Friday, December 17, 2010

#414: 20 All-Time Greatest Hits- James Brown

Listened to: CD

What the fuck?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Every track on this is on Star Time! This is worse than when I covered In The Jungle Groove! At least that has remixes! This is the same material, just less! This list ignored 1984 by Van Halen to give me the same material twice by James Brown? You gotta be shitting me!

Seriously, this is fucking ridiculous. EVERY TRACK FROM THIS IS ON STAR TIME! Why put this on the list? Do you have that much of a hard on for James Brown? For fuck’s sake, this even came out at the same time as Star Time! You can’t even use historical significance to justify this being on the list, especially when you rank it almost 300 slots lower than Star Time! Dear readers, if you’ve listened to Star Time, YOU’VE ALREADY HEARD THIS ALBUM!

So, you know I’m gonna sub this album out.

Would Replace With: American Idiot by Green Day

Yeah, some would say this album is over-rated or overplayed. Some (like myself) would say the aforementioned some should shut the fuck up. The simple fact is, like it or nhot, American Idiot is the album of the past decade. Sure, some say Kid A, but nobody outside of “indie” people have heard it. Some say “The blueprint” but nobody outside rap and “indie” people have hear that. This, everybody’s heard, and it represents the decade, a series of angry attacks on a president and a country with no real understanding of the issues being protested against. Personally, I think every song on this album is enjoyable to listen to on a teenaged level, and we all knew every lyric in high school. It was incredible to see a pop-punk band from the 90’s have the audacity to do a concept album, and one so spirited and fun. I’m sorry it’s not the droll whine of Thom Yorke, but god damn, American Idiot is a damn good time, and an undeniable classic, if for nothing but it’s impact. This album dominated in it’s day, and it still feels just like it did when it first came out, whatever that feeling is for you.


Well, I’m agitated now. But tomorrow we go to a grossly underrated artist, #283: Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake. That oughta make me feel better. Fuck, I’m gonna be pissed for the entire day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#168: My Aim Is True- Elvis Costello

Listened to: MP3

Here it is, the debut of one of the most unique voices in music. A “punk” who played pop. A rock singer who couldn’t sing. Here, the man we on this blog met first on This Year’s Model can be heard as the world first heard him. So let’s dive on in, shall we?

The album kicks off on “Welcome To The Working Week”, a powerfully charged rock song with an intro reminiscent of a Buddy Holly track. Picture a Weezer without the tongue pressed firmly in cheek. This short little ditty smoothly transitions into “Miracle Man”, a swinging song in the same vain as the previous track, with lyrics that are classic Costello: “Don’t you know that walking on water won’t make me a miracle man.”.

The whole album takes on the feel of classic 50’s rock, even in it’s most popular track, the lamenting ballad “Alison”, and it’s a true joy to listen to, and not really to analyze. I know that sounds like a cop out, but let’s face it, no one’s reading this, and I’m kind of doing this for my own sanity (or deterioration of ), and while I can pick apart and pontificate on albums like the Slim Shady LP or Metallica, something like My Aim Is True is just a great collection of songs fitting a certain tone, and should be appreciated as such. Please listen and enjoy.


Next, we take a look at #414: Greatest Hits by James Brown.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#434: Outlandos d’Amour- The Police

Listened to: MP3
Ah. Finally, we enter the realm of one of the classic wordsmiths, Sting. The Police are one of those bands I keep forgetting I love, and Outlandos d’Amour contains a lot of the tracks that show why I love them. Tracks that have bleak lyrics set to upbeat, fun melodies (I try and do the same with my own music. Perhaps I fail, certainly compared to Sting, but regardless).

The album starts with “Next To You”, which may sound nothing like the Police you or I are used to, but believe it or not, this was their early sound. They considered themselves punk, and so you get this, what sounds like The Police covering a Bon Scott-era AC/DC track. It’s a fun track, but all the lyrical finesse I praised in the opening paragraph…yeah, just wait for the next one. “So Lonely” is a track by a suicidal Bob Marley, with happy reggae chords an beats, filled with lyrics like “Now no-one's knocked upon my door/For a thousand years, or more/All made up and nowhere to go/Welcome to this one man show/Just take a seat, they're always free/No surprise, no mystery/In this theatre that I call my soul/I always play the starring role, so lonely”. You can’t help but find yourself dancing to how lonely Sting is. No song this upbeat should be this bleak, and no white British guy should sound like he’s from Jamaica, and yet Sting and the boys make both of these work.

