Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Other 100: 76-80

76. Wilco-Summerteeth

"Summerteeth" was released in 1999. It was Wilco's third and I still hadn't been completely sold on the band. I liked the sloppy mess of their debut and I thought what was great on their follow-up "Being There" was great, but what wasn't, really wasn't. There is some clamor over "Summerteeth" and the Beach Boys seem to get name-dropped by more than a few reviewers and fans. So I listen, and of course, I don't hear the Beach Boys, much like I don't hear The Beatles when I listened to Oasis. It takes more than a minor 7th chord to sound like the Fab Four and it takes more than a few harmonies to sound like the Wilsons.

I didn't fall as hard as others, but I did like "Summerteeth" enough to keep it close and to see the band live at the Bowery Ballroom, on a guest ticket from a friend. That show turned me around and I've been a fan, occasionally a fanatic, ever since.

Over the course of however long it took, maybe a few years, songs would pop up randomly on the iPod, some by the Beach Boys and some from "Summerteeth." That's when it would hit me, a song at a time, unexpectedly hitting the right nerve. What I hadn't been hearing on the first pass or two, suddenly became as clear as day, though I was still skeptical over what the critics were hearing in 1999. Nothing specific had ever been mentioned, so it was easy for me to toss it all aside when nothing from Wilco's album sounded like "Don't Worry Baby."

Soon "Summerteeth" will be 20 years old. I don't recall what age it was when it became one of my favorite records of all time. But the more I listen, the more I hear late 60's and early 70's Beach Boys. But more than that, I hear the best Jeff Tweedy songs and band arrangements, all in one place.

77. Traffic- Mr. Fantasy

The 1967 debut from Traffic, aka "Heaven Is In Your Mind," at least for a brief minute in the USA, is many different records. There are US stereo and mono mixes, UK stereo and mono mixes and alternate track lists. For me, the original UK tracklist and mono mix gets to come with me. The psychedelic pop of this debut is a far cry from the soulful, hippie folk jamming of their other masterpiece "John Barleycorn Must Die" released only three later, and it remains another one of the special records that has its own sound. The hook-filled opener, "Heaven Is In Your Mind" is irresistible, the gorgeous "No Face No Name and No Number" is a heartbreaker, and of course "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which has become a jam-band live staple, are just three of the endless highlights of this necessary record.

78. Jules Shear- The Great Puzzle

Jules Shear is by far, one of my favorite songwriters of all time, though I was not on board like so many others, with Jules & The Polar Bears. It was his solo debut produced by Todd Rundgren that caught my ear and sealed my deal as a fan, and it was 1992's "The Great Puzzle," where Jules Shear delivered his masterpiece. Every song is a short story, with turns of phrase that will leave you spellbound. His voice, which admittedly is an acquired taste, has never been better, and Shear's ear for harmony is on display on most of these brilliant tracks. "The Great Puzzle" is perfect, from top to bottom and is the best example of why Jules Shear remains a personal favorite.

79. Bobby Fuller Four- I Fought The Law

One proper record released in 1966 and that was enough. Everything you need is on the BF4's "I Fought The Law." Chugging Buddy Holly guitars, mellifluous harmonies, enough hooks to snag a carp, and an underlying urgency that drives every track, this record is Bobby Fuller's greatest hits, one amazing song after another.

80. The Black Crowes- The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion

In 1990, I saw The Black Crowes open for Aerosmith and they made me laugh. "Is this guy kidding me, with this act?" I asked my friend that question, only peppered it with a few multi-syllabic, dirty "K" words, as I watched this skinny wannabe try desperately to win the crowd, as he fell to his knees, smacking the floor, testifying, or so he thought. I did not like Chris Robinson in 1990. So, how did the Black Crowes become one of my favorite live bands, as well as one of my favorite bands of the last 30 years? It started with their sophomore release, "The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion." Where it might have been easy to toss off their debut as a Rutles-like parody of the Faces, regardless of how good the singles were, it was as if the Brothers Robinson were reborn for the material on their follow-up. Tighter and stronger, full of gospel and soul, rhythm and blues and balls out rock and roll, "Southern Harmony" is the one. It takes their love of southern music, the swagger of Mick & Keith, the carelessness of Rod and Ronnie and Mac and nails it for the 90's. The Black Crowes became a different band with their next record, "Amorica." The vibe turned from playfully drunk to heavy handed and stoned, which is not to say the boys put out inferior music. "Amorica" has moments of brilliance, and though I may be alone with this assessment, their fifth release, 1995's "By Your Side" was back to basics and stands as my second favorite Crowes record. (I don't even think Chris & Rich Robinson like "By Your Side," but what do they know?) Live, they remained one of the greatest acts, thanks to the machine behind the kit, the one and only, Steve Gorman. "The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion" is solid, and would not be out of place on a list with some of the great hard rocking records of all time.


