Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Other 100: 36-40

36. David Bowie- Heathen

Prior to David Bowie's death, his post-Scary Monsters output would often get dismissed as unworthy. Many I know, simply didn't bother to listen at all, some giving up as far back as "Diamond Dogs." The 80's were not kind, not to Bowie, not to anyone. But the 90's and beyond and records like "Earthling," "Hours," "Reality" and especially, 2002's "Heathen" were all pretty, pretty good and once the man departed this Earth, many came around. I think "Heathen" is the best of the four. It's the most consistent, with elements of just about all we loved in the first place. You have Gerry Leonard channeling Mick Ronson on "Slow Burn." "Slip Away," a paean to TV's Uncle Floyd, has the majesty of "Time" or "Lady Grinning Soul" from "Aladdin Sane." The title track is a haunting finale, feeling a bit anthemic like "Heroes." And the meat of the record, songs like ""5:15 The Angels Have Gone," "A Better Future" and the opener, "Sunday" all feel like updated versions of what's found on "Low."  A great record!

37. NRBQ At Yankee Stadum

Not a live record, like so many who don't listen to the greatest band in the land, seem to think, but a studio record that is probably the band at its peak. I've raved about Terry, Big Al, Joey and Tommy countless times on these pages, and I will continue to do so until the whole world gets on the Q train. It seems impossible to not love this band. NRBQ is four guys who can somehow play Monk, Mozart, and Motown, Merseybeat and flat out rock and roll, and always sound original. "Yankee Stadium" is the one and the place to get on board.

38. King Crimson- Red

With a rotating line-up that began in 1969, it almost seems fair to choose one record highlighting each roster, but I need to go with 1974's "Red" because the line-up featuring Robert Fripp, the recently departed bass master John Wetton and one of my favorite drummers, Bill Bruford is the one that I latched onto first, and "Red" has it all. From the nasty riffing of the title track, to "Fallen Angel," a song that effortlessly moves from beauty to beast, to my choice for Bruford's best recorded work, "One More Red Nightmare," Side One of "Red" is perfect. And there is nothing wrong with Side Two, either!

39.  Left Banke- Pretty Ballerina/Walk Away Renee

More than a few of my "Other 100" choices, really belong on my Top 40 of all time, but this list is about what does not appear on the usual Top 100, so that is why the Left Banke's debut is here. You should know both hits, which title the record. Absolute pop perfection! But so are just about every other song on this near-perfect masterpiece. (The lame attempt at a country tune, "What Do You Know" is out of place and keeps this from being perfect.)

40. Led Zeppelin-Presence

I like it better than Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II. Sorry, I just do. Want to hear two of Jimmy Page's greatest guitar solos? Both, "Achilles Last Stand" and "For Your Life" are on "Presence." Want to hear Bonzo at his most powerful? "Achilles Last Stand" again. Bonzo being funky? Again,"For Your Life," plus "Royal Orleans" and "Hots On For Nowhere." Jonesy's intense bass playing drives the entire record. As a fan of LZ, who did NOT give up on the band in 1970, I can't understand why "Presence" falls so far down on everyone's list. This record is a monster.









buzzbabyjesus said...

On average, 3 out of five of yours would be on my 100 list. Today it's 3.5. I' think I like "Hours" better than "Heathen".

richeye said...

Personally, I'd take Tiddlywinks over At Yankee Stadium, but that would be quibbling.... not my style. Keep it up, Sal.

Shriner said...

Breathlessly awaiting my next five? I know you are.

36) King Crimson -- Red. For all the reasons you mentioned. I'm actually sort of surprised it's taken this long for one of yours to show up on my list as well so I'll knock it off here as well. "Fallen Angel" is -- and always will be -- my go-to Crimson song. "Discipline" was a strong runner-up for this slot, though.

37) The Three O'Clock -- Sixteen Tambourines. I picked this up on a lark from a review in my college newspaper at the time. I knew nothing about "The Paisley Underground". Michael Quercio's voice can be an acquired taste (I saw them live as the opening act for the Three O'Clock/Replacements/REM tour in 85? and my friends comment was "what? is the singer 16?".) But these are strong, strong songs with lots of hooks and non-dated production (and a Bee Gees cover!) The Dukes of Stratosphere as a real, live band and not a pastiche. The follow-up "Arrive Without Traveling" is almost as good. The current CD availability of this is a 2-fer with the "Baroque Howdown" EP -- making it an even better choice. Robert Christgau's review is way off on this one. Having wrote all of this, I now feel bad that this is in my "second 100" and not higher.

