If I were to describe this album with one musical reference, it would be Burt Bacharach: it oozes his bubble pop feel with anthems of love over bossa nova beats. However, only one song is penned by him with the rest coming from Gerry Coffin, Carol King, Randy Newman, The Bergmans, and more.
I was genuinely surprised the album grew on me. At first glance, Son of a Preacher Man was the only track I recognized, and while a certified smash, I was hoping there would be others of its ilk lurking. Instead, I found what seemed to be a bunch of middling songs. None too high, none too low, none too memorable.
After getting out of my own way, I started to really appreciate the subtle moves of the and Springfield’s ability.
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 My Rating:
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.
Morrison mixes folksy guitar work with some brass backing to make a unique sound.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #65/100 My Rating:
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.
But fantastically so, with the hits far outweighing the strange.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #72/100 My Rating:
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.
But I finally came to appreciate the down-tempo album and majestic voice of Arethra Franklin.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #83/100 My Rating:
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.
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.” My Rating:
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?
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.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #30/100 My Rating:
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.
Tapestry, a sprawling epic including hit after hit, was a chance for Carol King to show off her own material.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #36 My Rating:
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.
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 My Rating:
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.”
I don’t know who I am anymore — enjoying a film based on theater and stage.
American Film Institutes Ranking: #100/100 Academy Awards: Nominated for several: best picture, actor, screenplay, supporting actor etc. Won for Best Actor (James Cagney). My Rating:
My dislike for theater runs deep and goes to my early days of college — VCU was home to a vibrant theater community, and early every morning they would flood the dining hall dressed in straight black forgetting that they weren’t on stage. It was kind of like a qualitative study where I got to see what the stress of performance did to one’s life first hand, not to mention the suspense of what Shafer Hall would do to my GI tract.
I set up my netflix cue with a bunch of random movies, so when Yankee Doodle Dandy arrived, I really had no idea what it was about. Once I read that summary on the DVD slip, I started to worry.
Somehow, I came out not only pleased, but ready to recommend this film to anyone who would listen to me Yammer about vaudeville, WWI and this “American as you get” film.