Category Archives: Music

Acclaimed Albums – Will The Circle Be Unbroken by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 288/1000
Title: Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Artist: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Year: 1972

Here we are, the first album in this expanded run and it is one that I ended up listening to in early December with my husband whilst building a Lego train. He is doing his own listen through of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – and I decided to listen to this particular album with him. There was an episode in the brilliant Ken Burns documentary series Country Music which talks about the making of this album and, seeing as I know some of the history of the performers, I was super keen to actually hear them on an album.

To actually hear a track with Mother Maybelle Carter on it? Yes please. After watching that series I ended up in complete awe of this woman. She recorded her vocals and autoharp playing on this album in her early sixties and she has the power she always has. Truly though, so does everyone else on this brilliant artifact of country and bluegrass.

At the time Will The Circle Be Unbroken was being recorded, the world of country music was changing. Many rising stars were a lot more middle class compared to those that came before and more rock and pop influences were beginning to infiltrate and kick out the old guard. The idea of this album was to bridge the gap between these generations and have newer musicians in the more traditional country/bluegrass perform with their idols.

It is such a noble effort and this album stands as a brilliant document of an artform that was losing its popularity and for being a last major push for a number of performers who were entering the twilight of their careers. I know that I got a lot more out of this album because I knew the backstory, but I also kinda like this music anyway.

Hand on heart I can say that, over the course of 105 minutes, I never got bored because of the variety of songs. Some where pure instrumentals showing off the talents of the players, others were covers of classics and then there were newer songs being played by both generations. It’s wonderful to hear the camaraderie and, whilst sequels were made, I can’t imagine anything quite equalling the power of this original.

New List Appeared: 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums

It has been over seven years since I started this blog and the albums list was one of the first that I added in. For years since I have been wanting to expand this cut of 250 albums to 1000, but it has taken two years of me starting the year with the resolution to finish it (and failing) until I got to this point in 2021.

I still had the thoughts about whether I should switch to the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list, or to continue on with the list on Acclaimed Music. Since I started this blog using the Acclaimed Music site, I am going to continue on. If I somehow end up completing this, then maybe I will switch source.

So, what’s my starting point? Well, aside from the top 250 there are albums (like Dare!) which I had previously written posts for but had since fallen off of the list. I will also be considering albums like Be The Cowboy and A Crow Looked At Me as crossed off as I have already written about them as part of my end of year lists.

On the flipside, albums in my first end of year list such as Vulnicura or Ys will not be counted yet as I never wrote something about them. There are also albums from a previous blog of mine (where I tried to listen to the 1001 Before You Die list), which will not be counted yet – however I will be copying over those posts from nearly 10 years ago as some of the first crossings off of the new list.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 287/1000

It took me 7 years to get to this point – so I guess I’ll see what happens in 2041. Seeing how long I have been doing this blog, I do wonder if I’ll still be finding things to write about when I am entering my fifties.

Acclaimed Albums – Let It Be by The Replacements

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 250/250Title: Let it Be
Artist: The Replacements
Year: 1984
Position: #205

Was it intentional that the last album I listened to on this list (before it was replaced with a longer list) was by a band called The Replacements? Absolutely. Was it a plan that I hatched years ago? Hell no, but it has been something that has been about six months in the making and I really wish I had the foresight to have set up even earlier. To be fair though, when I started this blog I didn’t have the foggiest that I would still be doing it 7 years later.

The album itself, Let It Be by The Replacements, has been a bit overshadowed in my brain more of what it now represents than for the music itself. This is one on the list of the indie rock albums that came out of the post-punk movement and propelled a new genre. When I listen to this, I can hear a lot of what I would go on to enjoy in Jeff Rosenstock.

It’s not as if this was the birth of this type of music, this is just the refinement of what post-punk and other rock music from the 1970s was and puts it into a cool new package. I’m still not entirely loving two of the song titles (just look at the track listing, you’ll know the ones I mean), but as an album it is pretty solid. Wish it could have had the wow factor that Yeezus and Third had as the final albums in their respective decades, but this was still a good one to end on.

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: COMPLETE

Right, so now that I have finished the 250, where from here? Well, this will be explained in the post going up tomorrow and I will be doing some moving about of lists in the bar at the top of the blog. Feels so weirdly great to have gotten to this point – and now to start on the stretch goal.

🎻♫♪ – Concerto for Orchestra by Elliott Carter

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
103/501Title: Concerto for Orchestra
Composer: Elliott Carter
Nationality: American
Year:
1969

There is a weird benefit of pulling out these classical pieces out of the old theme park popcorn container – sometimes you end up with incredibly contrasting pieces from the opposite ends of the book. Dating from the 1960s, Concerto for Orchestra is probably the most difficult piece that I have listened to for the 1001 classical pieces list. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that means this was one of the worst.

