Tag Archives: albums

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…

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 – The Doors by The Doors

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 120/250Title: The Doors
Artist: The Doors
Year: 1967
Position: #27

I’ve made an internal decision that I should start to go through the remaining list and look for recurring artists. As you can imagine, there are a fair few of them and as I approach the halfway mark on this list. I have already completely crossed off all the albums from some major hitters like The Beatles, Bjork and PJ Harvey yet have not touched the entries from Joy Division, Metallica or The Stooges.

So I ended up going for debut album by The Doors as a way to whittle down this list of artists with multiple entries. I guess it was something about the way Jim Morrison is smouldering on the album cover that made me pick this over the ridiculously named swordfishtrombones.

The moment you start the The Doors you know you are in the sixties. It’s that organ. The sound is lighter and thinner than the Hammond organ you find on Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’, but just a few notes of that organ make this unmistakably sixties.

On Wikipedia this album is listed as being psychedelic rock. Now whilst there are areas where I would agree in this (such as the getting high references that litter this album, but more explicitly in opening track ‘Break On Through’ ) this album feels far more eclectic than just a blanket label.

It doesn’t quite fit in the same slot as other psychedelic albums that I have heard. It’s rougher around the edges than Forever Changes, not at all twee like The Pipers At The Gates of Dawn and is not borderline insane like Trout Mask ReplicaThis is a rock album that just happened to absorb some psychedelic trends because of their drug use. Take their cover of ‘Back Door Man’ or the dark tones of ‘End of The Night’ – this isn’t your typical psychedelic album.

Whilst I would not go out of my way to listen to The Doors this is definitely one of those albums that makes me think of summer. As in, sitting outside and having this on in the background. I know that this means I am probably missing some gigantic point, and I don’t to reduce this album as it’s definitely a really good album, but this is not something I normally listen to.