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Kratu don’t give a damn about nuthin’.

WARNING: There are 80 freakin’ albums (pared down from 124) listed, so this is for true music lovers only. That said, I spent a significant amout of time on it so read the damn thing. Maybe you’ll discover a nugget or two.

I know, I know. How has this subject not been addressed on Shoe: Untied already? God knows I’ve posted a lot of lists in the 8-year duration of this site. However, the thought of narrowing down my favorite albums has been too daunting for me.

Until now.

We’ve all been social distancing and flattening the curve lately, which of course has led to downtime for all of us. Because of this I’ve actually had the time to take on the challenge. Has it been hard? Hell yah. Still, I have perservered for you, my loyal readers.

Please remember that these albums don’t necessarily have to be the greatest or most influential of all-time to you or the general public, but they are to me. In one way or another, they’ve impacted my life. So, don’t yell at me because Highway 51 Revisited isn’t included. Sorry Mr. Zimmerman.

I did make a couple rules, with the main one being I would include no greatest hits albums, the other being no live albums. I mean, those would be sort of cheating, right? Let’s get to it . . .

 

THE 1960s

 

Introducing the Beatles – The Beatles (1963)

Ah, the album that started it all. I have written often of the day I first laid ears on it. I was on the couch in our living room, listening to music on one of those big stereo cabinets that were the size of a coffee table. I was playing an album by somebody, probably Bobby Vinton or Gene Pitney or somebody like that because it’s all we listened to at the time. But one day, in walks my sister Karen . . .

She’d been to town shopping and immediately pulled the needle off the album that was playing, which annoyed the hell out of me. But before I could say anything, she shushed me and said, “Just listen.”

At that point the guitars kicked in, and the lyrics began: “1-2-3-4 . . Well she was just seventeen, if you know what I mean, and the way she looked, was way beyond compare . . .”

Yep, life as I previously knew it was over. Sis had dropped the needle on the album Introducing the Beatles, and I probably listened to it at least 1000 times in the months to follow. Sure, I probably would have discovered them anyway, but thanks to Sis I was clued in from the beginning.

PS- This record ended with The Beatles’ cover of Twist and Shout. Sublime. 

Revolver – The Beatles (1966)

I knew the minute I heard this album that something was  . . . different. It saw a huge leap in the band’s creativity and inspiration, and it also saw them drawing on their experiences with drugs and their interest in eastern religion. Every single song was killer, and The Beatles changed studio recording as we knew it with this album. They distorted sounds, experimented with sound effects, and worked with engineers to create distortion effects. And guess what? Double Tracking, a technique now commonly used in music to create multiple vocal tracks, was invented in the Abbey Road Studios in 1966 on this album.

The result? Songs so complex they were impossible to play live, and sure enough, none of the songs on Revolver were ever performed in front of an audience. With songs like Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine and Got To Get You Into My Life, this was a glorious record.

Pet Sounds – Beach Boys (1966)

When John Lennon first heard this album he went straight to Paul McCartney and allegedly said, “We’re finished. We can’t top this.” Paul agreed and the two listened to it over and over and over. Brian Wilson’s production was incredible and his songwriting was unsurpassed with tunes like Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B, God Only Knows and Caroline No. Simply a gorgeous album that’s usually ranked as the #1 or #2 album ever recorded. Oh, and The eventual response from The Beatles? An album called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

The 13th Floor Elevators were a short-lived, wild little band that I saw on American Bandstand and I was captivated. They actually have a guy blowing into some sort of utensil they called an “electric jug” and making bubbly noises. These cool cats were from Texas and were a huge inflence for none other than ZZ Top among others. Since I’m assuming many of you haven’t heard of these guys, let me give you a taste:

Man, that’s g-o-o-o-o-o-o-d. Dick Clark had no idea what just hit him.

The Doors – The Doors (1967)

The Rolling Stone recently called this “still one of the most dangerous albums ever.” When Break On Through (To the Other Side) kicked in I new this was something completely different. Jim Morrison’s voice, Ray Manzarek’s keyboards, it was all beyond anything I’d ever heard. Then, when Light My Fire started playing? I was all in.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967)

Well, der. This album is widely thought to be the greatest album in the history of music, and there’s good reason for that. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest Rock & Roll group of all time. And kids, it was the first concept album ever. All the songs were tied together. I spun that record a million times as an 11-year old, marveling in its mystery and imagination. From the opening track Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the A Day in the Life finale, this album is close to perfection.

At San Quentin – Johnny Cash (1969)

Yes, I said said no greatest hits or live albums. However, where Johnny Cash is concerned it’s fine to break the rules. I was just a kid, so the sole reason I bought this album was because I loved A Boy Named Sue, probably the silliest song on the album. But when I listened to the record and the way Johnny Cash sang so raw and emotionally, the way he interracted with the prisoners in San Quentin, I was touched deeply. I mean, the man stood on stage and sang these lyrics in front of not only the inmates but the warden and guards as well:

San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?
You bend my heart and mind and you warp my soul;
Your stone walls turn my blood a little cold
San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell.
May your walls fall down and may I live to tell.
May all the world forget you ever stood.
And the world regret you did no good.
Clearly, as you watch the video below, the inmates loved it. The others? Not so much. Vintage Cash.

The Beatles (White Album) – The Beatles (1968)

Most people refer to this as The White Album, but in reality the correct album title is simply The Beatles. After the pageantry and complexity of Sgt. Pepper’s, and with everyone else now mimicking that style, the lads chose to go in another direction – simple cover, simple title. This was a double album, and it was obvious the boys were beginning to grow apart. Most of the songs were clearly solo efforts, but the album was still stuffed with classics, both simple and groundbreaking. To name just a few, Back in the USSR, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Birthday, Helter Skelter, and that’s naming just the most well-known songs. Just a wild, diverse mix of rock history. Give a listen to the first heavy metal/grunge song:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (1968)

I have to admit I got on the Vanwagon a little late and bought this record a decade after its release. This jazz-influenced acoustic album featured minimal percussion, an upright bass, flute, harpsichord, vibraphone, strings, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics about being transported to “another time” and “another place.” Wild stuff, even for the free-thinking, out-of-the-box late 1960s. The album only contained eight songs, but man, every one was a haunting, melodic masterpiece. Astral Weeks is always listed among the top all-time albums, and deservedly so.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds (1968)


In one inspired blaze of creativity, The Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo leaped over the cultural divide between the acid-taking, peace-preaching long haired hippies and the beer-chugging, flag-waving good old boys by creating Country Rock. With rippling guitars and silky vocal harmonies, The Byrds sang a mix of country traditionals and originals. This record permanently shattered the wall between Country and Rock. Hell, the group even cut their hair and played the Grand Ole Opry. Kids, without this LP there would likely be no Eagles, no Lynyrd Skynyrd, no Marshall Tucker Band, no Allman Brothers, and by extension no Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban or Luke Bryan. A stretch? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Music from Big Pink – The Band (1968)

I love The Band, and their farewell showThe Last Waltz is one of my favorite concert films and albums of all-time. However, it was Music from Big Pink that started it all. The Band had previously been the backing band for the legendary Ronnie Hawkins, and after that for the even more legendary Bob Dylan. On this, their initial LP, their mix of Country, Blues, Gospel, Western Classical, and Rock was incredible. While Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Who split eardrums, The Band turned down the volume, revealing the intricacies of their arrangements and complexity of their lyrics. While The Beatles and Brian Wilson were working in state-of-the-art studio laboratories, The Band holed up in a dank concrete cellar in the wilderness of the Catskills to make their magic. The result was different from anything being recorded at the time.

Note: Big Pink was a regular, ranch style home. It still stands. Here’s a pic.

Bucket List!

Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969) 

Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album. It was the very last album they recorded, although Let It Be was released after it. After the disjointed White Album and the aforementioned Let It Be, John, Paul, George and Ringo put it all together one last time for an amazingly beautiful, harmonic masterpiece. It includes the songs Something and Here Comes the Sun, hinting at what was to come from George Harrison. John Lennon’s Come Together also kicks off the album, but it’s the Side 2 medley that blew me away. Little did we know that when Paul McCartney’s little ditty “The End” finished the album, it really was the end.

Here’s the medley:

 

THE 1970s

 

Sweet Baby James – James Taylor (1970)

Pretty sure it was the voice that drew me in initially. I heard the single Fire and Rain on WLS out of Chicago late one night on my little transistor radio, and I’m guessing the DJ was Larry Lujack. Out of curiousity and my interest in that song, I bought the album. With the songs Sweet Baby James, Steamroller, Oh Suzannah and of course Fire and Rain emanating from the stereo speakers of my souther Ohio bedroom on many a warm summer night in 1970, I was hooked.

Note: James Taylor was at the forefront of the singer-songwriter movement that was to come.

