Due to my back issues, I’ve become an unfortunate expert at navigating the insurance worlds of medical, long-term disability and waivers. The greatest weakness we have in the healthcare system of the USA is insurance. Their bottom line is to make money, but the question is should we be profiting from people’s health in a legalized betting and Ponzi scheme?
Everytime my wife’s employer changes medical insurance providers, I will always get hassled for having a pain pump, though one of those companies approved its implantation back in 2012. Whenever we become “new” insured, I have my pain doc’s payments slowed until they realize I have a pre-existing condition. So, we go through this about every three years when the school corporation decides its time to save money.
Perhaps my favorite battle is not with Social Security, it is with the company with whom I have long-term disability insurance. I took out this insurance when I was still healthy and changed school corporations to the one from whom I retired. Every four to five years they want documentation to prove that my condition warrants the insurance payments since I had turned down their scrawny bid at taking a lump sum payment when I first applied for the benefit. It seems now that they believe I could work at a sedentary job where I sit for six straight hours. Hell, I can’t even sit for 15 minutes without having to change positions to another chair, the bed, couch, etc.
Plus, if I were to “work,” I would need to take more pain medicine and more muscle relaxers. More of them would lead to more drowsiness and incidences of passing out during work. I’m sure the insurance company would love a lawsuit if I were to get into an automobile accident that included bodily injury or worse to an outside party when attorneys discover that I was forced to go back to some job because the insurance company did not want to pay out on an insurance that will only last five more years. Additionally, I do not believe a prospective employer would love having an employee who was stoned on the job from pain medicines that I would need to survive.
Yes, I would LOVE to be able to work and contribute to society. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be my lot in life any longer. Now, I am just a guy who takes an inordinate amount of time to write a blog about music a couple times per week (FYI: I began writing this entry at 9:45 am. I will put the publishing time at the end of this blog to give you an idea as to how long this will take).
Okay, I do look somewhat normal, albeit with much added weight to my frame. I do attempt to live a normal life but that “normal” life pays a toll on my body. If I go to a concert, I will be down (sleeping) for the next 24-36 hours. Same thing if I do something with my grandchildren. If those little rascals come over, I will play for 15 minutes then lay down for an hour. Lord help me if we travel for a family weekend or a weekend with friends. Did that last weekend, and I have been down ever since we got home Sunday, sans the two spent trading in books and albums at Half-Price books.
I go to bed exhausted and in pain, and I get up, at my very best, in the same amount of pain and just a little less exhausted. But, that is rare, as it only occurs a couple times a year. My usual morning is waking up as if I had run a marathon and played six hours of basketball than beaten with a baseball bat. And, it’s worse in the evening. The days of waking up refreshed and ready to tackle another day are at least 15 years in my rearview mirror, if not longer.
So, instead of sliding further down this dark rabbit hole, how about I get to the stuff you came for, the countdown. After the last entry, we stopped at number 351, so we will pick up there. Thanks for letting me vent a little. Peace and love to you all!
350. Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969). Nothing like a psychedelic soul experience filtered through a jam band mentality.
349. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces (1979). In the late-70s, you had the E Street Band, the Heartbreakers and the Silver Bullet Band as a few of the great backup bands. This record proves that the Attractions deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.
348. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975). This album just might be the Floyd’s most personal artistic statement, which is all summed up in the transcendent “Wish You Were Here.”
347. Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004). In 2004, I had trouble going anywhere without hearing a cut from Ye’s debut. Whether I was at home, at track practice or in school, “Jesus Walks” was everywhere.
346. Counting Crows – August & Everything After (1993). I love Counting Crows small homage to Van Morrison commercial output in the early-70s.
345. Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire (1996). When Rage was on in the 90s, they just might have been the best hard rock band in the world. Not as strong of an album in their cannon, but it’s better than most of their competitor’s best.
344. John Hiatt – Bring the Family (1987). This beautifully quiet and subdued album represents one of the first “adult”-themed albums in my collection. The subtleties of family life are brought to life in rock for one of the first times.
343. Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees (1976). What an album! Did Boz invent Yacht Rock on this one or simply bring the first coherent musical offering of the genre? Either way, thank God that Scaggs got the blueprint correct.
342. Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977). In the world of dramatic pop rock statements, there but two artists at the top: Queen and Meat Loaf. The latter earns his status on this little rock opera about a modern day Peter Pan-type of character. And few artists had the voice to bring songwriter Jim Steinman’s vision to life as Meat did. This album may be underrated in this countdown.
341. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975). The Mac was the UK’s ultimate journeymen blues rock band who had the uncanny luck of surviving a revolving door at the lead guitar position. When the latest lead guitarist Bob Welch left, the namesake rhythm section of the band picked a couple of SoCal folkies in Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Then, the band became the biggest in the world.
