of the tracks I’ll have played at my funeral. (And the first time I saw him in concert – a solo show in Tampa – I yelped out this Linda-sung tune when he called for requests at the encore. I know, they just wait till someone says the song they planned to play anyway, most of the time. But he played it! And then just as he was (presumably) going to launch into the extended guitar solo “Dargai” which is paired with it on the album, the audience burst into applause and he sort of shrugged and stood up and said goodnight. Damn!)

17. Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat Perhaps the greatest tribute album of all time? Is there another one that had such a palpable effect in restoring both the reputation and commercial fate of a major artist? Needless to say, it’s a wonderful work in its own right. To me, it’s fitting and poignant that a singer who (mostly) provided backup for other artists had her one solo artistic triumph by shining a spotlight on someone else.

18. Manu Chao – Proxima Estacion Manu Chao was pouring out unbelievably catchy “world” music for several years. It is world music in every sense, with English and French and Spanish lyrics snuggling up to each other and the sound of a global jukebox. This is his masterpiece and would be on any sane person’s First 100. But he’s slipped off the radar and hasn’t released music in many years, apparently consumed with social justice and politics. He has done stellar work as a producer, including Amadou & Mariam and last year’s Calypso Rose (whose album is getting a belated US release this summer). But no real proper album since this and it’s a genuine loss.

Michael Giltz said...


19. Everything But The Girl – Idlewild You never forget your first Girl. I’ve had good luck picking up albums based on the cover image alone. This was one CD I picked up maybe ten times and almost bought because of the alluring cover and arty song titles (“The Night I Heard Caruso Sing”? Sounds great!) For some reason, I didn’t pul the trigger. [Kids these days will NEVER know the sense of commitment in having to choose which music to listen to because of economic restraints. That’s generally good – more access is def good – but a little something has been lost.] Then I got in a car to head to Atlanta with my friend Denise to see The Pogues in a drunken brawl of a concert during their peak years. In the car she had this CD and I asked about it and she said with that voice of shock and admonition and excitement that music fans know so well, “You haven’t heard Everything But The Girl??!!??” Which means she can’t believe it AND is very excited that she gets to introduce them to me. What an album. Their unexpected dance success with “Missing” seemingly upended everyone’s understanding of who they are. I love many of their albums (including the dance-y stuff),. But the literate, mildly jazzy adult pop here is my favorite. And when Tracey Thorn’s voice (so great) gives way to Ben Watt’s one lead vocal (On that song about Caruso) it’s a perfect moment.

20. Peter Wolf – Midnight Souvenirs I assume most would have some J Geils album or two on their First 100. I’m still learning about them and Wolf and must hat tip Sal for getting me to listen. This one just blows me away.

Michael Giltz said...

Con't. cause that's how I roll.

21. Joe Jackson – Body and Soul Lots of comments about Joe Jackson (thanks for pointing me to his latest WILT column, commentator!) so I thought I’d mention my personal favorite of his albums, from the Verve album cover homage to the great songs. Sure, the arty finale “Heart Of Ice” maybe doesn’t quite work. But it’s a terrific collection of songs and the first Joe Jackson album I loved. (I had started with “Night And Day,” which I respected, then this and then worked my way backwards and forwards. I think his body of work is probably more impressive than any one album, if that makes any sense. But this is the one I’ve played the most.

22. Ella Fitzgerald – The Intimate Ella / Ella Fitzgerald – Ella In Rome: The Birthday Concert Ella should have about TEN albums on the First 100, from most of her concept albums serving as tributes to songwriting teams that along with Sinatra literally defined the Great American Songbook to albums with Louis Armstrong to that recent live boxed set of her in concert Twelve Nights In Hollywood that is so tremendous I still haven’t recovered. But these two albums are my touchstones when it comes to Ella. The Intimate Ella is just her and a piano and it puts to shame anyone who wrongly believes she’s just a chirpy songbird and can’t plumb emotional depths. As for Ella In Rome, forget Berlin! This awesome one CD set is tremendously good. She’s in great voice and it’s a perfectly paced show. In a way. It starts with “St. Louis Blues” which is such a complete master class in jazz singing and scatting and sheer musicianship you could have gone home after that one song and been perfectly happy. What I really love is the tension in the audience. Half of them want to burst into applause after every great Ella solo. The other half angrily shush them because they want to hear every night and I swear this happens for the entire show. So good.

Michael Giltz said...

Con't because why talk when you can talk and talk and talk.

23. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter Can I get a little love for “Bryter Layter?” Nick Drake only made three albums but the first “Five Leaves Left” and mostly the last “Pink Moon” get all the love. This one is tremendous too and just so I don’t overplay his masterpiece “Pink Moon” I often insist I play them in order. If I heard “Pink Moon” it’s time for “Five Leaves Left” next time. And after that “Bryter Layter” and THEN “Pink Moon.” Try it! We’ve been ignoring one third of his official output for no good reason.

24. Everly Brothers EB84 I still have a lot to learn about the Everly Brothers, as Sal’s recent mix tape proved. I thought the only album people ever mentioned was “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” which I once listened to and was not blown away by. So they’re a singles act, like so many in that era. I thought all I needed was that well-balanced Rhino Greatest Hits CD and then their comeback stuff. Apparently other later albums are great too. But “EB84” remains a template for contemporary acts paying tribute to a great talent not by covering their songs but by offering up new songs for them to perform. (See The Monkees’ terrific new album “Good Times!”) Plus, they didn’t all get in the way by insisting they appear on the album like so many over-stuffed tributes/would-be returns to glory we’ve seen since. It’s just a great, great album from Paul McCartney’s glorious single “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” to that song with the killer line (“You need me like Garbo needs pictures”) to the closer where the Everlys proved they still got it with their haunting closer “Asleep.”