After the Gold Rush – Neil Young (1970)

Although this album contained the songs After the Gold Rush, Southern Man (a great song about civil rights in the deep south) and I Believe In You, it was Only Love Can Break Your Heart that cut straight through to my heart. Neil and the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had all released solo albums after their album Déjà Vu, and Neil’s was by far my favorite. Just a stellar album from start to finish.

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison (1970)

After spending the previous 10+ years largely in the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George let loose with a torrent of creativity in this classic album. It was a little surprising to some that it became massively popular. All Things Must Pass spent 7-weeks at No. 1, and its’ lead single, My Sweet Lord, occupied the same slot on the singles chart, marking the first time a solo Beatle had occupied both spots. The 6-sided album (hey, I told you George had some pent up energy) also included the great songs What Is Life and All Things Must Pass. Incredible album.

The Harrison Estate ran a contest, asking fans to make a video for the song What Is Life. This video won:

Imagine – John Lennon (1971)

Any respectable music fan was waiting for this album, and John did not disappoint. This is a great album full of brilliant songs with great hooks, but also mixed with John’s ever-present barbed wit to avoid it from becoming the kind of music that John found irrelevant and boring. Of course it included the legendary song Imagine as well as great songs like Jealous Guy, Oh My Love and How Do You Sleep?, the famous attack on his old friend Paul McCartney. This was another sign for broken-hearted Beatles fans that even though The Beatles had broken up, the incredible music would continue.

IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)

I had never gotten into Zep before this fourth album, and I know not why. Like a gazillion others I took one listen of Stairway to Heaven and rushed to the record store to by IV (actually I couldn’t drive yet so it was probably Mom or a Sister who drove me).  Imagine this – I was a a freshman in high school, had only heard Stairway to Heaven, put on my headphones, dropped the needle on the album, and the first two songs are Black Dog and Rock and Roll. Those were followed by the slow, acoustic The Battle of Evermore and then Stairway concluded Side 1. What. The. Hell? My ears, and musical sensibilities, were forever altered.

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye’s career as tuxedo-clad heart-throb ended when he cut this concept album dealing with Civil Rights, the Vietnam war and ghetto life. Equally startling was the music, softening and double-tracking his voice against a wash of percussion, strings and guitars. Motown boss Berry Gordy hated it, but the album’s social awareness caught the public mood. It ushered in an era of socially aware soul. My favorite tunes include What’s Going On and Mercy Mercy Me, a song about the environment:

So s-m-o-o-o-o-o-t-h-e.

Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren (1972)

My opinion of this record have been well documented on this site. For a comprehensive read about this album, click this link: Something/Anything?: Todd Rundgren’s Magnum Opus. Quite simply one of rock’s great masterpieces.

School’s Out – Alice Cooper (1972)

I wore out this album in the summer of ’72 and beyond. The song School’s Out was the anthem of a generation, man. You think we didn’t have this blaring from our tape decks on the last day of school in 1973? You know it. Aside from the title song, though, there were tunes like Luney Tune and Gutter Cat vs. The Jets that rocked your socks off. The cover lifted like an actual school desk too. Far out, man.

Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)

I realize I keep saying this, but you knew immediately upon hearing it that this music was something very different. Dark Side of the Moon was an artistic concept album that included topics on wealth (Money), war (“Us and Them”), madness (“Brain Damage”), squandered lives (“Time”) and death (“The Great Gig in the Sky”). The sound was so unique at the time that it was difficult to describe, although David Gilmour attempted to when he said it was “that psychedelic noodling stuff.” Bottom line? Dark Side of the Moon was a dizzying, mind-bending joy ride from start to finish.

Note: Since we all have  alot of time on our hands, dig this – there’s a video where the movie The Wizard of Oz is synched with Dark Side of the Moon. It’s called Dark Side of Oz and it’s freaky as hell. It’s almost as if it was done purposely. At one point the lyrics say “drives the faithful to their knees” just as the Scarecrow falls to his knees. And believe me, there’s more. Wild stuff.

Muscle of Love – Alice Cooper (1973)

A bit of a surprise here possibly, but I absolutely loved this straight ahead, full bore album full of Rock and Roll. Included is one of the best hard rock songs of all-time, Muscle of Love. The album also contains such classics as Big Apple Dreamin, Teenage Lament ’74 (with the Pointer Sisters singing backup!) and Working Up a Sweat. Yeah, I loved the albums Killer and Billion Dollar Babies, but I’ll take Muscle of Love any day. Check out the title track:

Band on the Run – Paul McCartney (1973)

In my opinion Paul McCartney’s greatest solo effort. I mean, the album includes the songs Band on the Run, Jet, Bluebird, Let Me Roll It, Helen Wheels, and the underrated Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me). Just spectacular stuff. The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, and Paul and his wife Linda were actually robbed at knifepoint one evening. Bottom line, this was the album that proved Paul could put out an amazing album without the help of John Lennon.

On the Third Day – ELO (1973)

I’d bought the album ELO II, the song with Roll over Beethoven and Mama on it, and I loved it. But this, this one blew me away. The violins, the energy, the melodies, I loved everything about it. And the tracklist? Wow. Ocean Breakup/KIng of the Universe, Bluebird is Dead, Oh No Not Susan, New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise), Daybreaker, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, Dreaming of 4000 and In the Hall of the Mountain King are all groundbreakingly outstanding. Of course, this was followed by Eldorado, Face the Music, A New World Record, Out of the Blue and more. With On the Third Day, ELO was just getting started.

For a taste, watch this video:

 

On the Border – The Eagles (1974)

This was a record that probably wouldn’t have existed without Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds and Music From Big Pink by The Band back in 1968. It was one of the first mainstream albums kids my age had heard that had that Country Rock feel to it, with emphasis on the Rock (and yes, I know The Eagles had recorded The Eagles and Desparado before it). While I loved the hits Already Gone (a blistering missive aimed at a former lover) and Best of My Love, there are a couple of forgotten gems on the album as well, most notably My Man, James Dean and the Tom Waits classic Ol’ 55.

Diamond Dogs – David Bowie (1974)

Without a doubt my favorite David Bowie album, and it’s not even close. Called “a glitter apocalypse” by one critic, it has one of my very favorite starts of any album. Called Future Legend, it begins with a distorted howl and features Bowie’s spoken-word vision of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, now renamed Hunger City. He describes “fleas the size of rats” and “rats the size of cats“, and compares the humanoid inhabitants to “packs of dogs.” Halfway through the narration, the Richard Rodgers’ tune “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” strikes up. Future Legend then morphs into Diamond Dogs with the cry “This Ain’t Rock and Roll, This Is Genocide!”. Out. Standing. Oh, and don’t forget the classics Sweet Thing and Rebel Rebel. The LP concludes with a little ditty called Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family, perfect for those family barbeques this summer.

A Night At The Opera – Queen (1975)

Queen had released three albums before this one, and of course I’d heard Freddie Mercury’s sensational voice on the single Killer Queen from Sheer Heart Attack a year prior. But this album, released in late 1975, was different. From the searing Death On Two Legs that opened the album, to the smooth pop sound of You’re My Best Friend, to the achingly beautiful Love of My Life, this record had it all. And then, deep into Side 2 was song #11, the next to last song on the album. That song was Bohemian Rhapsody. What in the HELL? The rest, my friends, is history.

Bonus Vid: Love this scene from Bohemian Rhapsody.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John (1975)

I know, I know. Elton John had released 11-albums before this one, including classics like Madman Across the Water and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (I saw the tour!). He’d even released a greatest hits compilation the year before. That said, this album is my favorite. It’s an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John (Captain Fantastic) and his long-term lyricist Bernie Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy). It was a simpler album, no overproduction or overarranging, less grandiose and more laid back than those prior, and I loved it. The only single from the album, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, wasn’t even close to my favorite from this one. Instead, I loved the songs Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Tower of Babel. Bitter Fingers, Curtains, and especially Writing. And you know what? It’s simplicity is one of the reasons it still holds up today.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)

I’d heard a little from Bruce’s previous albums, Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and I liked what I heard. I knew the music was a throwback to simpler, more straightforward Rock and Roll, and I was ready for it. After buying the album in the summer of ’75, I brought it home and dropped the needle on Side 1. Imagine how I felt when the first two songs were Thunder Road and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. I was stunned. But the real life-changer for me came from the first song on Side 2. When the drums and guitars began on Born to Run, I knew Rock had really gone back to the basics. And a Springsteen concert reflected his style – no giant balloons, no laser shows, no glam makeup – just flat-out Rock and Roll like it was meant to be. I now knew what music critic Jon Landau meant when he said this after seeing Springsteen live:

“I saw my Rock and Roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw Rock and Roll’s future ,and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

PS – And oh yeah, Jungleland closed out Side 2. Amazing.

If you didn’t get a chill at the 3:33 mark you have no musical soul.

