Tag Archives: acclaimed

Acclaimed Albums – Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 140/250Title: Five Leaves Left
Artist: Nick Drake
Year: 1969
Position: #157

To go back and experience classic albums, films and TV shows is to come into contact with the many stories (both heroic and tragic) of their creators. Recently, the untimely death of Carole Lombard and depression of Rita Heyworth have formed the kick-off points of blog posts. Today, we’re keeping on with the tragedy with the music of Nick Drake – who died of an overdose at the tender age of 26 in what was a possible suicide (although this is still up for debate).

You would be forgiven for not knowing who Nick Drake is. He died in relative obscurity and has been subject to a re-evaluation. His debut album Five Leaves Left and follow-up Bryter Layter are now seen as classics of the folk rock genre. If you have even a toe in the water of contemporary folk musicians you can see how the music of Nick Drake has influenced the likes of Beck, Laura Marling, Jeff Buckley and Mount Eerie.

I don’t know if it is because I’m listening to the 2004 re-mastered edition or just the quality of the album itself, but this could have been released now. It’s difficult to find an album from the 1960s that feels truly timeless, usually there’s a contemporary trend or technological limitation that gives it away. I am guessing that this was what prevented this from being noticed?

It sounds hyperbolic, but listening to this album on good headphones just transports you. The guitar is so ridiculously perfect that it doesn’t feel of this world. Similarly, the production on some songs (such as ‘Three Hours’) somehow creates this cavernous world where all the layers feel just out of reach. It’s similar to what The xx do.

Then you have the many tracks with incredibly vibrant strings. The tracks still feel as if they are being played in an observatory tower, but there’s more warmth to these thanks to the added complexity. Also, there’s sometimes a conga drum being played which is a bit unusual… then again it does fit in with the album.

Honestly, this is an album that surprised me. I was expecting something a bit melancholic (which this is) and folksy – that’s it. Instead I have an album with an emotional affect that makes you both want to reach out to Nick Drake and respect the level of detatchment that he is fostering. It isn’t a brooding album, it’s a profoundly beautiful one that really should have gotten some notice back in 1969. Maybe if it had… well we’ll never know.


Acclaimed Albums – The Band by The Band

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 139/250Title: The Band
Artist: The Band
Year: 1969
Position: #55

Am I the one who thinks there was an opportunity wasted with the title of this release? I mean, as a name for the group The Band was always a bit on the nose. So someone please tell me why they went for an eponymous release at this point rather than going for The Album or The LP.  Well, they didn’t so here we are with their second album: The Band.

It’s been nearly a year since I listened to Music From The Big Pink, which is about the same time that passed between the releases. Where their debut went between genres, The Band is far more fixated on being a roots rock/pre-Americana release. That isn’t by any means calling this album limited in genre; there’s enough variation to keep things interesting.

Let’s take ‘Rag Mama Rag’ for instance. It’s the song that made the most immediate impact on me on the first listen, which might be because it is the most upbeat. There is something about the relentlessly cheerful fiddle and mandolin that makes this song truly sing. Not entirely sure what the song is about, but it feels like it should be something borderline bawdy.

Compare this to ‘Whispering Pines’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ – both slower songs with the latter being one of the more powerful on the album and both having hints of  Procal Harum every now and then.

What truly unites the songs on this album are the stories. It’s described as a loose concept album dealing with themes around the more traditional strand of Americana. It goes beyond a more surface treatment showcasing the different facets of a genre, but instead looks more at the people and tells stories of those who would normally be associated.

It’s a different sort of Americana/country rock take than Sweetheart of the RodeoWhere The Byrds were experimenting and trying to drive this genre forward (essentially giving it a wider audience), The Band were embracing the history and trying to bring to life a genre that was in the process of shifting identities.

What’s the better album? Well I prefer Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but The Band is still a good album. I like this more than Music From The Big Pink though, which would agree with concensus.

Acclaimed Albums – Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 138/250Title: Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Artist: The Byrds
Year: 1968
Position: #194

It’s been an awfully long time since I last listened to a country album for this list… and I don’t think any of them have been so honky-tonk as Sweetheart of the Rodeo. This country sound is down to the inclusion of Gram Parsons which, to be honest, doesn’t surprise me now that I’ve read it on Wikipedia.

