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: #35 – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, David Bowie (1972)

Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am.

The flair and pomp gets more attention, but the album itself is actually good. 91WJORzpHML._SY355_.jpg

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #35/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

I was bracing myself for a let down.

Most of the things you find about this album online are about the extracurricular activities: the hairstyles, alter-egos, and concept. I found more words about David Bowie’s supposed sexuality than attention to the music itself. No worries needed here thankfully. There are a handful of great songs that can easily be enjoyed whether you think David’s gay or not.

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Top 100 Album Review: #52 – Greatest Hits, Al Green (1975)

A Greatest Hits Album a Top 100?

The albums really good, but it still feels like cheating.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #52/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m not sure how I feel about including a greatest hits compilation as one of the best albums of all time. Here, we have a collection of ten songs over a five year period which contains Green’s best material. Of course it’s phenomenal, but allowing the selective piece-mealing of someone’s entire career into one work doesn’t seem comparable to other albums that were released as a one-time entity.

Regardless, it’s still damn good and with so many awful iterations of greatest hits CDs, it’s refreshing to listen to one that’s produced so well that it feels like a regular album.

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Top 100 Album Review: #56 – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

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. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #56/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

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.

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Top 100 Album Review: #65 – Moondance, Van Morrison (1970)

Brass Folk

Morrison mixes folksy guitar work with some brass backing to make a unique sound.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #65/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

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.

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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. 

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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?

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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. 

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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)”