Sunday, 3 March 2013

1001 Albums Update: 400 and counting!

I've managed to tear myself away from the stream of Bowie's new album (which I'm pleased to say is excellent) and reading Peter Ames Carlin's pretty ace Springsteen biography to let you all know how I'm getting on with this albums challenge. So let's get cracking! These past few weeks I have mostly been listening to...

  • Norah Jones - Come Away With Me: Ravi Shankar's daughter! Who'd have thunk it? This didn't send me to sleep quite as soon as I thought it would and had a mice rendition of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart".
  • Joni Mitchell - Blue, Court And Spark: I think these two albums illustrate Joni at her best. Court And Spark was my favourite, although I've heard a rumour she hates it! Which I can't fathom at all, the likes of "Free Man In Paris" are classics.
  • Rush - 2112 
I was rather excited to hear this. Over Christmas I read "Ready Player One", the brilliant debut novel by Ernest Cline, the premise is like Willy Wonka meets The Matrix. Anyway, one of the featured characters in that book had a big obsession with Rush and this album in particular with it's futuristic concept. In the end it proved to be a good listen, but I have to say I preferred Moving Pictures more. I'd definitely recommend the book though.

  • Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!: Just as quirky as you'd expect, "Uncontrollable Urge" and "Mongoloid" were the highlights of a pretty patchy album.
  • The Band - The Band: A really sure-footed follow up to Music From The Big Pink, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up On Cripple Creek" being amongst the highlights.
  • The Stooges - Funhouse: I can't quite put my finger on it, but just like their debut this didn't click with me anywhere nearly as much as Iggy's solo stuff. Must be the drugs or something.
  • N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton: Everyone you hear sampling "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright has to live with the fact that what they do with the track will never hold a candle to what N.W.A. did with it, and that's a fact.
  • Simply Red - Picture Book: Surprising bearable album considering it came from the mind of Mick Hucknall. I'm sorry every time I say his name in my head I can't help but think of Bo' Selecta Mick Hucknall.

  • Otis Redding - Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul: Oh my stars, this has to be one of the most perfect soul records I've ever heard. Every track is just a show-stopper, especially his takes on Sam Cooke's "Change Gonna Come" and "Shake" and Smokey Robinson's "My Girl".
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell: This takes me back to playing the original Rock Band game with a bunch of friends from school, and "Maps" would always be our go-to song because it was relatively easy to play for all of us. Those were the days...
  • Peter Tosh - Legalize It: This is a bit of a curio. The title track is about as subtle as a sledgehammer about wanting marijuana to be made legal tender. Yet there are also some nice little reggae ballads like "Why Must I Cry?" in amongst the druggie stuff.
  • Tangerine Dream - Phaedra: Yet another album where I've found myself wondering if I've missed the point entirely when it comes to Krautrock.
  • Echo And The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain: "The Killing Moon"! Excellent.
  • Sly And The Family Stone - Stand!: I found this a much more enjoyable listen than There's A Riot Goin' On. I couldn't help but think of the Canadians in South Park upon hearing "Don't Call Me N*gger, Whitey" though. (I'm not your buddy, guy!)

  • Pentangle - Basket Of Light: My first taste of Bert Jansch's work on this list, and I was very impressed. Equally impressive were the vocals of Jacqui McShee.
  • Goldie - Timeless: Hard to think the bloke who's been on every kind of reality show you can think of in the noughties actually popularised jungle and drum & bass.
  • Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate: Another great Cohen album, "Avalanche" and "Sing Another Song, Boys" were my favourites.
  • MC5 - Kick Out The Jams 
This album simultaneously made and set back MC5's career. With songs like the title track and "Motor City Is Burning" the band helped established their reputation as one of the most primal and livewire rock acts of the next decade. However, their introduction of the title track ("right now it's time to... kick out the jams, Motherfucker!") stirred up a whirlwind of controversy that ended up with their label Elektra dropping the band. It was worth it though.
  • Curtis Mayfield - Superfly: So so funky. So good it made more money than the film it was soundtracking!