38) Linda Ronstadt -- Mad Love. Linda's rock/pop/new wave album. Utterly fabulous. Choice overs of Elvis Costello, Neil Young and the Cretones with the awesome "How Do I Make You?" Her cover of "Party Girl" is especially inspired. After Karen Carpenter, my second favorite female vocalist ever. EVER. This album was a top 10 in 1980 so it's not an unknown album, but something that needs rediscovery as I think it's overlooked in her discography. I only wish it was longer, but it's a tight 30+ minutes -- her cover of "Lies" on the follow-up album deserved to be on this one instead. There was a radio broadcast of a concert from her "Mad Love Live" that would have taken this spot if I allowed things such as bootlegs or other unreleased albums.

39) The Cars -- Candy-O. OK, I appear to be sticking to the 80's today. The debut would be in my top 100, but this would follow in the second 100. I can't add anything unique about this album other than to say it's a great follow-up to an even greater debut album and deserves a place in the second 100.

40) Someloves -- Don't Talk About Us. Somewhat of a cheat as this is an extended reissue of the original Someloves album that would otherwise be here ("Something or Other"). The original is #15 on Borack's Top 200 list and that's where I was first introduced to the genius that is guitarist/songwriter Dom Mariani (DM3 and a bunch of other bands...) "Melt" is one of those songs that everybody should know and in an alternate universe would have been #1 with a bullet! This reissue has an extra 9 tracks so it would be the version I'd take with me.

As an aside, the discovery of Borack's book opened my eyes and ears about a decade ago to so much music I never knew about and it's more than likely a few additional albums from that list will show up somewhere within 41-100 (one from that books introduction already showed up with Teen Machine's "After School Special" as my #8...)

I'll see if I can make an effort to move out of the 80s (one direction or the other) with the next 5. For as much as I hate 80's album production, I have a bunch of 80s albums in this second 100 for some reason.

Anonymous said...

I had Left Banke Too coming up in my other 100, so I might as well slot it here. Stylistically, I think it's more consistent than the first album. "Dark is the Bark" played for at least a week on AM radio in pre-Disney Orlando FLA.

Gil Scott Heron - I'm New Here
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen
Left Banke - Too
Roberta Flack - Chapter Two (Sal was talking about definitive versions a few weeks ago; this has a bunch of them, especially "Do What You Gotta Do")
Peter Frampton - Wind of Change

Bombshelter Slim said...

Hey, Sal, you're right about fact I think it is the very best LZ album, all wheat, no chaff!

Sal Nunziato said...

Having fallen in love with Linda Ronstadt after "Hasten Down The Wind" and "Simple Dreams," I strayed after "Living In The USA" and being an Elvis Costello freak at the time, I did not embrace her covers at ALL! Years later, I came to truly appreciate "Mad Love," or what I refer to as her "Cretones album." Thanks for the reminder. I'm pulling the LP out now and giving it an enthusiastic spin.

itsok2beright said...

I think you've said it before, and I probably repeated over and over, Presence is one of the most under-rated albums ever.

If they were able to continue that sound on 'In Through The Out Door', oh the possibilities. Then came 9/25/80. Still remember you running to me to tell me what happened. Then went to see Queen a few days later at the Garden. Ok, so I digress.

When Celebration Day (the movie) came out I went to see it by myself (where were you?). I think I stood up for 'For Your Life'.

My next five:

The Hollies, Bus Stop
Humble Pie, Smokin'
Incubus, Light Grenades
Iron Maiden, Seventh Son of A Seventh Son
James Gang, James Gang Rides Again

Anonymous said...

Just so you know -- the link to the Crimson song is actually some accordion music.

Noam Sane said...

"Presence" is a monster. Absolutely. And kept fresh by virtue of not being overplayed on AOR stations. And you know, I love the live record too, and I always will. Well, most of it. Much of it. There certainly will never be anything like it again.