This marks the third Gram Parsons album (and probably the last) that I have heard for this list – the others being his solo album Grievous Angel and The Gilded Palace of Sin which he recorded as part of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Now that I have listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo it feels like I have founded the starter Pokémon of the evolution line of alternative country music.

You have the close harmonies and blues piano that would be expected of a country album from this era, but the rock influences are starting to creep in with some of the choices. Closing track ‘Nothing Was Delivered’ works to show the subtleties of what was happening here. Other tracks feel more traditional, but there is a hint of rock here and in ‘One Hundred Years From Now’.

It feels like one of those albums where a well established singer “goes country”. Thing is, this was one of the first times that happened, and so this is a very early example of both that phenomena and of country rock on the whole as a genre. I can certainly see how this album was influential – plus it’s just fun to listen to.



Acclaimed Albums – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 137/250Title: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
Artist: The Kinks
Year: 1968
Position: #174

Can we take a moment to moment to appreciate, what might be, the most English album title ever. It’s one of those references that I don’t think many would necessarily understand outside of the UK. Then again we are listening to an album from a time where music still received separate UK and US releases. Also, I doubt the Kinks would have given too much of a damn if this reference was lost on people.

For whatever reason I have always somewhat discounted the Kinks. Maybe I thought of them being just another old band. Maybe young me just confused them with the Kooks. Who knows at this point. What I do know is that having listened to the Kinks as part of the 1001 songs list I should walk into this album with an open mind.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society may be one of the best albums that I have heard for the Acclaimed Albums list in a long time. I think that the last time that I had such an immediate positive reaction would have been to another album with a similarly long name: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m NotInterestingly, these albums have a fair bit in common.

Both albums contain a fairly lengthy track-list made up of short songs and both are written fairly tongue in cheek. There is a wit in Ray Davies’ songwriting that make these short, pithy songs a lot of fun to listen to. Sure this is an album dripping in Beatles influence, but when that’s done well that isn’t a bad thing. I mean that didn’t hurt Oasis, now did it?

At the time The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society barely made a dent. It had some critical appeal, but with the public had moved on from this safer rock sound. 1968 was the time where harder and bluesier rock was starting to take control of the charts. The year of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Born to be Wild’ so it’s possible that a gentler sound like this was going out of fashion. Sure, the Beatles still got a number one album that year… but they’re the Beatles and, by that point, were exempt from things like fashion.

However, this is what is great about critics and with many of them having the last word on this. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society has outlasted a lot of the other albums from the same year. For a reason – it’s just good music, if only 18 months too late.



Acclaimed Albums – At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 136/250Title: At Folsom Prison
Artist: Johnny Cash
Year: 1968
Position: #153

I think it speaks for either the number or general quality of live albums that so few of them are within the Top 250 list on Acclaimed Music. You could count the entries on your hands, possibly even just one of them. It’s also worth noting that these acclaimed albums are amongst the older ones on the list.

At Folsom Prison is probably the most interesting one of the live albums on this list because of the location of its recording. It goes without saying that most live albums tend to be in clubs, stadiums or some other regular concert venue rather than a prison. Full praise should therefore be given to Johnny Cash’s desire to do so – even if it just meant the chance to play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in an actual prison.

The album is made up of recordings of two shows he did in one day, with most of it originating from the first show. You can’t tell that they’ve pieced these together in anyway as the audiences are pretty much the on same level. I can only imagine how much joy these shows brought to the inmates – even if a large amount of the songs are about prisons, being in prison, committing crimes etc. I guess that’s what you get from having an outlaw country singer doing a show in a prison?

What makes At Folsom Prison a good listen is the same reason as for all good live albums: the energy. Music on an album is great, music performed well live is better. It’s because of going to gigs that I finally got Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz album (especially that final 20+ minute track). But that’s not the only thing that makes At Folsom Prison.

It might be an odd thing to think, but it feels like there is such an empathetic and emotional connection between Cash and the prisoners in his audience. This wasn’t just another gig, this was special to him and this is what shines.

Now this old style of country and rockabilly doesn’t to be my cup of tea. There are tracks on the second side which began to really drag for me, but that was probably because the first half was the more outlaw section (including the famous lines of “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”).

On the whole, however, this was a great chance to hear an icon doing what he does best and that’s worth the time even if you don’t enjoy the music too much. Or you could watch Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line, not quite the same but still a good experience.



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.


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.