#229 – Morrison Hotel – The Doors
Morrison Hotel was a return to The Doors roots. Back to what propelled them towards the mainstream earlier in their careers. Even without a clear cut hit on the album it still got to #4 on the Billboard Charts. With a very bluesy feel to the whole album it had some surprise guest musicians including John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful & blues great Lonnie Mack. “Roadhouse Blues” is probably the most recognizable tune with Morrison’s familiar howls, Sebastian’s harmonica playing & not one but two brilliant guitar solos by Robbie Krieger.
The Doors – Roadhouse Blues
The Doors – Maggie M’Gill
#228 – Funeral – Arcade Fire
Never has a Canadian Rock band taken music by storm the way Arcade Fire did with Funeral. And not since Sonny & Cher have a husband and wife played in such tonal harmony as Win Butler & Regine Chassange. Hailed by Pitchfork as the #1 album of 2004 this ambitious album, breaks all the molds of what Indie Music is supposed to be with strings, xylophone, accordion & horns. A debut album that would set the bar extremely high for the rest of the 00’s for any other band. Counted among some of their many fans are: Bruce Springsteen, Spike Jonze & Jay-Z.
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
#227 – Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons
Gram Parsons called it “Cosmic American Music”. Today we call it alt-country. Released 6 months after Parsons died at the age of 26 due to a lethal combination of Morphine & alcohol Grievous Angel came to be the second and final solo album for Gram Parsons. With Emmylou Harris on backing vocals & dueting on many of the tracks & James Burton (Elvis Presley & Ricky Nelson’s guitarist) on guitar Parsons created such classics as “$1000 Wedding” & “Return of the Grievous Angel“. This album is widely known as one of the fore-bearers of the Country Rock/Alt. Country movement & “Return of the Grievous Angel” has been covered countless times from artists such as Ryan Adams who shares a birthday with Parsons & was born a year after he died.
Gram Parsons – $1000 Wedding
Gram Parsons – Return of the Grievous Angel
#226 – Pneumonia – Whiskeytown
Taking it a step further than his idol, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams helped make Pneumonia, Whiskeytown’s crowning achievement. Though the same lineup was together as previous albums it’s Adams’ vocals that seem to carry this album, unlike in the past when he shared vocals with Caitlin Cary. Adams sings of the desolation of the town he once knew in “Jacksonville Skyline“. An army town that he can’t wait to get out of & start a new life somewhere else. Though, his desire to leave propels him to move out “soon as I turned 16” he longs for the home he once knew. The album sat on a shelf for 2 years & was bootlegged extensively before finally being released in 2001. This came to be the final album released by Whiskeytown as their label Outpost Records was shut down due to the merger of Polygram & Universal effectively breaking up the band.
Whiskeytown – Jacksonville Skyline
Whiskeytown – Sit & Listen to the Rain
#225 – Out of Time – R.E.M.
Before Out of Time everyone knew knew R.E.M. simply as a good college radio band with a nice following. After Out of Time they were a juggernaut that could not be stopped. the centerpiece of the album is “Losing My Religion“, a song of unrequited love. The feeling of being embarrassed because you have such unabashed affection for someone who doesn’t feel the same way. However, the song that may be the best in all of R.E.M.’s library of classics is “Country Feedback“. An amazing song that, minus a few words scribbled on a piece of paper, was basically improvised. Recorded in one take it is literally what Michael Stipe was feeling that day.
R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
R.E.M. – Country Feedback
#224 – True Blue – Madonna
My hatred of pop music can not be emphasized enough. It is trite, pointless, untalented gobbledygook. That being said, every once in a while a pop album comes along & it just blows me away. The 80s were perhaps the best era for pure unadulterated lasting pop goodness (oxymoron). As much of a train wreck & oddity that Madonna is today, back in the 80s she was attractive, talented & cutting edge. On True Blue some of the that she deals with were so controversial that the Vatican made it a sin for Catholics to see her in concert. This is years before Sinead O’Connor on SNL.
“Papa Don’t Preach” is a classic plea from a pregnant teenage girl to her father (Danny Aiello in the video) as she asks him to help her through her tough time. Women’s groups hated her, the Vatican condemned her but what they all failed to realize was that on the song she, while not condemning abortion, decides to keep her baby, because it’s the right thing for her. This is the album that made Madonna famous & kept her there.
Madonna – La Isla Bonita
Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
#223 – Snowflakes Are Dancing – Isao Tomita
Claude Debussey was an impressionist composer in the late 19th & early 20 centuries who composed music based on color & tone. What Isao Tomita did was take that music & transform electronically using a Moog Synthesizer. He paved the way for much of the Electronic music we hear today when he recorded Snowflakes are Dancing in 1974. He created such a unique sound that when I first heard it on my father’s record player as a boy I had no idea that what I was listening to was so revolutionary. “Arabesque no. 1” made me think of the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz with it’s “Be-bop be-bop”. This recording is an achievement of the highest order that is so far ahead if it’s time that there are scarcely few artists today who could recreate such beauty.
Isao Tomita – Arabesque No. 1
Isao Tomita – Claire De Lune
#222 – Band of Gypsys – Jimi Hendrix
Banf of Gypsys was the album Jimi Hendrix was forced to make after losing a court case with a record company he signed with in 1965, before he was famous. It turned out to be one of his best selling albums & seemed to convey his views on the fighting that was going on not only in Vietnam but also the rioting that was going on all over the United States as blacks struggled for equal rights. When you listen to “Machine Gun” the sound of the guitar feedback & the percussive effects mimic war sounds (machine guns, bombs, grenades). “Changes” is drummer Buddy Miles’ song that features Jimi playing guitar only as Buddy sings. Played New Years Eve at the Fillmore East 1969.
Jimi Hendrix – Changes
Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun
#221 – Doolittle – The Pixies
Doolittle by The Pixies was an eclectic mix of surrealism, 3 chord punk anthems & even Spanish music. The second album released by the Pixies and their last with label 4AD it was their most successful at almost platinum (800,000-1 million). What’s most telling about this album is the scene that generated out of it’s wake…grunge. After writing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” both Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana thought: “this really sounds like the Pixies. People are really going to nail us for this” according to Michael Azerrad who wrote the book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha described Doolittle as less raw than Surfer Rosa but “more listenable” and “Here Comes Your Man” as a “classic pop record.” Fellow alternative musician PJ Harvey was “in awe” of “I Bleed” and “Tame,” and described Francis’ writing as “amazing”.
The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
The Pixies – Hey
#220 – Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds
David Crosby had just left to form Crosby, Stills & Nash & Michael Clark over creative differences Roger McGuinn & Chris Tillman decided not to break up the band, but instead to hire 21 year old Gram Parsons to play piano & rhythm guitar. This provided fortuitous as the band packed up for Nashville to record their most country/bluegrass album yet, Sweethearts of the Rodeo. They expanded upon the roots movement that Bob Dylan had started with his album John Wesley Harding. It featured 2 Dylan songs, covers of classic country songs & 3 original Parson songs including the classic, “Hickory Wind“. While being their least successful album, at that point, it is considered to be a seminal point in the Alt-Country movement.
The Byrds – Hickory Wind
The Byrds – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere