My 1000 Favorite Albums – 1968

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If you know your history, 1968 was a very tumultuous year. From the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy to the USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia to the mass murder of protesting students in Mexico to the Civil Rights fight in the USA to the violent demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention to the US black athletes protests before and during the Summer Olympics, there just seemed to have been civil unrest throughout the world. Dylan had put succinctly when he sang that the times were a-changing. And, the music of the time reflected what was happening.

Basically, not unlike today, we were witnessing a clash of ideas. Would the society continue down a road of progressive ideas or would it tighten things up and attempt to put everything back into an order that made people feel comfortable? As we now know, it was the latter. Today, it seems to be working in the opposite direction, especially here in the States: will society be every man (or woman) for himself (herself), or will we find a unity?

In 1968, the music reflected much of the same thought. On one hand, you have The Beatles looking backward a bit, giving each member a side to express his creative needs, all the while, The Velvet Underground were moving forward into a new frontier. And, in between those extremes were all kinds of mixed signals. For example, many conservatives were comforted by Johnny Cash’s reemergence although he was speaking to progressive ideas. Similarly, liberals were taken by the music of Bob Dylan proteges The Band’s music but missing the whole expression of the angst felt by people throughout the American South.

Now, with over 50 years of hindsight, we can truly put the finest music of that year into some proper prospective, with the romanticism that will infect my era of 1975 through 1995. At least I can admit that. Perhaps, that is what will always make rock music so great is that it will appeal to the young so viscerally. Once day, it will take my boys to put my era’s music in proper perspective since I am probably too close to it. And, that, my friends, is the way it should be done.

Anyway, let’s do this thing!

5.24 Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (1968). Aretha took the title of the Queen of Soul with this album. Much as she had done with “Respect,” Franklin re-imagined Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” into a woman’s power moment. By taking a simple pop song and turning it into a sexually-charged statement of woman empowerment, Franklin put her foot down that she was not going to take it anymore. And the whole album, as well as her career trajectory, followed suit.

5.24 Big Brother & the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills (1968). After the band burst onto the scene during the previous year’s Monterrey Pop Festival, much was expected by this San Francisco psychedelic blues band. Fronting the band was a talented but hard-living leather-lunged blues belter named Janis Joplin. And, the musicians were no slouches either. With songs like “Piece of My Heart” and “Ball and Chain” anchoring the album, it seemed obvious that Janis’ star was going to eclipse her band, for better or for worse.

5.24 Blood, Sweat & Tears - Child Is Father to the Man

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father to the Man (1968). In the post-Sgt. Pepper rock world, all ideas were on the table. The Moody Blues and Procol Harum ushered in a thing called progressive, or prog, rock. Now, musicians were seeking to incorporate elements of all kinds of music into their sound. So, when keyboardist Al Kooper put together BS&T, he was out to mix elements of the blues, rock, classical and jazz into his band’s sound. And, in doing so, BS&T set the stage for a commercial juggernaut called Chicago. Unfortunately, Kooper did not stick around for the huge commercial success that was in store for the band.

5.24 Jeff Beck Group - Truth

Jeff Beck Group – Truth (1968). After Clapton’s success with Cream, the reputation of The Yardbirds’ ghost got a further boost upon the release of this album. Beck build the foundation for the heavy rock sound that his fellow former Yardbird guitarist graduate Jimmy Page would ride in Led Zeppelin. Furthering Beck’s reputation was his discovery of future Faces and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and vocalist extraordinaire Rod Stewart. This group did everything that Zep became famous for a whole year earlier by using a thunderous rhythm section and a re-imagining of Willie Dixon blues numbers into a proto-heavy metal sound. Simply think of a pre-cheesy Rod Stewart fronting the Zep with a guitarist who can literally make a guitar sound any way he wants, and you have the Jeff Beck Group.

5.24 Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968). Next to Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback, this is rock’s second greatest return to form. Before this album, Cash was a down-and-out drug addict was creatively adrift. However, it was letters from prisoners and other so-called losers in life who revived Cash’s musical passion. He realized that he spoke for all the outcasts in the world. So, he started his comeback by recording this album in the very prison he once sang about. The great thing is that the prisoners’ reactions are real and sincere, not doctored. And, of course, Johnny was simply badass. This album is rock music stripped to its renegade essence, even though it appealed to the country crowd. I often wonder if the general population actually heard his lyrics.

5.24 Laura Nyro - Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968). I must confess that I was originally pissed when I read that Laura Nyro was being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a performer and not a songwriter. Honestly, I LOVE all of the 5th Dimension and Three Dog Night versions of her songs, like “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Eli’s Comin'” and, most spectacularly, “Wedding Bell Blues.” Then, I heard this album, and all that vitriol was removed. This is the point where the confessional singer/songwriter genre was born. Nyro’s vocal and lyrical honesty are accompanied by minimal music landscapes that do two things. First, it enhances her sound, and, second, nods to the greatness of Leonard Cohen’s debut album the year before.

5.24 Simon and Garfunkel - Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (1968). Oh, Paul Simon, you sly little booger! When I was a teen, I wrote your stuff off as easy listening crap. Then, as I hit my twenties, I thought, “My God! This man is brilliant!” How could you do that to me? Oh, how insidious you are to draw my parents into your music, yet use your lyrics to influence us youngsters. You must be sitting with Lorne Michaels, just knowing how you two did not change YOUR generation, but MINE! Sure, my five-year-old self LOVED “Mrs. Robinson” yet was not ready for the very same cynicism I would one day feel about this country all ready expressed by you in “America.” Then, you let The Bangles redo “A Hazy Shade of Winter” to be used in a film indicting my generation’s initial run from taking reigns of society, Less Than Zero. You have always been twenty steps ahead of everyone when the ignorant actually believe you are a couple of decades behind. Better late than never!

