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140 - Blondie - Parallel Lines

Blondie comes out speeding along with the first two tracks on Parallel Lines, playing angular New Wave. But after that, they follow a similar path of the Ramones of taking classic rock and roll sounds from 60's girl groups and doing their own take. “Pretty Baby” is probably the most blatant song in that mold.

I must confess I was really disappointed with this album. It isn't as quirky as the B-52's. It's not as raw as the Ramones. What it has going for it is Top 40 accessibility and a diverse sound over the course of the album, while still all fitting inside of New Wave.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “One Way or Another” and “Heart of Glass”

Songs I Now Like: “Will Anything Happen”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “I Know But I Don't Know” annoys me as a strange combo of B-52's and Rush.

141 - BB King - Live at the Regal

I was really pleased with this live performance time capsule. It sounds great, the vocals and guitar are sublime, the band sounds tight, and BB's interaction with the crowd should be studied by people wanting to be the frontman for their band.

The songs contain a great amount of energy. Whether it is the enthusiasm of the band, the passion of BB's performance, or the screaming of the crowd, even slow blues numbers kept my attention and had me bouncing.

Songs I Knew I Liked: Wasn't familiar with these specific live versions, but knew some of the tunes.

Songs I Now Like: None of the songs stood out in particular. This is a work as a whole for me.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None I feel compelled to skip.

Songs for Cory's Wake

After being MIA for a few years, I figured out where I had stored away my text file with my wake playlist. I added a few songs I had jotted down on a post-it, but need to add a dozen or more songs to this soon.

If you outlive me and show up at my wake, here is what I have set for the playlist so far (in rough playing order):

(Definitely first) Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”
Howard Jones – “Life in One Day”
XTC - “Grass”
Talking Heads - “Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)”
Pixies “Wave of Mutilation (uptempo version)”
Bjork - “Hyperballad”
Eric Idle/Monty Python - "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
Violent Femmes – “Blister in the Sun”
Barenaked Ladies – “Unfinished”
Ben Folds Five - “Underground”
Joe Jackson - “Steppin' Out”
The Grays – “Very Best Years”
Double Trouble – “In the Garden”
Beatles – “In My Life”
Jamie Cullum – “All at Sea”
Zero 7 - “Destiny”
Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”
“How Great Thou Art” - print lyrics and sing
Violent Femmes – “Good Feeling”
Crowded House – “All I Ask”
Jeff Buckley – “Last Goodbye”

Phil Spector had a sound. With A Christmas Gift For You, he demonstrated how his production skills can be used for other genres...as long as they can fit into his Wall of Sound. While he does have some quiet moments of spoken word with light accompaniment, this is quite the antithesis of Perry Como's or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas albums because of the raucous new arrangements and production. Many of these Christmas classics saw their tempo sped up a bit. While “Silent Night” is basically a string version behind Phil's message, its presence on the album made me wonder if he would have given that song also the Wall of Sound treatment if he did a proper full version or could he have otherwise made the song angelic.

The album uses four of Spector's musical groups/artists to embody his vision for these mostly secular songs. One of my issues when listening to this is how ubiquitous some of these songs are nowadays. It is hard for me to see the impact this album had in the Christmas music landscape. I will say that if I see this album for sale, I will buy it and add it to my box of Christmas CDs I pull out each Black Friday when the Christmas decorations come out each year.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Sleigh Ride” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by The Ronnettes, “Winter Wonderland” by Darlene Love

Songs I Now Like: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love (knew the U2 version, but now love this one)

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None, although I was usually bored with “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by The Crystals

143 - Dr. John - Gris-Gris

Gris-Gris is an album that transport you to another time and place. Sure, there are lots of albums I’ve listened to on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list that transported me back to the period when they were recorded. But, Gris-Gris also could be said to have transported listeners when this was released in 1968 to another place and time. Dr. John has created a world that is a mystical, psychedelic version of New Orleans which consists of a musical gumbo of African beats, jazz, Caribbean chanting, reverbed production, half-spoken/half-sung lyrics, some blues, and soul.

As soon as the sound comes out of the speakers with “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya,” the listener knows this is something very different. I wish I knew about “Danse Kalinda Ba Doom” when I was really interested in world music in the 90s. Add to this world music feel, the strange brew of “Croker Courtbullion” which features harpsichord, woodwinds, and psychedelic guitar noodling with occasional playground-like chants from the chorus. But in the midst of the otherworldly songs, there are some that seem to have some mainstream appeal such as “Jump Sturdy” and “Mama Roux” - which shares the kind of rhythmic shuffle that WAR would make a staple of their music.

