Greetings and salutations! I am back for Day #5 of the countdown. Today’s music will run the gamut of my musical tastes, with the mid-70s through the 80s dominating the countdown.
For me, the past couple of weeks has been jam packed with concerts and another grandchild’s birthday. And those relatively brief moments of fun are followed with the usual two or three days of recuperation. But, when you are married to a teacher, the summers are always busy.
Outside of the craziness and chaos caused by a surprise January 6th committee hearing, the actions of a highly politicized and activist Supreme Court and continued trend toward more mass shootings, I have found the summer to be unusually quiet. My sinking suspicion is that artists are currently focused on touring as opposed to releasing new music. Since touring is the biggest way for many of these people to make quick money, I cannot say that I don’t blame them.
So far, I find just ten albums that have been released in 2022 that I enjoy. Those artists are, in alphabetical order, Arcade Fire, Charli XCX, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Harry Styles, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, John Mellencamp, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tears for Fears, The Black Keys and The Regrettes. Of course, there’s the brilliant box set of Prince & the Revolution’s 1985 concert in Syracuse, New York, along with his Record Store Day re-release of 1995’s The Gold Experience, but those really do not count as new releases, although I am count the live Prince album by the year’s end. Here’s to hoping that the second half of the year picks up!
Let’s do the countdown thing!
300. Raspberries – Fresh (1972). After Badfinger married the early Beatles pop side with the rock of the early Who, more purveyors of this power pop sound began to spring to life. Cleveland’s Raspberries were one of the more successful of those bands. Their second album continued to build upon the muscular pop of their debut.
299. Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971). Forty years down the road now, 1971 appears to be a seminal year in music. It seemed as though the culture was reflected in the music of the day. So, it should not be too surprising that Woodstock sensation Sly & the Family Stone would hit their commercial and creative peak that year with the very political There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Unfortunately, the horrors of black America described here in 1971 have changed little in the intervening decades.
298. Marshall Crenshaw – Field Day (1983). Between 1978 and 1983, a second wave of power pop was threatening to take over radio. But, we know how the Boomers viewed this music as bubblegum music, so they put an end to it. Still, Crenshaw’s sophomore album made a major impact behind his fantastic single “Whenever You’re on My Mind.”
297. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It (2008). Ever since the Nineties, there has been something of a neo-soul scene building. The sound finally came to a head with the release of the former creative mind behind Tony! Toni! Tone! and Prince bassist this Raphael Saadiq album that embraced the sweet sounds of the 70s Philly sound mixed in with a little Detroit-based Motown. It was a wonderful update of the sounds that was welcomed by old Gen X-ers and Millennials alike.
296. En Vogue – Funky Divas (1992). It seems like the area does not matter, because the formula has been successful throughout the rock era. Take three to five beautiful women with wonderful voices that compliment each other and give them a hip group name and access to some of the best writers in the industry. Then you crank out the hits until everyone gets a big ego and puts an end to the gravy train. In the early 90s, it was En Vogue who capture record buyers with their brilliant records and model-esque looks.
295. My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves (2003). Prior to MMJ finding their trademark amalgamation of rock, country, R&B, blues, Prince, and Phish-like jamband, this Louisville band was just another new Southern rock-influenced band. When the boys hit upon their sound, I hoped they just might develop into a 21st century version of The Band. Instead, they became themselves.
294. Michael Jackson – Bad (1987). After Thriller, I think Michael could have released an album of his coughs, sneezes, belches and farts, and it would have gone platinum over ten times. Instead, thankfully, he gave us for all purposes a greatest hits album of unreleased gems. This was Michael at his peak, though it sounded just a little bit too close to Thriller for me.
293. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (1985). Ironically, Kate Bush has been experiencing a revival of this album and its single “Running Up That Hill” lately because of the latter’s inclusion in the current season of Netflix’ big hit show Stranger Things. Once again, this only proves that great music is great music, no matter the era. Could this lead to Ms. Bush finally being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Time will tell.
292. Van Halen – 1984 (1984). Unfortunately, this album may have lost a little luster over the years for its use of synthesizers. But, seriously, who cares?!?! People still dig ZZ Top’s Eliminator, and they followed the same game plan. “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” was a brilliant run of singles.
291. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983). At the time, no one realized that punk would sound fantastic played on acoustic instruments. Then Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes proved it. This is a perfect album for the whole teenage boy experience and their hormone-driven confused thinking.