Shriner said...

My turn. I promise to leave the phrase "this is the only album you need" out of this set of 5. At least for this round!

76) Peter Gabriel -- III (or "Melt" or just "Peter Gabriel" again) Is this my favorite PG album? Probably not ("Security" might be up there, as might "So" -- or "Plays Live"), but PG's solo career started a bit off for me. The first solo album is good (with some classics). The second did little for me, but he came roaring back with the 3rd one. "Biko" was a revelation when I first heard it and it hasn't grown stale. "Games Without Frontiers", "Intruder", "Family Snapshot" -- all classics.

77) Lush -- Spooky. Shoegaze (as a musical genre) doesn't do a whole lot for me. Yes, MBV's "Loveless" is a top 100 exception. So why Lush? And why this album? I think it's their overall sound. The guitars. The ethereal vocals of Miki and Emma (as mentioned before, I'm a big fan of female vocalists.) The structure and melody of the song "For Love" -- *that's why*. "For Love" -- one of my favorite songs of all time. And the rest of the album is no slouch.

78) Hair -- Original Soundtrack Recording. Ok, here's where I lose all of you -- I thought about saving it for #100 to bookend things with a thud, but... I have a number of "rock soundtracks" on my "next 100". I actually think the songs from Hair -- are brilliant pop songs. Dated? Sure. Is this the *best performance* of these songs? Individually, no. (Well, the version of Easy To Be Hard is one of the best I've heard...) I mean it's got Charlotte Rae on one track and the vocal stylings of Treat Williams and Beverly D'Angelo and a lot of the songs have some 70s-disco-funk-bass on them. I get it. It's a film soundtrack. But it towers over the original broadway cast album and as a collection of songs -- it's awesome. Oddly, this is one of the handful of albums my eldest daughter glommed onto during her formative years, so she played it non-stop (it became her go-to Study album) and I never tired of hearing it when she put it on.

79) The Records -- Shades In Bed (the bonus tracks version -- more Records!) OK, after digesting the confusing #78 --back to something probably a bunch of you like. This debut album *might* make my Top 100, but if not, it gets a solid place here with no exceptions. "Teenarama"? "Starry Eyes"? "Affection Rejected"? (And the great "Rock and Roll Love Letter" on the bonus track version?) What a great, great album -- sound, production, and the *songs*. I mean, the album *without* the extra bonus tracks would still be on this list -- it's that good.

80) Garbage -- Garbage. Mentioned by some others, so I'll add it here to concur. I considered "Version 2.0" in its place but I know that would make my third 100 (as it's almost as strong.) To me the first two Garbage albums are somewhat interchangeable like the first two Pretenders albums (because they are both excellent). The debut wins out because of "Only Happy When It Rains" beating out -- barely -- "Special" on Version 2.0. I don't have a lot of albums in my collection that *sound* like Garbage with the really bright production and they certainly don't shy away from being the winner of the "loudness wars" on their CDs -- but few vocalists are as intriguing as Shirley Manson. I think their entire discography is very solid (but, oddly, I don't consider them one of my favorite bands). I'm weird that way.

Anonymous said...

I would have The Records in my top 100 (easily top 5 power pop for me) but I know it doesn't make the traditional lists. Summerteeth is a difficult album for me. I think of it as Tweedy realizing that marriage is not all puppies and chocolates and I didn't like to be reminded of that. Consequently, I didn't play it much after the first few listens. and of course, I love Wilco's first album the most.

Big Brother & Holding Co - Cheap Thrills
Meat Puppets - Up on the Sun
Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon
The Godfathers - Hit by Hit
Morphine - Yes (basically, this choice goes to the Morphine album I played last)

Chris Collins said...

I just spent a half hour writing out my next 5 (and singing the praises of "The Southern Harmony", which i am listening to right now. ("My Morning Song"!!!!)

And then I lost it.

But here were the 5 I listed. this time without my paragraphs of comment. One line each because I have to do stuff with my life today. Unfortunately.