5.24 The Band - Music from Big Pink

The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968). I will never be able to sing the praises of The Band loud enough. These five men were the most individually talented men, with three of them able to handle lead vocals. And, when they sang together, it was never in harmony, but as if each voice were straining to take the reigns of the song from the other members, much like their vocal heroes The Staple Singers. And how does four Canadians and an American from the South create the definitive sound of a genre we now call Americana? They will go on to perfect this sound on their next album, but the groundwork was completed here. This album includes their version of the Dylan standard “I Shall Be Released,” with some of the most heartbreaking vocals by Richard Manuel, and the legendary “The Weight,” during which Levon Helms and Rick Danko trade leads. What a debut album!

5.24 The Beatles - The Beatles

The Beatles – The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’) (1968). Recently, Todd Rundgren stated that this album was the least Beatle album. And, he meant that this was the sound of the band at its most estranged, with each member playing as a backing band for the other. Camaraderie is dead on this album. And, it you throw out some of the stupid songs (“Rock Raccoon”) and the experimental montages (“Revolution #9”), you might have a decent album. But, to my ears, this is a case of “more is more,” not necessarily quality. But, when the boys are on, they are transcendent, such as George’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or Paul’s Beach Boys ode “Back in the USSR.” Still, it’s The Beatles, so it is a major statement.

5.24 The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968). The Byrds were ready to spread their wings, so to speak, and move on from the folk rock sound they helped birth. So, they turned to Gram Parsons, visionary leader of the country rock innovators The International Submarine Band, who helped the band move toward said sound. Parsons had joined the band to replace a departed David Crosby. While many maintain Parsons exerted his creative control over the band, that wasn’t the case as future McGuinn and Hillman projects all had that country rock sound. This album set the stage for the highs of other Parsons projects, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his solo career, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as the more poppish sounds of the Eagles.

5.24 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968). This was Hendrix most visionary album, period. On it, you hear Hendrix taking the blues in all sorts of directions that would influence disparate artists like George Clinton’s Parliafunkadelicment Empire, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince, Rick James, Earth, Wind & Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers, to mention but a few. For my money, this is the Hendrix album to own.

5.24 The Kinks - The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968). While this album lacks the big hit song that will be remembered for perpetuity, this just might be the band’s most cohesive album statement. This album has taught me more about a romanticized English life than any book every could evoke. That’s what makes this album such a delightful listening.

5.24 The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968). After a quick detour through some psychedelic crap, The Stones rediscovered their Chuck Berry/Blues-influenced sound, embraced a huge dose of darkness to plow a path into their most creatively satisfying period. And it all begins on this albums first track, the tongue-in-cheek “Sympathy for the Devil.” That track sets the tone that The Stones were ready to take rock into a new, more dangerous direction. If the opening track didn’t warn you, then everyone’s ears perked upon their first listen to their eternal paean to social unrest “Street Fighting Man.” The gauntlet had finally been thrown down that the youth were not settling for the status quo.

5.24 The Small Faces - Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

The Small Faces – Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (1968). Everyone was making a psychedelic album back then, so why shouldn’t The Small Faces? But this album is not just another concept album, it is a masterpiece of the moment. Maybe, it’s impact has been lost over time, as Sgt. Pepper and even Tommy have established themselves as the anchors of a Mount Rushmore of the concept album. But this forgotten gem should be unearthed and given new life. Like its brother of a different mother, The Village Green Preservation Society, it tells the story of British life that never really happened. The album is packed with terrific songs, though “Lazy Sunday” remains my personal favorite.

5.24 The Velvet Underground - White Light White Heat

The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1968). So, in 1967, The Velvets invented punk rock. Here, the band jettisons Nico and subsequently invents post-punk rock. There is nothing else that I can say about this album. Of course, it barely sold any copies until my generation of musicians heard it. It’s dark, scary, abrasive yet beautiful, all at the same time.

5.24 The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle

The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (1968). Talk about a slow-burner, this album was delayed until the band had broken up and never really found an appreciative audience until LA’s Paisley Underground scene gave the album its due in the mid-Eighties. And, now, it is considered a classic of baroque pop and rock. Best remembered for the sexy hit song “Time of the Season,” this album is actually one of the best things of the Sixties. I cannot oversell it.

5.24 Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968). No one bought this album back in the day. It had NO hit songs. No one played it on the radio. Yet, today, this is considered to be Van Morrison’s greatest musical statement. So, what gives? This mystical blend of jazz, rock, Celtic and soul music it a beautiful statement. This IS art. Listen to it out in the country, in the deep woods, on the beach, in your bedroom. I don’t care! Just like to it as a more vanilla version of this sound will become elevator Muzak and New Age music (is there really a difference?) but long after the essence of this music has been removed. Even though I feel asleep to this album EVERY damn time, it’s not because it’s horrible or boring. Nay! It’s beautiful, relaxing and pastoral. Everyone I have recommended this to has said the same thing.

See you later!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, 1967

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Okay! The headline is a bit of misnomer, since I did cover two important albums from the year known as the Summer of Love. 1967 has been romanticized into some mystical time, and maybe it really was. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge. Being a cynic, I tend to think not, but there was a plethora of great albums released that year. Some of those albums are artifacts of that year, while others were transcendent. Some are even probably more known for their cultural impact than the actual music.

1967 was a watershed moment for album-based music as FM radio stations began to pop up around the country to play this music that was never meant for AM pop radio. So, in many ways the year was revolutionary in many ways. Regardless of its true place in history, here are the rest of my favorite albums from that year.

5.22 Cream - Disraeli Gears

Cream – Disraeli Guns (1967). Every subsequent power trio, from The Jimi Hendrix Experience to Rush to Triumph, must give a nod to this band. Disraeli Guns is the album in which these three musical visionaries, put aside their volatile chemistry and created some fine rock music, especially on “Strange Brew” and “White Room.”