340. The Kinks – Something Else (1967). During 1967, rock & roll completed its transition to rock as musicians across the genres all began to tackle complex topics in their lyrics and made music to listen to rather to dance to. The Kinks decided to become the voice of the British commoner, which contributed to the band having reduced success in the States. Still, this album is excellent and just might be ground zero for Paul Weller’s career AND all of Britpop. Now, that’s a legacy!
339. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971). Back in the late-60s, George Clinton had some trouble marketing his version of funk under the moniker The Parliaments. Plus, the man was taking acid, so he downplayed the horn section of Parliament and cranked up the guitars to become Funkadelic. Therefore, Funkadelic was initially the rock side of Clinton’s personality and Parliament the funk side. Just listen to the fantastic guitar work of the late Eddie Hazel to grasp that maybe the greatest guitarist was in funk and rock bands.
338. Sade – Diamond Life (1984). Model-turned-singer Sade burst onto the scene at the end of new wave. But, her brand of Euro-influenced sophistipop and soul became the sound across the decades. And it all started humbly enough on this album.
337. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995). So, The Boss began the 90s by giving The E Street Band their walking papers. He recorded two simultaneously released lackluster albums with session players. Next up was a return to his Nebraska solo days and regained his superstar status in the process.
336. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (2012). Springsteen had a solid creative period in The Aughts, so he carried that momentum into the Twenty-Teens and released his finest, most urgent album of the 21st century. The album title simply states his mission statement.
335. The Black Keys – Brothers (2010). This guitar and drum duo picks up where The White Stripes left off. The Keys, though, shoot for the blues rock comfort zone, while the Stripes were almost aping Zeppelin. But, when The Keys are on, as they are on this LP, they are one of the better bands on the planet.
334. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002). What is it about bands who are facing trouble from their labels, simply continue to follow their muse and release a killer set on another label? It happens all of the time. And Wilco did it just at a time when the band was about to blow up, artistically, internally and commercially. This album is a band against the world statement.
333. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual (1990). Jane’s Addiction hit their peak on the band’s second and last studio album during their first go-around.
332. Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson (1987). After 11 or so years since The Band broke up after performing their farewell concert dubbed The Last Waltz, lead songwriter Robbie Robertson suddenly reappears to begin a solo career that seemed a little out of step with the times in the Eighties. Still, the album was hauntingly great and seemed to foretell the coming of Tracy Chapman and Cowboy Junkies.
331. Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975). Clinton brought the funk AND the horns on this funky freak out. Just a brilliant mix of sci-fi, funk, rock and craziness.
330. MC5 – Kick Out the Jams (1969). In the late-60s, Detroit brought not only Motown, Parliament/Funkadelic and Bob Seger, it was the actual birthplace of a rock sound that would come to be called punk in another half a decade. The Stooges were the heart and soul of the sound, but MC5 brought the militant stance.
329. The Who – Tommy (1969). Arguably the first and perhaps the greatest rock opera, The Who took their mod-influenced rock to a whole new level on this set.
328. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969). Take a member from each of the following bands and what do you get? The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies. Well, it wasn’t rock. It was barbershop quartet-type harmonies filtered through folk and rock that jumpstarted the whole singer/songwriter movement of the 70s.
327. The B-52’s – The B-52’s (1979). This kitschy debut by the FIRST band out of Athens, Georgia, is a party album delight. With a deadpan lead vocalist and two otherworldly female backup vocalists bring the humor and sarcasm to some danceable garage rock. They were the right band at just the right time to have an impact.
326. Ramones – Road to Ruin (1978). Would still be a classic album if it only had “I Wanna Be Sedated.” But, the track list is so much deeper with some influential first wave American punk rock.
325. Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years (1975). Simon’s music only grows in stature as I get older and understand its complexity and insightful lyrics.
324. U2 – War (1983). Arguably, Generation X’s first mega-popular band rose to fame on the grand statement of this album. And, at the time, many thought War would become the band’s ultimate artistic statement. Now, we all know how that turned out.
323. TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994). TLC’s sophomore album announced to the world that TLC was no longer three teenaged girls but three women ready to tackle adult themes in the music and their lives. Can you imagine how revered this trio would be had Left Eye had lived? By the way, “Waterfalls” may be the best Prince single of the 90s, since that’s who I initially thought it was upon its release.
322. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head (1992). Just when everyone was about to count out Beastie Boys as a one-trick pony, the Boys rediscover their punk roots and instruments, purchase a damaged analog microphone and proceed to make their indelible mark on hip hop history. It’s the Beasties ability to look back and ahead simultaneously that made their output in the 90s so exciting and vital.
321. Paul Weller – 22 Dreams (2008). In the 70s, Weller was busy marrying R&B and other mod sounds with early Who and the punk of the day while in The Jam. Then, in the 80s, he took an abruptly detour into jazzy 70s soul and current hip hop Europop with The Style Council. When he arrived in the 90s as the Modfather, the father of all things Britpop, Weller was ready to grow up and honor ALL of his influences, which included the prog rock of Traffic. As Weller entered his third decade of recording, he finally produced a double album of some of the best British rock since Ray Davies’ heyday in the late-60s.
320. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003). This album is something of a Led Zeppelin IV for the Millennials. If you haven’t heard the “Black Dog” of the new century in “Seven Nation Army,” then you have been prepping for Armageddon.
319. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCATION (2017). So, if you miss Talking Heads as I do, and LCD Soundsystem is not your cup of tea, then let me offer St. Vincent as your next alternative. As a matter of fact, Annie Clark is so good as a TH disciple that she recorded an album with former lead-Head David Byrne. Still, this may just be her finest moment.
318. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (2009). Hawthorne was a hip hop DJ who wanted to create some early-70s soul music to use in a hip hop setting because he couldn’t afford samples. When some record executives got wind of how good these songs were with his vocals, Hawthorne was convinced to release the material. John Mayer tweeted that this album was the “album of the year” after he listened to it.
317. Soundgarden – Superunknown (1994). Part of Seattle’s grunge scene’s Big Four (with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains being the other three), Soundgarden was the first to be signed and the last to hit big with the public. The band’s sound was massive but wouldn’t have worked without Chris Cornell’s untouchable vocals.
316. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990). So, we’re not supposed to call this a comeback, but LL was coming off a pretty weak album and with hip hip’s notoriously short shelf-life, why wouldn’t believe this to be a comeback. And what a comeback! LL predicted the turn in rap music toward a harder, more street sound. Brilliant, just simply brilliant.
315. George Clinton – Computer Games (1982). “Atomic Dog” is all I need to say!
314. Alice Cooper – School’s Out (1972). This album was my entry into the world of rock music. And, it’s the perfect album for a tweener to enter rock with as it contains the ultimate holiday song in “School’s Out.” It’s no wonder that kids my age were so quick to jump on the KISS bandwagon after this album.
313. Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado (1974). ELO has been so underrated with the Boomers constantly bitching about Jeff Lynne’s Beatles fixation. But even John Lennon himself was a fan of the band. This just happens to be one of their better releases.
312. The Who – The Who Sell Out (1967). The Who honored the pirate radio movement in British radio by recording an album that sounded like a pirate radio show, complete with advertisements. What a brilliant concept album!
311. The Kinks – Face to Face (1966). This album gave us just an inkling as to what direction leader Ray Davies was moving. He was becoming the voice of the UK version of the common man.
310. Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1976). File this under “Could Only Happen in the USA During the 70s.” Two young women are infatuated with Led Zeppelin. One is a guitar genius while the other is a better Robert Plant-type singer than the man himself. They travel to Canada to find musicians to help them. The band creates a female version of Led Zeppelin, and the rest is history. Oh, and the album gave us “Magic Man” too.
309. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989). By the late-80s, hip hop was moving from the party anthems of Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC to gangsta rap of N.W.A. But, a few knuckleheads in NYC began to thumb through albums of what we now call Yacht Rock artists to sample. The outcome is this off-beat hip hop album that puts the funk back into the samples of Steely Dan and Hall & Oates. This album was so different from anything else at the time.
308. Pearl Jam – Vs. (1993). Pearl Jam struck platinum right away with their grunge classic Ten. So, in order to attempt to temper fan’s anticipation, the band followed lead singer Eddie Vedder’s vision to go back to their punk roots in order to create their sophomore album. Lord knowns the boys thought the public would reject the album, but it only loved the band more fervently.
307. Paul Weller – True Meaning (2018). Once again, the Modfather follows up a challenging album with one whose songs come right from his R&B wheelhouse. This is Paul Weller at his best.
306. Taylor Swift – 1989 (2014). This is the moment when country star Taylor Swift shed her skin to reveal a true rock visionary tunesmith. After 1989, Swift was no longer trapped in a corner as a country artist and could follow her muse in which ever direction she desired.
305. Mika – Life in Cartoon Motion (2007). When Mika burst onto the scene, the hype machine was claiming he was stepping into Freddie Mercury’s shoes as the heir to the whole over-the-top rock star. At least, for an album, that was true. “Lollipop” is an excellent pop song.
304. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Change of Season (1990). After a lackluster 1988 Arista Records debut landed like a balloon losing its air, the duo quietly made an album that hearkened back to their Abandoned Luncheonette days. It was nice to hear the boys pushing off all the 80s production trappings and making an album like they did in the 70s.
303. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973). This is Paul at his rocking best.
302. The Stooges – Fun House (1970). If the Sex Pistols didn’t learn everything they did from this album, then the boys must have been listening to the other two Stooges albums.
301. James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963). One of the greatest live albums ever recorded only because they caught the Godfather of Soul at his very best.
(End time: 4:40 PM)