I survived another grandchild’s birthday weekend! Of course, that action of the celebration was followed by the Newtonian reaction of the next 36 hours of being down and in excessive pain. I know Newton was describing a mass in motion, but his laws of motion seem to poetically work in other aspects of our lives. Yes, I AM a science nerd. But, at one time, this nerd was a pretty decent athlete…at least, a legend in his own mind.
So, what albums does the nerd have for the public? Check it out.
200. Daryl Hall & John Oates – H2O (1982). Was the album title the formula for the duo’s success: one Oates song for every two Hall songs? If you look at the songwriting credits, the formula works on this album. This album should get much more love since it contained so many hits: “Maneater,” “One on One” and “Family Man,” plus some stellar deep cuts such as “Italian Girls” and “Open All Night.” The boys and their band were at their creative peak here.
199. Prince – Emancipation (1996). By the mid-Nineties, Prince was in such a groove, that he was recording albums of new material nearly each month. Due to that recording rate, Prince felt constrained by his record company, who would not release everything he recorded. Thus began his fight to be released from his Warner Brothers contract symbolized by his writing SLAVE on the side of his face and changing his name to that unpronounceable symbol. This triple-CD (and just a couple of years ago, six-LP) set was released and Prince aficionados all over were struggling to keep up with the man. Still, this is a prime example at the breadth of Prince’s talent and his ability to assimilate any and all musical influences seamlessly.
198. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (2008). What happens where a couple of Millennial punks purchase an old Eighties Casio keyboard and write some tunes with it? They create one of the most fun and loosest albums of the Aughts. What a delightful debut album.
197. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (2017). Until this album, only classical and jazz artists had won a Pulitzer Prize in music. And, the award went to the finest young voice in hip hop at this point in time. The Pulitzer Board put it best when they described the album as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Finally, the snobbish public was discovering that hip hop was becoming the folk music of the new millennium.
196. Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968). By 1968, Johnny Cash was at a crossroads in his career. Was he going to give into his demons and either burn out or die early, or was he going to go clean and revitalize his career? With the help of his wife, June Carter Cash, The Man in Black got clean and went to the prison he made famous in one of his first hit songs to perform a no-holds-barred performance that had him connecting to the country’s most downtrodden, to prove that he was the man of the people.
195. Radiohead – Kid A (2000). I remember the hype behind this album being deafening. Then it dropped, and my son and his buddies went apeshit over it. This was the commercialization of the anti-music stuff that I had listened to during the post punk era. The difference is that Radiohead added electronica to the mix to give their songs of alienation some musical alienation, even though the general public seemed to eat this release up.
194. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II (1991)
1993. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I (1991). These two albums were released simultaneously. Personally, you cannot have one without the other. As you see, I give I a slightly higher ranking of the two, mainly because that album contains the more mainstream hits: “Don’t Cry,” a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” and the classically overblown power ballad “November Rain.” Both albums taken as a whole shows that the band were trying to reach for the stars. While they didn’t always meet their goal, you can’t fault them for trying.
192. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970). This is peak Van Morrison at the beginning of his run of fantastic Celtic soul records. This album is where Dexys Midnight Runners (or, today, just Dexys) copped their Irish soul brothers sound. I’m biased, but this is a terrific place to start for all white soul boys.
191. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962). The only thing that matters as far as music is concerned is where you were born. Skin color, socioeconomic status and the rest of that crap really doesn’t matter. Case in point, Brother Ray Charles, who grew up in rural Georgia. The man was influenced equally by the country and western music as he ever was by the gospel from his church or the blues of his townsfolk. And, in 1962, he crossed the racial lines of the music industry to create this masterpiece of rock amalgamation. So, the next time your redneck neighbor says “Old Town Road” is not country, remind that person of this album.
190. Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram (1971). For all of us who were just kids still in their single digits in age, all I need to say is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Sure, it’s not Side Two of Abbey Road, but I’d argue that this album has a happy and relaxed Paul running the show with Linda riding his coattails a bit. Who cares? Theirs was a fantastic love story.
189. Paul Simon – Graceland (1986). To me, this is Simon’s classic album. Who knew that the Sweto music of South Africa would push a Jewish NYC man to greater heights as an artist? I know it seems like a bit of a reach to record a song with Los Lobos, but it does work within the context of this album.