Bankrupt – Dr. Hook (1975)

This might seem like an odd choice, but it’s an album that I’ve played it over and over for 45-years. Dr. Hook had hits with Sylvia’s Mother on Doctor Hook and Cover of the Rolling Stone on Sloppy Seconds. But then they released an aptly titled album called Belly Up! that tanked at #141, followed by an album called Fried Face that was so bad no record company would release it. Then came Bankrupt, named because, well, you can figure it out. And guess what? This album wasn’t a hit either but that didn’t stop me from loving it. With witty, quirky tunes like Levitate, I Got Stoned and I Missed It, Wups, The Millionaire, and Everybody’s Makin’ It Big But Me, it was right up my musical alley. Their cover of Sam Cooke’s Only Sixteen was awesome as well. I still adore this album. And I dare you to watch this video and not smile:

Tales of Mystery and Imagination – Alan Parsons Project (1976)

Alan Parsons was no stranger to great music. He was involved with the production of several of the most significant albums in history, including the Beatles‘ Abbey Road and Let It Be, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Well, he went solo and his debut album knocked my socks off. The musical themes of the album, which are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe (who I love), attracted a cult audience, me included. The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe’s macabre stories of the same name. Give a listen to the song To One In Paradise to get the vibe. Groundbreaking album that once again led to a lifetime obsession.

The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)

If I thought Bruce had taken us back to the 1960’s, The Ramones upped the ante. To really get rock back to its roots Joey Ramone and his three “brothers” (they weren’t really, not even related) did it with one album and 16 tracks, all under 3-minutes, just like back in the early days of Rock. They did it all with with speed, a distorted guitar thrash and a line in silly, dumb lyrics. In an era of Progressive Rock pomposity and 12-minute tracks, The Ramones back-to-basics approach was rousing, raw and confrontational. And although it was called Punk Rock or New Wave, what it really was was basic, garage Rock and Roll.

Fun fact: The Ramones were inspired by Paul McCartney, who would check into hotels as “Paul Ramon.”

 Bonus Fun Fact: The Ramones real names were as follows – Joey Ramone (Jeffery Hyman), Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) and Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin).

Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

If Something/Anything? was Rundgren’s Magnum Opus, Out of the Blue was Jeff Lynne’s. A double album containing 25-songs, it’s the result of Lynne retreating to a chalet in the Swiss Alps and unleashing a burst of creativity. Although it didn’t have the overall impact of On the Third Day to me, basically because the style was so jarring on that one, Out of the Blue has many more incredible songs. To name just a few, how about Turn to Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Night in the City, Steppin’ Out, Standin’ in the Rain, Big Wheels, Summer and Lightning, Mr. Blue Sky, and Sweet is the Night. Man, I spent many a night on 178 West Avenue, Apt. C, in Columbus, Ohio just off OSU campus listening to this one.

Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf (1977)

Speaking of 178 West Avenue, Apt. C, I was just around the corner from there when I first heard the dulcet tones of one Mr. Marvin Lee Aday, also know as Meat Loaf. The sound was something unusual, sort of Operatic Rock if you will. That made sense because Meat was an actor who’d performed in the musical Rocky Horror Picture Show. This album was prduced by my man Todd Rundgren, who also voices the introduction to You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night). Other amazing tunes are Bat Out of Hell, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and of course Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Really good record that I just about wore out.

Alive On Arrival – Steve Forbert (1978)

Ah, Steve Forbert. Somehow I got into Steve with this album before his 1980 record Jackrabbit Slim, which included the hit Romeo’s Tune. I loved the sound immediately. It’s really hard to describe his style, so I’m not even going to try. I will say that Steve Forbert is a true poet and an absolute master storyteller and lyricist. And perhaps the most unique thing about Steve Forbert is his voice. Listen to it, man. I’ve been lucky enough to see him live a few times and even met him twice. Romeo’s Tune was his only commercial hit but that hasn’t stopped me from buying every single album he’s ever recorded. Love the songs Goin’ Down to Laurel and especially Settle Down, which has always touched me on a personal level:

If I’m caught up in a whirlwind, babe, I know
I’ll make it through,
I’ve seen that spinning power rise an’ fall.
I can ride it sailin’ higher. I can ride it comin’ down.
It’s a natural kind of cycle, babe, that’s all . . .
Fantastic album that introduced me to a life-long musical addiction.

Labour of Lust – Nick Lowe (1979)

I knew a little about Nick Lowe from his work in Rockpile, a great band he was in with Dave Edmunds. I’d heard a couple songs from Jesus of Cool, his first album. But when Labour of Lust was released in ’79 it blew me away. It wasn’t just Cruel to Be Kind, it was Born Fighter, Switchboard Susan, Dose of You and American Squirm that drew me in.  Like I’ve done with Steve Forbert, I’ve purchased every Nick Lowe record since that debut album.

Note: Saw him live for the first time recently. He did not disappoint.

Tusk – Fleetwood Mac (1979)

Sure, Rumours was awesome. But the great Lindsey Buckingham was determined to make an album nothing like it, and he did. It was experimental and was influenced by Buckingham’s infatuation with Post-Punk. I loved it from the get-go. The songs Tusk, Think About Me, Sara, What Makes You Think You’re the One, Storms, every one was amazing. Remember that the big hits from Rumours were Don’t Stop and Go Your Own Way? Compare those to this song (wait for the USC Marching Band):

So yeah, different.

The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979)

Yes, I know. The original cover had no text.

Dark Side of the Moon was incredible, but The Wall is my favorite Pink Floyd album. A double album masterpiece, it is a rock opera that explores Pink, a jaded rockstar whose eventual self-imposed isolation from society is symbolized by a wall. Roger Waters father was killed during WWII and Pink’s father also dies in a war, which is where Pink starts to build a metaphorical wall around himself. The album includes several references to former band member Syd Barrett, including Nobody Home, which hints at his condition during Pink Floyd’s abortive US tour of 1967, with lyrics such as “wild, staring eyes,” “the obligatory Hendrix perm” and “elastic bands keeping my shoes on.” The song Comfortably Numb was inspired by Waters’ injection with a muscle relaxant to combat the effects of hepatitis during the In the Flesh Tour while in Philadelphia. Just an amazing record that I played over and over and over back in ’79. And of course everyone remembers one of the most amazing choruses of all-time:

We don’t need no education . . .

 

THE 1980s

 

Hootenanny – The Replacements (1983)

Oh my. Sure, The Replacements had released one album before this one called Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (also an EP titled Stink), but Hootenanny is the one that grabbed me by the ears and rattled my brain. This was a band that could somehow come off as both sensitive and sarcastic and darkly poetic but also strikingly sophomoric. The Mats were raw, basic rock and roll with hooks, man. It was almost like The Beatles and Sex Pistols had a baby and that baby was The Replacements. I love Paul Westerberg’s voice (hoarse and real) and the guitars sounded like something  you heard in your buddy’s garage in 1973. The songs on Hootenanny range from the raucus Color Me Impressed to the sublime Within Your Reach. What. An. Album.

Murmer – REM (1983)

A-n-n-n-n-n-n-d here it is. The record that ignited my lifelong obsession with R.E.M. This band influenced so many future bands that when younger folk hear R.E.M. today it doesn’t even sound original to them. Peter Buck’s ringing, jangly guitar style, Michael Stipe’s distinctive vocals and obscure lyrics, Mike Mills’ melodic basslines and backing vocals, and Bill Berry’s tight, economical drumming made for a singular original sound, unlike anything we’d heard before. Peter Buck described it as “Minor key, mid-tempo, enigmatic, semi-folk-rock-balladish” and I believe that explains it.  So many songs on this record are special to me – Radio Free Europe, Pilgimage, Talk About the Passion, Laughing, Moral Kiosk, Perfect Circle, Catapult, Sitting Still, 9-9, Shaking Through, We Walk, West of the Fields . . . wait, did I just name the entire album? I did.

Note: Without R.E.M. artists like The National, Beck, Eels, Pavement, Gin Blossoms, The Decemberists, and many more would not exist. True story.

Behold, 1983 R.E.M.

The Final Cut – Pink Floyd (1983)

In my opinion oner of the most underrated Pink Floyd albums, and it was Roger Waters’ last record with the band. Waters and David Gilmour fought constantly during the recording of the album, leading to Roger getting the hell out. Anyway, The Final Cut was basically a Roger Waters solo album and is an anti-war concept piece that explores what Waters regards as the betrayal of fallen British servicemen—such as his father—who during the Second World War sacrificed their lives in the spirit of a post-war dream. I know, heavy stuff. As for me, I loved the general dreamy feel of the record and songs like Paranoid Eyes, The Fletcher Memorial Home and Two Suns in the Sunset. Great album.

Note: The Final Cut was not included Floyd’s 1992 box set, Shine On. 