The next track is one of their most popular, “Roxanne”, the catchiest song about a hooker since Lou Reed. Though I can no longer hear this song without thinking of this:

let’s ignore that for a moment and focus on the song itself. It’s gonna one of the best simple guitar parts, a catchy hook, and don’t act like you don’t howl out the “Rooooooooooxanne” when you’re alone. Come on, admit it. It’s on a track like this, when the guitar, the bass, the drums all come together in pure mastery that you realize what a titanic force the Police were. They were all the masters of their instruments, and Sting somehow can be a geek (come on, he’s a skinny bookworm) and still be totally cool (take notes, Rivers Cuomo).

“Hole In My Life” takes on a jazzier feel, with backing vocals lifted from Sly & The Family Stone (I mean it feels that way, not that he actually lifts the vocals). It plays like a reject from Aimee Mann’s Magnolia soundtrack (am I the only one that hears “Momentum” in this?) and I mean that in the best way possible. We’re all used to listening to a classic album, and finding out the tracks we didn’t already know suck. But Outlandos doesn’t have that problem. It seems to me the unknown tracks could just as easily be Police classics as the radio staples. “Peanuts”, for example, is just as alive as the most upbeat Police track you can name, and ought to have gotten far more attention than it did, and hell, it probably would have if people didn’t forget it as soon as they heard the next track, the absolutely brilliant “Can’t Stand Losing You”.

The finest suicide note put to music after “God Only Knows”, “Can’t Stand Losing You” is another classic example of Police brilliance, blending the bleakest lyrics with he catchiest melody. You find yourself singing along with “But you’ll be sorry when I’m dead and all this guilt will be on your head” long before you process what you’re actually saying. “Truth Hits Everybody” might be some of Sting’ finest lyrics writing. The words read like a poem:
“Sleep lay behind me like a broken ocean
Strange waking dreams before my eyes unfold
You lay there sleeping like an open doorway
I stepped outside myself and felt so cold
Take a look at my new toy
It'll blow your head in two, oh boy”
Why this song isn’t higher praised in the pantheon of The Police is beyond me. I’ll go out and say this is, to me, the best track on the album. Its got a great hook, fun instrumentals, it’s got the punk roots blended with their new found late 70’s sensibility. Listen to the incorporation of bells and other unusual sounds, so subtle and yet they bring a whole new dimension to this simplistically gorgeous track.

“Born In The 50’s” is the kind of nostalgia track better left to Springsteen and McLean. The only under-whelming track on this album, while I love Sting’s vocals on this track, and the music isn’t terrible, it reads like a cheap knock-off of “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, and lacks Sting’s usual poetic voice, which only shines through on one line, “We freeze like statues on the pages of history”.

So, remember “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” on Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure? Remember what that was about? Well, spoiler alert, that’s what this song is about. What sounds like a simple, catchy love song can’t be that if you’ve paid attention to any Police music. The chorus cuts out and goes to a simple spoken word poem about purchasing a blow-up doll. This is one of the coolest tracks no one’s heard, like Tom Waits’ “What’s He Building In There?” for the pervy set, book ended by a typical catchy Police chorus. Any frustration I had at the cheap simplicity of “Born in the 50’s” is eradicated by the simple brilliance of this track.

The album ends on “Masoko Tanga”, a song that seems to predict the future, more experimental sound of The Police, with instrumentals that sound more Talking Heads than punk. Come on, the dude’s just chanting and doing Caribbean curses. There are no lyrics. He’s just playing, jamming with hi band like a great jazz man.

This album had ought to prove Sting is a master of his craft, creating both catchy poip like “Next To You” and “So Lonely” and branching out and experimenting with tracks like the final two. I have no qualms at all with it’s place on the list. Is it revolutionary? Well, maybe not, but it’s sure as hell great to listen to, and I encourage you to do just that. It’s one of the better way to kill a half hour.


Next up we have #168: My Aim Is True by the one-of-a-kind Elvis Costello.

