Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Other 100: 51-60 (Double Trouble)

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.)


Charlie Messing said...

Wonderful choices once again. I still don't have (may never have heard?) Blood and Chocolate, but it's on my must-get list. I haven't seen it in a long time. Rolling Stones Now is superb, and I got to see them then! He had a broken wrist at the time, so he had a cast on, and was a little out of it, but played great anyway. (I'd seen them at Carnegie Hall a year before, when he was running rings around Mick.) Academy of Music - I took my younger brother, who is still a rabid Stones fanatic - he must have 40 books on them, and all their albums, and goes to Montreal to spend a fortune to see them, when they tour. Big fan. My interest in them tapered off when Brian left. He's one of my musical idols, and I want a teardrop guitar. I heard he customized his (Vox made horrible guitars) for $2000...can you imagine what that would be in today's money? (Anyway it's just a rumor). I'll have to hear the other Stones sometime for sure. As far as the Floyd and Barrett - yes yes and yes. I have all 3 LPs and am so glad I have them. Just great. He's my Nick Drake, Elliot Smith and the rest. An introvert's introvert. Pure talent. I saw them play too, in 1967 in San Francisco - and he was in great shape for that show - he was the bandleader. Every song was long as Interstellar Overdrive. Sigh. Thanks again, Sal.

Shriner said...

Oh, man -- I have to list 10 today to keep up. I already cheated once by including Use Your Illusion I and II as one pick...

Here we go.

51/52 -- my one Double-Up to play along: Elvis Costello -- This Year's Model and Elvis Costello w/Burt Bacharach -- Painted From Memory. Imperial Bedroom would be Top 100 (yes, cliche, but I love that album more.) These two albums -- at completely different points in EC's career -- speak to me for different reasons. TYM is what I consider one of the best "debut" albums of all time -- because of the Attractions. I can't add more to what's been said about this album by others. Painted from Memory, though, is a great example of what EC can do with a strong collaborator. "God Give Me Strength" is one of those songs I can never tire of -- it's a modern pop classic.

that's all I got for a double up. I'll use this excessive post to burn through additional records from artists/bands that will have something else in the top 100

53) Neil Young & Crazy Horse -- Live Rust. The Horse is on fire here. The acoustic set is just as riveting as the definitive live recorded versions of Powderfinger, Cortez, Cinnamon Girl and Hurricane... My only complaint is that they should have reissued it with the full film soundtrack including Thrasher and Welfare Mothers...

54) Elton John -- Too Low for Zero. Considered a "return to form" album -- all lyrics by Bernie. The classic EJ band together again. "I'm Still Standing" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues". Is it as good as GYBR? No. But it's a solid album and solidly second-tier.

55) KISS -- "Music From The Elder". Almost went with Dynasty here -- so close between the two. Yes, I'm an unabashed fan of KISS (as you can tell with the Paul Stanley album already making an appearance...) This is the album that the band hates. Most fans hate it. Cocaine is a hell of a drug -- this is a Bob Erzin fever-dream concept album played by a band that didn't know what it was getting in for and was swayed by the producer. Yet it's one of my top-5 KISS albums. Can't get enough of it. "Destroyer" is top-100. Probably even the debut too. Maybe even the Ace Frehley solo album. I love KISS...

Shriner said...

(had to split this in two...)

56) Pretenders II. I actually find this (at times) to be better than the debut. Either this album or the debut would be Top 100, so the other would be in the second 100. James Honeyman-Scott continues to impress every time I play this record and of all the rock deaths in the world, I find him to the be the one I wish we had more from. "Talk of the Town" is one of my favorite songs of all time.

57) Paul Kantner -- Planet Earth Rock & Roll Orchestra. FAPZ from Jefferson Starship already made the list earlier (and Surrealistic Pillow from the Airplane would be top 100), but this solo concept album album that probably very few know about -- has everything I like about my favorite member of JA/JS. If I could sing and write songs, I'd probably be Paul Kantner. His was the second musical icon of mine that when he died actually hit me hard. It's meant to be a sequel (of sorts) to Blows Against The Empire (which I actually can't stand), but it's better, poppier and definitely weird. Bookended by two (essentially) great Jefferson Starship songs. Flo & Eddie background singing. It's like "Music From The Elder" -- weird, nobody else likes it, but it fits in a place I couldn't do without.