I have said a few times for other albums (both popular music and classical) that if a piece is too busy or discordant, it can trigger a panic response in me. I hate that this is a thing, but whatever this isn’t a common occurrence. Well, it began to happen with Concerto for Orchestra. Then I did something I don’t usually do – I leaned into it and really focused on the piece. 

You see, normally these classical pieces become good background music for work – but this is not the piece for that. This is a piece where, shortly after I actually started listening to it, the different elements of this 20-odd minute concerto opened up a bit. I could start to hear the large variety of instruments operating on their different rhythms … and somehow it actually made sense. Like, knowing this might be an option for these kinds of classical pieces is revelatory. I do get why a lot of people really cannot get close to liking it, but you can’t deny how interesting it is.

Acclaimed Albums – Third by Portishead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 249/250Title: Third
Artist: Portishead
Year: 2008
Position: #226

In the four years (count them, four) since I first listened to Dummy, I have kept my Portishead listening relegated to that album. Why I didn’t take some time with their second self-titled album is beyond me, given how much I liked their debut. Now I am finishing off the 2000s in this album challenge, I have finally gotten around to Third.

When I wrote about Dummy and saw that Third would be a move away from trip-hop whilst still keeping something innately Portishead, I didn’t completely gel with the idea. I mean the swirling nature of Dummy was what I loved most. Then I got about halfway through my first listen of Third and I got it. Between ‘The Rip’ and ‘We Carry On’ I started to understand what they were trying to do. Then came the re-listens and Third just kept opening up more and more.

There is a bit of a thing about the music that Portishead produces being the perfect food for a depressive mind. Considering everything I went through jobwise in 2020 and continuing into 2021, maybe that is why Third hit as hard as it did. 

This is not an everyday listen by any means. When I was deeper into my post-Covid brainfog, the sounds on this album would have been way too much for me – especially the beginning to ‘Machine Gun’. Now my brain is healing somewhat, although I am still losing words mid-sentence, I think I get what they were trying to do – and it’s something I should have listened to back when I was 18.

In the expanded list, Portishead’s second and self-titled album will finally appear on my radar and I’ll have a reason to give it a proper listen… other than because I have really liked the other two entries in their discography. Might wait a while until we live in a post-covid world though. I have enough moody music for the time being.

Acclaimed Albums – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 248/250Title: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Artist: Spiritualized
Year: 1997
Position: #241

The 1990s, especially the earlier part of the decade, really was a time where new genres rose up and many others twisted and became something either new or more refined. Finishing off the 1990s, at least for this cut of the list, I have a nice bit of shoegaze from the mid-to-late 1990s. It’s one of those albums that shows that, even as I close out the list, there are still so many more artists unknown to me that can bring some great music.

It is interesting that this was released in the same year as OK ComputerBoth are albums that are highly electronic, have rock elements, contain many elements that are derived from ambient music – yet they are completely different moods. Where OK Computer is on the down, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space very much feels like an album that is veering on optimism.

This is also the first shoegaze album where, thanks to the addition of a Hammond organ, I am able to finally see how this genre’s reach goes back to the sixties and the emergence of space rock. Like this is a band that identifies as space rock, but they really have their moments of paying homage to those roots.

Even though it likes to reference the musical roots, there is nothing dated about this album. Maybe because nowadays it is getting harder and harder to pin down a musical era as so many artists choose to throwback (like 2020 with disco) and genres keep expanding – but this album could have been made fairly recently rather than nearly 25 years ago… I hate maths and the awareness of just how much older I am getting.

🎻♫♪ – Violin Sonata in G minor, “The Devil’s Trill” by Giuseppe Tartini

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
102/501Title: Violin Sonata in G minor, “The Devil’s Trill”
Composer: Giuseppe Tartini
Nationality: Italian
Year:
1765

I am not entirely sure where the idea of the devil being a fiddle player came from. Like how I am not sure about him later being related to the guitar. Is there something innately satanic about a string instrument? Or maybe the violin was the vagabond instrument of the past. 

Anyway, this doesn’t have too much to do with today’s piece – other than it supposedly being based on a dream that Tartini had and him trying to replicate the piece. A bit like ‘Tribute’ by Tenacious D, but less comedic and more complex violin solos. 

Okay, so this post is reading like a weird troll of what is a really good piece for an accomplished violin soloist. It’s interesting to note that this is Tartini’s only piece on the classical list – especially weird in this era of composers where you have nearly all of them with a wealth of entries. I wonder if this entry is down to it influencing and being included as a base in a number of future compositions.

Acclaimed Albums – Metal Box by Public Image Ltd.

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 247/250Title: Metal Box
Artist: Public Image Ltd.
Year: 1979
Position: #244

I should have learned by now that just because I am not the biggest fan of an individual, does not mean I will dislike their music. Sure that rule works sometimes, but as Yeezus went a long way to prove, I have been trying to get over this and appreciate the music for what it is.