Songs I Knew I Liked: None

Songs I Now Like: For me, I love this more as a whole album than particular songs driving my interest. Songs that did get me hooked include “Mama Roux”, “Danse Fambeaux”, “Croker Courtbullion”, and “I Walk On Guildied Splinters”.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None in particular, but “Jump Sturdy” was definitely my least favorite track.

144 - N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton

In the late 80's, I loved De La Soul and enjoyed the whole New Jack Swing movement. I wasn't a fan of edgier rappers like Too $hort and what would become known as gangsta rap. I liked Public Enemy, but N.W.A. didn't do anything for me. A good part of it is my general dislike of rappers who yell. My listening to Straight Outta Compton was to discover how the music hit me now compared to my earlier disinterest. Nostalgia has increased my appreciation of the old school rap I've already listened to on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list. Would N.W.A. get some credit from Cory now?

While the truthfulness of the “reality” N.W.A. claimed for their raps have been questioned through the years, the fact that young black men wanted to fantasize or boast these lyrics as real can not be disputed. How much of the misogyny, crime, and brutality is bravado and how much was the kind of documentation which PE claimed for their lyrics? The more I listen, the more I see the album as posturing more than reporting.

I was caught offguard on this listening of how old school the sampling sounded. Dre didn't go for the density of sampling which was more in vogue at the time. The sampling cliches of James Brown and repeating popular samples from other songs is still strong here. There is a funkiness here which would explode with the G-Funk sound a few years later.

I think my biggest reaction to listening to this album is how indifferent I felt when listening. As I prepared myself to add songs to the list below, I found myself having to give the album another skim. As far as I’m concerned, I’m grateful Ice Cube and Dre went their own directions and ditched this Easy E project.

Songs I Knew I Liked: Knew a couple, but didn't “like” them.

Songs I Now Like: None, really. If feeling generous, maybe “Express Yourself.”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: Most any time Easy E wraps, so “8 Ball” should probably be here.

145 - Steely Dan - Aja

Depending on the day, Aja is my favorite album of all time or in the top 3. So, I, of course, was annoyed to see it here at 145 and not in the top 100 on the list. I love this album with my whole being. It encapsulates a world which I started creating in my childhood in the late 70s. This life of a bachelor spending his sunsets with the sun reflecting off the ocean, driving fast cars on tight roads, and having sophisticated drinks with his social scene. I fell in love with the singles from this album which I heard on the radio. I know of no one from my childhood who owned or played this album around me. It wasn't until after college, when visiting a friend (Danny Walker), that I found out who the band was that did “Black Cow,” “Deacon Blues,” “Peg” (I thought it was Doobie Bros because of the Michael McDonald), and “Josie”.

Yes, I understand how some people don't like how much the pair spent in the studio; how songs were re-recorded over and over in various alternative takes trying to find just the right sound. Yes, this is the strongest that jazz had played in Steely Dan's sound and it was a softer jazz. There is no denying that this album belongs in the category of “yacht rock”. But, most of those above reasons are why I love Aja. Donald and Walter's efforts to create a perfect idyllic album fits perfectly into my own soundtrack for my childhood idyllic adulthood.

But before we get the whole jazz thing blown too much out of proportion, one cannot deny the funkiness of “Peg” and the rhythm section of nearly every song. It is no wonder that “Peg” is but one of several Steely Dan songs which have been repeatedly sampled in hip-hop since De La Soul's Three Fee High and Rising. As a bass-loving guy, I am grateful with how high in the mix the bass gets in most of the songs. The groove laid down stutters, stops, slips, slaps, and swaggers out of the speakers. The drumming/percussion on Aja is and should be studied and copied by those learning to drum. Between the syncopated jazzy flourishes and the funky thumping, the percussionists get to demonstrate their chops with some style.

When Nigel was a baby and had difficulty sleeping, I would throw him into the back of my car. As I pulled out of the driveway, Aja went into the CD player. I would make my way to the Parkway, where the street lights shining in would add to the soothing music and vibration of the ride. I would make my way out to the Huntsville International Airport, do the loop through the drop-off area, and then head right back home. That trip and Aja is about 45 minutes long and so the CD finished as I returned home on my street (although there were two times it ended as I got onto my driveway).