"He's got a plaaaaan, to stick it to the maaaaaan!"
  • The Rolling Stones - Aftermath: Another key stepping stone (oh God I  swear I didn't mean to make that pun) for the group as their first album made entirely of Jagger-Richards written songs, "Mother's Little Helper", "Lady Jane" and "Under My Thumb" being the most famous examples.
  • Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim - Francis Albert Sinatra And Antonio Carlos Jobim: Frank may have been getting a little long in the tooth by this time, but there's no resisting his crooning over "The Girl From Ipanema".
  • Sparks - Kimono My House: Most famous for "This Town Isn't Big Enough For The Both Of Us", which should give you an idea of how creative this album is (whilst having its tongue firmly in its cheek).
  • Slade - Slayed?: Proving that Slade are for life, not just for Christmas. Lots of fantastic rock licks on here like "How D'You Ride?" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now".
  • Beck - Sea Change: Another album buried amongst my Spotify lists I can't recall getting the whole way through until now. This is about as laid back and tender as Beck ever got, with great cuts like "Paper Tiger". This album is an obvious forefather to the likes of "Chemtrails" from Modern Guilt.
  • U2 - War, All That You Can't Leave Behind
This was like a tale of two U2's. War was an absolute revelation, as I had at last found a U2 I could enjoy without any pretensions or bullshit, just pure, direct, great rock and roll like "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
On the other end of the stick, All That You Can't Leave Behind finds the band realising that the excesses of the Zooropa and Pop eras were just a bit much and thus they returned to playing to their strengths with the likes of "Beautiful Day" and "Elevation". It's a very good record, but I can't help but think it lacks the bombast of their earlier work.
  • Incubus - Make Yourself
I thought at the point in their careers where they made this album Incubus were a more traditional style metal act. I had no idea that 1) they were making such perfect pop as "Drive" already and 2) they were making experimental, semi-comedic tunes like Battlestar Scralatchtica.

  • Genesis - Selling England By The Pound: There's no escaping it now, I'm a full on convert to Peter Gabriel's work. This was another really interesting listen especially opener "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight".
  • Portishead - Dummy: Fantastic album. The tones was set from the off with the spooky "Mysterons" promptly followed by the chilling "Sour Times". An atmospheric masterpiece.
  • Kraftwerk - Autobahn: Far more enticing and absorbing than any concept album designed to replicate the sensation of driving on the motorway has any right to be.
  • The Replacements - Let It Be: It takes balls to give an album THAT title, but it more than delivered. A pop-punk masterpiece, the likes of "Unsatisfied" are especially brilliant.

  • Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads, Henry's Dream
Seeing as I'm going to see the band in October, I thought I ought to further delve in their back-catalogue. Murder Ballads sees Cave put his own spin on traditional tales of crimes of passion (plus some of his own), including a blistering re-invention of "Stagger Lee" and a terrific cover of Bob Dylan's "Death Is Not The End" featuring a whole heap of guest stars including PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue (both of whom feature on earlier tracks from the album) and Shane McGowan.
Henry's Dream is just classic Bad Seeds and the likes of "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry" and "Jack The Ripper" saw the band in riotous form.
  • The Incredible String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter: This was a bit of a weird one. Imagine if The Mamas And The Papas took more drugs & moved to Scotland and you'd pretty much be able to picture what this album sounds like.
  • Common - Like Water For Chocolate: This is my new favourite Common album. It starts off unassuming enough but then really kicks to life with the excellent "Dooinit" and "The Light". There's some great guestspots too, from Jill Scott, Macy Gray and Cee-Lo.
  • Massive Attack - Protection, Blue Lines 
Two terrific genre-defining cuts from Massive Attack here. Blue Lines appropriately enough was the blueprint that set the standard for the trip-hop movement, with the classic "Unfinished Sympathy" and my personal favourite "Hymn Of The Big Wheel".
Protection meanwhile is an appropriately less intense affair, given the state of flux the band were in at the time without Tricky or Shara Nelson. But the likes of "Heat Miser" and the title track are sublime.

Other albums that were like music to my ears were
  • The Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday
  • Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night
  • Gene Clark - No Other, White Light
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Pronounced "Leh-nerd Skin-nerd"
  • Love - Da Capo
  • The Cars - The Cars 
  • Manu Chao - Clandestino
  • Joan Baez - Joan Baez
  • Moby Grape - Moby Grape
  • The 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators

While the following weren't quite to my taste
  • Country Joe And The Fish - Electric Music For The Mind And Body
  • King Crimson - Larks' Tongue In Aspic
  • Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
  • Soft Machine - Third 
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus 
  • Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun
And with that I shall bid you adieu for now.