#131: Saturday Night Fever- Various Artists (but mostly the BeeGees)

Listened to: Vinyl
Love it or hate it, this album was Victor Frankenstein to disco. An annoying, short lived dance-craze was resurrected, stronger than before as soon as Travolta strolled down a Brooklyn sidewalk to “Stayin’ Alive”. The lyrics on most of these songs are dreadful, the music itself saccharinely sickening, and synthed into tomorrow. Yet it is pure pop mastery. Every track on this album could be a hit, and it’s a time capsule of the grossest side of the 70’s. Also, not gonna lie, once and a while it can be fun. Tracks like “Jive Talkin”, “A Fifth of Beethoven”, and “Boogie Shoes” are just the highlights of an album that knows what it does right and pushes it to the end. You can praise it or vilify it, but it IS disco. There’s no need for any other album on this list form the genre. This is disco, filtered down to the cream of the crop, even though most of the tracks are original compositions. I can’t sing it’s praises, because I for one never sniffed some coke, slapped on a white suit, and got wrapped up in the “Night Fever”, but I’ll keep this review short and sweet by saying that, if you’re open minded, this album will at least be for you what it is for me, an undeniably impressive achievement in a genre I could care less about. Give it a listen, it’s without a doubt a classic, even if it ain’t your jam.


Next up, #434: Outlandos D'Amor by The Police. See ya there.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

#239: Let It Be- The Replacements

Listened to: MP3
Now, let me start off by saying I know nothing of The Replacements work. What attracts me to this album is the sheer ballsy-ness, the sheer audacity of naming their album “Let It Be”, simply to show that nothing is sacred, and The Beatles are just another band. These cats seem like true punk rock, in the sense of constantly spitting in the face of expectations, even within the punk scene. I mean, check this quote, their comments on how punks “thought that's what they were supposed to be standing for, like 'Anybody does what they want' and 'There are no rules' [...] But there were rules and you couldn't do that, and you had to be fast, and you had to wear black, and you couldn't wear a plaid shirt with flares ... So we'd play the DeFranco Family, that kind of shit, just to piss 'em off.”

So, without further ado, let’s kick off this album, and see if their talent lives up to their attitude, shall we? We open on “I Will Dare”, a song featuring Peter Buck of R.E.M. on guitar, a fun, poppy song that I can bet went over real well with their hardcore fan base. The song’s title is in reference to their attitude, said Paul Westerberg. “We'll dare to flop [. . .] We'll dare to do anything.” I find it almost hard to believe this is 80’s music, mainly because it’s so daring in it’s simplicity and fun. Indie ass-clowns, you’re welcome. From one track, it’s already obvious that without this album, you’d have nothing. It’s like an upbeat Cure, or a more melodic Echo and the Bunnymen. “Favorite Thing” comes even more alive, showing there’s still a bit of punk in these guys, rocking out on a track that feels like a more dance-friendly Clash. Paul Westerberg lets out this epic yell towards the end of this track, and if by time you get to that part, if you aren’t pogo-ing, you’ve lost your sense of fun.

“We’re Comin’ Out” is pure punk joy. Frenetic, fun, wailing screams, and instrumentals that seem to bridge the gap between The Stooges and The Walkmen. The mid-point drop out to the snaps, however, changes the whole game. Right when you’re getting into the heavy riffs, they trip you up and show they’re more than just riffs with names. The song is without a doubt one of the most structurally innovative songs of it’s day, simply for proving the versatility of punk. If X is 80’s punk purity, The Replacements used this album to prove punk’s maturity. “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”’s drum part can’t not remind listeners of The Clash, and I mean that in the best way possible, especially with a guitar part that far exceeds anything I can remember from The Clash.

“Androgynous” feels more like a Roxy Music track than anything else on the album, but it’s kind of grimly jangly. Like a peppy Tom Waits, especially when you read the lyrics. We’re 5 tracks in, and I’m a Replacements fan, folks, especially after the off-key piano ending. “Black Diamond” totally changes the mood, with The Replacements doing their interpretation of a song by none other than Kiss. Yeah, ‘cause that seems like an obvious combination. Now, ya’ll know I’m a big Kiss fan (Jones Beach 2010, baby!) but let me tell you, these cats do a fantastic cover. There’s a real power to it, especially Westerberg’s howling vocals. Of course, right after a powerful track like that, they toy with us again, moving into a mellow guitar intro to “Unsatisfied”, with jangling guitars like Johnny Marr. After this track, I’m sold that Paul Westerberg is a genius. Listen to those gritty wails as he howls out “I’m so…unsatisfied!”.

