Stevie’s Magnus Opus
While a bit self-indulgent, this double-LP contains so much good material it’s impossible to listen to it all in one sitting.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #56/100
I had a three hour drive ahead of me, and I thought I would be able to get through all of “Songs in the Key of Life,” but halfway through the album I was exhausted. It is a pit of endless material.
If I had to register a minor compliant — some of these songs are just too long, which contributes to the exhaustion level. But hey, if I put together a 21 track album, some of which would live on forever as a quintessential-American soundtrack, I might do whatever I want, too.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #56 – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)”
It’s a Good One.
Afraid that I would dislike “the greatest album of all time,” The Beatles deliver in spectacular fashion.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #1/100
The Beatles are mythical. Growing up before a wave of Americans, their career spans decades from a boy band, to quintessential hippies, and finally finishing with solo careers. The Beatles are the biggest band of all time — no argument. But, would the hype lead to oversight? Would weak tracks and poor music be wiped under the rug, powered by the musical force that is The Beatles?
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is everything as advertised: a complete album representing a perfect cross-section of avant-garde arrangements, lyrical content, and song writing.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #1 – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (1967)”
Morrison mixes folksy guitar work with some brass backing to make a unique sound.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #65/100
I put on this album before I started a 5 mile run. Reaching the crest of a hill with the sun peaking out on the horizon, “Into the Mystic” began to play. It made me reach a spatially different mindset where time seemed to neither move nor matter. I had moved into some alternative space where my run was effortless and my thoughts easy.
The entire Moondance album has an otherworldly feel: it slowly hypnotizes you with easy guitar, folky lyrics, and soft brass bands interspersed through the music. The style becomes repetitive though, with not all the songs making an impact.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #65 – Moondance, Van Morrison (1970)”
Weird at Times
But fantastically so, with the hits far outweighing the strange.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #72/100
I’m a Prince fan, but I know some of his stuff can get down right weird. Part of that is him, willing to take chances and do whatever the hell he wants. The other part is a product of the time of his ascent — the 80s — where you could get away with all sorts of synth wailing. I found Purple Rain a complete listen, even if there are some treks across uncharted, psychedelic lands.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #72 – Purple Rain, Prince (1984)”
It Took a Few Listens
But I finally came to appreciate the down-tempo album and majestic voice of Arethra Franklin.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #83/100
I remember when I found out Prince died: I was at my house and saw it on facebook. I hadn’t listened to my regular music in years, preferring chill/new age stuff while writing, reading, or studying. The last year was nothing but school, so my Amazon Music Library was the equivalent of cobwebs. I pulled up his discography and immediately started crying. Each song reminded me of something.
I didn’t necessarily have the same relationship with Aretha, but her recent passing still had impact: songs that instantly transported me to another time. Memories. Experiences. I had just turned 21. Returning after drinking at a bar for the first time (legally, I should add), I listened to all of her greatest hits, soaking it up.
I’ve been listening to this album for weeks, way before news of her illness was made known. Her passing made it even more poignant. While I made my mind up about the rating and what songs to highlight a while ago, I was reminded that these greats won’t be around forever.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #83 – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love you, Aretha Franklin (1967)”
The Piano Man’s Reigning Achievement.
One of those rare albums where almost every track is a triumph of song writing perfection.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #67/100
Grammy: Song and Record of the Year for “Just the Way You Are.”
Billy Joel intertwines with my coming of age. I found a 2-disc greatest hit collection in the streets of Richmond, VA when I just got my permit to drive — it didn’t leave my driving music rotation for years, and Goodnight Saigon become an anthem between my friends.
When I saw this track listing, I new most of the material with 6 out of the 9 songs being “Greatest Hits” material. Seeing the songs in their natural habitat on “The Stranger” along with the other solid material is almost unthinkable: how did someone come out with this much good material at once?
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #67 – The Stranger, Billy Joel (1977)”
What Can Jimi Not Do?
A debut album that show cases the wide range of Hendrix’s talents — guitar riffs, thoughtful lyrics, original compensations.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #15/100
Another example of me listening to the original album when I knew the greatest hits, “Are You Experienced” is a reminder that there is plenty hidden in the full record.
I had previously listened to Ray Charles’ Atlantic R&B Collection and Little Richard’s Eponymous album, and I can’t help but see the continuation of what was becoming a 20 year project: taking the foundations of music and twisting in ways never done before.
Jimi Hendrix’s use of guitar sends you to an incorporeal place, being left in awe of his mastery of the instrument. His interpretation of R&B, gospel, jazz, rock, and soul might be the best attempt yet. Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #15 – Are you Experienced, Jimi Hendrix (1967)”