Tag Archives: albums

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.

Acclaimed Albums – Dummy by Portishead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 119/250Title: Dummy
Artist: Portishead
Year: 1994
Position: #65

Portishead is one of those acts that I avoided for a long time because someone once told me that they were weird. I am someone who lists Bjork and Kate Bush among their favourite musicians, wrote all of their NaNoWriMo to a soundtrack of The Knife and Grimes, and actually had Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You Honeybear‘ as the first dance at their wedding.

Still. The idea that Portishead was weird persisted and I never really listened to them until relatively recently. Even now the only album of theirs that I have listened to is Dummy. I will need to listen to Third at some point, but Dummy feels like the essential one.

I must have listened to Dummy three or four times in the last 10 years before doing it for this blog. Now that I have more context as to where this fits into musical history (and I have listened to more Massive Attack) I think that I actually get this album a whole lot more.

This is unmistakably trip-hop, just with more of a chill-out and bluesy feel to it and less hip-hop. Because of Dummy’s more dreamy soundscapes it almost feels like you are listening to a film soundtrack. Something neo-noir like Mulholland Drive or maybe a TV show with some mysterious edge to it.

A lot of this mysterious sound comes down to the vocals of Beth Gibbons. She’s like an Elizabeth Fraser you can understand (again, I listened to Treasure by the Cocteau Twins and yet stayed away from Dummy… what the actual hell) and her voice feeds into the swirling jazz samples and record scratches.

Knowing that Third was Portishead moving away from the trip-hop that they helped popularize actually saddens me as it has taken me a long time actually listen and get into them (I seriously love this album but I am not at the point yet where I can nail down a track by name apart from ‘Mysterons’). Still, artists need to develop (hey, look at Bjork’s progression from the house of her debut to the sweeping broken-hearted strings of Vulnicura).

All I can say is that it’s going to be interesting to hear them be more on the industrial side of music.

Acclaimed Albums – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 118/250Title: The Piper At The Gates of Dawn
Artist: Pink Floyd
Year: 1967
Position: #113

I knew it wouldn’t take too long before I was back in the world of psychedelic rock. It’s been nearly half a year since I was In The Court of the Crimson King and this will have been a direct influence on that album.

When you consider that contemporary psychedelic rock albums included the likes of Pet Sounds, Forever ChangesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the first two Jimi Hendrix studio albums it’s easy to see where The Piper At The Gates of Dawn slots right on in.

Since the only other Pink Floyd songs I know are ‘Comfortably Numb’ and ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’ this wasn’t exactly the album that I expected. As hub put it – some of these sounded like “childrens’ songs”. He specifically said this during the first part of ‘Bike’ when they were singing about a mouse named Gerald, but it fits with the rest of the album to be honest.

Here lies the problem – it just doesn’t feel like this great problem. When you listen to this it is so painfully obvious that the group were high on something (in this case LSD). I say this not just because of the strange images used within the lyrics, but because it reminds me of that episode of South Park where they all get high on cough syrup and watch close up animals with a wide-angle lens.

I’ll grant that this album is whimsical in the same way as a rabbit with a pair of scissors (seriously when is the last time you saw an acclaimed rock album with lyrics referring to gnomes) but it just falls flat for me. At the time this would have been more impactful, but when you have Bjork throwing things off a cliff in order to feel secure in her relationship  or a concept album about a girl fighting robots this album just sits in the shade of the madness that followed.

I guess that’s something to thank this album for. But like how it is difficult to go back to the rough polygons of Ocarina of Time maybe this is one of those albums I just won’t get.

Acclaimed Albums – good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 117/250Title: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Year: 2012
Position: #181

About a year ago I made a post about my favourite albums of 2015 and I knew that I had to make a mention of To Pimp A Butterfly in order to preempt the 2016 update of the Acclaimed Albums list. Like how I just had to blurb a bit about Lemonade as it seems like a very likely entry to this years update.

I called myself a philistine as, like most rap albums, I really didn’t quite get it. In the fashion of “Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells” I just thought it was noise and was really put off by all the n-words and calling women hos.

So, when it came to listening to good kid, m.A.A.d city I think my expectations were incredibly low. So low in fact that I stuck it on as a bit of noise to accompany me as I played my next video game (going up in the next post) to drown out my husband’s playthrough of Fable II.

I think I buck the trend here when I say that I prefer good kid, m.A.A.d city to To Pimp A Butterfly. I prefer it by a very VERY long way as I can honestly say that I found good kid, m.A.A.d city to be a very good listen. Maybe it’s because I could actually discern a lot of what he was saying on a first listen? Maybe it’s because it feels, on the whole, more melodic. Who knows. What I do know is that it all really came together for me in his 12 minute song ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst’.

The entire album has the recurring theme of trying to break out of where you came from and yet never truly being able to discard the parts of you that this upbringing has shaped. For Lamar, like many other rappers, he was shaped by living in areas where crime was high and gangs were commonplace. It’s interesting to listen to this conflict through rap, it makes it feel a lot more personal than To Pimp A Butterfly which decided to turn it’s attention more to society at large.

Whilst this album won’t change my opinion of rap on the whole this does mean that the number of album in my ‘exceptions to the rule’ pile has gone up.

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.