188. Daryl Hall – Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine (1986). By the mid-80s, Hall & Oates were burning out as a duo. So, Daryl took his latest batch of songs into the studio with suddenly hot musician/producer Dave Stewart of Eurythmics to create this little pop trip into the psychedelic world of synthpop.
187. Nirvana – In Utero (1993). This seemed to happen often: an underground releases an album at the correct time in history to completely capture the zeitgeist of the music-listening world. At the end of 1991, that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana and their now-mythical Nevermind album. In response, when the band was called upon to release a follow-up, Nirvana turned up the abrasiveness and aggression on their Beatlesque set and created yet another masterpiece, which further confused their troubled lead singer/guitarist/songwriter. Just as they were knocking Guns N’ Roses off the throne for the biggest band in the world, Kurt Cobain killed himself. And the public was left wondering just where the band would have headed.
186. Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991). In the small amount of time between the fall of hair metal and the rise of grunge/alternative music in the USA and Britpop in the UK, Britain has a handful of interesting bands on indie labels releasing a fun mix of Stones-ish rock and ecstacy-influenced dance music, of which Primal Scream was one of the best, along with Stone Roses. This stuff was so much fun that I wished the trend had spread over here.
185. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970). The Beatles formula was to give a song to Ringo for him to sing, allow George to have a song or two per album and let Lennon and McCartney have the rest. As Harrison grew in stature as a songwriter, he had less and less of an outlet for his burgeoning skills. Therefore, he took a large stack of tracks, recorded them with his bandmates and other famous musicians, hired Phil Spector to produce the album and created this beautiful TRIPLE album of his outstanding music. This was and continues to be a feat to behold. Suddenly, the quiet one was quiet no longer.
184. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973). Prince was NOT the first artist to record and release an album that explicitly discussed sex. No. Arguably, that crown belongs to Marvin Gaye with this album. Never has a sexier batch of songs was ever put to vinyl.
183. The Monkees – The Monkees (1966). Say what you want about the Prefab Four Boomers. These guys brought rock music to Generation X when their reruns began to appear on Saturday mornings. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, MTV brought the series back for a whole other generation, The Millennials, to gain influence in 1986. The Monkees’ debut, along with their sophomore release, are lessons in pop/rock songwriting with some of the era’s finest songwriters contributing tracks to the band.
182. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970). After CSN’s successful Woodstock debut and their big-selling debut album, the trio added the mercurial Neil Young to the mix to create the legendary band’s finest album. This disc is loaded with timeless classics for which the legendary quartet are known. This is the group at the absolute finest.
181. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (1972). Critics pretty much have anointed this album a classic. Personally, I prefer my Stones’ music a little more tighter than this laidback drug-addled release. Regardless, this is one helluva album.
180. The Cure – Disintegration (1989). It took The Cure a decade to reap the commercial benefits that much of the prior music deserved, but better late than never. Maybe it was due to the fact that there is absolutely no filler on this album. Or, maybe the public finally caught up to the sound of The Cure. Either way, it was a win-win situation of The Cure and for us.
179. Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation (2010). There was a time in the States when the public rewarded an artist for standing up to the man during a crisis. This album is Paul Weller’s treatise against the corporate raiders that caused the financial collapse of the late-Aughts. While Weller was busy calling out the criminals and spewing enough outrage for the English-speaking world, the album stiffed here while being lauded and purchased throughout the UK. Wake up America! You are missing an artist for the ages.
178. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012). Here is the album which made Lamar a household name and introduced him as the finest MC of the 20Teens. His rhymes and insight are beyond his age.
177. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Private Eyes (1981). The album which proved Voices was NOT a fluke. Hall & Oates were back in a much bigger fashion than during their mid-70s reign. Gone were the yacht rock trappings, replaced by a new wave urgency and NYC club freshness that allow the duo to dominate during the first half of the 80s.
176. John Mayer – Continuum (2006). After winning a big Grammy for his song “Heavy,” Mayer returned to action with his Millennial version of Gaye’s What’s Going On. Although Continuum is neither as accomplished or anguished as Gaye’s masterpiece, Mayer did put to record some Millennial angst over the economy, the Iraq War, and a whole slew of anxieties experienced by the generation of my children. Mayer’s grooves are smooth and sexy while tackling these topics.