1. Johnny Cash- American Recordings: The first in the series with Rick Ruben. This record was monumental to me. It's like a figure from Mt. Rushmore entered the recording studio and cut some American tales without the bullshit. I still can't believe how good it is.
2. Little Steven And the Disciples of Soul - Men Without Women: There is literally no record that is more dear to me. None. This record is the sonic equivalent of "Rocky"- scrappy underdog that delivers a knockout on pure heart. If I'm buried with one record, this is the one.
3. John Lee Hooker- The Healer: Every cut is killer, but the duet with Bonnie Raitt on "In the Mood" is the best duet I have ever heard. Look it up right now if you don't believe me.
4. Howlin' Wolf- Change My Way- I used to walk to a record store a few towns over and the guy loved me. He knew I liked the Stones and saw me sniffing around Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. He pulled out the Howling' Wolf record and told me I wouldn't be sorry. I was not. to say the least. I've still never heard such a monumental force of nature in a recording studio.
5. The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame- is this a "real" album? Who cares? It has Johnny Cash, Bruce, James Brown, and a host of others. But i include it here because of 3 songs- Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane", which is my favorite version of the song. Iggy Pop's "Backdoor Man/ I Wanna Be Your Dog", which is as great as it sounds (both were backed up by Soul Asylum!! huh!) and, finally Al Green's version of "A Change Is Gonna Come", which is one of the most astonishing live performances I've ever ever heard. Look it up right now. Promise it won't disappoint.

Dr Wu said...

'Summerteeth' was my next choice, as I was amazed it hadn't been mentioned yet. I'm glad you posted first - you told the story much better, sir. Toyed with the Avalanches 'Since I Left You', because where 'Paul's Boutique' had 350 samples, it had nearly 3,500. And while it's a fun album, it's not 'Paul's Boutique' - not even close. So, with your continued kind indulgence, I humbly submit my next five...

alt-J ‘This Is All Yours’ – playful, sublime, postmodern, English folk boogie.
Matthew Sweet ‘Girlfriend’ – optimism, bitterness, heartbreak, Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd, pure masterpiece.
Coldplay ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ – sometimes you know that you’re being manipulated, but you just don’t care – the Wizard of Oz was still able to great everyone’s wish even after the curtain was pulled back.
Yo La Tengo ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One’ – twangin’, trancey, distortion-soaked pop.
The Time ‘What Time Is It?’ – So you love Prince’s ‘1999’, and wish there was more? Prince hears you – and answers your prayers. You’re welcome!

itsok2beright said...

Another great five from you. Though, I can't remember why I skipped over The Black Crowes when I did the B's. That Traffic album may not be my favorite from them, but it is great nonetheless. They are another band that if the members were able to stay together would have produced many more great albums. I look at them the same as the Peter Green Fleetwood Mac; what could have been??

Anyway, here are my next five:
Ozzy, Blizzard of Oz (Steal Away still stops me in my tracks to play air guitar)
Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion
Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin' Simon (I shied away from 'Still Crazy ..' figuring it may be looked at as a Top 100)
Pink Floyd, The Piper at The Gates of Dawn (Animals?...Piper?...Animals?...Piper?; Ok, I'll take Piper)
Power Station, The Power Station (Their version of Bang a Gong is tremendous; thanks Tony Thompson. But, "Can't we all just get along?" another 'what could have been' type of band. If only Robert Palmer wasn't an asshole)

kevin m said...

I loved Summerteeth when it first came out but haven't listened to it in years. My default Wilco albums are Yankee (duh) and Ghost is Born.

As for the Black Crowes, they had a 3 album run with Harmony/Amorica/Three Snakes that is really hard to beat. As for By Your Side, I like the album; don't love it. To me it sounds like they were trying to sound like Aerosmith. So much so that they hired their producer.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Bobby Fuller.

Michael Giltz said...

I heartily second "Summerteeth" and "There Goes Rhymin' Simon," among others on here. Here's my latest.

Can I get an amen? These aren’t the big gospel albums. I’m not walking into church through the big front doors; I’m slipping in unawares through a smaller side entrance and digging it before I’m even quite aware of where I am. Extra kudos to the concert film “The Last Waltz” where the Staples Singers sanctified “The Weight.”

Various Artists – The Gospel At Colonus I see a lot of theater and oh how do I regret missing this event, a gospel rendition of the classic Greek tragedy by Lee Breuer of Mabou Mines and Bob Telson. It even played Broadway but I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I lived in Florida at the time. Missed a reunion concert though in 2004 at the Apollo that hurts. Morgan Freeman was the narrator, Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama as Oedipus, along with Jevetta Steele and other stellar names. It’s a touchstone that can send you off in a hundred directions towards this group and that singer but of course a powerful satisfying album all on its own.

