Friday, April 21, 2017

The Other 100: 86-90

 86. Todd Rundgren-Faithful

Off all the gin joints...that's right. Todd's 1975 collection of half covers and half originals is a personal favorite. Oddly, it's one of his most consistent, too. The covers are note perfect soundalikes. Two by The Beatles, Jimi, The Yardbirds, Dylan and the single, Todd's minor hit, a mind-blowing take on "Good Vibrations." So, why? Because it's great music. But also, the originals happen to be some of his best, including my single favorite Rundgren tune, "The Verb To Love." This is accessible Todd. Todd the soul singer. Todd the pop genius. Todd the guitar god. All on one record.

87. The Turtles- The Battle Of The Bands

I've loved this record since I was a kid, and there is no way in hell I am going anywhere without "Elenore!" But, as silly as the premise sounds--The Turtles taking on various disguises and bands---most of it works. The hillbilly harmonies on "Too Much Heartsick Feeling" are to die for. "The Last Thing I Remember" has become a psych classic. McGuinn-Clark's "You Showed Me" is another gorgeous gem. And the under two minute classic, "I'm Chief Kamanawanalea" is irresistible.

88. David Bowie- Station To Station

It's hard to say whether "Station To Station" would be on the usual Top 100 lists. It is without a doubt one of my five favorite Bowie records, and on certain days, it is absolutely my favorite. But my gut feeling says, most critics are choosing others. 6 songs and all of them are brilliant. While some may not be a fan of Bowie's "crooning," it's hard to argue that both ballads, "Word On A Wing" and the 50's hit "Wild Is The Wind" are as good as Bowie's crooning has ever been. The two hits, "Golden Years" and "TVC 15" have become standards. But it's the epic title track and Earl Slick's tour de force, "Stay" that knock this baby out of the park!

89.  The Mavericks- Trampoline

Raul Malo's voice is a wonder of the world and the countrypolitan sounds of The Mavericks have been consistent since their very first LP. But it's 1998's "Trampoline" where they nail it and nail it good. This record plays like a tour of 1970's AM radio, and I say that in the best possible way. Every song will conjure up some hit or another. The arrangements are huge, but never overblown. It's a party. It's a heartbreaker. It's the band's best. "Tell Me Why," "Someone Should Tell Her," I Hope You Want Me Too," "Fool # 1" "I've Got This Feeling," every song better than the one before it.

90. XTC- Wasp Star

Another controversial XTC pick, I'm sure, but I can't help it. I play "Nonsuch" and "Wasp Star" more than any other XTC records. I wrote about "Nonsuch" in post 46-50. Now, I feel I can say the same things. Lyrically, Andy Partridge is on top his game. "Stupidly Happy," "We're All Light," "You & The Clouds" and "Church Of Women" are some of the most beautiful lyrics and melodies ever written. I dedicated a whole post some years back on the arrangement of "Stupidly Happy."
One of Andy's very best guitar solos is right there in the middle of "Church Of Women." Colin's "Standing In For Joe" may sound like Steely Dan's "Barrytown" but that doesn't make it any less infectious.  "Wasp Star" should get a lot more praise than it does. It's brill, as they say.


















Chris Collins said...

You're gonna do ANOTHER hundred after this, right?

I'm gonna look up that Todd album. Ok, another 5.

1. Prince- "The Love Symbol Album". On the one year anniversary of his passing, how can I not? "My Name is Prince", "Sexy MF", "7", "The Morning Papers". Lots of good songs on this. Lots. Lost in the shuffle of his towering, brilliant albums. I mean, if Prince had JUST released "Diamonds and Pearls" and this album he would have been a A MAJOR 90's star. Those 2 albums are better than Bobby Brown's entire career. This album really holds up. Not all of it. But the great stuff is great.

2. New York Dolls- "One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This"- The comeback album nobody asked for. 30 years after the band's initial glorious flameout. Without Johnny Thunders. Without Arthur Kane. Without Jerry Nolan. How could this possibly be good? Well, it is. The new Dolls are tighter and more precise. David Jo is back in fighting form with a vengeance. "Dance Like a Monkey" is good, dumb fun. "Fishnets and Cigarettes" sounds like the Dolls of old (kinda), and songs like "Dance On A Volcano" open new doors. Johansen's lyrics are metaphysical, questioning and great. Sylvain Sylvain leads the band as if they had nothing to lose. I love this record. I listen to it as much as their debut, which was a game-changer.