25. John Grant – Strongroom EP (piano versions of songs on album “Pale Green Ghosts”) I’m not even really sure where I got this from. Is it an official release? (I see it’s available used on vinyl for $80 on Amazon. Maybe it’s a Record Day one-off? The mystery deepens.) A live bootleg? I don’t seek out bootlegs really and I was more respectful of Grant than besotted, despite his being openly gay and hugely acclaimed for “Queen Of Denmark” (which I really liked, belatedly). So his second solo album came out and I liked it but it wasn’t quite as good as the first which again I really admired without being crazy for it. And then somewhere somehow I got this EP of Grant singing a clutch of songs from “Pale Green Ghosts.” It’s just (or mostly) him and a piano and oh my god I became obsessed with it. I literally COULDN’T stop playing it in the car, over and over again. It’s so funny in a mordant way, so moving and emotional and rich and alive. It’s…perfect. Now I’m dying to see him in concert, preferably with just a piano at his disposal.

Michael Giltz said...

And dear God I'm still five albums behind....

itsok2beright said...

My problem with Queen is that everything from Queen I to The Game would be in my top 100. When I get to the Q's I'll post my fave post 'The Game' album (hint, it's not Flash Gordon).

Also love your Robert Palmer choice.

Not sure if this is a good thing, but I see Shriner and I have a lot of cross-over.

Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
Garbage, Garbage
Gerry & The Pacemakers, Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying
Godsmack, Awake

Shriner said...

The fact that we have crossover just means we both have excellent taste in music -- that's all. :-)

Sal Nunziato said...

While itsok2bright and Shriner play nice, I'm losing sleep because "all you need are 4 songs" by ELO."

Shriner said...


I love ELO. I own lots of it (even Xanadu -- which I *almost* put on my list -- that would be on the other, other 100...) Even Jeff Lynne's repetitive drum sound that's on every single thing he produces. Don't read too much into my love for ANWR over everything else by them, though!

Dr Wu said...

Wow! What a topic? In a history of great topics by our host through the years. And the responses: so many I agree with, and the others I’ll search out – as is the custom for us here. As always, as it is in reality, I’m fashionably late to the party. Not nearly as knowledgeable as the other contributors (there must be an award for the understated – or the obviousness), but here goes, humbly submitted. Using the rule of the albums I continue to listen to over the years outside of the standard 100 – and the MANY already mentioned by the ‘esteemed’ (and offered .in no particular order):
Marianne Faithfull ‘Broken English’
Iggy Pop ‘Lust for Life’
David Bowie ‘Scary Monsters’
Gerry Rafferty ‘City to City’
The Stone Roses ‘S/T’
Depeche Mode ‘Violator’
Allison Moorer ‘Down to Believing’
Whiskeytown ‘Strangers Almanac’
Joan Armatrading ‘Walk Under Ladders’
Old 97’s ‘Fight Songs’
Elvis Costello ‘Imperial Bedroom’
Sloan ‘Never Hear the End of It’
Solange ‘True’ EP
Suede ‘Dog Man Star’
Talk Talk ‘The Colour of Spring’
PJ Harvey ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’
Talking Heads ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’
Trigger Hippy ‘S/T’
Super Furry Animals ‘Rings Around the World’
Pernice Brothers ‘World Won’t End’

Dr Wu said...

Hi! Sorry. Saturday night interrupted. We’ve all had nights like that. To be continued…
Rockpile ‘S/T’
Sinead O’Conner ‘How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?
Arcade Fire ‘Funeral’
The Black Crowes ‘Before the Frost/Until the Freeze’
Cheap Trick ‘Dream Police’
Chris Isaak ‘S/T’
Bad Company ‘S/T’
Cowboy Junkies ‘The Trinity Sessions’
Dwight Yoakam ‘If There Was A Way’
The Jayhawks ‘Smile’
Melody Gardot ‘My One and Only Thrill’
Midnight Oil ‘Diesel and Dust’
Pete Townshend ‘Empty Glass’
Pink Floyd ‘Animals’
The Posies ‘Dear 23’
Pretenders ‘S/T’
Prince ‘Parade’
Richard Hawley ‘Truelove’s Gutter’
Thank you for your patience.

Michael Giltz said...

Dr Wu -- so many self-titled! Any meaning to divine from that?

On Chris Isaak, I couldn't decide between S/T and Silvertone and my personal favorite: an as-yet nonexistent "perfect" Greatest Hits album of 12-14 tracks that will make the wold sit up and realize what a classic string of singles Isaak has created.

Cowboy Junkies -- dear god, is Trinity Sessions NOT on the first 100? I feel it should be; another unexpectedly great driving album (because it seems mellow and yet works in the car late at night to perfection).

Dr Wu said...

Michael - totally agree on both. Used to see Chris Isaak a lot during this period - though famously missed the tour for the S/T album in a small venue (150 tops) to go to a beach music festival in NC (Spinners, etc) that proved totally worth it. Still, pangs of regret remain for missing the show. The Junkies still put on a great show. Intimate gatherings, incredible music. Enjoying your commentary, sir. And your list. Cheers

Dr Wu said...

Also, no divinity involved, I assure you.

Chris Collins said...

Dr. Wu "Before the Frost/Until The Freeze" is a brilliant, brilliant album. I listen to it all the time. Same with the Whiskeytown albums

This topic is so much fun!