The plan today is to listen to McCartney III followed up by the reimagined version that was released a short time later. I am finally getting around to doing these albums for a back-to-back comparison. Not surprisingly, I have wanted to do this all summer, but I have been just way too busy. Now that school is beginning, I can finally get back into my writing groove.
While listening to two versions of the same Paul McCartney, I am going to tackle the next ten of my countdown. Excuse me while I clear my throat!
80. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (2008). To the MMJ crowd, this album is a controversial enigma. First off, I LOVE MMJ! I fully believe they are one of the Top 5 artists thus far of the 21st century. Yes, they do hold down a specific niche in rock music as one of the latest jam bands. But, these guys, much like The Band before them, are much more than that. Most of the time, the band tends to stick to a space age version of Americana, but on this one, they unleashed their inner Prince, which is why it is so controversial in the MMJ world. Personally, I LOVE it! There is not a weak song on an album that simply speaks to me both lyrically and musically. “I’m Amazed” was the hit, but with songs like “Librarian” and “Highly Suspicious” gives the album legs. I will fight to the death to defend the honor of this great album.
79. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019). When Lana Del Rey performed on SNL at the dawn of her career, I thought she completely sucked. Everything went wrong that night. Yet, her studio albums kept intriguing me. By 2019, she was extending beyond a Chris Isaak-influenced film noir version of the singer/songwriter into a unique version of herself. NFR is her masterpiece thus far. Every song is beautifully moody, not unlike a Kate Bush album. Maybe she kept trying on personas before coming up with this one, but who really cares? LDR is awesome!
78. George Michael – Faith (1987). I think Wham! got a bad rap back in the day. They were much more than a boy band. C’mon! George wrote all of the songs, including all the musical hooks that made them ear worms. So, when he went solo in 1987 on this album, why were critics so surprised by this album? Solo, George was able to stretch out his wings in a more mature manner to create some of the best 80s dance/pop this side of Michael Jackson. This album is stuffed full of hits, including my personal fave “Father Figure.”
77. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969). After Jimmy Page put together his “New Yardbirds” renaming them Led Zeppelin upon a joke made by The Who’s Keith Moon who said this band would go over like a lead balloon, Zep found their footing as their own band on this album while no longer being a Jeff Beck Group knock-off as on the first album. This album birthed a million sound-alike bands.
76. Cheap Trick – At Budokan (1978). Originally, the idea behind this album was to make a live album as a “thank you” to the enthusiastic reception the band had received from their newly minted Japanese fans. Then, the American audience caught wind of the album’s excellence and began to buy it, making the album the biggest-selling import album ever at the time. What is on vinyl is the typical Cheap Trick concert, in which they rip through many songs on their first three albums. The album may be known for the hit song “I Want You to Want Me,” but the rest of the album rescues the included songs from their slightly-tamed studio versions. For my money, you might never hear a better opening to a song than their version of Fats Domino’s standard “Ain’t That a Shame.” “Come On, Come On,” “Surrender” and “Clock Strikes 10 O’Clock” remain among my favorite versions.
75. Big Star – Radio City (1974). Much like The Velvet Underground before them, Big Star never sold many records in their heyday. But, as Brian Eno once said about VU, everyone who bought a Big Star record started a band. To many of the alternative bands of the early-80s, Big Star were gods. That was my introduction to them, nearly a decade after their recording careers ended in unfulfilled promise. Unfortunately, the Paul McCartney of Big Star, the late Chris Bell, left the band before the recording of this album, but some of his songs remain on Radio City. So, the John Lennon of the band, former Box Tops vocalist, the mercurial Alex Chilton stepped up to fill the album with stellar rockers and lots of power pop delights. While fans miss Bell’s sweet vocals and tasty guitar licks, the album still plays to the strengths of the band. This is the album where you will find “September Gurls.”
74. The Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet (1968). I am of the opinion that The Stones were never better than during the Mick Taylor years. This is not a dis of what the late Brian Jones brought to the band. I feel like Taylor brought out the edge in the band. Take a couple of classic songs from this album. “Sympathy for the Devil” might have been pulled off with Jonesy, but Taylor gives the song a sleazy feel. And, I don’t think the ultra-talent Jones could have let go on “Street Fighting Man” as Taylor did. For my money, I prefer my Stones with Taylor. Could you imagine just what he would have brought to Some Girls? I salivate just thinking about it.
73. Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). Arguably, Gary, Indiana’s Jackson family is America’s most talented entertainment family. But, who knew when Thriller blew up in the mid-80s that little sis Janet was plotting to become the singing family’s most fearless recording artist? After taking control of her musical career three years earlier on her appropriately titled Control album, she went full-blown funk on the second album of her career revival. Once again under Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ watchful eyes, Janet’s songwriting blossomed. She tackled relationships on “Miss You Much,” society on “Rhythm Nation” AND went head on into the rock world much better than her brother did on either “Beat It” or “Dirty Diana” with “Black Cat.” At the time, Janet the young lady got in shape and developed dance moves to rival Michael to become the biggest pop star on the planet. She is the musical bridge between Michael and Prince, thanks to Jam and Lewis, former members of The Time.
72. Pearl Jam – Ten (1991). Released around the same time as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam followed Nirvana into the grunge spotlight. Where Nirvana followed the American hardcore path to grunge, Pearl Jam came from the classic rock area with a pinch of punk thrown in for good measure. That’s was PJ was more appealing to Boomer since the band was based in the blues, as evident on their cassette/CD-only cut “Yellow Ledbetter.” Their update version of The Who was especially compelling on “Alive,” “Jeremy” and their all-time classic “Black.” This album is kinda like Boston’s debut as it made a burgeoning new rock vocabulary palatable for the world.
71. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990). Depeche Mode’s music, much like The Cure’s, seemed to take the whole decade to get darker while becoming more popular with the American public. Originally, DM began as one of the better synthpop bands behind keyboardist and resident pop genius Vince Clarke. But, after that debut album, Clarke left to start Yaz (or Yazoo, as the duo is known as well), so the rest of the members had to learn to write. As they developed their skills, the lyrics and music got darker due to the influence of the UK Goth music movement. By the time the band got to the excellent LP, they were filling up venues like USC’s Rose Bowl. “Policy of Truth,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus” are the songs on this album.
We are up to #70, so the top albums are coming up quickly. Peace.