5.22 Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Is it just me, or as the years go by, does the stature of Leonard Cohen only increase? With some many songwriters being touted as poets over the years, especially Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Smokey Robinson, for my money, Leonard Cohen is the only one who can truly be called a poet. Several of his most classic songs can be found here, like “Suzanne” and “Sisters of Mercy.” Cohen’s influence will continue to grow.

5.22 Love - Forever Changes

Love – Forever Changes (1967). By 1967, the LA rock scene was dominated by three artists: The Byrds, The Doors and Love. Unfortunately, Love could never really get it together long enough to cash in on their sound. Additionally, Love’s sound is now a bit dated. Yet, when you strip back the Sixties production touches, this album has some terrific music on it. Not that it matters today, but, in a historical sense, Love was one of the first interracial rock bands in the States (Remember that Jimi Hendrix got his start in England and his Experience were British as well.).

5.22 Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). This is NOT the sound of the Seventies Floyd we are all familiar with. This is the original version of the band when Syd Barrett was the creative visionary and guitarist. Many critics have called this version the English version of The Velvet Underground. That’s a bit drastic, but you can discern a little of the future Floyd in the mix. This set is a group of oddball psychedelic pop/rock songs of a band that would one day rule the world.

5.22 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Here’s the granddaddy of all albums. Historically, this album is said to be The Beatles’ response to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and there may be some truth to it all. What it is, though, is an extension of all the studio lessons the boys and producer George Martin had learned over the past two years more than anything. And, as a cultural milestone, it’s impact is unprecedented and unequaled. Musicians have said they immediately pulled off the road just to listen to a radio station play the album. Jimi Hendrix even learned the first two songs on the album to play during his London concert that weekend in front of Lennon and McCartney. For all the praise I give Pet Sounds, I will hold this album just a notched below it regardless of what my older son says. When the world’s biggest band makes a musical leap like they did here, the world stops in its place to listen.

The Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday

The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday (1967). Here we have the best musical statement by the original version of The Byrds. And, quite honestly, this is the album that had to be the biggest influence on the early songwriting of Tom Petty and the sound of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s early guitar sound. If it only contained “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” this album would have been a must-listen. But, throw in their classic cover of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and “Renaissance Fair,” and you have a classic.

5.22 The Doors - The Doors

The Doors – The Doors (1967). People have kind of forgotten that 1967 would not all Day-Glo colors and fun psychedelically-tinged music. No, shortly after Sgt. Pepper was dropped, an alluring yet dark band from the Sunset Boulevard rock scene was unleashing their take on the dark underbelly of hippie-dom. The seductive sounds of “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through” brought The Doors to the masses and changed the course of rock music forever. Now, it may be as easy to dismiss Jim Morrison as it is older Elvis Presley as drunk drugged out caricatures, but Morrison’s impact was sincere at the time. Oh! And did he really drop a F-bomb on “The End”? Yep.

5.22 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967). What a sly little title! Are we talking about sex, drugs or rock & roll? Who cares! And, now we can all forget that “Clapton Is God,” the graffiti written in London back in the Sixties because Hendrix proved to be a guitar deity of a higher level than Clapton. As much as Sgt. Pepper is a cultural milestone, so is this album. And, the rock world has been desperately trying to match Jimi’s virtuosity ever since.

5.22 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis Bold as Love

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love (1967). Do you understand that all three of Hendrix landscape-changing albums were released in a two-year time span? It’s hard to imagine. Unfortunately, Axis tends to be the forgotten album in the trio, yet it is still a terrific LP. This one might be his most ambitious sounding album of all.

5.22 The Kinks - Something Else by the Kinks

The Kinks – Something Else by The Kinks (1967). Ray Davies is quickly becoming the best British songwriter by the time of this release. His keen insight into British working and middle class life is setting a new standard of songwriting for all of rock music. I swear that Pulp’s fantastic 1995 Different Class album is an updated version of this album. “Sunset Waterloo” just might be the most beautiful song Davies has ever written. On the other hand, the original version of “David Watts” is an English standard in rock music, covered most famously by The Jam.

5.22 The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed (1967). Yes, Procol Harum was the first band to integrate classical music tinges to rock, but The Moodys perfected it on this album. This album really made an impact on the American chart about five years later, but it is still a 1967 release and should be honored in that year. Additionally, this album may have been the first album created that HAD to be listened to on headphones. “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” were the songs on FM radio. While I’m thinking about it, when was the last time you heard these songs on classic rock radio. My goodness, rock radio played these all the time in the Seventies and into the Eighties.

5.22 The Mothers of Invention - We're Only in It for the Money

The Mothers of Invention – We’re Only in It for the Money (1967). Leave to Frank Zappa to cynically “take the piss out” of Sgt. Pepper. What a great parody of that album, from the album cover to the music to the lyrical content. I love satire and parody, and this album fills that void in spades. See?!?! Anything is now possible in rock music.

5.22 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground and Nico

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). While the hippies were spouting about peace and love on the West Coast and London was simply swinging, a New York led by Lou Reed, under the artistic guidance of Andy Warhol, was creating a totally new noise with lyrics steeped in realism about drug use, prostitutes, transvestism and other realities in the blight of the Big Apple. This music was so out of step with the moment that Rolling Stone never reviewed it. Others panned it. Yet, as Brian Eno once said, everyone that did buy the album started a band. Now, the album is held in high esteem as it predicted the whole punk movement and the “Do It Yourself” ethos of the late-Seventies and beyond. This album had a delayed cultural impact, and I actually think it is the best album of 1967. Heresy!

