Here’s to Taylor Hawkins: My Foo Fighters Top 40

I can’t believe that the last time that rock music had a cogent and important movement which emanated from primarily one city (Seattle) was around 30 years ago! Seriously?!?! Yep, it’s been over 30 years now since the Big Four of grunge and a bunch of alternative music personalities momentarily lit up the rock world. If you are an older Gen X person as I am according to more recent timelines, the number of decades which have passed is staggering since many of us remember when people labelled this music in the Eighties as college rock or modern rock.

Looking back to that time of the early- to mid-Nineties, I remember my having the CDs by such alternative luminaries in my CD players as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, The Offspring, Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette, among many others. It was a very heady five year period of time when some of the best music of the moment was also its most popular. But, when looking back at that brief list, I find it surprising that only two of those artists have continued with their lineup and sound relatively intact, Pearl Jam and Green Day. Alanis and Liz both were in a more pop direction, while Nirvana, Alice, Soundgarden and STP all lost their distinctive lead singers to mental health issues. The Offspring keeps trudging onward, though at a much reduced profile. And, finally, the Pumpkins became lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan’s vehicle, with its original lineup jettisoned shortly after the big success arrived.

Some may say that grunge ended with the death of Nirvana’s visionary leader Kurt Cobain, and I would agree that the commercial appeal of most grunge music did become passé in Kurt’s death. But, Cobain’s suicide also signified the end of the “anti-rock star,” an artist who shunned the spotlight often thrust upon the rock personalities from the beginning of the musical form in the Fifties. Oddly, though, was the end of Nirvana allowed one member to stake his claim to the title of rock’s LAST rock star. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl would eventually put down his drumsticks, pick up a guitar and grow into one of rock last and truly charismatic frontmen.

I have memories of my high school students at the time being intrigued by the possibility of Grohl carrying the torch for Nirvana music. While Grohl kept the sonic nature of Nirvana’s music intact, he took a more mainstream, nearly classic rock, approach to his music all the while celebrating his punk roots. Plus, Grohl, under the moniker Foo Fighters, created a sound that actually combined everything in which a Gen X-er would have grown up listening to. In fact, Grohl has said that every one of his Nirvana drum introductions was nicked from the Gap Band, Chic or some other funk band of the Seventies and Eighties (yet another reason why R&B and rap artists are welcomed into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame).

So, what humbly began as a Dave Grohl solo project without his name being initially attached, Foo Fighters morphed and evolved into rock’s truly great band still standing. Remember, the other two bands left standing with the Foos are Pearl Jam and Green Day. Pearl Jam continues to do great work while packing arenas around the world; yet, the band continues to take something of the anti-rock star approach with their stardom. And, Green Day has lost their edge over the past decade with some middling albums released during that time. All that proves is that has got to be difficult for a punk band to continue to grow artistically.

So, that leaves the Foos, who have become much beloved by fans not simply for their music, but their chemistry on and off the stage and in and out of the studio. In the nearly three decades since Cobain’s passing, Grohl has established himself as a legendary musician by playing both live and in the studio with such rock icons as Tom Petty and The Queens of the Stone Age. And the man’s kindness to fans and critics alike has been inspiring as well, which has built up massive amounts of good will throughout the world.

Hell, the Foos were nice even when they were protesting people of a crazy church who were picketing a venue the day of a Foos concert. And how did the band protest back? By playing disco music, of course. The video of this moment went viral in 2021 as artists were emerging from the pandemic quarantine, only making the band that much more loveable.

Then, we all were shocked to learn that the band’s terrific drummer Taylor Hawkins had died after a concert. The band was shocked, and the rock world mourned. In all honesty, I had not seen as large of an outpouring of emotion that Hawkins’ death elicited since Kurt Cobain’s in 1994. Of course, I did not know the man. But, every time I watched a video in which he was performing, he looked like he was having the time of his life. I understand that the musicians of Foo Fighters have something of a brotherhood feeling between them, often referring themselves a big family, including the wives and children. So, I am certain that Hawkins’ death hit the group like a sledgehammer.

However, the tribute concert to the drummer held early this month in September helped with the healing process. It was appropriate when Taylor Hawkins’ sixteen-year-old son Shane stole the show with his emotional drumming during the band’s signature number “My Hero.” After that performance, many have speculated that Shane would join the band, but I suspect that void will eventually be filled by someone with more seasoning whose personality fits in with the band. The drummer who manned the skins for most of the Foos set was the son of legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor whose name is Rufus Taylor. If Rufus grows into just half of the drumming entertainer that he father is, the Foos will be in great hands.

By the way, there will be another tribute concert later this month. The first one took place in Wembley Stadium in London, while the next one will take place at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles. I understand why the concert will be in LA but wouldn’t it have been cooler if the concert would have been held in a huge outdoor stadium, such as in Dallas or even in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Why do I say those? Mainly because the locations are centrally located in the country. I’m just saying.

I know it has taken me a while to get this entry together, I feel that it made a much better read than the moment I heard the news about Taylor Hawkins. When I write emotionally, I tend to make more stupid mistakes than I normally do.

Enough is enough! Let’s do a countdown of my 40 favorite songs by Foo Fighters.

40. “Saint Cecilia” (Saint Cecilia EP, 2015)

39. “Erase/Replace” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)

38. “Statues” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)

37. “Shadow Dancing” (Hail Satin! – Dee Gees, 2021)

36. “Another Round” (In Your Honor, 2005)

35. “DOA” (In Your Honor, 2005)

34. “Bridge Burning” (Wasting Light, 2011)

33. “The Last Song” (In Your Honor, 2005)

32. “Hey Johnny Park” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)

31. “Cold Day in the Sun” (In Your Honor, 2005)

30. “My Poor Brain” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)

29. “I Am a River” (Sonic Rivers, 2014)

28. “La Dee Da” (Concrete and Gold, 2017)

27. “Night Fever” (Hail Satin! – Dee Gees, 2021)

26. “Run Rudolph Run” (single, 2021)

25. “Home” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)

24. “Medicine at Midnight” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021)

23. “Next Year” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)

22. “In Your Honor” (In Your Honor, 2005)

21. “Waiting on a War” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021)

20. “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Makeup Is Running” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)

19. “Resolve” (In Your Honor, 2005)

18. “You Should Be Dancing” (Hail Satin – Dee Gees, 2021)

17. “Generator” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)

16. “Making a Fire” (Mark Ronson Re-Version, 2021)

15. “The Line” (Concrete and Gold, 2017)

14. “Congregation” (Sonic Highways, 2014)

13. “Long Road to Ruin” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)

12. “Breakout” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)

11. “Monkey Wrench” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)

10. “Run” (Concrete and Gold, 2017). This song is an example of the Foo Fighters doing a Led Zeppelin-plays-Wings type of number. It is melodic, heavy and 90s classic rock all rolled up into one 21st century version of power pop.

9. “Big Me” (Foo Fighters, 1995). One of the first songs released by the band from their eponymous debut album, “Big Me” may be more recognizable for its humorous video than this updated power pop sound. “Big Me” showed that this band should NEVER be confused with Nirvana.

8. “Shame Shame” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021). “Shame Shame” defies the Foos’ usual blueprint for a song since the band shuns the wall of guitar distortion for a tune which shows the band’s true versatility by building this one upon a throbbing, thundering bass. This song is vastly underrated by most Foo fans because of this show of musical maturity.

7. “All My Life” (One by One, 2002). This blistering song is arguably the Foos’ most aggressive tune in their catalog. Yet, it still stands proud in an anthemic setlist for which the band has become known.

6. “Best of You” (In Your Honor, 2005). “Best of You” is yet another stadium anthem, yet this one is more of a tender song lyrically speaking. It’s a mini-“Stairway,” or at least a Foos’ “Under the Bridge.”

5. “Everlong” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997). Arguably, this is the band’s most recognizable song. It is a patented Dave Grohl arena anthem.

4. “The Pretender” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007). “The Pretenders begins as if it were a ballad, only to switch to a burner by the second verse. I think really got this method from listening to Kiss.

3. “Learn to Fly” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999). This song shows what happens when the Foos turn down the distortion and nearly jangle out – they make a power pop hit. Now, if Dave Grohl had only used a Rickenbacker…

2. “Times Like These” (One by One, 2002). Although I much prefer the quieter opening version the Foos have been using as of late in their shows, this song is still very strong in its studio form. The live version simply changes the song to make it much more dramatic, allowing it to become something of a “Here I Go Again”-type of power ballad.

1. “My Hero” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997). This arena rattler is a perfect mix of Nineties grunge power and Seventies power pop. The lyrics, the music and the ready-made sing-along nature of the chorus all push this song into anthem-hood, making it a song for the ages. This song was first used to perfection in the MTV-produced Nineties coming-of-age football story Varsity Blues. My older son used to jokingly sing this song to his young brother when the younger one became a football quarterback, making a comedic nod to the aforementioned film.

Billy Joel Reminded Me Just How Good He Is

Man, this summer has kicked my ass. Between fun things like family vacations and gatherings, little trips here and there, the main bathroom getting a long overdue make-over, my body sending periodic signals to my brain that, no, it cannot be pushed like in my younger days, hearing the sad news of the passing of friends and/or their parents in addition to worrying about my dad’s and step-parents’ health, it has been a bitch of a summer. So, unfortunately, I had to push my writing aside until things began to settle down a bit. Honestly, they probably aren’t, but I have some time to squeeze in a little blog entry.

