Tuesday, 18 June 2013

1001 Albums Update: 548 And Counting

So after holding off for so long because of exams 'n' shit (I thought I'd escaped those things ages ago) I've now made another huge chunk of progress in the past fortnight or so. Thanks to the glorious sunsheeeee-iiiiiinah we had the other week this is a little late, but anyway, let's get to it!

  • Big Brother & The Holding Company - Cheap Thrills: aka "Janis Joplin sings the hell out of every note like her life depended on it".
  • Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got: I'm pretty sure going off the absurd title this was during here "burning pictures of the Pope" phase. With music this mundane no wonder she needed such crazy publicity stunts to get by.
  • The Who - Live At Leeds/Sarah Vaughan - Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly's/James Brown - Live At The Apollo/Deep Purple - Machine Head, Made In Japan
So a whole crop of great live albums turned up this time around.
Of course the one which gets heralded as the holy grail of all live albums is The Who's Live At Leeds. Quite rightly too, as it does what all great live albums should do and that's showcase an act at their peak and giving you a greater energy than they ever could on a studio record. "Summertime Blues" and "My Generation" were incredible. Maximum R'n'B indeed.

Equally powerful was Jame Brown's Live At The Apollo, which illustrated what a well oiled machine him and his touring band were, blistering through the likes of "I'll Go Crazy" and "Night Train".

Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly's is a great illustration of how the live album could showcase a jazz vocalist, with Vaughan sounding sumptuous on "September In The Rain" and hilariously improvising when forgetting the lyrics to "How High The Moon".

Deep Purple's Made In Japan is also talked about fondly, and was one of those rare live albums that proved to be the breakthrough for the band (that's how good the album was). Although listening to their best studio album Machine Head it's hard to see why people weren't getting it at first, "Highway Star" and "Smoke On The Water" were immense.
  • M.I.A. - Kala: 
I love M.I.A. Her albums can be a bit patchy, but Kala in particular has a real potent mix of badassery ("XR2"), charm ("Jimmy") and flat out infectiousness ("Boyz", "Paper Planes") that makes for a great listen.

Also, this reminds me of the time my friend found this picture on Myspace(!) years ago:

As some of you know I'm a massive R.E.M. fan, so this picture put a massive smile on my face. It brought an even bigger one to my face when said friend said "This could so be us in 10 years time". I'd be the one looking like Michael Stipe, obviously, there's no way I'll ever look as good as Maya!

  • Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland, Axis:Bold As Love, Are You Experienced?
Oh boy, to say I was looking forward to hearing these would be an understatement. It's hard to think of Hendrix as being on the same planet as most other musicians, he was in a league of his own at playing guitar.

Axis:Bold As Love was perhaps the trippiest of the bunch and perhaps didn't make as strong an impression as the other two, but "Little Wing" and "If 6 Was 9" are undeniably great.
Electric Ladyland is full of the blistering riffs and highlights the incredible command Jimi had of his guitar - "Crosstown Traffic", "All Along The Watchtower" and my all time favourite Hendrix song "Voodoo Child" all stand out as you'd expect.
For me though Are You Experienced? is the best of the lot. Truly one of the great debut albums, tracks like "Foxey Lady", "Manic Depression", "Fire" and "Third Stone From The Sun" illustrate how masterful Jimi could fuse psychedelia and funk in with incredible guitar play.

  • Korn - Follow The Leader 
I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to this. I think I'm developing a taste for heavier music. "Freak On A Leash" is fantastic, possibly usurps their appearance in South Park as their biggest triumph. Well, only narrowly.

  • Elvis Presley - Elvis Is Back!: You bet your arse he's back! Although in hindsight the tracks I most enjoyed/the more famous tracks ("Are You Lonesome Tonight", "It's Now Or Never") only appeared on the reissue. Ah well.
  • Miriam Makeba - Miriam Makeba: This was an unexpected gem. South Afirca's Makeba mixes both America and African style jazz to great effect. Really stands out from what other female singers were doing at the time.
  • Michael Jackson - Thriller
Here's Jacko's magnum opus. The title track probably seems a bit campy now, but all the other big hitters - "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "The Girl Is Mine", "Billy Jean", "P.Y.T." - still sound terrific. There's a reason this sold a gazillion records and it's not just because of how well Jackson's image was marketed (at the time anyway), it's because this is an album full of classics.
  • Duran Duran - Rio
It'll probably depend on who you asked but these guys either defined the best or the worst of the 80s. Personally I enjoyed it but couldn't escape the feeling I should feel guilty about it. This also brings back memories of that parody of the title track they did on The Now Show taking the mick out of Rio Ferdinand when he got banned that time. I tried to get it to catch on with my mates but had no luck.
  • Talk Talk - The Colour Of Spring 
Here's another act Guy Garvey's been trying to convince me are amazing and it's only just sunk in that they really are. This album was much easier to get into than their other stuff I've heard, much less synths and much more real sounding. "Life's What You Make It" in particular is pretty powerful.
  • The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out: More like timeless. Often imitated, never bettered, this album is the pinnacle of jazz. "Take Five" and "Unsquare Dance" are now so ubiquitous you can't imagine life without them.