5.22 The Who - The Who Sell Out

The Who – The Who Sell Out (1967). Now, initially, this album may have been too English for Americans to understand. A little background is needed. Back in the Sixties, Britain only had one radio station, the BBC (or “The Beeb”). And, they did not play rock music. So, “pirate” radio stations were set up on ships just beyond the English waters, and they broadcast like their American counterparts. This album is a homage to those stations that changed broadcasting history in the UK. That’s why there are those silly commercial parodies located between songs. When you know the context, you can appreciate the sheer brilliance of this album since it is unlike anything before or after. I enjoy this album so much more than Tommy, which gets all the accolades. The Who’s biggest hit until “Who Are You” in 1978, the terrific “I Can See for Miles” is on this one.

When you throw in the Franklin and Dylan albums I listed yesterday, you can understand why 1967 seems to be such a mythical year in the rock pantheon. Things start to get serious with the next entry. Stay tuned!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, Part 3

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Today is Day 3 of the continuing series of my 1000 favorite albums of all-time. Today, we will cover the year 1966 and dip our toes briefly into 1967. Once again, according to my tastes in music, we are building up toward 1967 being a truly transcendent year in music. I continue to assert that the pre-1967 represent a time when great albums were released but, primarily, those years were the domain of the seven-inch single, also known as the “45” because those small records were played at 45 rpm. Albums, or the long-playing 12-inch 33-and-1/3 rpm records, started to become the dominant artform for music around 1967, though the sales lagged just a bit.

To me, vinyl albums have always held something of a magical sway over me that cassettes or CDs never could. Everything about an album fed into the larger-than-life image of the rock star, whereas the other two formats, regardless of the portability, never could replace, no matter how many extra songs they could hold. With a larger canvass, album artists could create their art with eye-popping clarity and daring. By reducing the size of the artful impact, the cassette and CD reduced that impact to nil, which set the stage for a total lack of that artfulness with mp3s, which ushered in a total disregard for the marriage of music and art much like with the 45.

That marriage of the visual and the auditory is what separated rock music from all other forms, in my humble opinion. If you have seen the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, you get that sense of wonder as the young lead character William discovers that very said sense of wonder. I actually remember staring for hours on end at album covers, reading the lyrics and memorizing the credits. That, my friends, is why you will continue to see books being sold that show the greatest album cover art of all-time.

Enough of the poetic waxing! Let’s get to the albums!

5.20 Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966). Not the first double-album to be released during the rock era, but it is the first one on my list. If the truth were to be told, this might be my favorite Dylan album of all, especially since you can find “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35,” “Visions of Johanna,” “I Want You,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “Just like a Woman.”

5.20 Cream - Fresh cream

Cream – Fresh Cream (1966). The debut album of rock’s very first “supergroup” has a little bit dated sound, but there is no denying the power of this trio of super-talented musicians. Throughout the album you can hear the foundation of hard rock being laid by the blues guitar antics of Eric Clapton and the jazz-blues noodlings of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce.

5.20 Otis Redding - Complete & Unbelievable

Otis Redding – Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966). What an absolutely perfect album title! This album IS the dictionary of soul of the Sixties. This album arguably contains Otis’ most enduring soul song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” But that’s not all, as you can hear “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),” “I’m Sick Y’all” and “She Put the Hurt on Me” as well.

5.20 The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966). Pet Sounds is the first perfect album of the rock era. Honestly, no other album has truly stood the test of time as this one has. This is rock as art. Musical historians and musicians alike will hold this album up with the best of Beethoven and Mozart as it was perfectly constructed from the instrumentation to the lyrics to the vocals. Paul McCartney was not speaking in hyperbole when he stated that “God Only Knows” is a perfect song. And, although the album includes “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” this LP is so good in whole that I hate to only point out these three songs. Brian Wilson was so far ahead of the curve that few have caught up with him in the nearly six decades since the release of Pet Sounds.

5.20 The Beatles - Revolver

The Beatles – Revolver (1966). While many people will say that The Beatles’ actual musical response to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, is still a year away from release, I actually believe this album just might be The Fab Four’s greatest musical statement. Revolver actually conveys the very same themes that Pet Sounds tackles lyrically. Both are tackling the stress of becoming an adult, which is why both are so universal in their reach. And, Revolver contains all the types of songs that made The Beatles so compelling in the first place: power pop with “Taxman,” whimsical English points-of-view on “Good Day Sunshine” and baroque Beatles territory on “Here, There and Everywhere.” But, it also has the experimental tracks that display unprecedented growth by the band. First, the use a string quartet as a rhythm section on “Eleanor Rigby” and the loops-and-samples-and-backward-recorded-instruments montage of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

5.20 The Kinks - Face to Face

The Kinks – Face to Face (1966). This album is the forgotten album of the great rock albums of 1966. You see, The Kinks were evolving from the balls-to-the-wall proto-hard rock/metal/punk rock sound to something more English in nature. No longer were they worried about the American market but were committed more to making music that reflected their upbringing in the UK. This is where the beginnings of Paul Weller’s complete career as well as the whole Britpop movement can be heard. Plus, when a song as fantastic as “Sunny Afternoon” can be found on an album, you just gotta hear it all!

5.20 The Monkees - The Monkees

The Monkees – The Monkees (1966). I would bet that at least 8 out of every 10 people around my age, if being honest, will say that The Monkees were their entry drug into rock music. We were too young to care that they had been put together by TV people to cynically cash in on us. They had outstanding songs, regardless of who actually played the instruments, and sold a whole generation of kids on rock music. I cannot emphasize how truly important The Prefab Four were on us. If “(Theme From) The Monkees” didn’t hook us, definitely “Last Train to Clarksville” did. The Monkees are immortal, regardless what the Boomers think.