Unfortunately, I am worried that I can no longer truly enjoy a concert. Since April, I have been fortunate to see Elton John one last time, Billy Joel for the first time (more on that in a bit) in addition to performances by the likes of Jackson Browne, Barenaked Ladies/Gin Blossoms/Toad the Wet Sprocket and Chicago/Brian Wilson. In all honesty, I really only felt like Billy Joel and Elton John were good this year. Oh, sure, the Gin Blossoms were fine, but you get outside of their first album and a couple of follow up hits, well, their set ends up a little thin. Barenaked Ladies surprised me with an unsuspected depth of musical talent, but, once again, outside of their handful of hits, they are not my cup of tea. And I have always been in awe of Jackson Browne’s songwriting talent over the decades, but his show is a little too heavy on ballads for my rocker heart.

Oh, and most disappointingly, Chicago and God bless him Brian Wilson were awful. Back in 2018, Chicago had a well-oiled lineup that was brilliant. Unfortunately, their current lineup left much to be desired. And, I knew things might be in peril when the great Brian Wilson was lead to his piano while using a walker. I really couldn’t tell if he was playing, while his crack background singers all attempted to pick up his weak voice. I honestly felt sorry for the man thinking he needed to perform in his condition. I am a huge Brian Wilson fan and was heartbroken to see him trotted out like this. It seems like the pandemic took a huge toll on many of our heritage acts. However, I do have tickets for Bruce Springsteen next spring, so hope springs eternal. I guess witnessing the musical heroes of my youth each face their mortalities, it leaves me facing mine as well.

Over the summer, I lost a woman who played an important role in my post-parents’ divorce life, Aretta Dunwiddie. It seems as though from the summer before my sixth grade year in school until graduation from high school, I was done at the Dunwiddies’ house hanging out with their two daughters who were around my age. Aretta, along with his husband Dick, provided me another set of parents during those six years. Although I never saw Aretta and Dick much after my college days as they moved to Florida, they played a big role in the my development, if nothing else but providing me a safe place to hang out and getaway from the stress of home. I have been fortunate in that I had my parents, I have the Dunwiddies and, at school and during track and cross country, I had Dwayne and Imy Rhule stepping in to influence my life. Now that Aretta has joined Mom in the Great Beyond, I am simply happy that Aretta is no longer suffering and thank her again for her love and guidance.

As I mentioned earlier, I did get to see Billy Joel this summer. Back in June, the wifey and I made a trip to South Bend, Indiana, to meet up with two-thirds of the women in our wedding party who both live nearby to relive a little college together at Billy Joel’s appearance at Notre Dame Stadium. Of course, all of us being modest Ball State graduates, we sat in the upper deck across the football field from the stage. However, since we directly in line with the stage, the seats really did not seem too bad. Plus, the excellent sound system broke down the distance.

Billy Joel, despite his age and his hard-living life early on, was in great shape, performing a solid set of hit songs and great deep cuts that are fan favorites. Plus, one of his background singers, Crystal Taliefero, a former member of John Mellencamp’s groundbreaking Eighties band and a Hoosier from Gary, Indiana, and Indiana University, got a HUGE ovation for her homecoming of sorts. Crystal has become an important utility player in the industry with her Olympian ability to play the saxophone, keyboards, percussion and vibes in addition to her unparalleled vocals. In a band of super-talented musicians and vocalists, Ms. Taliefero stood out, except for the songwriting, showmanship, musicianship and vocals of the guy who signs her paycheck.

To be perfectly honest, I had forgotten just how good Billy Joel’s music truly is. His last studio album, River of Dreams, left me disillusioned, so I kind of just let his albums gather dust, only occasionally pulling out his first greatest hits compilation. In the aftermath of his performance, I have been on a small journey through his pop catalogue. Sorry, Mr. Joel, I simply am not going to evaluate your ventures into classical music for I am not your target audience for such an endeavor.

After spending the summer rediscovering the joy in Billy Joel’s music, I have developed a Top 40 list of his songs. And here is the list.

40. “The Longest Time” (An Innocent Man, 1983)

39. “Keeping the Faith” (An Innocent Man, 1983)

38. “All About Soul” (River of Dreams, 1993)

37. “Honesty” (52nd Street, 1978)

36. “Prelude/Angry Young Man” (Turnstiles, 1976)

35. “Don’t Ask Me Why” (Glass Houses, 1980)

34. “Goodnight Saigon” (The Nylon Curtain, 1982)

33. “Summer, Highland Falls” (Turnstiles, 1976)

32. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (Storm Front, 1989)

31. “Modern Woman” (The Bridge, 1986)

30. “Allentown” (The Nylon Curtain, 1982)

29. “Big Shot” (52nd Street, 1978)

28. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” (Piano Man, 1973)

27. “Zanzibar” (52nd Street, 1978)

26. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” (The Stranger, 1977)

25. “The River of Dreams” (River of Dreams, 1993)

24. “A Matter of Trust” (The Bridge, 1986)

23. “I Go to Extremes” (Storm Front, 1989)

22. “Just the Way You Are” (The Stranger, 1977)

21. “Pressure” (The Nylon Curtain, 1982)

20. “Tell Her About It” (An Innocent Man, 1983). By the summer of 1983, it seems the influence of the classic Motown sound of the Sixties could be heard everywhere. Elvis Costello, new wavers like Culture Club and ABC and Elton John were all hitting the airwaves with songs under the direct influence of that Sound of Young America. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Billy Joel, arguably America’s greatest songwriter of songs influenced by the sounds of Sixties pop would release a single that would have fit perfectly on that legendary album.

19. “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me” (Glass Houses, 1980). Can you believe that Billy Joel was NOT a critic’s favorite back at the beginning of his heyday? It’s true. Allegedly, Billy was so pissed that punk artists with half of his songwriting talent were getting great reviews while his music was being panned by the Boomer rock critics of the day. So, he came out with a whole album dipped in the new wave/power pop sound of the day that simply enhanced his angry young man persona of the day. This is the perfect partner of The Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock & Roll” for the best songs celebrating the music of our youth.

18. “Uptown Girl” (An Innocent Man, 1983). An Innocent Man was Joel’s love note to Sixties pop sounds. This one might be his most iconic song of the Eighties. Contrary to common belief, this song was NOT written about Christie Brinkley. At the time, Joel was being chased by two of the more well-known models of the Eighties, Brinkley and a much young Elle MacPherson. This song is actually an ode to the young lady whom Billy did not choose, Ms. MacPherson.

17. “My Life” (52nd Street, 1978). Remember when Tom Hanks was on a sitcom called Bosom Buddies? This song that personifies every teenager’s angst at one time or another was the theme to that great comedy show. Sure, the song sounds like something of a Broadway tune, but it’s that schmaltziness that making the song so much more powerful than a run-of-the-mill rock song.

16. “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” (Songs in the Attic, 1981). Songs in the Attic was an excellent exercise in breathing new life into some fantastic old songs from Joel’s early albums of his pre-fame days. Suddenly, these wonderful songs came to life in the live setting instead of being bogged down by the cheap production of the original recording. This song is an excellent example as it pops on this album.

15. “She’s Always a Woman” (The Stranger, 1977). Some women might believe this song is misogynistic, while I believe it portrays women as men see them. Regardless, this is a great song. I think we all can agree on that.

14. “New York State of Mind” (Turnstiles, 1976). Along with Jay-z and Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind” and, of course, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” you have one of the great theme songs of the Big Apple.

13. “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” (Songs in the Attic, 1981). Billy’s mid-Seventies sci-fi apocalypse ode to the end of New York City just pops in the live setting making this version much more lively than its studio predecessor. Plus, the song’s so much more fun with the audience’s reaction to various lines.

12. “Vienna” (The Stranger, 1977). This epic, show-stealing ballad from Billy’s first big hit album continues to be one of his concert highlights, as well as one my wife’s favorites. It is simply wonderful in its grandeur.

11. “An Innocent Man” (An Innocent Man, 1983). The title song from Joel’s most successful studio album is a wonderful vocal performance from the Piano Man. And when he hits that penultimate high note, you know you are hearing greatness, especially during a concert. This is the type of performance that separates the great ones from the also-rans.

10. “You May Be Right” (Glass Houses, 1980). In most settings, I am naturally an introvert. But, put me in a crowd “needing” to entertained, I become a “paid” extrovert. Thus, this song was hung on me by some friends who caught me during one of my manic episodes in high school. By the way, I would NEVER drive under the influence of any substance or drive a motorcycle under any weather condition, but I AM guilty of the rest, so maybe those folks were correct after all. Who knows?

9. “The Entertainer” (Streetlife Serenade, 1974). This song truly transcends the quality of most of the material on this forgettable album. It is something of a mission statement for Billy Joel’s whole career.

8. “She’s Got a Way” (Songs in the Attic, 1981). In its original form, this song falls a little flat. But, put it in Joel’s setlist, and the song blossoms into an ode to any man’s wife. There is always that one person who walks through your life that has a way to cut through all of your barriers. This song explains it perfectly regardless of the feminine pronoun used. The sentiment works no matter the perspective and orientation.

7. “Sometimes a Fantasy” (Glass Houses, 1980). What does it say about me that I prefer the “pervy” side of Billy Joel? Yet, I find this so humorous. Billy proves all of us have a dirty mind. To this day, I don’t understand why this song wasn’t a big hit and played every day on Classic Rock radio.

6. “Only the Good Die Young” (The Stranger, 1977). Here we go again! Billy the Perv is back attempting to woo a young lady into teenage lust-athon. What high school guy hasn’t been there? Seemingly, some of us longer than others.

5. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (The Stranger, 1977). I think Joel might be at his best when telling the stories of lovers in peril. The lyrical setting is set and the ending seems so obvious to everyone but the characters. If nothing else, the song teaches us that we should become more self-aware before entering into a relationship since the relationship will not always just bring out our best but our worst as well. But the whole cautionary tale is told to perfection.