1984 – Van Halen (1984)

Without a doubt my favorite Van Halen record. There were five before this one, all pretty good. Lead singer David Lee Roth scrammed in 1985 for a sad solo career, but not before contributing mightily to this album. It grabbed me right away with the instrumental 1984, which kicks right into the legendary Jump. Add Panama, Top Jimmy and Hot For Teacher and you have one hell of an album.

Note: A lot of Van Halen hardliners didn’t like Jump because it wasn’t “hard” enough, being synth heavy and whatnot. I do not care. Loved it.

Fables of the Reconstruction – REM (1985)

Here’s one of the reasons I love R.E.M. – after their first two incredible albums, most bands would try and build on what they’d accomplished to try and really go over the top. Not my guys from Athens, Georgia though. They went in another direction and unleashed Fables of the Reconstruction, a big departure from Murmer and Reckoning, their first two records. Hell, the song Can’t Get There From Here even had horns! The record is chock full of great music and includes the R.E.M. classics Feeling Gravity’s Pull, Maps and Legends, Driver 8, Life and How to Live It, Old Man Kensey, Green Grow the Rushes, and Wendell Gee. Man, did my buddy Goose and I play the hell out of this one back in the glory days of 1985.

Mars Needs Guitars! – Hoodoo Gurus (1985)

Back in the day I would sometimes buy records on a whim, just taking a chance because I liked the band name or album cover. Such was the case at the gloriously named Magnolia Thunderpussy record store in Columbus, Ohio back in the fall of ’85. While perusing the selections I laid eyes on Mars Needs Guitars! by a band named the Hoodoo Gurus and I was smitten without hearing a note. Weird I know, but guess what? I loved it and I’ve purchased every Gurus album since because they are awesome. Anyway, Mars Needs Guitars! contains some amazing songs, including BittersweetShow Some Emotion, The Other Side of Paradise and the incredible tunes Death Defying and Like Wow – Wipeout!. Yep, my hunch was right.

Behold, Like Wow – Wipeout and Death Defying . . .

Lifes Rich Pageant – REM (1986)

The album title comes from a line in a Pink Panther movie:

Maria: “You should get out of these clothes immediately. You’ll catch your death of pneumonia, you will.”

Clouseau: “Yes, I probably will. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know?

Lifes Rich Pageant is varied, kicking off with the rockin’ Begin the Begin and These Days, then slowing down with one of Michael Stipe’s favorite R.E.M. songs, Fall On Me. Add Cuyahoga, I Believe and a raucous cover of The Clique’s Superman and you have another R.E.M. classic.

Note: The absence of an apostrophe in the title was intentional and I know not why.

They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants (1986)

 I can’t recall who first turned me on to this quirky little duo from New York City. It may have been my friend Goose or maybe Jed, I cannot recall. Anywho, my first reaction upon hearing them was “What . . . in . . . the . . . world?” The music of TMBG is, shall we say, different. It’s whimsical, funny, odd, tuneful, sometimes deep, and always amazing. On this, their debut album, the two Johns (Linnell and Flansburgh) unleashed the tunes Everything Right Is Wrong Again, Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head, Don’t Let’s Start and Youth Culture Killed My Dog on an unsuspecting public. Hey, I told you they were quirky. This album set the stage for my lifetime love of They Might Be Giants.

Cloud Nine – George Harrison (1987)

George had released several albums since All Things Must Pass, and I bought them all. I particularly liked Thirty Three and 1/3 and Somewhere In England, but it was George’s big comeback album after a 5-year absence that blew me away. Co-Produced by Jeff Lynne (and you can certainly hear his influence), Cloud Nine featured guest appearances by Lynne, Ringo Starr and some cat named Elton John. The big hit from the album was the cover of Jimmy Ray’s 1962 song Got My Mind Set On You, but I loved the tunes That’s What It Takes, This Is Love, When We Was Fab, and Devil’s Radio as well. Just a a sublime, infectious record and nice return for George.

Rehab Doll – Green River (1988)

Green River was Grunge before Pearl Jam and Nirvana, kids, but obviously never achieved the commercial success of those two bands. Green River made very little commercial impact outside Seattle, but what the band lacked in commercial success it made up for in influence. In general, Green River is widely regarded as being one of the pioneers of Grunge music. With its sludgy mix of hard rock, punk and metal, that was heavily influenced by The Stooges, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, coupled with Arm’s twisted lyrics and vocal delivery, Green River greatly influenced both its peers and bands that followed them. Even without the fact that some of its members would later go on to form some of the biggest bands of the Northwest music scene, Green River is still remembered for its musical foresight and innovation, years ahead of the rise of grunge. My faves from this album are Swallow My Pride and Porkfist. ‘Twas the earliest grunge.

Note: Several Green River band members went on to be in other, more famous bands. Mark Arm (Mudhoney), Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam), Steve Turner (Mudhoney), Steve Gossard (Pearl Jam), Bruce Fairweather (Mother Love Bone), and Jason Finn (The Presidents of the United States of America). ‘Nuff said.

The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 – The Traveling Wilburys (1988)

Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrision – quite simply the greatest Super Group of all-time. This album though. It’s Rock with a dash of Country and it’s great from start to finish.  They boys originally got together to record Handle with Care for Harrison to release in Europe. The result was deemed too good for such a limited release, however, so the group agreed to record a full album, titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The rest is history.

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)

I’ve always felt like The Stone Roses were Oasis before Oasis was Oasis. Only, you know, better. This record, their first, was a breakthrough success for the band and received critical acclaim, many regarding it as one of the greatest British albums ever recorded. Their sound is lush, harmonic and beautiful. The band had so many internal difficulties they could only eke out one more album, Second Coming, in 1994. It received mixed reviews although I loved it as well. Watch the video below to get that Roses vibe.

PS – Whilst reseaching the band I found out they released an album in 2016. W-h-u-u-u-t? Must. Check. Out.

Doolittle – The Pixies (1989)

Oh my. The Pixies came on like bats out of hell with this, their second release. The album’s offbeat and dark subject material, featuring references to surrealism, Biblical violence, torture and death, contrasts with the clean, poppy production sound. That, my friends, is right up my musical alley. Debaser and Here Comes Your Man, in particular, are absolutely killer tracks. Band members Black Francis (who later recorded solo as Frank Black), Kim Deal (amazing bassist and singer), Joey Santiago and David Lovering all contributed mightily to this legendary record.

PS- I saw them in the summer of 2018. So damn good.

 

THE 1990s

 

Flood – They Might Be Giants (1990)

Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? Here’s a brand new record for 1990, They Might Be Giants brand new album, Flood!

I promise you that any middle school kid I taught in the early to mid-1990s will recognize that intro to Flood, the fantastic album by They Might Be Giants. That intro kicked into Birdhouse in Your Soul and the rest is history. This is the band’s most recognizable and definitive album, and it’s also their best-selling. But really, how could it not with songs like Birdhouse, Instanbul (Not Constantinople) and Particle Man? Holy hell man. Oh, and there are two other special gems there as well – Twisting and They Might Be Giants. Love love love.

Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)

This album pretty much has to make any discerning music lover’s list, amirite? Although Grunge music had been around for years, it was generally this record that brought it into the mainstream. The album started selling slowly, but with the help of the video for the song Smells Like Teen Spirit it eventually rocketed to the top of the charts (it replace Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by the way). For listeners who had heard bands like Green River or Soundgarden this wasn’t such a shocking sound. For others it was ear-opening. Amazing, music-changing album that featured drummer Dave Grohl for the first time.

Ten – Pearl Jam (1991)

This album was released less than a month before Nevermind, giving the world a 1-2 punch of Grunge and knocking it on its ass. Hair Metal, my friends, was essentially over. While Nirvana had done it with a punk attitude, catchy hooks and Kurt Cobain’s suffering, hoarse vocals, Pearl Jam did it with arena-sized riffs, choruses and Eddie Vedder’s wails. Nirvana’s sound was unique – nobody ever really tried to mimic them. On the other hand, Pearl Jam influenced great bands like Stone Temple Pilots and not-so-great bands like Creed.

Bandonwagonesque – Teenage Fanclub (1991)

Do you like The Byrds? R.E.M.? Gin Blossoms? Then you’d love Teenage Fanclub. On their third album, Bandwagonesque, they are firing on all cylinders. Like I mentioned, they were heavily inluenced by The Byrds and even the Beach Boys and Beatles. With hooks and harmonies, songs like The Concept, Star Sign and Metal Baby, this is the first Teenage Fanclub album that caught on with the masses. It was also critically acclaimed, and get this – it topped Spin Magazine’s Album of the Year poll, beating out . . . wait for it . . . Nirvana’s Nevermind. Just a wonderful, 60s vibed record.