5.20 The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out

The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out! (1966). Welcome to the strange world of Frank Zappa’s musical mind! The rock world never knew what had hit it when Frank’s debut was dropped in 1966. I honestly did not discover Zappa until high school, but when I did, I was completely in. Is this the audio version of what acid is like?

5.20 Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967). Few remember that Aretha had been recording gospel and whatever slop Columbia Records was making her release for years. But, when she finally got the sympathetic ears of the producers at Atlantic Records, Aretha was finally unleashed as the Queen of Soul. And, this album was just the beginning for her stellar career. When Otis Redding heard her version of his “Respect,” he reportedly stated that the song was now hers. Throw in the title song, you have the groundwork for a classic album.

5.20 Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding

Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding (1967). I am certain that Bob Dylan fans were shocked by what this album sounded like at the time. After changing rock music over the course of the past three albums, Dylan detours into a countrified version of rock that would influence disparate acts like The Band, The Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons and the whole Americana music movement today. By the way, you will find the soft, unassuming original version of “All Along the Watchtower” that Jimi Hendrix will immortalize in a searing form later on.

Hopefully, we will continue this trip tomorrow. Peace out!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, Part Deux

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Welcome to Day 2 of this epic listing of my 1000 favorite albums. To me, even if I had take away the first day’s listing of amazing albums from the early days of the LP and rock music and simply focus on the music released during my lifetime, you would still have an amazing list of 990 albums. As I let that statement sink in for a moment, I have truly live through a period of time in which art and popularity actually intersecting with an exploding amount of disposable income. So, to all the artists on my list, thank you for sharing your talents and visions in a setting that moved me and helped me deal with all of the insecurities I have had as an evolving human.

I pick up my list in 1963, the year in which I was born. That year corresponds to when the album concept began to follow the standards set with the previously by viewing the long player as a total musical experience, not a collection of singles and some songs. This year also marks the year in which Rock & Roll began to morph into Rock music. It’s hard to explain, because I do not truly have a grasp on the metamorphosis, but let’s simply say that music began to include the full human experience in lyrical and musical form during this time. Suddenly, relationships, society, political stances, racial barriers, etc., were all being evaluated in this budding art-form,  moving away from the teenage laments of the early days. Additionally, the music was getting more sophisticated and becoming more of a melting pot of sounds.

And, I feel, this evolution is being displayed with today’s list. Once again, I hope this pushes you to discover or rediscover this terrific music.

5.19 Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963). At the time, Bob Dylan was a newly anointed folk god. But, my goodness! Just look at the number of rock and folk standards are on this album: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Girl from the North Country,” “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” AND “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” On one album?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! That list says everything that needs to be said.

5.19 James Brown - Live at the Apollo

James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963). Everything you need to know about the beginnings of funk and soul is right here. This is the Godfather of Soul’s natural habit, in the live setting, dancing and leading one of the finest musical ensembles through its paces. To this day, this remains one of the greatest live performances ever captured on vinyl.

5.19 The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964). I understand that people believe everything The Fab Four released was magical. And, quite possibly, it was. But, this soundtrack to the band’s first film is a true musical statement. Lennon & McCartney’s songwriting was on the cusp of breaking onto a whole new level. Highlights include early-Beatles standards like the title song, “I Should Have Known Better,” “And I Love Her,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Things We Said Today.”

5.19 Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (1965). This is the album on which Dylan was making the transition from folkie to rocker, actually going electric on one side of the vinyl album. Here we find such Dylan classics as “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

5.19 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965). I would have loved to been a college student when this album was dropped, because I have read and heard many times that with the first crack of the drum which begins the first song, the immortal “Like a Rolling Stone,” was the sound of a whole new world opening. From the moment in which I consciously thinking this song is fantastic as a tweener, “Like a Rolling Stone” actually opened me up to new listening possibilities. Then, the former Robert Zimmerman throws in such classics as “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Desolation Row.”

5.19 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965). Coltrane beat his addictions before the recording of this album, so it is stuffed fully of spiritual hope all the while incorporating all of his previous innovations into a beautifully moving album. Definitely not only a jazz milestone, but a musical one.

5.19 Otis Redding - Otis Blue

Otis Redding – Otis Blues (1965). It’s such a shame that Otis was only a couple of years away from his premature death, because when you listen to Otis Blue, you hear an artist actually finding his total vision. We all knew what kind of singer Redding was, but now his songwriting and band leadership was just beginning to peak. Plus, the man knew how to interpret others in a way that made the songs into his own. This contains his original version of “Respect,” which we all know that Aretha Franklin eventually turned into HER song. This album is a wonderful milestone of Sixties R&B.

5.19 Roger Miller - The Return of Roger Miller

Roger Miller – The Return of Roger Miller (1965). This might be more of a sentimental choice as I remember constantly begging my babysitter to play this album because I loved “King of the Road.” But, who didn’t? And, for that matter, who doesn’t? To me, this album was the epitome of country cool. And, I loved how I could get lost in his lyrics. While all the “little” kids were napping, I was learning about American music from this album.

5.19 The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys Today!

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today! (1965). This album represents the end of the surf/girls/hot rods version of the Boys, but it is the pinnacle of that period. Classic songs are sprinkled throughout the album, with “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Help Me Ronda” leading the way. This album was the extension of the change Brian Wilson was making in his songwriting and production work that began with “California Girls” and will blossom in the next couple of years.

5.19 The Beatles - Rubber Soul

The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965). Over the years, I’ve battled through which phase of The Beatles I have loved the most. My power pop side says it’s all about the early stuff. My sophisticated side says I’m all about Abbey Road. But, for the better part of two decades, I say 1965 and 1966 are MY years, beginning with this album. Even when I bought my first Beatles album (The Red Album, their greatest hits 1963-1966), I loved the songs from these years more than anything else. And, Rubber Soul contains “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “You Won’t See Me” (Badfinger’s whole career seems to be based upon this song), “Nowhere Man” (!!!), “Michelle” and one of my all-time faves “In My Life.” This is just a magical album.

