Tag Archives: acclaimed

Acclaimed Albums – My Generation by The Who

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 135/250Title: My Generation
Artist: The Who
Year: 1965
Position: #239

I have been skirting around doing My Generation for a long time because of its precarious placement in the lower end of the list. However, with my most recent post of the 1001 songs list reaching 1969 it’s become a bit odd having some of these older albums still to do, especially those that still so highly thought of.

When I started listening to My Generation I found it shocking that this was The Who’s first album. If you listen back to the debut releases of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones you find albums that are littered with covers and only offer a hint of what was to come.

Whilst My Generation does feature some covers, they feel like they are a more cohesive part of the album that something stuck on there either at the last minute or to pander to the crowd. In fact the covers are interesting in themselves as they take on R&B songs from 10 years previous, which are then updated to fit in on the album.

Well I say fit in. As cohesive as this album is The Who still veer between genres. There are influences from R&B and classic rock and roll, as you would expect, but rather than just playing to those My Generation is taking these genres forward.

Tracks like ‘My Generation’ and ‘The Kids Are Alright’ are prime examples of the new rock genres that were starting to develop – genres that would properly evolve into hard rock, punk rock and metal. These aren’t quite yet at the proto-punk levels of music that comes out soon afterwards, but these are steps in the same direction.

Whilst not as prevalent on all songs, there are hints of this same purposeful roughness throughout the album. There are discordant harmonies, raging drums and (not quite, but almost) shredding guitars. This really does feel like a band brimming with confidence – and this album was a rush job to capitalise on successful singles.

Maybe the fact that this was a rush job ultimately helped the album out. The great thing about this album overall is that it feels natural and not overthought. Overthinking can help with some albums (otherwise we wouldn’t have beautifully produced tracks like ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – but sometimes overthinking ends up giving us ‘Chelsea Girls’. Gross.

Advertisements

Acclaimed Albums – Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 134/250Title: Electric Ladyland
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1968
Position: #26

It has been over two years since I listened to the other two Jimi Hendrix albums. With any other artist I would need to be more specific, but The Jimi Hendrix Experience is the only group to have all the albums that they ever released to be in this Top 250.

The thing that continues to surprise me is that all the albums that Jimi Hendrix released in his lifetime came from his time in a trio. Most people would know who Jimi Hendrix is and might just about be able to name a song. However, I bet you most would assume he released this work solo, rather than with two Englishmen.

Having listened to Electric Ladyland all I can do is double down on what I said last month when I specifically listened to the final track off this album. Say what you want about the music that Jimi Hendrix created but you cannot deny his talent as a guitarist. Obvious, but it is worth repeating.

One thing, however, that is extremely striking is how much his sound has evolved from Axis: Bold As Love. Honestly, this was probably my least favourite of the three Jimi Hendrix albums for this reason. It’s not that I disliked the music, but two discs and 80 minutes is a bit much for me. Same goes for the two tracks that both come in at over 13 minutes.

So that’s it for Jimi Hendrix. I’ve come out of it respecting his talent, but still unable to give the name of a particular track that I would see as a highlight. Didn’t really expect anything else, but at least I gave it a go.

Acclaimed Albums – Disraeli Gears by Cream

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 135/250Title: Disraeli Gears
Artist: Cream
Year: 1967
Position: #174

As album titles go, Disraeli Gears has to be one of the best on this list. Much like A Hard Day’s Night it came about as a slip of the tongue in conversation and the band liked the phrase so much that it immediately became the title of the album. It’s little things like this that can really endear an album to you.

With this ticked off I am officially done with albums from 1967. It’s one of those miniature landmarks on the way to completing this list that just forces you to look back a bit. This was a year where the predominant acclaimed music was psychedelic in nature, with Aretha Franklin and Leonard Cohen being the only artists to provide some degree of contrast.

Taking all these other albums into account Disraeli Gears falls onto the harder side of the rock spectrum. Arrangements on songs like ‘Swlabr’ are feel a lot more loud and forceful than you would find on other psychedelic albums of the time, and yet they keep with the feel of the times with lyrics like “You’ve got that rainbow feel but the rainbow has a beard”

The 1001 Songs list picked up on this, but ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ is the real standout track of this album. While the rest of the album is a good listen, they never really live up to the second track.

The exception to this is ‘Outside Woman Blues’ which, for me, is another highlight of the album. Not entirely sure this song worked for me, maybe it was all the repeated motifs.

Now, let’s have a quick word about the final track, ‘Mother’s Lament’. It’s awful. It’s bloody awful and doesn’t belong on this album at all. It’s a completely different genre and, whilst it is clear they had fun singing it, should have been relegated to the archives to be found on some sort of anniversary re-release.

Is this an album I would listen to again? Yes, as long as you take off that god-awful final track. It’s not an album I would pay full attention to, but makes for a good background.

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.

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.