Tag Archives: acclaimed

Acclaimed Albums – Definitely Maybe by Oasis

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 134/250Title: Definitely Maybe
Artist: Oasis
Year: 1994
Position: #111

We go into any piece of media with preconceptions. I remember how huge Oasis were when I was very little; to the point where I remember my mum playing What’s The Story (Morning Glory) on our first CD player. We sang  ‘Wonderwall’ in school music lessons (where they insisted that we sang it as ‘wonderwahl’ instead of ‘wonderwaall’). They were massive in terms of their popularity and in terms of being pricks.

So I went into this thinking that I would like this and then feel a bit ‘ugh’ because of how I remember the Gallagher brothers acting. I was pretty much correct. It saddens me to say that I really prefer Definitely Maybe over ParklifeThen again, Gorillaz are amazing and I would listen to them over Oasis any day; so it’s swings and roundabouts.

However, I don’t I actually knew any songs from Definitely Maybe. I guess I am just too young to remember when this album came out, but I swear later songs in their catalogue still get more radio airplay than songs from this debut album.

I’m not sure why that would be either. For one thing, this is one of those albums that has actually made me feel happy as I listen to it. I’ve seen this album’s lyrics described as being ‘optimistic’ in some reviews – and I have a hard time disagreeing with that. I know that these contemporary reviewers will have welcomed a more positive type of rock music coming out after a few years of grunge music being in vogue. I mean, as much as I thought Nevermind was a good album, it wasn’t exactly cheerful.

As far as my limited knowledge of Oasis goes, I will pretty much stake a claim that this is likely to be the album of theirs that I like the most. It’s not as poppy as they would become (where at times they would feel like they are trying to become the next Beatles) and instead is far more on the glam and hard rock side of the musical fence.

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Acclaimed Albums – Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 133/250Title: Surrealistic Pillow
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Year: 1967
Position: #173

Sticking very much in 1967 after my last album. I was planning on knocking out one of the Oasis albums instead, but figured that since I was going on a long walk it would be better to listen to something with a little more life in it.

I always had a certain image of what Jefferson Airplane; mostly from what the spin-off groups became. When you think of songs like  ‘We Built This City On Rock and Roll’ and ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ you would be excused of expecting Surrealistic Pillow to be a bit twee. Also, while I am at it – it’s actually impressive that this group were still finding relevance and getting hits and award nominations some 20 years later.

Surrealistic Pillow is not twee. It’s inconsistent, yes, but not twee. In places it is some of the best music that I have heard coming out of the 1960s – well in two actually. There is a reason that ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘White Rabbit’ are the tracks that are best remembered – they are exceptional.

I think most people my age will know ‘Somebody to Love’ from the cover by Boogie Pimps with that weird video of parachuting babies. For me, the thing that immediately came to mind was one of my favourite movies: A Serious Man. Needless to say, this song and the vocals from Grace Slick are both exemplary.

I’ve talked about ‘White Rabbit’ before – but I think it’s worth mentioning this song’s appearance in Futurama where it is sung by Richard Nixon’s head. Still cannot believe this song got away with all the drug references just because it hid them under the thin veil of Alice in Wonderland. Bravo Grace Slick, bravo.

The rest of the album is fine, but you come for the two Grace Slick solo songs. I think the inconsistency problem lies in that the writing credits are very spread out among the group. It makes it feel like the album, and therefore the group, doesn’t have a clear and consistent voice.

Acclaimed Albums – Songs of Leonard Cohen by Leonard Cohen

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 132/250Title: Songs of Leonard Cohen
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Year: 1967
Position: #149

With Songs of Leonard Cohen I have broken my recent streak of only doing albums where the artist still has multiple entries on the list. It’s getting to the point where my playing through the 1001 songs list has started to catch up to the point that I am hearing songs before I have heard the whole album.

As it turns out I have a bit of catching up to do; especially since I have now reached 1968 on the songs list. At some point I will get to Jefferson Airplane, Cream and another album by The Who.

Honestly, I only chose this album because Leonard Cohen was amongst the many lives claimed by the spectre of 2016 and I’ve already done albums by David Bowie and Prince. Now that I have listened to Songs of Leonard Cohen I don’t think I quite get why it appears in the list.

As far as I am concerned there are two really good songs on this album and the others just feel a bit… generic. Yes, I know that what would feel generic now after years of development in folk music would have been huge back then. I also feel that a lot of the songs here are just another person doing Dylan and (with the exception of ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So Lone, Marianne’) not as well.

Maybe I am underestimating him here because he, primarily, is known for the lyrics of his songs and I didn’t really give them the opportunity to be fully digested. Then again, if it isn’t enough to entice the wanting of a further listen then I have no real reason to go back.