We move into upbeat turf again with “Seen Your Video”, an instrumental track (until the last 30 seconds), a first for punk music I believe (I could be wrong), especially one that feels so authentically punk (ok, with a bit of 80’s jangling). You can’t deny the innovation these guys display, going from the Miles-Davis-Clash hybrid of “Seen Your Video” to the New York Dolls-esque “Gary’s Got A Boner”, a passion fueled pure punk track. “Sixteen Blue” might be my favorite track so far, just because it’s the kind of track I’d want to use in a movie. I visualize kids dancing at a prom, you know like how every TV show and Filmmaker pretends their prom played awesome music like this instead of “Umbrella”. Though does anybody else notice Paul sounds kind of like Tom Petty on this track?

The album ends on “Answering Machine”, a track on which the vocal production Paul sounds so Pixies-esque I know what I’m listening to next, and it has my favorite lyrics on the album. “How do you say I miss you to/An answering machine?/How do you say good night to/An answering machine?/How do you say I'm lonely to/An answering machine?” By the end, the repeating “If you need help…” proves these men are brilliant.

All in all, I could not have expected an album as strikingly brilliant as this. This may be one of the golden calves of the set, but unlike some of their other “classics”, I totally dig this. #239 is far too low a number for something a sharp, exciting and diverse as this album, and it’s certainly worth not just one, but multiple listens.


Next up, we tackle #131: Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, mostly by The BeeGees. See you there, whenever that is.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

#317: The Eminem Show- Eminem

Listened to: MP3
Ok, so it’s been a while, but let’s kick things off right with what some people argue to be Eminem’s best album, The Eminem Show. The album opens with the eerie tones of a soft piano, like a Danny Elfman score, on the first skit “Curtain Up”, and moves into one of Eminem’s most political and dark songs, “White America”. “America, hahaha, we love you, how many people are proud to be citizens of this beautiful/Country of ours, the stripes and the stars for the rights that men have died for to protect,/The women and men who have broke their neck's for the freedom of speech the United States/Government has sworn to uphold, or/(Yo', I want everybody to listen to the words of this song) so we're told…”. Clearly the demons that haunted Marshal so much on Marshall Mathers LP are still here, but from the get go, the album is much more cynical. While tackling the same subject as songs like “The Real Slim Shady”, except now he seems resigned to being vilified, rather than trying to defend himself. “I/ Could be one of your kids, white America, little Eric looks just like this, white America, Erica/Loves my shit, I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get…” From the clown prince of rap to the martyr Marshall, Em enters his third stage on this album, defeated but defiant nonetheless.

The second track, “Business”, features Em taking the bleak, dark tone from the first track and carrying it through to an attack on the rap industry of the time, playing he and Dre as a Batman and Robin taking on the Joker (Insane Clown Posse). Even if you’re not feeling the rhymes on these first two tracks, it’s impressive to note that all the songs of homicide and violence on Slim and Marshall, and yet in two tracks, with rarely a mention of bloodshed, this album takes on a far darker tone than either of those albums as a whole. The third track proves to be one of the most personal Em has ever done, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”. All the pain that had been accrued in his lifetime, he spits it all out on this track. It’s bleak, hopeless, repentant, and even if he’s sarcastic when he says he “never meant to hurt” his mama, you can’t help but hear the apologetic tinge on this track that would later seep from albums like Relapse and more prominently Recovery. While not as catchy or fun as some of his more well known hits, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is one of his most intimate and finest tracks.