Johnny Cash – My Mother’s Hymnbook Amidst the mountain of music recorded by Johnny Cash with Rick Rubin was a boxed set dumping a whole bunch of stuff recorded during the American album sessions. It was four CDs (remember them?) dubbed Unearthed. The quality was astonishing – despite releasing four terrific albums already, Cash had three discs of alternate versions and outtakes. And then the fourth CD was a complete gospel album: My Mother’s Hymnbook. Weirdly, I remember the liner notes saying that Cash always wanted to record a gospel album but the record label would never agree. Weird, because he had already released about ten gospel albums on Columbia and other labels. Whatever. Here was Cash in his American phase, delivering simple, unadorned versions of gospel songs he sang as a lad. It’s deeply moving, even if you’re not thinking how it came out just a few weeks after he died.

Various Artists – Say Amen Somebody This soundtrack is the one-two punch along with The Gospel At Colonus that stoked my appreciation for gospel beyond the choir of backup singers trotted out whenever a pop star wanted to get down or reach for a little uplist. It’s the companion piece to a rough hewn but engaging documentary film about some great gospel legends along with the young folk carrying on the tradition. I heartily recommend the film (which was brought to my attention by the enthusiasm of Siskel & Ebert) but I bought the soundtrack long before I got the chance to see the film, which never came to my college town back in the day. They’re not messing around here: Mahalia Jackson and Thomas A Dorcey are present and accounted for. But you’ve also got a lot of legends and rising stars (at the time) that white boys like me didn’t recognize, like Willie Mae Ford Smith, the O’Neal Twins (“Highway To Heaven,” a great driving song, naturally) and Delois Barrett Campbell. If I fell into a movie plot and suddenly found myself in front of a choir in a smalltown Baptist church in the deep south and all the black folk were wondering what this white boy thought he was doing up there, I like to think I could begin a little sermon and slip right into “I’m His Child” (sung here by Zella Jackson Price) and the choir would kick in and we’d lift every voice and afterwards they’d ask, “Where did a Yankee like you learn that song?” and I’d say, well there’s this soundtrack….

Michael Giltz said...

76-80 con't

Various Artists – Kings Of The Gospel Highway – The Golden Age Of Gospel Quartets So you want to hear more gospel music and there’s so much you don’t know where to turn first, beyond the obvious starting points of Mahalia and Marion Williams. And you’re in Tower Records – a record store, remember those? – and you’re browsing the world/gospel/vocals area and this yellowed CD cover catches your eye. For no good reason you buy it and oh my god what an album. Twenty six tracks, with four to six righteous helpings of the Pilgrim Travelers and the Soul Stirrers and the Spirit of Memphis and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Sensational Nightingales and the Swan Silvertones. I saved the Swan Silvertones for last because I tried to buy an album of their’s before and was left a little indifferent. Clearly I purchased the wrong album from the wrong era with the wrong lineup for that famous group. The four tracks I heard here saved me from making the grievous error of believing I’d heard them at their best. Another album to send you scurrying back to the store.

Sufjan Stevens – Holiday music I really want to become Sufjan Stevens’ friend. Every year for many years he’d send out an ep of holiday music to his friends and family. Eventually, five eps were collected and released officially. Then he did another boxed set of EPs a few years later and what gloriously eccentric and beautiful and silly and sacred music it is. Some are versions of classic Christmas songs, others are originals – it’s all thrillingly good and moving to think the guy is so creative he can just create this and send it out on a mixtape to friends and have that be enough. Music for music’s sake. The ten EPs add up to an even 100 holiday songs, so far, and the range is so impressive, the work so good I wouldn’t be surprised if a hundred years from now that Stevens were known as the guy who recorded holiday music. (And I think “Illinoise” is the best album of the noughts.)

billy budapest said...

"The Great Puzzle" may be the right choice when addressing Jules Shear's "mainstream" career, but are you familiar with a latter-day album called "Dreams Don't Count"? It's far and away his most visceral, miserable, joyous, incisive, and starkly beautiful record of them all. To your point about his voice being an "acquired taste," Shear is in many ways a singer's singer and one that was fairly sought-after back in the day as a background and harmony vocalist. Oh! And if you need another example of his vocal prowess, check out an album called "Sayin' Hello To The Folks," wherein he covers material by everyone from Roger Miller and Todd Rundgren to Joe Tex and James Brown - all with equal aplomb!

Sal Nunziato said...

Billy Budapest, you are preaching to the choir (me) with all things Jules Shear. I am a fan through and through. My comment about his voice being an acquired taste was really just preventive maintenance. I've written about Jules enough to know to expect those comments about his voice, which is the first thing non-believers mention when saying they aren't on board. But in total agreement with all you've said, and I'll toss in "More," as well.

heartsofstone said...

Just wanted to thank your for all of your time and thoughtful insight.