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.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #6/100
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)”
An Extremely Personal Expose About Relationships
Completely exposed, Joni Mitchell touches a nerve featuring all textures of a relationship. Her infatuation, longing, loneliness, and heartbreak is cracked open for all of us to see.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #30/100
The first two CDs I ever owned were Lou Bega’s Mumbo Number 5 and Joni Mitchell’s Blue. What do you want — I was a weird kid. Riding around on bus #22, I jammed out to the folk goodness of Joni Mitchell as we caravanned down cow-covered patches in western Hanover in Virginia.
I shouldn’t say I owned it; I overheard it being played by my sister and my mother, and after one of them left it in the CD drive, I got in the habit of listening to it while playing some of my favorite browser-based games (Archmage or Sissyfight anyone?). As a 13 year old, I did not exactly catch what all the lyrics were about. I much more appreciated the solid tunes and the earthy tones of the singer-song writer genre that was pretty absent from my 90s music diet.
Listening to this as a thirty year old is quite a different experience — past people and places bubbling to the surface with each track.
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #30 – Blue, Joni Mitchell (1971)”
Rip-Roaring Rock, Start to Finish
Rollingstone Magazine’s ranking: #91/100
I came of age in a post-album era. iTunes purchases were only .99 per song, and we picked apart an artist’s catalog like making our plates at a buffet.
I wonder what this has done to our musical palate: we don’t give ourselves time to give any songs a chance, never mind giving a whole album with a variety of lyrics and tunes an opportunity to impress us.
I only knew about Elton John via his greatest hits. But, that kind of leaves me with no idea of who Elton really was as an artist. I feel like it has been said that we get to know an artist through their “B-Side” (which is a reference to the other song that was sold with a single when it was a physical 45RPM vinyl disc), so I was blissfully unaware of anything beyond “Crocodile Rock” and such.
Elton John was born in 1947 and has had an illustrious career starting with his first album in 1969 (Empty Sky) culminating throughout the years to make him the 5th best selling artist of all-time, having 50 (FIFTY) top 40 hits and releasing 30 studio albums. So we know Elton can write a hit, and many of them, but how does his album work hold up?
Continue reading “Top 100 Album Review: #91 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)”