“Square Dance” opens with an accordion worthy of the band of corpses from Nightmare Before Christmas, and moves into one of Slim’s scariest tracks (seriously, listen to this with the lights out and try not to feel creeped out). Set aside the bleak, bizarre sounding chorus worthy of being on mixed in with “Revolution #9”, lyrics like:

“Oh yeah don't think I won't go there,/Go to the Beirut and do a show there/Yeah you laugh till your motherfuckin' ass gets drafted,/While you're at band camp thinkin' the crap can't happen,/Till you fuck around,/Get an anthrax napkin,/Inside a package wrapped in saran Wrap wrapping,/Open the plastic and then you stand back gasping,/Fuckin' assassins hijackin' Amtracks crashing,/All this terror America demands action,/Next thing you know you've got Uncle Sam's ass askin'/To join the army or what you'll do for there Navy.” are about as bleak as it can get in the post-9/11 world Em (and the rest of us) had inherited in 2003. “The Kiss (Skit)” finally has Em interjecting some humor into an overall somber album, and smoothly leads into “Soldier”, where finally Em’s rhythm become the focal point of the song, his violent, rapid fire spitting jutting out from the music (while I admire the earlier, more blended tracks, I kinda like the way Em’s rhymes can cut like a razor in the air when pulled from the beat, you know?). The fact is, though, that even this track, which rhythmically and beat-wise sounds like it could fit on any other album, is much more intricately produced. It’s one of the few rap albums I’ve heard to create a sounds cape, like Brain Eno’s another Green World if it were ghetto and grim. Listen to the marching, even the chimes towards the end. There’s a dark beauty to these tracks. The next track, “Sayin’ Goodbye To Hollwood” keeps that dark tone, even though it gets bouncier and lyrically has the feel of something off of Slim Shady LP. “Drips” is under whelming, considering the quality of every track before it. On another album, perhaps Slim, this would have been good, but mixed in with all these dark personal tracks, Obie Trice’s explicitly and unnecessarily specific sexual rap (seriously, it’s kinda terrible) just feels horribly out of place.

Of course, this brings us to the lead single off of the album, “Without Me”. Every Eminem album (besides Recovery) has one of these “time capsule” tracks. Em taking his Slim Shady persona to it’s clowniest, creating a classic video in sharp, brilliant color and zany, high speed antics. These are the tracks that every casual listener remembers, that we know all the words to, but that in the grand scheme of the album, don’t really fit with the tone. Watch this video:

Does this really fit with the album’s feel? The rest of the album (thus far, at least) feels like something more at home with Francis Bacon or Dariusz Wolski rather than this kind of wordplay and color.

But let’s set aside it’s lack of purpose in the album’s theme, and appreciate how fantastically catchy the track is. It’s without a doubt one of Em’s most memorable and most fun, and is definitely in the back of any of my generation’s minds, as we all knew “The FCC won’t let me be” etc. by heart. The next track is a skit, “Paul Rosenberg”, of our beloved Paul from the last album returning once again via phone call to inform Em to leave his guns at home. I guess it goes here as a way to sort of reduce the silliness a bit to lead into one of my favorite Eminem tracks, and indeed one of his most serious and biting, the Aerosmith sampling “Sing For The Moment”, featuring Perry and Tyler themselves.

The first time I heard this song was in 7th grade health class, when we studied the lyrics to this track (as well as “Civil War” by Guns N’ Roses because the teacher was chill like that) to discuss violence in the media. “In the land of the killers, a sinners mind is a sanctum” is really a line that strikes the listener, and makes them wonder if Em’s statement that he’s not very smart is in fact selling himself extremely short. One of the few rap songs I know that I’m certain has to be amazing live with a full band, “Sing For The Moment” is undeniably one of Em’s best, one of his most passionate and pointed, and definitely deserved a better video than it got. Plus, that Joe Perry guitar solo at the end just proves that man can tear it up in any genre.

“Superman” is sorta…bland. It’s an examination of his past relationships, but the misogyny oft complained about in Eminem songs is out on this track in full effect, and a lot stronger and seemingly more unnecessary. Yeah, this is one of those tracks I tend to skip over on this album. “Hailie’s Song” brings it all back, though, as Em analyzes his family life, it really lets the listener into Em’s emotional state. It’s mellow, somber and caring, plus it’s nice to hear him sing (he’s not that bad at all). Apparently he never performs it live, but he had ought to. It’s quite touching to hear him sing and rap with love about his daughter. Hailie has been mentioned on several tracks, but it seems like now on this track she’s no longer just a lyric, but a real part of his life.