Acclaimed Albums – The Stooges by The Stooges

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 131/250Title: The Stooges
Artist: The Stooges
Year: 1969
Position: #159

In my playthrough of the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, I have gotten to the point where punk music is in it’s developmental stage – otherwise known as protopunk. In my most recent post (where I just finished 1967) I am at the point where garage rock is just about over the threshold into protopunk – which makes listening to The Stooges all the more interesting.

Here we are 1-2 years later and The Stooges is an album that sounds entirely different to what has come before. It’s too polished and well-engineered to feel like a garage rock album and there are times that this album feels a bit too subdued to be a full-blown (proto)punk album. In fact, you have rock songs from the dramedy musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that are more hardcore in their own way: see ‘What A Rush To Be A Bride’.

This isn’t me disparaging the music. It’s just interesting to see how far punk rock and hard rock have come as genres. There is some great work on here with ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and ‘No Fun’, but we are still from Ramones territory.

It is my understanding that when I end up listening to their second album (Funhouse) it will be  far more visceral and, well, punk experience. So it’s going to be interesting to get to that point. For now, it’s actually been an eye-opener to hear Iggy Pop when he was younger. I mean, nowadays he is doing TV and billboard adverts with his shirt off and… it’s just difficult to take him seriously. Now? It’s a bit easier.

Acclaimed Albums – Natty Dread by Bob Marley & The Wailers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 130/250Title: Natty Dread
Artist: Bob Marley & the Wailers
Year: 1974
Position: #165

Previously on this blog, some 9 months ago, I listened to my first Bob Marley album: Catch A FireI left this album feeling as if I walked in with a pre-conceived notion of what reggae and it was pretty much validated. Did this change after listening to Natty Dread?

No. No, not really. I mean the sound of the music has moved on a bit. I wouldn’t go as far to say it has matured (mainly because I am not sure what matured reggae sounds like), but it there appears to be more of a blues influence in the songs.

Also, I could actually pick songs apart from one another; something I had serious trouble with when listening to Catch A Fire. Thanks to this I think I understand how ‘No Woman No Cry’ became the better known Bob Marley song.

I first came across this song during an ill-fated game of Singstar where the idea of having ‘cornmeal porridge’ amongst the lyrics felt completely alien to me. Now that I am older, and not trying to sing this song to gain maximum points, I think I can better appreciate it.

However, I still find myself in the position where I am left utterly cold by a genre and cannot see a reason for re-playing this album. I know this album further develops the political side of Bob Marley and some people go absolutely mad for his music. Just not me.

Acclaimed Albums – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 129/250Title: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Year: 2006
Position: #156

For a while I have been solely focused on whittling down the artists with more than one entry on the list. Makes sense until you get a hankering for something a bit more modern, which lead me to giving this Arctic Monkeys album a spin.

I swear I must be one of the few Brits my age to have not listened to this album. 11 years ago this album was absolutely everywhere. I mean, it was the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history and won a whole heap of awards. It wasn’t even a transient acclaim either (like you usually get with flavours of the month), this album and its tracks still feature highly on many ‘best of’ lists.

Yet this is the first time I have heard any of these other than the two singles (‘When the Sun Goes Down’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’). And what do you know, this album is pretty damned good. I probably wouldn’t have liked this when the album first came out (I was coming out of a big stretch of Sugababes fandom and still deep into my Girls Aloud time) so it’s nice to have my first listen at a time where I could fully appreciate it.

Acclaimed Albums – Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 128/250Title: Swordfishtrombones
Artist: Tom Waits
Year: 1983
Position: #121

With a title as odd as Swordfishtrombones I am not sure why it took me so long to pick up this album and say: yes, this seems like the right time to listen to this. Having listened to it a few times (since this is definitely an album that needs that in order to sink in).

The term experimental is one that is banded about a lot when the word you really want to use is ‘odd’ or ‘weird’. All truth being told I think the last time I had an internal debate on the correct word to use was either Trout Mask Replica or Too Early/Too LateSo yes, this was a weird and experimental rock album.

However, this still begs the question of whether this album is one that I could actually enjoy. As much as I tried with the work of Captain Beefheart I was never able to make that leap from ‘what is this’ to ‘what IS this’. I got a bit further with Swordfishtrombones, but not yet far enough to make this album one of those albums I end up going back to (like Loveless or Psychocandy).

The thing is, there is enough here to give a listen once I have written this up. There is something in the strange arrangements, the use of horns and his rather dark brand of storytelling to make me come back. Sort of how I would imagine Nick Cave’s take on the first Goldfrapp album, which is then filtered through Captain Beefheart.