Apollo 18 – They Might Be Giants (1992)

Another spectacular album by the two Johns, and this one has an interesting twist. Sure, it’s overflowing with catchy, melodic, weird tunes like I Palindrome I, Mammal, Dinner Bell, and See the Constellation, but the real treat is what ends Side 2. I’m talking about Fingertips and it’s 4:25 minutes of the strangest, most peculiar, most glorious music these ears have heard. Fingertips is composed of 21 short tracks ranging in length from 4 to 71-seconds and includes wild tunes such as Everything’s Catching On Fire, Who’s That Standing Out My Window?, Come On And Wreck My Car, What’s That Blue Thing Doing Here?, Something Grabbed Ahold Of My Hand, and I’m Having a Heart Attack. Stellar in every way. Here ’tis, but be warned – your ears may be twisted and turned inside out.

The MEN – The MEN (1992)

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the first single from this album. I was driving south down State Route 104 from Columbus, Ohio nearing Chillicothe, and I was passing between the two prisons there. I was listening to QFM-96 and on it came – Church of Logic, Sin and Love by a band called The Men (The Men consisted of two men and two women by the way). The song immediately blew me away, and guess what? It still does. I drove straight to the record store and ordered it, waited the requisite week or so, and when it arrived I was thrilled to find the entire album was incredible. In addition to Church of Logic, Sin and Love there were other great tunes like I Built My House This Way, She’s All Mine, Goodnight Sally, and Where You Found Me. Sadly The Men vanished from the airwaves after this one astonishing album, like a comet streaking across the night sky.

It’s the kind of place where space explorers could have landed around 1963 – when Kennedy was in Life Magazine and everything was aquamarine . . . aquamarine.

Piece of Cake – Mudhoney (1992)

As I mentioned before, Mudhoney was formed by lead singer Mark Arm, who was in Green River and is credited with actually coining the term “Grunge.” Pretty cool. Mudhoney’s earlier song Touch Me I’m Sick and the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP were massively influential on the Seattle music scene. More than almost any other release of the era they inspired the dirty, high-distortion sound that would become grunge. On Piece of Cake, Mudhoney unleashed Suck You Dry, Blinding Sun and No End In Sight on the shell-shocked masses. I got to see Mudhoney back in 2007 on their tour and am happy to say I scored their setlist, handed to me than none other than the man himself, Mark Arm.

See? I wouldn’t lie to you.

Automatic for the People – REM (1992)

R.E.M. had sure come a long way since 1983 when I first fell in love with them. Automatic for the People, their eighth studio album, put them smack dab at the top of the game. Out of Time, released in 1991, had been a huge success and included the smash single Losing My Religion, but this album is the one I loved the most. The songs are simply beautiful, and Automatic for the People is generally regarded alongside 1983’s Murmur as one of the band’s supreme achievements. The album yielded an astonishing 6-singles – Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, Nightswimming and Find the River. Just an exquisite record from beginning to end.

Fun Fact: The star on the album cover was in front of a Miami restaurant and Michael Stipe dug the way it looked. It had since been destroyed in a hurricane.

14 Songs – Paul Westerberg (1993)

I loved The Replacements and I loved their enigmatic frontman Paul Westerberg, so it makes sense that I loved his first solo album. I even wrote about him in a piece called Man Without Ties: Paul Westerberg. On this album Paul was in peak form, churing out cool songs like Knockin’ On Mine, Runaway Wind, First Glimmer and the sarcastic take on plastic surgery, Mannequin Shop. The album features contributions from Ian McLagan, former keyboardist for the Faces, a band that Westerberg has often cited as a favorite. I’ve loved a lot of Westerberg’s solo albums over the years, especially 1999’s Suicaine Gratification, but 14 Songs remains my favorite.

PS – I had the opportunity to see Paul Westerberg live in the late 90’s and he was everything I hoped he’d be.

Hi-Fi Sci-Fi – Dramarama (1993)

Dramarama had released 5-albums since 1985, but it wasn’t until 1993’s Hi-Fi Sci-Fi that I finally caught up with them. It was the song Work For Food that caught my ear, which led me to buying this album and subsequently every album they’d recorded previously. In addition to Work For Food, the songs Senseless Fun, Late Night Phone Call and Shadowless Heart make this an exceptional album. Oh, and John Easedale’s vocals are supreme throughout. Sadly this was Dramarama’s last album until 2005’s Everybody Dies. Great band.

PS- There’s also an acoustic version of Work for Food that is amazing.

100% Fun – Matthew Sweet (1993)

Matthew Sweet may be the most underrated artist this side of Todd Rundgren. The two albums preceding this one, Girlfriend and Altered Beast, were outstanding as well.  On 100% Fun, Sweet delivered a hook-filled guitar-fused power pop record for the ages. With a soft, warm voice, he always keeps the emphasis on the melody, no matter how aggressively hard songs such as Sick of Myself and Super Baby may seem. However, the gem on this album comes in at song #3 with the incredible tune We’re the Same. It evokes memories of the early Beatles, Raspberries and even Cheap Trick with it gorgeous harmonies, chorus and jangly guitars. Give it a listen below, and you’re welcome in advance.

PS- Who does Matthew Sweet credit with being his biggest influence? None other than R.E.M. 

Monster – REM (1994)

I feels like R.E.M. may have become a little weary of the commercial success that albums like Out of Time and Automatic for the People brought them. Monster didn’t sound like anything on the radio, and it certainly didn’t sound like 1992’s Automatic for the People. On Monster, the boys wanted a return to their roots and displayed a much harder edge with great, rockin’ songs like What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, Crush With Eyeliner, Bang and Blame and Star 69. Was this a different R.E.M. record? It was. Was it awesome? Hell yes it was.

Note: What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? referred to the the infamous attack on Dan Rather on a NYC street  where the assailants repeatedly yelled the line.

The Hearing and the Sense of Balance – Fury in the Slaughterhouse (1995)

Fury in the Slaughterhouse is another band I’ve loved for years, and this is my favorite album of theirs. A German band, these guys have made a ton of good music. And don’t let the name fool you – they’re basically a straight ahead rock band with guitar led, hook-filled melodies. One song led me to this record, a song I’d heard on an alternative compilation of new and upcoming bands. That song was Milk and Honey, and I was smitten. Upon buying the album I was turned on to tunes like Down There, Hello and Goodbye, and Rainy April Day, a song about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Great album, great band.

Here’s a taste of the song that started it all, for me at least:

Nerf Herder – Nerf Herder (1996)

Ah, the Herders of Nerf. I cannot quantify how much enjoyment these knuckleheads have given me over years. They describe themselves as a Geek Rock band, and are known for simplistic modern punk-style songs with frequently humorous, juvenile, and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. This, their first album, contained the cult classics Down On Haley (not what you think), Sorry (not safe for children), and Van Halen (where they rip the band for replacing David Lee Roth). Nerf Herder is simply a band that sings nerdy, funny, irreverent, and sometimes inappropriate songs. Love these guys.

Note: Lead singer Parry Gripp is the nut who’s responsible for all those wild videos like Cat Flushing a Toilet, Hamster On a Piano and Baby Monkey Going Backwards On a Pig. Good stuff.

The Colour and the Shape – Foo Fighters (1997)

The Foo Fighters had recorded one album prior to this one, Foo Fighters, but it was with The Colour and the Shape that I got on board.  When Dave Grohl started The Foos after the death of Kurt Cobain ended Nirvana, nobody knew what to expect. Hell, we’d just seen Dave back there pounding the drums, many thought he couldn’t be a frontman. They were wrong. The Foo Fighters turned out to be one of the greatest rock bands in the world. This record grabbed my ears with great songs like Monkey Wrench, My Hero and the iconic Everlong. With The Colour and the Shape, the Foo Fighters were just getting started.

PS- I’ve been lucky enough to see several Foo shows over the last few years (including CalJam ’18), and thanks to a friend I’ve had backstage access. Incredible experiences all.

Electric.

Electro-Shock Blues – Eels (1998)

Everyone knows that The Eels are one of my Top 5 all-time bands. Mark Oliver Everett, who’s essentially the band, is a damn musical genius. I wrote about him in a piece called Mark Oliver Everett: A Man Called E if you want to know his story. However, it was this album that turned me onto him. Following the success of the band’s first album, Beautiful Freak, E experienced a difficult time in his personal life. His sister committed suicide and his mother was diagnosed with cancer (he’d discovered his father dead years earlier in their home). These events inspired him to write Electro-Shock Blues, which focuses on his family, which he had never written about previously. Electro-Shock Blues deals with many difficult subjects including suicide, death and cancer. However, don’t let that scare you off. The album is soothingly melodic, with intelligent lyrics. You’ll love this record. Check out Last Stop: This Town for a sample:

Imagination – Brian Wilson (1998)

Everyone knows Brian Wilson was the genius behind the Beach Boys and created one of the greatest albums in the history of music, Pet Sounds (see above). Years after the Beach Boys broke up, in 1988, Brian released a much anticipated solo album, his first. It was great, but then he pretty much vanished again. He released a couple inconsequential albums in the 90s, one that included a lot of remakes and another was a collaberation with old friend Van Dyke Parks. Neither were very good. And then, it happened. In 1998 he let loose with only his second solo album of original material, Imagination. The first song on the record was called Imagination as well, and it blew me away. Those old harmonies were back and the song was breathtakingly beautiful. Another tune, Lay Down Burden, is an amazing ode to his late brother Carl. South American is a catchy, beachy song he wrote with Jimmy Buffett. Keep An Eye On Summer could have fit right in on any 60’s Beach Boys album. All in all a spectacular return for the legend Brian Wilson.