After “Hailie’s Song”, we have the return of my favorite recurring character, “Steve Berman”. Em and Steve’s interactions are always a highlight for me, and this short segment involving Em shooting Steve (which is referenced later on Relapse) is a nice bit of fun before “When The Music Stops”, a dark track in keeping with the tone of the first half, as bouncing as “Square Dance” but far more intense and featuring some great guest rappers. “Say What You Say” brings in Em’s mentor Dr. Dre to join him for the track, and while it’s a decent enough beat, the track feels sort of empty when listened to in the grand scheme of the album, and is so forgettable I’m sure most people only listen to this track when putting on the CD and not having the energy to reach for skip. “Till I Collapse” switches of Dre for Nate Dogg, and as one can tell from the get go, is the superior track of the two. The stomp-clap combo (a la “We Will Rock You”) the fury from the rhymes Em spits, that soundscape I so praised at the start of the album, Nate’s perfect vocal hook, it all comes together here to create a brilliantly intense track that is often forgotten from this album but indeed deserves far more attention than it got.

“My Daddy’s Gone Crazy” is by far one of the most unsettling tracks on the album, because of his “touching” incorporation of Hailie (yeah, that’s his daughter’s voice). It’s such a fun track, and it’s nice to hear a girl whose gone through so much turmoil in her life having fun, and I guess this is Em’s answer to “Take Your Daughter To Work Day”, but the truth is I don’t know how great this track would be if Hailie wasn’t on on it. Yet she is, so I’ll admit it’s catchy and fun. This is the final track on the album not counting “Curtain Close”, and I gotta be honest, it’s a good way to end it.

The Eminem Show is undoubtedly one of his best, possibly his best (though personally I’m a little partial to Marshall Mathers LP). It’s got a dark tone and a serious purpose, it shows a maturing artist at the peak of his game, tackling all his problems in stride and producing some of his greatest hits (Em produced virtually the whole album). Nobody summarized this album better than Q Magazine (May, 2006), who said “His two first albums aired dirty laundry, then the world's most celebrated rapper examined life in the hall of mirrors he'd built for himself.” After this album, all of us eagerly awaited Encore, when Em would achieve even greater musical prowess and fill our radios with incredible tracks. And we certainly weren’t let down at all, right? Who didn’t love “Just Lose It”? Right? Right? Anyone? Yeah, it’s all downhill from here in his ouvre, kiddies.

The fact is, if you’re in any way a fan of rap, you probably have already heard this. If not, be sure to seek it out. It’s also by far Em’s most accessible album, so for those of you with weak stomach’s and virgin ears and you wanna get into Mr. Mather’s masterwork, this would be the place to start.


Next up (who knows when that will be, though) is a drastic change of tone, #239: Let It Be by The Replacements.

Friday, September 10, 2010

#3: Revolver- The Beatles

Listened to: CD

The wikipedia article can sing this album’s praises and historical significances much better than I can, and I don’t feel like regurgitating facts for two pages. So I’ll just speak personally. When I first heard that infamous “1...2...3...4” I though “what did I just get myself in to?” (I was a freshman in high school, what do you want?) But as soon as “Taxman” begins, anyone listening knows how this sounds nothing like anything before or after. This is undoubtedly one of the finest studio achievements of any album, with The Beatles playing with sounds that ushered in a psychedelic era just as much as anything brewed by Owsley Stanley. “Taxman” is George Harrison’s compositional rant against his charges of tax evasion (he’d later us the same technique for “This Song” in his solo career). This brilliant electric rock opener is followed by one of Paul’s finest pieces, “Eleanor Rigby”, which for me is inseparable from the animated sequence from Yellow Submarine.

This song features some of the best harmonies the Beatles ever recorded, the orchestration is beautiful, and the way Paul laments never ceases to pull at every listener’s heart strings. But before you feel too sad, John charges in with his cheery, surreal sounding “I’m Only Sleeping”, where you can just tell he played that soundboard like an instrument, with all those twisted and reversed sounds decorating the instrumentation. “Love You To” is George’s second song on the album (normally he’d only get one or two, but fittingly since this is the most George-sounding album in general, he gets three on this one), and shows the heavy Indian-influence George was going through at the time, using a sitar as the primary instrument. Psychedelic, surreal, and fanciful, “Love You To” models itself not after American rock or British pop, but Eastern music, particularly the music of Ravi Shankar, who taught Harrison sitar. This extremely experimental song is followed up by one of the most traditional songs of the Beatles later career, so obviously, if it’s saccharinely poppy, you know it’s a McCartney special. “Here, There and Everywhere” is SO pop, so simple, so relaxed that I would anticipate somebody as hip and avant-garde as Lennon would despise it. However, Lennon adored it, declaring in in 1980 (in his famous Playboy interview shortly before his death) one of the Beatles best songs.