290. Joe Jackson – Night and Day (1982). When Joe Jackson burst onto the scene in the late-70s, he was another angry-voiced punk-inspired power poppish British singer/songwriter in the vein of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. Then, around the same time Elvis took a left turn into sophisticated pop, Jackson moved to NYC and allowed the jazz scene there to influence his songwriting. That resulted in his most commercially successful album, Night and Day, behind the excellent hit song “Steppin’ Out.”
289. The Who – Quadrophenia (1973). Whether Pete Townshend knew it at the time or not, his second foray, and for my money his best, into the rock opera world paved the way for The Jam. It may have been Pete’s look back at his lost youth as a mod, but Paul Weller picked up the ball and ran. Truthfully, this is my go-to Who record.
288. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971). This is THE Joni Mitchell album to own. She may go down in history as a fantastic lyricist, but her guitar playing is utterly tasteful and complex. I love the album, but I still give the female singer/songwriter award to Carole King.
287. Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989). Since the dawn of the Eighties, it seems as if Tom has been the soundtrack of major events in my life. In 1989, I bought this album on the very day my younger son was born. Yes, the hits are all excellent, yet a little overplayed. But, the album is made by the greatness of its deep cuts. My favorites are “Love Is a Long Road,” “The Apartment Song,” and my lullaby for my younger son “Alright for Now.”
286. The Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God (1994). I remember flipping through the new CD section at a Best Buy and stumbling across this album. Immediately, I recognized the Brian Wilson quote and noticed it was being stocked in the Christian Rock section there. I knew this wasn’t correct. And my intuition paid off as I discovered one of the finest albums of the third wave of power pop. This is a terrific album throughout.
285. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008). It took long enough for a band to be influenced so much by Paul Simon’s Graceland. Thank God someone was! Vampire Weekend has enough of that album mixed with touches of debut album-era Talking Heads to make this one delicious album. One of the best debuts in the new millennium.
284. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (1992). By 1992, the third wave of power pop was in full swing, and The Lemonheads lead singer Evan Dando was being pimped as a grungey skater boy pinup for girls, while his band was updating the Raspberries for Generation X. Any time you have an ode to your pot dealer, you know you are in for an interesting musical ride.
283. New Order – Low-Life (1985). Maybe it was the stress of being a newlywed, or a new parent, or a student in a difficult medical technology program. Or, was it all of the above? But, in 1985, music just wasn’t all that exciting to me. Now, 1985 has some real highlights, with this New Order release being one of the stronger ones of the year.
282. Ramones – Ramones (1976). Sure, the world had all this proto-punk stuff lying around like The Stooges, MC5 and New York Dolls. But ground zero for the original punk era began right here. Gone were the long, boring solos of virtuosity, and in were short, concise songs steeped in bubblegum and the pop/rock songs of the 60s complied on the Nuggets compilation from 1972. And, Ramones were the first to put it all on wax.
281. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964). Wanna know where power pop based its sound? Look no further than the title song of this album. Still, this soundtrack album showed that the Fab Four’s lyrics were beginning to grow from the simplicity of boy-meets-girl love songs as adult themes begin to seep in.
280. Todd Rundgren – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971). Todd’s second solo album is once again hinting at the power of his prodigious talent. Hit songs and songs that should have been hits are littered throughout the album, as will become a common theme in Todd’s career. Yes, he made a name as a record producer, but the man is as talented an artist there is.
279. David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983). I agree with album producer Nile Rodgers that Let’s Dance is a classic Bowie album. And, I might lean toward the reason being a little bit based upon race. Regardless, Bowie and Rodgers teamed to create one helluva of a dance record that transcended race and charted all over the Billboard charts. To me, this album best shows just how brilliant Bowie was since he needed a big selling album to get himself out of debt, and he delivered it seemingly effortlessly. I think this is the album Duran Duran has always wanted to make.
278. The Jam – Sound Affects (1980). By 1980, The Jam were the UK’s biggest band, yet the States weren’t taking to their odes to English life. So, Paul Weller took his two bandmates toward a more R&B-influenced sound and this was their outcome, a new exciting sound that updated the early Who sound for a new generation. Now, if the album just had their greatest single “Going Underground,” it would have been perfection.
277. Fitz & the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces (2010). Both my wife and I were constantly on the search for a new band that was updating the tried and true rock ‘n’ soul sound of Hall & Oates. Then, we watch Daryl’s House on the web one night and discovered the band’s singers Fitz and Noelle. We’ve been big fans ever since. But, their debut long player remains their most consistent release to date.
276. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995). This album is everything that Britpop aspired to be. Solid songwriting, a British take on power pop, the influences of The Kinks, Paul Weller, The Smiths AND The Beatles everywhere you turned. Along with Pulp and Blur, Oasis was THE Britpop band of the 90s.
275. Rick James – Street Songs (1981). Before Prince got his act together, the man you went to for a funk/rock mix was Rick James. He owned that sound in the late-70s and early-80s. And this album was James’ tour de force. What can you possibly say about one album that has background vocals by The Temptations, a duet with Tina Marie AND both “Superfreak” and “Give It to Me Baby”? You say it’s a classic, that’s what!
274. INXS – Kick (1987). Next to AC/DC, INXS was the biggest Australian musical export. Yet, they have just stumbled upon their brand of Stones rock and funk mix on 1986’s single “What You Need.” Upon the consolidation of their sound of that single as the band’s starting point, the quintet dove headfirst into the recording of Kick and created a masterpiece that transcended genres.
273. Otis Redding – Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965). Otis Redding was on his way to becoming a legend when he released this album with a title that must have been rewritten by Mr. Obvious. No crap! Otis Redding IS soul! This album put the exclamation on that sentence.
272. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978). It’s funny now, but back when CBGBs was becoming a punk rock icon, Blondie was considered to be the weakest of all the bands that called the place home. Yet, when the dust settled, it was Blondie who became pop stars, had the big hits, maintained their integrity AND had the sex symbol of NYC cool in Debbie Harry. This album is the band’s masterpiece as they flex their muscles across NYC chic girl group cool, power pop, punk and even out-discoed all of the disco artists of the day on their eternal “Heart of Glass.”
271. Prince & the Revolution – Around the World in a Day (1985). In June 2022, the Prince Estate released a lost Prince classic live album that was supposed to come out in 1985. But, as we now know but were learning at the time was that the man was moving faster musically than the industry could keep up. So Live was shelved until last month and this psychedelic pop experiment was released instead. Basically, he showed that he could take The Beatles to Minneapolis, dip them in Easter egg paints and create a whole new aural sound. In all honesty, this album was Prince at his most laser-focused.
270. Eurythmics – Touch (1983). On the duo’s second release of 1983, Eurythmics topped Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by relying less and less on the synthesizers that made them superstars and began their movement toward a more traditional use of instruments to create their patented moody sound. Plus, Touch was the album in which we learned that Annie Lennox possessed one of the most soulful and powerful voices of the Eighties, bar none.
269. Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club (1993). When Sheryl Crow burst onto the radio, she was elbowing her way through a crowd of grunge rockers, New Jack singers, alternative nerds, gangsta rappers and Garth Brooks. But, she did so because she had well-written Americana-influenced pop/rock gems that were played by a group of some of the best musicians the world had to offer. And, the whole project came together organically.
268. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006). Just when I was ready to send Dylan out to pasture to stud, he releases this album to prove that he may be pushing 80, but he is still a creative force of nature. In retrospect, if you couple this album with 1997’s Time Out of Mind and 2001’s unfortunately timed Love & Theft (released on 9/11) started a new creative streak for the bard of Minnesota.
267. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (2014). Back in the day, some critic online wrote an article about artists who released better Tom Petty-sounding albums than Tom’s Hypnotic Eye. While I didn’t agree with the author, I understood why he was pimping these albums, one of which was this album by Jenny Lewis. No, Lewis is NOT a new Tom Petty. Nope. She’s a new Jenny Lewis. Ms. Lewis gave up acting to pursue her music career, and The Voyager is the pay-off. Welcome to the big leagues, Jenny, because you made a classic.
266. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (1970). Basically, The Dead have lived off their two classic 1970 albums, this one and American Beauty. Somehow, the boys streamlined their sound and the jamming tendencies on this album and stuck to the plan of concise countrified rock songs. These Dead albums, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers, opened the door for the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt to fly through.
265. U2 – Zooropa (1993). At the time, U2 was riding high on the successful experiments of Achtung Baby and the success of their pop trash Zoo TV Tour, all of which solidified them as the newest stadium rockers. The band, in typical fashion, dove further down the irony-laced rabbit hole and created this legendary album. Back in the day, U2 were shellacked for this album. But, in retrospect, this album was taking the experiments of Achtung to its logical completion. Plus, we can thank U2 for reviving Johnny Cash’s career and reputation, because he went on a creative tear during his last decade of life.
264. Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). If you ever wonder just who invented the idea of sampling, look no further than this collaboration between two masters of sound manipulations, Brian Eno and David Byrne. However, instead of sampling snippets of famous recordings, the duo traveled the world recording indigenous music, sermons and prayers and set the whole thing to similar African beat sounds found on Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Today, we might consider this a little like cultural appropriation, but I still am mesmerized by what the pair did. Good luck in finding a version of the album that originally contained a Quran reading; THAT was questionable back then. But when faced with a potential backlash, the duo quickly removed the offending song and replaced it with another. So, I guess kudos to them?
263. Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtle (1985). Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were all part of a little band called The Police. But, the three, despite the creative output, were a volatile lot. So, Sting hired a band of young jazz hotshots and recorded some of his best songs to date with them. While the creative tension of the trio was gone, and a slick professionalism was in its place. A great album for late at night relaxation.
262. Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973). Here is the first album I ever bought. Boy, did I ever have an ear for music. This was Marilyn Manson for the young Gen X generation. “No More Mister Nice Guy” got me in, but “Elected,” etc. kept me listening.
261. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). If I may speak honestly, back in my teen years, I did not have the patience for much progressive rock music. Whether it was the Celtic folk/rock marriage of Jethro Tull, rock/English folk of original Genesis, classical music/rock combo of ELP or Yes, it all just meandered too much for me. I’ve always been a “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” (thanks Mike Campbell!) kind of guy. But, when the prog rock was foreboding and dark, I liked it. So, King Crimson was right up my alley.
260. Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77 (1977). Here we go! Talking Heads officially rear their, uh, heads! Yep! I was hooked in 1979 by “Life During Wartime” and Fear of Music. Immediately, I went back in their catalog and discovered this nervous and disjointed take on bubblegum gem, realizing I had found my people.
259. Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989). When the Eighties were ending, Madonna was the biggest female star on the planet, even rivaling Michael and Prince for the throne of the kingdom. So, as she always did, Madonna was going to challenge the status quo while taking money from Pepsi. With that came the controversial commercial which aired once and set off a firestorm with its burning crosses and portrayal of a black Jesus, just like in her video for the song. Oh, controversy aside, Madonna created arguably her most musically accomplished album of her career. She sure knew how to piss off the establishment back then. I just wish she’d leave those shenanigans to the younger artists. When we old farts do it, we look sad and desperate.
258. Kiss – Destroyer (1976). When I think of the bicentennial year of 1976, I musically think of this All-American album. I played the hell out of it. Destroyer became the first album that I had to replace after playing it so much. Is that a big enough compliment?
257. Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974). “Killer Queen” was the hit off this album, but I discovered rather quickly that this album was a solid affair. “Now I’m Here” has become my favorite song on the album. You can definitely hear the early rumblings of A Night at the Opera/A Day at the Races on this album.
256. The Smiths – The Smiths (1984). In my mind, R.E.M. landed the first blow for alternative music with Murmur in 1983. Then, The Smiths followed it with their left-hook of punch with their debut album the following year. And the alternative rock/college rock/modern rock onslaught was on for the next six years.
255. Pulp – Different Class (1995). When I think of Britpop, I think of Oasis. When I think of the heirs to the Stone Roses’ kingdom of British-oriented pop/rock, that crown goes to Pulp. This album describes the class divide so well in Great Britain. Unfortunately, I think this album might now hit Gen Z hard between the eyes with the direction the USA is moving now.
254. Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow (1991). This Chicago trio threw the whole third wave of power pop into high gear as they ascended to the region’s royalty status alongside Cheap Trick and Off Broadway. They breathed new life in the genre, making sit nicely between the grunge and alternative rock of the day. Do not underestimate just how good this band was.
253. Billy Squier – Don’t Say No (1981). Mr. Squier was a member of a great lost power pop band called Piper. When the band broke up, Squier toughened up his sound but did not lose the pop melodies and concocted an AOR album for the ages. Screw Loverboy, REO, and the rest of the AOR artists of the era, THIS is the album to own.
252. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1957). What can I say? Elvis’ debut is the beginning of modern rock & roll. My apologies to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. You guys may have invented it, but Elvis took it to the masses (sorry once again, uh, white people).
251. Etta James – At Last (1960). There is no denying just how magnificent this album is. It is always on the best-selling blues albums chart. It is simply impeccable.