Top 100 Album Review: #19 – Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

Aimless Wailing.

Squalling and yelling on top of multiple layers of improvised classical, jazz, and folk.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #21/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

There is a lady who sings international music on the sidewalks of Carytown in Richmond, VA. Densely-populated with shops and restaurants, she sings inaudible oscillating pitches while improvising on foreign instruments as the shapeless crowd passes by. As far as street performances go, it’s okay.

To my knowledge, she’s never placed an album on a top 100 list which makes sense. Her venue matches her output. Astral Weeks, absolutely similar with undecipherable yelps and forgettable compositions, would be right at home on the same city side-block as her.

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Top 100 Album Review: #23 – Innervisions, Stevie Wonder (1973)

Might Be My Favorite Album of All-Time.

I can’t find anything to debase — everything is perfectly as it should be. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #23/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

If I had to answer the impossible question of “What’s your favorite album of all-time?” this would be labeled Exhibit A in the evidence. Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions does everything well: it’s an eclectic collection of genres; it’s poppy, catchy, and weird all at once; it’s socially conscious and meaningful.

A deeply personal account that pierces your ego, it’s a rare piece of art where performer and listener almost overlap. Certain lyrics and measures cut me to the bone. The last time I remember someone being this open with their feelings on vinyl was Joni Mitchell’s Blue. The best part: it’s from a pop master, with every song sticking with you for days (or in my case, years).

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Top 100 Album Review: #60 – Greatest Hits, Sly and the Family Stone (1970)

Every Rap Artists’ Favorite Sample.

I used to like rap until I realized their contribution is so shockingly little. Bands like Sly deserve all the credit. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #60/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Rap music is a sham — a few lyrics over hooks, lines, and beats from the actually great musicians of the 60s and 70s. It doesn’t deserve the accolades it receives. I realize everything is inspired by what came before in the long lineage of artistic output. The difference with hip-hop/rap is that there is no attempt to build on that inspiration; it’s blatant theft that’s out in the open for all to see.

Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise is really Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Warren G’s I Want it All is really Debarge’s I Like It. Cardi B’s I Like It is really an old-time hit from Rodriguez’s I Like it Like That. Let’s be honest about the format: producers pay a price for a sample because it’s cheaper and easier than actually going through the artistic process. Then, they introduce the song to audiences young enough they don’t know the song is an imitation. This slight of hand perpetuates the fake talent of the artist.

If you add up all the samples used from songs from The Greatest Hits by Sly and the Family Stone, it totals to 697. So much for the trailblazing Dr. Dre, Tupac, Digital Underground, Biggie, Jungle Brothers, or anybody else you can think from the rap industry.

It’s time to give the true artists of creation credit: welcome to one of the best albums of all-time by Sly and the Family Stone!

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Top 100 Album Review: #90 – Talking Book, Stevie Wonder (1972)

An Album Where Every Track Is Good.

Hits, b-sides, upbeat, slow tempo — this album has it all. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #90/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Ten years ago, I tried to do this same blog where I reviewed the top 100 albums, books, and movies of all time. I didn’t get very far, maybe only posting three times (versus the 143 posts I’m currently sitting at 😇). One of those posts were Talking Book. I gave it five stars then, and I’m giving it five stars now.

My favorite moment was the end of track nine where I thought it was the end of the album. “I couldn’t ask for anymore,” thinking to myself. Then, I was rewarded with one more beautiful love ballads in I Believe, a complete surprise to cap off what I thought was already the limit.

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Top 100 Album Review: #49 – At Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers Band (1971)

I Recall None It.

With some songs going as long as 23 minutes, nothing is important from this aimless jam. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #49/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

This album is your typical top 100 switcharoo. Here is how it goes:

You know of the band or musician (in this case, it is the Allman Brothers) and you like the songs you do know (for instance Midnight Rider and Ramblin’ Man). You are excited to learn more of their stuff, and since it’s a top 100 album of all-time, you know it’s going to be great. Instead, you get NONE of the good songs that you do know, no good NEW stuff you didn’t know, and find there is NOTHING special about the album.

They did it to me with Frank Sinatra, then Sly and the Family Stone, and now the Allman Brothers. I realize I’m on the wrong side of history — good luck finding someone who doesn’t revere this as the most important live album of all-time.  It’s just truly aimless, and the incessantly repeated improvisations lasting as long as television shows never made a dent with me.

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Top 100 Album Review: #73 – Back in Black, AC/DC (1980)

A Tasteful Hard Rock Album.

Tasteful in musical composition, not lyrics of course.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #73/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586.jpgcropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586.jpgcropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586.jpgcropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586.jpg

Anything that fits under the genre Hard Rock or Heavy Metal is rat poison to me: the crass lyrics screamed at the decibels of chainsaws just doesn’t do it for me. Actually, it makes me shut-down, and like a nuclear reactor that’s about to explode, I begin an emergency protocol to get the hell away from it as quick as possible.

Considering AC/DC hard rock might be a joke to some — I know if you look at the Rock n’ Roll  continuum, there is such screaming, hard rock out there that in comparison they can look like a Bach coverband.  For me, Back in Black is touching the outer limits of what can be inherently pleasing to me but transcends it by reigning in the “hard/heavy” aspect along with some very good songs.

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Top 100 Album Review: #46 – Legend, Bob Marley and the Wailers (1984)

All You Need to Know: 500 Weeks on Billboard’s Top Albums.

This reggae album is awesome not because of the genre but because of the song writing.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #46/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

This album has achieved incredible staying power: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is the only album that’s been on the Billboards Top 200 Albums longer (another Top 100 Album selection).

What makes the album so good is that the songs themselves are so different even with the consistent reggae feel and rhythm. Put on any station dedicated to the genre and you will be lulled into lethargy as the monotonous sound waves melt into one another without distinction. Bob Marley and The Wailers, however, command your attention from start to finish with well-written songs, and this collection gives you the most powerful 15 examples of it.

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