Tag Archives: acclaimed

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…

Acclaimed Albums: Master of Puppets by Metallica

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 124/250Title: Master of Puppets
Artist: Metallica
Year: 1986
Position: #162

I don’t know what is happening right now. Just going by some of the other albums I gave a spin today (which includes the likes of Jenny Hval, Bon Iver and Nick Cave), or albums I listen to in general, metal never features. It hasn’t featured really since a 6 month stint where I listened to a lot of  Within Temptation.

Honestly, I stuck this on whilst doing something else as I assumed that thrash metal would not be something that interested me. Usually things like this don’t and if you believe studies like this I should be beyond drastic musical taste acquisition.

Then it hit me. My musical taste has taken a number of disparate detours and actually enjoying the thrash metal of Master of Puppets. I mean something like this by Tanya Tagaq is a whole lot harder than anything on this Metallica album.

Like with the classical music list, I do not have the vocabulary in my arsenal to express what I like about this album. The title track is the clear highlight for me, and not just because of the epic intro.

I also really found myself going in for the instrumental track ‘Orion’ as a soundtrack for my video game playing. How awesome would it be to have this in the background during a game of Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim. Might be worth giving a try.

So in conclusion – it appears I might like metal more than rap. Who knew!?

Acclaimed Albums – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 123/250Title: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Artist: John Lennon
Year: 1970
Position: #68

Since, in real time, I am starting to think of how to rank the best albums of 2016 (happy almost Halloween everybody) the coverage of albums is going to continue to be patchy for a little while. All things being equal this list should be the easiest to finish as I could be incredibly passive and just listen to the remaining 130+ albums and tick them off as I go.

Still, this is not what Before I Kick is about. This blog is over 3 years old now (what the what!?) and I make sure to be as active as I can when it comes to engaging with the media on the many lists.

Hand up time. I do not like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. It’s one of those songs that has found itself repeated ad nauseam and, despite how well meaning and philosophical it is, I find it mildly irritating. I don’t think the “you who”s and “a-ha”s help.

With ‘Imagine’ in mind I have to say I was surprised by the music on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Probably shouldn’t have been considering his background with the Beatles and the fact that Yoko Ono was with him every step of the way.

Yoko Ono’s supportive presence is really important here as Plastic Ono Band is, in effect, the first solo record from John Lennon. This means that after listening to tracks about walruses, submarines and a girl named Jude, we get proper insight in Lennon himself that doesn’t have to be filtered through the lens of a band.

The result is something lyrically very interesting. You just have to look at both ‘Mother’ and ‘God’ to see where Lennon is psychologically. Before this album Lennon and Ono went through months of primal therapy together (a lot of screaming ensued) and this album really feels like a result of that.

You just have to listen to ‘Working Class Hero’ to hear how this is very different to what John Lennon had released before. I know it sounds quaint to say this, but I had never thought of John Lennon swearing until these lyrics.

A few tracks later you have ‘God’ where he systematically denounces a long list of people and organisations in just over 4 minutes. Again, this feels very much non-Beatles and very someone else.

I can imagine contemporary fans of the Beatles, and by extension John Lennon, being a tad put off by this. It would be like Harry Styles releasing an album outside of the mainstream (I’m thinking electro-babymetal). Sure, there would be some fans that stick but there would be others feeling betrayed. Or maybe not.

Still, it’s interesting to hear what the stage was between The Beatles and Imagine the album. I have I feeling I’ll end up preferring John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, but we’ll see when we get there.

Acclaimed Albums – Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 122/250Title: Unknown Pleasures
Artist: Joy Division
Year: 1979
Position: #60

I cannot count how many times I have seen Unknown Pleasures’ cover art on a t-shirt.  It is easily one of the most iconic album covers ever made and I don’t know if it so eye-catching because of the use of negative space of because of the unusual design in the middle. Still, this cover would have not kept it’s fame if it were not for the contents of the album.

With Unknown Pleasures I find myself back in the post punk world that I last basked in during my listen of Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain. When I was in the world of Psychocandy I remarked on how I could see the progression between that album and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Having listened to to Unknown Pleasures I can extend that line of progression back even further.

Going into Unknown Pleasures the only prior experience I had of Joy Division was ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and the work of successor group New Order. As such, the fact that this was more Sonic Youth than Gary Numan took me a bit by surprise. In a good way though.

Honestly, this week I have been almost exclusively listening to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend soundtrack and other songs by Rachel Bloom. If you haven’t watched it… well you need to watch it. I mention this because Unknown Pleasures kinda acted as my musical counter-balance this week.

For every song about heavy boobs and stealing pets that I was listening to this week there was the atmospheric guitars on this album on songs like ‘Interzone’ and ‘Disorder’. It made for a weird mix of music to do my job to… but it worked for me this week.

If it sounds like I am trying to make light of what is widely seen as one of the best debut albums of all time that is not my intent. Looking at this compared to some of the other hugely acclaimed debut albums like Is This It and Franz Ferdinand I can see how this would rank up there.