  • Ali Farka Toure - Savane, Talking Timbuktu (with Ry Cooder): These albums are the very definition of chill out music. Fantastic guitar play and such a relaxing pace.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Well I was dreading this. I'm not a big fan of Amy Winehouse to say the least. I absolutely cannot stand the title track to this album. It got overplayed horrendously on radio except with "kept his dick wet" and "you love coke and I love blow" censored which made it sound even more ridiculous. C'mon, either be the retro-heartache chanteuse or be the sleazy classless druggie, don't try and pull both off at the same time.

The only tracks of hers I ever enjoyed were "You Know I'm No Good" and "Love Is A Losing Game" because Winehouse kept those two personalities completely separate. The latter being utterly timeless and proof that her voice was something to behold when clean.
Anyway I'm glad I got that off my chest.
  • Morrissey - You Are The Quarry: This is often heralded as a great return to form for Moz, but I really didn't think this was anything special. Nothing lyrically holds a candle to his past work. "First Of The Gang To Die" is great though.
  • Ozomatli - Street Signs: Well this one came out of nowhere for me. An absolutely fantastic blend of rock, gypsy, Moroccan and Latino jazz and hip-hop. The diversity alone makes this a complete and utter triumph, but the intensity of the delivery is the icing on the cake.

  • Big Star - #1 Record: You need a lot of guts to give your album that title, but boy was this an enjoyable album. Really sweet and harmonic. Top class stuff.
  • Kanye West - College Dropout
When I was at school Kanye used to irritate the hell out of me by putting vocal samples in his records and then rapping over them while the samples were still singing. It gave me a headache, especially "Through The Wire". But eventually I got used to it, and even at the time I got really into the likes of "Slow Jamz" (which featured Twista - whatever happened to him? He was one of my favourite MCs growing up) and "Jesus Walks". This and Late Registration will always be my favourite work of Kanye's.
  • Missy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly
I didn't realise Timberland did any vocals whatsoever before he worked with Justin Timberlake. Still as per usual it's his beats that stand out, and Missy is more than capable enough of an MC to make something even greater out of them.
  • Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness: I enjoyed this record but not as much as Siamese Dream. There's some of their best work on here like "Tonight, Tonight" and "1979" but the trouble is this is a double album, and at time it really drags in my view.
  • The Cardigans - First Band On The Moon: Before crime drama, Scandanavia's top export was good quality pop music, like this gem from The Cardigans. Nina Persson's voice has always been a favourite of mine, and really is delightful on the likes of "Lovefool".
  • Pet Shop Boys - Very: I can't hear "Go West" without singing "Oooo-arrrrrrr! It's Ambrosia!"

  • Frank Black - Teenager Of The Year: A.K.A Pixies' lead singer Black Francis. Ignore the Operation Yewtree-baiting title and just enjoy the exhilarating guitars at play.
  • The Isley Brother - 3+3: Regular readers who aren't bots trying to share malware with me will probably have gathered I love me a bit of disco and soul. So unsurprisingly I adored this record. "Summer Breeze" sounded fantastic in the good weather the other week.
Also impressing me this time around were;
  • Joanna Newsom - Ys
  • Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
  • The Everly Brothers - A Date With The Everly Brothers
  • John Prine - John Prine 
  • Count Bassie - The Atomic Mr Bassie 
  • Jack Elliott - Jack Takes The Floor 
  • Ray Charles - The Genius Of Ray Charles
  • Air - Moon Safari
While these leaved a little to be desired
  • The Icarus Line - Penance Soiree
  • Method Man - Tical
  • Marylin Manson - Antichrist Superstar
  • Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow
  • Simple Minds - New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 
  • John Lee Hooker - The Healer 
  • Leftfield - Leftism
  • Chemical Brothers - Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole

So, time to get cracking on with the other 452 then. See you round.