4. “The Stranger” (The Stranger, 1977). I have always been drawn to songs about the dark side of ourselves. I mean from little onward, I have been fascinated by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde types of stories. Hell, my favorite Elton John song is “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” about Elton contemplating suicide. So, why shouldn’t I love a Billy Joel song describing how we mask our inner demons to make our outer selves more palatable to our families and friends.

3. “Piano Man” (Piano Man, 1973). Of course, this song is listed near or at the top of lists of Billy Joel’s greatest songs. I mean, his nickname is derived from this autobiographical song of Billy’s struggle to become the man he described in his song “The Entertainer.” But what sets this song apart from the competition is the vivid lyrics describing every character that grabbed his attention during those early days as a barroom performer. This is his most iconic song.

2. “Captain Jack” (Songs in the Attic, 1981). This song is Billy Joel perfectly describing what life is like for a teenage boy during high school and early college, you know, the years leading up to turning 21. Remember, Joel’s lyrical strength is how he accurately describes his characters and how they interact. Now, Captain Jack is not an actual character but a euphemism for a private action popular with teenage boys. So, Joel is describing the boredom of a typical teenage boy’s life on an average boring day. That is what makes the song so powerful and not the little perverted ditty about diddling.

1. “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” (An Innocent Man, 1983). Wait a second! What? A failed single from An Innocent Man? What kind of crap am I feeding you? Hear me out. This is Billy’s finest love song. The sentiment is something most guys can relate to. When confronting our emotions surrounding a budding relationship with someone, most of us attempt to turn to humor or some stupid story rather than enjoy the vulnerable moment with your new significant other. It’s as if Billy’s telling us guys to shut up and live in the moment. The song is also a throw-back to those Motown ballads from the Sixties with a harmonica solo straight from the Stevie Wonder playbook. This is a beautiful reminder to men to be vulnerable early on in their budding relationships so they will grow into a beautiful team. Easier said than done.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 19 – The Top 10

The day has finally arrived. The day in which I list MY 10 favorite albums of all time. This was purely an exercise in fun and self-indulgence. Over the course of this countdown, I have listed many well-known albums and artists. But, I may have also introduced some of you to some unknown artists and albums, or at least some overlooked albums by the terrific music of the past and present. The purpose of such a venture was totally to inform and entertain.

Of course, Millennials and Gen Z-ers will be disappointed not to see many of their favorites. And, that’s okay. Boomers may also be disappointed by the very same prospect. But as a person who is listed as both a late-Boomer AND an early-Gen X-er, I have an obligation to stay true to my wheelhouse. Therefore, my true focus will always be those years covering my middle school, high school and college years, let’s say from 1974 through 1989. But, by now, that should be obvious, and I make no apologies.

I also make no apologies for my lack of diversity in my selections. If I were listing my favorite singles, then the music pallet would be all over the place. However, I am mainly a follower of alternative music, from punk to 90s alternative nation, with disco, funk and AOR thrown in for good measure.

Many of you may know which albums are in my Top 10, but you probably have no idea what the order is. But, if you have followed me for any length of time, whether on this blog, Twitter, Facebook or have crossed my path in life, you will not be surprised by my top pick, and many of the others will not surprise you either.

So, let’s finish this thing off! Buckle up!

10. Prince – 1999 (1982). Although I was made a fan of Prince way back in 1979, I did not become obsessed with the man’s music until his breakout year of 1982. Within a month or so of Michael Jackson’s Thriller being released, another important artist of the 80s released what would become his commercial breakthrough album. I was home for Thanksgiving Break, and it was Black Friday. I went shopping for Christmas presents. Since I was single and in college, this spree would not last long. Once the presents had been purchased, I turned my attention to the local record store, where I purchased three albums that day: Thriller, Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove and 1999. I had loved Prince’s first four albums, but 1999 blew it all away. As a matter of fact, 1999 completely rewrote my musical tastes over the course of two albums. Prince had unleashed upon us a musical vision that remained untapped after mental illness took Sly Stone out of the rock game. When I say that I could play Sides 1 and 2 of Record 1 of 1999 and have the dance floor burning is no hyperbole. And that’s only FIVE songs! Plus, Side 2, consisting of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.” may be the hottest dance combo ever released. But, Prince’s artistry showed its muscles on the second record as we got ballads, dance cuts and some rock that only scratched at the surface of Prince’s brilliance which had yet to be unleashed.

9. R.E.M. – Murmur (1983). So much was happening musically in the early 80s that it got to be a daunting task to attempt to stay abreast with it all. After reading a couple of early reviews about this debut album from a new band who refused to sign with any major corporations piqued my interest. But to say I was NOT prepared for the aural assault that my ears took when I put the needle into the groove on this album is a major understatement. Much like 1999 did to me a scant nine months earlier, Murmur rewrote my musical tastes. Finally, I was experiencing music on two levels. First, these guys in the band had come of age with the same music I did just by the way they sounded on this album. It’s all there, from bubblegum and punk to classic rock and power pop. Second, and perhaps more importantly, these guys (Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe) just might have become the first important rock from my age group, and that was exciting to many of my peers. You knew R.E.M. were from the South by their sound without being an obvious Lynyrd Skynyrd knock-off. Instead, they filtered that gothic approach through a Velvet Underground/Patti Smith soundscape to construct a sound that launch a thousand imitators (starting with 10,000 Maniacs and running through Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Hootie & the Blowfish). And, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

8. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980). You know it! I am a big fan of The Heads! Like I’ve said many times before, it started with their appearance on SNL and only grew as I got older. But, this album, the band’s third collaboration with producer Brian Eno, was arguably the first commercially successful rock album to integrate world musical sounds into the band’s off-kilter pop songs. Talking Heads were in the first wave of punk rock from NYC’s CBGBs scene to knock on the mainstream. So, by 1979, the band were being coaxed by Eno to expand their funk sound. He and lead singer/songwriter David Byrne got interested in African rhythms they were discovering from a multitude of sources and sought to incorporate them into The Heads’ music. Reluctantly at first, the other three (bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer (and husband of Tina) Chris Frantz and keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Jerry Harrison) joined in with the experiment. Quickly, the band called in musicians from the disparate likes of former sidemen from Parliament/Funkadelic, jazz artists, David Bowie, African artists and Frank Zappa. The mixture made for madhouse recording sessions until the final result was heard by band members. To say the experiment was a success is an understatement. Simultaneously, Talking Heads opened up America to the musical sounds from around the world, avant garde guitar sounds, and a new kind of funk that would take the hip hop world a decade to catch up. To this day, I cannot think of another album I’d rather listen to while cruising through the back roads of my hometown on a summer night with the windows rolled down.

7. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (1984). The Summer of 1984 will never be duplicated. That summer was awesome for so many reasons. The music was fantastic as it was stuffed full of songs and albums by the likes of Prince & the Revolution, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Jacksons, Tina Turner, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Hüsker Dü, etc. The Olympics were fun that summer. The Detroit Tigers were making a run on baseball history. The NBA gave us what we had been waiting to happen for five years: Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers were in the Finals, and it was magnificent. And, most importantly, I met my wife. Yet, there were two albums that defined the 80s were released that summer, Purple Rain and Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A. became The Boss’s biggest selling album with a carload of hit songs. This album was the culmination of a decade of prep work being completed at a very high quality, then being amalgamated into this very moment. The success was based upon the excellent quality of singles, from the synth rock confection of “Dancing in the Dark” to the anthemic title song to the sexually yearning “I’m on Fire,” mixed the perplexingly unreleased “Bobby Jean” (arguably the best song on the album) and concert pleaser “I’m Going Down.” This album was a run through of everything Bruce had done on each of his previous albums and spit-shined to a glistening 80s sheen.

6. Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975). For some reason that I will NEVER understand, the Baby Boomer rock critics hated Queen. I remember reading review after review and article after article with the writer editorializing his or her venom toward Queen. So, it has been left to my age and younger to rewrite history to reflect the truth. And the truth is Queen was the most daring band ever. Sure, that means the four members had over-sized egos, but I have one as well. These guys were not your run-of-the-mill working class blokes. The greatest frontman ever Freddie Mercury studied art in university, while drummer Roger Taylor studied dentistry, bassist John Deacon electrical engineering and guitarist Brian May astrophysics. So, maybe it was due to their intelligence. Maybe it was their musical talent. Maybe it was because everything else was simple to them in life that they should not have any limitations on their musical ideas. Personally, my obsession with this band began in 1974 with their “Killer Queen” single. But, it was “Bohemian Rhapsody” that pushed my love for Queen to full-tilt. Sure. But , The Beatles did many mind-blowing things musically before their breakup (the rhythm of “Eleanor Rigby” being based solely upon strings or the whole “A Day in the Life” come to mind), as well as all that prog rock stuff could be quite compelling at times (“Roundabout”? Are you kidding me? Or “I’ve Seen All Good People”? Shit!). But Queen took it all to whole new level. Then, there’s the rest of the album. Hard rock kiss-off with “Death on Two Legs.” Sexual innuendo on “I’m in Love with My Car.” An extraordinarily beautiful ballad “Love of My Life.” And the pop perfection of “You’re My Best Friend.” Queen honestly began their rock reign on A Night at the Opera, one perfectly executed album that was exquisitely produced. Queen is King!

5. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (1992). Here is the most recent album in my top 10, and it just turned 30 years old this year. What can I tell you? I’m a geezer. Regardless, Automatic for the People was the moment in which R.E.M. completely transformed for cult heroes into major label rock gods. No longer were these the cute alterna-boys on the block, but now were men with true musical chops and a new lyrical maturity that all came to light under the direction of producer Scott Litt. This led to the band’s finest album, with its sole being a wistful instrumental called “Nightswimming.” The seriousness of the band’s stances concerning AIDS, women’s reproductive rights, the LGBT+ community and a slew of other liberal causes were popping up everywhere by now, especially with mental health being directly addressed on “Everybody Hurts.” This band was serious and so were most of their music. Still, the boys from Athens, Georgia, had a playful side, as displayed on the eternally silly yet musically brilliant “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite.” This is the perfect R.E.M. album.

4. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975). I will always remember the first time I heard The Boss’s signature song. It was about a week after Thanksgiving, and my family were decorating the Christmas tree, for, in retrospect, turned out to be our last Christmas as a unit. Still, I had the huge family room console television/stereo system tuned to the local play of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Somewhere in the 20s, Casey introduced this new song by a man who just had his picture on the covers of Newsweek AND Time magazines the exact same week. As “Born to Run” blasted from the stereo speakers, I slowly became mesmerized by the sound of true rock & roll being sent down Mt. Olympus for this mere mortal to hear for that glorious three-to-four minutes of pure nirvana. I dutifully wrote down the title and artist on my list of the complete Top 40 that I did every week from middle school until I graduated from high school. But, that day I was struck by lightning in the form of “Born to Run.” I wasn’t burned, but my heart did palpitate a bit. When I regained my bearings, I noted that I HAD to own this album. When I did finally add it to my collection I discovered one of the few perfect albums ever recorded. From the iconic opening strands of “Thunder Road” to the closing of the epic “Jungleland,” Bruce takes the listener through the romantic possibilities that life holds for a young man on the verge of adulthood. The album made me anxious to begin my own journey outside of my childhood home, albeit my story would begin in a dormitory on the Ball State campus. And, through the whole passage of time, this album was my life’s soundtrack. Plus, who else could influence a young man to quote some lyrics in his wedding vows? Only The Boss could have such a hold.

3. Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain (1984). Here’s the other classic album from the magical Summer of 1984. This album represents the culmination of the pop perfection of the first stage of the funk/rock Prince sound, known back in the day as the Minneapolis Sound (Vanity/Apollonia 6, The Time, Sheila E., The Family, Jill Jones, etc.). I remember telling anyone that would listen to me that this album was the Sgt. Pepper of our era. And I think that assessment continues to hold up today. It was at once experimental yet accessible, funky yet very hard rock, psychedelic but still 80s pop. It was so diverse that it had a Bob Seger-esque finale in Prince’s now trademark title song. After I initially listened to Side 1, I had to excitedly go on a three-mile run before I flipped that damn album to play Side 2. Then, I did that and got further blown away that it left me emotionally depleted. I knew right away I was listening to not just a classic album but one for the ages. From the preacher sermon opening of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the open-chord ending of “Purple Rain,” the album is stuffed with all the stuff that initially made Prince so great. Little did we all realize how quickly he would jettison that style to explore more diverse and complicated takes on his rock/funk world than anyone could imagine. This wasn’t the ending at all. In fact, it was just the beginning. It also taught us that you can only be the “IT” person for so long and that star burns out. The legacy begins when the initial fire subsides. Prince actually assumed his throne AFTER Purple Rain ran its course.

2. Prince – Sign ‘o’ the Times (1987). I don’t think there is another artist in rock history that could make so many classic multi-record albums as Prince. A quick rundown shows 1999, Emancipation, Crystal Ball (though technically its a compilation of great songs from The Vault), Graffiti Bridge, not to mention nearly all of his CD-era albums, along with this one, Sign ‘o’ the Times. This album has only grown in stature in my eyes as the years pass. Prince covers so much ground that it is nearly impossible to list everything he did on here. The title song was not Prince’s first political take (“Ronnie Talk to Russia” immediately comes to mind), but Prince did tackle some unusual topics and sounds. He went new wave on “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” flipped gender identity on its head with his Camille recordings but none more than with “I Wish I Was Your Girlfriend,” and tackled children’s songs with “Starfish and Coffee.” Then, he teamed up with Scottish pop singer and all-time babe Sheena Easton with the sly sexual tease “U Got the Look.” But, through all the funk, rock, jazz and other displays of prowess, the cornerstone of this tour de force is “The Cross,” in which Prince directly discusses his pre-Jehovah’s Witness conversion spirituality. It was the emotional high point of the album and many of his concerts. Allow me to say that the version to own is the 13-vinyl record box set since it includes many of the outtakes that could have been released on rumored versions of this release known as Crystal Ball (a triple album version) and Camille (a single album with vocals that had been electronically altered to make Prince sound androgynous to feminine). Additionally, many of the songs would have also ended up on the notoriously shelved  follow-up known as The Black Album, which got a CD release in the 90s and has been on the bootleg market on vinyl for decades. Prince recorded so much material in this era that The Estate could be releasing music long after I am gone.

1. The Clash – London Calling (1979). This is the one album that affected me more than any other, London Calling by UK punk gods The Clash. By the time this album was being recorded, The Clash were generally considered to be the best punk band, possibly with The Jam, as the best band from the London punk scene. Over the three or so years of their existence, the band actually became quite proficient with their instruments, especially after they replace drummer Terry (Tory) Chimes (Crimes) with percussionist-extraordinaire Topper Headon. Suddenly, bassist Paul Simonon became a greatest bass player, while co-leaders Mick Jones and Joe Strummer both became great songwriters and guitar players. All of this meant the boys were ready to move on from the punk beginnings to something that transcended rock music. The hype sticker on this album read, “By the Only Band That Matters,” well, you had better believe it.

The album begins with a call to arms on “London Calling.” Immediately, you knew the guys were not fooling around and were taking no prisoners. Throughout the album the foursome displays a musical dexterity that few possess. They show that as a band, no one could surpass them by covering a 50s-era song (“Brand New Cadillac”), doing a faux-Bobby Darin (“Jimmy Jazz”) and even a little disco-rock a la Blondie (“Lost in the Supermarket”). But, for all the styles covered, the band decided to all yet a 19th song to the lineup without giving that song any listing on the cover OR the label. The song, arguably the best on album and the US hit single, “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)”. This song ironically is the closest the band got to a power pop anthem since their cover of the Bobby Fuller Four classic “I Fought the Law” a few years earlier.

Basically, The Clash, for a brief moment, proved they really were the only band that mattered. For, in essence, they made their case on this double album of no filler, all killer songs. Only Prince could come close to doing what The Clash did on London Calling. It’s a shame that Joe didn’t follow Mick’s vision into the rock/hip hop hybrid he was envisioning at the time, because if the band had pulled it off, they would have set the musical idea in motion a whole half decade BEFORE the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Faith No More got recognition for such a thing. Then, maybe they would have handled Topper’s heroin problems better. And, maybe Joe wouldn’t have fired Mick and Topper and tried to go backwards into a dying punk scene. And, maybe having The Clash would have stymied U2’s ascension to rock stardom. And, maybe, just maybe, monkeys would have flown out of my butt.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 18, #11-20

Word of advice to everyone out there: NEVER change the code to your house right before you leave on vacation without testing the code. Someone very close to me did just that, while giving my wife and me the honor of watching our granddog (Oops! I didn’t give it away, did I?). So, I go over to said house owned by a very close acquaintance to hang out there while demolition takes place in our bathroom. So, I loaded up the dogs, mine and our granddog, to take them to the granddog’s house. After getting there, I had to go back to my house due to a worker needing my presence.

Upon returning to the vacationers’ house, the codes would not work. A couple of hours later, a locksmith arrived to get me back into the house in order to take out three extremely stressed dogs for a walk. The best part of the walk? Running into a neighbor who has been taking care of the mail. That person has been stacking the mail in the garage (that code works!) yet was also unable to get either the old or new codes to work on the front door. By the way, neither worked on the utility door that connects the garage to the house. Needless to say, it has been a very interesting morning.

Now that I have caught my breath, let’s get the next-to-last blog on this topic rolling.

20. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971). Marvin Gaye completely changed the games of soul/R&B and Motown in one quick swoop when he released What’s Going On. Most strikingly, Marvin’s lyrics directly lamented the plight of inner city black men in society and its subsequent breakdown. He was questioning why so many poor black men were being sent over to Vietnam just to be killed. While the lyrics were raging against the machine, Marvin’s music was going to a whole new level. Not only was Marvin influenced by the psychedelic rock, funk and Southern-fried Stax soul of the day, he was equally smitten with the jazz fusion and world music of the day. All of this made for a musical brew that broke new ground including its ongoing influence on hip hop. To say What’s Going On was ahead of its time while being of its time really doesn’t give the album the justice it deserves.

19. Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque (1991). Teenage Fanclub’s sophomore LP answers the unasked question, “What would Big Star sound like if they came of age in the early 90s?” But, since Big Star really didn’t have a roadmap, they needed themselves before ever becoming TF. Oh, those time-traveling limitations are a bitch. Anyway, these four Scotsmen obviously grew up listening to Big Star because they used their albums as the jumping off point, adding more feedback that was the rage in the early-90s. Teenage Fanclub bridges the gap between the sweet sounds of power pop, indie rock/alternative rock and some shoegaze/grunge thrown in for good measure, But, it’s those oh so sweet melodic hooks that pull you in. SPIN magazine got it correct when they named this album Album of the Year in 1991, beating out Nirvana’s Nevermind.

18. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966). When The Beatles released Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson took note and got to work in the studio, eschewing touring. When the boys got back into the studio, Mike Love was taken aback by the maturity and sophistication of the music that Brian had written, recorded and produced. Love felt that Brian was indulging his muse, not understanding the full-influence of this left turn away from the pop/rock sound The Beach Boys had found success with. Calling the songs on this album “teenage symphonies to God,” Brian threw down the gauntlet that made Paul McCartney take note, which caused The Beatles to respond with Sgt. Pepper. But, no one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE had the vocal prowess of The Beach Boys. And, that’s what truly made this album an absolute masterpiece that rivals almost anything written by Mozart and Beethoven.