Love to see a reference above the Sixteen Tambourines. I, too, saw that tour with REM (no Replacements...fine w/ me...) and honestly enjoyed the opener more the the headliners, who were just kind of...blah.

Ken D said...

Time for a Linda Ronstadt revival? I thought it was just me... A few months ago — for no reason I can recall — I realized I hadn't heard LR in ages. Somehow I never got around to getting her stuff on CD. I don't know why because I'd loved most of her records. Especially "Hasten Down the Wind" and "Heart Like a Wheel." I ordered Rhino's Original Album Series: five albums for $15 at Amazon! Been making up for lost time ever since.
Sadly she now has Parkinson's and can't sing at all...

Sal Nunziato said...

Anonymous-- fixed it. Thank you. (Now I know, one person listened.)

Michael Giltz said...

Damnit, I'm going to catch up. Forgive my wordiness. I really planned to just list 15 albums but that didn't quite work out. And yes, the Linda Ronstadt revival is happening!

26. Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops I love this band and surely lists in Europe would include this debut and more often their follow-up “Hats.” I’m equally enamored with the solo album by Paul Buchanan called “Mid-Air” which is so good I’m afraid to overplay it and wear out its power. I enjoy the origin story of this album (whether true or not) but what “A Walk Across The Rooftops” symbolizes for me most is that idea of the band or album that is your own personal secret. Absolutely no one else seems to really know or care about them at all. That’s especially true of an album the band reportedly made for themselves with no expectation whatsoever that they were launching a career or imagined for a moment that anyone else would ever hear it. [The story is that the turntable company Linn needed an LP to demonstrate their new equipment, the band recorded the album, it sat in hi-fi stores and when customers heard it they wanted to buy the album itself and the rest is history. Not true, but it sure is fun.] In fact, they were gigging and recording and looking to make it happen as bands will and Linn Products was launching an unlikely record label and The Blue Nile became the first band it signed and released work from. And you believe the origin myth because this is an album that sounds utterly unconcerned with an audience or the pop world, despite its use of synths and other electronic equipment. It’s a late night, lights off, no one else is awake in the whole wide world sort of album, with a quiet but vast sense of space, as if it were recorded in a chilly Gothic cathedral. Weird instrumentation, a little rinky-dink, frankly, but so wonderful. That made the glossy, Steely Dan-like sheen of their second album Hats almost shocking in comparison. This one still has jagged edges, a melancholy air and some of the most adult lyrics I’d heard in pop at the time, including what still strikes me as the most mature promise of love I’ve heard: “Stay and I will understand you/ I will understand you.”

27. Carmen McRae – Carmen Sings Monk Jazz singer Carmen McRae has about 80 albums and perhaps 78 of them are very, very good to great. Will Friedwald said pretty accurately that she just didn’t make bad albums. This one is so bold and nutty and as often happens, it was my first introduction to her and thus has a special place. But really, adding lyrics to pre-existing songs by Thelonius Monk is a really bad idea…except when she does it. Angular, unexpected and so good.

Michael Giltz said...


28. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen aka Two Wheels Good Yeah to the poster above who included Prefab Sprout and this, their second and wholly brilliant album. I might have included their debut Swoon instead but since The Blue Nile has the quirky debut slot I’ll give Prefab the glossy, Steely Dan by way of George Gershwin second album breakthrough position. I’ve played this about 10,000 times and worship Paddy McAloon (to the point of worrying about his reported stash of demos he keeps in his home – man, do you have them backed up and stored in a secure third location, like a bank vault? Please!). Then he releases a few years ago acoustic versions of this Thomas Dolby-produced sonic wonder and damned if those aren’t as good or even better. A masterpiece by a master.

29. Linda Ronstadt – Sentimental Reasons Shriner had Linda Ronstadt so I will too. I might have gone for Heart Like A Wheel, which I first heard on a two CD set that had three albums crammed onto it and just couldn’t believe how good it was. But that’s probably the one album that people would list on their first 100. I also assume Trio is there somewhere so I included her duets album with Emmylou Harris and I might have gone with operetta or her terrific roots albums like Canciones but here I’ve gone with her third and final standards album. The woman can do anything in any genre. She recorded with Nelson Riddle and the first album was good but not great. Critics scoffed but fans loved it. Ronstadt got better and better (singing with strings is NOT easy) and the second album was better and this third album just sublime. She’d become a pro and only the death of Riddle stopped her from exploring this style of music further. What a shame.

30. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions What period of Springsteen do I consider overlooked? Maybe The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. The next album Born To Run made him famous forever but Wild had it all on display already and it’s his great bar band album showing off the group as a group like never before or since. And I think deservedly everything post- Born In The USA is seen as after the creative greatness that ran from Wild to it. (Tunnel Of Love can be your marker too if you prefer.) But of course he made good albums after that and I’d say Wrecking Ball is close to great. But this covers album is the real deal, a tribute to Pete Seeger that has Springsteen working with mostly different musicians to great effect. He digs into these classics with unadorned glee and it’s a riotous, wonderful thing. I think the version dubbed “The American Land” expanded edition is ideal and the concert I saw at Madison Square Garden (one night and NOT sold out) may be my favorite Springsteen concert of all. I really, really hope he gets this band back together again soon.

Michael Giltz said...


31. Madness – Keep Moving Now is when I realize how many of my forgotten gems came out in the 1980s when I was in high school and college. The allure of youth or just the period when I was digging the deepest into new music? I certainly don’t have the wealth of lesser known albums from the 1960s and 1970s that Sal and others have seemingly on tap. We all know Madness is beloved in the UK and looms much larger in pop history for them. I still think this later period (now mid-period since they keep putting out new, ok albums) album might be overlooked. I think it’s their Kinks-ian masterpiece, still offering the energetic ska-like energy of their early albums but with a mature perspective and broader palette. What I especially love is the American cassette version which changed the track listing and added two new songs. I assume it’s probably just because that was the version I first heard but of course it certainly seems to me as if this is the ideal version and the track order makes so much more sense!! Ah fandom. It took a LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time for this particular version to come out on CD and what a happy day when it did.

32. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) To me, this act which was once hugely lauded and popular has completely dropped off the radar. No one talks about them, no one cares about them, new bands don’t readily cite them as an influence and Annie Lennox is off winning Oscars for boring Hobbit songs. So I don’t mind choosing what would surely be the first album anyone would point to as their best, the second breakthrough work. Full credit to MTV veejay J.J. Jackson. They played the brilliant video “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” and I loved the single but was mightily suspicious. Sounded like a one-hit wonder to me. But J.J. actually offered up a musical opinion on air (I don’t think it happened very much) and as if speaking directly to me said, Hey, if you’re wondering about this band, trust me, the rest of the album is just as good as this song. They’re NOT one-hit wonders.” I said, Ok, J.J., thanks! I’ll take you at your word and went out and bought it. Indeed, it is a real album from the thunderous opener to their atmospheric closer. A great album.

Michael Giltz said...


33. Vangelis – Blade Runner I have had a second secret life as a film score/soundtrack fanatic, once even toying with doing a record guide specific to the genre, seeing myself (wrongly) as uniquely suited to appreciate both the film scores of John Williams and Bernard Herrmann and the like while ALSO being able to grapple intelligently with the song soundtracks that had become such blockbusters in the 1980s, not to mention classics like “Black Orpheus” and “The Harder They Fall.” In fairness to earlier me, you had film score buffs who mostly ignored the pop soundtracks and pop music buffs who could care less about the virtues (or not) of actually sitting down to listen to the score of “Jaws” as opposed to how it worked in the film. (Short answer: it works great in the movie but is NOT a score you wanna sit down and listen to on its own.) So here is one of many film scores I love and Vangelis had cross-over appeal what with the synths and that catchy but unlikely score for “Chariots Of Fire.” Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is hugely influential on so many levels and the score is just one element and perhaps not even the most important part. (That would be the production design, I think.) But boy is it moody and great. The soundtrack release has a long and tortured history (for a long time, all you could get was a re-rerecorded version of certain tracks offered up out of order from their use in the film. Boy, the record industry can be wacky!) I rarely deal with bootlegs but I finally went nuts for a bootleg seemingly lifted off a laser disc release of the film that included the entire score, some dialogue and the great retro pop tune they created as well. So good.

