Top 100 Album Review: #83 – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love you, Aretha Franklin (1967)

It Took a Few Listens

But I finally came to appreciate the down-tempo album and majestic voice of Arethra Franklin.

81Ez8-3qQaL._SL1425_

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #83/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

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)”

Top 100 Album Review: #67 – The Stranger, Billy Joel (1977)

The Piano Man’s Reigning Achievement.

One of those rare albums where almost every track is a triumph of song writing perfection. 

https_%2F%2Fimages.genius.com%2Fe258e5b516fdbdd9ccfab72ebdd42e8a.500x500x1.jpg

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #67/100
Grammy: Song and Record of the Year for “Just the Way You Are.”
My Rating:cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

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)”

Top 100 Album Review: #15 – Are you Experienced, Jimi Hendrix (1967)

What Can Jimi Not Do?

A debut album that show cases the wide range of Hendrix’s talents — guitar riffs, thoughtful lyrics, original compensations. 

Are_You_Experienced_-_US_cover-edit
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #15/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

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)”

Top 100 Album Review: #53- The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Recordings, Ray Charles (1952 – 1959)

I Thought I Knew Ray

But this collection of his early songs shows the moment where “The Genius” decided to crossover multiple worlds: gospel, jazz, and blues to make the new sound of soul. 

R-1257240-1440871917-2150.jpeg 

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #53/100
My Rating:smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I’ve been listening to Ray Charles forever. I won music trivia buzz-in at a bar for his version of America the Beautiful with it only playing for one second. I know this man, or so I thought. The CDs of Ray Charles I owned were geared to his career post 1960, where he did covers of Hank Williams or had people writing him material that he performed in his style.

This Atlantic Rhythm and Blues collection shows where he ironed out what that style  — he was the main writer and producer of this material. These songs are gritty, southern and full of beautiful textures combining different styles of music into a whole new genre; when you listen to this album, you get to listen to the birth of soul.

Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #53- The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Recordings, Ray Charles (1952 – 1959)”

Top 100 Album Review: #40 – Forever Changes, Love (1967)

Hippie Odds and Ends

A college apartment personified, Forever Changes is a collection of scattered furniture and decorative knickknacks that coalesce into an uneven presentation punctuated by occasional gem. 

love-forever-changes-cover

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #30/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

If you never knew what being a hippie was like, I’m assuming this is it: disjointed, psychedelic, sometimes smart, drug inspired, bizarre. If I have to give Love some credit, it would have to be in the style. It’s a unique mix of guitar riffs, mariachi horns and lyrical content that suites the hippie era.

While sometimes this all comes together to be brilliant (Such as in ‘Alone Again, Or’ and ‘A House is Not a Hotel’), more often than not I feel like I’m listening to the generic, hippie scrawl that regulates itself to weird background noise.

Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #40 – Forever Changes, Love (1967)”

Top 100 Album Review: #36 – Tapestry, Carol King (1971)

The Song Writer’s Breakout

Tapestry, a sprawling epic including hit after hit, was a chance for Carol King to show off her own material.

R-461166-1225416286.jpeg
Carol King with her cat Telemachus, named after the son of Odysseus from the Greek Mythology story the Odyssey.

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #36
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

If you are over 50 or like any type of old music, you’ve heard Carol King’s work.

Between her writing career and people doing covers of her songs, King has given hit singles to several other well-known artists, including James Taylor, Quincy Jones, The Animals, The Drifters, Roberta Flack, and more. Known as a prolific song writer in the 60s with her then husband Gerry Goffin, King didn’t have any platform of her own as her pervious band “The City” was disbanded between label switches and her debut album “Writer” did not make much movement on the Billboard charts.

Then Tapestry released. Carol King was launched into another stratosphere as one of the most successful, solo-female acts.

Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #36 – Tapestry, Carol King (1971)”

Top 100 Album Review: #6 – What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye (1971)

A Fascinating Album & Undefinable Genre

An album that faithfully conveys the feelings and spirit of the never named Vietnam veteran returning home with a varied collection of soul, gospel, funk, R&B, and pop that can only be categorized as Marvin Gaye. 

https_images.genius.comd90c35480188daf3c21c8fc58cff93f8.1000x990x1

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #6/100
My Rating:smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Marvin Gaye had to fight for this one.

Tired of having Motown dictate his creative direction, Gaye wanted to create an album that was more personal and less hit-oriented. Barry Gordon wasn’t having it, but after threatening to never record again, Gordon allowed Gay to have full creative direction.

This is a masterpiece of an album: nine songs that freely float into one another, recall motifs of previous tracks, and the most interesting story arc in concept album story telling. Following an African-American, Vietnam veteran after his return from war, the subject matter risks being too preachy, but by having an actual character as the vessel to experience everything, the album becomes a prescient bit of social consciousness. Instead of being hung up on politics, we get to experience and FEEL this unnamed protagonist’s plight.

“Don’t punish me with brutality,
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on.”

Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #6 – What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye (1971)”