17. Big Star – #1 Record (1972). There were a loosely associated coterie of knuckleheads spread out across the world who all longed for the days of the original Beatles sound while longing to punch the music up a bit with the rawness of the early Who songs. This was the beginning of power pop behind the visions of Badfinger, Raspberries and Big Star. But, it was the star-crossed Big Star whose sound has outlasted the rest of the original practitioners of power pop. This quartet debuted with this ironically titled album #1 Record with nothing but bad luck, as the label totally fumbled the promotion and push behind the band. But, the reputation of the band, as well as this album, grew over the next 50 years, influencing everyone from REM to Matthew Sweet to The Bangles to Teenage Fanclub. Big Star is much like The Velvet Underground whose influence is much greater than the sales during its time. Yet, the people who bought their albums probably all started bands. Look for Big Star to be inducted in the the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the next decade.

16. The Cars – The Cars (1978). Few albums had the impact during its time like this eponymous titled debut album by The Cars. I remember reading all about the album in Creem and Rolling Stone, among others. However, it took months for the album to catch on with radio and the album-buying public. But, when they all finally acquiesced, the music was everywhere and has remained so ever since. The album plays like a greatest hits compilation. Now, this can be said about many albums, but few albums actually hold up to the weightiness of those words like The Cars. After nearly 45 years since its release, this album continues to hold up.

15. R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). When word got out upon the release of this album that R.E.M. had John Mellencamp producer Don Gehman working with the band at Mellencamp’s studio, many began to cry, “Sellout!” However, all Gehman did was to get the band’s playing focused and to bring singer Michael Stipe’s vocals to the forefront of the song’s mixes. Gehman’s true production brilliance comes in someone finally making studio R.E.M. sound like live-in-a-club R.E.M. To me, this album tends to get lost in the midst of a brilliant run of terrific albums, with many turning to Murmur, Reckoning, Document, Green, Out of Time, Automatic for the People and New Adventures in Hi Fi as the band’s best. Just know that I will lead the fight for this album as one of the band’s greatest releases ever.

14. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1997). Ready for some irony? This album was released and super-popular with the world during the very moment my parents’ divorce was taking place. So, for the longest time, this album agonizingly accurate portrayal of my family’s life. But, as I grew up, I noticed a tenderness to the lyrics of Rumours that ran contrary to my mom’s venom toward my dad. Once I got that, Rumours‘ stature began to grow exponentially in my view. The music is impeccable, as is the production and everyone’s singing and playing. However, if there is a more soulful bass player than John McVie, please point that player to me because I feel like McVie is a very underrated player.

13. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987). I cannot believe that this album did not make my Top 10. This is the album I expected the band to make after seeing their transcendent Live Aid set that was topped only by Queen. I had been following U2 from the beginning so I knew their trajectory and was just waiting for these four Dubliners to put everything together. When The Joshua Tree was finally released in the spring of 1987, I knew immediately upon the first listen that I had greatness on my turntable. From the opening “noise” of “Where the Streets Have No Name” through the standout singles “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” all the way to the closing of “Trip Through Your Wires,” you knew that the band had grown as musicians and songwriters while learning to texture their music with sounds from their instruments with the help of their producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. The band’s grand vision of the saving grace of rock music reached a pinnacle in which they could not take any further. But, before U2 remade their sound, they conquered the world, for the first time, with this triumphant album.

12. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). When the Floyd debuted in 1967, they were a blues-based band drenched in psychedelia because of the songwriting of then-leader/songwriter Syd Barrett. Then, Barrett developed a LSD-induced psychosis, which caused the band to replace him with guitarist/singer David Gilmore. It took the band a few years to work out their direction and hierarchy, but everything came together as bassist Roger Waters began to exert his leadership on this very album, a journey through the fragile state of the human mind. The musicianship is impeccable, and the production was years ahead of its time. But, it was the songwriting that went to the next level, making this album one of the all time greatest.

11. The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). In 1982, Paul Weller disbanded The Jam, much to the chagrin of millions of fans in the UK. Then, he partnered up with keyboardist Mick Talbot, with the intention of the duo writing songs to be performed with an ever-revolving cast of musicians. Their intention was to dive head first into the R&B/jazz-side of the mod life that Weller had explored from the rock side in The Jam. Still, these men dove into their music, to create a unique blend of R&B, jazz, pop and Europop that was both sophisticated and commercial. Plus, the group, which grew to include drummer Steve White and background singer Dee C. Lee, quickly gelled to give us this mix of love songs and left-leaning political thought as a reaction against the evils that beset the working class during the age of Thatcher and Reagan. It was the perfect album at the perfect time, as I was searching for something that reminded me of the early 70s soul that I listened to on the radio with lyrics that reflected the 80s. All in all, The Style Council solidified my love of Paul Weller’s career.

Next time, it’s the Top 10! Peace.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 17 – #21-30

Top 30!!!!! Woo hoo!!! This long and winding road of self-celebration is beginning to wind down, and, quite frankly, I will be relieved when it’s down. The prep time for this was long and arduous, yet when I started I was enthusiastic and hyper-focused. And as is the case with me and my short attention span, once the research is done, then I become bored with the process and ready to move on. This time, I really became bored when this big countdown began. Yet, I fought through it. I believe this endeavor will only help me learn to write when I feel both good and bad. This just may have been a great exercise to help me learn to write for an extended period of time in order to write a fiction book.

Regardless as to whether I write a book or not, I will continue this exercise. I do this because I have stored all this seemingly useless information about rock music that I want to get out of my system. So, I still have not run out of ideas to cover on this thing.

Now, let’s get going with the countdown.

30. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976). By the time Stevie Wonder released this double album plus an EP, he had been at the top of his game after obtaining his artistic freedom from Motown since 1972 across four albums, including this one. This stunner of an album has Wonder flexing his muscles across many different genres, from sweet soul (“Isn’t She Lovely”) to ambitious soul (“I Wish”) to a jazz/big band/modern dance number (“Sir Duke”). With this album, Mr. Wonder reached the top of the summit to which he clung for another seven years before his commercial appeal began to decline.

29. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III: “Melting”) (1980). During his tenure with prog rock gods Genesis, Peter Gabriel showed that he was theatrically quirky, unafraid to bring to life the lyrics of a song through costumes and pantomime. So, when he went solo back in 1977, fans were anxious to hear and see just how the man would perform. On his first three solo albums, all of which were titled Peter Gabriel, including this one, Gabriel came off more in line with the Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.) ethos of the post punk era than his old band. With this album, Gabriel made a haunting album with a drum sound that generally ignored cymbals that influenced a generation of band sounds, including the drummer from Genesis, the guy who became the new leader of Gabriel’s old band and had been the drummer all along Phil Collins. Collins took the sound to whole new levels on his first couple of solo LPs. The best songs on this album are the anti-war anthem “Games Without Frontiers” and the ode to a South African hero called “Biko” (the man’s name was Stephen Biko).

28. Pixies – Doolittle (1989). I remember this album being so huge on the Oxford, Ohio, radio station I used to listen to back in the day WOXY-FM 97X (97.7) that the local record store could not keep the album in stock. That meant I had to special order the record through them in order to assure me getting a copy. And thank goodness I did! This album was a complete mind-blowing experience in which to listen. Those of you too young to remember this album, what a shame. However, it’s no wonder Nirvana’s Nevermind was a moment in time because of the sonic similarities heard in both albums. The difference lies in Pixies lyricist/songwriter/singer/guitarist Black Francis (Frank Black) who’s lyrics are abstract and dark (the direction made popular by U2 on Achtung Baby). Go out and buy this album if you don’t own it. There is something innately beautiful lying underneath all the noise on top, making the musical dynamics perfectly compelling.

27. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (1988). The music of 1988 seemed totally up for grabs with dance pop and hair metal dominating the charts. In the midst of this musical chaos, a subdued, understated folk album by a new artist chronicling the plight of her fellow African Americans throughout the States captured the imagination of the critics and music-buying public with her direct lyrics set to the finest folk music since the pre-electric days of Bob Dylan. Aging hippies to the alternative skater kids of the late 80s all found common ground with this album. While “Fast Cars” was the hit song, the a capella “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” was the soul of the album. Chapman had difficulty duplicating the success of this album, but that should not diminish her significance in music. At a time when few were outside of the hip hop world were describing the plight of inner city minorities, Chapman accomplished the same thing without the bombast. Unfortunately, much of what Ms. Chapman described on this album still rings true today nearly 40 years later. Which only leads me to wonder, “Why?”

26. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hard Promises (1981). This album arrived in stores around the time I graduated from high school, so it coincides with a major change in my life. That summer, this album was planted on my turntable. It seemed as though each and every song on the album was written by Tom about me. It was as if my whole psyche had been set to music for everyone to hear without any of them knowing that truth. Plus any album that begins with the greatest opening lyrics of an album ever, “Oh, baby, don’t it feel like heaven right now?/Don’t feel like something from a dream?”, is going to be an all time favorite of mine. This album is the perfect Petty album in that he had not yet jettisoned his Byrds-influence jangle and power pop sound for his more adult take on the Traveling Wilburys acoustic rock. While Petty’s later albums spoke to the adult version of me, this album is truly the last one to relate to the younger, non-adult version of me.

25. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991). Hello, USA! Welcome to the punk rock movement on Top 40 radio. Say a big, “Thank you!” to Mr. Kurt Cobain for finally finding the correct formula that appealed to the public. For whatever reason, punk made very few inroads on the commercial side of music. That is until a Beatle-loving punk from the rainy Pacific Northwest brought his town of Seattle’s punk rock amalgamation called grunge to the forefront. Suddenly, Cobain and the rest of Seattle scene cohorts became stars seemingly overnight, even though most of them were slugging it out in the clubs up there for the better part of a decade. What Kurt did was give voice to all the pent up frustrations of Generation X, who were the first to grow up as latch key kids from predominantly divorced parent households. Reaganomics were not kind to these families despite what Mr. Reagan’s campaign ads told us. And it was that frustration and alienation that Nirvana, as well as the rest of the grunge and alternative nation, gave voice to. Remember, this album knocked Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album out of the top spot on the Billboard album chart during the Christmas holiday. Translation, this was NO fluke!

24. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979). Is there an album that touched the zeitgeist of my generation any better than Pink Floyd’s The Wall? I honestly believe that no album better explained what the younger Boomers and older Gen X-ers were going through at that moment in time as you are attempting to leave your teenage years behind and move into adulthood. Bassist Roger Waters wanted to do a concept album about the effects World War II had on his family and subsequent life. Yet, the war became a metaphor for so many of us who either lost a parent in Vietnam or to some other tragedy or our family was broken because of our parents’ divorce. With the Wall we collectively built for each other as individuals as well as societal, many of us had stunted growths until much later in our lives, as the hero in The Wall experienced. This album became the first album to really explain the Generation X psyche. Plus, the music is so damn good. Too bad its recording led to the subsequent demise of the band with Roger Waters still playing bass and conceptualize album themes.

23. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969). On SNL, Chris Farley had a regularly occurring sketch known as “The Chris Farley Show” in which he interviewed various celebrities appearing that week on the big show. There was one sketch in which Farley was “interviewing” Sir Paul McCartney. He asked Paul, “Uh.. remember when you were in The Beatles? And, um, you did that album Abbey Road, and at the very end of the song, it would.. the song goes, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”? You.. you remember that?” Paul then replied, “Yes.” Then, Chris came back with, “Uh…is that true?” Paul, keeping a straight face the whole time, comes back with, “Yes, Chris. In my experience, it is. I find, the more you give, the more you get.” Now, that was all in jest, as we know. But, when Farley mouthed the phrase, “That’s awesome!” while pointing to Paul, we all realize that Paul’s song had now reached a critical mass in which most people understood the reference. And Abbey Road is stuffed full of memorable moments like George Harrison’s two contributions, “Here Comes the Song” and “Something,” giving us a preview for his first solo album, while John dropped the eternal “Come Together.” But it was Paul’s montage of partially written songs joined together as “The Medley” that at one time explains The Beatles’ greatness while simultaneously putting the final nail in the coffin of the band. This album became the last album recording session in which all four members participated.

22. New Radicals – Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998). By the end of the 90s, I was beginning to feel my age becoming an impediment for enjoying popular music. So, one day I joked to my boys that I wished Todd Rundgren’s sound would make a comeback. Lo and behold, a few months later, I heard this song on the radio that made me recall the Rundgren sound of my youth called “You Get What You Give.” So, I made a bee-line directly to Target that very day to find this CD and purchased it immediately. Then, it never left my house CD player unless I was going to play it in the car because I was hearing Rundgren AND Hall & Oates all over this thing. And, I was momentarily in heaven once again listening to new music. Unfortunately, that was the last time I reacted that way until the 2019 Bob Mould album Sunshine Rock. Then, as suddenly as New Radicals appeared, they broke up in order to become, and remain, a one-hit wonder. And, with that news, my dream of music following me into the new millennium ended.

21. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1995). First off, there is nothing worse than a woman scorned. Other than that said woman putting her relationship to music so that all the other scorned women realize they have a voice for their frustrations. Good lord! 1995 was a rough year in which to coach and teach young women in high school with this album getting big play on the radio, MTV, in their cars and at their homes. If they didn’t collectively all have little attitudes that year that was probably deserved. I saw the guy pool they were choosing their dating pool from, so I got why they were angry. Seriously, I do have an inkling that a female artist with this kind of anger just might be the thing now that Roe vs. Wade has been overturned. I just want women to know that I am on their side! Oh, and by the way, Alanis made a terrific alternative rock album that will live on in history. It’s just a great album that was released at the right time in history.

Next time, we are on to the Top 20! Peace.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 16 – #31-40

Well, we all survived a whirlwind weekend as my brother came in from out of town to finish off some family business. Now that’s over, therefore, we can relax a little…hopefully!

Let’s do something fun! How about another 10 from my list of 500 favorite albums? Here we go again.

40. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced (1967). Now, here is a stereotypical album from the Summer of Love. Even though Hendrix’s brand of psychedelic rock is steeped in the blues, I cannot imagine just how foreign this music sounded when placed in a juxtaposition with the sugary pop and renegade rock of the moment. I do understand why so many Boomers were blown away by Hendrix. I also believe that no one has even come within miles of this man’s guitar technique. Many have come close, for starters Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eddie Hazel of Parliament/Funkadelic, but no one has duplicated or expanded upon Hendrix. Maybe, in retrospect, it makes sense that guitarists went to painting abstract textures rather than frustrating themselves to expand upon Hendrix’s art. It goes nearly without saying that this album is both a class and a masterpiece.

39. Bob Mould – Workbook (1989). When Bob Mould announced that he would be releasing a solo album, many of those “in the know” thought we were in for a revved Hüsker Dü-ish album of feedback and grinding guitars overlaying on a pop melody base. But, Mould, instead, went for the completely unexpected. He went acoustic and relatively quiet. By doing that, Bob created a masterpiece in unadulterated beauty by playing up the folk side of his songwriting. In the process, Mould established himself as an artist to watch during the 90s. Was this album his answer to Crosby, Still & Nash’s debut or Neil Young’s Harvest? If not, Workbook is a spiritual cousin to those two classics.

38. Green Day – American Idiot (2004). Whenever the country is drawn into a war, rock music comes roaring alive to eventually protest it if the war is deemed unjust. Well, by 2004, it was becoming quite clear that the country may have been tricked into a war in Iraq. But, when 90s resident punk smartasses Green Day lost the master tapes for their upcoming album, the trio regrouped to create a concept album/rock opera to vent their frustration with the war policy in the Middle East. And no one expected THIS band to rise to the occasion to put words and music together, articulating yet another generation’s apprehension about participating in another unjust war. In one well-thought out album, Green Day put their snotty Gen X twenties to ascend to an elder statemen role within the rock community. Perhaps in reality, the band’s enduring reputation just might stem from this album.

37. OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003). To fully comprehend just how good this hip hop album is that the Baby Boomer parents of Millennial children LOVED this album. OutKast became the hip hop duo that crossed over from the younger generations to the AARP Boomers. And, I feel like “Hey Ya!”, one of the many hit songs from this double CD set, may just be the song of The Aughts, if not one of the greatest songs in rock history.

36. D’Angelo & the Vanguard – Black Messiah (2015). Just as many of his fans were beginning to give up on D’Angelo ever releasing new material, you hear from The Roots’ drummer and one of the world’s most knowledgeable rock insider ?uestlove discussing the status of a new album in the works. And then within a few days of that interview comes the news that The Man was dropping a new one later that very day. And, then it happened! All of a sudden, we were knee-deep in D’Angelo-mania in the press. And, for once, did an album live up to the 15-year pause between full-length releases. And, everything was back in place in his music, with all of D’Angelo’s brilliant flourishes of his Prince-meets-hip hop music to know that this album was going to be D’Angelo’s moment against any further albums are measured. Black Messiah is D’Angelo’s Purple Rain.

35. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). If you are a Boomer, this album is probably the single-most important album of the Summer of Love. This album was an attempt to one-up The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds from the previous, which ironically enough had been an attempt to one-up The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. But Sgt. Pepper was unlike any album before it. To a Gen X-er’s or Millennial’s ears, the album might sound quaint and antiquated. Yet, the album remains a milestone and a standard to which all subsequent albums are measured. Sgt. Pepper is the whole package, from the packaging to the advertisements of the day to the music itself. The album was an total sensory immersion, with the cover being unlike anything before it. Much like Led Zeppelin IV, the songs have been overplayed through the years and no longer packed the wallop they once did. I was only four when it was released, so I am simply measuring it’s impact upon my life. I prefer a couple other Beatles’ albums.

34. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971). As I have stated many times before, 1971 was a stellar year for rock music. So, we should expect to see a classic Stones album. First off, I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t intrigued by the zipper on the cover, which was for the tight pants of the well-endowed man. The music is sexually-charged and drug-induced. This is The Stones at their finest, especially on “Wild Horses.”

33. Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992). When Dre dropped this album, he was telling the world that their was a sound beyond Straight Outta Compton, an album on which he helped define the sonic structure. Now, he was raiding George Clinton’s music for samples as he created the West Coast-centric G-funk sound. On The Chronic, Dre introduced us to several important rap voices including the laidback drawl of Snoop Dogg, then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. Of course, this album became one of the soundtracks to the LA riots after the police beating of Rodney King on a driving violation. This is one of the first magnificently produced hip hop albums that continues to resonate through the music world today.

32. Bee Gees & Other Artists – Saturday Night Fever [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1977). Seriously, there was a time in the mid-70s when people believed disco was cutting edge and great underground music. So, the manager of the Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood, decided to get into the movie business by buying the film rights to some fiction article from a New York magazine, with the thought that his band would create some new songs utilizing their newfound sound on their last surprise big selling Main Course album. So, the boys complied, giving Stigwood five new songs that were about to change the world. Then, Stigwood had his people grab some of their favorite songs on the dance floor to create the 70s album that changed the industry for good. The album and movie had a synergy that rocketed both to the top, with single after single being released and hitting the top. By the time the soundtrack ran out of steam, everyone was tired of disco, and, unfortunately, it became a bad name. But, for a glorious three-year period, disco was king, and the Bee Gees ruled the world.

31. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966). Bob Dylan was so inspired working with The Band in this new electric music world that they recorded a double album’s worth of music. But, this music would change the world. Dylan had made inroads on music, but this album signaled that Dylan was changing rock music right before our ears. How can you beat “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Just Like a Woman” for fun and seriousness?

Until next time, peace.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 16 – #41-50

I survived another great weekend! On Thursday, my brother flew in from out of town because we had finally gotten permission to go through our beloved uncle from the maternal side of our family tree even though its been a quarter century since his passing. Our aunt, bless her heart, just never could find the strength to let us go through his library in order to find things we might want. Leading up to out day to do this adventure, my aunt had put up our uncle’s collection of artifacts he collected from the Civil War, much to the chagrin of my brother. Yet, our uncle’s directive was NOT for us to inherit but to finance our aunt’s travels she made after his death.

Personally, I understood it. Maybe up until five years ago, I too would have been very concerned about inheriting some of those valuable items. But, I no longer interested in those things. Personally, I wanted to find his writing, be it his history teaching notes, personal correspondences, journals and the entries and, perhaps of most importance to me, his creative writings, which I know he did. I did find some writing but not the journals nor the creative endeavors.

While my brother, the retired military veteran, did find some nice pieces and books to keep for his collection, including our uncle’s dog tags, I walked away with our grandmother’s first edition hardback of Gone with the Wind and my grandfather’s elementary school reading book with a copyright date of 1909. Both of those items have some emotional ties to me. Plus, our aunt gave me their album collection, most of which would have value to collectors of Civil War songs compilations and recordings of various historical figures’ speeches. However, I do have a special place in my heart, as well as my collection, for Christmas albums. Therefore, I am keeping a small number of those. Needless to say, it was a very productive trip to see our aunt and take her to lunch. On the downside, it was an emotional day for my brother, who tends to be the more emotional of the two of us.

Yesterday, he went through most of the last of his stuff from Mom’s house that I had kept for him to peruse whenever he came back. So, he has greatly reduced his footprint in our home. When he and his wife return next time, he will finish that job. After that, my boys, their families and our dad and stepmom came over for dinner. Our house was loud, obnoxious and just plain fun as the grandkids had a great time playing in the house, followed by dinner and a dessert, all of which led to those rascals eating cookies and needing to burn off their energy outside for 30 minutes before going home. All in all, the non-parents loved watching the littles playing. Plus, Grandchild #3 (GC3) debuted his newest trick for the whole family: walking. Of course, that milestone was thoroughly enjoyed.

So, today, I come to you extremely tire and very sore. Still, I will soldier onward to bring to you the first ten of my favorite albums of my Top 50. Peace!

50. Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985). Next to Paul Weller, Bob Mould is rock’s most underappreciated visionary. And like Weller, Mould’s career has three phases: American hardcore leaders Hüsker Dü (They were the forerunners of Pixies and both influenced Nirvana’s sound), alternative power pop trio Sugar and as a stellar solo artist. But, it was as a leader/singer/songwriter/lead guitarist with Hüsker Dü in which Bob rose to prominence. In 1984, the band broke out with a double album rock opera entitled Zen Arcade. The following year, that same trio followed up a strong 1984 with a crazy 1985, during which the band released two fantastic albums, of which one was this album, in addition to a single, a cover version of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” This album finds the boys in full control of their sound and made their songs drip with pop hooks underneath all of the buzzsaw guitars and feedback.

49. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1978). There are all kinds of urban legends concerning this album, most of which are just untrue. The most prominent false rumor is that Huey Lewis played harmonica on this album. No, but the band in which he sang at the time, Clover, was the Costello’s first backup band on vinyl, a short time before he put together The Attractions. Still, the chemistry between Elvis and his studio musicians was obvious after a single playing of the album. I knew immediately that I had listen to one of rock’s greatest albums. My Aim Is True sounds as fresh today as it did in the winter of 1977-78 when I bought the LP.

48. The Who – Who’s Next (1971). After the success of The Who’s Tommy, guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend wanted to create a rock monstrosity of a multimedia rock opera called Lifehouse. As the creative process drug on, Townshend began to recognize there were technologic limitations in 1970 in order to pull the whole project together. At the last minute, he concluded that he had a single album’s worth of songs that were coherent and needed to be released. That album, which was light years ahead of Tommy, was released to much hype, fanfare and commercial and critical success as any album had up to that point of the release of what is now known as Who’s Next. Many point to this album as The Who’s masterpiece. I played the hell out of this album in high school, and it probably speaks to every teenager since its release.

47. The Beatles – Revolver (1966). The music created in 1965 is generally considered to be when rock & roll morphed into rock music. Bob Dylan went electric, joining a legion of rockers by leaving the folk world behind. Additionally, R&B music was becoming more musically sophisticated as those players from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, began to dominated the black music charts. And, The Beatles first began the shift of pop/rock music from seemingly throwaway songs to a much more intricate sound on Rubber Soul, which directly led The Beach Boys to create Pet Sounds, and themselves to create Revolver. For my money, THIS is the boys from Liverpool to record the very mature sounding album, which means in short that this is my favorite Beatles album.

46. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1969). As I said earlier, the Stones changed for the better when Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones in the band. Now, The Stones were the badasses they always felt they were. This album is stuffed full of great rock songs that continue to make the lists of the greatest songs of all time. There a fistful of songs guaranteed to offend you (“Brown Sugar,” “Sister Morphine,” “Bitch,” to name a few) and just flat out classic rock songs (“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”). At the time of this album, The Stones may actually have been the greatest rock band in the world.

45. Carole King – Tapestry (1971). By 1971, Carole King had made a huge reputation as a fantastic songwriter as one-half of the songwriting tandem Goffin and King, with then-husband Gerry Goffin. But few were ready when the woman dropped an album of new songs and new versions of some of her old hits to kick off the whole singer/songwriter era of rock music. This album allowed future female artists to create rock albums with personal lyrics. If Carole had not made this album, maybe we would have never gotten Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, Alanis Morissette, Taylor Swift or Olivia Rodrigo, for a start. That sentence speaks for itself as the importance of this album.

44. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). As the biggest selling studio album of all time, Thriller remains noteworthy. Throw in the facts that this album was the first to have seven Top 10 hit songs, leaving only two songs that were never released as singles, and the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” worked with a couple of Prince videos to break down the racial barrier that seemed to have been briefly set on MTV. Yet, for an album to accomplish all of this, it has to have great music. And Thriller does, as Michael furthers his argument to become known as The King of Pop.

43. Paul Weller – Heavy Soul (1997). I know that many Weller fans throughout the world felt the man was done as a voice of a generation when The Style Council called it a day after their last album’s shelving by the record company in 1989. Then, when the 90s rolled around, he burst back onto the scene as a solo artist not afraid to indulge all of his influences from the obvious Mods of The Jam days to the soul and light jazz of his Council days while also including the influence of Traffic, all of which Paul combined into a mature and compelling sound upon which he has extended his career to this day, all the while maintaining the high songwriting standards he set upon himself with The Jam back in 1977. He is England’s best kept secret.

42. Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw (1982). By the time 1982 rolled around, pop radio was in the beginning stages of having their playlist influenced by a new cable channel called MTV. Of those early artists played on the budding power broker, Crenshaw blasted out from the pack with his fresh take on the guitar-based sounds of Buddy Holly. While his music might have been updating an old sound, it was his Costello-influenced lyrics which made Marshall stand out further from the crowd. This exuberant debut did not sell like it should have, but Marshall Crenshaw did bring power pop and the name of Buddy Holly kicking and screaming into the 80s just as many believed the synthesizer was taking over. Here is a perfect album of pop/rock confection.

41. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970). This duo was made up of two guys who grew up together only to become successful adult men who could no longer creatively nor honestly stand to be together any longer. Yet, during this turmoil the second most commercially successful duo in rock history held things together long enough to knock out this terrific rock chock full of rock classics. This is a display of love for each other and their music for Garfunkel and Simon to stick together long enough to create the best batch of songs of their illustrious career.

Until next time…

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 15 – #51-60

As we inch closer to the top of my list, we have covered 440 terrific albums. Many of my favorite albums will not be found on many lists of the greatest albums of all time. And, I really don’t care. Music is an objective activity, so someone’s cup of tea will not be shared by too many others. As you may have noticed, I really don’t have what I would call a country music artist on this list. The reason is simple, I really don’t care for the genre. I will acknowledge its huge impact on rock music in general and on a favorite genre like Americana. But, generally speaking, most of it sounds like nails going down a chalkboard, though, and I’m being totally honest, I really do prefer the nail sound on a chalkboard since I do occasionally get goosebumps from it.

I have to admit that it is odd for someone who grew up in a rural area surrounded by many who loved country music, but I have always been drawn to the artier side of music and the whole soul/R&B/funk/hip hop sound of the inner city. I may have been a jazz-loving beatnik in a former life, who knows? All I know is that I separate music into good and bad, and it just so happens that many country songs find its way in the latter category. That is especially true for some of the newer artists who, in the words of Tom Petty, “sound like a band 80s band with a fiddle.” How can you argue with Tom?

Here’s the last of my favorite albums that did not make my Top 50.

60. The Band – The Band (1969). This nearly perfect album is my second favorite by The Band (after The Last Waltz). I love how these four Canadians and one Yankee got to the heart of rural America. And they did it set to some of the greatest playing ever put to vinyl. This album is stuffed of classics, though “Up on Cripple Creek” was The Band’s only Top 40 hit, believe it or not.

59. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). The Velvet Underground were the antithesis of the prevailing groovy winds during the Summer of Love. Instead of flower power, peace & love, we got the gritty tales of a morally bankrupt and dying NYC and a cast of misfits trying to live in an apocalyptic vision come to life. Lou Reed’s songs were beautiful in their journalistic distance without any kind of moral teachings coming from him. Despite the support of pop culture gadfly Andy Warhol, the album sold barely any copies. Yet, like Big Star who followed a scant five years later, The Underground inspired every one of those who purchased a copy to start a band. They are the godfathers of the punk and post punk movements.

58. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1972). This Zep album stands out from the rest as most songs are acoustically-based, as if they were gearing up for a session on MTV’s Unplugged, even though that show was 20 years in the future. Still, they did give us one helluva rocker in the “Immigrant Song.” Plus, the original cover is fun for a teen to spin around to see which pics would show up in the windows. One of the first truly interactive covers.

57. Eminem – The Slim Shady LP (1999). I remember people my age and older just shaking in revulsion to the name of Eminem. To hell with them! They were missing one of the greatest, funniest and most inciteful voices at the turn of the century. Sure, Em got his beats from Dr. Dre, but he gave those menacing sounds a psychotic voice that put the whole package over the top. Plus, Em was no Vanilla Ice. He was the real deal, praised by many of the past, present and future MCs in the hip hop world. “Hey kids! Do you like Primus?” What a way to introduce yourself!

56. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2006). What a magnificent album by a once-in-a-lifetime talent! Amy Winehouse was the real deal, a white Jewish girl from England who sang like the black jazz greats of the 40s, 50s and 60s. But, Amy did not live in the past. She and producer Mark Ronson and others helped her solidify her vision of marrying the past with the present to create a sound that singers continue to try to catch up with. It’s such a shame that an artist as talented as Ms. Winehouse left us so early in her life. Adele has tried to fill her void, but not as satisfyingly as the real thing.

55. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965). With the crack of the drum at the beginning of “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan was signifying that rock music had arrived. With that one sound, Dylan shed the trappings of his folkie background while taking rock music into a whole new area of discovery. It sounds like hyperbole, but all of the previous rules for rock music were jettisoned at the moment with a whole new canvas on which to create.

54. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015). As Kanye drifted off into his mental illness, the hip hop torch was passed back to the West Coast to yet another Dr. Dre acolyte Kendrick Lamar. Hip hop immediately went back to the street poets and truth tellers with Lamar coming into his own as a rapper and visionary. This is a magical mystery tour of the streets.

53. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000). Is this album THE hip hop masterpiece of all time? If it isn’t, it’s definitely a Top Five album. On this album, Slim Shady cuts loose with all his pent-up venom and sarcasm in some of the greatest rhymes set to the most menacing beats ever. Of course, “Stan” is just a brilliant song.

52. Lady Gaga – Born This Way (2011). No, no, no, hell no! Lady Gaga is NO Madonna wannabe as many thought. Nope! This young lady was a tour de force unto herself. She did an 80s music tribute update on this album, and it is simply fantastic. Born This Way was packed with radio-friendly hits, yet it continues to age well. Her musical vision only begins at the point in which Queen, Bowie and Madonna intersect. But the music journey she is taking us on is completely her own.

51. D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000). D’Angelo really is a hip hop era Prince. Seriously. Except this man works meticulously, explaining why he has released so few albums over his 25-year career. At the time, I believe their was no singer as sexy to women as D’Angelo. And this album was a tour de force of hip hop, soul & rock. Since Prince had a difficult time incorporating hip hop in his sound, D’Angelo is there to be the bridge that Prince desperately wanted to cross but couldn’t. It’s a shame that the two men didn’t collaborate. Of course, who would have been the alpha?

Next time, we will enter the Top 50. Peace.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 14 – #61-70

For whatever reason, and I’m not sure why, I have experienced high pain days. Maybe, it’s the beginning of school doldrums, or it’s just my lot in life. I really don’t know, but I’d like to get over it. I thought a load or two of laundry would pull me out, but NOOOO! And, I got the very same no go from my favorite TV shows. Nothing seems to be filling the void, be it pain related or because of my annual heartache I experience since my body forced me to retire. Whatever it is, it’s not cool.

So, let’s just dive into the next ten albums as we inch closer to my all time favorite.

70. Weezer – Pinkerton (1996). When this album was released, initially, the critics were upset that this was not the second coming of the Blue Album, an exuberant 90s burst of power pop. Instead, many thought Weezer hit their sophomore slump. Although the music once again is a 90s take on power pop or better yet Cheap Trick, the lyrics are much more personal with a heavy dose of angst. However, over time, the reputation of Pinkerton grew as this very personal take on teen angst delivered via a power poppish/pop punkish sonic landscape became known as emo rock with bands such as Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy, the initial version of Panic! At the Disco and so many others followed the Pinkerton formula. Now, the album is a classic, and Weezer should be a shoo-in for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction soon.

69. The Beatles – The Beatles [a.k.a. The White Album] (1968). With this double album, the public were witness to the breaking down of the creative bond which held these four gentlemen together. Each side is given to one Beatle in which to indulge his muse while the others pretty perform as a backup band. All of a sudden we have four sides of solo Beatles as opposed to the world’s greatest band. While the experiment is widely successful, that success actually lays the groundwork for the upcoming breakup of the Fab Four. To me, this is the least Beatle of all The Beatles albums they released.

68. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV [a.k.a. ZOSO] (1971). Quite possibly the granddaddy of all 70s albums. This album seemed so pervasive that I don’t remember too many of the people with whom I grew up NOT owning this album. Seriously! Out of my graduating class of about 300 students, I believe I knew six kids that never owned the album. Why was it so popular? “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” immediately come to mind for starters.

67. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock (2019). When Mould released this solo album, he was about to enter his fourth decade of recording. Since the early days of the 20Teens, Bob had been in something of a creative renaissance. He had produced four solid albums and an excellent memoir. So, I wasn’t surprised that he did a little looking back and forth on this album to create what I feel just might be his definitive work to date. It’s as if he were covering every phase of his illustrious career with songs that could have been on a latter-day Hüsker Dü album, his acoustic solo debut, any of his Sugar LPs and EPs or his current solo albums. Next to a complete career overview, Sunshine Rock allows a listener to get to know every phase of Bob’s musical life in one place. Plus, the album got me through the last days of my mom’s life and the days after her death. So, the album will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks Bob!

66. The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004). Back in 2004, my older son was in college. He had come home for some of his stuff that he wanted at school. While home, he had me a burned CD labeled “Hot Fuss – The Killers.” He said this new band will be in my new wave wheelhouse. Boy, was he ever correct. This band quickly became one of my favorite 21st century bands, although they may be more of a singles band now rather than an album band that their debut promised. The Killers had a sound that was steeped in The Cars but more modern. They were the right band at the right time for this old man. And, Hot Fuss is a flat-out excellent album.

65. Metallica – Metallica [a.k.a. The Black Album] (1991). When this album dropped in 1991, Metallica were poised to become the biggest metal band on the planet. On the eponymously titled album, Metallica toned down the thrash and wrote songs that were slightly more melodic. Some old fans cried sell-out! While the general public bought this album by the truckloads. This album also marked that Metallica were leaving their thrash metal days behind for a more lucrative classic hard rock sound. However, by taming the beast just a bit, producer Bob Rock discovered a terrific band with unparalleled musicianship.

64. Weezer – Weezer [a.k.a. The Blue Album] (1994). Released at the tail end of the third wave of power pop, this album proved to transcend that genre on the band’s way to becoming the Gen X version of Cheap Trick. Leader Rivers Cuomo proved to be a top-notch songsmith, writing songs full of off-kilter characters going through irony-dripping moments in life. This album was a breath of fresh air as grunge was running out of steam. Unfortunately, the album is held in such high regard that anything the band has done in its wake pales in comparison, which is a little unfair.

63. John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (1987). After Springsteen and Petty, the battle for the Voice of America goes to a second tier of singer/songwriters of which Mellencamp is generally listed among. While many believe Scarecrow is his peak, I prefer this album over all others. Here Mellencamp begins a methodical transition from a rock minister espousing how rock & roll can save your life to a middle American troubadour. On The Lonesome Jubilee, John expands his excellent backup band to include some Appalachian instrumentation such as fiddles, accordions, banjos, dobros and the like to augment their Hoosier take on Stones-based rock music. This album sounds as if The Band and The Stones combined. And, no one has described what its like to be in your thirties and forties than Mellencamp did on “Cherry Bomb” and “Check It Out.”

62. Us – Achtung Baby (1991). In 1987, U2 finally conquered the States with their patented soaring stadium anthems of hope during a time of gloom. But, as their little experiment in American-influence on Rattle & Hum proved, it was time for them to change their approach a bit. So, the band took their trusty producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno to Berlin for a little make-over like Eno did for David Bowie in the mid-70s. What came out of that journey was nothing short of spectacular. The sincere U2 of their twenties were gone and replaced by a more jaded yet grounded U2 in their thirties. With those experiences influencing their music, the band incorporated irony and cynicism into their lyrics along with some musical and artistic touches of Dadaism. As we now know, the band’s popularity seemed to quadruple overnight in the aftermath of this album coupled with their amazing Zoo-TV Tour of 1991-93.

61. Jellyfish – Bellybutton (1990). As the 90s rolled around, I began to lament the loss of pure pop bands with Beatles and Beach Boys influences as The Bangles and Squeeze began to fade. Game Theory never really caught on with the public, and we were starting to hear the names of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Screaming Trees as I left Oxford, Ohio’s alternative rock radio station behind for the modified Top 40 and classic rock mixture of Central Indiana. Alas, I turn on MTV in the summer of 1990 and discover this new band called Jellyfish. And, I am drawn to their pure pop sound and sophisticated production. And you can hear all of my favorite touchstones in their music like Queen, Squeeze, Wings, Beatles, Beach Boys, et al. This was one tasty debut that continues to give back 30+ years later.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 13 – #71-80

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.