3. Jesse Malin "Glitter In the Gutter". Jesse often tries to hard to make it look like the Bowery hasn't changed since 1977. But this record is a winner. Always a very good songwriter, this is maybe his strongest collection of them all. "In The Modern World" sounds like the Ramones fronted by a Cagney impersonator. It even has a slow piano cover of "Bastards of Young" that really works!

4. Joe Ely- "Letter to Laredo"- Joe is one of those incredibly great Texas singer/songwriters that seem to carry all the wisdom of the universe and the sadness that goes along with it. How do they grow them down there?? Willie, Townes, Guy Clark, Jimmy Dale Gilmore....on and on. This is not the place to start with Joe ("Live at Liberty Lunch" is probably the best one to pick up), but it's my favorite. Tall tales about a fighting chicken "Gallo Del Cielo" and doomed lovers "Saint Valentine", great cowboy songs "Ranches and Rivers", "I'm A Thousand Miles From Home" and love songs to break your heart. Great stuff

5. Madonna - "Like A Prayer". For real. Title cut is great. "Express Yourself" and my all time favorite Madonna single "Cherish" are just some of the high points. This is a legit great album. "Til Death Do Us Part" is a genuinely moving song about her failed marriage to Sean Penn. "Love Song" is a funky, arty little duet with Prince (imagine 2 of the biggest stars of the 80's collaborating album cut! Not a single. Brave!). "Dear Jessie" sounds like it could be on "Magical Mystery Tour". Only the songs to her mother and father ("Promise to Try" and "Oh Father" respectively) trip on their ambitions by being too on the nose. But this is a real effort by a gigantic star who, for a brief moment, was also a pretty great artist as well.

Shriner said...

I never got the "Standing In For Joe"/"Barrytown" similarity until you mentioned it. I can't un-hear it now and SIFJ is probably my favorite song on Wasp Star. WS is in my "top tier" XTC albums as well. And for as much as I love Elenore (on my all-time-top-20 singles), "Turtle Soup" has aged better for me than TBOTB (but I still put the Flo and Eddie debut on my list...)

Burning through (no pun intended) my next five. Hopefully, nothing as hated as Third Eye Blind. But grouping this into 5 "rock" albums:

86) Posies — Frosting on the Beater. I love the Posies. I love that Jon and Ken had something to do to get Alex Chilton back up and around and have flown the Big Star flag all these years. There are songs on other Posies albums that I like more than the songs on this album -- but I would take this album for the 1-2-3 punch of "Dream All Day" and (one of my most favorite songs ever the minute I first heard it) "Solar Sister" and "Flavor of the Month".

87) Billy Squier — Tell Her No. Sure -- who can forget the video that ended his career? But this debut album? Full of great Rock radio songs. You know the songs: "In The Dark", "The Stroke", "My Kinda Lover", "I Need You", and the great riff that leads off "Lonely Is The Night". Classics all! The follow-up album was good -- and then what happened?

88) Ace Frehley — Ace Frehley So the Paul Stanley solo album was already mentioned in the first 5. Being a big KISS fan in my youth, I only bought the Paul and Gene solo albums (why not? They were the two main singers!) At the time these came out, I didn't think much of Ace as a singer -- I still don't like "Shock Me" but even though "Rocket Ride" was pretty great why spend my hard-earned paper route money on this album? When the KISS remasters came out on CD, I thought, eh, why not?

This *blew me away* from "Rip It Out" all the way through "Fractured Mirror". I then read how Ace held back all these songs for the contractually obligated solo albums and then I understood why it was so good. Ace plays everything except drums all through the album. This was one of those albums that I kicked myself in the ass for not finding sooner (like the first 2 Big Star records...). The lyrics are laughable, but it's a KISS-related album. If I want poetry, I'll put on a Laura Nyro album.

I still do not like the Peter Criss solo album. It's the only "KISS" album I do not own a copy of.

Shriner said...

(my original post was too long -- here's part two...)