Songs I Knew I Liked: EVERYTHING

Songs I Now Like: Nothing new

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None

And this is where the music love ended. A month ago, I had Santana's debut, CSNY's Deja Vu, and then this album on my Spotify playlist. After grooving along with the first two albums, Jefferson Airplane jolted my enjoyment. I found myself constantly rolling my eyes during Surrealistic Pillow because of how cheesy-folk it sounded to me. That impression now dominates my feelings on Surrealistic Pillow; I don't like it because it seems too poppy folk and...lame.

So, this album has been an ignored collection of songs at the end of my “Current Rolling Stone Albums” playlist on Spotify. “Oh, it's Jefferson Airplane, I need to go back to the top of the playlist for Santana again.” Now that I've finally posted reviews of the three previous albums on that playlist, I am only focusing on Surrealist Pillow. With this new spotlight on the album, I decided to read up on some reviews to see what it is about the album that I had been missing with my cold listens. It seems the album is praised as bringing psychedelic folk-pop to the mainstream and that it was “groundbreaking.” I am absolutely willing to vouch that this album has enough pop sheen on it to sell records. Maybe I just gotta chalk my feelings on this album along with my general disinterest in late 60's folk of The Mamas & Papas, The Byrds, et al. CSN(Y) have been able to separate themselves from their contemporaries thanks to my listening to the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list, but Jefferson Airplane isn't going to distinguish themselves with this album other than the breadth of styles is certainly wider on this album than I recall from their peers.

You get plenty of folk harmonies with acoustic guitars, you have the two popular rockers with Grace on vocals, there's an instrumental, and then there's whatever comedic folk thing “Plastic Fantastic Lover” is. I look at the list of songs I liked and now like below and liking 6 of 11 songs is pretty good. But when there are 3 songs I just plain want to skip over, it seems to pull the whole album down for me. I rather enjoy listening to just those 6 songs better than I do the full 11.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”

Songs I Now Like: “Today,” “D.C.B.A.-25,” “How Do You Feel,” and “Embryonic Journey”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “My Best Friend,” “Comin' Back to Me” (epic folk song about Hobbits in love, I think), and “Plastic Fantastic Lover”

I have completely fallen in love with this album. I haven't been a big fan of “Teach Your Children” or “Our House” in the past. I respected them, but would typically skip or ignore them when I hear 'em. In context of Deja Vu, I never felt a need to skip to the next song. I will confess that just a few months ago, I downloaded Weird Al's most recent album. One of my favorite tracks from that album is the CSNY-inspired “Mission Statement”. I listened to that song on repeat often, so when I clicked play on Deja Vu and “Carry On” sounded very much like “Mission Statement”, I was instantly put in a good mood.

Over the course of the album, each member of the group pulls gets a chance to highlight his sound, but the harmonies help tie the varying sounds together. This is another one of the group albums where each songwriter has such a different approach that the album has a loose compilation feel to it. While there have been times where I felt the song sequence may have been adjusted to lessen some of the jumps in sound, it's not like I felt any of the songs didn't belong with the others.

Deja Vu will continue to get listens from me on Spotify and a purchase of the CD is going to happen before 2015 comes to a close.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Teach Your Children” and “Our House”

Songs I Now Like: “Carry On,” “Woodstock” (I skipped this song so much growing up that when listening to it on this album, it felt like a new song to me), “Deja Vu,” and “Country Girl (suite)”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None

148 - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Well, the first thing I learned when I did my initial listen: I know lots of Led Zeppelin songs without knowing their titles...and many of those songs are on Houses of the Holy. Sure, I recognized titles such as “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Dancing Days,” but I hadn't the foggiest idea what songs they were. And then when I listened, I kept having “OH, this is that song!” moments. Such repeat experiences made this seem like a volume 2 greatest hits for Zeppelin; admittedly because most of my familiarity is via the first four albums.

There is an intriguing diversity in song styles. “The Crunge” with its James Brown funk is a particular standout for me. I can see how older fans may have felt a little put off by the experimentation the band does on Houses of the Holy, but I find the shift as interesting.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “The Song Remains the Same,” “The Rain Song,” “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Dancing Days,” “D'yer Mak'er”, “The Ocean”

Songs I Now Like: Other than identifying unknown Zepp songs I've liked, I can't say there is a new "like".

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None