5.19 The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965). One day, folk and rock were seemingly two separate entities. Then Los Angeles’ The Byrds combined them into something of the Reese’s Cup of rock music. And, nothing’s been the same ever since. If these guys had just taken Bob Dylan’s songs and made them into rock songs, The Byrds’ career would be noteworthy. But, as America’s “answer” to The Beatles, they expanded upon The Beatles’ vocal harmonies, introduced the world to the Rickenbacker twelve-string guitar and laid the groundwork for future rockers such as Tom Petty, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet and a whole generation of others.

5.19 The Who - The Who Sings My Generation

The Who – The Who Sings My Generation (1965). THIS is rock music! What The Who brought to the table is immeasurable! Without this album, the world would not know The Jam, Oasis, Blur and so many others. The Who’s music simply explodes from your speakers and pummels your soul. The Who had something of a soccer hooligan’s persona in musical form, and the whole punk movement of the Seventies thanks you.

5.19 The Yardbirds - Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds – Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds (1965). The Yardbirds have become legendary for being the training grounds for three of rock’s most legendary guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. And this album lays the groundwork for all of classic rock, even though much of it has been forgotten over time. Allow me to point out just one song” “The Train Kept A-Rollin’.” That song has been covered by many artists, most famously Aerosmith, who made an influential career out of that sound. Plus, both Jimmy Page AND Jeff Beck arguably started bands that invented hard rock, if not heavy metal, with Led Zeppelin and The Jeff Beck Group respectively.

As classic as all of these albums are, we will begin to wade through some the immortals soon. And, although the work into this series has been arduous, it has been nonetheless fun.

Going Down That Rabbit Hole: My 1000 Favorite Albums, Day 1

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Well, here we go, just as promised. As I briefly stated last week, I have been working on perhaps my largest undertaking for this blog. That’s right, I have identified 1000 albums that I love and/or feel are important enough to mention. Some are obvious. Others are not. Many are critically acclaimed, while a few are critically ridiculed. Many are generally considered to be groundbreaking, while a few are obscure and near to my heart.

Previously, I stated that none are compilations. Well, that is not entirely true. Actually, the first two albums that I will cover are considered to be greatest hits packages. However, those artists, Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry, never really released important albums, yet both had many important singles that became the foundation of this thing we love called rock music.

First of all, I tend to focus on singles and songs in this blog that it may surprise you that although I LOVE the single, I find the album to be the ultimate statement of an artist’s talent and musical vision. Whether that album is a concept album, such as Tommy or American Idiot, or a simply a flex of musical muscle, like Pet Sounds or London Calling, those long-playing records are the statement of that artist’s musical mindset. Many of these albums were never intended to be a collection of songs with a cynical eye toward selling loads of singles and surrounding those couple of hits with filler. No, all of these albums are considered to be huge musical statements by the artist.

So, let’s get this thing going, chronologically.

5.17 Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings (1990). Robert Johnson’s life and talent is full of rumor and debate. Regardless, of whether the man was actually Robert Johnson, received his talent from the Devil, or some other story, his music was highly influential to many of the Sixties blues-based artists especially Eric Clapton. The English youngsters of the Sixties took this as the foundation of their careers. This box set collects all of his important recordings in one place.

5.17 Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight

Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight (1982). Say what you will about who is the King of Rock, whether you think it is Elvis Presley, Little Richard or even, according to their album and song, Run-DMC, a case can be made for Chuck Berry. These 28 songs represent the actual foundation, along with Johnson’s songs, of rock music. You can hear Berry’s influence in the early hits of The Beach Boys and throughout the career of The Rolling Stones.

5.17 Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours

Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours (1955). To hear my wife tell it, Frank Sinatra set the stage for the reaction of teenybopper females to a singer. But by the time 1955 rolled around, Sinatra’s star was fading a bit when he was teamed with arranger Nelson Riddle. Together, this duo created what many consider to be the first artistic musical statement across a 33-and-1/3 rpm long playing record. And although Sinatra’s music is not really rock music, his attitude and vulnerability is, and this album may just be the one that has influenced rockers from Bob Dylan to Bono. It’s full of melancholia and evokes the whole feeling of leaving a bar by yourself.

5.17 Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1957). Here’s the beginning of rock & roll in album form. Simply put, everything about this album is just flat-out rock. From the timeless songs, many of which were left over from Elvis’ Sun Records sessions, to the album cover artwork, this album set the standard. The album cover photograph alone influenced a whole rock photography industry, but the artwork signaled the times were really a-changing. And, I have yet to really mention the music. Certainly, possibly the actual Sun Sessions compilation might show the immediacy of Elvis’ music, but this album displayed the commercial clout that rock & roll would have from this moment onward.

5.17 Little Richard - Here's Little Richard

Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957). Little Richard liked to remind everyone that HE was the King of Rock. And, when you here his unparalleled flamboyance and energy on this set of songs, you believe his assertions. If this album only contained “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up,” it would be a classic album, but throw in the rest of the kitchen sink and it becomes timeless. Without Little Richard, there’s no Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton nor Prince. The man was the whole package: songwriter, arranger, singer, pianist and visual artist.

5.17 Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' in the Moonlight

Howlin’ Wolf – Moanin’ in the Moonlight (1959). What can you say about this blues/R&B classic that broke down the door for the Chicago blues sound? This was Wolf’s debut, and it is stacked with classics that set the standard for the icon himself. The title track, “Smokestack Lightnin'” and “Evil (Is Going On)’ are the standards of the album.

5.17 Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959). Not too many artists have released an album that defined a whole genre, but Miles Davis, quite possibly THE coolest musician ever, did it twice. Kind of Blue was Davis’ first, and perhaps, most visionary album. This album defined jazz for many decades to come. This album continues to be a source of discovery sixty years later.

5.17 Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles

Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles (1959). When Rock & Roll hit, there were many talented musicians out there, but none had the ability to synthesize a new sound from disparate forms of music like Ray Charles could. And, when you factor in the knowledge that he had the foresight to allow his friend Quincy Jones to arrange many of these songs, you realize Charles is a man of unparalleled vision. Unbelievably, this is NOT Charles’ biggest musical statement, even though the album does contain is great hit song “Let the Good Times Roll.”

5.17 At Last - Etta James

Etta James – At Last! (1961). Okay, I understand in this era of all those televised vocal competitions that people think the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera-type of vocal dynamics are the standard. But, please people, go back and listen to this album to hear a voice that emotes and growls and displays a female toughness that is missing in today’s pop. James takes the R&B/Blues mantle with this album. If she had only recorded the title track for this album, it would be a classic. But, throw in “Anything to Say You Are Mine,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “Stormy Weather (Keep Rainin’ All the Time,” and you have an album for the ages.

5.17 Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962). Brother Ray’s management thought he was crazy when Ray proposed making an album of country music standards. What does a black man know about this stuff? Are you kidding me? Ray had a grasp of every form of music including country, which was ingrained in him as a child. But he made these songs HIS own. There is not a dull moment on the album, becoming quite possibly the first out-and-out classic album of the rock era as Charles celebrates American music.

And, there are the first ten albums on my list, and only 990 more to go. Honestly, this has been a wonderful time just listening to these albums all over again as a refresher. I hope this inspires all of you to go through these albums because they represent my time capsule and the soundtrack to my life.

Am I Insane? Probably, But I Plan Go Through My 1000 Favorite Albums This Summer.

I think the quarantine has finally broken me. When I first told my older son what I was going to do, he told me that I was going down a rabbit hole. My younger one told me to go big or go home. My wife simply shrugged her shoulders and went on doing whatever she was doing before I interrupted her.

After doing my one-hit wonders countdown, I knew I wanted to take a week to gather myself. Then, I started going through my rock reference books for ideas. Then, my older son sent me a list that he and his wife were working on concerning a re-ranking of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time. They had been spending their time listening to every non-compilation album in the countdown, then let his wife rank them. Periodically, they would send me videos of their daughter dancing to various songs, her favorite being “London Calling” by The Clash.

Being one to never get out done by my friends and relatives, I picked up my copy of 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die and starting to thumb through it. Additionally, I pulled out my copy of that particular Rolling Stone issue and began taking notes. Slowly, I started to compile a list of 600+ albums that I love to hear. After that, I referenced lists of Top Albums of every year from 1955 to 2019. I scoured NME‘s Top 500 Albums of All-Time list, as well as most any other list I could find. Methodically, my list grew to over 1100 albums.

Originally, my goal was to narrow the list to 500, but I have NEVER been a great editor, as you may have noticed with all my grammatical, spelling and research errors, as well as my overblown lists. So, I asked my boys what they thought about a list of 1000 albums? Well, you read their responses. In addition to those responses, the consensus was that I was nuts. But, that’s what I have done!

And, since I am basically a math and science nerd, I have some statistics concerning this list. First, Bob Dylan and David Bowie both lead the way with 11 titles on my list, followed by Bruce Springsteen and Paul Weller (because I included The Jam and The Style Council in his count) with 10, R.E.M. with 9, Neil Young has 8, Van Morrison 7, 13 artists with six, 8 with five, 20 with four, 53 with three and 97 more artists with two albums. And, can you believe that this ultimate Prince fan only placed five of his albums on this list? It’s true!

And since I am now officially in my late-50s, my list obviously emphasizes the years 1975-1984, but the majority honestly rests is a 27-year period from 1968 to 1995 during which most of my list were originally released. That means I began listening to albums a bit from age 5 to 32, when my album interest slowly waning over the past quarter century. My top five years, in order, were 1980, 1981, 1979, 1970, 1977 and 1978.

So, am I beginning this list today? Nope. I simply wanted to let you what kind of epic I have been working on. Now, this list is NOT a ranking. Actually, I will be going through this list chronologically, by album release date. This list is what I think have been some of the most enjoyable and interesting albums over the years.

From what I read, there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Obviously, we know what my family thinks, though I tend to have delusions of grandeur. Regardless, this my very well end up being my nadir. Here’s to the quarantine!

My 300 Favorite One-Hit Wonders of All-Time – The Top 20

4.14 one-hit-wonder.7

Finally, we have reached the best of the best, the big enchilada, the Top 20 of this countdown. Herein lies my list of the one-hit immortals. Some are well-known and well-loved, while others may have been forgotten but will definitely bring back memories.

4.14 Kimbra-Gotye
Kimbra & Gotye

I love doing countdowns mainly because I was addicted to Casey Kasem’s fantastic weekly radio program American Top 40 (AT40). AT40 was the one thing I loved on the radio, especially from 1974, when I discovered it, to around the time in the late-Eighties when someone got the bright ideas of (1) editing out all rap songs from the broadcasts, and (2) replacing Casey Kasem with Shadoe Stevens. Nothing against Shadoe, as he was an excellent on-air personality, but he was never as a comforting voice as Casey. At least, that’s my opinion. Plus, you never want to be the person to replace a legend. You see that all the time in sports with player and coaching changes. And, I still believe that Casey deserves induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his contributions to popular music.

4.14 soft cell
Soft Cell

I don’t know who coined the term “one-hit wonder,” but I learned of it from Casey Kasem. Plus, I remember him doing periodic One-Hit Wonder Countdowns himself, so it has been etched in my mind for 40+ years. So, let’s get this thing rolling!