It feels like the work of a band that had been honing their sound for a very long time… but no Ian Curtis would have been about 21 when making this. So they were a young band making an album that was almost a reaction to punk. What was I doing at 21? Well, training to be a teacher and donating my ukulele to a charity shop. It really is an impressive work.

Acclaimed Albums – Harvest by Neil Young

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 121/250Title: Harvest
Artist: Neil Young
Year: 1972
Position: #93

It’s been about 6 months since I started whittling down the 5 Neil Young albums. Harvest is, according to the combined polls at Acclaimed Albums, the second best Neil Young album after After The Gold Rush. Well, I already disagreed with that order last time and I plan to do so again.

When looking at views of Harvest I keep seeing the same pattern of comments. How this is basically After The Gold Rush but with a different guitar and lesser songs. Personally, I enjoyed Harvest more than the other two albums of his that I have heard so far.

Something that I found is that with this album I started to hear shades of other artists that were to follow. Some of these inspirtations are more well known and stated by artists, like how ‘Alabama’ actually went on to inspire Lynyrd Skynyrd’s immortal track ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. However, there were many times where I kept thinking of people like Devendra Banhart who play with a mix of folk and psychedelia.

In the opening track ‘Out On The Weekend’ I could not stop thinking of the Beck song ‘Cold Brains’. They are actually quite different songs now that I have decided to listen to them back to back,  but there is something implicit that I am feeling that I cannot quite get sonically.

Other highlights on this album include:

  • ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ – a haunting swell of a song that feels like it belongs on another album.
  • ‘Heart of Gold’, in contrast to the track above, feels incredibly mainstream – like if someone sought to commercialise Bob Dylan.
  • ‘There’s A World’ sounds incredibly dramatic. Like REALLY dramatic

There is a variety and depth to Harvest that I couldn’t see in After The Gold Rush. This album is what lead to mainstream success, which he didn’t like, and I wonder if that is why I warmed to this more. This is definitely the best sounding of the Neil Young albums that I have heard so far – and I’m a sucker for production – so that could explain why I enjoyed Harvest. 

When you consider that three out of his first four solo albums (at time of writing this) are considered in the Top 250 albums of all time, well it boggles the mind really. Not many other artists can claim the same (Bjork can… so I feel somewhat vindicated).

Acclaimed Albums – Darkness On The Edge Of Town by Bruce Springsteen

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 117/250Title: Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Year: 1978
Position: #101

So here we are again with Bruce Springsteen. Almost two years ago I had a go at Born To Run and really fell for the title track and now it is time for me to have a go at the second of his four albums on the list.

It is interesting to note that with the four albums of his on the Top 250 list that there is a direct correlation between their age and their position. Obviously this does not hold true for his vast discography (otherwise he would have to be producing absolute shit right now) because he released albums in between these four.

Like with all albums (with a few exceptions) I listen to it multiple times, usually 2 or 3 depending on the albums length or my own interest and after the first listen I wasn’t too interested. I guess that what I was missing was the big follow up to the song ‘Born To Run’ (as well as the rest of the Born To Run album) and, therefore, was set up to be disappointed.

A second listen helped a lot with this album and I managed to pick out some tracks that I like ‘Badlands’ and ‘Racing In The Street’.  The whole album felt more thoughtful (yet more rocky) than Born To Run and I swear that The E Street Band was far more included in this album as a whole. I could have done without all the saxophone… but this is the 1970s after all and the year we saw the release of ‘Baker Street’. What I am saying is that saxophones were truly in vogue.

Two more Bruce Springsteen albums left and, despite the fact that it is the lowest, I have the feeling I will be enjoying Born In The U.S.A. more than this one. Why? Four words: ‘Dancing In The Dark’ – I adore that song.

Acclaimed Albums – A Night At The Opera by Queen

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 116/250Title: A Night At The Opera
Artist: Queen
Year: 1975
Position: #123

I have a very strange relationship with Queen. As a blanket rule I dislike them and, at times, I have found it upsetting when they end up being played. There are reasons behind why I react so negatively towards Queen… and I don’t wish to really go into why and what this music represents to me.  Needless to say this reaction can be severe to the point that I even had this music specifically banned at my wedding.

I think anyone reading this can imagine, therefore, that if I have this reaction to Queen it would be difficult for me to listen to a whole album. You’d be right. It was very difficult, but how could I ever say I have listened to the most acclaimed albums of all time without actually listening to A Night At The Opera? Exactly.

So I wasn’t going into this album with the best of mindsets. I was actually shocked when I found myself enjoying one of the songs – probably because it doesn’t sound like a Queen song. That’s right, ”39′ might be the only Queen song that I like other than ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

The rest of the album was… not my thing. I have never really liked ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and I think I am the only person in the world who feels that way. As for the rest of the tracks… what the hell was ‘I’m In Love With My Car’? Even more importantly, what the bloody hell was ‘Seaside Rendezvous’?

Now that I have actually listened to a Queen album, weird as it is to say, I have lost some of the anger I associated with them. Since so many people love this band I had this anger that I was being repelled from something amazing because of other things. Now I’ve listened to what is meant to be their best album… I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

It’s hard to describe how liberating that feels.