PS- Shockingly, this album wasn’t received well by critics. Critics are idiots.

The harmonies at the 2:40 mark brought tears to my eyes when I first heard them.

 

THE 2000s

 

Daisies of the Galaxies – Eels (2000)

If you’re not aware of The Eels, this is the album you need to listen to. Daisies of the Galaxy is incredible from start to finish and has no weaknesses. Hell, its hidden track was undoubtedly its most popular song.  The album is cheerful on the surface (helped by its quirky, upbeat tone) but contains cynical undertones. E shows genuine calmness as he displays his sadness. It’s amazing really. It’s hard to explain, but E’s music juxtaposes itself effortlessly. From the carefree opening minutes of Grace Kelly Blues to the last, happy-go-lucky last song, Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues, Daisies Of The Galaxy has undertones of desolate emotion behind quirky, upbeat pop tracks. So, so good. My personal favorites, although they’re all excellent – Grace Kelley Blues, Packing Blankets, I Like Birds, Daisies of the Galaxy, It’s A Motherfucker (don’t let that title fool you, it’s a gorgeous, heartfelt song), Jeannie’s Diary, Wooden Nickels, Selective Memory (a great song about E’s late mother), and the aforementioned hidden track, Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues. Essential Eels, man.

Rockin’ the Suburbs – Ben Folds (2001)

This one is right at the top of my Ben Fold’s treasure trove of records. Released on 9/11/01, this was Ben’s first solo album since leaving Ben Folds Five. It contains the usual Ben Folds piano based, hook-filled gems. The record’s best songs are Annie Waits, Zak and Sara, Still Fighting It, Rockin’ the Suburbs, and one of the most beautiful songs ever written, The Luckiest. The whole album has a Burt Bacarach feel to it (look it up if you’re under 60), and believe me when I say that’s a good thing. And as always, Ben maintains that signature sarcasm throughout. I’d expect nothing less.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – Flaming Lips (2002)

I always liked the Lips, but this album is by far my favorite of theirs. It’s a weird, haunting, lush, symphonic record with gorgeous melodies and and an incredible, moody vibe. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots appeared in the best-albums-of-the-decade lists of several music publications, such as Rolling Stone (#27) and Uncut (#11), with Uncut also declaring it the greatest album released in the magazine’s lifetime. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I absolutely love the songs Flight Test, Are You a Hypnotist?, and Do You Realize?. What an amazing album with Wayne Coyne at the peak of his powers.

American Idiot – Green Day (2004)

Green Day had released a pretty bad album, Warning, just before this and the band was dropping in popularity big-time. They released a greatest hits album to buy some time, healed some old wounds in the band, and promptly unleashed their best album ever (in my humble opinion). American Idiot was not a traditional Green Day album. This was different. The band not only listened to classic rock operas and concept albums like The Who’s Tommy and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, but also pulled ideas from Broadway musicals. The record also includes classic rock influences (The Beatles) and the boys also allowed some of the top Rock and Hip-Hop acts of the day to factor into their sound and approach. According to Billie Joe Armstrong, “We decided we were going to be the biggest band in the world or fall flat on our faces.” What resulted was one fantastic album with songs like American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and Wake Me Up When September Ends. Spectacular album.

PS – I saw the band live right after this album dropped. Electric.

Indian Summer – Carbon Leaf (2004)

Carbon Leaf is the greatest relatively unknown band I’ve ever known. They burst onto the scene in 2002 when they won the Best New Band award at the American Music Awards. After that they settled in on a solid, successful career. Their sound has a Celtic, Irish feel to it, although lead singer Barry Privett calls their sound “Ether-Electrified Porch Music” which seems about right. Indian Summer is chock full of that unique, patented Carbon Leaf sound with tunes like Life Less Ordinary, What About Everything?, Grey Sky Eyes, Raise the Roof, and Let Your Troubles Roll By. I highly recommend you listen to this band, and you can start by watching the video below.

PS- I’ve seen the guys live several times and have become aquainted with them. Great, down-to-earth people.

PPS- Carter Gravatt is an incredible guitarist.

I And Love And You – Avett Brothers (2009)

I first heard The Avett Brothers in the early 2000s when I was driving my car through Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was on station 99.1 The Sound, where I always seemed to find new bands. The song was I and Love and You, and my proverbial socks were knocked off. The Avetts sound is really hard to describe. They combine Bluegrass, Country, Punk, Pop, Folk, Rock, Indie, Honky Tonk, and Ragtime to produce a unique sound described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having the “heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.” Yep. I would say that about covers it.

 

The 2010s

 

Something for the Pain – Redlight King (2011)

Redlight King is another band that hasn’t really received its due and I know not why. They formed in Canada in 2009 and released this, their first album, in 2011. Lead singer Mark Kasprzyk made news on this record for his success in securing permission from Neil Young to allow him to sample the 1972 song, Old Man, and the results were incredible. It’s sampled in Redlight King’s song of the same name, a tune about Kasprzyk’s father. I got a recommendation to listen to this album from a friend, and I’m forever grateful for that. In addition to Old Man, the songs Something for the Pain, Bullet In My Hand, Comeback and When the Dust Settles Down are all stellar. Give Redlight King a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Egypt Station – Paul McCartney (2018)

Just when you thought 76-year old Paul McCartney was getting close to the end of his career he dropped this bombshell on us. Ladies and gentlemen, Egypt Station was Sir Paul’s first #1 album in the USA since Tug of War in 1982. Let that settle in for a second.  As Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Sheffield said, “Make a list of all the songwriters who were composing great tunes in 1958. Now make an overlapping list of the ones who are still writing brilliant songs in 2018. Your list reads: Paul McCartney.” Man that’s impressive. Give a listen to songs like I Don’t Know, Come On To Me, Fuh You and Back in Brazil and you’ll know what he’s talking about. Did this record surprise me? It did. Should it have? Hell no. It’s Paul Freakin’ McCartney.

PS- Paul gets two videos.

So there you go, my 80 favorite albums of all-time. Eclectic? Yes. But I sort of pride myself in that. There’s really no musical genre I don’t like. And while making this list I realized that the album’s of today are not the same as the albums of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. In the 60s and 70s, in particular, there was nothing better than buying an album, taking it home, peeling off that plastic cover, and reading the liner notes. If it was a double album it was even better. Today we just download a particular song to our iPhone and that’s that. Sad really.

Anyway, to those of you that stuck with me all the way through this l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g blog, I appreciate it. Please let me know if any of my albums match yours, or if there are other albums not included here that had an impact on your life.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Tim is new to this whole Twitter thing, but damn it if he’s not giving it his all. Tim is a National Treasure and, dare I say, the hero we all need right now.

[click and scroll to see the entire tweet]

You’ve all heard many a story about a little dog called The Spark. He’s battled coyotes, squirrels, horseflies, spiders, sweepers, the occasional hobo, and a lady in a power suit. Little dude is fearless, and he proved it again today.

Sparky and I welcomed a new addition to our family a few weeks ago, a little Maltipoo named Lilly that needed a home. Sparky has welcomed Lilly with open paws (ok, he does have to let her know who’s boss every now and then) and for the most part it’s been smooth transition. Whenever we’re around other dogs Sparky makes it clear that he’s Lilly’s protector, always staying between her and any potential danger.

Which brings me to our latest adventure . . .

Today I took Sparky and Lilly to a local state park, a place with a huge lake and plenty of room to run around. As I pulled into the parking lot near the dam I noticed a large American Black Vulture sitting there. It had its wings outstretched and it was massive. It had to have a wingspan of close to 6-feet and of course had one of those hairless heads and nasty looking hooked beak. I’d read about these creatures before and knew how mean they could be. Just recently I’d read this in the Louisville Courier-Journal:

They’ll devour slimy newborn calves, full-grown ewes and lambs alive by pecking them to death.

First the eyes, then the tongue, then every last shred of flesh. 

Yeah, so I knew I needed to keep an eye out, and especially up.

As we parked it flew away, but not before Sparky had spotted it and gave a low, gutteral growl. Not much gets past The Spark, man.

I got out of the car first, just to have a look around and scan the skies. I mean, I was pretty sure we’d scared the beast off but better safe than sorry, especially where my dogs are concerned. Plus, I figured no flesh eating bird in its right mind would swoop down with a human standing right there.

All was clear.