58) The Monkees -- Headquarters. There are *zero* Top 40 hits on this album (though well represented on the TV show). Legendary as being played entirely (almost) by the actual band. Rough in places. Guitars sound a bit tinny throughout. Probably assembled with multiple bits of tape. But some of Nesmith's strongest Monkees songs (You Told Me, You Just May Be The One, Sunny Girlfriend), the unsung "Forget That Girl" and "Early Morning Blues and Greens". Would be a *perfect* album if it contained "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" (but it doesn't). I've played this album a zillion times, but put the follow-up (Pisces, etc...) in my top 100. For as much as I love KISS, I love The Monkees even more.

59) Paul McCartney -- Tug of War. BOTR and RAM are top 100 for me. This album might also make top 100. At some point in the late 70's, Paul turned into a singles artist for me and the three albums before this one are still kind of "meh" for me (revisiting them decades later does not change my opinion of McCartney II *at all*) Then Lennon died. And Paul *crushed* this album. Even the goofy shit with Stevie Wonder and Carl Perkins can not distract from the brilliance that is "Wanderlust", "Here Today", "Take It Away", etc... From this man's opinion, the only album that comes close to the greatness of this afterwards is Flowers In The Dirt (which almost made my second 100 and would easily make my third 100) due to the influence of Elvis Costello.

60) Jellyfish -- Split Milk. Obviously, Bellybutton is top 100. The follow-up is great and could easily make my top 100, but misses Jason Falkner. I find the songs -- too complex? Too studio-assembled? I'm grasping for why this album did not connect with me as effortlessly as Bellybutton did, but I would not want to be without it. Live versions of this material showed they could pull these songs off and that's why it still ranks fairly high with me. Nobody should be without both JF albums, frankly, no matter where you rank them...

Damn, only 40 left. I still have not decided on which Raspberries record...

Sal Nunziato said...

Just a few days ago, the subject of 80's Elton came up, after I posted "70's Elvis is better than 80's Elton" on Facebook. But the one thing a few of us agreed on was, "Too Low For Zero," a real gem among the 80's crap. I'm with ya on this one.

Anonymous said...

Inspired choices. I have to cheat to do doubles:

Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire
David Crosby - If Only I Knew My Name (they're the same bands, right, sometimes?)

Drive-By Truckers - Blessing and a Curse/Brighter than Creation's Dark

Byrds - [Untitled]/The Notorious Byrd Brothers

John Stewart - California Bloodlines/Blondes

Poco - s/t and Seven

itsok2beright said...

I've been trying to avoid doubles, though when I get there, my Zeppelin and Queen choices are a requirement to have two chosen.

Just this morning, I was trying to decide which Stones album would make my list. With so many to choose from, I ended up with a different one then your choices.

I think anyone who has ever set eyes on this blog know that "The Who Sell Out" is your number one. (One day, I will find that elusive mint condition inner foldout and get you a birthday present). While, I particularly enjoy the advertising sound bites at the end, I haven't been able to place this album at the top of my Who list.

I like that Shriner pulled in a Kiss album.

Here's my next five doubled ... ok, my next ten.

John Cleary, a requirement, I just can't decide on which one.
Journey, Evolution (Ok, I need a guilty pleasure)
Judas Priest, Stained Class (Beyond The Realms is always a double-play)
Kiss, Hotter Than Hell (One of their first three had to make the list. Strange Ways, brought this one to the top of the list.)
Led Zeppelin, Presence (as I've mentioned, one of the most under-rated albums)
Led Zeppelin, Coda (Just love hearing 'Baby Come on Home')
Les Fleur De Lys, Les Fleur De Lys (compilation album)
Living Colour, Vivid
London Souls, London Souls
Lou Reed, Rock and Roll Animal

We're done with 60! Keep it coming.

Michael Giltz said...

I will not gabble on and on. I will not gabble on and on.
Sal, the only reason Elvis Costello's King Of America and Blood and Chocolate (that amazing one-two punch) and Shriner's excellent This Year's Model and Painted From Memory w Bacharach (a great collaboration and yes God Give Me Strength is just remarkable) is because they're all on that magical First 100, which somehow probably contains 200-300 titles, but you know, it's the list of stuff most sane people will list first. Ditto Brian Eno's Another Green World and Here Come The Warm Jets, my two favorites of his. I heard AGW on headphones while traveling home from Yankee Stadium and it was a magical bit of synchronicity with the sound of the train and visuals out the window, right down to advertising posters, seeming to sync up to the music brilliantly. Rode the whole way with a goofy grin on my face while people slowly edged away from me. I do love Piper but didn't know any solo Syd was worth my time. Now I do.