4.14 20.for what its worth

20. Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth” (1967). This group only lasted for two albums, but their impact was so immense that they were inducted into the RRHOF. Members of this band included Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furray (of Poco). Yet, this was the band’s only Top 10 hit. They sure did it right.

19. ? & the Mysterians – “96 Tears” (1966). This has got to be THE pre-punk rock classic of them all since it was covered by nearly every punk band in the Seventies and early-Eighties. The blueprint for punk rock is found here, from its Farfisa organ to the eerie vocals. This one grabbed me at a very young age and never let go.

18. M – “Pop Muzik” (1979). This quirky synthpop song heralded in the new wave era here in the States when it peaked at Number 1 late in the year of 1979. I still remember how cool I thought this song was and how it inspired me to seek out more synthpop artists.

17. The Surfaris – “Wipe Out” (1963). THE drummer’s song of all drummer songs, “Wipe Out” was often the song that separate the wannabe drummers from the budding drumming heroes. Plus, it does have the greatest vocalization introduction of all-time. This is rock & roll summed up in a three-minute song.

16. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come on Eileen” (1982). This slice of Celtic folk-influenced new wave caused a big sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. And, you know what? This isn’t the band’s best song. I highly recommend their first two albums, as you get a a feel for what a talented songwriter leader Kevin Rowland is. I often wonder if the fictional band The Commitments, from the famous book and film, were based upon this band? Anyone know definitively, let me know!

15. Modern English – “I Melt with You” (1982). This song and band deserved a much better fate than it got. First, the song stalled way outside of the Top 40 upon its release. How in the hell does this song NOT land in the Top 10 here? Second, Modern English was a very talented band with a fantastic debut album. Yet, few know it. At least, it has made them more money over the decades than it did initially.

14. Redbone – “Come and Get Your Love” (1974). What a perfect pop/rock song! Redbone was a total Native American band who brought their culture to the forefront here in the States. It’s such a great song that it got life pumped back into it 40 years later when used in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

13. Crazy Town – “Butterfly” (2000). Big things were expected by this band back when they dropped this song on an unsuspecting public. Allegedly, the song is based upon a Red Hot Chili Peppers bass riff. If so, kudos for great taste! And “Butterfly” sounds fantastic to this very day.

12. Bobby Fuller Four – “I Fought the Law” (1965). This is the other pre-punk rock classic, another Sixties tune covered by punks like The Clash and Green Day. What was it about Texan garage bands in the Sixties?

11. Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” (1992). I know! This is not a hip hop purist’s choice, but as a pop song, Mix-A-Lot got in down in spades. There was no way he could ever top this one. C’mon! Give the man his due! He was a great gateway into hip hop culture.

4.14 10.Money

10. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959). Barrett Strong was the first hit song for Motown. Additionally, it was the first song you here being played when Pinto and Flounder enter the Delta House with Bluto in my generation’s defining film, Animal House. How can you top a legacy like that? Well, in 1979, it became a one-hit wonder all over again for the cult band The Flying Lizards. Now, that’s a terrific history!

9. Harvey Danger – “Flagpole Sitta” (1997). My older son will kill me for this pick, but I don’t care. This is a great pop-punk song. And I don’t care that it was used to great effect in Clueless. This song is a dream.

8. King Harvest – “Dancing in the Moonlight” (1972). This Halloween classic is simply a timeless tune. I have heard many of my friends say this is their all-time favorite song. High praise, I think. Plus, the band’s name references a song title by The Band, which makes it all the better.

7. Love & Rockets – “So Alive” (1989). While living in Oxford, Ohio, I was very in tune with alternative rock, especially the work of Love & Rockets. But, I was not prepared for this very dark take on obsession with another person. It was sexy, sinister and soulful, which makes for a very exciting listen.

6. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990). O’Connor was definitely on my radar when this song was dropped in 1990. Plus, I know this Prince song by is originally-released version by The Family. But, O’Connor stripped the song completely of the Prince touch and got down to its bare emotional essence. You can feel the hurt in her soul by the way she pours herself into the lyrics. She did NOT deserve the fate she got since we found out a decade later that she was absolutely correct about the child abuse happening in the Catholic Church. She deserves an apology by society.

5. Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody I Used to Know” (2013). What an awesome song! It is nearly perfect. No wonder Gotye has been silent for the past seven years. Leave it alone and move on. None other than Prince had high praise for this one.

4. Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” (1979). This one brought rap to the masses. You can argue about the creative purity of the song, but it started a revolution that’s being felt to this day.

3. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love” (1981). Take a little known soul song from the early-Seventies, strip it down to its unnerving essence and turn it into a creepy song about the perils of love, and somehow, you have a hit song. But, man, it was so easy to learn the lyrics and it had that electronic hook. This is synthpop heaven.

2. Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980). Technically, never a hit over here, but I don’t care! This song influenced my generation like few others. Just like to alternative music throughout the Eighties and you can pick out the Joy Division influence. Once again, this song has stronger legs as it ages.

4.14 get what you give

1. New Radicals – “You Get What You Give” (1998). Like I have said before about this one, I thought it was a new Todd Rundgren song when I first heard it. From me, that’s high praise. Then, as I listened to it more and more, I heard Daryl Hall & John Oates in it. Then, I realized the singer had a slight punk snarl to his voice. By the end of the song, I was convinced that I had just heard the greatest song of all-time. After this song became a hit, the creative force behind the band, Matt Johnson, broke the band up so he would become a one-hit wonder. Now, that’s commitment!

And, there you have it folks! My first COVID-19 pandemic countdown. I’m sure as this thing plays out, I will have more of these big countdowns since I enjoy them. But, they do take much work. Have a great weekend!