Of course, there’s pop, then there’s just absurd, childish fun. Cue Ringo Starr with “Yellow Submarine”, a silly little song about…well, a yellow submarine. And yes, yes I did hear Ringo sing this live. I am proud. Come on, it’s catchy and fun. Besides, it’s so absurd it just has to be embraced. Plus, when you’re about to be hit with the head-trip of “She Said, She Said”, just need to kick back in silly simplicity for a moment.

“She Said, She Said” might be my favorite track on the album. To me, the world always seems to bend and whirl when this track comes on, even when I’m not on acid. But really, that to me is why the song is special. It’s about loving a girl, and her love doesn’t get you high, it makes you trip. And that’s what I dig. Everybody wants a girl like heroin, coursing through their veins. I want one like acid, who’ll feed my head. And this track, for me, is all about that, and not some off-handed comment by Peter Fonda (I may be interpreting the song wrong, and if I am, don’t correct me. Allow me one of my favorite songs untainted by truth).

“Good Day Sunshine” is one of the most cheerful songs The Beatles have ever written. It’s pure pop….Yep, Paul did it. The harmonies are rich, the song is bouncy and fun, allowing you to recover from “She Said, She Said”. Plus, after many a listen, you really start to appreciate Ringo’s precision. Just sayin’. “And Your Bird Can Sing” is a return to The Beatles early-rock sound, but enhanced by a studio sound of psychedelia. It’s a highly underrated Beatles track, and when I first heard it, I remember thinking the double-guitar-melody was one of the coolest things ever. And I still do.

“For No One” is surprisingly springy for a song so lyrically bleak, and Paul’s voice lilts and lingers on notes with the gentility of a French Horn (like the one that comes in ever so briefly on this track). This one is another one of my favorites on this album, and one of those Beatles songs that, no matter how stripped down it is, is still brilliant. “Doctor Robert” is one of the best songs about a drug-dealer after “I’m Waiting For The Man”, and is a drug-fueled redo of the early Beatles sound on the verses, but that chorus, the organ-backed Church-choir-esque feel always sends chills down my spine. “I Want To Tell You” is the track everyone always forgets is on this album. It’s George’s last on the record, and his most conventional. It’s catchy, fun, and yet still a little mind-bending with the way Harrison swoops through the nights, seemingly drifting through a million thoughts all pouring from his brain through his lips.

“Got To Get You Into My Life” is a special song, in the sense that it might be the only song by The Beatles where I like a cover version better (Earth, Wind & Fire owned this baby). But this is a great track, a brilliant soul song from four white English guys. Plus, you gotta love the brass section, and the trippy guitar solo. The album closes with the most psychedelic and mind-bending track on the album, “Tomorrow Never Knows”. “trun off your mind, relax, and float down stream” could have been the slogan of the 60’s, and John went wild on this track, filling it with consciousness-expanding sounds that set you on edge in a twistedly beautiful soundscape. I mean, who the hell thinks to record their vocals through an organ amp? A genius, that’s who. And this track, hell this whole album, ought to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that’s what Mr. Lennon, and indeed The Beatles as a whole, were.

This album is a masterpiece from start to finish, and absolutely deserving of the #3 spot on this list. Some of the greatest songs ever written are on this album, and it expands your mind while feeding your soul. No one can argue this isn’t an absolutely flawless album, well, they can, but not well. It’s almost irrefutable that this is one of the great achievements in musical history, and an album that will be remembered for centuries, if we have any hope for the human race. You absolutely must, MUST listen to this album if you haven’t already. Pure genius from start to finish.


Next up, a very different album, about as far from psychedelic as it can get, but from another artist whom I consider a genius, and one who may have defined his generation as these men defined theirs, for better or worse. Next up is #317: The Eminem Show by Eminem.