Sal Nunziato said...

Michael Giltz,
I don't think any Elvis C. records other than the first three, and maybe...MAYBE an outside chance of "Get Happy" appear on the usual 100. Remember, we are not talking about your usual 100 or mine or Shriner's. We are talking about Rolling Stone, etc. I wish I lived in a world where "King OF America" was on a usual Top 100 insead of "Trout Mask Replica."

Dr Wu said...

As usual, I've been taken by surprise by our host - wasn't prepared for either the doubles or to make 10 selections. Well done, sir! Here's what I do have. I'm trying to avoid artists that have already been mentioned as I figure the more varied our desert island picks are the more fun we'll all have. Just a thought. Thanks for letting me play. I'm really enjoying all the choices and comments.

Whitney Rose ‘Heartbreaker of the Year’
The Beta Band ‘The Three EP’s’
Belle and Sebastian ‘The Life Pursuit’
Cousteau ‘Sirena’
Genevieve Waite ‘Romance is on the Rise’
TV on the Radio ‘Dear Science,’
The Verve ‘Urban Hymns’
The xx ‘xx’

Michael Giltz said...


A shout out to those Various Artists compilations, the record label version of those mixtapes your friends would make of songs you just HAD to hear. In the old days, these broke new territory, introduced legends to American audiences and saved one-off gems from obscurity. Nowadays, they’re so specialized it feels like a fetish – “Zimbabwean Disco-Punk by Closeted Lesbians Never Officially Released or Heard Till Now!” But let’s not forget how great a well-curated compilation can be, especially for people new to a genre or songwriter or what have you.

51, VA -- Beleza Tropical – Brazil Classics Vol. One Along with the world music compilation The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto, this is the mixtape that springs to mind when I think of albums that opened up my eyes to the wealth of pop just waiting to be heard. I can riffle through the tracks in my head, that’s how well programmed this is and how much I played it. Kudos to David Byrne for launching Luaka Bop and doing exactly what you’d want a cool artist with good taste to do with their own record label. It’s easy to dismiss that and we shouldn’t.

52. VA -- Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm And Blues 1945-1970 Vol One and Two Say what? A compilation devoted to R&B recorded in Nashville from the 1940s on? Everyone knows Nashville has rock and soul and lots of artists bubbling under. Apparently they always did and this two volume series dug up some big names who recorded there and lots of pretty damn obscure artists. Eye-opening and never obscure for obscurity’s sake. This stuff is good.

Michael Giltz said...

51-60 con't

53, VA -- Beg Scream & Shout The Big Ol Box Of 60s Soul All hail Rhino and their awesome boxed sets devoted to doo-wop and girl groups (in that great hatbox case) and all sorts of genres, like this hugely ambitious and hugely successful sprawling look at soul. That’s pretty damn broad but they’ve got the major artists and talented but lesser-knowns and genuine one-hit wonders to back it up. Like going to college, if Rhino were a college and music was your major.

54. VA -- Does Anybody Know I’m Here? Vietnam Through The Eyes Of Black America 62-72/A Soldier’s Sad Song Vol Two 66-73 This is like a time travel machine for me, a two volume set devoted to songs about Vietnam from the black perspective. Many you’ll know but many more you won’t (I think) and the knowledge that these cynical and observant and righteous and angry and sad and politically nuanced songs were being played on the radio and even way back while it was happening is pretty mind-blowing. Unlike some generic compilation that would spoon-feed back the songs white America expects when there’s a Vietnam scene in Forrest Gump or whatever, you really get a sense of the experience from an entirely fresh point of view, assuming you’re not a black American living and listening to the radio 50 years ago that is. I can’t think of any other compilation that accomplishes what this does, or even tries.

55. VA -- Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love You have to start somewhere. The (bad) film adaptation of the best-selling novel “The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love” included a soundtrack of course. I imagine star Antonio Banderas crooned on it, though I don’t know that for a fact. (I checked; he does.) But the novel and upcoming film also inspired this unofficial tie-in from the UK. It’s got Tito Puente and Celia Cruz and Machito and so on, but in classic original versions. You were expecting Charo? It’s the real stuff, perfectly old hat for aficionados but well-chosen and ideal for a newbie like me. Well paced, stuffed but not overstuffed (you know how sometimes getting 16 tracks is better than getting 22) and I love it.