34. Karen Dalton – It’s So hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best Of course many people knew of and know of Karen Dalton but this compilation offers up that wonderful sense of stumbling onto an unknown treasure that no one else has discovered yet. What a voice, what a terrific mix of songs and what despair to realize this is practically all you’re gonna get from the late singer that is worth a damn. Oh they dug up some other stuff over the years, but there’s not a lot and this really is the cream. Haunting, with a quirky drawl to her singing that becomes an addiction.

35. Kenny Rogers – Greatest Hits I expect many country lists would include Kenny Rogers though perhaps some particular studio album or a more expansive greatest hits set. Bad idea. To me, the 1980 cassette compilation with exactly twelve songs is precisely what you want and need from Kenny Rogers. It has sold 24 million copies around the world and is apparently still the best-selling country album of all time. (Take that, Garth Brooks! Though really, people, go buy “The Patsy Cline Story.”) What fascinates me even know about this set is how dark it is. Paralyzed Vietnam vets with wives who leave them and home and go catting? A lonely, broken down old gambler who is so completely out of luck he offers “advice” to a nobody in exchange for cadging a cigarette and a shot of liquor? (People, don’t take gambling tips from a guy who is broke.) A woman who abandons her husband and children? This isn’t maudlin stuff like country can be. It’s dark. Johnny Cash dark. And it fascinates me that this is what resonated so strongly with so many people.

Michael Giltz said...

Con't (but almost done)

And now, five albums I’m absolutely confident absolutely no one of note has ever included on their list of the best albums of all time.

36. George Winston – December We all know Christmas music can be hip. The Phil Spector album, Herb Alpert’s brilliantly catchy Christmas Album, some hipster compilation with offbeat numbers you’d never heard. But what isn’t hip is George Winston’s New Age masterpiece “December.” Piano pieces, easy listening , wallpaper sort of music to put on in the background. Classical music buffs would gag, pop music fans would wonder who let Grandma take over the stereo – yes, I understand it all. And yet the honest man in me finds this lovely and charming, with a simplicity that’s winning and strong melodies I can’t deny.

37. VA – Always: Songs Of Irving Berlin Here’s an example of what a greedy pig I am. I want to hear everything and back when you actually had to buy music to hear it, that wasn’t easy. Worse, I felt uneasy when someone else raved about an album or artist I wasn’t familiar with. What? Nick Drake? I’d run out and buy “Pink Moon.” Everyone loves Captain Beefheart? Oh yeah, me too, I’d say as I grabbed my keys and ran to the record store and banged on the glass, demanding they reopen because it was only 9:02 pm and they were still in there and I really really needed a copy of “Trout Mask Replica.” You get the idea. So I had a lot of CDs. Someone came over to my place in college and they mentioned a compilation of music written by Irving Berlin, with artists like Ella and Louis and Bing. I didn’t own it? They expressed a certain catty surprise and went out to their car and brought it in and we played it and it was a great compilation, beautifully chosen and paced (except perhaps for the bore Billy Eckstine’s “The Girl That I Marry”). It’s got an ugly cover but is otherwise a model of this sort of thing, back from the glory days of compact discs. Needless to say I ran out the next day and bought my own copy, annoyed this person knew about this album before me (they were no fanatics about music), chagrined they shamed me for not owning it and yet not chagrined enough to admit it was great and immediately get it for myself.

Michael Giltz said...

Con't (really, almost done)

38. John Mayer – Born and Raised/Paradise Valley Hey, no one is more surprised than me. John Mayer really shouldn’t give interviews so we could just focus on his music. Too successful too fast, he has admirably become a much better, much more interesting artist than one might have expected from “Your Body Is A Wonderland.” From recording an album with a power trio to jazzy stuff to the Dead, the guy is pushing himself into new territories all the time and doing some good stuff. And then pretty much out of nowhere with no one paying the slightest bit of attention, he delivered two absolute gems. Born and Raised and Paradise Valley are his Laurel Canyon albums and you know precisely what sort of vibe I mean by that. I’ve played them obsessively, first because I couldn’t believe how good they are, second because I wasn’t exactly sure I was right about how good they are, and thirdly almost on a dare to make them wear out their welcome, which they most definitely have not. Now he’s delivering a pop album and presumably will record with the Dead at some point. I’m a little bummed because I wanted to see him do this stuff in concert and at least wanted a trilogy of albums and frankly, I think he found his voice here and that this is what he was meant to do. God willing he’ll return to it one day but really, give them a shot.