Acclaimed Albums – In Rainbows by Radiohead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 115/250Title: In Rainbows
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 2007
Position: #89

As of writing this Radiohead’s ninth album A Moon Shaped Pool has recently come out and I cannot stop listening to it. They have always been one of those bands that I meant to listen to more often and now they seem to have released the perfect gateway album for me. As such I have started listening to some of their other albums, and here we are.

Instead of continuing to go chronologically through their albums I decided to leapfrog over Kid A and go straight for In Rainbows instead as I actually know this album. In fact I got In Rainbows on the day it came out because they were doing the whole ‘pay what you want’ thing. Seeing how I just started university that week (and was nervous about the whole limited money thing) I paid £1.50 for it. I mean I could have gotten it for free, but that just didn’t feel cricket.

The problem with 17 year old university me and the release of In Rainbows was that I was at quite the right point in my musical development to properly appreciate it. I did, however, really fall for ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ and that is still my favourite song on the album.

Now that I have listened to a lot more of their music I understand more how unusual In Rainbows is when compared to the rest of their back catalogue. For one thing this is the album where it sounds like they are having the most fun. Similarly, In Rainbows feels a lot like an album that was made out of a jam session in the studio. I know that was very much not the case (some songs had been years in the making) but they somehow feel effortless and without pretence on this album.

It is nine years later (oh dear god) since I first got this album and I think that I am finally in a place musically where I can really appreciate it. No longer do I just dip in for ‘Weird Fishes’ and then move on out.  Now I make sure that I stick around for ‘House of Cards’ (I also love ’15 Step’, but that’s at the beginning of the album so no need to stick around for that one).

Seeing how I have already started to make a return to ‘Let Down’ from OK Computer as I finish this write up my prediction is that I will be crossing off Kid A very very soon.

Acclaimed Albums – Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 114/250Title: Catch A Fire
Artist: Bob Marley & the Wailers
Year: 1973
Position: #143

After the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine, the electro-pop of Daft Punk and the noise pop of The Jesus & Mary Chain it was high time for me to go back to a genre that I know absolutely nothing about: reggae.

On this list of albums there are three albums by Bob Marley & The Wailers and, going in chronological order, they move lower and lower down the list. So, in theory, what I am listening to today should be the best reggae album ever produced. This maps with the reviews that I have seen of this album.

Now this could be my lack of experience with reggae speaking (no, scratch that, this is my lack of reggae experience speaking) but the bass line for most of these sounded exactly the same. Also, it sounded very similar to a lot of other reggae songs that I have absorbed via osmosis over the years. I don’t mind it too much as this was the perfect music for a warm evening in May (again why I am having to post 5 times a week to try and lessen this ridiculous gap).

As with a lot of albums my favourite track on the album was the first one. I don’t know what it was about ‘Concrete Jungle’ that struck me in particular.  Second favourite track would be ‘Baby We’ve Got A Date (Rock It Baby)’ for the reason that whilst it had the same rhythm in the background it felt different because of the guitar line and the heavier use of backing vocals.

To be honest I went into Catch A Fire with a pre-conceived notion of reggae. Having listened to this album I can’t say that a lot of my thoughts have changed, but I have warmed to this genre a bit more. It’s given me a better idea of where ska’s roots are (something that will be fleshed out more by the 1001 Songs list I bet) which is kinda cool. Weird to think that we got from here to No Doubt singing ‘Bathwater’.

Acclaimed Albums – Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 113/250Title: Psychocandy
Artist: The Jesus and Mary Chain
Year: 1985
Position: #79

If I am being honest, I only picked out Psychocandy to be my next album because it had an interesting album name. Also, it had been a good while since I had listened to an album of the 1980s. Well, Psychocandy now ranks with Loveless as one of my favourite discoveries from taking on this album list.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a part of me that really loves noise pop and shoegaze. The fact that, with Psychocandy, I have now listened to the album that provided a point of inspiration for the shoegaze acts that followed just blows my mind. I thought I was there with Loveless, but no this rabbit hole goes deeper! Amazing.

Actually if you listen to Psychocandy and Loveless one after the other (as I did in the office) this progression in sound becomes very obvious. The use of feedback and distorted guitars is a lot more visceral on Psychocandy with this album straddling the line between post-punk and noise pop. Loveless is a lot more melodic in places (‘Soon’ still stands as my favourite song on that album).

What also points Psychocandy in the punk direction is that it is is very much a “blink it and you’ll miss it” kind of album. Despite being 14 songs long Psychocandy clocks in at less than 40 minutes. Now, this makes it the perfect length for the train ride to work, but when it finishes I always find myself surprised that it is already over. I felt very much the same when I listened to the Ramones’ debut so I am guessing it’s either just a punk thing or I have been spoilt by longer albums. Who knows. What I do know is that it left me wanting more.

As much as I enjoyed Psychocandy (which falls under the annoying classification of ‘albums whose best track is the first one’) it didn’t strike me as much as Loveless. However, it still ranks as one of the best albums I have listened because of this list.