Metal Box is another example of where my thinking John Lydon is a bit of a weenie (this opinion mostly taken from seeing him on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and seeing him be a complete ass) doesn’t mean I can’t like the music. I mean, this is an album I avoided a long time because I had it in my head that this would just be more of a Sex Pistols retread, but with Lydon at the helm.

So many times these assumptions have been shown to be utterly false. The only thing that Metal Box has in common with The Sex Pistols is a singer and a bit of punk. However, this is the territory of post-punk where – at least in this album – there has been the incorporation of some reggae influence. It makes for a sound that, at least back then, will have been very experimental and I can see influenced a number of post-punk acts that followed on.

It’s a good album. Not one that I would normally reach for because I am not the biggest fan of things that are too ska/dub sounding – but I was pleasantly surprised by this. He’s a complex person, as we all are, but at least I can see something in the music he made.

Another decade down for the Top 250. The decade that happens to have made up the largest section of the list and has given me some great listens and some pretty bad ones. Just three more left and then I get to open the list up to the Top 1000… where the 1970s are similarly over-represented with around a quarter of the whole entries.

Acclaimed Albums – Yeezus by Kanye West

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 246/250Title: Yeezus
Artist: Kanye West
Year: 2013
Position: #187

I think I need to re-evaluate my position on Kanye West. At least when it comes to the albums that rank highly among the critical opinion. 5 years ago, I posted about College Dropout and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in one go and I think I may now have a different take on these albums, especially the latter one.

A lot has changed in my music taste since then with my finding some joy in more rap albums than I had expected. Case in point, I think I loved Yeezus – even if I really dislike the title and continue to think of Kanye West as a bit of a goober. Something that the video to ‘Bound 2’ really backs up having seen it again after many years – and still with the James Franco/Seth Rogan piss take in mind.

Yeezus is not your regular hip-hop album. Like with a lot of Kanye’s work, there is a lot of experimentation going on here when compared to the more straight line work in his early career. I mean, this is a hip-hop album where you see the likes of Arca and Daft Punk appear in the credits alongside previous collaborator Justin Vernon. Sure he has sampled Daft Punk on ‘Stronger’ and worked with Vernon on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but all together it just adds up to this cool industrial electronic take on the genre at points.

I don’t think I have ever been taken aback by a Kanye West track as much as I was by ‘Black Skinhead’. There have been tracks in the past that I enjoyed – because even though he bugs me, I concede that he can make some great music. But ‘Black Skinhead’ just blew me away to the point where I had to really stop myself from repeating it the first time around – otherwise there would be no way for me to finish the album on the second attempt (I tried it a week ago, but I was in the bad parts of my COVID recovery and the strong beats just gave me one hell of a headache).

I enjoyed pretty much everything on this album, even Kanye having a song where he literally calls himself a God. Even the song where I couldn’t get a bare-chested Seth Rogan out of my head. This is the last album in the 2010s to feature in this cut of the list and it is a cracker to close on. I have not closed out a decade in years, and now will be doing so with the next four album posts. This is getting exciting.

Acclaimed Albums – So by Peter Gabriel

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 245/250Title: So
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Year: 1986
Position: #234

Making my way through these albums has led me to a number of surprises. Today’s post is about one of the bigger ones in recent times – on par with Van Halen. Turns out out that I might like Peter Gabriel. Like, I might actually have enjoyed a whole album of his and reached this conclusion very soon into the starting track. I fell hard for ‘Red Rain’ and it just kept on coming.

I think it might have also helped that So contains the only Peter Gabriel songs I actually know from general pop culture. First, and most obviously, there’s ‘Sledgehammer’ which is far more famous for the pioneering stop-motion animation from a very young Aardman studios who would later go on to create Wallace and Gromit. I’ve never heard the song without the accompanying visuals of modelling clay dancing chickens, but was thrilled that the song really holds up well.

Directly after ‘Sledgehammer’ is a song that I didn’t know was Peter Gabriel, but to be honest I only knew of it because of Kate Bush’s involvement. ‘Don’t Give Up’ is a really touching song about a man whose unemployment is affecting his marriage, with Kate Bush as the voice of consolation. The production is very much the style of art pop that I would later hear throughout Kate Bush’s The Sensual World album, which I absolutely adore.

I don’t know Peter Gabriel from his four more experimental self-titled albums the preceded So. I know that this was him dipping his toe into the more commercial side of music and so may not exactly be a true representation of what he does. Like, from reading some reviews, it sounds like ‘Sledgehammer’ is very much an anomaly when you look at his earlier stuff.

Still though, I liked this album enough that I want to try him at his more experimental. Sure it may not have those eighties elements or those worldbeats that I came to enjoy as part of So, but there was more than enjoy that I got out of my repeated listens to this for the purpose of the blog that makes me think I could get on board with his other music.