The pups hopped out and started doing their thing, trotting around and sniffing everything in sight. I made sure to stay close, especially to Lilly. After all, Spark is 22-pounds, experienced and a badass, but Lilly weighs probably 8-pounds and wouldn’t know danger if it stared her in the face. Spark was about 20-feet to my left, Lilly no more than 15-feet in front of me.

And then it happened.

First I thought Sparky had spotted a squirrel or rabbit and was making a mad dash for it. He was heading straight ahead so I thought he’d fly past Lilly in his hot pursuit. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw it – the damn vulture was making a dive at Lilly.

For a brief instant I thought Sweet Lilly was a goner. What flashed through my brain was that poor little girl, who’s already been through so much, being carried off to be eaten alive by that winged monster.

Fortunately, somebody wasn’t going to let that happen, and that somebody was Sparky.

Not on my watch, you flying freak.

I promise you that behemoth was 20-feet up and diving as The Spark made his charge, growling and barking like a dog possessed. He leaped up and I swear, for just a split second, that I thought he was going to make contact. Instead, the beast made an excellent life choice – it got the hell out of there.

And as the big bird rose and flew away, Sparky gave chase, looking up and growling as he ran. I’m telling you that dog would still be giving chase had I not ordered him to come back.

Lilly? She was standing under me, shaking, and did so until Spark trotted back and they nuzzled noses together.

And as we walked back to the car, Sparky constantly the skies, ever watchful.

In retrospect, Lilly tore a toenail a couple days ago. It’s being treated but she’s still limping pretty badly. I believe the Black Vulture saw that and estimated Lilly was easy prey.

What it underestimated was the furry ball of protective fury they call The Spark.

I gotchu, girl.

 

 

Oh, hell yes.

Check out that Flying Squirrel, man. Just soaring through the skies like a freakin’ winged rat. When I was a kid we called these animals Sugar Gliders, which is way cooler in my opinion. We actually had them in the woods near my house when I was a youngblood, and you could hear them swoosh above your head if you were out in the woods near dusk. The young are born in a nest and are cared for by their mother. By 5-weeks they’re able to practice gliding skills so that by 10-weeks they’re ready to leave the nest. Cool. Anywho, Flying Squirrel/Sugar Glider.

PS- They also make great pets!

Bloopiness aplenty.

Note: This is not intended to frighten or make light of anyone or anything. It is written in jest. Satire if you will. Chill. We must keep our senses of humor. That said, if you’re easily offended turn back now . . .

Although apprehensive, I talked myself into venturing out into the masses this morning, just a quick in-and-out at the local superstore as it opened for some essentials. Figured I’d get there early to beat the pandemic crowd. Hey, I figured what the hell? What could it hurt? As long as I avoid eye contact with humans and don’t touch anyone I should be ok. I’ll wash my hands when I get home! I mean, how bad could it get?

The answer, of course, is really really bad.

The first sign of trouble was in the parking lot. It was full. After scoring a spot, however, I approached the main entrance. The second sign of trouble was the twenty-something male that ran past me screaming, “Don’t go in there man! DON’T GO IN THERE!

And then, I felt it before I saw it. The panic and anxiety emanating from the store was palpable, alive, actually oozing from the entrance.

As I walked hesitantly into the store, I saw a scene that could only be described as total and utter chaos. Middle-aged women snarling and snapping at each other, grown men weeping, old men in obvious catatonic states, and frightened children in various stages of shock.

It was a scene from a horror movie. Cries of anguish everywhere, people sweating, and wild-eyed shoppers attempting to grab that last 24-Pack of Mega Ultra-Strong Charmin toilet paper rolls.

Immediately sensing impending doom, or at the very least being crushed by a 300-pound Vinton Countian bent on grabbing that last Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer, I made an executive decision. Scram. Hightail it out of there. Run for my life.

I vamoosed.

As I did, from the corner of my eye I saw a Meat Clerk stealthily crawling into the relative safety of an empty industrail sized box of Tyson 100% All-Natural Pork Butts.

In Aisle 11, women were having a 3-way tug-of-war over a can of Bruce’s Canned Yams.

Over near the pharmacy, a lady in her upper 80’s dropped a much-younger counterpart with a vicious atomic elbow.

Somewhere, a store greeter wailed in the distance.

Although it can’t be confirmed, there were reports of a woman being beaten over the head with a can of Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo.

It was a scene these eyes shall never forget, because well, some things simply cannot be unseen. The degradation, the greed, the overindulgence, the hoarding, the . . . smell.

It was too much for me.

As I staggered out into the light of day and breathed in the fresh air, I could only count my blessings that I’d survived the mayhem that I’d witnessed.

Imprinted upon my brain is a vision of a young father I’d seen near the store exit as I was making my escape. Our eyes met, albeit ever so briefly, and they haunt me still. I believe I saw his hand reach out to me, but alas, I could not turn back, mainly because I could not touch his hand.

I wonder still if he made it out alive, or if he’s still in there with his wife and children, searching for that last case of FitCrunch Whey Protein Bars.

I guess I’ll never know.

PS- Again, none of this actually happened. I’m kidding.

Looks like it might hurt.

Ok, I have a problem with this one. As Neil Armstrong once said when asked what state should get credit for inventing flight, “Well, Ohio provided the innovation. North Carolina provided the wind.”

PS- Alabama invented hearing aids?

PPS- Oklahoma must really be proud of the parking meter, huh?

z

Check out those Valais Blacknose Sheep, man. Just cute as the dickens. The Valais Blacknose sheep is a breed of domestic sheep originating in the Valais region of Switzerland. The breed originates in the mountains of of Valais. It is documented as far back as the fifteenth century, but the present German name was not used before 1884 and . . . ah, screw that. I want a Blacknose Sheep and I want one yesterday. Anywho, Valais Blacknose Sheep.

Miss it.

Australia? Huh.

Pretty interesting and informative. From Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Oh, there have been many a dumb moment on television. Fonzie jumping the shark, Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault, Dan Quayle, I could go on for days. But yesterday may have taken the proverbial cake. It all started with this tweet:

As you can surely see, the Math here is a bit flawed. And by “a bit” I mean “horrendously.” Any 5th grader knows that 1,000,000 divided by 1,000,000 is 1, right? Right? The truth is, every American would have gotten $1.53. But hey, the guy was only $999,998.47 off the mark. Amazingly though, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams and NYT Board Member Mara Gay aired the tweet and discussed it on live TV:

Oh boy.

This question was asked on Twitter, and one man’s answer touched my soul. Here it is:

My wife, my 3-year daughter and I were on a vacation in Alaska. One evening we went for a walk after dinner. Upon our return we found a Grizzly Bear between us and the door to our cabin. As we came through a clearing it stood up on its hind legs and roared, showing its teeth and growling. It then made a move towards us.

Without hesitation my 11-year old Bull Terrier, Duke, charged the bear and leaped towards its throat. As that was happening I ran my daughter and wife into the cabin, grabbed my rifle and ran back outside. The bear and Duke were gone, but I could hear sounds of the battle off in the dark woods.

Finally everything became quiet and I could hear the bear crashing away through the forest. I looked for what seemed like forever for Duke, and I was assuming the worst. Finally he came limping through the underbrush to me, bleeding badly. He’d fought like a son-of-a bitch. 

I rushed him to a local vet and he licked my neck and face all the way there. He seemed to be more worried about me, and that he was glad I was ok. When I got there I found out he had a broken leg, broken jaw and a 9-inch gash on his side.

He never made it.

Would I give five years of my life to Duke?

Yes.

After all, he gave my entire family our lives.

Dogs. They’re truly a gift to mankind.

Check out these structures made primarily of pallets. Very cool. Some are for adults, some are for kids, one for a horse, and there’s even one for a dog. I did a quick search on The Goggle and the price of a used pallet is around $5.00. Hell, you can even get them for free at some places. Plus, you can add cool stuff like tin roofs and solar panels to amp up the coolness. Take a gander . . .

[click, scroll]

So a guy in Pennsylvania recorded a couple videos of all the animals that crossed a log bridge over a stream on his property. The results are very cool. Enjoy.

I’ve been telling some basketball stories lately, most regarding coaches I’ve had the pleasure to have met over the years. And don’t worry guys, I’ll save the best ones until much later down the line. I’d never do that to y’all.

Not yet anyway.

I kid. Anyway, the story I’m about to tell came to mind the other day, and to this day I have no idea exactly what happpened. All I know is that afterwards I was pretty sure Bob Huggins was a warlock, a soothsayer, a seer, or possibly a combination of all three. Here’s the deal . . .

I was heading out to Morgantown for a game, and as usual I took a friend with me. It’s nearly a 4-hour drive, so we usually made a stop around halfway. We pulled off the main road somewhere west of the Ohio/West Virginia border, took a little side road and ended up at a gas station. My buddy went to use the bathroom as I grabbed some soft drinks and chips. We then loaded back up into the car and were on our way.