89) Jam — Setting Sons So All Mod Cons would be in *somebody's* top 100 (certainly mine). Setting Sons would follow on this next 100. "Thick As Thieves" is one of my favorite songs by the band. And "Eton Rifles"? Just an added bonus. And when talking about great unsung bass players (Pete Thomas, etc) why does Bruce Foxton rarely get mentioned? His bass drives this album and is killer. A band I was in covered their version of "Heatwave", so it holds a soft spot. I probably prefer the version of Smithers-Jones on "Extras", but it's a way-cool left turn when it comes up.

90) Steve Vai — Flex-Able. We all have a guitar hero. Early Steve Vai (before he got to be STEVE VAI THE MASTER SHREADER) was mine. This lo-fi DIY solo album that came on the heels of his work with Zappa is astounding. It's (as to be expected) heavily Zappa-influenced, but my god -- the instrumentals that are complex and seemingly effortless at the same time: Viv Woman, Call It Sleep and the force that is "The Attitude Song". The infectious pop song (that comes out of nowhere) of "The Boy/Girl Song" and the moving "Junkie" --- Just Go For It! (Yes, it ends with the somewhat chaotic and unlistenable last few snippets and songs -- and the CD remaster includes some extra bonus tracks that are actually distracting (and doesn't include the best one from "Flex-Able Leftovers" -- Details at 10) but the first side of the original album (and the first 3 songs of Side 2) got played enough while I tried to figure them out -- and I failed miserably -- to merit its inclusion on my list.) This is one of those albums that actually works better on vinyl with breaks between the sides.

Anonymous said...

That Dolls album is a keeper. I've rooted for Jesse Malin ever since being cracked up by him in Dgeneration, but I always get a strong whiff of Ryan Adams off of his solo albums. I'm surprised more people haven't cited The Jam; I'm more a fan of "The Gift."

The Raincoats - Moving
Mick Fleetwood - The Visitor
Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now (Hold Me Tight was the breakthrough, but this has some real breadth)
Carmel - The Drum is Everything
The Minutemen - What Makes a Man Start Fires

Michael Giltz said...

Huzzah for the Mavericks, Sal! And another Todd Rundgren gem for me to revisit. Chris, I'll have to listen again with open ears to that Prince album which I dismissed at the time and haven't paid attention to since. But Madonna is great -- I hear your choice or True Blue picked by fans as her best album. To me, she's a classic singles artist so I'd plunk for The Immaculate Collection, Vol. 1. Pity that she let the label clutter up her catalog w tons of random compilations. That one was perfectly chosen. A really good Immaculate Collection Vol. 2 would have been a blockbuster and solidified her rep, I believe.

Am I cheating with my picks on this round? I think not, since it speaks to not just albums but artists who get overlooked.


Take your pick. Seriously, all the artists below are taken for granted, ignored, or simply produce so much good music of such a high quality that it’s hard to know where to start. Everyone has their own particular favorites but not everyone has the same favorites and without that consensus they never quite score as highly as they should. Is it a coincidence four out of the five are women? Nope.

Suzanne Vega -- take your pick
Joni Mitchell -- take your pick
Ron Sexsmith --- take your pick (maybe the new album he just released?)
Aimee Mann -- take your pick
Dolly Parton -- take your pick

OK, obviously Joni Mitchell scores with Blue and Court And Spark. But she’s got five or so other really, really great albums that rarely get attention. Ron Sexsmith is so shockingly consistent, I really don’t know what to single out when recommending him. And Dolly Parton has such a rich body of work! Maybe the bluegrass albums? Obviously the Trio albums but I’m talking solo here. And weirdly there’s a Greatest Hits Volume TWO that comes after Volume One but focuses on her earlier better songs whereas Volume Two focuses on the “9 to 5” cross-over era. I can sing along with “Islands In The Stream” with the best of them, but “Coat of Many Colors” and “My Tennessee Mountain Home” is where her legend began.

Joe said...

I was wondering Sal if the Rascals were going to make it to your list. My choice is Groovin'. That record is still in very heavy rotation today (as are many of the other Rascals' records). It came out when I was in high school and it got me thinking about music in a broader way. BTW, the new Rhino compilation of all of the Rascals A and B sides is very good too.

Hey Sal, any intel on whatever happened to the promised CD/DVD of their reunion tour "Once Upon a Time?" I saw the show twice and I was hoping to get the recorded version.


Sal Nunziato said...

I don't know if this goes hand in hand with the delayed/canceled release of "Once Upon A Dream," but apparently the band imploded again. Felix vs everyone else.