Friday, 24 January 2014

1001 Albums Update: 657 and counting

Right, I've been rather slow lately. I played through everything in this entry before Christmas, and I've not been listening to anything else on the list since then so that I don't have a huge backlog of albums to write up. So I'd best get a move on with this!

Before I do though, I noticed a new 2013 edition of the "1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die" book came out. Flicking through it, it seemed like there were a lot of new additions I really approved of - The Next Day by David Bowie and Channel Orange by Frank Ocean amongst them. I've not had chance to find out which albums from the old edition they replaced.

But just to clarify, for the purposes of this blog I have been using, and will continue to use, the 2011 edition of the book.
Right, away we go!

  • The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers: I think this rounds off all the Stones' albums on the list, and what a way to go. A big bluesy riot featuring "Brown Sugar" with it's irresistible riff (and totally non-pc subject matter) and possibly their best ballad in "Wild Horses". Also famous for THAT album sleeve that came with an actual zipper when it was first released.

  • Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority: Not for nothing, but I was just expecting a set of straight-up Creedance imitations, but I was quite surprised to find this record dominated by brass and piano sounds initially, before all the guitars took over as expected. The star attraction was "I'm A Man", which featured in that VW Polo ad with the singing dog that eventually got banned.

  • Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die: Much like Chicago, a lot more keys and soul-style arrangements than I expected. Not to mention a welcome big of sax on "Freedom Rider".
  • Dusty Springfield - Dusty In Memphis: I've already waxed lyrical about my love for Dusty in my previous entry, and this album saw her sky-rocketed to success and people's heart through the single "Son Of A Preacher Man".
  • Blood Sweat & Tears - Blood Sweat & Tears: Did not expect this group to be responsible for the song below - have a listen and I'm almost certain you'll recognise it.

  • The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Guilded Palace Of Sin: Great mix of Byrds-esque guitar play and more traditional country vocals.
  • Leonard Cohen - Songs From A Room: Yet again Cohen dazzles me thanks to the primary weapons in his arsenal - his way with words and that low, cathartic voice. "Bird On A Wire" is hands down my favourite song he's ever written.
  • The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks, Arthur - Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire, The Village Green Preservation Society
No doubt it's down to the fact that the latter were concept albums before the concept album was cool, I found fewer gems amongst these albums that I was expecting. Although that's not to say there aren't any; "David Watts" and the sublime "Waterloo Sunset" from Something Else, "Shangri-la" and the infectious "Victoria" from Arthur and the daft charms of "People Take Pictures Of Each Other" from Village Green... are all classics.
  • The White Stripes - White Blood Cells: This is a little more what I'd expect out of a White Stripes record. I usually find Jack White's guitar play a bit variable and some things he tries don't really come off, but the likes of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and "Fell In Love With A Girl" are much more to my tastes that what I'd heard before.
  • Ash - 1977: 
Ash really were living the dream on this record - at the time just a bunch of teenagers playing like they're just jamming in their garage that found tremendous success with this record. There's a lot of influence from the likes of Dinosaur Jr. in the way the vocals and guitar play work out, but the band put enough of a twist on it with their youthful exuberance and very of-the-time sample/production like on the naive "Kung Fu".
As far as opening salvos go, the trio of "Lose Control", "Goldfinger" and "Girl From Mars" are about as good as they come.
  • Doves - Lost Souls: 
Most of my fond memories come from the likes of "Pounding" and "Black And White Town", and also seeing a clip of them at Glastonbury and being amused to hear Jimi Goodwin talked just like he sang; "Fuck this weather man!", he chided as if he were still singing that bit in "Black And White Town" where he goes "you better watch you don't crack your head on a pavement, it's a dangerous place man!"
Certainly "Catch The Sun" quenched my thirst for that side of the band. However, what I took away most from the record were how brilliant the band were doing genteel, more melancholy songs like "Sea Song" and the undisputed highlight of the album, "The Cedar Room". That song... just does something to me. Something just comes over me when I hear it. The chorus especially is one of the most powerful things I've come across in years.

  • Belle & Sebastian - Tigermilk: Unbelievably this was the band's final year project when they were studying music business at university. Such a warm, homely, lovely record.
  • Super Furry Animals - Rings Around The World: I have a lot of time for Gruff Rhys' kooky voice, especially on this record with the rest of his band on their best form.
  • Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain: Mildy disappointed with this I have to say, much preferred Goldfrapp when they were in their sultry "Ooh La La" phase. This album was a tad too slight for me.
  • Nico - Chelsea Girl: Surprised to see Nico made such a strong record away from The Velvet Underground, "The Fairest Of The Seasons" and "These Days" in particular were great.
  • Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited: Another classic, most famous for the tracks that bookend the album, "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Desolation Row", probably two of the all time high points in his career lyrically (and let's face it, he had a load of them!).
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends: Speaking of bookends, another bit of magic from Simon & Garfunkel. This was the album they probably had their best chemistry on, before tensions between the two change the tone of their music slightly on Bridge Over Troubled Water. Most famous for the single "Mrs Robinson", and yes, she will seduce you!

  • Pixies - Doolittle, Surfer Rosa: 
Here we have one of the most influential alternative rock groups of the past several decades rearing their heads again. With the likes of "Debaser" ("Got me a mooovie I want you to KNOOOOW"), "Here Comes Your Man" and "Monkey Gone To Heaven", Doolittle was definitely their finest hour for me. The foundations of what made the album work so well - the brevity of the songs, like short bursts of mayhem, Black Francis' unorthodox vocals, the tight guitar play and the satisfying snap of the drums - were all present and correct on predecessor Surfer Rosa too, although they didn't quite reach the same heights on that record.
  • The Monkees - Headquarters
[Marge gets on the bus for her first day of school, carrying lunchbox with The Monkees on it]
Girl: Eww! You like The Monkees? You know they don't write their own songs.
Marge: They do so!
Girl: They don't even play their own instruments.
Marge: No! No!
Girl: That's not even Michael Nesmith's real hat.
Marge: Agggghhhh!!!
Marge's therapist then claimed The Monkees weren't about the music, but I'd dispute that hearing this album. Whoever wrote "Forget That Girl" and "I Can't Get Her Off My Mind" for the group sure knew what they were doing.
  • Merle Haggard & The Strangers - I'm A Lonesome Fugitive: Hardly surprised to find country with such a great mix of wit and directness from a man who was inspired by seeing Johnny Cash playing San Quentin. I wish more ex-convicts contributed such excellence to society.
  • The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat: A very experimental addition to, let's face it, what was a very experimental canon of music from the late great Lou Reed. Countless people from Bowie to James Murphy have tried to borrow from the unequivocal cool of the title track, and none have been able to match it.
Other enjoyable listens came from
  • The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East
  • Astrud Gilberto - Beach Samba
  • Scott Walker - Scott 2
  • Deep Purple - In Rock

 On the other hand, not making much impression were
  • Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes
  • Laura Nyro - Eli & The Thirteenth Confession
  • Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum
  • Alexander Spencer - Oar
  • Spirit - Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails
  • The Beau Brummels - Triangle 

So that's you're lot this time around.