The cover made me expect something cabaret in style and what I am left with is wondering what he did to get his follow-up album, Rain Dogs, to a higher position on this list. Guess I’ll just have to find out for myself.

Acclaimed Albums – Transformer by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 127/250Title: Transformer
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1972
Position: #76

I had a surreal out-of-body moment when I had my first listen of Transformer. There I was sitting in front of my laptop and peeling the pericarp off of pomelo segments whilst watching my husband play The Witness. Just a typical Saturday night of married life to be honest (ain’t it grand).

It just got me to thinking how this album from 45 years has found itself being weirdly transplanted through time. I guess I had this weird moment of disconnect with Transformer and not some of the other albums because this is an album that is a weird mixture of recognisable, brand new, contemporary and of its time.

So as an album it just seems to float there like a strange thing outside of time. I promise you, I do not and have never done drugs… maybe there was something in the pomelo.

There aren’t a lot of people who will not have heard some version of ‘Perfect Day’ or ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ – the latter song first came into my awareness through the weird parody singing group called Hooray for Everything from The Simpsons. The version that was sung in that episode had been significantly toned down for their young audience, which is a weirdly specific joke that I only now get some 15 years after first seeing that episode.

I guess what I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that I really enjoyed this album. It’s got a few throwaway tracks here and there (like ‘Make Up’),  but on the whole this has held up extremely well since it was first released 45 years ago, despite some of the casually racist and sexist language.

Acclaimed Albums – Purple Rain by Prince

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 126/250Title: Purple Rain
Artist: Prince
Year: 1984
Position: #44

This is not my first time with a Prince album. That honour goes to 1999which left me pretty cold afterwards. I can happily say that the opposite was the case here, although I have no desire to watch the film after all the bad things I’ve heard about Under the Cherry Moon.

I will probably be in the extreme majority when I say that I prefer the second half of Purple Rain. For one thing it’s the side with ‘When Doves Cry’ on it. That song is epic and I only heard it for the first time when my mum played it for me after Prince’s death early in 2016.

The second half also has the pairing of ‘I Would Die 4 U’ and ‘Baby I’m A Star’. These are both great funk rock tracks in their own right, but it is the way that Prince mixed them to flow into each other that truly raises them up.

This is not to say that the first half of the album isn’t any good. It’s just that it pretty much pales in comparison to the second side of the disc. ‘Take Me With U’ is probably the standout track from the first side of the album, mainly because it’s the one where it feels like Prince is having the most fun before you flip the record.

I think that before ending this I need to ask something about the title track ‘Purple Rain’. Why is this the song included on the 1001 Songs list when ‘When Doves Cry’ is right there a few tracks earlier? I would argue that ‘When Doves Cry’ is the more experimental of the two and shows that particular spirit of Prince whereas ‘Purple Rain’ feels anthemic.

When my 1001 Songs playthrough reached 1984 at some point in 2019 (at this rate at least) maybe I will get more of a clue of its inclusion or completely fall for it like I did with ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Remains to be seen I guess.

Acclaimed Albums – Music From Big Pink by The Band

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 125/250Title: Music From Big Pink
Artist: The Band
Year: 1968
Position: #85

It may have taken me blogging for three years, but (as of writing this) I have finally reached the halfway point of the albums list. It’s not like I don’t listen to a lot of music (in 2016 I managed to listen to at least 40 albums from that year) but I guess I just put more recent albums first.

Still that’s the point of doing this and the songs list – to gain a better and more well rounded knowledge. Things like how this band’s name of ‘The Band’ comes from the fact that this group were always the backing band to some more famous frontman – such as Bob Dylan, who lent a helping hand to the making of this album. As much a helping hand as you can when a lot of this was improvised.

It must have been The Band’s experience with many different frontmen that helped to shape the sound for Music From Big Pink since this seems to straddle many genres. On the surface this is another offshoot of rock waiting to happen (we would later call part of this Americana), but it also has elements of blue-eyed soul, country and folk. I would say that this feels like one of those albums that fed into the making of Grievous Angel, but I think the balance of country and rock is different in both cases.

Since I am also doing the 1001 Songs list, I will partially coming back to this album. However, I do want to highlight some songs I enjoyed. The top of that list is ‘Chest Fever’ – I don’t normally like Hammond organ songs, but there was something about this song that really struck me.

A more familiar song that came out of this album was ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, the theme song from Absolutely Fabulous. This may not be the first recording, but it is the first one that was actually released. It was slightly odd hearing this version having become so used to the one played in the TV show, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

So yes, this was a positive listen and actually the lower of the two The Band albums on the list. I wonder if I’ll enjoy their eponymous release significantly more…