39. Various Artists -- The Big Chill Like I said, film soundtracks mostly get no respect, especially film soundtracks that just gather together pre-existing tracks. My love for The Big Chill just proves you have to start somewhere. I mean, it’s not like I was unaware of Motown or didn’t understand the importance of that music. I probably owned greatest hits sets by The Supremes and was educating myself. But the massive success of this album did put Motown back on top of the popular consciousness in a major way, a peak it has never left since. You can’t go wrong with such great songs…but that’s not exactly true. You can lazily include too man y obvious and not mix in some unexpected tracks like The Exciters “Tell Him.” You can make it too long and thus unsatisfying. You can avoid a broader sense of the era and stick to all Motown and not include Three Dog Night and Procol Harum for variety. (An all Motown soundtrack would have been just great, but not quite right for capturing the vibe of the film.) Hell, they got it wrong by not even including the organ version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from the funeral scene or the Stones original or the Beatles (too expensive). So they got it right and I love this album with these songs in this order. “American Graffitti” probably did a similar thing for 1950s/early 1960s music for others, but I wasn’t around to experience that first hand. So "The Big Chill" it is.

Michael Giltz said...

Con't (and caught up!)

40. Boulevard of Broken Dreams – It’s The Talk Of The Town…and Other Sad Songs I somehow bought this album put out by Hannibal Records. I think it was the cool cover that intrigued and seeing it was the Hannibal label I laid my money down. (I was that crazy about Richard and Linda Thompson. I’d try anything put out by the label that put out them and it worked quite well what with Sandy Denny and Nick Drake and so many other great artists being introduced to me because of this unspoken rule.) So I got this album and had literally no idea what the hell it was or where it came from. It contained swinging, jazzy sort of big band covers of classic Tin Pan Alley songs from the Great Depression. It began with the title track, an instrumental with a tremendous but unflashy sax handling the melody with unquestionable authority. (You immediately sit up and pay attention.) And then came mostly songs with vocals sung by people with thick accents and once in a while a weird sort of pronunciation that can come when you’re signing in a language that’s not your own. And was it live? Sort of? And it was made in Holland? I just played this in a dream and eventually found out it was a group of enthusiasts who just put on annual concerts and dressed up and did this music and had a blast. Much much later I found out they had a second and even third album and while it was a case of diminishing returns, it wasn’t that diminished. (I liked them too.) And then it was over and everyone moved on with their Dutch lives, as far as I can tell. But this album remains and it’s so unique and wonderful and speaks to the fan in me. It’s 1920s music crossing the globe and becoming popular decades later with some Dutch kids who dress up and learn the lyrics and send it back to us in some glorious transformation that is very in keeping with the original vibe and yet somehow it’s new and fresh while still feeling like it came down from outer space from aliens who heard what we were creating and put their own spin on it. There’s nothing like it.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I pull "Mad Love" out, I have to play it several days in a row; still remember the first time/place I heard it.

Yea for Humble Pie's "Smokin" - I've been trying to decide between Rockin the Fillmore and Smokin and whether they would be in my first 100 anyway.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Michael Giltz

I remember the first time I heard George Winston's "December." I had just fired an employee, and he had left behind a small stack of CDs that he had planned on buying. On top was "December." I threw it on. Not sure why. But I was mesmerized. It perfectly captured that spirit of Christmas that we all try so hard to feel during the holidays, but can't because we are all so miserable. But yeah, great pick.

heartsofstone said...

Great effort - I have always thought that Bruford's best moments were on One More Red Nightmare.

mainuh said...

New to your blog and bouncing around your monthly missives.
I'm so late to the party on this one it will go unnoticed.
Two CT. Bands here - Left Bank and NRBQ.
Al and his band, The Wildweeds played every high school dance and were often featured at Bill Miller's Cheri'Shack. For a short while Al founded a Cream/Experience style band - Junglze.
NRBQ's later CT.home was Toads Place in Ct before Al moved to Nashville.