After about 45-minutes my friend suddenly yelled, “Damn it! I left my cell phone back at the gas station! It’s in my coat hanging on the back of the stall door! Shit!”

Well, hell. We were planning on attending the 10:00am walkthrough like we always did, and by the time we went all the way back to find the phone we’d miss it. So, we decided to call the phone, hope someone answered, and tell them we’d stop and retrieve it on our way back through the following day.

However, although we used my phone to call the number over and over until we got to WVU Coliseum, nobody was answering. We figured it was stolen or that simply nobody was hearing the phone ringing. Bottom line, we both figured the phone was long gone.

So we arrived at the walkthrough, took a seat beside the court, and got ready to watch the preparation for that night’s game. Soon Huggs came over and sat beside me and we began shooting the breeze. I introduced him to my friend, and I couldn’t help but throw this in:

Yeah, the dumbass left his phone in the bathroom stall of a little Mom & Pop gas station somewhere between Athens and Parkersburg. We tried calling it but I’m afraid it’s long gone.”

At that point Huggs laughed, asked a couple questions about the station (we had no clue of its name and just had a general location), and I assumed it was forgotten.

Except . . .

As we’re sitting there, just chilling and watching practice, Huggs suddenly hands me his phone and says, “Here. Say hello.”

Huh?

“Just say hello, damn it.”

I then say hello, not knowing what the hell was going on, and a woman’s voice says, “Hey honey, don’t worry, we have your phone. It’s under the counter. Just pick it up tomorrow.”

Wait. What? How?

Somehow, Huggs knew exactly the name of the little out-of-way gas station we’d told him about, called it, and explained our problem.

Of course I asked him what the hell just happened. His answer?

“Shoe, I’ve been on every backroad in Ohio and West Virginia looking at players. I knew exactly where you were talking about.”

Huggs, man. He never ceases to amaze.

The other day I wrote a story called Meeting the General in which I recounted the day I first met Coach Bobby Knight. While writing that one I was reminded of the time I met another coaching legend, Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian. Tarkananian was largely known as the legendary coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels from 1973-1992 where he won a National Title in 1990. He also had an overall record of 706-198 so yeah, helluva coach. Because of all this it was pretty exciting to meet him one night back in the fall of 1986.

I was attending a basketball clinic at the University of Kentucky with some coaching friends, and after a day of speakers we retreated to the bar of the hotel in which we were staying. At first the place was pretty full, but as time wore on the crowd thinned out to maybe 15-20 people, mostly high school coaches from around the midwest.

Around 10:00pm I looked up and there at the door was Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale. Both had spoken earlier and were apparently looking for some refreshments. They stopped, glanced around, spotted my group at a table in the back, and proceeded to walk right up to us and ask if they could sit down.

Well, hell yes. Have a seat.

We basically just shot the breeze with them for awhile, Tark being particularly friendly and asking where we were from, what level we coached, stuff like that. As time went on most of the table headed off to their rooms, including Vitale, which bothered me not in the least because he’d been a bit of a smug jackass. Tark? Not so much. Like I said, he couldn’t have been more engaging. Bottom line, it finally came down to four people at the table, with Tark regaling us with stories of his years in coaching.

At one point he and I had sort of drifted into our own conversation and I asked him if he had something simple I could add as a secondary offense for my team, which happened to be a bunch of 8th graders at the time. He promptly asked someone for a pen, grabbed some napkins, and drew up a little motion offense that included a coiuple backscreens and backcuts. He descibed some details and options you could run out of it, and that was that.

We then spent another hour or so talking, and finally got up and walked out together. As he started to leave, though, he turned around and said, “You know, I started out as a junior high coach too. It was some of the best times of my life. If you’re ever out in Vegas give me a call.” He then handed me a card and walked away.

Fast forward to the summer of 1989 when I was in Las Vegas with my friend Jigger. We landed, I played some roulette, I lost some cash quickly, and I realized I needed to step away from the tables before I lost my life savings. On a whim I decided to give The Shark a call and see if I could get hold of him. I had no idea if he’d even be in town. His secretary answered, I gave a quick explanation of who I was and how I’d met Coach Tarkanian, and was put on hold. A minute later she was back and told me that he said sure, come on over. Remember that this was nearly 3-years after we’d first met. I was amazed.

Of course I grabbed a cab to the Thomas & Mack Center (also known at the time as The Shark Tank), and sure enough a grad assistant was at the door waiting for me. Long story short I was given a tour of the arena and locker room facilities by The Shark himself. I even got to meet Stacey “Plastic Man” Augmon, a starter on the 1990 National Championship team and future NBA player. All told Tark probably spent an hour that day with me, a guy he’d met in a hotel bar years prior.

Before I left we exchanged information, he gave me a smile and a hug, and I went back to the casinos. He could not have been nicer.

Then, about 2-weeks later, I received a package in the mail. Inside I found an autographed poster, bumper stickers, and some UNLV gear along with a note thanking me for stopping in to see him.

That was the last time I met Tark personally, although we did chat a few times on the phone over the next few years.  And that offense he’d given me back in 1986? I ended up using it for years, very successfully I might add.

We called it Vegas.

Coach Tarkanian ended up being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, 2-years before he passed away at the age of 84. Tark had many a run-in with the NCAA over the years, but his won-loss record and testimonials from the players and coaches who loved him can’t be denied.

As for me, I’ll never forget the kindness he extended to an unknown coach for no real reason, other than the fact he was a good and caring person.

 

Here’s a great documentary on the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV. It’s worth a look.

Check out the highlights of UNLV’s dismantling of Duke in 1990.

 

Check out that Blanket Octopus, man. Blanket Octopuses get their name from sheets of webbing that stretch between some of their arms. When threatened, they stretch their arms out, creating a blanket-like silhouette meant to frighten would-be attackers away. That’s cool. They are always in the open ocean—in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in Info-Pacific waters—and never rest on the sea floor. And get this – the Blanket Octopus is immune to the stinging cells of the highly dangerous Portuguese Man-of-War, which it uses to its advantage by yanking the tentacles off and brandishing them as weapons against predators. That’s badass. Anywho, Blanket Octopus.

PS- Be sure and watch the videos below the photos. Nature, man. And as always, click and scroll.

What a world. Click, scroll, be amazed.

German fashion designer Philipp Pleine earned the justified ire of both professional and amateur fashion critics on Saturday with a show he staged during Milan Fashion Week. The collection included a limited-edition selection of purple-and-gold jerseys ($2,070), hoodies ($3,150) and sneakers ($2,200) that take their styling cues from Bryant’s iconic Lakers jersey.

The designer replaced the team’s name with his own on these garments and rendered all the letters and the Lakers legend’s number, 24, in glittering crystals. Bryant’s name is nowhere to be seen, but the back of the jersey and hoodie include a rendering of a black mamba—an homage to the basketball player’s nickname.

On their own, these items might have passed muster, but Plein’s set design pieces for the show proved too much for some onlookers to bear. “Philipp Plein made two gold helicopters for his show today, which falls 27 days after Kobe died in a helicopter crash,” one observer pointed out on Twitter. Another called the choice “Distasteful, tacky and material waste.’

In a statement to Page Six, Plein said he didn’t have time to remove the helicopters (which appeared alongside a tableau of land, sea and aircraft commissioned for the show in November) and lamented that his intentions were misunderstood.

As you know I’m a bit of a fashion maven myself, having written the acclaimed blogs The NRA Held Their Concealed Carry Fashion Show in Milwaukee and It Was Straight Fire, The Thom Browne Fashion Show: A Shoe: Untied Review, Time For The Latest Shoe: Untied Fashion Review!, and Fashion Brand Makes School Shooting Clothing Line And It’s Absolutely Disgusting. Click on those links to read my crack fashion team’s opinions on various shows.

Which brings us to this latest show by a dude named Philipp Plein. As you’ve already read, it was supposedly a “tribute” to Kobe Bryant as models in Lakers style jerseys paraded on stage around (ugh) golden helicopters. In what world, my friends, would someone think this was a good idea? Golden helicopters? Good God almighty that’s horrific. And since Mr. Plein feels so “misunderstood” I’d really like to hear his explanation. Check out the photos, but be preapared to wince.

Ohio seems well represented.

Check out Jonathan, the oldest damn animal in the world. Jonathan is a Seychelles Giant Tortoise and has lived through a lot. I mean, this dude was born in 1832 and has lived through the the Civil War, both World Wars, 9/11 and that God awful 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Hell, Jonathan was born before Albert Einstein, Mahatma Ghandi, Vincent Van Gogh, Thomas Edison and freakin’ Betty White.

At 188-years old he’s now living a relaxing life on the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, just chillin’ like a villain in the sun whilst eating grass and weeds and stuff.

And get this – Jonathan is so popular on St. Helena that his portrait is on the back of the island’s five pence coin. That’s cool. Anywho, Jonathan the World’s Oldest Known Animal.