Michael Giltz said...

Now five albums of standards, a tradition that never dies though the Beatles almost killed it with their redefinition of pop stars as artists who sing their own songs. Can’t wait for Dylan’s triple album of standards coming out soon!

56. kd lang Shadowlands This is the album kd created to show Nashville they shouldn’t be scared. She was one of them! Recorded it with the great Owen Bradley coming out of retirement, sang on it with Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn and Brenda Lee, tossed in an awesome song by Chris Isaak that fit in perfectly (and let her do a talking section just like the greats!) and oh, covered classic songs with a voice for the ages. Breathtaking.

57. Boz Scaggs – But Beautiful I wasn’t even really a big Boz Scaggs fan. So maybe it wasn’t so unexpected for me. But boy has he proven an excellent jazz singer, covering standards on two albums to perfection.

58. Nellie McKay – Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute To Doris Day Nellie McKay is TOO talented. She sings and raps and croons and tosses in hip-hop alongside a 20s vibe and it’s a big ole mess on many albums. But here she covers songs made famous or at least sung by Doris Day and that gives her singing and the impeccable production a laser focus, bringing out the best in her voice and McKay’s considerable skills as an actor. Just lovely.

59. Harry Nilsson – A Little Touch Of Schmilsson in The Night Damn you, John Lennon! Trashing this voice was a crime, truly. I’ll blame the drunks and forgive those two lunatics. At least before it happened Nilsson recorded a ton of great albums. I assume others will have Nilsson Sings Newman or one of the others on the First 100. I’ll highlight this almost supernaturally beautiful and quiet gem for the Other 100.

60. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will The Circle be Unbroken I-III Of course any list worth its salt will have the epochal, hugely influential all-star album Will The Circle Be Unbroken on it. That redefined country music and indeed music in general, paved the way for Americana, made country music appreciate again its roots and was a damn fun album to boot, encompassing as it did country and folk and bluegrass and gospel and rock and blues. All star jam sessions don’t get better than this and usually they’re a lot lot lot worse. And then they did it again with Vol. II. And then they did it again with Vol. III. And they just sort of celebrated it and did it again last year. Sure, by Vol III they were celebrating the celebrating of the original accomplishment. But taken as a whole, this is significant statement of artistic purpose with ripple effects continuing today. It would be wrong to stop at Vol I so I’m giving the whole damn cycle its own slot.

Dr Wu said...

Inspiration has struck. I'd like to get these on record as well:

Ian Hunter 'You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic'
Tommy Bolin 'Teaser'

and for the twofer -
Yaz 'Upstairs at Eric's' and 'You and Me Both'

I see the sun is shining, so I must run.

Sal Nunziato said...

Dr. Wu, I only just read a review of that Ian Hunter record in MOJO Magazine I believe, where they say it's the only Ian Hunter record with no bad songs. I've always loved that record, but I haven't heard it in ages, so I put it on. Still holds up! But I still don't like Bastard." Too long.

Anonymous said...

"Bastard" too long? Noooo, don't say that! It's a wonderfully atmospheric tune that grows and builds over its length. And that guitar work - lovely stuff. Always loved it when the song was stretched a tad further in live performances too.

Bill said...

I moved to New York in the summer of 1986, right between the 2 Costello releases, and one of my first shows after moving was one night of the 5-night Broadway stand (I picked an Attractions show but in hindsight wished I chosen the Confederates). So those two albums hold a special place in my heart. I'd give a slight edge to Blood and Chocolate, because I love the rough production and playing on it. But I listen to King of America almost as much. Blood and Chocolate is one of those albums that, after the last son is finished, makes me want to start all over again. (I'd rate Siren as another one like that.)

Who By Numbers is my favorite Who album, although I'd never tell anyone to start their exploration of the Who with that album. It only reveals its rewards after knowing more about the band and its history.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Who By Numbers is my favorite Who album, although I'd never tell anyone to start their exploration of the Who with that album. It only reveals its rewards after knowing more about the band and its history."

Bill. Wow! That is the greatest thing!

Bill said...

Thanks Sal. I actually wrote a paper in college about the song However Much I Booze. Not sure what the professor thought about that!